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.

Friday, 10 August 2012

The miniature garden

Charlotte has entered the miniature garden competition at the village fete tomorrow. I tried showing her pictures of miniature gardens and suggesting ideas to her, but she was adamant as to how she wanted to do it. The ideas are all her own, and I was itching to help, but all I did was sneak a handful of coffee stirrers from the cafe today and cut them in half for her. I just wish she would put some flowers or plants in it!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Chicken and couscous "ready meal"

My sister had her second beautiful little girl last week and I went over to see her yesterday. I wanted to take a pre-made dinner to save them the hassle of cooking, as I know what it's like with a baby and toddler in the house! I had a lot of things to think of, it needed to be easy to finish off cooking, contain no onions or hot spices (she is breastfeeding and these don't seem to agree with new babies) and not need any ingredients that were not already in my fridge.

So, the answer came to me, chicken in a vegetable and tomato sauce with couscous.


I skinned and chopped 3 large tomatoes and placed them in my big saute pan with a small tin of "chair de tomate", a splash of olive oil and 2 frozen cubes of garlic.
I simmered these together with about 150ml of chicken stock, black pepper and mild paprika.
I added 2 medium sized chopped carrots and half a bag of spinach and simmered until the sauce was quite thick.
In a frying pan I seared 2 chicken breasts and then placed them in a casserole dish and covered them with the tomato sauce. I then cooled it quickly in a bath of iced water and put it in the fridge.

I made up 200g couscous with chicken stock and 1 tbsp sunflower oil, then cooled this and put it in the fridge.

When I went over, I took the 2 dishes of food, all they had to do was microwave the couscous and cook the chicken for 30 minutes at 180c and they had a home cooked dinner. Easy.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Lime and ginger cake

I bought a large number of limes for my husband's birthday party, hoping for good weather and cocktail making. Unfortunately, the weather inspired tea-drinking instead, so I have a lot of limes to use up. I searched around online for a cake recipe, and found this one. I have adapted it a bit, so my new recipe is below:


200g soya margarine
175g caster sugar
Zest of 3 limes and juice of 2
3 eggs
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp ground ginger
50g desiccated coconut

for the drizzle:
3 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp ginger syrup
juice of 1 lime


Cream the margarine and sugar, then add the grated lime.
In a bowl, mix the flour, ginger, coconut and baking powder.
Alternately add the eggs and tablespoons of the dry ingredients, mixing after adding each.
Add the remaining dry ingredients and the juice of 2 limes, then mix well.
Tip into a lined 2lb loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes at 180c.
Leave to cool for 15 minutes in the tin, then make lots of holes in the top of the cake with a skewer.
Slowly pour the mixed drizzle ingredients over the cake, allowing it to soak in.

The original cake had stem ginger in the cake and on the top. I only used the syrup left over from a batch of biscuits I made at the weekend. I think the flavour of the cake would definitely be improved with the extra ginger, but it was still delicious without it.

Painted tea light holders

Charlotte is entering the decorated tea light holder competition as part of the village fair this year. She is also entering a few other competitions, as is Emma. The girls both decorated glass tea light holders with glass/ceramic pens, and the results were both very pretty. The glasses were IKEA ones from ebay, £5 for 4. I think the rest (we bought 8) will be decorated closer to Christmas as presents.


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Scooby Doo villain posters

The beast from the bottomless lake
It will be Charlotte's birthday next month and she has decided on a Scooby Doo themed birthday party. We started making the posters for it, to be used as part of a mystery solving game and I was very good and allowed the children to help. I am usually very possessive of anything arty for a party as I want it to be "just right", but I learned from this experience that I need to let go more often and trust the children to create with me.

Ghost astronaut

I drew up the villains on A2 card, then we all block painted them with acrylic paint, not worrying about details too much. Finally, when they were dry I used a black marker pen to fill in all the details. I have to say, the ghost astronaut and the beast from the bottomless lake look better than I could have achieved, and the girls painted these all by themselves.

Charlotte has decided that she now wants the whole Scooby Doo gang as posters too, so we need to get some more card now.

"Graham cracker" chocolate chip muffins

I came across a recipe the other day for Graham cracker chocolate chip muffins and they looked and sounded delicious. I couldn't get hold of Graham crackers here in the UK, so I had to resort to digestive biscuits in this recipe adaptation. I have made them dairy-free, and am hoping that I haven't lost too much of the taste of the original recipe in the process.


2 cups of plain flour
1tbsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup of digestive biscuit crumbs
1 cup sweetened soya milk
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1 large egg
2tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup dairy free "milk" chocolate chips

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup light brown soft sugar
1/4 cup golden granulated sugar
1/2 cup digestive biscuit crumbs
3/4tsp cinnamon
3tbsp soya margarine, melted


Mix flour, crumbs, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
Mix oil, milk, egg and vanilla in a jug.
Add the wet to the dry mix and stir well to combine.
Finally add the chocolate chips and mix in.

In a smaller bowl, mix the topping ingredients together. The mix should be crumbly. I have changed the ingredient quantities from the original, as my version of the original was really gloopy. It must be due to the water content of the margarine.

I made 16 muffins in lined muffin tins with this quantity of mix, with each case 2/3 full of mix. I then added a teaspoon of the crumbly topping to each muffin and baked at 190c (fan) for around 15 minutes until they were cooked through. They smell amazing. They taste delicious, especially while still warm!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

First loaf of bread!

I made bread today. I had a brief dabble with bread rolls last summer, using a bread ready-mix, but they weren't great. I was up early this morning and the incessant children's program theme tunes drove me into the kitchen. I have had a bag of bread flour sitting in the cupboard for ages, and I though the kneading might be relaxing. So I did it.

I followed the instructions on the yeast sachet to the letter, and the result (2 hours later) is not bad at all. Can't wait for it to cool so I can try some.