Rainbow Cake

rainbow cake

It has been another one of those unexpectedly busy weeks where, despite trying to do very little above and beyond what was necessary, the hours have flown by at a very alarming rate.

The week started with us making a rainbow cake.  As some of you may recall, the wee boy has been talking about this for quite a while now and I had promised him, in the half term holidays, that we would give it a go, little realising that the holidays coincided with our lovely Charlotte’s birthday.  So, we made her a rainbow cake for her birthday.

When I say we, I am being generous.  The wee boy did a little stirring, a lot more licking, and when the violet cake fell apart – you’ll notice there are only six colours and not seven – he did a great deal of ‘quality controlling’.  However, it finally got made and presented, covered in icing, silver balls, coloured sugar, and love.

Interestingly, when the cake was cut, none of us, for one second, thought there was anything unusual about having a large, six layered slice of special birthday cake, despite each slice being absolutely ginormous.  Oh no, instead, we valiantly waded through the layers, stopping regularly for a swig of tea, and then more tea, until the wee boy, with still a mountain of cake to go, declared he’d had enough.

There was still plenty of cake left on all plates, but we trundled off on a dog walk, convinced that we would make room for the final part of the slice on our return.  Imagine then, our genuine surprise when himself came home and cut himself half a slice.

Just three colours.

*metaphorical lightbulb switches on*

Himself and I don’t do Valentine’s Day.  Mainly because neither of us are comfortable with the commercial concept, but also because we both believe that love should be given all year round.  That said, I would never judge anyone who does wish to engage with Valentine’s Day.  It’s a personal thing.  However, I do try and let people we love, know that is how we feel, so was brought to tears later on in the week when, flying hither and thither, the wee boy and I were on the telephone to son #1 and he finished the conversation with ‘love you’.  Similarly, when the wee one telephoned son #1 again, he left the conversation with ‘lots of love’.

I cannot put into words just how much this makes me glow inside.  I’m more proud that my boys can express their love for each other and us, than any bunch of flowers or heart embossed card and hope that nothing and no-one manages to crush that piece of perfection they both have within them.

 

 

Butterfly Buns

butterfly buns

This weekend I made a decision to bake.  Partly because I have fond memories of winter weekend baking afternoons and partly because the wee boy is quite keen to make a rainbow cake – having watched a youTube video of it endless times – so feel I’d better get the practise in before attempting said cake.  I have until February half term, which is when I have promised we will try it.

Meanwhile, I am still coming to terms with my ‘new to me’ oven.  It seems that I have not quite mastered the time needed to warm an electric oven before putting in the food to be cooked, and am still over compensating.  As a result edges are often cooked way before the middle has time to readjust itself to the heat, which can create surprising results.

For example, I recently cooked some roast white and sweet potatoes together and was taken aback when I popped my head in to have a look only to notice that the sweet potatoes had almost turned to charcoal.  Undeterred I turned them over, kept a closer eye on them and, when serving, muttered something about being well done but probably edible.  Imagine my surprise then, when they actually tasted delicious.

Similarly with mini cakes, I have not yet mastered the art of creating a mini cake that is happy to be peeled out of it’s case.  The attempts I have made so far have all resulted in the cake clinging onto the case for dear life.  However, not to be beaten, this time I resolved to create a distraction by turning the mini cakes into butterfly buns.  After all, who focuses on buncase separation anxiety when there’s a glorious buttercream to devour?  And of course, as we eat with our eyes first and foremost, creating a butterfly bun means that any flaws can be covered with a light dusting of icing sugar… but shhh, let’s keep that little gem between ourselves shall we…?

Butterfly buns aside, there are still a few truly simple but wondrous things in life that genuinely make me tingle inside, one of which is watching that first snowfall of the year.  Yesterday, as the wee boy and I gazed out of the window at the silent white blanket covering the earth around us, he turned to me and whispered,

‘This is the most incredible thing ever’

Magical.

 

 

 

Pinata Cake

pinata cake

At last our self imposed ban on sugar is over.  In the days leading up to it we have discussed the various options of where to go from here, and came to the conclusion that we would do natural sugars only.  Fruit, maple syrup, honey etc.

Meanwhile, I was recently very kindly bought a pinata cake tin, and thought it would be a fabulous idea to make one for the Easter weekend, filled with mini eggs.  A pinata, as I’m sure you know, is a container often made of papier-mâché, pottery, cloth or, more recently, cake.  It is decorated and filled with small toys, sweets, or both, and then broken as part of a ceremony or celebration.

This cake tin is round with a semi circular mould placed inside the tin whilst it cooks to create a space (once you make two cakes and stick them together) which can be filled with whatever you fancy.  I made two Victoria sponges and filled half with mini eggs.  So far so good.

A little jam and buttercream later, the top half was carefully attached to the bottom half.

And then, very slowly, almost elegantly, the whole cake began to work with gravity and, as if being filmed in slow motion, fell apart.  Not completely, but it is safe to say the the structure fundamentally changed.

Not one to be defeated, I called on the troops to hold it all together whilst I whipped up some more buttercream and began voraciously, to patch together the ever increasing pieces of a ball-shaped cake.

However, there comes a point in every optimists life, where eventually you have to admit that what you started out making has turned into something else.  Thanks to my inspired big sister, it turns out I had, in fact, made an Easter Mess Cake – catchy, I know.

Of course the other thing about Easter is the ginormous amount of chocolate that fills your life.  Normally for 24 hours only, but still, for that short amount of time it feels as though it may never end.  Although you know the point of chocolate saturation is close when the wee ones begin to offer you their stash.  Which is also the point where all your resolve for ‘natural sugars only’ gets chucked out the window and you gorge with the rest of them.

