Gay marriage cake bakers ‘forced to act against their beliefs’

Gay marriage cake bakers ‘forced to act against their beliefs’

Supreme court hears an appeal by Belfast bakery owners against a fine for refusal to make a cake

Daniel and Amy McArthur, the owners of Ashers bakery, arrive for the supreme court hearing in Belfast. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
The Christian owners of a Belfast bakery who refused to make a cake promoting gay marriage are being forced to act against their consciences and religious beliefs, the supreme court has been told.

Ashers bakery, which has branches across Northern Ireland and is supported financially by the Christian Institute, is appealing against a £500 damages award made against it for refusing to produce the cake ordered by a gay activist in 2014.

David Scoffield QC, who represents the owners Daniel and Amy McArthur, told the supreme court: “This is a case of forced or compelled speech, unlike other cases which have come before the court.

“Mr. and Mrs. McArthur have been penalized by the state in the form of the judgment at the county court for failing, through their family company, to create and provide a product bearing an explicit slogan – ‘Support Gay Marriage’ – to which they have a genuine objection in conscience.

“The result of the approach taken by the district judge and court of appeal … is that someone providing bespoke goods must provide goods at the request of the customer, provided that is not unlawful – however offensive.”

Scoffield said the case raised an issue of principle since those with deeply held religious or philosophical convictions could be compelled to act against their beliefs. The McArthurs were being forced to “choose between operating their businesses or living and acting in accordance with their religious beliefs, and we say that cannot be the law”.

Gareth Lee had ordered the cake for an event to mark International Day Against Homophobia. Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Northern Ireland.

When Ashers refused to bake the cake, which was to have depicted the Sesame Street characters, Bert and Ernie, Lee sued. His case has been supported by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

Lee, a volunteer member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space, told the initial hearing in 2015 that the refusal made him “feel I’m not worthy, a lesser person, and to me that was wrong”. The firm maintained it was a response to the message, not the customer.

Lee’s order was made shortly after the Democratic Unionist party used its power of veto in the Northern Ireland assembly to block moves to make same-sex marriage legal in the country. It is the only part of the UK where gay marriage is still not recognized in law.

Theresa May has said the issue is one for the devolved assembly at Stormont; there is no power-sharing executive.

Five supreme court justices are hearing the appeal in Belfast: the president, Lady Hale, the deputy president, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Hodge and Lady Black. This is the first week that the supreme court has sat in Northern Ireland.

In the county court case, the district judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that religious beliefs could not dictate the law and ordered the firm to pay damages.

The court of appeal in Belfast upheld that ruling in 2016 after Ashers contended it never had an issue with Lee’s sexuality, rather the message he wanted on the cake.

The hearing continues.

COURTNEY’S JOURNEY OF LIVING LIFE OUTSIDE HER COMFORT ZONE – AND I AGREED

COURTNEY’S JOURNEY OF LIVING LIFE OUTSIDE HER COMFORT ZONE – AND I AGREED

We recently had the pleasure of connecting with Courtney Baker. She runs an artesian calligraphy print shop at Paper Heart Calligraphy. She’s passionate about inspiring women leaders and it is authentic. Here’s her sharing some of what she is experiencing as she moves through the journey of entrepreneurship.

I have been on quite the journey these past few years. It is my journey of living life outside my comfort zone because I spent a huge chunk of my life inside a comfortable box. I share it to say, you are not alone and there is hope.

Does fear ever take over? Does it drive your decisions? Does it stop you from taking chances? It stopped me!

As a kid, my life was characterized by not taking part in things. I had really bad anxiety as a child, complete with being on some medication and not being able to sleep in my own bed for a few years. I missed out on sleepovers at friends houses and any new activities. And if I did, my mom would need to stay until I was comfortable…Which meant she stayed the whole time.

I struggled with making close friends, never feeling like I belonged. And when I did make a friend, I always felt like they didn’t think I was fun, cool or smart enough.

I continued like that throughout high school and into my first year of college.

My Journey of Living Life Outside My Comfort Zone

But on my 21st birthday, something in me changed. I think I got really tired of living in fear all the time. The box that I used to hide, no longer was helping me but holding me back.

