homebaked classic Victoria sponge cake

Classic Victoria Sponge Cake With Fresh Cream And Strawberries

When I think classic British tea-time cake Victoria sponge springs to mind.  This recipe has never let me down and the lemon in it flippin’ works!  I follow Jamie Oliver’s original recipe (copied out below) and for once don’t make any adjustments – as you can see by the pictures it comes out pretty good!  If you’d like to see my little twist on this yummy traditional sponge give this post a little peek 🙂

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  • 225g Unsalted butter (plus a little bit extra for greasing)
  • 225g Self-raising flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 225g Caster sugar (plus 1 tbspn for the filling)
  • 4 Large eggs
  • 1 Lemon
  • 250g Fresh strawberries
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g Good quality strawberry jam
  • 150ml Double cream
  • Icing sugar, for dusting


  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4
  2. Grease the bottom and sides of two 20cm sandwich cake tins with butter.  Line the base of each tin with greaseproof paper then dust the sides lightly with flour
  3. Beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each one in well before you add the next
  5. Sift in the flour
  6. Finely grate over the lemon zest then fold it into the mixture (halve the lemon and save it for later)
  7. Divide the cake mix into the prepared tins then bake in the hot oven for around 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and risen. (You can check to see if the cake is cooked by sticking a cocktail stick or skewer right into the middle of the sponge;  remove it after 5 seconds and if it comes out clean the cake’s cooked; if slightly sticky it needs a bit longer, so put it back into the oven)
  8. Allow the cakes to cool slightly in the tins, then carefully turn them out on to a rack to cool completely
  9. Hull and slice your strawberries
  10. Gently warm the jam in a pan over a low heat then remove from the heat and stir in your sliced strawberries.
  11. Add the cream to a bowl with the sugar and vanilla extract, then squeeze in the juice from your zested lemon
  12. Whip the mixture until you have nice soft peaks
  13. Place the least attractive sponge cake on a  plate, smear over the jam and strawberries, then spread the sweetened cream over the top
  14. Place the second cake (with the best side facing up) on top and dust it with icing sugar


big love



To see more of my homebaking posts click here to check out my instagram here.


white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake


White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake

Quite possibly one of my favourite desserts (chocolate, biscuits AND fruit – what’s not to love?!?) and super simple to make!  My sister introduced me to the original recipe here which is flippin’ tasty but as with most recipes I tweak it a little 🙂 Below is my version – let me know what you think!


For the biscuit base

  • 150 g dark chocolate covered digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 75 g butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp good quality raspberry jam

For the filling

  • 600 g white chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 65 g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence (or more to taste)
  • 500 g cream cheese
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • 180 ml whipping cream
  • 1 punnet raspberries, plus a few more to decorate


  1. Crush the biscuits.
  2. Melt the butter then stir it into the crushed biscuits, adding a teaspoon of raspberry jam to the mixture.
  3. Press the mixture onto the base of a 23cm springform tin.
  4. Spread the jam evenly on top of the biscuit base and place the base in the fridge whilst preparing the filling.
  5. Put the chocolate, butter and vanilla essence in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering (not boiling) water until melted. (I like to leave a few little lumps of white chocolate that hasn’t quite melted but it’s  up to you!)
  6. In another bowl mix together the cream cheese, sugar and whipping cream to a smooth consistency.
  7. Stir the melted chocolate mixture into the cream mixture. Gently stir in the raspberries, being careful not to release the juice.
  8. Spoon the mixture on top of the biscuit base and place in the fridge to set for 8-24 hours.
  9. When you’re ready to serve, decorate with a few whole raspberries.


big love



p.s. If you fancy a little look at any more of my homebaking take a peek at my instagram or check out a few of  my other treat-related posts.

homebaked Despicable Me minion birthday cake

Despicable Me is SUCH an awesome film and after spotting a couple of minion birthday cakes posted by Geraldine a few days ago, I couldn’t resist having a little go at creating one myself.  The friend who introduced me to the movie celebrates his birthday this week so it would’ve been rude not to! Below is the result; four layers of homebaked chocolate sponge layered with chocolate fudge icing, fresh raspberries and white chocolate chunks then covered in fondant icing.


big love.



p.s. If you fancy a little look at any more of my homebaking take a peek at my instagram or check out a few of  my other treat-related posts.

homemade, all-natural and organic haircare; the No ‘Poo method

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Since embarking on my quest for healthy goodness I set myself a little challenge to revamp my skin and haircare routines and do beauty naturally.

