Free From (Gluten, Dairy, Egg and Sugar free baking) – March 2020

When we met on 10th March for our planned ‘free from’ event, we had little idea that less than 10 days later we’d be on lockdown with empty shelves in the shops and our normal baking ingredients suddenly hard to come by.  Some of the recipes our bakers used that day might be very helpful to those trying to get creative in the kitchen without a key ingredient like flour, eggs or butter so I’ve included some recipe links in this event write up for you.

Vegan, Gluten, Egg and Sugar free cakes and bakes

I must admit I was a little nervous of this theme!  I was worried that in the hands of inexperienced bakers, bakes without flour, sugar, eggs and/or dairy, and in some cases using ingredients the bakers wouldn’t be familiar with, might be a disaster.  I was proved entirely wrong, and we enjoyed some amazingly tasty bakes.  The recently escalating plant-based eating movement undoubtedly helped.  Good vegan recipes are far more readily available online than they were even five years ago, along with the wider availability of the ingredients used to substitute dairy and eggs and capable of doing the same job in baking terms.  We also had the added bonus of a new baker joining us – Kirsty, who eats gluten and egg free, and is an excellent baker but doesn’t normally join us because of course she wouldn’t be able to share in many of our creations.  Her Vegan Brownies (she treated us to both Mint Chocolate and Oreo flavours) were among THE BEST brownies I have ever tasted.  For those following a vegan diet or trying to cook dairy and egg free Kirsty highly recommends the vegan recipes on the website Nora Cooks.

The majority of our bakers did opt for some form of cake for this event, but we had two bakers who gave us savoury choices – Jayne’s Vegan Sausage Rolls with a filling made of mushrooms and flavoured with various herbs and spices, and Jan’s gluten free Tomato Loaf.  The latter was more like a loaf cake in texture than a bread, but it certainly was very tasty.  Another loaf, but sweet this time, was provided by Bob with his Vegan Tea Loaf.  I’m not sure exactly which recipe he used this one looks interesting and has the added bonus of using chapatti flour which might be more readily available than standard flour at the moment.

Chocolate was a popular choice, featuring not only in Kirsty’s scrumptious brownies but also in a vegan Chocolate and Coconut Cake, vegan Dark Chocolate Cookies, vegan Chocolate Cake with Berries and a vegan Coffee and Chocolate Cake – rich and smooth, just like a very good cup of coffee!

Coconut featured again in Alison’s sugar free Carrot and Coconut cake (the sugar being replaced by agave).  Ginger was another top choice for flavouring, with Heather’s dairy and egg free Caribbean Ginger Cake and Vicky’s gluten free Pear and Ginger Cake.
Faye baked us a classic Victoria Sponge, to a dairy free recipe and Chelsea chose a cake which was naturally gluten free:  Nigella’s Apple & Almond Cake which uses ground almonds to replace the flour entirely.  It’s also dairy free as it uses oil rather than butter – but not the cake to opt for if you’re short of eggs.  It uses eight!

Sadly of course we are currently unable to meet to share our bakes due to social distancing regulations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but our events are merely postponed and we will be back together again baking and sharing our creations as soon as we can.  We’re encouraging our bakers, and others in Winchester who might be using this time to bake more often than they usually would, to share their creations with us on social media.

For the sake of posterity, the full list of bakes for our March 2020 ‘free from’ event was:
Mandy – Vegan Chocolate and Coconut Cake
Jan H – Gluten free Tomato Loaf
Bob – Vegan Tea Loaf
Laura – Vegan Dark Chocolate Cookies
Cat – Vegan Chocolate Cake with Berries
Alison – Sugar free Carrot and Coconut Cake
Chelsea – Gluten and dairy free Apple and Almond Cake
Heather – Dairy and egg free Caribbean Ginger Cake
Vicky – Gluten Free Pear and Ginger Cake
Faye – Dairy free Victoria Sponge
Jayne – Vegan Sausage Rolls
Kirsty – Vegan Mint Chocolate/Oreo Brownies
John – Vegan Coffee and Chocolate Cake

Frugal February

Our bakers did us proud for our Frugal February event, with an array of both sweet and savoury bakes all made using up leftovers!  We all agreed it’s surprising how creative you can be when you put your mind to it.

