My Autumn To Do List

This is mainly made up of ideas to tide you over until Christmas. We’re still just a smidge too far away to get excited – but Winter Wonderland ads are starting to pop up around London, as are the ice rinks and the lights…

But not yet. I love this time of year too, it’s feeling crisp in the mornings and the days are getting forever shorter. The darkness is a little depressing – so all the more reason for a list of fun things to do. With Halloween just around the corner and Bonfire Night next weekend, there are plenty of things on to keep you preoccupied until it’s acceptable to chat all things Christmas…

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*Go pumpkin picking: I have just got back from pumpkin picking and it’s still one of my very favourite things to do at this time of year. I imagine you can’t move for pumpkin patches in America, but here in the less-Halloween-obsessed UK it’s becoming more of a thing now. At our local one you pile on the back of a tractor, rumble down to the pumpkin field, pick as many as you carry and then get back on the tractor for pumpkin curry, pumpkin cake and hot dogs. The perfect Sunday.

*Have a Halloween film night: By this I do not mean scary films. I hate scary films. I get completely worked up by them and convince myself I am living in it for months afterwards – no thank you. There are actually hundreds of Halloween films that aren’t scary at all – I’ve got a nice pile of Tim Burton animated films (hello The Nightmare Before Christmas) as well as a few others, admittedly kiddy, films – and I’m looking forward to settling down and getting through them. There’s not that long until Halloween, so definitely need to get going…

*Go winter wardrobe shopping: Autumnal clothes have been in the shops for a while, but we’re actually in need of them now. I love a new jumper (who doesn’t?) but plan a big shopping trip to fill your wardrobe with autumnal colours – think all the browns, burgundys and even mustard if you’re feeling brave. I’m trying really hard to avoid black at the moment. It’s just so boring, and actually very easy to replace when you put your mind to it.

*Plan a cosy, pamper night: I read somewhere recently that summer is the time to charge around, and autumn is when we hunker down. It’s so true. As the evenings get darker, I’m filling my house with candles, fairy lights and blankets to make it really cosy and the only place to be in the evenings. Add a face mask and anything else you like to pamper yourself with and you’ve got the perfect night in.

*Go to a firework display: I’ve been quite enjoying getting into the spirit of Halloween over the past couple of years, but Bonfire Night will always be my favourite. I have already been to my local firework display at home this weekend, and can’t wait to see London light up next week. It’s the perfect excuse to get a big group together, eat hot dogs and toffee apples, get as close to the bonfire as you can stand and, of course, marvel at the incredible fireworks.

*Get outside and go walking: It’s getting colder and darker (I know I keep saying it but it is), but the beautiful autumnal colours are still clinging on and will do for another few weeks. So get outside and enjoy them. Find conkers, kick through enormous piles of leaves and enjoy the fresh air. We spend far too much time inside and that needs to be changed…

The Perfect Homemade Hot Chocolate

It hasn’t actually got that cold yet. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it meant to be a lot chillier by now? I haven’t got my big scarfs out. I’m in no need of gloves and I haven’t even swung my full coat collection into action. My real, big, winter coats are still safely in storage and I haven’t come anywhere near close to pulling them out yet.

That said, it is getting much, much darker (sob) and so cosying up in the evenings is still entirely necessary. Warm drinks are essential for this. I’m being slightly contradictory here though, as I’m not much a warm-drinks-drinker. I don’t like coffee and I’d say I am a ‘social tea drinker’ – I will if you will, but never on my own. So standing in line at a coffee shop with my coffee-obsessed boyfriend the other day, I had my usual tussle over what I wanted (the real answer – nothing). Then I noticed they had hot chocolate…

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I’m finding myself craving hot chocolate more and more these days. I love chocolate (who doesn’t…) – I’d happily give up sweets, crisps, cake etc etc but I could never let go of chocolate. So hot chocolates feel like the ultimate treat, especially as the days are getting darker (if not colder).

It turns out that making your own is ridiculously easy and it tastes so much better. Yes, stirring powder into hot milk is hardly strenuous in the first place, but just put in a little extra effort and it’s entirely worth it. Melted chocolate is better than powder any day.

I got the original recipe from here, but really you can add or take away anything you want (that’s part of the fun!) and the measurements don’t need to be precise. And the method is essentially chuck it in a saucepan and stir.

You will need – 100g of your favourite chocolate (I mixed milk and dark), 2 cups of water, 2 cups of milk and 2 cinnamon sticks. Put everything but the milk in the saucepan. When the chocolate has entirely melted, add the milk and keep stirring until it’s warm and ready to drink (this takes a little longer than you’d expect). Add whipped cream, cocoa powder, marshmallows, an extra cinnamon stick and whatever else takes your fancy and enjoy! Easy.

Three Tier Biscoff Cake

I have heard a lot of people talking about Biscoff lately. I assumed it was an American thing and not for us Brits. Loaded with sugar and not even remotely natural, I was sure Waitrose and co would turn their noses up. How wrong I was. It is everywhere.

Biscoff is a brand of biscuits (for those not in the know) but they aren’t just biscuits. They have the biscuity answer to Nutella. Biscoff spread is delicious – you can spread smooth, biscuity goodness over anything!

If I had to choose my best baking creation, this would be it. My sister and I always stick to cupcakes and cookies, but we decided it was time to be ambitious and attempt a layer cake. It turned out to be quite the monster. But this enormous, biscuit tasting cake is actually pretty easy to make. You can use Biscoff spread with anything (cupcakes, cookies, cheesecake, crumbles…) but I reckon this is a pretty good place to start. We got the recipe here and it worked really well.

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YOU WILL NEED

For the cake

  • 400g butter
  • 400g light brown sugar
  • 400g eggs (roughly 7 large eggs)
  • 400g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tbsp whole milk

For the Biscoff buttercream

  • 250g butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 300g Biscoff spread
  • 40-60ml whole milk

For the decoration

  • Crushed Lotus biscuits
  • Whole Lotus biscuits
TO MAKE

Heat the oven to 180C and line three sandwich tins.

Beat together the butter and the sugar. Add the flour, eggs and baking powder and beat until combined. Use the milk to loosen if it gets too thick. Divide between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes.

For the decoration, beat the butter to loosen it. Add the icing sugar at a slow speed until fully combined. Add the Biscoff spread, then the milk until you have the desired consistency.

When the cakes are cool, pipe on the icing and add crushed biscuits on top. Put the next cake on top and repeat. Add the top layer and decorate as you wish!