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The icing on the cake

There is always a flutter of excitement in the National Brain Appeal office when we receive news that Nicky Buckingham is back at The National, not just because of her close connection with the charity but because she also brings with her an array of cakes, biscuits and other delicious treats.

Last week, she set up stall at The National Hospital and unsurprisingly we had some very willing volunteers from the TNBA office who went down to say hello and to sample her latest taste creations. There was everything from Jubilee Fairy Cake and Royal Caramel Shortbread (said to be Prince William’s favourite sweet treat) to King Cupcakes and Victoria Sponge which went down very well with our four o’clock cup of tea time!From her home in Tunbridge Wells, Nicky has devoted the last eight years to making cakes, jams, chutneys and preserves, the proceeds of which she donates to The National Brain Appeal.  She has been treated at the National for a brain tumour since 2004 and has been inspired to fundraise for The National Brain Appeal.  Now, almost a decade later, she runs Cooking4Charity where she bakes all her cakes to order, be it for birthday parties, lunch groups, school PTAs, country fairs or just groups of friends. She has helped to raise funds for a number of the recent neurological and neurosurgery projects at the hospital and at the end of 2011 reached an amazing milestone of £50,000.

With last year’s Royal Wedding and this year’s Olympic and Jubilee celebrations, there has been a real return to the traditional British favourites and Nicky’s stall did not disappoint. Victoria Sponge, Cherry and Almond cake and classics such as Lemon drizzle and Earl Grey Tea Bread all adorned the sales table along with buttered scones and delicious cheese straws. And she even remembered to bring along a sugar-reduced sponge cake ordered back in March by one of our transport drivers. He was well chuffed!

As Nicky says “Everyone makes us so welcome when we do one of our sales at the National. The fundraising which started as a hobby, has now become an obsession and the best thing I ever did. If I’m not collecting strawberries from a farmer in Essex, or oranges and apricots from a wholesaler in Kent, or picking lavender for my lavender bags, I’m thinking up new ideas of how to raise even more money for the Brain appeal! Our website shows our latest thought –  “Wedding favours4charity” –  making personalised mini jars of marmalade or chutney and lavender bags designed and themed to the bride and groom’s wishes with all the profits being donated to the National Brain appeal. We hope you and your friends will like the idea as much as we do!”

As a treat, Nicky has kindly shared the recipes for one of her most popular tray bakes which went down a storm last week – Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Squares. Why not try it out at home and even host a cake sale yourself?


Shortbread Base:

85gm (31/2oz) butter: 150gm (51/5oz) plain flour

45gm (3tbs) sugar

Caramel Filling

120gm (41/2oz) butter: 75gm (3oz) brown sugar: 30gm (2tbs) honey: 397gm condensed milk

Chocolate topping

225m (8oz) milk chocolate

METHOD:  Pre-heat oven to 180/350F.  To make the base place the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy.  Mix in the flour.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Press into a greased and lined 18x28cm (7×11”) shallow cake tin and bake for 25 minutes or until firm.

To make the filling, place the butter, brown sugar and condensed milk in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat stirring constantly until the sugar melts and the ingredients are combined.

Bring to the boil and simmer over low heat for 3-4 minutes stirring constantly until thickened.  Pour the caramel filling over the shortbread base and allow it to set in the fridge.

Chocolate topping: Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of water until melted, over a low heat. Spread the melted chocolate over the caramel filling and leave aside until set. Before chocolate sets completely cut into 24 squares using a pizza cutter or sharp knife dipped in hot water.

If this has really got your taste buds going, Lynda Loughlin has gathered together recipes from family, friends and colleagues to raise money for The National Brain Appeal. Full of delicious soups, starters and desserts, the book is only £10, all proceeds go towards the charity. You can read more about the book and and buy your own copy here.

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