On the savoury side, we enjoyed retro Crispy pancakes from Jayne, made with roast beef and trimmings from Sunday lunch, and scones from both Vicky and Chelsea.  Vicky’s Cheese & Olive scones used up the olives she’d been given in a Christmas hamper and they made a delightful salty addition to a good scone and Chelsea’s Potato, Cheese & Onion scones made a dent in a glut of onions, and mashed potato which had been stashed in the freezer, as well as using up the last of the Christmas cheese.  Cat really took the frugal theme to heart with her tasty Vegetable Samosas.  Buying nothing, every single ingredient was something she already had in the house, even using substitutes where she didn’t have an ingredient listed in the recipe (like replacing carrot with a broccoli stalk).

On the sweet side, the ‘using up Christmas leftovers’ theme was also strong.  The odds and ends of dried fruit left after all the Christmas baking was the order of the day for several bakes – featuring in Faye’s Spiced Fruit Loaf, Heather’s Hot Cross Buns and Mandy’s Apricot, Cranberry & Coconut Flapjacks.  Chelsea also got through leftover Christmas chocolate and a spare pouch of chestnut puree (originally bought to make chestnut stuffing) for her Chocolate Chestnut Roulade.  Vicky had an excess of ground almonds so they made her lovely Almond Bundt Cake, and Jayne’s seasonal special offer blood orange glut also went into a tasty cake (even if Jayne herself was disappointed that it didn’t come out bright red!).  Christmas spices featured in Deb’s Ginger Parkin and Jan used up the last of the dates with her gorgeous Sticky Date Slices. (Why do we all buy figs and dates at Christmas even though we don’t eat them at other times of the year?!)

One baker not following the Christmas leftovers tack was newbie Penny, who instead raided the freezer for a frozen pie crust and some frozen berries to make us a lovely Berry Pie.

I think this month showed us all how much fun it can be using up leftovers and how many options there are if you’re prepared to be a bit creative.  Thank goodness for Google and the ability to search for recipes using specific ingredient combinations!!  Hopefully it might inspire us all to waste less food, and to get to grips with everything we stash in the freezer or leave lurking at the back of the cupboard.

The full list of our frugal bakes was:
Cat – Vegetable Samosas
Vicky – Cheese & Olive Scones, plus an Almond Bundt Cake
Chelsea – Cheese, Onion and Potato Scones plus Chocolate Chestnut Roulade
Jayne – Sunday Lunch Leftover Crispy Pancakes and Blood Orange Cake
Faye – Spiced Fruit Loaf
Heather – Hot Cross Buns
Mandy – Apricot, Cranberry & Coconut Flapjacks
Deb – Ginger Parkin
Jan H – Sticky Date Slices
Penny – Berry Pie

See you all in March, when we’ll be challenging ourselves to bake ‘free from’.

Something New – January 2020

To see us into a new year and indeed a new decade, our January theme was ‘Something New’.  When everyone arrived there was a lot of “I’ve never made…”; many of our bakers had tried out recipes new to them, some had opened new recipe books for the first time, others had trialled new bits of baking kit or new techniques.  We even had two new bakers baking for the first time.

Most of our bakers were drawn to cakes and other sweet bakes, but Heather gave us a lovely savoury to start the evening off:  Cheese Scones served with Homemade Tomato Chutney, the first time she’d made either of these.

New tins were the order of the day for Chelsea’s Mini Black Forest Cakes and Jan’s muffins (she said she can’t believe she’s never made muffins before) – and she gave us two flavour combinations: Coffee & Walnut, and Lemon & Poppyseed.  Vicky’s authentic and tasty Madeleines were also the product of a new tin, and like the first two, were very successful.  Freezing the tin before baking (to ‘shock’ the mix into rising giving that classic nipple on the back) was also a new technique for Vicky.  Sadly Jayne’s Lemon & Blueberry Muffin Tops in special jeans moulds didn’t meet with quite the same level of success – lack of rise meant the promised Muffin Tops didn’t materialise.  She felt her new éclair tray was also problematic, but the resultant Chocolate, Coffee and Walnut éclairs were produced very tasty indeed.