Leading me onto my next point; I have a confession.  I haven’t ‘pooed in over a month.

I’m talking SHAMPOOED.  I haven’t SHAMPOOED in over a month.  (Fear not; I solemnly promise that I will never share my bowel movements with the whole of cyberspace.)

Anyway; what I was trying to say is that since mid-April I have not put any chemicals in my hair.  That’s not to say I haven’t cleaned my hair; just that I have used homemade natural, organic goodness rather than the toxic substances I was using before.  Think that’s a pretty extreme statement?  Check out the toxic levels in any of the haircare, skincare or cosmetic products you use right here and make up your own mind.  The website I’ve just directed you to is the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics database and they rate ingredients and products in relation to the hazard to your health or the environment.  They also detail what the hazards are.  Pretty nifty ey?

Other good reasons to go no ‘poo;

  • More body
  • Easier to style hair
  • Less oily hair
  • Less frizz and fly-aways (great for curly haired ladies)
  • Added shine
  • Quicker growth
  • Stronger hair
  • Safe for dyed hair
  • Great for grey hair (commercial shampoos can cause grey hair to yellow – boo!)
  • Fewer hair washings, as your scalp will no longer be over producing oils
  • No chemicals on your hair, scalp or washing down the drain (Win!)
  • More money in your pocket – baking soda and apple cider vinegar are crazy cheap compared to commercial products (Massive win!)

Below are the ‘recipes’ I use for my hair and a little bit about how I’ve found the transition to ‘no poo’.  The reason I’ve left it a month before I posted about this is that I wanted to see for myself if it would actually work for me and be able to give you a balanced honest review of what happened – hopefully you’ll find it helpful!  There are so many variations on how people transition that if you fancy giving the whole ‘no poo’ thing a go I recommend doing some research and finding people with similar hair to yours and starting with what works for them.  Alex Raye’s blog has lots of info on natural haircare and for a detailed explanation of the transition to the no poo method I found Leah’s explanation really helpful. There are also many, many other bloggers and pinterest-ers who offer their own experiences and advice and are worth checking out!

So without further ado may I present to you….(drumroll please)…

Homemade, all-natural and organic haircare; the No ‘Poo method

Photo 29-05-2013 10 55 39 -YXIs_fOBivCSblQCm3gkqjGY_uFt24ETotZA9JUFWA Photo 29-05-2013 10 53 49

Before you start you need to clarify your hair.  Most commercial products have silicons in them, which will remain stuck to your hair unless you clarify.  If you don’t, you’ll end up in the pretty gross situation I got myself into where your hair literally looks wet even hours after you wash it.  Yuk!  My only regret in the whole process has been that I didn’t realise I should have clarified before I started and carried on for a week before I discovered this vital step!  I used a paste of Bicarbonate of Soda mixed with a little water and covered my hair in it, left it for 20 minutes then washed it out.  Easy peasy!

Every other day I washed my hair with a ‘shampoo’ alternative of 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda mixed with 1 cup of water.  The ‘conditioner’ I used was 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV) with the mother left in (don’t worry it’s nothing weird – Google it and check!) with 1 cup of water.  How cheap and cheerful is that!?! First off don’t expect it to have the consistency of commercial products.  It literally feels like you are putting water into your hair.  Also, invest in a couple of squeezy condiment plastic bottles with narrow tips – makes such a difference in being able to reach all of your hair – especially close to the scalp!

