Ndali vanilla gift swap

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I’ve been invited to take part in the Ndali Vanilla Swap that’s taking place at Fortnum & Mason’sprestigious store in Piccadilly, London on Monday 24th September. The event is also in association with Kenwood and The Fair Trade Foundation and has been organised by Vanessa Kimble, author of Prepped.
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The criteria of the afternoon involves us making or baking a product, or products, in up to 4 categories:
1. Biscuits
2. Cake/cupcakes
3. Sweets
4. Preserves
I’ve chosen to enter the biscuit & the cake categories with two recipes that I will share with you here.
For my biscuit recipe, I’m making a rustic vanilla, oat, cranberry & white chocolate biscuit. Whilst my cake is a rich vanilla infused elderflower sponge with a vanilla bean frosting and decorated with fondant.
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IMG_0976 IMG_0975  As the name suggests, it’s a gift swap in as much as we produce our creations to go in to a draw, according to the category entered. We are then lucky enough to draw an equivalent gift which has been lovingly created by a fellow attendee which we will no doubt marvel at and possibly enjoy on the train home later that evening.
We each have some wonderful Ndali vanilla product to use in our creations. I really can’t recommend their vanilla powder enough! The fragrance is sublime, whilst the taste is incredibly intense, yet gentle at the same time; a truly amazing product! Along with the Ndali vanilla, we will be using Fairtrade products where possible.
To give you a potted history of Ndali vanilla; Lulu Sturdy inherited a former tea plantation and, after experimenting with other crops, settled on vanilla. She now grows premium quality Fair Trade vanilla on her organic 1,000 acre mixed tropical farm, Ndali. She also processes the individual vanilla crops of hundreds of small farmers who she has helped to gain Fair Trade deals. Growing, hand pollinating, harvesting and processing are all highly labour intensive. The cream of the crop is packaged under the Fair Trade ‘Ndali’ brand for retail. There are still a lot of farmers in the area who do not have Fair Trade deals.
Fair Trade makes an incredible difference to the lives of producers; it’s not just a brand. Learning about these growers has convinced me that the deals brokered through Fair Trade make a huge difference to the lives of the farmers and their families. Many are subject to exploitation by unscrupulous traders.
You can’t fail to be moved by one farmer’s statement: “We don’t want charity, we just want a fair price for what we have grown”
Demand for vanilla outstrips the supply of vanilla beans and, sadly, most UK vanilla flavouring is synthetic with the vast majority of it going into manufactured foods. In home baking, we can avoid this ‘vanilla essence’ and buy pure vanilla in pods, extract and powder form. Of course, its more expensive than it’s synthetic substitute, but in terms of quality and flavour, there really is no substitute worth considering. Next time you shop for vanilla please consider not only the quality of the product that you’re buying, but also the life changes you are helping to make for the Ugandan vanilla growers and pay a fair price.

Karen is 50!

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Karen is a former work colleague of mine who was celebrating her 50th birthday.
Her order was for a cake to celebrate and for 30 matching cupcakes. For this one, I decided to make a deep, vanilla tray bake cake with a pair of flared ‘jeans’ which were cut from an 8″ square cake.
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The decoration was in the form of different coloured circles of fondant icing.
The matching vanilla cupcakes had a white swirl of buttercream on top & were embellished with matching circles of fondant icing.

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Eva’s Mushroom House

Eva is the daughter of one of my children’s former junior school teachers. The original request was for a chocolate giant cupcake, but with the agreement of ‘mum’ she allowed me to play with an idea that I’d got in mind to upturn the base & decorate it as a giant mushroom.

I am so pleased at how this cake turned out. I freestyled with the idea as I went along; simply knowing that I wanted the ‘roof’ to be red with white hearts instead of spots. I also wanted a ‘flying’ butterfly overhead.

Mum tells me that Eva loved her cake, & her grandma tells me she loved it too!

Another successful cake from the kitchen of Freycob.

Vanilla & Elderflower Drizzle Cake

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175g Butter
175g Caster sugar
3 Eggs
150g Self raising flour
75g Ground almonds
5ml Baking powder
5ml Ndali vanilla powder
30ml Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower Cordial
70ml Milk

FOR THE ELDERFLOWER DRIZZLE
60ml Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower cordial (undiluted)
60g Granulated sugar

1. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3.

2. Grease and line an 8″ deep round tin with baking parchment.

3. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs, flour, almonds, baking powder, vanilla powder, elderflower cordial & milk and beat until smooth.

5. Pour into the tin and bake for 45-50 mins until a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.

6. Just before the cake comes out of the oven, mix together the ‘drizzle’ cordial and sugar.

7. As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, leave it in the tin and prick it all over with a skewer. Slowly pour the ‘drizzle’ all over the cake, allowing it to soak in.

8. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin, then carefully lift out onto a serving plate.

I chose to decorate mine with small, white fondant flowers cut & bunched to look like the head of an elderflower surrounded by some green leaves.

Enjoy with a glass of cold, sparkling Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower cordial, or a lovely cup of tea.

This is a lovely, delicately flavoured & moist cake that, due to the addition of ground almonds will easily keep for a few days. If you’re lucky and it doesn’t all get eaten very quickly that is!