Our two new bakers Ian and Bob both opted for citrus flavours, Bob making his first ever cake and going for a classic Lemon Drizzle with loads of flavour.  Ian’s Orange Syrup Loaf Cake was the first time he’d made anything other than a Bran Loaf.  An unusual gluten free recipe using almonds and polenta it was also delicious and moist.  Hopefully Ian and Bob will join us again soon for more new-to-them baking.

Last but by no means least was Cat’s Fig Rolls – tasting exactly like they did back in the day.  I haven’t had one of the these for years, and they used to be my favourites.  Cat said the biscuit dough (a recipe from a new book) was difficult to handle but they certainly got the thumbs up.

Great to welcome two new faces this month – as they found out we’re not competitive, we just enjoy baking and eating cake!  If you’re interested in joining us just come along and bring your bake to share – sweet or savoury.

Here’s a run down of the full list:

Jan H – Coffee & Walnut and Lemon & Poppyseed Muffins
Heather – Cheese Scones with homemade Tomato Chutney
Ian – Orange Syrup Loaf
Bob – Lemon Drizzle Cake
Cat – Fig Rolls
Vicky – Madeleines
Jayne – Chocolate, Coffee & Walnut éclairs and Lemon & Blueberry Muffins
Chelsea – Mini Black Forest Cakes

Christmas Traditions – December 2019

For our December event this year, our bakers shared their Christmas baking traditions with us.

Christmas Traditions bakes

On the savoury side, it seems sausage rolls are a hit with our bakers at Christmastime (right in step with this year’s Christmas Number 1) as we had three different kinds!  Christmas Sausage Rolls Heather gave us Christmas sausage rolls complete with ham, sage and rum-soaked raisins (mmmmmmmm….) which remind her of her family’s annual Christmastime trip to her favourite restaurant in Keswick.  Chelsea made her chestnut and apple stuffing into a sausagemeat plait (it’s the only thing she’s cooked every single Christmas since was first introduced to stuffing that didn’t come out of a packet by one of her University housemates).  And Jan made her family favourite vegetarian sausage rolls (filled with all manner of tasty things including mushrooms, walnuts, onions, sundried tomatoes) into a beautiful Christmas wreath.  Move over Great Christmas Bake Off!

Mandy introduced us to Jerusalem Kodafa – Christmas Bakinga kind of cheesecake made with a cous cous base and flavoured with pistachios and honey.  Apparently it’s one of the few foods associated with the Jewish festival of Hannukah that isn’t deep fried!

Taking us into Europe, we had Marina’s traditional Lebkuchen (German spiced biscuits) and Cat impressively managed to produce Panforte, the Italian Christmas classic containing honey, nuts and dried fruit which originates from Siena and is notoriously difficult to bake.  For an interesting history of panforte, see this link:

Tina also went with those warm spiced festive flavours, giving us gingerbread biscuits, traditionally baked in her house to accompany the decorating of the tree.  In a twist on the traditional though, we had Gingerbread Darleks – because there’s always a Dr Who Christmas Special!  Finally, Faye took us back into more traditional territory with an elegant Christmas Cake.

Christmas Cake

We hope you enjoyed your Christmas baking too.  We’re back in the New Year with our Something New event on Tuesday 14th January.  A chance to try out a new recipe, work with a new ingredient or perhaps try a new piece of kit.

The full list of Christmas Traditions bakes was:

Heather – Christmas Sausage Rolls

Jan H – Vegetarian Sausage Christmas Wreath

Chelsea – Chestnut and Apple Stuffing Sausagemeat Plait

Mandy – Jerusalem Kodafa with Pistachio and Honey

Cat – Panforte

Marina – Lebkuchen

Tina – Gingerbread Darleks

Faye – Traditional Christmas Cake

Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate – November 2019

One of the good things about these long dark evenings and the nights drawing in is cosying up indoors with a nice hot drink and a slice of cake.  This month we combined the two, with our theme of Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate.  Unsurprisingly, it did lead to a lot of brown bakes!  But comfort food is another one of the things that’s good about winter, right?

