Friday, 28 December 2012

Back to work

I have been fortunate enough to spend the past 6 years at home raising my children. This has given me the time to be creative with them as well as for them. I have relearned how to cook and bake without using dairy products and more recently I have been able to enjoy craft and art activities with them. Now they are both settled in school, I need more to do in the day than making and baking.

So, from 7th January, I shall be back in the full-time work force. Luckily, I shall be working school hours and term times only so I won't need to arrange child care, but I won't have the time to be so creative and the blog is likely to suffer. I am sure I will be updating from time to time, so look out for updates, but for the first couple of months back in work I'm likely to be too shattered to even open the laptop!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Snowflakes and more

Today's Christmas task on our advent calendar was to make paper snowflakes to go on the windows. I have made them in the past and let the girls stick them on, but this year they made their own for the first time, and loved it. We also made some strings of Christmas things - robins, trees, reindeer and angels. Charlotte was amazed at the hearts that were made when we cut certain shapes out of the paper and was soon busy throwing them around the room like confetti.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Chocolate ginger cupcakes

A fair few months ago I went to a friend's baby shower and her sister-in-law had made a selection of delicious cakes. My favourite were her chocolate ginger cupcakes, a name which does not begin to describe the mix of flavours hiding inside. I made a version of them for the cake sale at the school Christmas Market today, here is the recipe.


4oz brown sugar
5oz self raising flour
1/4tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp ground nutmeg
4oz soya margarine
2 eggs
2tbsp golden syrup
3oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped


Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl, then add the eggs, margarine and syrup.
Whisk with an electric whisk until smooth then add the chocolate and mix together.
Spoon into 12 cupcake cases and bake at 150c for about 20 minutes, until cooked through.

When cool, the original recipe calls for whipped cream on top with chopped Crunchie bars sprinkled on top. I made frosting with philadelphia, butter and icing sugar, then sprinkled the Crunchie on top. To make them dairy-free, I have spooned cooled, melted dairy-free chocolate over the top, then topped with chopped honeycomb pieces.

Lots of Christmas makes

It was the school Christmas Market yesterday, and I paid to have my own stall selling home made decorations and gifts. My mum and I have been working hard making stuff, and that is why I haven't put anything crafty up on here for a bit. Here are some of the things that I have been making:

Malteasers with a foil covered chocolate ball in home-made packaging

Rattan ball with organza and crochet ribbon details.

Rattan balls, sprayed with enamel paint with ribbon details.
Crystal and bead decorations.

Robin Christmas cards using origami papers and black pen.

Hand-made stockings with ribbon and button details.

Enamel sprayed curtain rings with crochet, ribbon, rattan and salt dough additions.
Salt dough, ribbon and confetti decorations.
Red fleece and embroidery decorations.

Salt dough with tissue paper decoupage decorations.

Salt dough and vintage comic decoupage decorations.

Cookie cutters, butchers twine and mini bells decorations.
The complete stall at the Christmas Market.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Family advent calendar

I saw something on pinterest about doing a hand-made advent calendar with things to do each day instead of the ubiquitous chocolate. My children are dairy-free, so they can't have a chocolate advent calendar, and this seemed like a nice idea to do instead.

In Ikea, I bought a set of 24 little paper bags with number stickers from 1 - 24 included. I bought some cheap wooden pegs in the pound shop and some nice christmas ribbon on eBay. Charlotte stuck all the stickers on the pegs, Emma unfolded all the bags and I attached them all to ribbons tied between all the curtain fixtures.

 I found a nice Christmassy font, and printed out a thing to do for each day. Some are dates that are already arranged, but others may get moved around depending on how I feel on the day! The idea is that we all do the activity as a family and it makes sure we don't forget any of the things we love to do in the run up to Christmas.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Mulling spice cake

I had a thought, would it be possible to make a cake that replicates mulled wine? I love mulled wine so today I had a go at making something that, while not quite a mulled wine cake, is still pretty tasty. I based it on the orange and poppyseed cake, mainly because it uses milk, which is the key to getting the flavours into the cake.