So, here’s what I did…Are you ready for the crazy, life-altering decision I made to change my life?

I asked for a pair of hiking boots for my birthday.

Yes, a pair of boots. My family was not the hiking type, so this was super intimidating for me, and this was one thing I was intimidated by but also really wanted to try.

That whole year consisted of me trying to take small steps out of my box. I went on this crazy hard hike (however, I just did it again last year, and it wasn’t really that hard ;), I began speaking to people that were different than me, and I began figuring out who I actually was. I had spent so long trying to be someone that I thought everyone else liked and I actually had no idea who I was and what my passions were.

Sometimes I ran back in my box to hide, but I would get up and try again. Because I desperately wanted to love myself without needing the approval of others.

And during that time, as I was slowly revealing to people who I was, I received so many affirmations from people I wouldn’t even keep track! It was a gift from God. He was pulling me out of that box and started showing me it was safe outside of it too.

I began giving myself permission to be curious, to dream and to fail. I realized that the world will not end if I make a mistake. It was so freeing. Sometimes I only had the energy to show up for something. And in those times that I took a risk, God always showed up with me.

I began building the capacity to take bigger risks because I had experienced amazing things happen when I just showed up.

couragous-living

My passion for courageous living is built on the solid foundation of knowing that God works in our weaknesses and vulnerability. And I want to be in those places.

Now I’m not saying it was all smooth sailing. There were times where it was really hard and really scary. There are times where I failed or I felt embarrassed or rejected. But I was being true to myself, and that mattered way more than those small moments of anxiety.

Now that I have felt what it feels like to take risks, I find myself not being able to stay in my box even when I want to. I crave the risk because I know God works in those times. It is a holy space he invites us into, to do transforming work.

PaperHeart began in the midst of this transition from freedom to fear. And as much as it is a way to encourage others, it is also another risk for me. There are so many possibilities to “fail,” but I have learned so much through starting this journey. I proved to myself that I can learn “techy” things like building a website. And learned that you don’t have to be perfect to start something. And I learned that when I show my true self to others, they actually like me.

So I share all this to say, I have been there. If you struggle with fear (I still do too!), I hope my story will encourage you to not stay there. There is freedom that comes when we take courageous risks. There is freedom outside our comfort zones.

Comfortable Box Print

But it starts with one small step (a pair of hiking boots), and many stall steps after that.

Easy Black Forest Cake

How to Make It

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 2 (8-inch) round cake pans, and dust with cocoa. Set aside.

Step 2

Beat cake mix and next 7 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer 1 minute; beat at medium speed 2 minutes. Fold in chopped chocolate. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Step 3

Bake at 350° for 30 to 32 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and chill cake layers at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Step 4

Using a serrated knife, slice cake layers in half horizontally to make 4 layers. Place 1 layer, cut side up, on cake plate. Place 1/3 cup of the frosting in a piping bag; pipe a ring of frosting around the edge of the first cake layer to create a border. Spread one-third of cheesecake filling over cake inside frosting ring; top with one-third of cherry pie filling. Repeat procedure twice with frosting borders, remaining cheesecake filling, and cherry filling. Place final cake layer on top of cake; cut side down. Spread remaining chocolate fudge frosting on top and sides of cake. Cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish, if desired. Store in refrigerator.

Step 5

Test Kitchen Tip: We tested this recipe with Philadelphia ready-to-eat cheesecake filling. You’ll find it in the dairy case with cream cheese products. 

Five Reasons Why We Love Chocolate

Five Reasons Why We Love Chocolate

It’s one of the most popular sweets of all time. Women crave it, men hoard it, and Aztec kings were said to have been the first to eat it. But why do we love chocolate so much? Following are just a few reasons why chocolate is so popular and why you shouldn’t give it up completely, even if you’re on a diet!

It melts in your mouth – Chocolate contains fat that’s no surprise. The cocoa butter in chocolate gives it a rich, creamy consistency that also transmits the cocoa’s flavor perfectly. It also has a melting point that’s just a bit lower than the average human body temperature, which gives you that melt-in-your-mouth feeling every time you pop a piece of chocolate in your mouth. Chocolate lovers often describe this melting feeling as a true moment of ecstasy.

