Why it had to be “Made in Brentford”

Old Bakery HQ

When I visit different markets people will often ask me where I work…or where I live…of course I both live and work in the same place, Brentford. ” Oh Brentford”…they will say…”isn’t that near Kew, or near Chiswick, or near Ealing?”…the answer is ‘yes’ to all three, but Brentford has its’ own distinctive character, which is why we love it so much.

We were drawn here for various reasons all of which had nothing to do with cake! Firstly we had both family and friends living nearby – some of my partner’s family having lived in Brentford for over 20 years so we knew it  had much to offer as a place of residence.  Secondly, I was coming home on the bus one night reading the local free paper, when I saw a delightful house for sale in Brentford.  I knew there and then we had to see the house – it looked so right.  The house – The Old Bakery – as it happened, lived up to expectations, and so we decided to put down roots in Brentford.  It was the best thing we ever did.  Not only do we have that sense of inter-connectedness with our family and friends, but we have gained so much from being a part of what is, for me, a very special community.

Lots of good things happen in Brentford.  We have our own Arts Centre, Watermans.  We have our own boatyard making bespoke boats.  We have a wonderful market every Sunday of the week.  We have a proper river frontage with barges, wildfowl and islands covered in greenage.  Johnsons’ Island has a dedicated artist’s community with strange shaped buildings and unusual studios.  We have parks and open spaces for children to play in.  We have quirky historic buildings – not fancy, but solid and practical, showing the heritage of our town to be a place of industry, where things were made. We have a Steam Museum, and a Musical Museum and an odd tower that defines one boundary of our town at its’ eastern end.

Yes we do have some eye sores – the M4 flyover was not our finest architectural achievement, and did much to separate one side of Brentford from the other. The sense of the town becoming airborn over the last few years has diminished a lot of what makes our town special – high rise flats and hotels now dominate the A4 corridor and part of the river frontage – not a sympathetic way to develop Brentford – more a case of building lego houses on a large scale with no finesse, creativity or sensitivity for what looks right, feels right, or makes any sense to the community.  It is the community, its’ people, that define Brentford as a place. That is why I proudly put ‘Made in Brentford’ on my business card, because I am proud to live in Brentford and proud to make cake in The Old Bakery in Brentford.

I am at Brentford Market on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of every month, and Ealing Market every Saturday.

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Have an egg-tastic Easter…

I’m not going to try and answer the age old question of which came first – the chicken or the egg?  All I know is that baking would be jolly hard without these little ovoid beauties.  Eggs are almost the perfect food source, unless you have an allergy to eggs, or you are vegan, or have religious reasons for not eating them, they are nature’s powerhouse food stuff.  Mind you – there are eggs and eggs – it pays to know your eggs…rather like knowing your onions because not all eggs are created equal.


When I first started baking I was determined to find a farmer who cared about the welfare of their hens; kept them in a free range/outdoor environment, and fed them well.  Luckily for me I have two excellent suppliers both selling at London Farmers’ Markets – David Emmett, from Rockwell Farm and My Orchard Eggs from Brambletye Biodynamic Farm in Sussex. The Emmett family has been at Rockwell End since 1936. As well as an acreage of wheat, the farm produces free range eggs, new/ salad and main crop potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus, sweetcorn. All produce is available on-farm in the farm shop as well as at Farmers Markets in London and locally.


At Brambletye Farm the hens really do run free, wandering about between the wonderful biodynamic apple trees during the day and housed in units that can be moved around the 60 acre site with ease. These hens really do  live the life of Riley and are fed on 100% organic grain with no GMOs…you can see why I like them!



I’m so happy to support both these great egg producers…and if I really run short of eggs then Edible Ealing Box Scheme take up the slack with another great organic producer…


Easter wouldn’t be Easter without a few eggy offerings… rest assured when you next visit me at West Hampstead, Ealing or Brentford Markets I will have suitably inspired egg-tastic treats for you to sample.  Happy Holidays everyone!


Celestial goings on over the summer

life is better

Celestial Greets Everyone!

It’s been a busy couple of months here at Old Bakery HQ.  What with regular markets, cafe commitments, festivals and fayres it’s been hard to fit any R&R in over the summer months.  Having said that I did have a smashing holiday in France during August.  Whilst there I used my time wisely and purchased several foodie paraphernalia items for my market stall. Top of my list of cracking finds was an olive stoner which doubles as a plum/cherry stoner as well.  This useful piece of kit will shorten the time it takes to stone cherries in the summer and plums in the autumn…how did I ever manage without it?  I can’t resist a good French antiquities/brocante market… brilliant for all sorts of fabulous finds such as my antique crisp white linen table cloths soon to grace the market stall stands.  I’ve also invested in a hardwearing red and white apron which will hopefully keep me clean and tidy whilst I work.

