Bakery Life

Irish Whiskey Tea Brack

| Bakery Life

Makes 2 x 2lb loaves

An easy mix non-fat loaf cake (unless you slather a slice with butter!) You need to start the night before

Line 2 2lb  loaf tins with greaseproof paper or paper liners.
Put 450g of mixed fruit In a bowl
Pour over 300ml boiling water with 2 tea bags, a capful of whiskey and 150g light brown sugar.
Make sure the teabags are immersed in the water and leave overnight for the fruit to plump up.

The next day add:
450g SR flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 Tablespoon honey
2 eggs beaten
2 tablesp milk

Mix well together until there are no more traces of white flour and then divide between the two loaf tins.

Bake at 160 for an hour until well risen and browned on top and there’s no trace of wet mix when tested with a skewer.

Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. This cake is delicious sliced and buttered.


Dairy Free Plum Cake

| Bakery Life, IrelandAM, Recipe

A simple cake, the plums can be substituted with chopped apples, blueberries or raspberries. Ideal for afternoon tea or for something sweet in the lunchbox.


I demonstrated this recipe on Virgin Media One IrelandAM on Thursday 11th November.

Preheat oven to 175C

Line an 8” square baking pan with parchment paper.


 225g Plain Flour
¼ teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Mixed spice
2 Eggs
170g Caster Sugar
60ml Vegetable oil
½ teaspoonVanilla extract
3 Plums sliced


  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder and mixed spice in a bowl and set aside.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the eggs and sugar on a high speed until pale and fluffy.
  • Reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly pour in the oil. Add the vanilla extract.
  • With the mixer on slow add in the flour mix and beat until just combined.
  • Carefully fold in the sliced plums by hand and then spread the mixture into the lined tin.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden and a cake tester or skewer comes out clean.
  • Cool in the cake pan, then turn out and cut into squares or bars.
  • Liberally dust the tops with icing sugar.

Delicious served still warm from the oven with a dollop of whipped fresh cream – although this means it is no longer dairy free!



12 baking tips for better cakes

| Bakery Life

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Baking can be a case of trial and error. I’ve had many a baking disaster in my time. With practice you will get better and here are a few basic tips and tricks to help you along.





  1. Preheat the oven. Before you start baking check the recipe for the correct oven temperature and turn on your oven.
  2. Use room temperature ingredients. Leave out eggs and butter at least 1/2 hour before starting to bake to allow them to come to room temperature. Your ingredients will combine so much easier when they are all at the same temperature.
  3. Check that baking powder is in date and still active. A simple thing to overlook, stale baking powder won’t raise your cake! You can check the freshness by mixing a teaspoon of baking powder in a couple of tablespoons of water. If it fizzes up it should be OK. Be very careful measuring baking powder – too much and the cake will rise up and fall!
  4. Use the best ingredients for the best flavour. Use real butter and free range eggs. Vanilla extract is better than vanilla essence.
  5. Use correct measuring tools. So many recipes go wrong because the ingredients haven’t been measured or weighed properly. Buy a set of measuring spoons and a kitchen scales for exact measuring. Guessing by using a spoon from your cutlery drawer is not a good idea.
  6. Line the cake tin correctly. There’s nothing as frustrating as a beautifully baked cake that won’t come out of the tin, or leaves half the cake behind when you turn it out. Use greaseproof or parchment paper to line the tin, or brush melted butter all over the inside of the tin and sprinkle in some sifted flour tapping the tin to cover all the butter and coat the tin, then tip out the excess.
  7. Use the correct size tin for the recipe. Recipes have been carefully tested so use the exact tin required. Using a smaller tin will result in a deeper cake that will need longer baking, perhaps at a lower temperature. A larger tin will result in a shallower cake that will bake more quickly and could dry out.
  8. Put the mixed cake into the oven immediately. Leaving the mixed cake to sit while waiting for the oven to heat, or putting the cake into a cold oven will affect the raising ingredients in the cake.
  9. Do not open the oven door while the cake is baking! Opening the door before the cake is set may cause the cake to collapse as the rush of cold air rapidly reduces the oven temperature.
  10. To test if the cake is baked see if the cake has come away from the sides of the tin and feels firm and should spring back when you press lightly on top. It should be an even golden brown on top. You can test the inside with a thin skewer. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Please don’t stab the cake with a knife!
  11. If you want to decorate a cake for a special occasion bake the day before. Cool, then wrap in clingfilm leaving it at room temperature to rest. This will firm up the sponge so it won’t fall apart when it comes to filling and decorating. You can brush the cake layers with sugar syrup for extra moistness before decorating. (sugar syrup: place equal quantities of water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar. Add a few drops of vanilla. Leave to cool and keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.)
  12. Finally, do not store a sponge cake in the fridge – unless it is a fresh cream cake. A fridge will make the cake stale quicker (the same happens to bread). Store in an airtight container at room temperature and it will be fine for 2-3 days.





Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur Final – Here I come!

| Bakery Life

Yesterday afternoon (1st February) was the regional final for Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE). Luckily for me it was held in our local Heritage Hotel so I didn’t have far to travel, unlike some of my fellow young entrepreneurs from Offaly, Westmeath and Kildare.

There were three finalists representing Laois : Francis Cosgrave of Sonrimor Limited in ‘best new idea’ category, Alan Meredith in ‘best startup’ category, and I was competing in the ‘best established business’ category.


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There were some light refreshments and speakers before the serious business of the announcement of the regional winners by TV sports reporter Justin Treacy. There are 8 regional finals in total, one regional winner in each category going forward to the National finals in March.

You could feel the tension in the room as the county finalists in each category were announced.

The winner of the ‘best startup’ category was announced as Westmeath’s James Sherlock with his company Smart Business Analytics 

Winner of ‘best startup’ was Kildare’s Jenny Reynolds with her company Topper Technologies

And surprisingly I won ‘best established business’!. I hardly had time to digest the news as we were whisked away for interviews and photographs with the press. Then we went in to a boardroom for the evening to hear all about the process of the final, what is going to be expected of us and the hard work that is ahead of us. Time is short as the finals are at the beginning of March so this month is going to be very, very busy. I’m very glad to have the Laois Local Enterprise Office to turn to for support.

Our business plans have to be submitted next week and then it’s all about getting ready for ‘the pitch’ (Think Dragon’s Den!) Some of the exciting things I have to look forward to are an appointment to meet the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a visit to Google (yes!) for business training. The final on Sunday March 5th is held in Google – Can’t wait for that!

Find out more about IBYE here