120ml sweetened soya milk
170g caster sugar
2 eggs
170g self raising flour
140g soya margarine
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract


In a small saucepan, add the nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon to the soya milk. Warm for about 1/2 hour without letting it boil, then allow to cool.
Weigh out all the rest of the ingredients, place in a large bowl with the eggs, zests and finally add the strained soya milk.
Use an electric whisk to blend all the ingredients to make a smooth, soft batter.
Pour into a lined loaf tin and bake at 180c for about 50 minutes, until a skewer pushed into the top of the cake comes out clean.
Cool in the tin.

I think I need to do more with this cake, but I'm not sure what at the moment. It should have a syrup, I think, like a lemon drizzle cake. What I will try is to reduce down some mulled wine and sugar to make a syrup, then drizzle that on it.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Christmas is coming

I have been very busy making, but not blogging about it. Naughty? No, just didn't want to start talking about Christmas too soon. I am making loads of stuff to sell at the school Christmas fair in 2 weeks, and over the next few posts I shall be sharing what I have been up to.

My first make, is comic book tree decorations. The shapes were made of a mixture of salt dough and salt ceramic, then covered with ripped up vintage comics, using pva glue to both stick and seal the paper to the shape.

Salt dough ingredients
1 cup salt
2 cup plain flour
1 cup warm water
Mix the salt and flour, then add the water and mix well to make a dough. Kneed for a few minutes to smooth the dough.

Salt ceramic ingredients
1 cup salt
1/2 cup cornflour
2/3 cup of water
Mix all the ingredients then slowly heat while constantly stirring until it thickens and forms a thick paste.

I like the lighter colour dough that salt ceramic gives, but it did seem to crack while drying, so I made a batch of salt dough and a batch of salt ceramic then mixed the two together. The resulting dough was paler than salt dough with the slight sparkly quality of salt ceramic. It was easy to work, and dried nicely in the oven.

I rolled the dough, using flour to stop it sticking to the rolling pin or worktop, then cut out the shapes using cookie cutters. While the cutter was still surrounding the shape, I pushed a chopstick end into the dough to make the hanging hole. This way, you don't affect the shape of the final piece by making the hole in it.

The shapes were then placed on baking trays and dried in the oven for a few hours at about 100c turning them to make sure they dry on both sides. Once they are dry and cool, you can decorate them. Then string them and hang them up.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Gingerbread Pudseys

It is Children in Need time, and today at school we held a cake sale to raise some money. I was determined to theme my baking, and what better way than this?
I used my gingerbread recipe, then used rolled white icing and icing pens to add the details. Simple, yet effective.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Gluten-free and dairy-free peach cobbler

I wanted to bake a pudding last night, but there were no eggs left. I very nearly gave up on the idea, but then I remembered a peach cobbler recipe I made a while ago. It is incredibly easy to make, so I thought I'd try a gluten-free version.


1 cup self-raising gluten free flour blend
1 cup icing sugar
1 cup sweetened soya milk
1 tin of peach slices
4oz soya margarine


Put a baking dish into the oven at 190c with the margarine in it.
While that is warming, mix the flour, sugar and milk together.
Take the baking dish out and make sure the margarine has melted and spread across the baking dish. Pour the batter slowly on top and do not mix.
Drain the peaches and place these all over the top of the batter.
Bake for about 50 minutes at 190c

Serve warm with ice cream.

Unfortunately, there was still a some partly cooked batter in the middle of the pudding. It was ok to eat, but I wasn't happy with it. The crunchy top was great, though, and Charlotte wants to make it again, so I need to sort out my quantities. I think a little less milk may be the answer.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Dairy-free and gluten-free cupcakes

Hooray! I did it, I made cupcakes that are passable as regular ones, but with no wheat or dairy hiding inside. It was dead simple, thanks to my new favourite brand of flour.

I made my 4:4:4:2 sponge mix with vanilla extract, but added 2 tsp soya milk as the flour needs a little extra moisture to stop the cakes being too dry.

