A chance encounter with a Carrot Cake


I’ve been a little quiet on my my blog lately as I have been busy focusing on setting up my own business TallOrder Marketing. a couple of weeks ago I went to a local networking lunch meeting, which as a Coeliac usually fill me with dread – beige buffet central but a chance encounter with a lovely lady called Maggie made it all the more bearable!

I arrived at the event and did my usual awkward shuffle over to get a coffee to find, instead of the usual plate of  gluten ridden Fox’s biscuits, a beautifully presented basket containing slices of ginger cake made by bakeit freefrom. Once the main talk was over I made a beeline to find Maggie – the founder of Bakeit freefrom to find out more. The business concept is bake at home kits (bakeit freefrom – genius name) that are free from all EU listed Allergens. Not only are they gluten free, but they are also dairy free, egg free, nut free and 100% vegan. My instant reaction was they must also be taste free but my was I wrong. I took home my slice of ginger cake and had it for afternoon tea and it was delicious! Like Jamaican Ginger Cake I remember having as a kid. So, imagine how thrilled I was when Maggie got in touch and asked me to pick a cake kit from her website to bake at home and review. So here goes…..

Carrot Cake by Bakeit Freefrom 

The concept is that you get everything you need to make the cake in the kit. I was expecting the essential unlikely ingredients. But by everything, Maggie means EVERYTHING! Including the carrots and the oranges and even a pre-cut circle of silicone paper and a skewer. It came beautifully packaged too.



Maggie has clearly put a lot of thought into how to package up the ingredients to make it as stress free as possible meaning you have a glazed and iced carrot cake in just 10 steps! Which is ironic as she actually apologises that the cake is a lot of work at the end of the instruction leaflet. She also shedded some light on what on earth fruit puree actually is – I have come across many a recipe requiring it and never realised it is essentially baby food – the same stuff my kids adored when they were weaning.

I must admit I felt a little daunted by the prospect of reviewing a baking kit as I am no star baker but the instructions were written so well it instantly felt achievable. I followed the instructions to the letter. I loved how they were not precise or pretentious and there were no surprises. It cooked beautifully, came out of the tin easily (which is usually where I fail) and it looked and smelt amazing!

We had it for tea when my children came home from school and the general consensus was it was the best carrot cake we have ever tasted. I did miss the cream cheese topping, I must confess and as I can eat dairy would probably swap this in if I were to make it again but the orange icing was in no way a poor man’s substitute.


Now for my only grumble……..

The quantities for the cake ingredients are not on the recipe, so I have no way of replicating the cake again. I can see Maggie’s argument for not including them. She wants repeat business. But I think it is an oversight. It was a truly delicious cake, but it was not worth £19.50 every time I want to bake one, especially as the ingredients are all fairly standard and readily available.

I actually made a mistake on the frosted topping by adding in too much orange juice, making it too runny. As I didn’t know how much icing sugar I needed to use I could not start again from my own store cupboard. I did try to thicken it by adding more icing sugar but it lost some of it’s orange flavour as the ratios were then wrong. Also the plastic bags the dry ingredients come in could be easily knocked over or drop and then you would be left  totally unable to make the cake.

If I hadn’t have had the pleasure of meeting Maggie and had just ordered the kit online, I am not sure I would have bought into the concept as much as I have in this review. She needs to give a little bit more of her away. By including the quantities in the recipe, customers are getting their hand held the first time they make the cake and, as they are delicious, will then no doubt have the confidence to make it themselves next time. I think they would also be more likely to buy the kits as gifts for people and to recommend the kits too. I would certainly considering buying one of the other kits in the range, but I also want to make another carrot cake (my 8 year old daughter is demanding it!) and I can’t….


New Gluten Free Range from Schär


Schär arrived in the UK in August 2015, having taken over the popular DS-Gluten Free range. I was lucky enough to be sent a hamper of products to mark the occasion.