I have long blonde, fine hair that is naturally straight.  I only washed my hair once a week (and dry shampooed it once between washes) before transitioning to no ‘poo so I don’t know if that helped my hair to adjust well, if I was just lucky or if I has just totally overestimated how horrible my hair would get!  Apart from the first week (where I hadn’t clarified my hair), I had a couple of days where my hair looked a bit greasy but nothing too dramatic.  I used the homemade dry shampoo once during the whole transition (it’s best to avoid using it during this period) and wore my hair up or curly using the no heat curls method on the few days I felt it looked a little greasy, which worked pretty well!  I now wash my hair two or three times every fortnight using the bicarbonate of soda mixture in the roots of my hair and ACV mixture in the tips and don’t have any problems!

As for hair masques, once a week it is recommended you use a natural hair masque on your hair.  There are SO many recipes out there that, as I said before, it’s best to find out what works for your hair so get researching!  The first one I tried was a disaster.  I used coconut oil and I think it is just too heavy for my fine hair.  My hair went back  to the wonderful wet look stage I told you about before I clarified my hair – big fail!  I know coconut oil works for a lot of people but apparently not me!  I had to ‘clarify’  my hair again right after to get rid of the residue gunk!  What has worked is using equal parts ACV and raw organic honey on the tips of my hair (NOT the roots – that makes my hair look greasy).  After leaving it in for 20 minutes, I wash my hair as usual with the bicarbonate of soda and ACV mixtures.  Simple!

The only other thing I do to my hair is use a boar bristle brush (it helps distribute the hair’s natural oils evenly) and a wide toothed comb after washing or when I need to tame it into some sort of style!

I’d love to hear your feedback on the no ‘poo method or what’s worked for you – please feel free to get in contact! 🙂

big love

gollygoshgirl xx

homebaked banana loaf



Homebaked Banana Loaf

This recipe is from the Hummingbird Bakery and makes the most flippin’ yummy banana loaf ever  – friends and family are always asking me to bake it 🙂 I pretty much follow the recipe in their cookbook but with a couple of little tweaks here and there.  The only thing to be a bit careful of is oven temperature – I find the one given below is a little too hot for the loaf to cope with in my oven so normally aim for a tad cooler than the recipe recommends.  I also use really ripe bananas because they make the loaf a lot more moist.  Its pretty darn scrummy by itself, but I have used combinations from toffee sauce, cream cheese icing, white chocolate curls and vanilla icing to top loaves – all of which work well!


  • 270g Light muscovado sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 200g Peeled bananas
  • 280g Plain flour
  • 140g Unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 1 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (Gas Mark 3)
  2. Grease a 23cmx13cm loaf tin and dust with flour.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs together in a bowl until fully incorporated
  4. Mash the bananas and then add them to the mixture
  5. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon and mix them in
  6. Melt the butter and then add to the mixture, mixing well until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for up to an hour, until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. (I usually check after around 45 minutes and gauge it from there)
  8. Leave the loaf to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn it out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely
  9. Either serve it as it is or add toppings of your choice.


big love



p.s. If you fancy a little look at any more of my homebaking take a peek at my instagram or check out a few of  my other treat-related posts.

Heaven is a Halfpipe

Below is an excerpt from a book published in 2009 called ‘Stories From The Streets’.  It is a chapter I was asked to write about a group of young people I have had the privilege of spending quite a bit of time with over the years.

stokeplaza 9th may 09

Heaven is a Halfpipe

This is the true story of how a group of society’s outcasts created a community that inspires others.

Six years ago the village was not at peace.  The sound of boards clattering, trucks grinding on metal and a few choice profanities of either triumph or frustration was broken intermittently with the complaints of residents and caretakers.  The group was moved along from so many locations that they spent more time finding new spots than mastering the ones they had already discovered.  They were a nuisance; too loud, too rude; too inconsiderate of others sharing the same living space.