Just the right chemistry – According to a study done at the University of Michigan in the United States, chocolate contains chemicals called opioids. Opioids are also found in opium, and they serve to dull pain and give a feeling of well-being to people who ingest them. According to the study, people who eat chocolate produce natural opiates in their brains that soothe their nerves and make them feel good. When the receptors that detected opioids were blocked, that chocolate craving was lessened.

Chocolate also naturally contains “uppers” like caffeine, sugars, and phenylthalymine, which will make your heart pound a little harder, your breathing come a bit more quickly, and give you a feeling of alertness. The effect is not dramatic enough to be uncomfortable in most people; it’s mild enough to produce a pleasant “high,” which is often equated to the feeling of being in love.

Chocolate equals love – Speaking of love, the association might not be completely physiological. Women crave chocolate more often than men do. Women are also habitually given chocolate as birthday and Valentine’s Day presents. In our culture, chocolate is thought of as a romantic gift. It’s outside the realm of mundane, day-to-day food, reserved for special occasions’ and, for women especially, it’s associated with love and romance. That could be another reason why women particularly love chocolate: deep down, it makes them feel loved, cared for, and pampered.

It really is good for you – Recent studies suggest that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains chemicals that lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. Flavanoids and antioxidants in dark chocolate have been shown to make a difference in cardiovascular health. Until recently, tea was considered the main source for these chemicals. Now, scientists recommend that you have a chocolate cookie or biscuit with your tea so your body gets more of those life-lengthening chemicals. Don’t have milk with your dark chocolate, however, the same studies show that milk can cancel out the healthful effects of eating chocolate by preventing those helpful chemicals from being fully absorbed in the body.

Chocolate does contain fats and sugars that you shouldn’t eat a great deal of, but as long as you eat it in moderation, the science suggests you can add as much as a year to your life.

It’s great for your sex life – Ever since the time of the Aztecs, people have believed that chocolate has aphrodisiac properties. But there may be some deeper truth to those old legends. Recent studies have shown that women who eat a little bit of chocolate a day have significantly more sex than women who don’t. This could be because of those brain-soothing chemicals that are found in chocolate, and that chocolate encourages the brain to release more of as it’s eaten. Chocolate just makes us feel good, which is a key ingredient for a healthy sex life.

But there are more creative ways to use chocolate in the bedroom besides just eating it. Adventurous and playful couples have incorporated it in the bedroom for years. For a sensual treat, make a chocolate fondue and feed your loved one strawberries dipped in the sweet sauce. Give your spouse fine chocolates for no reason, they’re sure to show their appreciation later. If you’re not afraid to get a little messy, use chocolate flavoured body lotions and lubricants’ you can always share a shower to clean off afterwards!

It’s important to remember not to overindulge in chocolate. It does contain high amounts of saturated fats and sugars that can cause health damage and obesity if you take in too much. However, when eaten in moderate quantities, chocolate truly can be a miracle food. Even better, it tastes wonderful, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t like some kind of chocolate, whether it’s white, dark, or milk, Hershey or Belgian. So the next time you have to give up something for Lent or take up a new diet, think twice before giving up chocolate. It not only tastes good, its health benefits give you a great excuse to keep on enjoying it.

We Love Cake

We love cake

I love making (and eating!) cakes. I’ve always loved them and the reason for this is not just because they taste great (although they do). It’s because I love seeing that greedy look that comes into people’s eyes when they spy a luscious chocolate cake. I love the way so many people feebly protest that they simply shouldn’t before digging into a slice of cake, licking their plate clean and then asking for seconds.

I also love the way that cakes are a treat. I love that they are special; that people celebrate with cakes; that people use cakes (especially cupcakes) as a pick-me-up when they are feeling down; and that turning up at someone’s house with a cake makes you especially welcome.
I suppose a lot of this goes towards explaining why I set up a cupcake and sweet treats stall at Dingle’s Farmers’ Market, where I make cupcakes like this:

As a result, I’m delighted with the current fashion for baking. I’ve been tuning in to Lorraine Pascale’s ‘Baking Made Easy’ on BBC1 (where she truly does make baking cakes, bread and tarts seem simple). I’ve tried her lemon cream millefeuilles which were delicious.

