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This is where you can find out about all the amazing things going on in the Online Community. It's where you'll find news about events and awareness months; ways to get involved with Macmillan and up-to-date campaigning news from Macmillan HQ.
Baking supremo Eric Lanlard has kindly agreed to answer your baking questions in advance of our World's Biggest Coffee Morning on Friday. If you're not already attending one, you can find your nearest one here. We'll also be celebrating in the Online Community, so keep your eyes peeled for more information tomorrow.
I am happy to be supporting the Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning in Pembrokeshire in West Wales. My wife is making Welsh cakes and Bara Brith to offer with the coffee. Can I ask you to please help me to make crispy bread, I can make great rolls and bread but once they cool down, they go soft. I have followed so many recipes and read so many books but cannot make crispy rolls and crusty bread. I do have a commercial combination oven that will also steam I have tried all of the settings up to 250C with varying amounts of steam but don't seem to be able to achieve that crispy crust.
I buy par baked baguettes and after baking I get a great crispy product but want to do it myself please can you help me?
The secret to a good crust is to make sure that your oven is very humid and that it is set at the right temperature – oven temperatures vary so always use a thermometer to check that the temperate is correct. After putting in the dough, I would use a spritzer to spray water into the hot oven before closing the oven door. Putting a small baking tin of water in with the bread would also work.Please can you tell me why my sponge cake crumbles when I try to butter cream it.
Maybe it is too fresh – best to leave it to rest and wrap in cling film for half a day or a day to prevent the sponge from crumbling.
We would like some baking tips ready for Thursday Coffee Evening at South Bromsgrove High School.
Baking tips – always be well-prepared. Clean kitchen and a clean surface. Pre-weigh all ingredients and pre-heat the oven. Ensure that your ingredients are the best quality, this always gives much better results! Baking is a science so stick to the recipe and don’t be tempted to improvise or to rush things. Happy baking!
I've only got 2 apple trees but have had an amazing crop this year. I’m hoping to bake an apple cake for the Macmillan Biggest Coffee Morning on Friday. I've tried some apple cakes and they are a bit dry. I like to use plenty of apples and to be able to taste them. Do you have a really good apple cake that is easy to cut?
My two personal favourite recipes featuring apples are apple crumble sponge – a great combo of crumble and hot baked sponge – best served with hot vanilla custard. The other is a ricotta, apple and cinnamon cheesecake. They both feature in my book Home Bake – also visit Baking Mad for some more inspirational apple recipes.I'm hosting a Macmillan coffee morning at my company on Friday and being one of the regular 'bakers' at work, will be baking big time on Wednesday and Thursday nights. This year I'm including a chocolate cake. I don't like bitter chocolate cake, particularly toppings, so do you have a really good chocolate or choc/fudge filling/topping that I can use?
I would suggest using a Chocolate glaze for the topping – use 150g (5oz) dark chocolate – broken into pieces with 50g (2oz) unsalted butter and 2tbs golden icing sugar – melt the chocolate in a bain-marie – stirring occasionally, then stir in the butter and sugar. Leave to cool down. This is not bitter at all and will add a touch of glamour to your chocolate cake.
I often bake cupcakes with fruit at the bottom - one recipe is a pineapple and coconut cupcake. Sometimes they are absolutely perfect, but occasionally the fruit stays stuck to the case while the cake lifts out - completely ruining the taste combination! Do you have any advice? I have pre orders from friends as they were so good last year! Aaaaah!
I would put mixture at the bottom of the case and then add the fruit next and finish off with topping so that the fruit becomes the sandwich filling.
Could you tell me why my cakes always sink in the middle!It is usually due to using too much raising agent or it could be that your oven is too hot. Check your oven temperature – it is worth investing in an oven thermometer. My scones never rise - help!
Change the recipe – sometimes recipes do not always work! Make sure that your self-raising and bicarbonate of soda is fresh – the flour and self-raising agents can go ‘off’ particularly if they are kept in humid conditions. I am told that Mary Berry’s scone recipe is fail-safe.
I’d like some ideas for gluten free biscuits, cookies, etc
I would recommend using any recipe but just simply replace the flour quantity with a good quality gluten free flour. I always recommend Dove. There are also some ideas on Baking Mad.
I am having a problem with cupcake cases coming away. I use muffin size (culpit) cases so they are not cheap.Help what am i doing wrong???
