Picnic at Flamborough + Strawberry & White Chocolate Cake
I've longed to return to Flamborough for quite some time. It's unlike any other area of the North Yorkshire Coast and it's particularly special as it's a nature reserve, home to seabird colonies and wildflower meadows which attract rare butterflies and uncommon moths. It's also quiet, unlike the busier tourist areas, it's much more a place to enjoy the scenery, walk the coastal path and appreciate the gentle pace of nature. Harry had a training day on Friday, so we hoped that the weather forecast would be good for a trip there and we got lucky, because it was a beauty of a day.
We spent the morning enjoying RSPB Bempton, embracing the cries and the gorgeous sight of kittywakes, herring gulls, guillemots and most exciting of all, puffins (who refused to have their photographs taken). It's a brilliant day out, beautiful scenery, lots of friendly staff and visitors and the seabirds are really something to behold. Then we headed to South Landing and Flamborough Cliffs to explore and enjoy a summer picnic.
St Helen's Farm very kindly invited me to try their range of goats milk products. Based in the Vale of York, they are an award winning cheese maker and this year are celebrating their thirtieth anniversary. They produce a wide range of dairy products from goats milk including butter, cream, yoghurts and ice cream. Now, I'll be honest, I've never been a fan of goats cheese, it's one of those things like beetroot, olives and blue cheese that I wish I did like. It always looks delicious and frequently turns up on menus as the vegetarian choice, yet I can't bring myself to order it. It's just too sweet for me (ironic I know as I'm a cake junkie), but I felt that I should push myself a bit and give it a go. I accepted their offer to try their products and pondered what I was going to make with it. When the postman struggled down the stairs with an enormous box, I got a bit of a shock. How much goats milk and cheese was I going to be able to consume? The parcel turned out to be stuffed with a cool bag, filled with ice packs, and had three cartons of milk, two large sizes of natural yoghurt, twin pots of flavoured yoghurts (including rhubarb and hibiscus variety, yum), a tub of soft, spreadable cheese, butter and two packets of cheddar style cheese, mature and mild. The box also contained a beanie baby and two lovely china mugs. All in all, it was a pretty good post day and my fridge was full to bursting.
We worked our way through the products in the hamper and truthfully enjoyed every single one. I was initially sceptical about how the flavour of the milk would alter my morning cup of coffee as there is nothing worse than to start the day with a rubbish cuppa, but I didn't notice a single difference in taste. Hurrah. Harry enjoyed the individual yoghurts in his packed lunch but the biggest surprise was the cheese. It wasn't that sweet, soft round shaped cheese, but proper cheddar style cheese and it was delicious.
The health benefits of switching from cows milk to goats milk are widely known and many find it far easier to digest or they see a significant improvement in medical conditions like eczema or asthma. As I've now hit middle-age I suffer more and more from bloatedness and indigestion (there is always a packet of Rennies in my handbag now, sigh.) but I did find that as I made the switch to the goats milk products this really did improve and I haven't had an indigestion tablet for some time. Before I decided to make a permanent change to my diet and shopping habits, I had to see how they would stand up to baking.
So as it's summer, what better thing to bake than a cake stuffed with the ripe, juicy flavour of a freshly picked strawberry? And what about pairing it with chocolate, but a subtler white variety that doesn't overpower the natural flavours of the berry, but simply enhances it? Yip, the perfect summer bake. This recipe is also light on butter as natural yoghurt and milk take up some of the fat content, making it a little less calorific. I replaced all the usual dairy items with St Helen's Farm products and the cake turned out as expected, so yip, I'll be making the switch. The scent of the strawberries when the cake is cut is incredible, and it's light and moist as well as being really delicious. It might not be the prettiest cake, but boy, it's full of the flavours of summer. It's perfect for pudding or afternoon tea, or to take along on a picnic. Recipe is below.
We ended our day collecting shells on the beach, then leisurely strolling up the hill to get an ice cream at the Living Seas Centre. Flamborough Head is one of Yorkshire's most beautiful, astonishing and breathtaking places. I would also recommend a visit to the Lighthouse and when the tide is out exploring the caves and the rock pools as it's perfect for families. If you've never been to Flamborough, move it to the top of your list, you won't be disappointed. x
Strawberry and White Chocolate Cake
180g plain flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
pinch of salt
50g St Helen's Farm Goats Butter, at room temperature
50g St Helen's Farm Natural Yoghurt
50ml St Helen's Farm Semi-Skimmed Milk
200g caster sugar
2 medium free-range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g bar good quality white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
500g strawberries, hulled and halved
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C.
Grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin.
Sift the plain flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix the butter, natural yoghurt and the sugar with an electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy (if it starts to curdle, add a little flour).
Add the eggs, mix well, then add the milk and the vanilla extract. Mix again.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients until just combined.
Fold in the white chocolate pieces. Pour batter into cake tin.
Put the strawberries, cut side down, on the top of the cake, and close together.
Bake in the oven for 60 minutes until golden brown, or a skewer comes out clean.
Cool in the tin before removing to a wire rack.
(Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe). Thanks to St Helen's Farm for providing me with a hamper to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.