Christmas Gingerbread Tree

gingerbread christmas tree

The lovely people at Bakestore sent me some cookie cutters to try out. Or so I thought….what they actually sent was a full on tree kit. How to make a tree out of gingerbread stars. Momentarily I thought they had seriously over-estimated my baking skills. Then I saw the rice krispie treetree for sale in M&S for £18!! And theirs is barely decorated, so I thought ‘Hang on just a minute. It’s lots of biscuits piled up in a stack. Surely I can do that? My decorating skills are ok, I can bake biscuits, my icing isn’t too bad..’.  So I gave it a go!

I used the Biscuiteer recipe for treacle spice biscuits (or treacley gingerbread to you and me).  I trust Biscuiteer wholeheartedly as will any of you who have ever had the pleasure of diving in to a tin of their biscuits.  See below for recipe.

The Christmas Tree kit did include some other recipes as well as tips for icing, decorating etc.  Not all the recipes were gingerbread.  One idea (see pic) was for a rice krispie cake tree.  I might try that one as well.  Also in the kit were all the cookie cutters and good quality icing bags and nozzles.  The kit is made by Wilton, so I would expect good quality anyway.

In total I made four batches of gingerbread.  At first I thought you would need one of each size biscuit, but a bit of basic maths told me that some sizes would need to be doubled or tripled even to get a decent height in the tree.  Although it is a bit of a faff making these type of shaped biscuits (a lot of putting it back in the fridge to harden up) the recipe is pretty easy and they do turn out well.  I made 18 biscuits in total and stacked them by placing a blob of royal icing in the centre of the board and then each biscuit to ‘glue’ them in place.  Do keep peeping at the overhead view too, else you’ll end up with the leaning tower of Christmas!

gingerbread christmas tree

Once stacked and (sort of) straight, I hummed and hawed about how to decorate it.  I went for the easier option of dusting it with icing sugar so it ‘snowed’ over the tree and then adding a blob of white royal icing to each corner as snowdrifts.  Then I popped a silver ball on each and decorated the top with the smallest star, iced.  To finish it off I sprinkled it with edible glitter so it was like a little bit of winter wonderland in my kitchen.  For the photos I resisted the urge to add a robin and plastic deer for a bit of kitsch but I’m sure they’ll be adorning it very soon.

I think it looks pretty impressive and as you now I am not a highly skilled cook, so this is very do-able for anyone, including the kids.  A lovely Christmassy activity with the kiddiwinkles on those cold, festive afternoons and one to wow the relatives with.  Aunty Marge will see you in a whole new light!

To get a Christmas Tree kit click here to visit the Bakestore website.  They have such gorgeous stuff that I bet you’ll see a few more must-haves while you’re there!  And they are based just up the road from me, so I wholeheartedly support my local business AND if you enter the code ‘Nigella’ you get 10% off your order!  Yes, dear reader, that’s me with my very own discount code.  Check. me. out.

Happy cooking (and eating!)


Treacle Spice Biscuits Recipe


200g plain flour

½tsp baking powdergingerbread christmas tree

½tsp ground ginger

½tsp cinnamon

½tsp mixed spice

50g muscovado dark brown sugar

100g salted butter, diced

50g black treacle

Sift and mix the flour, baking powder, spices and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter.  Either rub in with your fingertips or use the paddle on a mixer to combine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the treacle and bring it all together until it is of an even colour with not too many streaks of treacle.

Line a table top with baking parchment and place the dough on, squashing it into a flat disc.  Place another piece of parchment on top and roll out to 5mm thick.  Put in fridge to chill for ½ hour and pre-heat oven to 170ºC (150ºC fan).

When chilled, cut out biscuits and place on lined baking tray.  You can keep the cuttings to be re-rolled.  Bake for 14-18 minutes – the biscuits will turn a darker colour (even these already dark treacley ones) but be careful not to burn them!

Transfer to wire rack to cool but do this VERY carefully as they are fragile and will break easily.  Totally cool before storing in airtight tin (for up to a week) or assembling tree.

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Calling all chocoholics!  This is the recipe for you!  Also great for kids’ parties/taking into school and impressing the staff/pudding.

I took my favourite choccie cake recipe and turned it into cupcakes with a twist.  These cakes are very rich, but quite delicious and VERY easy to make!


chocolate cupcakes

You will need:

200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
40g good quality cocoa
175g soft, unsalted butter
2 large eggs  
2 tsps vanilla extract  
150ml sour cream

Mix all the ingredients together in a mixer until light and creamy.  Using an mechanical ice cream scoop, put a dollop of mixture in large cake/muffin cases and bake at 180ºC (160 fan) for about 10-15 mins.  The mixture makes 15 with a good scraping left in the bowl for you the kids.