The children had them after their dinner and have declared them "the best cupcakes ever" which may be down to the fact that they were ecstatically happy at being allowed cakes for pudding. They do go a bit over-the-top when they are given a treat, but it made for one very happy mummy!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Gluten-free flour experiment

Wheat doesn't seem to do me much good, so I am cutting back on the amount I eat. Less toast, sandwiches and pasta are pretty easy to do, but cake and biscuits is another matter altogether. I discovered Doves organic gluten-free flour blend the other day, and decided to try it out. The way I see it, if you can hardly tell the difference, why bother with wheat in the first place? I am going to be a harsh critic though, as I don't see the point in eating a cake if it isn't delicious!

All that was left of the banana bread after one sitting.
So, first of all I made a batch of dairy-free and wheat-free pancakes, using my pancake recipe but with the new flour and a little extra soya milk. The girls told me they were better than the normal ones, although I thought they were a little more chewy than normal. The flour passed it's first test.

Next, I made my banana bread using the flour. Again, I added a little soya milk to soften the batter up, as the flour absorbs more moisture than normal flour. The cake cooked in the same amount of time as normal, and tasted exactly the same. The only difference was a slightly powdery texture on the crust, but I didn't mind that at all. Test 2 - pass.

I also made some yorkshire pudding batter using the flour, and made myself some wheat-free courgette fritters like my mum used to make for my lunch yesterday. Literally, slices of courgette about 1/2cm thick dipped in the batter and fried. They were exactly as I remembered them, so must have been just right. Test 3 - passed with distinction!

More tests to go, but at this rate I might just give up on wheat flour all together!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Pub stool makeover

Many years ago, when I moved in with Tom, I started using an old pub stool of his to sit at my dressing table. It was never pretty, but it did the job, even though I looked at it every time I used it and thought "I should do something with that."

Well, I finally did it. Hooray! I took the seat off and removed all the fabric and padding. While that was off I mixed some white satinwood paint with artist acrylic paint to make a colour that I liked. I bought an off-cut of a neutral upholstery fabric in the local fabric shop and matched the paint to it. Once the wooden part was dry, I was able to do the seat. I had a piece of cushion foam cut to fit the round chipboard seat base, then made a cover with the fabric. Easy to do, just cut a circle the same size as the seat base with 1cm seam allowance added all round. Then I cut 2 long strips of fabric to make the sides. Once the sides were sewn to the circle, I just pulled it tight over the foam base and stapled it under the chipboard base. Then I screwed the legs back on and it was finished.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Fun bath time for the kids

This was a pretty simple idea that I saw online, all I did was buy a pack of glowsticks (15 for £1 in a local cheap shop) and put them all in the bath. They are watertight, so there is no danger of leakage into the water and now the clocks have gone back it is dark enough at bath time to get the full effect.
The girls (scribbled out in the picture to protect their modesty) loved it:

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Lemon cheesecake cupcakes

I made my most delicious concoction to date yesterday. It was the combination of a few different ideas that came together beautifully for the school social last night. I was very pleased!

I based the cakes on some I had made a few months ago. I changed the icing and based the biscuit part on the topping from these cakes.


For the cakes:
8.5oz self raising flour
6oz caster sugar
6oz soya margarine
3 eggs
grated rind of 2 lemons

lemon curd

For the cheese topping:
3/4 tub of mascarpone cheese
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk

For the biscuit topping:
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (I was kindly sent some graham crackers from Canada, but you can use digestive biscuits for this part - they are close enough in flavour)
1/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup soft brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted


Make up the cake mix, adding a little milk if necessary to give a soft consistency, it should drop off the spoon into the cake cases with just a little help. Set out 16 cupcake cases and place a heaped teaspoon of mix in each case. Top each one with about 1/3 tsp of lemon curd, then cover with another heaped tsp of cake mix, making sure the lemon curd is covered completely. This method should use up all the cake mix.

In a separate bowl, mix the biscuit topping ingredients together to make a crumble. Tip this out onto a baking tray and place in the oven with the cakes. Keep an eye on it to avoid it browning too much, it benefits form a stir during cooking to ensure it cooks evenly.
Bake at 180c for around 14 minutes until the cakes are starting to brown on top, remove the topping from the oven after about 10 minutes.

Allow the topping and cakes to cool in their tins, then place the cakes on a wire rack to ensure they cool fully before putting the toppings on.

