Bad Girl Bakery, the debut cookbook from the award-winning independent bakery in the Scottish Highlands, is published on November 4, 2021. We are pleased to be making the book available in full from publication day, including 125 recipes complemented by beautiful photography.
Bad Girl Bakery Café and Cake Shop opened in 2017 in Muir of Ord, a village northwest of Inverness. Run by Jeni Iannetta, her husband Douglas, and a small, dedicated team, it has gained a hugely loyal local following and in 2018 was awarded a coveted Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Award, which recognises innovative businesses that help put the local area on the map.
The bakery’s debut cookbook, from independent Edinburgh-based publisher Kitchen Press, promises to be the icing on the cake for the thriving young business.
We quizzed Jeni to find out about her circuitous route to cake-making success, her baking inspiration, and how the bakery’s breakfast muffins came to be served in First Class on the famed Caledonian Sleeper, the overnight train running between the Scottish Highlands and London.
To try those muffins for yourself, scroll down for a preview from the book, including the full recipe. (We’ve made them and can confirm they are truly top class muffins!)
Q: Where did you grow up, and what is the first thing you remember baking?
I was born and grew up in Dundee. I really don’t remember much as a child, but I vividly remember making chocolate crispy cakes in my first year at secondary school and messing them up and being mortified! Baking and cooking was something I got into when I was older.
Q: Did you ever imagine you would end up running a bakery in the Highlands?
Not in a million years! I did an English degree and got a job in arts marketing straight after graduation. I did a marketing qualification while working at the BBC, then moved into theatre and visual arts marketing, and imagined that would be my career until I retired. I applied for a baking job on a whim (totally unqualified) and got it. That decision changed everything.
I never imagined moving to the Highlands, but am so glad I did. I moved to be with Douglas, now my husband, and his young son. The Highlands is an amazing place to be a food producer, with lots of food fairs, markets, and events.
Q: How did you arrive at the name Bad Girl Bakery?
We are all about the occasional treat. It’s about acknowledging that cake is a treat, and that everyone knows someone who’s disapproving about indulgence – the kind of person who’ll say, “Oh you bad girl” if you reach for a treat. It’s gently poking fun at that.
Q: In the book, you describe your approach to baking as “Let’s try this and see what happens.” Does that always work, or have there been some kitchen disasters?
Oh yes, there have been disasters! I’ll never forget the chocolate cookies that tasted like warm mayo. We’re not trained bakers and everything we know is the result of cookbook obsessions, watching baking shows, reading baking blogs, and learning on the job.
Looking back, I’d love to have trained, but I think not being formally trained made it easier to experiment and try different things.
Q: Tell me how your muffins came to be in First Class on the Caledonian Sleeper.
We were approached by the train company’s then head of guest experience, who was committed to using small, local producers. We were incredibly flattered to be asked to meet with them, but didn’t think for a second that they would choose us – so we went to the meeting with cake, feeling really relaxed with no expectations. He was incredibly passionate about customer service and quality produce and it ended up being a fantastic meeting. He asked us to come back with a breakfast muffin menu and after tasting that, he offered us the contract.
We were still operating out of a kitchen in a cabin in our garden and they were incredibly supportive, waiting for us to scale up to meet the challenge. The contract was the main driver for getting our permanent café and bakery premises. Without that I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have opened the café.
Q: In your book you write, “If we had a signature bake it would be layer cakes.” Many bakers find the thought of making a layer cake scary. What’s the secret?
When I first started Bad Girl, layer cakes were not a big thing, so they seemed to attract the most attention. I love making them, as the are actually pretty straightforward to make and decorate but look really impressive. The best layer cake tip I can give is to first do a crumb coat. It’s a thin layer of buttercream that you put on your layer, then chill before you put your final layer on. It means all the crumbs are trapped and won’t end up in your buttercream.
Q: What is the single bit of advice you would give to home bakers who want to up their baking game?
Oh, that’s tough! I guess I’d say complicated doesn’t necessarily mean better. Simple recipes made with great ingredients are my favourites.
Q: Which recipe in the book sums up your personal approach to baking?
I guess it would be the layer cakes. They seem to sum up everything that’s important to us: they are generous, with lots of textures and hidden fillings. They are impressive without being complicated or particularly time-consuming. They are three layers so I also love the ratio of cake to filling. We love pretty cakes, but we’re not big on artificial colour or decorations that don’t add flavour or texture, and our layer cakes illustrate that principle.
Q: Which cookbooks, baking books, or authors have had the most influence on your baking?
When I started out cooking at home I was a big Nigella Lawson fan. I love the no-fuss generosity of her recipes and they always seemed to work. My friend and food hero Gillian Veal from The Parlour Café in Dundee wrote her first cookbook ten years ago and I still love it as much now. I’m an avid cookbook reader and own hundreds and read them cover to cover, so the latest one is always a favourite too!
Q: Which cookbook would you save from a burning building?
When I started baking I began to understand a bit more about basic recipes and ratios and wanted to find out more. I came across a fantastic book all about it called Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman, which is all about the basic ratios and techniques. He says, “When you know a culinary ratio, it’s not like knowing a single recipe, it’s instantly knowing a thousand.” If I was only allowed to save one book it would be this one.
· 12-cup muffin pan
· 9 tulip muffin wraps
· 280g self-raising flour
· 30g porridge oats
· 150g soft dark brown sugar
· 50g caster sugar
· 1 tsp baking powder
· 150ml milk
· 150g unsalted butter, melted
· 3 medium eggs
· 3 tbsp maple syru2 tsp vanilla extract
· 1 very ripe banana, well mashed
· 20g porridge oats
· 3 tbsp maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 200ºC (180ºC fan). Weigh the flour, oats, soft brown sugar and caster sugars and baking powder into a bowl with a pinch of salt and give it a quick mix to combine (on low if you’re using a stand mixer). If there are still lumps of brown sugar in the mix, just rub them in with your fingers.
Measure the milk into a jug, then add the melted butter, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla and mashed banana and mix with a fork. Pour this over the dry ingredients and mix gently (on low if you’re using a stand mixer) until the ingredients are nearly combined – you want to be able to see a bit of dry flour in the mix. Give it a final stir using a spatula so it’s only just combined.
Divide the batter equally between the muffin wraps with an ice cream scoop if you have one (or a spoon if you don’t), scraping down the bowl so you get every last drop. The wraps will look very full. Remember the bowl or pan you melted the butter in? Weigh the remaining 20g oats straight into it and give them a mix so they soak up the butter on the sides.
Sprinkle the buttery oats over the top of each muffin, concentrating them in the centre so they will spread as the muffin bakes. Bake on the top shelf of your oven for around 25 to 30 minutes. They are ready when a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean and they are springy to the touch if they’re not done, pop them back in for 3 minutes and repeat.
As soon as they’re out of the oven, brush the top of each muffin with a little maple syrup and leave to cool.