Brentford Festival .1.

Brentford Festival








First week back after the holiday and Brentford Festival proved a stonking success….weather hot; crowds plentiful; offerings appreciated…this is by far and away my best event of the year – and I love the fact it is a local event supported by local people. Keeping it local I now have a stall at Brentford Farmer’s Market on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of every month. I am enjoying meeting local folk for a cake-and-chat…and there are some great stall holders to talk to, and sample their wares.  Last week I picked up some wonderful fruit vinegars from Bickertons stall…they will make great Christmas gifts.

Brentford Market


carrot,pistachio and coconut cake







Speaking of Christmas…it is fast approaching…I have been busy prepping by making jams, marmalades and chutneys to sell on my stalls and through Edible Ealing.  I will of course be making other delicious combestibles in cakey form nearer the time…more of that later…



The Great British Biscuit

Last week whilst watching TV I stumbled across Nigel Slater’s wonderful homage to the Great British Biscuit.  As a biscuit fancier I found the hour long programme fascinating.  A veritable world cup selection of biscuits was laid out before the viewer – bourbons; iced gems; custard creams; penguins; nice; hobnobs and clubs to name but a few all jockeyed for position.  Not only did we get to see all our old favourites Nigel and his biscuit anorak buddy Stuart Payne aka Nicey got to taste, compare and contrast and ultimately judge the creme de la creme of the biscuit world.


I particularly enjoyed the potted history of biscuits….did you know that the word biscuit has Latin and French roots? Or that ship’s biscuits could only be broken with a cannon ball because they were so hard and often contained weevils from the flour? Or that there are 10 holes in a bourbon biscuit. Huntley and Palmer , Peak Freans. McVities and Carrs of Carlisle all got a mention. Huntley and Palmer started to mass produce biscuits  around 1830.  Mr Huntley (a fine biscuit producer from Reading) met Mr Palmer (an engineer) and began making biscuits on an industrial scale.  The most wondrous thing about the biscuits of that era were the biscuit tins – quite often works of art in their own right.  At one time the tins were sent in large packing cases to all parts of the globe , a small boy would be put inside the container to position the boxes…but as Nigel wryly points out all is not right in the world of the biscuit tin because they are no longer made of tin…a plastic box just does not cut the mustard.


To dunk or not to dunk?  De Bretts states that you can only dunk  in an informal setting…probably because most biscuits disintegrate when they hit warm tea or coffee.  Nigel conducts a fab experiment with our 10 most popular dunking biscuits to see which biscuits avoid a dunking disaster best.  It turns out that the Rich Tea biscuit is the ultimate dunker with over 10 minutes on the clock.  A genuine safety biscuit.  Apparently your taste in biscuits reflect what kind of paper you read… pink wafer; amaretti; oat cake; garibaldi…can you name the newspaper that goes with the biscuit?


My favourite and most bonkers part of the programme was meeting the Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Appreciation Society – there is an entire room at St Andrews University that is covered in caramel wafer wrappers…the group also decided to send a wafer off to the great and the good across the land. Ted Hughes returned his wrapper with an ode to Tunnocks   – it’s a great idea.  Nasa demanded money to exchange hands if the group wanted to place a biscuit in space….I think they missed the point of the experiment.  Only in Britain….

Now for the ultimate question is a Jaffa Cake a biscuit or a cake? Apparently it has been classified a cake for VAT purposes.

I must confess I normally don’t eat a lot of biscuits, but Nigel has inspired me to have a go.  For my own spin on the great British biscuit I’ve used exotic flavours such as tamarind; garam masala and ginger in one of my offerings; honey salted peanuts and peanut butter in another; and the ultimate triple choc cookies that really pack a punch. I like a thick texture and a soft dough for preference…. Anyway they will be rocking up at the next market to whet your appetites…

Here’s a link to the programme…


And the newspapers were as follows; The Sun; The Guardian; New Scotsman; The Daily Mail….

Vive la Difference!

