Tuck in with no remorse because passionate foodies such as Nicola Giles-Rowling are catering not just to your sweet tooth, but also to your health.
I can’t think of a more passionate baker and cook than someone who would create and bring to life their own wedding cake and that’s just what Nicola did.
Now, Nicola is taking her passion from her kitchen to yours with Escape & Bake and, just two months in, Nicola is making her dream a reality.
I was lucky enough to meet this radiant newlywed and try some of her delicious treats.
Read on to see what this gal had to say.
1. First things first…What kind of cake did you create for your wedding?!
For our wedding my husband and I wanted to do pretty much everything homemade, trying to draw on our arty backgrounds and also to save money – as weddings are so expensive!
Out of everything I made, the most enjoyable and relaxing was making the wedding cake. It was so much fun doing lots of recipe testing, with friends and family coming round for cake tastings.
I wanted to go for quite a natural looking cake to continue with the feel of the wedding and decided going with a three-tiered cake using our favourite flavours and ingredients:
The bottom cake was pecans, pineapple, bananas with lovely warming spices of nutmeg and cinnamon
The middle cake was Limoncello
The top cake was Stem Ginger (I’m pretty known for my ridiculous love of ginger!)
2. How did the name Escape & Bake come about?
I wanted to find a name that would best encapsulate the feelings behind my cooking and my love for food. I started to find that baking became a cure to help me de-stress and unwind after working very long days in busy central London. It’s my savour, my complete sanctuary. It is the way I can ESCAPE from it all. I can completely loose myself creating delicious dishes in my petite kitchen, and I love it!
3. What prompted you to start a healthy alternative to the baked goods you were making previously?
I discovered healthy cooking and baking after suffering constantly with illnesses, with symptoms of migraines, fatigue, nausea, chronic indigestion (to name a few) – causing me to be bed bound the majority of the time, which wasn’t fun at all. I didn’t know what was wrong with me and after several trips to the doctors and multiple blood tests, I couldn’t find a cure.
I then started researching into eating whole, natural, gluten free and refined sugar free foods. It felt like a complete eureka moment, everything I was reading I could really relate to, showing that the food that you put into your body can have dramatic effects on your health.
I thought I had a healthy diet already, eating lots of fruit and veg, in particular sweet potatoes and blueberries. But then I started eating completely natural foods and it really has changed my life. It made a huge difference to my health.
My complete outlook on food and lifestyle has changed. I haven’t always had the best relationship with food, like many of us I have followed many ‘fad’ diets, looking back now it had such an awful dramatic effect on my body. Eating healthy isn’t a diet; it’s a way of life.
Unlike diets I’ve tried before, eating healthy is such a relaxing foodie lifestyle. Rather than being on a diet where you feel guilty if you have some chocolate or dessert, having healthy treats means you can still enjoy sweet stuff and its not a strict diet. It’s all about balance and enjoying your life. If you want to go out for a pizza with your mates one evening, do! Life is here to enjoy and not to feel guilty; as you know the rest of the time you’re eating whole, natural food, which is nourishing your body.
In particular for me, eating gluten free has really helped, my stomach isn’t bloated anymore and I feel a lot more confident. One massive thing, is that I have stopped counting the calories in everything. It’s a revolution to create healthy bakes that are so unbelievably tasty, but you know are good for you too.
4. How are managing a full-time job while baking?
I love cooking, it’s my complete passion, so I end up baking in the evenings and at the weekends. I can find myself spending pretty much the whole weekend in my kitchen testing out new treats and recipes.
5. What do you envision for yourself as well as Escape & Bake’s future?
My dream is to have my own deli one day, where it can just be an awesome hub of delicious and healthy food; a retreat for others and full of laughter. Sharing that healthy food can be good for you, but blooming tasty too.
6. What’s your all time favourite treat that you have created?
The blueberry and chocolate cheesecake brownies have to be my favourite, the combo of my two favourite treats. They were so fun to make and so incredibly tasty.
7. You mentioned that you grew up with a love of cooking, what’s your first memory involving baking?
From a very early age I used to always bake with my mum. We grew up with home baked cakes (in particular fruit cake) every weekend. I loved it so much it spurred me on to continue experimenting in the kitchen and learning new skills.
8. Top tips for maintaining a balanced lifestyle?
Through suffering with illnesses and having to cope with my back injury I really had to re-look at how I was balancing my life.
Life is very demanding nowadays; always feeling like you have to be in several places at once and multi-tasking is an understatement. However, what I’ve really had to learn and take on board is that you are the one who decides what you do and how much you take on.
These are the top three things that have helped me gain balance:
- Be really realistic with your time. Don’t take on too much, I know its really difficult, trust me I have been there and sometimes do still fall into that trap. You end up feeling guilty if you don’t do everything, as if you’re failing – but you’re not. You are only one person. To manage my time I find it really helpful to write down what I’m trying to achieve and break it down into time/days so you can achieve it.
- Two things that have really helped me gain balance in my life is Pilates and Yoga – I never thought that would be the case, as I have always been more of a go go go person, doing more energetic workouts at the gym. But to have that time where you can just focus on yourself, nourishing your body and mind is so vital. I leave a class feeling completely balanced and centred, feeling I am able to deal with things a lot better.
- Always make sure every day that you create that time to do something just for YOU. I feel the ESCAPE part of my name applies to so many factors of our lives, it’s the time when you go to your retreat, whether its Yoga, the gym, reading a good book or going for a walk. It’s just a bit of you time, which I have learnt is so important to living a balanced lifestyle.
Everyone is different, you need to find what works for you. Love what you do.
9. Who inspires you most within the world of healthy eating?
I love Madeleine Shaw – she has a very realistic approach to eating and to a healthy lifestyle. She has such a fun approach to what she does.
Click below to see Nicola’s menu of treats and check out her website here.
by Victoria Engelmann