Sometimes the batter shrinks in the oven. Make your batter a bit thinner by adding a bit of milk to the recipe or if it keeps happening try a new recipe.
Lots of recipes include desiccated coconut but don't specify whether to use sweetened or unsweetened, what’s your opinion?
I always recommend using unsweetened dessicated coconut in recipes. If you can’t get hold of it don’t worry using a sweetened coconut will not affect the final outcome too much. I’ve just done a dummy run of choc-mint cupcakes for Friday. They’re light, taste good (even though I say so myself!) but the paper cases are opening out once the cakes have cooled. Is it the paper cases I’m using or is it something in the baking/cooling process that’s causing this? It doesn’t affect the taste but it doesn’t help the presentation.
I would imagine that the batter is too thick – thin it out slightly by adding some milk. I would always recommend using foil cases – it keeps the sponge fresher. Again if it’s not working change the recipe.
I like to experiment and try and devise my own cake recipes. What is the difference between bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and how do I know how much of each to use?
Here’s a text book answer for you – but as you experiment – you’ll know which one gives you the best results.Bicarbonate of soda is a pure leavening agent. It needs to be mixed with moisture and an acidic ingredient for the necessary chemical reaction to take place to make food rise. Because it needs an acid to create the rising quality, it is often used in recipes where there is already an acidic ingredient present, such as lemon juice, chocolate, buttermilk or honey. Baking powder, which contains bicarbonate of soda, comes pre-mixed with the acidic ingredient for you – so all you need to add is the moisture. The acidic ingredient most often used in baking powder is cream of tartar. You can make your own baking powder: simply mix two parts cream of tartar with one part bicarbonate of soda. Baking powder has a neutral taste and is often used in recipes that have other neutral-tasting ingredients, such as milk. Do you have any recipes for those of us who are intolerant to wheat and milk products? There are several people in this area who look longingly at the cakes and it would be nice to supply an alternative for them. My orange and lavender cake featured on my website is flour and milk free. It’s really easy to make and tastes absolutely yummy!
My cakes keep cracking at the top, what can I do to stop it?
It sounds like you have an oven that might be too hot – check the temperature – invest in a thermometer. Sorry I know I sound like a record but oven temperatures are so variable and you cannot always trust manufacturers’ guidelines.
Please help! My cakes seem to come out of the baking dish very dense, I’m sure I measure out all of my ingredients carefully, is there something else I need to do to get my cakes light & fluffy in the middle?
I think you might need to spend more time on creaming the butter and the sugar before adding in the eggs - this will ensure that your cakes are light and fluffy. It’s also worth investing in an electric whisk.
What is the best way to get my cakes to rise, I use self-raising flour, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to get lovely big cakes.
Add in some baking powder - whilst still following the recipe but do check that your self-raising flour has not gone off. It is really important to store flour carefully in an airtight container making sure that it’s not prone to humidity – the raising agent will go off as soon as it is open.
I am running my own coffee morning for the first time this year and I need some inspiration for some tasty cupcakes. What your favourite cupcake recipe?
My favourite cup cake recipes are featured on my website and include lemon meringue cupcakes – they were featured on my TV series Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard – I also love pineapple with amaretto cupcakes.
I enjoy very much baking cakes but I find that they are particularly hard to cut (especially the first slice) they seem to be very crumbly in the middle. Is there a trick to cutting cakes, without only getting half a slice?
Leave your cakes to rest – they actually taste better the day after when all of the flavour settles. – but do wrap in cling film to keep fresh. For easier cutting use a clean knife and dip in hot water before slicing the cake.
I find it very hard to get the same consistency all the way through my cakes, they seem to have a very hard crust, but nice and moist inside.
It could be due to temperature of the oven or the size of the cake tin I always recommend baking in shallow tins instead of deep tins. Use baking paper to line your tin to protect the cake from being over cooked.
Since my Stem Cell Transplant I have developed a Gluten intolerance - very few shops sell gluten free cakes and the range of flavours are limited. I am also unable to eat chocolate has my taste has also been affected.So - here's my question - do you have any SIMPLE and quick gluten free cake recipes that are also free from chocolate and dried fruit (as I'm allergic to dried fruit too!)
