“Ho Ho Ho”… Naish Farm has been bedecked with holly, ivy and lashings of tinsel this week as we staged our annual festive photo shoot.
Down from the loft came all our vintage suitcases and baskets, stuffed full of cherished Christmas treasure. Glitzy glass baubles, home made paper chains and my beloved retro reindeer cake toppers all helped transport us from a sunny day in September to a snugly Christmas eve in front of a roaring fire.
Honeybuns photo shoots are always a lot of fun to do. We work with the super talented photographer Capture by Lucy who knows how to create warmth and inject a little bit of Honeybuns whimsy into each shot. We love the opportunity to tell a story with our cakes. Serving suggestions, table scaping ideas and dessert stacks are all brought to life on the day. It helps that the Naish Farm cottage, with its wonky walls and cosy thatch, serves as the perfect Christmas back drop.
Behind the scenes of the beautifully styled photos, our sofa, chairs and window ledges were covered with stacks of cakes, pots of edible stars and swathes of greenery cut from the garden. Our very lovely lurcher, Bruno waited, hopefully, in the wings to hoover up any tasty “wastage”. Sticky tape was used to keep any berries from falling off the centre piece pudding stacks plus we sprayed anything and everything with edible glitter and sparkle. Instead of lighting the stove (it was far too hot), fairy lights were artfully arranged in the hearth – a trick I’m going to now use until it gets cold enough to light a proper fire.
This year, with everything so up in the air and worrying for everyone, we were especially keen to dial up the sense of cosiness, generous hospitality and family time. We also kept a keen eye on the costs. Most of our cake and table decorating inspiration came from Mother Nature this year. We recycled old decorations, made our very own, budget friendly Advent Calendar and roamed the garden seeking berries and foliage. Cherries, star anise and cinnamon sticks were dusted with glitter, dunked in chocolate and transformed into glamorous, plastic free cake toppers and adornments.
In the run up to Christmas we will share some of the affordable, eco Christmas DIY decoration ideas with you in this blog and on our social. We’ll also shine a spotlight on the fabulous new range of gluten free, dairy free and vegan cake selection boxes we have designed for gifting and sharing.
Working closely with our range of gluten free tray bakes and cake slices for this shoot got me thinking about my own favourite Honeybuns treats and the stories behind them. When I started Honeybuns Bakery 25 years (!) ago I had a tendency to say “yes we can do that” to potential customers. The result was a chaotic, unsustainable sprawl of a product range. We were baking 120 cake variations including 5 different types of lemon cake. One customer wanted icing, another wanted a drizzle and so it went.
Happily, since then, we’ve learnt how to streamline the range whilst still offering a great choice of treats. We’ve got all chocolate bases covered with millionaire’s shortbread, blondies and brownies. Flapjacks form a substantial portion of the range and the oats we use are naturally gluten free and grown here in the UK. Our signature Honeybuns layered slices are unique to us. These are our best selling lemon, ginger and polenta slice as well as our vegan toffee, pecan and apple crumble with a hint of cinnamon.
From the 20 plus cake varieties we photographed on the day, I’ve selected my top 5 to share with you. From what makes each of these bakes that little bit extra special to how they were first dreamt up – I’ll give you the low down on our Honeybuns Famous Five…….
Lemon & Ginger Shortbread
Formerly know as ‘Snowy Hills’.
This was the first of our layered shortbreads we sold on our Farmers Market stall in Surrey during 1999-2000. The name was inspired by a quote from Winnie the Pooh , “…feeling decidedly snowy about the ears” spoken between Piglet and Pooh Bear as they trudged up and down snowy hills.
We dusted the cake with sugar, hence the (tenuous) snow connection.
Flavour wise, I harked back to my granny’s delicious lemon curd, made with lashings of butter. If we could emulate that in cake form and and marry it with our polenta, almond and ginger shortbread base – we’d end up with something really rather special. Judging by the lovely feedback we’ve had from customers all these years, I think the consensus is that this one is a bit of a WOW product. Each bite is full of flavour and texture- something we aim for with all of our Honeybuns cakes.
For instance, the shortbread base is made from: polenta, ground almonds, toasted nibbed almonds, flaxseed as well as brown sugar and butter. The nibbed almonds provide crunch and the flax seed tastes brings a depth of flavour. It’s one of the trickier and time consuming cakes to make. The bases are all baked blind before we add the toppings which calls for more “visits” to the cake before it goes for its final bake off.