I’m enjoying the  BBC comedy series W1A at the moment…it’s the follow on to Twenty Twelve, a send-up of the London Olympic Games.  This one sends up the BBC which in my book is must-see TV. One of the sub plots focuses on “Britain’s Tastiest Village” –  a sort of Great British Bake Off meets TOWIE, and who else could present such a programme but the ubiquitous Claire Balding and Alan Titchmarsh….except neither of them really want to be associated with the programme for various reasons.  Anyway it got me thinking about Britain’s tastiest village/town/city and what makes for quintessentially good food across the land.  Joking apart we do have a lot to celebrate food wise as a nation. Since the 1970s there has been a relentless foody renaissance taking place.  From Michelin starred chefs to the humble High Street Café food just seems to have got better, more considered, mega optioned and multi layered.  It is no longer a case of fish and chips, Indian or Chinese takeaways being the norm…most High Streets have modern fusion food outlets by the bucket load…but are we really spoilt for choice? Have we become blasé when it comes to food?…do we really know our Nam Plas from our Nachos…or is it just an illusion?Old Bakery HQ

I am numb when it comes to chain restaurants – even though they offer good value for money, lots of choice and reasonable quality what I’m looking for is the one-off, the individual, the different, the special and unique.  I believe what we now need  is a change…not more choice, but less choice and more home-grown “unchained” foodie outlets across the land.  One home grown example from Ealing is Angela Malik’s new Indian fusion food emporium on St Marys Rd  – Angela uses great raw and cooked ingredients to create UMAMI  – a rather unique “je ne sais quoi” that cannot be found elsewhere along the High Street. Similarly I have been supporting two new cafes – Organika in Pitshanger Village, and Paperback on South Ealing Road….luckily for me both now stock Celestial Cake offerings because I think they got that UMAMI moment when they tasted my cake….yes we like what you do, how you do it and why you do it.  Whilst I don’t think Ealing is going to win Britain’s Tastiest Town anytime soon, there are encouraging signs beginning to emerge, and I’m happy to be part of the trend bucking brigade – big is not always beautiful – unless it’s a home made cider infused hot cross bun….

You can find Celestial Cakey offerings at the following outlets across Ealing

Organika Café, 78 Pitshanger Lane,Ealing W51QX

Paperback Café, 153 South Ealing Road, W54QP

W7Emporium, 60B Boston Road, Hanwell, W73TR

Edible Ealing Box Scheme (www.edibleealing.wordpress.com) small selection available fortnightly on Fridaysvery moist carrot cake

Ealing Farmers Market, Leeland Rd, West Ealing second and fourth Saturday of the month 9.00am till 1.00pm

Easter stall at West Hampsteadtea cakes 2

Sarah's apple cake

Celestial Greets…Marvellous March is finally here….

Hello from The Old Bakery HQ

After what has seemed like an eternity of wind and rain spring has finally sprung…thank goodness!  The markets have been hairy, scary, windy and down right dangerous over the last 2 months!  I’m relieved that barring a few missing nuts and bolts and a small dent in one of the marquee legs Celestial Cakes remains unscathed…it could have been so much worse!  Thank you to all my customers who braved the weeks of wind and rain to pay me a visit at West Hampstead and Ealing Markets.  I salute you….


I have been keeping a low profile for the last few months  – I took January off due to a family bereavement – so I am just getting back into the swing of things. For the first time in quite a while I felt inspired last week…perhaps it was because Saturday was the first day of spring and St David’s Day I had a definite Welsh theme going with Bara Brith and Welsh Cakes on the menu.  Not only that I suddenly thought about a different way to make sponge cake…I like the traditional Victoria sponge recipe, but sometimes a change is as good as rest.  May I  introduce you to the spelt, hazelnut, caramel and chai cream cake…it’s nutty but light sponge is infused with fresh cream flavoured with chai masala spice blend and a layer of caramel in the middle…scrummy!  Expect to see this at the market in the coming weeks….


I  love getting feedback from my customers…Celestial Cakes really do travel the globe…we know this because they have been seen in France, Rome and now Mexico….where next?  One of my regulars went to see her daughter in Mexico this Christmas…smuggled into her luggage was a gluten free chocolate, prune and armagnac cake…thankfully it arrived in one piece and was eaten somewhere in Mexico over the holidays…superb!


It’s ‘comin on Christmas…and they’re cutting down trees…

Christmas is nearly upon us, so with that in mind I have been planning my Christmas offerings. I’m trying ‘made to order’ this year so if you come to either West Ealing or West Hampstead Markets you can order your cake in advance – pick up will be the last market before Christmas – 21st December, or earlier if preferred.  I have a range of great cakes this year – as always a bit leftfield so if you are looking for a traditional cake this is not the place to find it!