I have a delicious flour free cake – Orange and Lavender that features on my website and also do use Bakingmad.com and some other good foodie websites such as Delicious. Also my book Home Bake features some great tasting flour free cakes including Flour-free almond sponge cake.
Do you prefer the more bronzed, drier French pastries to typical English ones at all times, or does it depend on the dish?
I am a great fan of golden, flaky or butter pastry – homemade of course!
What’s the secret to getting your cake icing the right thickness? Mine always slops off the sides and looks horrible.
Allow the cake cool down – top with a thin layer of first and then let it set. Use the rest of the icing to top the cake. You should have much more positive results!
Over the last year and a half, Rebecca will have become a familiar face to many of you – answering your emails, commenting on your blogs, giving you information, offering support and keeping you up-to-date through the Community news blog. She’s run web chats, launched the Community Champions programme, organised competitions, sourced fantastic guest bloggers and kept her finger on the pulse of everything going on at Macmillan to make sure hear about the things you really need to know. And much more besides!
She’s not going far - in fact, she’ll be within waving distance across the office in her new role as web editor for the main Macmillan site.
Rebecca – I’d like to say a massive thank you for all the amazing things you’ve done on and for the Community.
We’ll miss you!
For Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we hosted a web chat hosted by Macmillan Nurse Heidi Lindenstock, who answered your questions on the disease, screening programmes and genetic risk.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to Heidi and Jane Murphy for their time and amazing efforts, and a big thank you to all those who took part. If you’d like to read up on this topic, we have more information in our ovarian cancer section.
I have Ovarian Cancer Stage 4, and already have fluid in the lungs - is there treatment or this, or is it too late?
When cancer has spread outside of the ovaries, treatment may still be possible, although the aim of treatment will be to try and manage the disease as opposed to curing it.
Can they continue to drain the lungs all the time or would this impede treatment? I’ve already lost my mum to ovarian cancer in 2009, but now we have just heard that my sister's mother in law has it - at stage 4. It seems that it is always so far advanced by the time we catch it!
I'm sorry to hear about your Mum, it can be very hard when you've been in this situation before not to think the same will happen to your sister's mother in law. However, cancer affects everyone differently and she may have a very different experience to your mum. Ovarian cancer doesn't always cause obvious symptoms and sometimes it can go undetected for a long time. Perhaps, if you would like to talk through your own feelings around risk, you could call the helpline on 0808 808 00 00. One of our cancer information nurse specialists would be very happy to talk this through with you.
I am concerned about the return of the cancer. My mum and I were diagnosed at the same age and they think there is a genetic component. Her cancer returned about 1 year after the surgery and chemo. I am now 1 year after surgery and 7 months after chemo with a good prognosis but the doubt stays with me…
I’m sorry to hear both you and your mum have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. As we've been saying everyone's cancer is unique to them and what happens to one person may not necessarily happen to another. We do know that adjusting to life after a cancer diagnosis can be very difficult and it's natural you are finding that uncertainty hard to cope with. You may find it helpful to look at our information on adjusting to life after cancer.
What are your thoughts on taking the trial drug Cediranib? I have been taking this since Decemeber 2011 after my cancer recurred within 6 months of chemo and op.
I imagine you are enrolled in the Icon 6 trial to be receiving this drug. As you may know with clinical trials, the aim is to compare newer treatments with standard treatments to see if this offers an additional benefit at all. So, the answer to your question is, as yet we don't know.
Do you think it is just vanity to be hung up about a wonky stomach (sticks out more one side than the other since surgery) and is it worth talking to the docs about 'having it fixed' to assist with self image?
These are the things that can affect how you cope with a diagnosis. Do speak with your gynae clinical nurse specialist (if you have one), or your consultant about how you feel after your surgery. They can talk through whether something could be done to make things a little more acceptable to you. We also have a section on coping with body changes for more information.
What checks are available for Ovarian cancer?
At the moment we currently don't have a screening test that is reliable enough to use for ovarian cancer in the general population. Clinical trials are looking into screening for woman at high risk and, women in general. Until we get the results, we don’t know if screening tests work or not. But, if anyone is worried about symptoms they should speak to their GP.
It concerns me greatly that screening is not considered for anyone with ovarian cancer in their background whether or not there is more than one.