Make up the mascarpone cheese topping by mixing the 4 ingredients until you get a smooth creamy consistency. When the cakes are cool, spread a tsp of the mascarpone on each of the cakes.

As close as possible to serving the cakes (I did this 4 hours before, and they stayed crunchy) sprinkle a tsp of the biscuit topping on each cake.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Quick smoked haddock lunch

My favourite dish in the world is served at a local pub. Smoked haddock with mustard mash and a poached egg on top. Unfortunately, my husband does not eat fish, so I don't tend to cook fish at home. I can, however, cook fish for my lunch, and that is what I did today. I created a quick lunch version of my smoked haddock, and it looked and tasted really great. So great, in fact, I thought I would take a picture and share it.

I am not a fan of the whole photographs of my restaurant meal thing that seems to be happening on social media, but when I have cooked something I love, I do want to share it. So here it is.

I poached the haddock in milk with a knob of butter and poached an egg separately. I put a couple of handfuls of baby spinach on the plate the laid the hot haddock on top with a drizzle of the milk (which started to wilt the spinach rather nicely). I then put the poached egg on top and finished it off with mustard salad dressing and a bit of black pepper. 

The mustard salad dressing bottle is in the background and it is also a favourite of mine. It's sold in the local farm shop and absolutely delicious.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Fabulous new cupcake recipe

A few days after making vanilla cupcakes from the Hummingbird book, I realised that the recipe didn't convert so well to dairy-free. The cakes were nice when really fresh, but did not keep well - they went heavy and a bit soggy. I thought that maybe something halfway between my 5:4:4:2 sponge recipe and the Hummingbird recipe might be a good idea.

So (very scientifically), I wrote both recipes out side by side, added the ingredients together and then halved the result to give a 2 egg recipe:


8oz self raising flour
3.5oz soya margarine
7oz caster sugar
120ml sweetened soya milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract


Cream the margarine and sugar together.
Add the eggs and vanilla to the milk and mix.
Add the flour and the egg/milk to the sugar/margarine and mix well.
Fill cupcake cases about half full with the mix and bake at 180c for about 12 minutes.
Makes around 16 cupcakes but would make about 24 fairy cakes.

The cakes rise well, do not have greasy cake cases and the cases do not peel away from the sides. These went down a storm at the school cake sale, children really don't notice that they are eating dairy-free and that makes me very happy. It also means that Charlotte can join in with the others without having to worry about her allergy.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Hummingbird cakes

Today, I had promised Charlotte that I would make chocolate cupcakes with her. A friend of mine made some lovely chocolate cupcakes for the Macmillan coffee morning the other week, and when I asked her, she said the recipe was from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. I have that book, so Charlotte and I dipped in and found the recipe - yippee! Also, Emma was loitering and looking over our shoulders, so I agreed to make a batch of vanilla cupcakes with her too.

The sponge was much less fine textured and moist than my normal sponge recipe, which meant that the cases didn't peel away from the sides of the sponge for once, which was fantastic. Also, as the recipe uses a lot less margarine and milk instead (soya, obviously, for us) there were no ugly oily marks bleeding through the cake cases. These people know what they are doing!

Anyway, Charlotte did all the measuring and mixing and filling of cake cases herself for the first time. She also iced them with the icing that I made. Emma made hers with a little interference from mummy, but iced them herself. I tried half filling some cases and then dolloping a 1/2 tsp of lemon curd in, then topping up with mix. I haven't tried one of these yet, but they smell delicious.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Denise's lemon cake

My friend's mum, Denise, gave me a lemon cake recipe a few years ago, but I don't often make it - I have no idea why, it is delicious. I guess I always forget to buy lemons, and then when I get the time to bake I can't make it. Anyway, my mother-in-law brought me back some lemons from her tree in Cyprus and it was the perfect opportunity to make a lemon cake as there is no danger of pesticides or wax on the skins.


4oz soya margarine
6oz caster sugar
grated rind of 2 lemons
2 eggs
6oz self raising flour
A little milk (I use soya)


Cream together the margarine and sugar.
Add the lemon rind and eggs and mix well.
Sift in the flour and fold into the mix.
Add a little milk to soften the batter.
Pour into a lined 2lb loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes at 180c.