Here’s what I have in mind…..

Celestial Chocolate Christmas Cake – a moist fruit cake boosted with 3 different types of chocolate – this cake has a deliciously rich flavour

Sarah’s Stollen – very popular – lots of dried fruit and marzipan make this a real Christmas treat

Hazelnut, Fig, Chestnut and Orange Fruit Cake – sublime combination…let’s just say Marrons Glace and leave it there

Saffron infused Gluten Free Clementine Cake – an old favourite and always popular at Christmas

Gluten Free Chocolate Prune and Armagnac Cake – shamefully  rich and indulgent

Boozy Christmas Puddings includes sherry, brandy, rum and what’s this…angostura bitters….whatever next?

To place an order visit my market stalls or call Sarah on 07946060896  – a small freebie is available for those of you who can name which famous recording artist wrote and sang my posts’ title…It’s ‘comin on Christmas….

Season’s Greets Everyone!

Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness…

Summer went out like a light this year – one week into September and there is a chill in the air, the rain has returned and I am looking at putting on more layers to combat the cold.  The payoff comes in the form of autumnal foodie treats such as blackberries; late raspberries; apples pears and plums – just the kind of fruity delectations that make an ordinary cake a great cake.  Expect to see on the market stall this month blackberry apple and almond slice; triple whammy raspberry cake (made with buttercream cassis); and upside down plum cake.

I promised you an update on Cassandra and Raquel  – our free range porkers are growing tubby (in this case a good thing) and may soon be heading to that fluffy pigsty in the sky.  The girls like their sleeping quarters and play area but have become keen to explore more of the Rectory garden and have tried to escape on a number of occasions.  They are demanding more attention and companionship than Del Boy and Rodney – I guess they always had their three wheeler to escape in!  Anyway as you can see from the picture they like nothing better than snuffling for food scraps and apples.

Cassandra and Raquel


I was lucky enough to go to France over the summer holidays.  I had forgotten how amazing French markets are – everything is beautifully presented and packaged – the cakes were disappointing though – mostly nougat and truffles and very sweet – not at all like the fabulous patisserie you get in French bakeries. I was very impressed by this cheese display…so mouth watering…

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french cheese at Cotignac Market










Finally I would like to say thank you to all those people who came for a “chat and cake” at Brentford Festival it was a brilliant community day, well supported by local people.  Here is the Green Man in front of my stall…

green man at Brentford Festival

Several Good News Stories

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I learnt at the weekend that the Big Love Beetroot Brownie is not called Big Love without reason.  This lovely couple got together whilst eating my delicious  brownies over a year ago – they happily told me on Saturday that if it wasn’t for my Celestial intervention (in cake form) they may never have started going out together…never under estimate the power of the Big Love Beetroot Brownie. I’m wondering where next for my BLBB? Speed dating events perhaps???

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It’s all go at the Celestial allotment space…courgettes planted; beetroots planted; strawberries starting to flower and my gooseberry bushes that I got last year from the market are thriving – very happy with my rhubarb too…I’m hoping this year for a reprieve from rain sodden, slug infested soil…please shine sun…that’s me under the netting by the way…


Some of you may have met Del Boy and Rodney Trotter at last years Ealing Transition Reskilling Event,   They were raised at St Mary’s Vicarage Ealing. May I now introduce you to their successors – Trigger and Dave…actually they are lady pigs so we thought Raquel and Cassandra might be better names for them.  Myself and a few friends have a share in  Cassandra and hope to be sampling some piggy delights later in the year…you will be pleased to know that all my cake vegetable scraps are ending up at St Marys and are being put to good use….the pigs are already becoming quite famous and have  found their way into the Ealing Gazette…it’s not often you see farmyard animals in someone’s back garden in Ealing – let alone a Rectory!

I’ll keep you posted on their progress…

Beetroot Brownies are travelling the world!

Beetroot brownies travelling the world


A couple of weeks ago at West Hampstead one of my loyal customers Paolo told me that he was travelling to Rome and was going to take his sister one of my beetroot brownies…imagine my suprise when I received this lovely picture of Paolo’s sister with the Colliseum in the background…this is my favourite city and one of my favourite monuments…grazie Paolo such a wonderful suprise!

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