Unless you cared to look below the surface and see the real picture. They ended up outside the church – it was the best location for their sport.  They utilised the front of the building; the wheelchair ramp, the stairs, the brick wall and the flat concrete were perfectly positioned for learning tricks and the doorway and bench were just in the right position to allow the spectators amongst them a great view.  A group of teenagers; baggy clothes, music players, cigarettes, obligatory skate deck slung under one arm, cans of energy drinks and beer.  They had found their resting place; for the moment.

Church services were interrupted by the chatter, laughter, hollering, slamming boards, thuds of fallen skaters.  These young people defied being seen and not heard.  They left cans, cigarette butts and a few cracked or eroded bricks each visit; the mark of their territory.  Yet it wasn’t theirs and they were all too aware of it.  Something had to be done.

And so a few members of the church volunteered to spend time each evening service outside with the skaters; investing time in building relationships and breaking the stereotypes on either side; the “Show Love Team” was formed.  And as these teenagers and Parishioners started to interact an entirely different picture of the adolescent characters emerged.

Skating was their passion; it united them.  Their whole lifestyle revolved around it.  If it was dry they would be conquering a new trick; if the weather was unsuitable they would be planning their next outing.  They were constantly learning, developing, improving.  It was addictive.  They were consumed with their sport and it created a strong bond between them.  They encouraged, valued and learnt from each other.  They were loyal, friendly and welcoming.  And yet they were consistently turned away from public property, car parks, even kerbs on the roadside.  This rejection led them to develop an exterior of indifference, protecting them from the negative response they generated in others.

As they gained confidence in the intentions of the Show Love Team they spoke of their dream; to have a skate park on their doorstep – somewhere they could call their own and claim for their sport. A place they could belong.  Their vision caught the imagination of one member of the team who captured their desire and vowed to help make it a reality.  She was an unlikely candidate; female, barely eighteen years old and completely uneducated in the world of skating.  But she had a passion for the cause, a willingness to unite and campaign with these adolescents and the belief that God had brought them to the Church doorstep – the least she could do would be to love, accept and support them.  She was warmly accepted by the group and became part of their small community.

In February 2003 the skaters embarked on the first step towards their goal.  A meeting was arranged between themselves and the local leisure development officer to discuss the possibility of building a skate park in the village.  Although they naively went into the meeting assuming it was just a question of putting forward a strong enough case; they left with the knowledge that this was not a project to be taken lightly.  They were going to have to be in it for the long haul; planning permission, council approval, residents’ agreement, suitable space, and, of course, a vast amount of money.  Still, they left undeterred and began to draw up designs and create ideas as to how to overcome the hurdles.  Their delight at being believed in enough for them to be taken seriously at a meeting was apparent and their enthusiasm became infectious.  They were motivated and driven; they would achieve this!

However the latest addition to the group didn’t want to leave the vision on hold for the years it could take to accomplish.  She decided that if they couldn’t bring the skate park to them; they would have to bring themselves to the skate parks.

A week after that first meeting, six boys piled into a couple of cars. A few hours and many wrong turnings later they reached their destination. It was a small outdoor space with minimum equipment but to the boys it was perfect.  They were in their element and came alive during the excursion; they wanted nothing more than to enjoy the unfamiliar layout and develop the best technique to conquer it.  Watching their response to the simple outing, one member vowed to find a way for them to keep experiencing new places and improving their sport.  That member was me.

Over the past six years I have been privileged enough to bear witness to the development and growth of the individuals within this emerging community in addition to the group as a whole.  And it is whole.  The original founding members are still very much involved; some becoming leaders and mentors, others choosing to continue pursuing their sport elsewhere – but the thread that binds them together created by the shared passion for their hobby is one that cannot be broken.  And that bond is not limited to that handful of schoolboys in those two cars six years ago.

As those teenagers developed into the young adults they are now, the group increased.  Members were added to their number and they continued to travel monthly to skate parks across the country.  They formed a collective identity; The Grind.  One member created a logo using his flair for graffiti and this became a symbol of their culture.  It marked their unity; they were part of something: finally, they belonged. The journey from that first amateur trip has not always been straightforward but there have been some considerable encouragements along the way.  Although we have felt, at times, a lot of opposition we have also been overwhelmed by the generosity and love of many individuals and organisations.