Most of our bakers went for sweet bakes for this one, but (determined to do something savoury) Chelsea tried her hand at smoking some chicken and then used it to top some homemade blinis so we were able to start the evening with canapés!  (Although she did say it would have been easier to smoke the chicken if she’d had a round rack…) 

Many of our bakers thought this was a difficult theme to bake a savoury for – what would you have baked?

Representing tea, Earl Grey was certainly the order of the day featuring in no less than five bakes.

We had an elegant iced tea loaf from Naomi and a simpler version from Chelsea (made as a back up in case she oversmoked the chicken and it was too acrid).  Jayne wasn’t a fan of her Earl Grey and Citrus Knot Rolls but the rest of us loved them!  For her first time joining us Rose gave us a tasty Earl Grey and Chocolate Torte and Heather’s offering (yay – not brown!) was an Earl Grey and Lemon Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream.

Also using two of the three flavours were the Coffee and Chocolate Iced Squares, the Irish Cream and Chocolate Cheesecake and Cat’s complicated frozen dessert of Chocolate Meringue with Espresso Parfait and a Whisky Caramel Sauce.  I wish I’d got a better photo of it!  Vicky was determined to do something other than a cake this time, giving us some beautifully presented Coffee and Nutmeg Biscuits whilst poor Jan made her Mocha and Hazelnut Cake twice as it didn’t rise properly the first time.  I’m pleased to report that this one was absolutely divine.  (In fact it was so good, we asked her for the recipe – here it is: )

We’re all looking forward to our next meeting on Tuesday 10th December when we’re baking to the theme of Christmas Traditions – can’t wait to hear all the lovely Christmas memories that go along with the bakes.

The full list of bakes for our Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate event was:

Marina – Coffee Squares with Chocolate Icing
Jan – Mocha and Hazelbut Cake
Vicky – Coffee and Nutmeg Biscuits
Rose – Earl Grey and Chocolate Torte
Heather – Earl Grey and Lemon Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream
Chelsea – Tea Smoked Chicken Canapés with homemade Blinis, and Lady Grey Tea Loaf
Jayne – Earl Grey and Citrus Iced Knot Rolls
Naomi – Iced Earl Grey Tea Loaf
Cat – Chocolate Meringue with Espresso Parfait and Whisky Caramel Sauce
Tina – Irish Cream and Chocolate Cheesecake

Hallowe’en Spooktacular – October 2019

There were ghosts, ghouls and gore galore at our Hallowe’en Spooktacular event in October!  Our bakers really entered into the spirit of the evening, producing some fun and colourful bakes and a great mix of savouries and sweet treats for us to enjoy too.

Using the pumpkin as her centrepiece, Cat made some tasty pumpkin houmous accompanied by homemade savoury cracker biscuits.  We enjoyed rye and pumpkin seed Frankensteins and scare-dey cats, plus fennel and poppyseed pumpkins and spooks, all beautifully presented as well.  Pumpkin was also the base for Heather’s Spooky cupcakes featuring spiders, cobwebs and tombstones.  Heather also treated us to Strawberry and White Chocolate ghouls as a little extra!  Vicky’s Chocolate and Ginger cake, dripping with blood, also featured broken ‘glass’ inventively created from melted Glacier Mints!

Jayne’s monster Eyeball Pie was suitably gory as well as satisfyingly tasty – packed with pork and apricots and served with a fruity rhubarb chutney.  And Frankenstein featured again with Chelsea’s little Mint Chocolate Mini Rolls which were a fun addition to the evening.

We may have been a small gathering this month, but I think you’ll agree the bakes looked great!

Next time, we’re meeting on Tuesday 12th November and the theme will be Tea, Coffee and (Hot) Chocolate.  If you fancy joining us, new bakers are always welcome.

The full list of bakes for our Hallowe’en Spooktacular was:

Cat – Rye & Pumpkin Seed Crackers plus Fennel & Poppyseed Crackers with Pumpkin Houmous

Jayne – Pork and Apricot Eyeball Pie served with Rhubarb Chutney

Vicky – Chocolate & Ginger Gore Cake with Glass Shards

Heather – Spooky Pumpkin Cupcakes and White Chocolate Strawberry Ghouls

Chelsea – Mint Chocolate Frankenstein Mini Rolls

2nd Birthday: Famous Doubles – September 2019

We enjoyed some classic combos and some more unusual offerings for our Famous Doubles event, celebrating our 2nd Birthday.