Make a syrup using the juice of the 2 lemons and 2oz caster sugar.
When the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool a little, then make lots of holes in the top with a skewer and pour the syrup slowly all over and allow it to soak in.
I boiled up the syrup for a few minutes to thicken it, as I find that it then runs off more slowly, allowing it to soak in before it runs down the sides.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Crystal egg geode

I can't take any credit for the idea behind this make, so I am linking directly to the source of my information at

I saw this on twitter a few days ago and really liked the idea of it. Who doesn't like sparkly crystals? The idea that I could make them myself took me back to the days of crystal gardens (remember them?) from my youth.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Orange and poppyseed cupcakes

I am going to my local "World's biggest coffee morning" in aid of Macmillan cancer support tomorrow. Instead of taking a cake that would need cutting up, I decided to make some cupcakes. I normally bake dairy-free, as I like to at least let the children try what I bake, even if they don't like it. It just seems a bit mean to bake something that I know they can't eat. But, they won't be eating these cakes, as they are for grown-ups only, so I could do something I don't normally get the chance to do.

I made up a batch of my orange and poppyseed loaf cake mix, but used cows milk instead of soya. This was split into 16 cupcake cases, with each around 2/3 full and baked at 180c for about 18 minutes. Once cooled, I iced them with vanilla cream cheese frosting (3 tbsp cream cheese, 1 tbsp butter, 1 tsp vanilla and enough icing sugar to make a soft consistency) then sprinkled caramelised orange peel and poppy seeds on top. 

To make the caramelised orange, I carefully peeled an orange so I only took the top layer of the skin and not the white pith underneath. I then sliced each piece into 1mm wide strips and heated them in a frying pan with a couple of tbsp of caster sugar. Once the sugar was melted and bubbling, and the orange peel softened, I turned off the heat. As the orange cooled and the sugar re-solidified, the peel turned crunchy, sweet and very intensely flavoured. 

Recycled wax crayons

All ready for the oven
In a couple of weeks, I'm planning to do wax crayon rubbings with the nursery children. I spoke to the nursery staff and they said that the children don't seem to have the strength to push the crayon down hard enough to make a decent rubbing. I was a bit disappointed, but then I remembered something that might be a solution to this problem. A while back, I made some recycled wax crayons with the girls. I think the idea came from a book, but I can't remember where I saw it.


Straight out of the oven, all melted
Get lots of bits of wax crayons. Tear off any paper that might still be attached and break up longer crayons into pieces a couple of cm long.
Place the pieces in an old bun tin.
Put the tin in the oven at 120c for about 1/2 hour, or until all the bits of crayon have liquefied.
Carefully take the tray out of the oven and leave to cool.
Once cooled, place it either in the fridge, freezer on into a bath of very cold water.
Lots of loud cracking noises will ensue, as the crayons shrink from the sides of the tin.
Bang the tin upside down on the worktop and all the crayons should fall out, ready to use.

The finished crayon can be held in a child's palm, so they can use all their weight to press down on it.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Salt ceramic

I was pottering online the other day when I saw this blog post about salt ceramic. My 2 year old niece was here at the weekend, so I had a 2, a 4 and a 6 year old to do something with. I decided to try this as it didn't look too messy and they were all able to do it by themselves.


Add together 1 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of cornflour and 2/3 cup of water in a saucepan. Mix and heat until it forms a dough then take off the heat and allow to cool before using in the same way as salt dough.

I made up the mixture according to the instructions, but I have a feeling I didn't add quite enough water, as it was a little dry. The dough was very pliable, and had a much nicer look than ordinary salt dough, as it is white and slightly opaque. The girls had buttons and shells to press onto their dough to make a paper weight. All three of them enjoyed pushing things into the dough and made their own designs with no help.

Unfortunately, the buttons which were flat started to fall off as the dough dried, and will need glueing back on. I think this may be due to the dough being a bit dry to start with. I think that next time I shall add a little more water and maybe mix in some glitter too.