The range includes a selection of rebranded DS-gluten free products such as the Bonta D’Italia Pizzas, Ciabatta rolls and biscuits. I was always a fan of the DS-Gluten free Ciabatta rolls so this was good news for me. My preference are the brown rolls, which I reviewed here: DS-Gluten Free Brown Ciabatta Rolls.

They have also kept the DS-Gluten Free Wholesome Loaves, unfortunately they haven’t taken on my previous feedback about the side of the loaf; see my review: DS-Gluten Free Wholesome Loaf. It is still very teeny tiny! Also, pretty unevenly sliced too. Luckily it still taste great but it is not a product I can justify buying – 9 usable slices of bread for £2.39. If only it was available on prescription…..


The hamper also included some of the new range. The Chocolix biscuits were tasty – the closest to a Twix I have tasted for several years. At £2.19 for 5, they are not too extortionate for a gluten free snack and something I can see my buying again…. wish the internal packaging was more appetising – just a plain yellow wrapper, but that’s just the marketeer in me not liking to see a business missing a trick. unnamed (1)

Next up were the Mini O’s and never has a biscuit been more aptly name. They are TINY!! They tasted nice, perfect for elevensees – great dunkability – stayed nice and crunchy; but did I mention how small they are? Only slightly bigger than a 2p piece.


The Custard creams were a conventional size, gladly, as well as tasty and conveniently packaged in packs of two – so great for sticking in my handbag so I don’t miss out when they biscuit tin comes out at work.

In stark contrast to the teeny tiny products in the range the Breakfast Bakes are weighty tomes. They are really filling and taste great – like a digestive. They come in packs of 5, which is actually more than I can handle in one go but they seem to keep well and at £1.59 are definitely something I will be buying regularly.

A Little too cool to care – my review of Coffee with Art


Someone had mentioned to me Coffee with Art now stocked Gluten Free cakes. I went in on a fairly busy Saturday with my partner and children and so had PLENTY of time waiting to get served to study the cake display. The Gluten Free cakes were positioned at one end of the display, but they were not covered or separated in any way from the rest of the (gluten ridden) cakes. The gluten free brownies were actually touching other wheat based cakes in the cabinet and there were other crumbs on the boards the gf cakes were displayed on from the adjacent glutened cakes. Someone ahead of me in the cue ordered a gluten free shortbread and the same tongs were used to serve it as the rest of the order – all of which were wheat based products.
The cakes are, in my opinion, contaminated and unfit for anyone with a genuine allergy to wheat or, in my case Coeliac Disease.
I got the distinct impression the only reason they featured GF cakes at all was to get with the ‘in crowd’ and appear to cater to fad dieters and those who think going ‘gluten free’ is a fashion choice.
I gave some feedback via Messenger to Coffee with Art and received an exceptionally patronising reply which did not address any of my concerns of the health risk to genuine sufferers of Coeliac Disease or gluten intolerance.
It is a shame as it is a nice cafe, with a good atmosphere and great coffee. But this, coupled with the painfully slow service – over 10 minutes for 2 coffees and a couple of glasses of milk, mean I am unlikely to make a return trip.

Gluten Free Afternoon Tea


For a long time, way before my coeliac diagnosis, I have wanted to go for a posh afternoon tea as a birthday treat. It was something I was frustrated I didn’t get crossed off the bucket list before I became coeliac as, with most post-diagnosis dining out experiences, I thought I could only now be in for a disappointment. Luckily for me, this was not the case.

On Saturday afternoon my boyfriend treated me to afternoon tea at 108 Brasserie, which is in the heart of Marylebone district of London, just a short walk from Oxford Street and it was stunning. There are three options for Afternoon Tea: Classic (gluten), Healthy (gluten-free) or Indulgent (either of the first two with added fizz). There was no drama. I didn’t even need to have ‘the conversation’. The staff were welcoming and attentive without being over-bearing and the atmosphere was relaxed.

First we were bought a selection of sandwiches and given a choice of a range of  loose leave teas from the Rare Tea Company. The bread was delicious. I have not had gluten free bread with such a great texture and flavour ever. What was lovely was mine and my boyfriend (who went for the classic version) got exactly the same sandwich fillings and even on the same coloured bread so I didn’t feel different. I was a little greedy and ordered seconds!