About a year after the meeting to discuss building a facility in the village for the skaters, I had become very discouraged.  We were unable to source any funding, were hitting proverbial brick walls with every site location suggestion and felt unable to stir in others any enthusiasm for our vision. I was at a summer festival, and came across a stall selling skate clothing by a Christian company. Many of the garments bore a logo declaring ‘Rise’ and a bible reference. I soon discovered that the reference from Micah 7:8 read; “Do not gloat over me my enemy, for though I have fallen, I will rise.” This became a source of inspiration over the years to come and continues to be a mantra in challenging times.

I wrote to that company explaining our dream, our frustrations and the hope we found in that verse. I received in reply an email of support and a large package of merchandise. This belief in our cause was incredibly moving, and filled us with the conviction that our idea truly was worthy. It was to be the first of many donations, each of which have inspired, encouraged and moved us for the simple reason that others have faith in our ambition.

We have received financial gifts, letters of appreciation, countless donations of time and even been privileged enough to have a supporter running the London Marathon in our name. We have had funding applications granted and one internationally prolific skate brand provided us with 100 limited edition t-shirts left over from their sponsored skaters’ UK tour, pairs of exclusive trainers and all of the other merchandise left from their trip. Our subsequent outings saw the boys showing off their new attire and being delighted to be asked by their peers at the skate parks if they were sponsored!

There have also been stories on a more personal level of transformed lives and lifelong friendships. We come from an assortment of different circumstances and often forget the diversity between us that is visible to the outside world. Those looking in on our community are often surprised at the characters they see and the behaviour displayed – there is acceptance, inclusion, tolerance and unity – whereas in different contexts the same individuals are known as characters for entirely different reasons!

The Grind has, for many, become an environment that induces development and maturity. It is a place where young people are released to be themselves because they are celebrated for their individuality. And it is not just our members who have changed.

Remember that village? The one that was sent into disarray at the beginning of our story? Two months ago – and six years after our tale began – a skate park was officially opened, marking a new beginning and leading us forward on the next step of our journey.

Grind on Tour 30th - 31st oct 09

macaroons – perfect every time!


Homebaked Macaroons

One of my best friends introduced me to this recipe, originally intended for those blessed to own an AGA.  She found the original recipe here which is pretty awesome, although personally I needed to adjust it a teensy bit as I have an oven and added in a couple of steps (on her advice) – detailed below.

If you fancy a little look at any more of my homebaking take a peek at my instagram or check out a few of  my other treat-related posts.


  • (Makes 18 macaroons)
  • 3 Egg whites
  • 55g Caster sugar
  • Food colouring of your choice
  • 200g Icing sugar, sieved
  • 125g Ground almonds
  • 300ml Double cream (for the filling)
  • Blended fruit (or thick fruit sauce of your choice) to taste (for the filling)
  • Food colouring (for the filling)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 4)
  2. Beat the egg whites until they reach the ‘soft peak’ stage, then whisk in the caster sugar until it has dissolved.  Whisk in the food colouring.
  3. Mix the icing sugar and ground almonds together in a separate bowl, then fold into the mixture from step 1.  Place this mixture into a piping bag with a 1¼cm plain nozzle.
  4. Pipe rounds on to baking paper placed on a baking sheet, about 2 cm apart.
  5. Tap/drop the baking sheet on the worktop to level off the mixture. Leave to stand for 30 minutes until no longer sticky.  (This is SO the most important step – it’s what creates the feet on the macaroons!)
  6.  Place in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes until firm.
  7. Once taken out of the oven, leave the cooked macaroons for 5 minutes then move them to a cooling rack.
  8. For the filling, whip the cream and fold in the fruit.
  9. Once the macaroons are completely cool, sandwich them together with the filling


big love