So, you can imagine how delighted I was to receive an advance copy of ‘Bake and Decorate’ by Fiona Cairns in the post. What a perfect cookbook for me!

Like Lorraine’s TV show, this book aims to show even the most inexperienced of bakers how to create delicious tasting and wonderful looking cakes. From fruitcakes to chocolate chilli cupcakes, Fiona shares techiques and tricks to make it all seem easy.

I’d never heard of Fiona Cairns before and immediately wanted to know who she was. This is her first cookbook but she is a very experienced baker. Her company produces 750,000 (!) cakes a year for the likes of Waitrose, Liberty, the Ritz Hotel, Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason in the UK. She has also been commissioned to make cakes for Bono, Sinéad O’Connor and Paul McCartney. Ooh er!

So, is her cookbook any good? My first impressions are positive and I love the girly cover. I’m also taken by her introduction where she talks about the comfort, pleasure and luxury of baking; how cakes are not essential but are vital for our souls. (She sounds like a woman after my own heart.)

She also brings back some of my first memories in the kitchen; memories of helping my mother bake cakes, hoping I’d get to lick the batter off the wooden spoon. In a family of seven children, this was a hotly-contested treat!

Fiona aims to bring pleasures like this back to our lives. She wants to make baking and decorating cakes as enjoyable as the eating of them and she encourages even the least confident among us to give it a try.

You can start with something simple, like a Victoria sponge or a no-cook chocolate tiffin. Follow the instructions carefully (baking is a precise science) and you’ll soon discover that you can do it.

You can then move on to more elaborate creations. There’s a range of chocolate cakes (because you simply can’t have enough chocolate cake recipes!) including a dark chocolate mousse cake and this wonderful flourless chocolate hazelnut cake:

There are other tempting treats too such as white chocolate and cardamom rosewater sponge, sticky ginger cake with lime buttercream, lemony crunch cake, fruit cakes, pistachio and orange blossom cake and so much more.

There are also cupcakes. I’m eager to try the sticky toffee cupcake with salted caramel buttercream and the mint chocolate cupcakes.

And that’s not all. There are also recipes for macaroons, meringues, biscuits and shortbread.

The first half of the book is devoted to baking while the second gives you tips on decorating. This includes everything from how to apply fondant smoothly and how to make crystallised flowers and leaves to how to use gold leaf and lots of ideas for using nuts, flowers, sweets and ribbons.

At several stages in the book, Fiona shares tips and advice. She recommends using golden caster sugar instead of white for flavour (something I always do in my own cupcakes). She says that you should always use ingredients and equipment that is warm or at least at room temperature. And she even gives advice on saving the inevitable disasters.

I’ve earmarkeed several pages in this book already but first on my list are the sticky toffee and salted caramel cupcakes followed by the chocolate mousse cake. I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

12 Reasons To Love Chocolate Cake

12 Reasons To Love Chocolate Cake

There are many great cakes baked in the world today. There’s Norway’s beloved National Cake, named the World’s Best Cake by the Norwegians (of course). There’s the colorful Funfetti classic that graces so many of our birthdays. And, the burnt almond torte that makes Pittsburgh one of our favorite cities in America. We love all of these cakes, partly because the more cakes in existence the better place the world will be, but mainly because they taste good.

But no matter how much we love these cakes, at the end of the day all we really want is chocolate. Chocolate cake comes in many shapes, sizes and textures — and we adore them all. Scratch that, we’re obsessed with them all.

And we know we’re not alone. It’s why there is a food holiday dedicated to this single cake — January 27th, in case you want to celebrate with a chocolate cake, which you obviously should. And it’s why we wrote this food a love letter today (and not one for our spouses). Here it goes.

DEAR CHOCOLATE CAKE, we love you.

  1. Delicious
  2. Help us feel better
  3. Moist
  4. Double chocolate
  5. Bundt cake
  6. Chocolate mousse cake
  7. One year old birthday’s are never the same
  8. Black forest cake
  9. Double dutch chocolate cake
  10. Anniversaries… of course
  11. Triple layer cake
  12. Deep and delicous??? Sure why not?