I'm sorry to hear how difficult you found it to get screening given your family history. If anyone is concerned about their family history, they can speak with their GP about onward referral for genetic assessment. The most important thing for everyone to remember is, if you are symptomatic and your symptoms don't go away, go back to your GP - don't leave it. In regards to screenings, firstly we need the results of the clinical trials regarding the most reliable way of screening women. We are awaiting these results. But, yes it will be good to see the introduction of a screening programme in the future.
If you’re concerned about a risk of ovarian cancer in your family you can use our online risk assessment tool – OPERA that will give you a personal assessment which includes personalised information and support about your inherited cancer risk. You can then print it out and take it to your doctor to discuss the information if you wish.
How successful is risk reducing surgery for those people with a faulty gene?
It would appear in carriers of BRCA mutations, risk reducing surgery might be associated with an 80 percent reduction in ovarian cancer. The benefit of risk-reducing surgery decreases with advancing age.
What about the other way round, risk reducing surgery to 'prevent' breast cancer for those with ovarian?
In those with BRCA mutations, risk reducing gynae surgery (removing both ovaries and the fallopian tubes), seems to offer a reduction of between 30 to 75 percent of breast cancer.
My wife died from ovarian cancer in 2007 and I am interested to know of improved developments in the early detection.
I am sorry to hear about your wife, again, it comes back to being able to implement a reliable, national screening programme and continuing to raise awareness of possible signs and symptoms amongst women. I wonder if it would be helpful for you to talk this through with one of the nurses on the helpline - 0808 808 0000, where we would have more time to support you with any questions. The helpline number if you're overseas isn't free, but if you did want to call, the number you need is 020 7840 7840.
Are you suffering from hair loss due to your treatment? Are you worried about losing your hair? Do you need advice on the best type of wigs to wear? Or simply want to ask more questions about how your hair may grow back or change?
We launched the Strength in Style programme with TONI&GUY, which specially trained up stylists from TONI&GUY and Essensuals around the country to offer men, women and children affected by cancer specialist hair care, advice and support in a non-clinical environment. We are pleased to announce that there are now 102 salons in the UK with a Strength in Style consultant.
On Friday 16th March, we will be hosting a live web chat with Katie McCardle (pictured above) from TONI&GUY Hemel Hempstead Who will be available to answer any question you may have and offer advice on specialist care and wig fittings.
Losing your hair can really affect your self esteem, and even though this side effect is temporary, there are many people who are finding hair loss hard to cope with.
If you’d like more information or advice; please join us in our web chat room (select 'web chat' from the Channel list) from 12-1 pm.
Hope you can join us!
Despite the deluge of jolly advent blog posts and cheery festive avatars, I
know that Christmas isn't a fairytale for everyone. Losing people that you love
or caring for a poorly loved one makes holidays seem much harder to bear than
If you're finding this time of year difficult and you'd like to talk to
someone about it or get some support, then Macmillan can help.
Our Support Line team are available every weekday between 9am-8pm by calling 0808
808 0000. They are closed at weekends and on the bank holidays 26th,
27th, 28th December and 2nd January. During these times you can
always find someone to listen in the chat rooms
if you need some emotional support.
If you need some information from one of our nurses during these times,
please check our extensive cancer information
pages on the site for clinical information, where you may
find the answer to your question. I also recommend that you contact your Dr or
specialist to find out their availability over the holiday period. If you are
experiencing a medical emergency then please do contact the emergency services.
The welfare rights advisers on our Support Line can also provide financial
advice, as this can be a particularly expensive time of year. If you are
feeling the strain of living with a cancer diagnosis then our advisers can help
you to work out whether you are eligible for any benefits or grants.
Whilst the Support Line is closed over the holidays, you can find out about
ways that Macmillan can help out financially on our financial support
If you are grieving the loss of a friend, partner or family member then you
may find the information about coping with loss
helpful, there are also several groups in the
Community where you can talk to others who understand even
a little of how you're feeling.
Finally, if you really need someone to talk to and our lines are closed, The Samaritans are always open and can offer a listening ear if you need a chat.
hope that at least some of that is helpful and that you all have a peaceful
Christmas. If you'd like to get in touch with someone from the
admin team, we're in the office full time until Friday 23rd December, and then
working shifts throughout the Christmas period.
If you have any questions about our organisation our Macmillan team would love to hear from you
You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube.
© Macmillan Cancer Support 2010
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