Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to all. 

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Spring is here!!


Hey guess what, I'm expecting a baby, but then, you knew that right!! Well the realisation of this hits me every now & then and inbetween these moments I am almost unaware of this monumentous news. Crazy I know, but with my first pregnancy, everything was new & I wanted to know everything right then, right now, but this time, 6 years on and feeling more confident in myself, I know I'm capable of carrying this baby & when the time comes, I'll be ready. I suppose the term 'one in the oven' has a good feel for me, as you know, I love to bake, and once that cake is in and baking, I don't think about it again till nearer the time it's ready to come out. Well, in some ways, thats how I like to think of this pregnancy, only the final product will be better than any cake I've ever tasted. 
This week though has been one of those 'hit me' times and a need to be organised has briefly kicked in, but as is typical for me, this was not in a purchasing the all essential baby equipment style organised, no my thoughts were towards the kitchen and stocking the cupboards, frigde and freezer for the months when I won't want to, have time to or even want to think about being in there and making meals, but a family I have and a family I need to cook for. Now I know they can more than fend for themselves but why waste this time I have now to cook up a storm and get some baking done, that way at least I can avoid the occasional 'delights' my wonderful husband concocts (I didn't marry him for his culinary skills)  

So today with more snow on the cards, I rolled up my sleeves and headed for the kitchen and began, today's creations were:
Chocolate chip loaf cake

Banana and honey loaf cake

Ginger loaf cake 

Lemon drizzle tray bake

This took me just over an hour to do, that's right, 4 cakes in an hour. I think my many years of baking has taught me a style of baking I love and that's straight forward, no fuss type baking and also little tips I use to ensure I'm not frantic in the kitchen, covered in flour emptying drawers looking for a measuring spoon!!! I'll share with you my top 10 tips to stay calm in the kitchen: 

  • Always wear an apron, it saves your clothes getting mucky & bleach marks from the flour on brand new black tops ( been there!!!!) & handy for drying wet hands.

  • Use scales, I have electronic ones. Baking, in my mind is a science and using correct amounts means more good results at the end of the day.

  • Containers!!! I can't stand using bags of flour or sugar, as every time you unroll the top you get covered in a dusting of flour or sugar spills onto the work tops and then sticks to you at every opportunity.  Some baking powders come in such small containers that you can't get a measuring spoon in & you reason with yourself  that you can gently shake the powder out onto the spoon which will be ok & end up with the whole lot falling out in one great lump & into your mixture - cue one very enraged mum desperately trying to flick it back out of the bowl with the only implement to hand, a fork or other useless item ( yep, done this a few times too) I like to decant these types of dry ingredients into containers, I like to use the containers they use in our local sweet shop, she gives them away for free when empty. I also use jam jars & kilner jars, anything that is air tight and wide enough to get a spoon in. 

  • When using ingredients like honey, syrup or treacle, place the measuring spoon in hot water first before measuring out said ingredient, it'll slide off the spoon with no mess or fuss.

  • If a piece of egg shell falls into your egg mixture, the right tool for the job to get it out again is actually one of the broken halves of the eggshell itself! The jagged edge of the shell cuts through the viscous egg white, letting you scoop up the bit of shell without any fuss. (Sorry, bit scientific, promise not to go there again!!) 

  • Keep a jug of hot water nearby, it's handy for sticking in utensils you use and then can be taken out again when required and given a quick dry, otherwise you end up using lots of the same things like spoons, knives, spatulas etc

  • Always use free range eggs, I'm not saying they are of superior flavour or anything like that which I'm sure they are, but more for the welfare of the chicken. I use in excess of a dozen eggs a week, that soon mounts up over a year (624 if you're wondering!!). That's a lot of chickens laying a lot of eggs for 1 family, doesn't take much to ensure that chicken is a happy one!! 

  • Timers, use it!! I have seriously on many occasions, made a tray of brownies, set the timer, sat down, picked up my crochet and the outside world fails to exist anymore, I've even remember once thinking "mmm, what is that lovely smell, next door must be cooking something delicious" & then the the timer goes off and I remember its me that's baking 'duh', I really am that dizzy sometimes!!!!!

  • Disposable liners - they are just brilliant. No greasing tins, no complicated origami sessions trying to get parchment paper to fit to your tin, no washing up, no temptation to just not use it, resulting in cake sticking to tin, using a knife to try coax it out, scratching tin, throwing in dishwasher in a temper and then having the non stick surface eroded away, thus making tin practically useless & only good for giving daughter to use in her pretend kitchen - yep, you live & learn, my daughters kitchen will testify to this, great for making mud cakes now!!! 

And that is it, of course I would always recommend making sure you have used all the ingredients required before putting into your tin, no point baking if you've left out something important like baking powder or sugar!! Always bake because you want to and not because you have to, errors will happen, results will be effected and you'll not want to bake again. 

And now for a bit of a crochet!! 

Now, I do feel this blog is heavily becoming like a food diary,  but originally I started this blog to record my crochet makes, as well as other homemade creations, but then at the time of starting this blog, I embarked on my biggest project ever & so I'm still half way through making a granny striped blanket for my daughter. 
In hind sight, if in the first place I had got off my lazy bum and actually measured the width of my daughters bed & not guesstimated it, I would probably have finished by now, but instead I'm still on with finishing this blanket that could now probably fit our super king size, but never mind, I am absolutely loving making it, love having the vastness of it over my legs as I work on it every opportunity I get while the snow falls once again, it's a feeling of being all snugly, under my blanket, warm & cosy & that's how I hope my daughter will feels when it's eventually makes it to her bed and hopefully before this weather finally starts looking warmer!!!  