Famous Doubles 2nd Birthday Bakes

On the savoury side, Cheese & Onion was the flavour of the night, with Cat producing cheese and onion flapjacks: tasty and topped with seeds, a really unusual twist on that classic flavour.

Savoury Bakes

We also tucked into a comforting cheese and onion pie, oozing with beautiful melting cheddar.

Bridging the gap between sweet and savoury was Jayne’s stunning Almond Fruit Cake, served with slices of cheese, together with an Egg & Bacon flan topped with fresh figs.

Almond Fruit Cake with Cheese

Then it was full steam ahead into a variety of cakes and biscuits.  Variations on the Bakewell theme proved popular with Cherry & Almond biscuits and an Apple and Blackberry Bakewell Tart.

Sweet Famous Doubles

Another combination clearly much loved by our bakers is Chocolate and Raspberry, with both double chocolate and raspberry brownies plus a White Chocolate and Raspberry cheesecake.  Finishing off the evening with elegance and style was Naomi’s tastefully decorated Coffee and Walnut Cake.

It was a shame that one of our regular bakers was unable to join in the celebrations because she’d managed to book a belated birthday Afternoon Tea treat on the same day.  She said her capacity for cake was limited and she didn’t think she’d manage two cakey events in one day.  Really??!

Over the two years we’ve been baking together, more than 20 bakers have joined us – new faces are always welcome.

The full list of bakes from this event was:
Cat – Cheese & Onion Flapjacks plus Cherry & Almond Biscuits
Faye – Egg & Bacon Flan with Fresh Figs
Tracey – Cheese & Onion Pie
Jan – Apple & Blackberry Bakewell Tart
Heather – Double Chocolate Raspberry Brownies
Jayne – Almond Fruit Cake with Cheese
Naomi – Coffee & Walnut Cake
Chelsea – White Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake

Summer Lovin’ – August 2019

This month we celebrated the flavours and occasions of summer, with bakes featuring fresh tastes of seasonal fruit and veg and reminding us of picnics.  It seems we are fairly similar in our tastes, with two impressive pies, and also two variations on the Lemon Drizzle cake!

Bakes made for Summer Lovin theme

We enjoyed a good balance of sweet and savoury.  Jane served her traditional pork pie with homemade chutney and piccalilli whilst Cat’s monster Three Bird Picnic Pie featured cherries: one of her favourite ingredients and of course only available for a few short weeks during the summer.



There was a real labour of love from Tracey who made her own puff pastry for her elegant Courgette and Pea tart and a colourful and tasty Beetroot, Spinach and Goats Cheese Tart from Chelsea.


On the sweet side, we enjoyed a Lemon & Elderflower Drizzle Cake to contrast with a Courgette & Lemon Drizzle Cake and a straight Courgette Cake, and an unusual but very moreish Banana Loaf with Almonds.

As Sue had a glut of cucumbers, she also kindly bought along an extra of cucumber smoothie made with cucumbers and yoghurt for us to sample.  It made for a really refreshing drink.

The full list of bakes was:

Jane – Pork Pie with Chutney and Piccalilli

Tracey – Courgette and Pea Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry

Cat – Three Bird Picnic Pie with Cherries

Chelsea – Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Spinach Tart

Sue – Courgette Cake

Tina – Lemon & Elderflower Drizzle Cake

Faye – Courgette & Lemon Drizzle Cake with Poppyseeds and Banana Loaf with Almonds

Next month we celebrate our 2nd Birthday with a Famous Doubles event!  See our Events page for full details of what’s coming up.

All American Bakes – July 2019

July’s theme was All American and our bakers once again came up with an impressive array of both sweet and savoury classics.

All American Bakes made by our bakers

On the savoury side we were treated to two types of cornbread, both of which were delicious.  (Note to self, must look out a recipe and bake some sometime.)  Cornbread predates modern American history as Native Americans were grinding and using corn well before the Mayflower sailed.  There’s a debate over whether it should be plain, or whether cheese and chillies should be added.