And then came the scones and cakes. OMG……. The scones in particular were incredible. I did actually have to check they’d given me the right ones as they were unlike anything else I have tasted in a long, long time. Just the right amount of clotted cream and jam too to make them pure indulgence. The rest of the cakes were lovely too, a gorgeous little macaroon, a date flapjack, a chocolate brownie and a blueberry panacotta, though I must confess to only being able to nibble at the last two as I’d over done it on the sandwiches, scones and second pot of darjeeling.

It was a truly special treat that I will remember for a long time and one I would recommend to anyone.

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Coeliac and me – two years on


The second anniversary of my diagnosis came and went last week. On the day (2nd Oct) I had a nagging feeling I’d forgotten something but couldn’t think what. Coeliac is, thankfully, so ingrained in my everyday life now that it is second nature. When it did occur to me I re-read my post from last year’s anniversary (read it here) and I was amazed at how far I have come.

Last October I was aching and tired after walking the dog for 30 mins a day. I now do weight & cardio training at Golds Gym 3/4 times a week and regularly see a personal trainer. I get achy and tired if I don’t. My weight is now well and truly under control. I feel strong for the first time ever and I love it.

I was working around 2 – 5 hours a week as a freelance social media consultant where I could, more or less, pick and choose when I felt able to work. I worked with a client, Liz Toogood, who became a great source of inspiration. She achieves more in a day than most in a week, despite living with disability, and has the ability to make people around her feel anything is possible; her attitude to life is infectious. She gave me the courage to make the move back into proper employment. An actual job – with a start and a finish time and an expectation of achievement in-between. The ‘Good Luck’ card she sent me when I got a job has become my mantra in life…


What I didn’t know is the security of a proper job and a regular secure income would lead to big change in my personal circumstances. Just one month later I separated with my husband/ partner/ soulmate of 13 years. It was tough, there is no denying it. It still is. The kids are young, they accept but don’t fully understand it. But when times are tough I read the quote on the card (now framed in my downstairs loo) and it gives me the strength to dig deeper.

Mentally I’ve come a long way too. I’m still ‘taking the tablets’ but on half the dose I was last year and I am achieving some remarkable stuff (to me anyway) on them, compared to where I was. I am starting to re-discover the ‘old me’. The carefree, adventurous me that I was in my late teens/ early twenties. I’m a long way off being able to hitch-hike across the Middle East, like I did when I was 20, but I did manage 4 days in Norfolk – just me, the kids and the dog this summer which is definitely a step in the right direction.


Best Bacon Butties and Elevenses. Fact.


Is it just me or are other Coeliac’s a bit frustrated by ‘alternative’ foods? By this I mean ‘gluten free’ versions of what everyone else is eating? I wasn’t diagnosed until the age of 36 so I had many many years enjoying the real deal foods. Try as they do, the ‘alternatives’ rarely deliver anything close to the real deal so in my mind – what’s the point?

There are some exceptions to the rule however.  I’ve been sent two hampers from Udi’s in the past few months to taste and, while some of the products do fall into the – what’s the point? category, they do make some pretty good ‘alternative’ foods that I now regularly buy.

My stand out favourites so far have been:

Bagels –  Udi’s multi seeded bagels make the best bacon butties. Fact. My new favourite Sunday morning treat breakfast.

Breakfast Bars – I have two jobs, two kids and a dog so snacks I can eat on the go are always a winner with me. The breakfast bars are delicious and quite filling. Perfect for elevenses.

So, there are exceptions to the rule it seems. But, generally I want better food. Not versions of ‘normal’ foods which serve little purpose in my mind other than to remind me of what I am missing out on. I can see they have a place in the market – possibly for children to not feel left out but I’d rather have better food that non-Coeliac’s would want to eat.




