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Ho Ho Ho Amblers! It’s officially the Christmas countdown and it’s been mince pies and gingerbread galore over here! I’ve been baking up a storm for family and friends and I just can’t get enough of Christmas treats – more mulled wine anyone?!

Christmas has always been my favourite time of year and, from an early age, dessert was always my job for the big day, but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really gotten into the spirit of making everything from scratch. Last year, for example, I made a big batch of mince pie filling with the idea of it lasting for two Christmases (the boozy mix does, in theory, keep for as long as you want it; in fact, it gets better the longer you leave it). However, coming back to it this year, I discovered that mince meat matures. And oh – how mine has matured! My sweet little mince pie mix is now very grown up – the lesson here is to go easy on the booze to begin with if you intend to keep it, or your guests may end up a lot merrier than intended.

My most recent Instagram food-crush comes in the form of Minimalist Baker. For the most part, Dana’s recipes are vegan and gluten free – which is enough to set
a lot of people screaming – but trust me, they not only look and taste incredible but are so quick and easy to make. She aims for 10 ingredients or less and only one bowl or pot in each recipe. Hurrah for less washing up!

I’ve ventured a little further out this month in my quest for cake – to The Little Yellow Pig in Hoole. I ordered a coffee and a slice of their caramel date cake for a reasonable £4.70. The cake looked a little rough around the edges – a little homemade – but was absolutely delicious and I appreciated the cute stars and chocolate chips to decorate. You could really taste the dates in the sponge (which is a flavour that’s easily lost) and the caramel topping was rich but not sickly sweet and complimented it nicely. A few nuts would have made a nice addition, but then, I would put pecans in everything! The coffee was perfect – strong, but not overbearing and not bitter at all.

I loved the mismatched cups and china and the eclectic mix of pig-themed artwork and collectibles on the walls. It feels casual and arty, but not in a pretentious way. The niche books in their bookcase are definitely intended to be a little tongue in cheek.

Also worth a mention is their locally sourced “Harry’s” hot chocolate and their homemade cold brew coffee in summer. They also sell a variety of fresh breads daily and have an excellent brunch/lunch menu – brunch served until late! I’ve recently been chatting to my friends about experimenting with a rocky road cake – I’m thinking of a crazy, packed-out chocolate one full of marshmallows, cherries and anything else I can think of to put in. Watch this space…