I was lucky enough to get a spot at the Ndali Vanilla Gift Swap organised by Vanessa Kimbell, the author of Prepped, educating and promoting the use of Fair Trade products and specific to this event, Ndali Vanilla.
Each of the participants received Ndali vanilla pods and Ndali vanilla powder to create our items. From the moment I opened the envelope, I was taken with the amazing smell of the vanilla. I was a bit perplexed with how to use vanilla powder but with a bit of trial, I figured it out.
The gift swap was organised in the form of a competition of 4 categories. Each attendee could enter from 1 to 3 categories and the items were judged by two Fortnum and Mason employees, the owner of Rococo Chocolates, Chantal Coady, and the food writer, Lucas Hollweg. Lucas writes for The Times and each weekend, I rush to the magazine to read his article yet I could not bring myself to tell him! Maybe next year…
The categories offered are below.
1 – Biscuits
2 – Cakes or cupcakes
3 – Sweets
4 – Preserves
I chose to enter the cake and the biscuit categories making a Spiced Vanilla cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)
and the Biscuit category making Chocolate Caramel Biscuit Bars.
Luckily, the items were judged on taste and not on appearance because I would not have won any awards for beauty. I did not think through using public transport with freshly baked goods but I live and I learn! Once there, viewing the tables, I was blown away by the creativity and skill of the other participants.
I came away with one of the awards in the cake categories and am thrilled. Vanessa secured such great prizes from Kenwood so I anxiously await the mixer/blender.
Spiced Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
Cake Ingredients have been split into 4 categories for easier preparation.
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp, Ndali vanilla powder
1 jonga bean, grated*
2 tsp, cinnamon
2 pinches, sea salt
3/4 cup, demerara sugar
1 1/4 cup, granulated sugar
1/2 cup, vegetable oil
1 200 ml package, cream cheese, softened and cubed
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup, milk
1 tsp, lemon juice
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp, baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup, ground almonds
Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celcius.
Mix wet ingredients together in a large saucepan over low to medium heat, stirring constantly for, 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add in other ingredients.
Combine egg mixture and add to saucepan, stirring to combine.
Slowly add combined dry ingredients whisking to form a batter.
Put batter into mini-loaf pans baking for 28 minutes.
Note: if cupcakes are desired, cook for 20-22 minutes. If a large loaf is prepared, cook for about 45 minutes.
* For those of you unfamiliar with Jonga Beans, I was too until very recently and found them at The Spice Shop with the help of the owner, Philip. They smell and taste intensely spicy (flavourful spice, not hot) and can be used as an alternative or an accompaniment to cinnamon or nutmeg.
For Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Icing:
1 200 ml package, cream cheese, softened
125 grams, butter, softened
Seeds from 1 Ndali vanilla pod
2 cups, icing sugar, sifted
Cream butter and cheese together in a large bowl. Mix remaining above ingredients together to form icing.
Spread icing on cooled vanilla spiced cakes. Refrigerator until about an hour before serving.
At the end of the day, the gift swap part of the event commenced and we all got to choose numbers associated with the gifts to take another attendee’s items away. As I had brought 2 items, I got to take 2 away and was fortunate to receive Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies from A Trifle Rushed
and Vanilla Melting Moments with Vanilla Icing from the Flying Tea Parlour.
I did offer to share but may have found good hiding spots for them. I definitely took more than my fair share of each as they were delicious. I have enjoyed them with many cups of tea over the last few days – thank you!
I had a wonderful time at the event but more than that, I will pause and consider what I am buying to look for Fair Trade products and remember the stories shared at the Ndali Vanilla Gift Swap. Though it does not seem we could impact farmers and their families so far away, Vanessa’s experiences have shown me that actually, each of us can. Reach for Fair Trade products when you can and feel good knowing that you have helped.