Kirstie Allsopp

Kirstie’s Gingerbread Champion 2015

Kirstie’s Gingerbread Champion 2015 – Kirstie Allsopps words, not mine.  You night have seen a little flurry of well wishes and congratulations recently on Facebook & Twitter.  I was blessed enough to go to Devon and live a waking baking dream…

“How did you get asked?” I get asked, quite frequently… I had a speculating Tweet from Raise The Roof Productions which is Kirstie & Phil’s production company..

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I replied in the positive, after all I didn’t expect it to come to much ‘spray & pray’ we call it in the Recruitment industry (in a previous life before children & gingerbread).

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Imagine my joyous horror when on dropping them a casual line to express interest but not believing it would transpire into hard graft, when I received a phone call from Paul McGinness on the team asking if I could be available to film. In Devon. At Kirstie’s house!  Eeep! I think I might have squeaked a bit too loudly down the phone…

“Send us your design”, said Paul… Ah, during a period of head scratching and pondering I got rather stuck on a Dickensian Christmas themed house or maybe a Hobbit type house – because they’re obviously so similar, naturally….


It came as no real surprise to me that I diverted from either fantastical creations (in my head..) and came up with a Lighthouse (“it has the word ‘house’ in it”, see?) They were looking for magnificent, original and surprising.  That’s the look I was going for anyway..  So I sent my doodle in at that was that.  Arrangements were made to go to Devon.

To Kirstie’s house.

Eeep! All over again.

It’s so teeny tiny my little picture here, so small the Christmas elves could have drawn it although it’s on A4.  I’ll post on FB and you can have a gander if you like.  I made a run-list of everything that had to be pre-made. The competition rules stipulated that gingerbread needed to be baked and decoration materials prepared then assembled during filming. So I made copious notes of scribbles which when straightened out resembled thus:

Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas 2015 – Gingerbread House Competition

Everything listed below is hand made by me using techniques I would use in baking and sugar craft. I had help from Papa to make a bespoke wire baking cage to get the shape I need and cutting templates for the other elements.


Now I can’t reveal how I finally gor the bake shape I needed but this was one of the abortive 8’s….


Bottom / flat base of Gingerbread (Light)House circular baked and textured on one of our ceramic pizza stones

Body of GBLH banded in red and white. I made a handmade a cage to bake a specific shape in. The key was the bake shape so with the supervision of my crafty Pa we made a tapered tubular creation to make in / on… So it took 8 test runs to create the right shape – gingerbread gifts were duly bestowed upon classes and teachers at school, nursery, the folks, and friends and generally anyone who was in close enough contact to share the gingerbread love with.


The lighthouse colours were typical red & white as seen in Happisburgh so the red was represented by the bake, textured with cake techniques and the white was what I piped in light sea green and pale blue wave’s swirled piping and white wave crests, a sugar craft tapestry technique finished with a damp brush.


In the wave swirls were small hand crafted sea creatures crabs to represent Cromer, Small craft, Mikado Oars and spun sugar lobster pots with fondant lobsters to represent Sheringham as well as tiny starfish, shells, etc


There were Porthole windows with ‘stained glass’ (melted crushed hard boiled sweets) with buttercream piped poinsettia in red & green and white royal icing piped octopus sucker marks


Ultimately the Lighthouse was cited on a gingerbread cake with cream cheese and mini raffia cobblestones – super yummy and bequeathed to the crew on the designs demise….


The Lamp room had a walk way around at top of lighthouse, with a base of GB with a Mikado walkway, topped with sugar pearl finials, stained glass uprights surrounding the lamp (rice paper, white jelly bean & edible glitter) one door/window left open to peek in and see the lamp.



To top it off I used 2 small battery packs of mini fairy lights illuminating under the walk way, lamp room and under eaves of cottage

In the keepers cottage there were sweeties on the roof and porthole windows with fondant candles inside, poinsettia at the window frames and little fondant shutters and an RNLI motif over the door of the keepers cottage. There was a ‘Flake’ log pile by the side of the cottage & GB cookie Christmas tree decorated with pearls, glitter and sweeties – a nod to Holkham Hall each year.


Sugar ‘sand’ and snow, fondant/sweetie pebbles and ‘ice’ for to represent our beautiful coast in winter and all elements were edible and handmade (excepting the 2 x mini fairy light packs and flower wire).

The Actual Making:

Little round gingerbread porthole windows were crafted with melted Glacier Mints; the ones for the Light room had flower wire struts to strengthen the design. In filming they were adhered with caramel (which Kirstie helped stir – if it went wrong I had my beady eye on Allsopp!).