Made and gifted to me by my 2 year old niece.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Creamy chocolate pudding

By a convoluted route, I ended up on the website of Heavenly Treats and Treasures looking at their Chocovado pudding recipe. I make a pudding for the girls, inventively called "mango pudding" by blending together a mango and an avocado. Charlotte still loves it and she's been eating it since she was 6 months old (not just that, obviously!). It is pretty good, and most importantly dairy free but still creamy and sweet.

Well, I saw this recipe for what looked like a chocolate version of our mango pudding and had to try it out. I made it slightly differently, so I'll write the recipe out again here:


1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
1/8 cup of agave/maple syrup
1/8 cup sweetened soya milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dairy free vanilla ice cream


Put all the ingredients except the ice cream in a blender and blend until smooth.
This was too rich tasting for the children, so I then added the ice cream and blended again to make a smooth, cold and creamy chocolate pudding.
This went down very well with Emma, but Charlotte still prefers her mango version.
I believe it would be fantastic in an ice cream sundae with chocolate brownie pieces, maybe some chopped banana and ice cream. When I get a chance to try that out I shall get a photo before we scoff it!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Seedy apple cookies

I have been merrily baking what I know my children will eat, and a lot of the time paying little attention to the nutritional qualities of these treats. I have decided that there are times when I need the full on sugar extravaganza - like a birthday cake, but I could also use baking as a sneaky way of getting more good food into my children and myself.

Emma is quite happy munching on nuts and seeds, but Charlotte does not. I was hoping that I could adapt a recipe to get seeds into Charlotte's diet as a starting point for my experiments. I based it on my apple and cinnamon cookie recipe, which I have also made as ginger and lemon cookies.


130g soya margarine
55g granulated sugar
45g soft light brown sugar
50g crushed digestive biscuits
100g plain flour
80g oats
50 g sunflower seeds (blitzed into small crumbs)
20g sesame seeds
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g dried apple, chopped roughly
1 large egg
1 tbsp agave syrup


Cream together the margarine and sugars.
Add the egg and agave syrup and mix well.
In a separate bowl mix the flour, biscuit crumbs, oats, seeds, bicarb and cinnamon.
Add the dry mix to the wet, mix well then stir in the chopped apple.
Bake on a lined baking tray at 170c (fan) for 12 minutes.
Makes 24.

Monday, 10 September 2012

First nursery session

My first session as "artist in residence" at the local nursery is all planned and ready to go. I am going to show them the painting The Snail by Henri Matisse as our inspiration, then we are going to look at colour and shape.

The children will tear up pieces of tissue paper and place them on a piece of white paper, then spray the tissue with water and place another piece of white paper on top and press it down. Once these have dried a bit, they can peel them open and look at their masterpieces. The colour in the tissue bleeds onto the paper making new colours and patterns.

We will also be using pipettes to drop food colouring into water and see how colours mix to make new colours.

I have no idea how this will go, as the children are all 3 or 4 years old and unless I can capture their attention early on, I fear it will be an uphill struggle to win them over. Naturally, I will not be able to discuss specifics of the session or post photographs of it in progress, but I have attached pictures of the practice pieces that Charlotte did with me yesterday.

We only used orange, magenta and green tissue, but when they mixed they made new colours.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Scooby Doo Birthday Cake

I have a confession, I faked the icing on a cake. It is not like me to pass up the chance of an icing challenge, but I am trying to pace myself and not take on too much at once. I'm so glad I did it, the cake topper that I bought was fantastic, and it took a lot of pressure off an already complicated cake. I also had time to make Scooby snacks for the party as I didn't end up spending a whole afternoon icing an intricate cake design. I bought the icing topper on eBay for £3.50. Bargain.

So, the cake. I decided to try out a 3 colour sponge cake like I have seen all over the place recently. Charlotte decided on purple, orange and pink and as luck would have it my baking trays are just the right size to make an A4 cake - the same size as the icing topper. I decided to make each sponge separately (a 2 egg batch of my 5:4:4:2 mix with added vanilla), colouring the egg with my colour paste before incorporating it. I started with purple, which baked well but the colour was not very nice. I then made the orange and pink which were lovely.