Here are just a few glimpses of my WIP and I hope I can reveal it all in it's glory very very soon!! 

Now I'm off to cling film wrap my cakes and get them safely put in the freezer before they are spied by certain members of this family, ie all of them & then back to my blanket. (ha, who am I kidding, that lemon drizzle tray bake will never make it to the freezer, never made one that has yet!!!)

Happy times in the snow to all and I'll be back soon 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Busy week

Well I'm still frantically making cupcakes and selling them in a bid to raise money for Comic Relief Twittermillions.  I have changed the design this week to reflect the approach of Easter, and also maybe because I was becoming a woman possessed looking for red food colouring and buttermilk in my local community, especially as snow made an unexpected and quite frankly unwelcome return!! 

I hope to return soon, I have a gorgeous granny stripe blanket that I'm currently working on that I can't wait to share, if the weather doesn't cheer me up, seeing this bright assortment of stripy colours all together certainly will!!!

Back soon

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Cake Sale

It's no secret to friends and family that I do love to bake, it's a hobby which I indulge in at every opportunity, it's relaxing, fulfilling and of course at the end, something gorgeous to eat with a steaming hot cup of tea!

I have a good selection of recipe books and with the joys of the Internet, no recipe is ever out of reach for me. 

I have to say that currently my favourite recipe book is the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook! The number of cupcakes I have made over the years is innumerable ! They have been given as gifts, donated to bake sales, been part of a party buffet and generally enjoyed as an afternoon treat!

I also venture into all aspect of baking including sweet making, jam making, breads, pastries, tarts, preserves, pickles, chutneys, crumbles, brownies, pies and puddings. I've put together a small selection of things I love to make, I say it's a small selection, I could easily make a dozen montages as I love to photograph whatever I make to remind me what I have made, but this montage is probably some of my favourites. 

Anyway, I digress, the reason behind this post is my recent own attempts at raising money for Comic Relief.

The joys of writing my blog is shared with my love of reading other people's and I couldn't fail to notice a lot of clever crafty people producing a range of lovely handmade wares that will be auctioned off to raise money for Comic Relief. A link to the page can be found here:

Now I know I'm not nearly as talented as these people, but none the less I wasn't going to not do my part, however small it might be, so using my love of baking, I decided that a Cake Sale was the way to go and giving that Comic Relief is only a short time away, I thought my best chances of raising money and donations was to rely on the joys of social media and connect my Red Nose Day Giving Money Page to my Facebook page and see what happened. Fortunately I was quickly inundated 
 with orders and also donations and reached my target within a few days.

I chose to make one of my favourite Hummingbird Recipes, the Red Velvet Cupcake, although in hindsight, probably not the easiest, only because it uses an assortment of ingredients that include buttermilk, white wine vinegar, lots of red food colouring and cream cheese for part of the frosting. 

Now I live quite remotely with local large supermarkets being at least a 20 minute drive away and unfortunately, our local convenience shop doesn't stock such items like buttermilk (I might add that I have since discovered that natural yogurt can be used as a substitute!!) Red food colouring was easier to find but local shops only stocked a small amount and so I think I cleared out all stock within a 10 mile radius!

So here's how I made them, as I altered the amounts given in the Cookbook!


60g unsalted butter or margarine
150g caster sugar
1 egg
20g cocoa powder
1 entire bottle of Dr Oetker natural red food colouring!!!
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
120ml of buttermilk or natural yogurt
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp of vinegar (I used red wine vinegar, recipe asked for white wine)


300g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter (room temperature)
125g cream cheese

mix all together for a good 4-5 minutes to let it become light and creamy.


Firstly, set your oven to 170C / 325F / gas mark 3


Cream together the butter and sugar either with a handheld electric whisk, or as I prefer, in a food processor, until light and fluffy, then add the egg and mix till well incorporated. 

 In a separate bowl mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food colouring (it should make a thick paste!) and add to the butter/sugar/egg mixture

You now have yourself a vivid pink concoction that looks absolutely shocking!!!

Now having measured out your buttermilk and flour into separate containers, add half the buttermilk and mix in, then half the flour and mix in, then repeat this step again, adding the rest of the buttermilk and flour, mixing well in-between (making sure you scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side) 

Now give it a good whizz to make sure it's all mix well together!

Finally add into the lurid red mixture the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar and mix again for a couple of minutes to make sure everything is evenly mixed.

Now pour the mixture equally into 12 paper cases and bake in your pre heated oven for 20 - 25 minutes (I did mine for 20 mins but I know my oven and knew this would be long enough)

Once out of the oven, leave them to rest a few minutes in the tin then turn out onto a cooling rack.

If like mine, they raise up in the middle, cut them off with a serrated knife when cool and feed to eager children and husbands who complain that these cakes aren't for them!!!!

and once cool, pile on a generous topping of frosting and decorate how you like.

I had some red roses made from icing that I bashed up in a pestle and mortar and sprinkled over the top

And there you have it. These cakes really are so tasty and dense and rich and the cream cheese frosting, I think, isn't as sweet tasting as usual butter icing, so isn't as sickly, but this is only my opinion and will happily eat cupcakes in all shapes and sizes!

Now I still have orders coming in so I best go hunt for some more red food colouring.

Best of luck to the Red Nose Day Dolls contributors and all those raising money for Comic Relief.

I'll be back soon xx