Cheddar and Jalapeno Cornbread
Cheddar & Jalapeno Cornbread

Having had exemplars of both on the night, I think they were both tasty in their own right (and trust me, I ate enough of it to know!)  Cornbread tends to be thought of as a southern speciality now, but according to this article in the Guardian, (which also contains a recipe) there is a northern version too:

Jayne also introduced us to Hush Puppies – no, not the shoes.

Hush Puppies and Corn Muffins

These are delicious little fried scraps of cornmeal batter, mixed with whatever is to hand.  In this case, bacon.  What’s not to love?

Legend has it they were literally made by fishermen and soldiers to throw to their dogs to try to get them to quiet their barking!  Most of us had never heard of them before, but we’re all big fans now.  They certainly kept us quiet!

Black Bottom Cupcakes, Apple Pie and Brownies

You’re probably already getting this idea that none of this food was exactly low calorie, and that continued with some indulgent sweet treats.  We enjoyed both Apple Pie and Pecan Pie, plus some classic Brownies and (new to some of us) Black Bottom Cupcakes – which are essentially rich Chocolate Cupcakes with Cheesecake mix swirled through them.

Pecan Pie
Pecan Pie

It was really good to see another new face this month, we’re a friendly bunch and we’re always open to new members.  We’re united by a love of baking and trying recipes out, plus we love eating the results.  If it tastes good we’re not worried whether it looks like the picture in the book or not!  Some of our members like to challenge themselves to try new recipes or techniques, or practise something they’ve learnt.  Others like the opportunity to bake without having to eat it all themselves, and others still are just cake fiends!  So, if you’ve been thinking about joining us but haven’t yet please do come along and say hello.  Our next event is 13th August when the theme is Summer Lovin’ and then on 10th September we’ll be celebrating our 2nd birthday with a Famous Double theme!

Full list of bakes for our All American event:

Marina – Brownies

Jayne – Corn Muffins with Bacon Jam, and Hush Puppies

Faye – Apple Pie

Cat – Cheddar and Jalapeno Cornbread with Sour Cream

Tina – Black Bottom Cupcakes

Chelsea – Pecan Pie

Love Local – June 2019

This year Hampshire Farmers Markets are celebrating 20 years, so we thought we’d join in with our June event themed ‘Love Local’. Each bake had to include at least one ingredient grown, made or produced in Hampshire and as usual our bakers did us proud.

cakes, tarts and scones made with Hampshire ingredientsMost of us edged towards the sweet stuff this time, although Cat gave us sunshine on a plate with this beautiful Goats Cheese, Tomato and Pesto TartGoats Cheese, Tomato and Wild Garlic Pesto Tart, featuring Isle of Wight Tomatoes and locally foraged wild garlic. Tina also gave us a savoury treat of Cheese Muffins featuring Old Winchester from Lyburn Cheese.

A good variety in the sweet bakes too, with Gin & Lemon Meringue Tarts featuring Bombay Sapphire gin, distilled in Overton just up the road from our Winchester base, a Honey Cake, Courgette and Lemon Muffins, an unusual (and tasty) Rhubarb Cake with a meringue topping, Lavender Scones with Longbarn Lavender (grown in nearby Alresford) and a Gingerbread made thick and sticky as it should be with Old Thumper Beer from Ringwood Brewery.

Adding a touch of colour to the proceedings, we also enjoyed this Strawberry & Cream Swiss Roll, Strawberry Swiss Rollmade with Hampshire strawberries. There’s nothing quite like the taste of an English strawberry in season, is there?

The full list of bakes for our June meeting was:

Cat – Goats Cheese, Tomato and Wild Garlic Pesto Tart

Tina – Old Winchester Cheese Savoury Muffins

Jenny – Gin & Lemon Meringue Tarts

Faye – Honey Cake and Courgette & Lemon Muffins

Chelsea – Strawberry & Cream Swiss Roll

Emma – Rhubarb Cake

Jan – Longbarn Lavender Scones

Vicky – Sticky Gingerbread with Ale