Cool on a rack.

chocolate cupcakesFILLING

When cool, hollow out the middle of each cake with an apple-corer.  Don’t go right to the bottom, about 3/4 of the way down.  Fill the hole with a small teaspoon of chocolate spread, then plug the top with the cake from the corer.


Well, I cheated and used Betty Crocker’s choc fudge icing, but feel free to make your own which will definitely be nicer!  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.  Depends on how much butter I have in the larder and how much mess I am prepared to clear up!

I use a Mr Whippy nozzle and pipe the icing in a small swirl on top of each cake.  Don’t use more else it really will be too chocolatey!

Decorate as you please.  I always have to use a bit of glitter!


Well, the kids dig in but I am slightly more refined and use a fork.  Depends who’s watching really….



Lemon Drizzle Cake

Lemon Drizzle is my son’s absolute favourite cake. I tried a few recipes before finding Paul Hollywood’s one (sorry, Mary) and it makes the most delicious, moist cake. It ‘aint pretty, but it’s divine.

lemon drizzle cake


To make this tablet of lemony gorgeousness you need to preheat your oven to 180ºC (160 fan).  Butter and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.  Then beat together 75g soft unsalted butter and 125g caster sugar until light and fluffy.  This can take a long time, so keep going with it.  Mixing all the time, add 150g self-rasing flour, 1tsp baking powder, 2 medium eggs, 1 tbsp lemon curd and 2½ tbsp full-fat milk.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for about 40 mins or until a skewer comes out cleanly from the mixture.

For the drizzle, mix the juice and fine zest of one unwaxed lemon with 2tbsp granulated* sugar.  Pour this over the hot cake when it comes out of the oven and leave to cool completely before removing from the tin.  Sometimes I skewer a few holes over the cake top to help the drizzle sink in.  Other times I just leave it to get even more topping the cake.  I’ll leave that conundrum to you.

* You can also use icing sugar instead of granulated. Same amount or judge it by gloopiness…you know what I mean…


Jackie’s suggestion from the comments to this post and my son’s demand for smaller cakes, called me to try this recipe as muffins.  The mixture made 10 muffins (1 ice cream scoop per case) and I baked them for 18-20 mins.  I let them cool before I poured on the lemon glaze.  To make this I warmed the juice and zest before adding 3 tbsp icing sugar.  They turned out pretty well and, if you’re interested, come in at 192 calories per muffin.  Not too bad for the cake world!  Now, I have to say my personal preference is a slice of the loaf cake, but these are great for taking to village fetes and the like and still taste just as wonderful.  Oh, and my kids preferred them but that’s because I let them squirrel them off  to the playroom with a bowl rather than make them sit up to the table.  So fickle…..

Addendum 2: Try orange curd and orange drizzle….

Lemon drizzle cake


Smartie Cookies

smartie cookie

Who hasn’t been coerced to buy these beauties in the supermarket for wide-eyed children….or, indeed, just for yourself?  Well, now you can bake them at home!  Easy to do and, if they don’t eat them all first, the kids can help put the Smarties on the top.  I actually preferred them the day after I made them, they were slightly chewier, but that’s just down to personal preference.  My kids loved them both days; ‘Mummy!  They’re just like the ones at Waitrose!’.  Job done.

smartie cookies emma bridgewater plate

You will need…

  • 350g  plain flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 250g soft butter
  • 250g sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 5ml vanilla extract
  • 2 tubes smarties (150g)

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and put to one side. Then (preferably in a mixer) cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix.  Then slowly beat in sifted dry ingredients to form a stiff dough. By hand, stir in one tube of Smarties. Roll dough into  balls about the size of a ping pong ball and place on baking trays lined with parchment paper. Leave plenty of room between each ball as they spread!  Adorn the top of each ball with three or four  more Smarties and bake at 190ºC (170º fan) for 12 to 15 minutes until pale golden brown. When you remove them from the oven, leave on the trays for a couple of minutes before transferring to cooling racks to cool completely. Store in airtight tins.


Macmillan Coffee Morning

nigella chocolate cake

I am joining in with a linky, Foto Friday, which requires a photograph of something you’ve cooked/baked this week.

I spent most of yesterday evening baking cakes for the Macmillan Coffee morning today.  Do click on the link and see what it’s all about – a great cause.

This is my Nigella chocolate cake…hope it tasted good!  I had a hell of a job keeping it safe from my 5 year old son – so much so, that I have promised to make one for him this weekend.  Ah well, you can never have too much cake.*

The Crazy Kitchen

*Alas, this is not true.


To support and spread the word about the Macmillan Coffee Morning rate how you like your coffee on the widget below. After choosing entering your answers, you will then be given a coffee character which can then be shared through twitter. The tweet will have the #coffeemorning to help promote the event.


