Wow I cannot believe that I’ve reached 2000 views on the blog. Considering that the blog was only ever meant to be something that I did on the side just as a little fun and now that I’ve devoted so much time to writing each post, it would be a shame to leave it alone now. It is unfortunate therefore that I have to dedicate more time towards my education but I’m still going to post as much as possible.
I’d love to be able to take the blog to a point where I can use it to boost a possible career in food. However my dream job is to be a teacher because I have such a passion for food, I’d love to inspire someone out there, whoever they are, whether they are alive yet or not, to pick up their granny’s old recipe book even if it is held together by a dried up egg white, and get into the kitchen and start baking. Even if it something as simple as a Victoria Sponge or Flapjacks, I’d love to be responsible for starting someone’s love affair with food.
I think food is one of the best ways to show your love for somebody because presenting someone with a homemade treat, such as a Chocolate Truffle (recipes for which you can find here to suit whoever’s taste) or a showstopping cake, such as my Individual Fraisier (recipe for which you can find here), shows that you care about them. It might sound cheesy but food is the heart of the home.
I remember a time on the blog when I used to purely copy the recipe from the book without giving much help to the beginner baker. It struck me that this wasn’t the way I wanted the blog to go, which did include scanning the picture from the recipe book because I couldn’t even be bothered, and so I just stopped posting on the blog.
However with my GCSE Food Technology coursework (which I proudly got 100% on, thank you Mrs Robinson!) beginning after I stopped posting on the blog for 3 months, I don’t know why but I felt like this was the time to really restart the blog. Having worked on the site for 5 months beforehand, I pensively returned to the blog, feeling like I was starting again. I didn’t know my audience because I lost all connection with the blog so I just wrote about what felt right to me.
My first post, on the brand new The School Cook, was a Blueberry Cheesecake, which you can find here, and it felt amazing to be able to right freely about my experience with the recipe. For the first time on the blog, I was truly connected to the post that I was writing. My experiences were genuine and I wrote with passion. I read it back, having written it almost 15 months ago, and I feel that the author connects with the audience more because it doesn’t sound as robotic and mechanized as my earlier posts were. I add my own opinion and tips throughout the recipe and this makes the post seem more personal and this engages the reader. I could see The School Cook being a successful blog.
Now despite the fact that it took me a further month to get my next post out after my Blueberry Cheesecake, I still didn’t know what I was doing. I’d only technically been blogging for 6 months at that point and I had so much still to learn. I didn’t know that I could tag my posts to draw in audiences. I felt accomplished getting that second post out but it took 2 more weeks to get another post out. I incorporated a lot of food science and theory into my Fruit Tartlets post which came out next, and you can see here, and this purely cemented my coursework, which demanded a knowledge for the science behind the food.
Then for some unknown reason I decided to review The Great British Bake Off. This was the turning point. I posted 3 episode reviews in a day and I realised how easy it was to get posts out quickly. I soon linked all of my posts to a theme which was recipes from The Great British Bake Off books. I sourced the books from my local library and by this time I was coming to halfway through my coursework and I’d accumulated many new skills and photos to use on the blog. To keep the posts flowing I looked at (uncopyrighted) photos on the Internet to use on the blog because by this time I felt like I found my identity on the blog after 3 months.
I fell into a further hiatus because of exams and then tried the mammoth task of posting every day. I showed my amateurish nature by not fulfilling my promise (and not realising that this was possible for me until later in 2014) and then posting multiple posts on the same day. I then tried doing themed months and for January 2014, I wanted to go back to basics with a Food Basics / Staples series and this worked because I found myself writing posts with passion about the topic.
As February drew near, I began posting chocolate recipes in lieu of Valentine’s Day but again I felt it wrong just to be constantly posting recipes that I hadn’t really tested out that much, hence I posted 2 recipes which I made up myself. For me, I felt happy to finally be posting content that I could be passionate about again. They were my Rustic Blueberry and Peach Tart and my Instant Rustic Tartes aux Pommes.
However throughout that entire period, I’d embarked on an uphill struggle to review some of my huge collection of recipe books which included testing out recipes from them. Whilst I’ve done many already, and you can check out my opinion on one of my favourite books John Whaite bakes here, it’s been hard to continue doing them as each review takes a lot of time to complete, but I aim to continue doing them later on.
May came around and for me it was exam season. I didn’t wish to once again create a hiatus and so I looked up how to publish posts on a set day and I discovered, and I am eternally grateful, that I could schedule posts ahead of time. I decided to create a list of key essential tips for cooking which have gone down very well. It was actually quite fun thinking about all of the things I knew about cooking and I think is a great foundation to anyone’s repertoire. My favourite one to do was Pasta and Rice.
