Saturday 29 December 2012

2012 was pretty good...

Whilst I've been off work over Christmas, I've been having a think about all the fantastic things that have happened over the past year. My life if completely different to December 2011, and it all started with my husband saying 'you need a hobby'. I collected several.

This time last year I had just perfected my first bundt recipe, after hours of turning the air in our kitchen blue! Not long afterwards, my friend Susan asked me to do a guest post on her blog explaining how to make the perfect bundt cake. Because bundts were not commonplace, I started to get lots of questions. From that came the requests to start my own blog. I had all the excuses ready to go... I was too busy... No-one would read it... I didn't know what to write... I was full of it!

I started Dolly Bakes in January 2012 and went in pursuit of blog-worthy escapades! Some of the things I write about I would have done anyway, but we can no longer go for a meal without me taking pictures first. My husband loves that. Really...

Here's what I've been up to over the past year...


This is where it all started. I didn't really make any resolutions, but did decide to stop whinging and do things that made me happy. 

Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - January


Things started to go a bit crackers...
  • The publicity for Bolton Clandestine Cake Club went through the roof! The Bolton News came to my house to do a piece, and not long after I was invited to Media City in Salford to do an interview live on air with Heather Stott. 
  • The Matilda bundt was born.
  • The first ever Bolton Clandestine Cake Club was held on 25th. I didn't die of fear and people had a great time!
  • Our friend Vicki turned the big 3-0! The first in the Horwich Fine Dining Society...
Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - February


March was a month for exploration. I wanted to try new places, so it meant that we didn't end up in the same haunt every weekend. I didn't do too badly considering I was suffering from the devastation of turning 30...
  • I discovered some of Manchester's best tea shops; including Home Sweet Home, Richmond Tea Rooms and Sugar Junction.
  • I was invited onto BBC Radio Manchester again for Retail Therapy, live from Bolton Market.
  • We jetted off to Stockholm for my birthday, which is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. 
  • Frantzen/Lindeberg has got to be one of the standout meals of this year, whilst eating fika in the city's many tea shops was a totally new experience. One of the best trips we have ever taken!
  • I got a baby pink KitchenAid mixer. She is called Petal.
  • My friends Dawn and Lucie both had babies. Sam and April were both present as 'bumps' at our first cake club meeting too!

Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - March
Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - March


April was a month of firsts really!
  • I met some Twitter friends in person after offering to help them with an Easter fundraiser.
  • My bundts became a little more challenging each time.
  • I set about making cupcakes for boys! Twenty four monsters, every one different.
  • I put Petal to good use by making my first ever batch of hot cross buns. I even made lemon curd to go with them. This time last year I made nothing but muffins...

Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - April


Bolton was gripped by Olympic fever in May, as the torch came through the town. This month can be summed up in one word - cake. I think I baked more in May than I did in any month before! I was really enjoying sharing recipes on my blog, and constantly had an occasion to bake for.
  • I met Stu Francis who was very impressed by my Olympic Stadium bundt!
  • We had an Olympic themed event at work where each team dressed in their chosen country's colours.
  • I made a chocolate chip and toffee pirate ship bundt for Sam. This is one of the most popular recipes on my blog.
  • I discovered Lucy's of Ambleside. God bless Lucy and her outrageous volume of desserts...

Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - May


June was all about spontaneity. I bloody love a good plan, but during the month of June we flew by the seat of our pants and went all over the show! Our September holidays seemed a long way off, so we booked a few days off over the Jubilee to enjoy what the North West had to offer!
  • We had a mean game of crazy golf after a three hour journey to Ambleside...
  • We went back to Lucy's for her Up the Duff Pudding Club, where we ate twelve desserts between two of us. I remember it fondly now, but it did nearly kill me...
  • We had a fabulous meal at the Freemasons in Wiswell. The entire village was decked out in bunting and flags!
  • I started the Calendar Cakes blogger challenge with Laura Loves Cakes.
  • We went to the Edge Street Jubilee street party where I discovered Almost Famous burgers. 
  • Our Jubilee cake club was a bit of a bumper one, with some fantastic royal themed cakes.
  • After years of waiting, we finally went seeing Guns n Roses! My husband has been a fan since he was a child and we only decided on the day that we just had to go!

Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - June
Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - June


I would describe July as emotional. 
  • My brother got married. We had the most glorious day of sunshine, sandwiched in a fortnight of torrential rain!
  • My friend Dawn and I organised the Horwich Summer Fete in aid of Bolton Neo Natal Unit. We were utterly flabbergasted by the amount of support we received from both people who helped on the day to those who visited. The event raised over £1000.
  • Every man and his dog seemed to be nurturing a Herman the German Friendship Cake.
  • Solita opened in Manchester. Yes, this now feels like a life defining moment...

Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - July


If July was emotional, August can be summed up as 'manic'. Not only was I ridiculously busy, but I had he opportunity to meet two of my heroes; Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. I was on the cusp of 'pant-peeing-excitement'. 
  • I made cream scones and gingersnaps for the Bolton Food Festival 2012 media pack. 
  • We attended the Paul Hollywood Gala Dinner at the Albert Halls.
  • I got to meet and interview Mary and Paul (not to mention Jean Christophe Novelli, James Martin and Michael Caines... )
  • I met some wonderful people at the Food Festival and ate some cracking food...
  • I interviewed the Great British Bake Off's Catherine Dresser.

Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - August


September was the most fantastic month ever. It felt like my feet barely touched the ground! 
  • I joined the Women's Institute.
  • My husband and I both turned 30 in 2012, so we booked the trip of a lifetime to America. We started in Vegas, then drove to San Francisco via Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite National Park and Napa Valley.
  • Our friend Wayne turned 30.
  • We flew into the Grand Canyon in a helicopter via the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.
  • On the first night we went to a pub that had over 200 beers on tap (only in Vegas)
  • We had the comfiest bed in the world at the Wynn hotel - it also wins best view from a bed too!
  • Getting a golden ticket for at é by José Andrés - we were two of only eight diners in this special restaurant.
  • The most memorable burger was actually at Hooters!
  • Our visit to Happy Burro, a small bar in the middle of nowhere that has handle bars in the toilets...
  • We saw a wolf sitting at the side of the road. Cool as you like.
  • We had to stop the car several times to look in amazement at the 'Bob Ross' type scenery in Yosemite National Park. Truly breathtaking.
  • We saw a baby black bear! A real one!
  • We drove through miles and miles of vineyards in Napa Valley.
  • We ate at the French Laundry, something we thought we would never get the opportunity to do.
  • We queued for nearly an hour to ride a cable car in San Francisco, then walked back down Lombard Street.
  • The best steak I have ever eaten was at Bourbon Steak. It has ruined all future steak eating. 
  • I was in Bundt heaven in Williams Sonoma.
  • We had the best breakfast in the world at Dottie's - worth the wait.
  • Our meal at Coi was a bit of a dark horse! Utterly brilliant. 
  • We went on a tour of the Anchor Brewery. This was recommended by my boss Chris on my last day in work before we left for America. Their passion for beer has given me a keen interest too, despite the fact I hate beer! Luckily my husband loves it.
  • Burgers. Period (see what I did there...?). They do them spectacularly right...
  • I attended a meeting of the cake club organisers in Leeds. Lynn put on a fantastic day for us, and asked me to do a presentation on how to make the perfect bundt cake. I was shaking like a leaf and ridiculously jet lagged but I felt better for it. The group were incredibly supportive of my obsession!
  • A trip to Tyddyn Llan in Wales the week we returned from America, and the biggest Sunday roast you ever shall see...

Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - September
Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - September
Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - September
Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - SeptemberDolly Bakes Review of 2012 - September


Things were a little more relaxed in October, so the things i enjoyed the most included spending time with my friends. 
  • Franco from Italia Manchester kindly invited us to sample their new menu. It was fantastic!
  • Halloween meant scary cakes for our Monster Mash cake club!
  • I finally got to try out some of my new bundt tins

Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - October


November was all about treats!
  • We finally went to Le Gavroche after years of meaning to. We definitely went on the right night, as we had a lovely little chat with Michel Roux Jnr himself!
  • We did a pit stop in the ultimate tea shop; Laduree in Harrods. 
  • We made an evening trip across London to Belgravia to visit the iconic Peggy Porschen shop. 
  • We got a reservation at Dabbous where we saw Monica Galetti and ate a mesmerising apple cake.
  • We ate offal at the new St John restaurant in Chinatown and freaked everyone out with our pictures!
  • Our November cake club theme was 'Wherever I May Roam', so I made a bundt using a tin from San Francisco and beer from Anchor Brewery.

Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - November


The festive period was all about the food, family, friends and good will; just as it should be!
  • Dawn and I held a second fundraiser for Bolton Neo Natal Unit. This time we ran a Christmas Fair. Again we raised over £1000 for the unit with a lot of help from our friends!
  • Christmas cooking! I've been making hams, roasties, gingerbread and apple stuffing and more bundts than is probably advised. 
  • Christmas cake club was an intimate affair with lots of festive goodies.
  • Our friend Kev turned 30, and we had a great night at Sagar's to celebrate. 
  • I came highly commended in Bolton's Best 2012 Awards for my contribution to the promotion of the Bolton Food Festival.
  • My wonderful friend Emma bought me a vintage World War II WI pin; something I will treasure forever.
  • We got to try a two Michelin star mince pie...
  • On New Year's Eve my husband will turn 30. This means he can no longer cling onto his twenties... 

Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - December
Dolly Bakes Review of 2012 - December
This year has been one of the best of my entire life. Here's to next year!


  1. What a fantastic year for you! All the best for 2013!

  2. What a fantastic year for you, I am sure you will have an even better 2013. x

  3. Wow what an amazing year! Have just really enjoyed reading this and seeing how much you got up to/blogged about in just 12 months. 2012 was definitely my favourite year yet! Look forward to seeing what 2013 brings and our monthly cake & WI meetings! x

  4. That is what you call a fun filled foodie year. Hope 2013 is just as good for you.

  5. Congratulations Rachel that is one hell of a year packed to the brim with fun stuff and great achievements - I can hardly believe it. Hoping that 2013 will be as good or even better for you. Happy New Year.

  6. Thanks everyone! I predict gout for next year...

  7. Brilliant write up! Glad we could be part of it :)


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