I ran out of eggs, so while I was out buying more I had a re-think. Green would be easier to achieve than purple, so the 3rd sponge was a glorious froggy green. Once I had made the 3 sponges, I assembled the cake. I put home made plum jam between the pink and orange, then buttercream between the orange and green. I then put a thin layer of buttercream over the whole thing and covered it with white rolled icing.

To attach the icing topper, you have to remove it from it's plastic backing and place it on tacky icing. I slightly dampened the icing on the cake then placed the topper on top. Perfect. Unfortunately the cake was more risen in the middle, so a couple of edges rucked up a bit, but that was hidden by the piped blue icing that I put around the top and base of the cake.

I also made some Scooby snacks using my gingerbread recipe, then piping the design on top with leftover icing from the cake.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Big Georgie cake

My niece turns two tomorrow and I was very pleased to have been asked to make her birthday cake. What did she want on her cake? "Big Georgie" (from Peppa Pig) was the answer, so I trawled the internet for a Peppa shaped cake pan. No such luck, so I made a round cake and drew an icing George on it. This is only my second character cake, so was a bit daunting, but I have to say, I really enjoyed it.

I made two round sponges 10" across, then sandwiched them with strawberry jam and covered the whole thing in a thin layer of dairy-free buttercream icing. I then laid a ready rolled circle of icing on top and smoothed it down. I then used a print-out of George to transfer the image onto the icing. I did this by pushing a pin through to make a dotted outline (I did this for the other character cake, and it works pretty well as long as you cover all the holes with outline icing) and then used my icing paints to do the block colouring. I then made up icing in the colours that I needed for outlining and piped all the outlines.

It took a while, but I am very happy with the result.

Biscuit cakes

After trying out the "graham cracker and chocolate chip muffin" recipe recently, I decided I would try to adapt my basic cupcake recipe to incorporate digestive biscuit crumbs and chocolate chips. Whilst the muffins were delicious, I was advised by one of my critics (mum) that they were a bit heavy and didn't need the crumble on top. It was my birthday yesterday and a group of us were going to the park for the afternoon, I needed to take some cakes along as the batch of cupcakes my mum had made were not going to be enough for everyone. I gazed around the kitchen, looking for inspiration and noticed the last few digestive biscuits loitering around the fruit bowl, and decided they needed using up, today was their day to shine...


2.5 oz self raising flour
2 oz digestive biscuit crumbs
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 oz soya margarine
4 oz caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz dairy free "milk" chocolate chips
2 eggs


Cream the margarine and sugar in a bowl.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Add 1 egg, vanilla and a tbsp of the dry mix to the wet mix and stir well.
Repeat with the other egg and more of the dry mix.
Add the rest of the dry mix and the chocolate chips and stir.

This mix made 18 small cupcakes, which cooked at 180c for 13 minutes. They were very light and moist, so I think another time I would add the biscuit crumbs as extra to the 4.5oz flour instead of substituting 2 oz of the flour with biscuit crumbs and baking powder. The flavour was great though, so worth trying again to get the texture right.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Marbled bunnies and cupcakes

Two children want to make cakes and inevitably both want to do everything themselves. I am fed up with saying who gets to crack the eggs or measure the sugar so I let them both make cake mix at the same time. Charlotte made chocolate cake mix and Emma made vanilla cake mix. I then swirled the two together and we made marbled cakes. All of us are happy and we get lots of lovely cakes to enjoy.

Charlotte made a mix using 4:4:4:2 ratio with 1 oz of cocoa powder added to it.
Emma made a 5:4:4:2 mix with 1 tsp vanilla extract added to it.

We swirled the two mixes together and dolloped the mix into the prepared bunny mould and some  cupcake cases. We cooked them at 180c until a skewer poked in came out clean - about 20 minutes for the bunnies and 15 minutes for the cupcakes.

Family tree

We made a family tree a few years back to explain to the children how all their family members are related. It has been incredibly useful, but not very attractive as the sugar paper faded and new family members got squeezed in. We have just finished a new one, which is more for decoration than for working out how the family works, but the girls made this themselves, with hardly any help, so I am very happy with it.