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.