Olive Sticks

This is a recipe from Paul Hollywood’s new book ‘How to Bake’ which, by the way, is really good!  Every recipe I have tried so far has been spot on and in it lies the best lemon drizzle cake I have ever baked (saving that for another day).  However, I have been wooing my friends with these olive sticks, which look a bit odd (at a friend’s party I heard them referred to as ‘dog chews’.  She nearly got a poke in the eye from one….grr).  However, they taste lovely especially when dipped in some oil/balsamic.

olive sticks paul hollywood

The dough is really wet, so don’t be put off by it, but persevere.  You will need a mixer/kitchenaid for this recipe.

So, put 500g of strong white flour in a bowl and on opposite sides, 10 g of fast-action yeast and 10 g of salt.  Mix on a slow speed and gradually pour in 300 ml tepid water.  When the dough starts to come together add a further 100 ml of tepid water.  Using my kitchenaid, I mix for 5 mins on a slow/medium speed (no 3).  The dough should become wet and stretchy.  Then add 2 tbsp of olive oil and mix for another 2 minutes.  In my experience it now becomes very odd and flaps around the bowl, but don’t fret!

Drain a large jar of pitted green olives and add to the dough mixing slowly until they are well distributed.  Sort of.  Then put the whole lot into an oiled tub, clingfilm and leave for at least an hour until the dough has tripled in size.

While you are waiting line 3/4 baking trays with baking parchment and heavily flour the work surface and add a shake of semolina too, if you have some.

paul hollywood olive sticksTip the dough gently on to the floured surface and flour the top of the dough too.  Gently as you can, stretch the dough into a vague rectangle and then cut it into about 3cm strips.  I usually end up with 15.  Carefully transport each strip onto the baking trays, stretching it out to about 20cm.  Cover loosely with a plastic bag (or I stick two trays into a bin liner which works well) and leave to prove for 30 mins.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200ºC.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden and cool on a wire rack.  You may need to test one while they are still warm….just to make sure ;)

I have tied some with raffia and taken them to friends’ for drinks and nibbles or even presented the whole lot in a basket.  But usually, we just scoff the lot at home.  They are very moorish.  I did try them with black olives, but I think they are much nicer with green.  When I am feeling flush I might buy some better quality olives and see if it makes a difference..

Do try these – they are relatively quick and easy to make and are just soooo nice.  Well, if you like olives.


Hummingbird Cake

I was introduced to this cake at my favourite cafe, The Black Dog.  I had it there for the first time and was extolling its virtues to the waitress who duly fetched the recipe book they used and I was straight on to my Amazon app and ordering the book.  It is from the Hummingbird Bakery, but despite the shared name, it is a widely known cake and not invented by them.  It is supposed to be a triple layer cake, but I chickened out and went for two layers as my last attempt at 3 layers looked like an homage to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  This meant the baking time was longer, but it turned out well enough!

hummingbird cake

The bananas keep it moist and it has a lovely moorish flavour.  Initially, I wouldn’t believe that there was pineapple in it (convinced it was apple) but I was proved wrong and it all works very well together.  Unfortunately, I ran out of pecans, so the decoration is a bit sparse but it is definitely a cake worth baking.  And eating.  I might try it as muffins too….

You will need:

300g caster sugar

3 eggs

300ml sunflower oil

270g peeled bananas

1tsp ground cinnamon

300g plain flour

1tsp bicarb soda

½tsp salt

¼tsp vanilla extract

100g tinned pineapple, chopped up small

100f shelled, chopped pecans

 and for the icing:

600g sifted icing sugar

100g unsalted butter

250g cream cheese


Put the sugar, eggs, bananas, oil and cinnamon into a mixer and combine well.  Add the flour, bicarb, salt and vanilla and mix again until the batter is smooth.  By hand, stir in the nuts and pineapple then split the mixture into two lined cake tins and bake at 170ºC for about 40 mins (but start checking after 30 mins).

Let the sponges cool in their tins for a few minutes then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.  I always put mine on upside down so the domed top is flattened more and it makes it easier to construct the cake.

Whilst the sponges are cooling make the icing by combining the sifted icing sugar (don’t skip the sifting – it leaves lumps in the icing.   I know from experience!) and the butter in a mixer then beating in the cream cheese and mixing for 4/5 minutes until smooth and light.

hummingbird cakeWhen cool, put one sponge on a cake stand and slot greaseproof paper under the edges.  These are removed after icing and keeps the stand clean.  Splodge about ¼ of the icing onto the sponge and spread over evenly.  Put the other sponge on top and repeat.  Use the rest of the icing to ice the sides of the cake, covering the sponge completely.  I always make a mess of this, but using a palette knife helps to spread evenly and without digging in to the cake!

Decorate the top with a dusting of cinnamon and pecan halves.  Then serve (do you like my new Emma Bridgewater comport?) with a cup of tea and enjoy!  Even my kids ate it, which is always a test of greatness – fussy little monkeys.  Just don’t count the calories….