The filming on the day was stop / start for the production crew but it was straight onto the moon for us beavering away with sugar, biscuit and more sugar.

Until lunchtime I didn’t hold out much hope for it looking like the image I had in my head – one of the things I love about my work is that I feel like a 3D printer sometimes, I think of a thing and transpose it on cake. This is how I felt about this structure once I knew how it was going it HAD to be built. So prior to midday break it was ok but not wildly enveloping me – there was a long way to go. When we got back to filming it was all about the piping for me –THEN it started to come to life and it got Very Exciting on my table. I think I drove them nuts with ‘Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?’ and ‘My Lighthouse’



When Kirstie and Richard Hunt came to judge we tootled off to tea and met some of the other contestants in other competitions going on around the grounds and house. There were puppies, school children from a local school, table centre piece builders (Lego man didn’t even tell his wife he was filming he kept it so secret!!).

Once we got back in there was a decent air of anticipation as Kirstie held the trophy and Richard of the Devon Scone Empire looked stern and bemused all at once?

And the Winner is …




Kirstie had made some Appletinis then we all went home.

The other gingerbread houses were by some lil’ crackers, Rhian Mewis who came 2nd (by 4 points) and I have become lovely Facebook friends (hers is the fairy House)


Rhian’s Fairy House from The Splendid Bakery


Johns gingerbread house


Annes Santa’s Workshop

Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas was televised on Tuesday 8th December on Channel 4 – the link is the episode although there is a lovely upwards sweep of the camera on the first episode a few minutes in.

Happy days – all the contestants were amazing and it was a pure pleasure to meet some like minded bakers who are bonkers about gingerbread. Can’t wait until next year!


Apple Crumble Cake Recipe

Apple Crumble Cake Recipe – perfect pud or coffee morning cake

Beautifully moist spicy apple crumble cake recipe with a filling with af stewed apples and crunchy Crumble topping. A tasty treat for a coffee morning, winters dessert or just because with a brew.

When I cook this cake I’m reminded of the many time I baked with mum when I was little, sitting on the work top and smelling the cake batter as it wafted up for the mixer. It evokes warm memories of spices cooking, apples heating and licking the K beater on mums Kenwood Chef which had its own signature oily aroma as it was put through its paces. The kitchen was wood panel lined like a Swedish sauna (circa 1970s) and there was always a bustle of something good and home-cooked coming from it. Apple Crumble was one of the much loved dishes that came from the oven as well as mums Apple Cake. I’ve blurred a couple of mine and mums recipes here to combine a new family Winner at the table.

licking mixer


Cake batter

200g Butter

200g soft brown sugar

2 eggs

200g  self raising flour


50g sultanas

2 rounded tsp ground cinnamon

2 large Bramley apples

bramley apple


100g Plain flour

100g Butter

100g Demerara sugar

50g oats

1 tbsp ground cinnamon (we like a lotta cinnamon although you can half this if you prefer)



Address the Apples first, like ‘Howdy!’

Peel and core the apples, then slice to 2 or 3 mm thickness and place in a large pan

You have 2 choices at this point just to jazz it up

a) Sauté the apples, sultanas and cinnamon on a medium heat until soft but not mushy

Leave to one side to cool, there’s no need to add liquid

b) Slice finely and add a squeeze of lemon to stop them going brown and flatten cling film over them so the air doesn’t turn them


For the cake batter beat the butter, cinnamon and sugar till smooth and lighter in colour, this is when the air is incorporated to the mix

Lightly whisk the eggs to break up the albumen and add to the mix

Finally sift the flour to keep the mix light and airy

streusel cake

Assembly to oven

Prepare a cake tin by oiling and cutting a greaseproof non stick liner to fit

Carefully add 2/3 of the cake batter to the tin and level slightly

If you have chosen Apples A) gently smooth the apple mix over the batter without using lots of pressure

Or Apples B) layer the sliced apples and scatter sultanas and cinnamon

Add the final 1/3 of cake batter and level again

Bake 180oC for 25-30 minutes



When the cake is has been baking for 15 minutes, layer the crumble mix. This will bake and go golden on the top as the cake continues to cook for another 10 – 15 minutes.

Test the batter with a cocktail stick or skewer to ensure the dip is clean, if there is wet batter it needs another 5 minutes (and repeat if necessary as there is a lot of moisture)

Once removed from the oven let it cool at ambient temperature, not near an open window or this will cause condensation and make for a messy turn-out!

Great with clotted cream, custard or on its own with a strong brew.