David & Goliath at The Allergy and Free From Show


This Saturday a good friend and  I went to the The Allergy & Free From Show at Olympia. It was our first time at the show and we had intended a leisurely mooch and then sloping off for lunch somewhere for a proper natter. Not a chance. We were quite blown away by the scale of the event and by how incredibly busy it was.

What struck me the most was the sheer number of small businesses  there were there and how they absolutely wiped the floor with the big guns. They had tiny stands, small budgets but all had great quality, honest gluten free food which was served with true passion.

A few that really stood out for me were:

Lifefood – A smallish stand towards the back of the hall staffed by a fluent English speaking team of about 5 from the Czech Republic. Absolutely laden with amazing tasting products. All 120+in their range are: 100% Pure, 100% Raw, 100% Vegan & Organic, 100% Gluten-free, 100% Lactose-Free, 0% Added Sugar. 100% Delicious. The catalogue of products this company produces is simply incredible and I will be ordering from them regularly from now on.

Kabuto Noodles – A tiny stand lost somewhere in the middle we gladly didn’t miss; staffed by one of the three people in the business. I assume they all took a day each. Despite having already spent a good 4+ hours that day pouring hot water on noodles at a rate of knots, he still had the enthusiasm and dedication he gave to his first customer of the day. He has every right to be proud of his product. They are delicious. Noodles is something I have really missed, and Miso takes me back to my time in Tokyo with work where Miso soup for breakfast is the norm so it doesn’t get better than this for me.

Green’s Gluten Free Beers – Another small stand, which by no coincidence considering the free beer on offer had gathered quite a crowd by mid afternoon.  A nice cold beer on a summer’s day is also something I have been missing a lot. The few I have tried I have not been keen, so was pleasantly surprised by the range available from Greens. The ‘Blond’ was particularly good. Reminded me of a lovely weekend in Brussels before I had the children. What also struck me is that I was served my beer by a man in an Ilumi t-shirt. I chatted to him about the beer for a good 5 minutes before he even mentioned the fact he was the owner of Ilumi, just lending a hand as they were busy. I have been a Ilumi convert for a little while and will definitely be placing another order soon.

Little Turban – A decent curry is something I have been missing a lot in the past month or so. I can’t get my kids to eat it and I can’t be bothered to go to the effort of making it from scratch with out anyone else to appreciate it. Also – delivery for one on a Friday night is not a viable option as even I can’t eat enough to make the minimum order value. I am not normally a fan of ready made sauces but when I tried the three available to taste at the tiny Little Turban stand and chatted to Harj the owner I made an exception. I had the Bourbon Masaledar for dinner on Monday (& Tuesday) night. It was awesome. Un-apologetically spicy, it earned all three of it’s chillis but it had a real depth of flavour too, it didn’t just blow my head off which is a tricky balance to achieve. My only regret is I only bought 2. I will need to be getting some more soon.



In stark contrast were the Goliath’s. Namely the supermarkets and the bigger brands with their enormous ‘showcase stands’. What they appeared to have done was the blow their budgets on the marketing and forgot to pack any passion, dedication or product. Sainsbury’s, despite having one of the best gluten-free ranges out there, were showcasing their… drum roll… chocolate coated rice cakes. Really?? There were a few toddlers there, granted, but not enough to justify this.  What got me the most was a number of the small companies we chatted to said they were stocked in selected Sainsbury’s store, but there was no evidence of support of the small tradesmen on their stand. Then Asda, where we waited for about 10 minutes while two girls chatted amongst themselves chucking together some kind of cous-cous concoction. Not once interacting with the waiting crowd and dishing the food up with the passion of a prison cook. I can’t even remember if Tesco were there.

I certainly hope that they had the sense to pack a decent buying team who were out on the floor of the show chatting to the small businesses out there because if only 10% of their passion and dedication could rub off onto the big supermarkets then the gluten-free market could be about to get interesting. We don’t want to eat alternative food, we want better food with small ingredient lists, provenance and honesty.

In the meantime, we are lucky to have companies such as Goodness Direct & Freego offering a voice to the small businesses and I will be making the most of the coupons I picked up from their stands very soon.