Our customers tell us they love the sophisticated balance of flavours. The ginger is subtle and serves to highlight the lemon and the almond.
It’s one of our most versatile cakes. Available as a tray bake, wrapped slice and as a celebration cake stack. This slice also works brilliantly as a dessert, warmed up and served with cream or eaten straight from the pack.
Oaty Raspberry Bar
We initially launched a version of this vegan flapjack back in 2016 and to be blunt, it wasn’t good enough. We’d tried to please everyone by making making this cake vegan, dairy free as well as free from added sugar. This was a step too far for our customers who quickly reminded us that they came to Honeybuns for naughty indulgent treats which happen to also be gluten free. If they wanted sugar free options they would buy one of the many health food bars on the market or stick to an apple. We stood corrected and went back to the test kitchen to try plan B.
We used our favourite light muscovado sugar and increased the raspberry content. Instead of butter we used a premium refined coconut oil which is rich and indulgent and a fabulous dairy free baking ingredient. The results speak for themselves as this vegan & dairy free slice is now one of our best sellers. Our Oaty Raspberry Bars come in wrapped slices, tray bakes or you can try a taster box or treat someone to a very special dessert stack.
Dark Chocolate & Orange Brownie
When Honeybuns first started we used to give our cakes quirky names and this particular brownie was originally known as “Heathcliff Brownie”. The reasoning was that the brownie was dark, brooding and delicious. Just like Emily Bronte’s tortured anti hero.
The snag was that people often didn’t have a clue what they were ordering and we were therefore persuaded to be less wacky and a bit more conventional.
The cake itself is very grown up, with layers of flavours and texture. The chief ingredient is dark chocolate which makes up a whopping 37% of the overall ingredients. We use two different types of Belgian chocolate. One has a cocoa content of 71% and the other is 54%. There is also a touch of coffee, orange zest plus a smidgen of sea salt. This layering of flavours serves to make the chocolateyness really “pop” in the mouth. A mark of a premium chocolate brownie is how long the chocolate flavour stays with you. The longer, the better.
Ground almonds and gluten free sorghum flour take the place of regular plain wheat flour. The advantage of using almonds over standard wheat flour is that the nuts impart a natural sweetness, meaning we can add less sugar to the mix.
Texture wise, we use melted chocolate as well as whole buttons which give body to the product. The toasted nibbed almonds add crunch and contrast.
Like our lemon and ginger shortbread, our dark chocolate brownie makes a wonderful pudding in moments. You can pop it in a pre heated oven for 5 minutes or in the microwave for just one minute. Serve with crème fraiche, ice cream and/or a twist of orange zest.
This is definitely our “marmite” product. Customers either like it a lot or they….really, really don’t.
This controversial little slice is gluten free as well as vegan. The ingredients for the shortbread layer include our go- to blend of polenta, ground almonds and golden flaxseed. When eating this biscuit base I’m reminded of a Hobnob kind of flavour. The texture is rewarding- there are lovely toasted chopped almonds which provide bite. The caramel is made by us from dates, almond butter and sea salt and is utterly delicious, as is the generous topping of dark chocolate.
I’m genuinely puzzled as to why some customers find this particular cake a bit of a let down. I can only think that it’s a bit too different from your traditional millionaire’s shortbread and some people are trying it with a different product in mind? Or maybe the caramel is too datey? Those who do enjoy it wax lyrical about the layers of flavour and texture and the fact it is not too sweet.
Cranberry & Pecan Flapjack
Bearing in mind the UK market is pretty much saturated with flapjacks, this particular bar truly does manage to hold its own. We toast the pecans before adding them to the uncooked mixture- resulting in a greater depth of flavour. The tartness of the cranberries cuts through the sweetness of the syrup and muscovado sugar beautifully. We also use lashings of butter and the oats are grown in Cambridgeshire and are certified gluten free.
As with all our cakes, we bake this bar low and slow to allow the flavours to develop fully. Another benefit of this old fashioned baking method is that the texture is almost fudge like. If you bake on higher temperatures for a shorter time the tendency is for products to be drier. Something we actively wish to avoid.
It’s a bit of Honeybuns classic and was one of the first cakes I started to make all those years ago- literally in a student kitchen, using a saucepan and a hob.
With a lovely mug of Builders tea- I reckon this little treat is my all time Honeybuns favourite.