YouTube was soon my next inspiration. I’d recently discovered multiple new food channels on YouTube and I thought about sharing the videos on the blog. It was also an easy way to keep regular posts during the exam season whilst enjoying the videos. It soon became a very popular part of the blog and so on my summer holidays, I thought about exploring the YouTube before I started posting, and going through the older videos on their channels. Some of the posts received 60 views in a day and everyone seemed to like them, a success in my books and you can see that post here. Not to be repetitive, I posted related recipes the following day and showed me that with enough hard work I could successfully post every day, a significant journey from November 2012.
However when it comes to the recipes, I’ve found a beautiful myriad between giving my opinion on the finished product, tips and tricks that could make the recipe easier to do in the beginner’s kitchen, a brief background into where the dish comes from and making the recipe my own. I don’t think it is enough to simply write out the instructions for the recipe. I go that one step further, explaining why we fold flour into a cake mix, for example, because I think that you become a much better cook or baker if you know what happens beyond the recipe and then use that knowledge in every recipe you do. Some of the recipes that show this well include my Homemade Soda Bread, Individual Fraisier and Swiss Roll.
Funnily enough, the Swiss Roll is the sort of direction I’d love to take the blog in. I bake probably once a week, at the most, and so I cannot keep up with the demand of posting regularly to keep an interested audience. Therefore I’d love to be able to post a recipe, with my loving research, tips and tricks and then get my audience to try out the recipe and see how it is. However I know that this isn’t really feasible in the long run so I’ve managed to somehow find a huge bank of recipes, and accompanying photos, that I can fall back on in case I do run out of bakes to blog. Hopefully there isn’t any copyright infringement!
And so to celebrate the 2000 views that I’ve received, I thought I’d celebrate in the only way that I know how: cake!
It is fitting that this is one of the cakes that I baked for my coursework. The cake is a true showstopper because not only does the cake boast an impressive 3 layers of sponge, amazingly heady with cinnamon, but is topped with caramelised apples and a cinnamon cream cheese frosting.
The recipe does come from Edd Kimber’s first book The Boy Who Bakes, and you can see my review for it here. Having made the cake in a very stressful 100 minutes because of the time constraints of the coursework, I noted that both the sponges and the frosting could be made ahead of time and the apples caramelised only when you were ready to serve the cake.
Do not be put off by the long list of ingredients because the cake batter needs the meringue mixture to bulk out what would otherwise be quite little cake mixture and it has a surprisingly low amount of fat considering the amount of cake mixture. The method of alternatively adding milk and flour does actually create a lighter sponge and this is also enhanced by the addition of the egg whites to the cake batter.
For the frosting, ensure that the Stork/butter and the cream cheese are at room temperature as this will allow the cream cheese to mix in smoothly. Leaving the cream cheese out overnight should be enough.
Beware as the cake does serve a hefty 12-16 portions so you could divide up the recipe to have just 2 layers of sponge and it could serve 8 – 12. Either way the cake will guarantee to impress whoever you serve it to and is fit for any celebration.
225g Stork or butter
470g self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
400g caster sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
250g icing sugar
200g full-fat cream cheese
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp ground cinnamon
5-6 Granny Smith apples
85g soft light brown sugar
½ tsp ground ginger
- Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line 3 20cm round loose-bottomed cake tins.
- Cream together the Stork with 300g of the sugar until it is light, fluffy and paler in colour. Add the egg yolks one by one until they are fully incorporated.
- Into a separate bowl, sift in the flour, salt and spices. In a jug or cup, mix together the vanilla extract and milk. Beat through one third of the flour mixture and then add half of the milk mixture. Repeat this, finishing on the final third of flour mixture.
- Working quickly, on a high speed and in a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold a soft peak. Then gradually add the remaining 100g sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form. Using a spatula, beat through one third of the meringue mix to lighten the batter before gently folding in the remaining two-thirds.
- Transfer the cake batter evenly between the three tins and ensure that the tops are level.
- Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the tins comes out clean and the sponges look golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack fully.
- For the frosting, beat the Stork with the icing sugar until it is light and fluffy. On a medium speed, beat through the cream cheese, vanilla and cinnamon until the frosting is even and no longer grainy on the tongue.
- For the caramelised apples, peel, core and dice the apples. Place them in a large pan with the Stork, sugar and ginger. Cook over a medium heat until the apples are coated in the caramel and are tender. Set the apples aside and reduce the apple juices into a thick and glossy caramel sauce.
- Place one layer of the cooled sponge on your cake stand and spread with one third of the frosting. Top with about a quarter of the caramelised apples and drizzle over a third of the apple caramel sauce, allowing it to dribble over the edge of the sponge. Repeat this process before giving the cake a final dusting with ground cinnamon.