And then of course, there’s the Easter egg hunt.  This year, thanks to son #1 and my fabulous eldest niece, we had TWO Easter egg hunts, both of which were absolutely wonderful, both of which produced yet more chocolate.

Just between you and me, what with the cake and the chocolate mountain, we’ve probably eaten about six weeks worth of sugar in around six hours…

Courgette Cake

Courgette Cake

Having sampled this cake a coupe of years ago, made by one of my many talented and lovely friends, the memory of how wonderful it tasted has stayed with me, although I have never, until now, managed to rustle one up.

Turns out it is the simplest thing to make, and although I am still not eating sugar so therefore won’t be able to sample my goods, it will be going to the wee boy’s Kindergarten Spring Fayre, which is happening on Saturday so hopefully will all be eaten.  Actually, there is enough mixture to make two of then which, in my book, is a result.

This is what you will need:

3 eggs, 275ml sunflower oil – I used vegetable oil as I didn’t have any sunflower oil and I figured there can’t be that much difference – 350g caster sugar, 350g courgettes grated, 165g plain flour, 165g buckwheat flour – once again, I didn’t have any so I used wholemeal plain flour – 1tsp baking powder, 2 tspns bicarbonate of soda, 1tsp cinnamon, 175g raisins – I used sultanas, see previous excuse – 150g walnuts chopped.

Now then, here’s a thing with putting nuts into a cake.  I absolutely love them but the wee boy and his friends are going through a phase of ‘being allergic’ to things, which roughly translates as not liking them, so I have left the nuts out of this recipe as it has the ‘I’m allergic to nuts’ foray written all over it.  Instead I replaced them with a handful of chia seeds, for texture.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4. Then, either grease and line the base of two 900g/2lb loaf tins or, if you’re like me, you will have purchased, for absolutely no other reason than the thought that they might come in handy one day, a packet of paper loaf tin liners.  I was beginning to think they may have to be used for something to paint onto, but now I am completely absolved from buying ‘just in case stuff’, as they fit the tins perfectly.

Put all the ingredients together and mix to make a thick batter.  Pour into the cake tins.  Bake in the pre heated over for about an hour until the loaves are firm and a skewer comes out clean.  Sadly, I couldn’t remember what time I put the cakes in as I was ‘multi-tasking’.  However, I went by the smell of the oven and actually, although when I first tested them they weren’t quite done, I left them in a little longer, turning up the heat ever so slightly, and there was no dip at all.  Which has given me a completely disproportionate belief that I know what I’m doing.

Cool the cakes a little before turning out on a wire rack.

I have left one of the cakes without anything on top but the other now has a glaze made up of lime juice and granulated sugar. Of course I am unable to tell you what that will taste like but I reckon it should compliment the cake well.  I will be able to tell though, because when you sell cake at a Fayre, people never come back for a second slice if it’s not palatable.

I’ll let you know what happens.

Cherry and Almond Cake

cherry and almond cake

I have decided to try and increase my baking knowledge and dip my toes in an area I am unfamiliar with, but would like to conquer.  That may be a little over optimistic. Just to present something which doesn’t taste inedible would be a start.

Of course, I am referring to the vegan family of cakes.  Actually, more specifically, vegan cakes that are not chocolate based.

And why is this?  I hear you ask.

Well, there are a few people in our lives that, for one reason or another, have opted to go down the strict vegetarian or vegan route.  Savoury food doesn’t present a problem, but I am sick and tired of having to whip something up that isn’t really in my repertoire and therefore tastes like cardboard.  Or vinegar.  Or vinegar’d cardboard.  It just seems totally unfair.

So it is to this end that I am taking the bull by the horns and forcing myself to learn. This has been made easier by recently meeting someone who runs an interesting blog called Veggie Runners. Well, interesting if you’re vegetarian and a runner, not quite so compelling if you are neither, but still, they have some great recipes, and this is one of them.

But wait, just before I reel off the ingredients, there’s something you should know. This little number has Chia seeds in it.

For those of you who may not be completely au fait with Chia, they are being hailed as one of the world’s superfoods.

A foodstuff that has an enormous amount of health properties which can only aid in making you feel tip top and Bristol fashion about almost everything.  I would list those properties here but it would take too long, so just click on Chia and read up on them yourself.  Suffice to say they are linked to the Mayans.  Chia being the Mayan word for ‘strength’. You make up your own mind.

So, the ingredients are as follows:

250ml soya milk, 125ml vegetable oil, 225ml soya yoghurt, 70g glace cherries, 250g plain flour, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 175g brown sugar, 100g ground almonds, 1 tablespoon chia seeds

Whisk the vegetable oil, soya milk and sugar together until frothy then add all the other ingredients.  Mix.  Pour into a greased and lined tin – one of those rectangular ‘tray bake’ style ones – and put into the oven gas mark 4 for 30 – 35 minutes.

It is at this juncture that I have to admit to not using the original flavourings (go to veggie runners and check it out) of rosewater and pistachio nuts, however, to be honest, you could use any combination you fancied.  We just happen to like almond and cherry.  Although after the following conversation, it may just be me.

Wee boy: Ooo cherries

Me: would you like one?

WB: yes please

Eats a cherry

WB: so mummy, what are these?

Anyway, when you bring it out of the oven, let it cool before turning out onto the rack.  It has a similar density and texture to what my auntie Sheilagh used to call tea bread, but does genuinely taste delicious and, to my delight, there is absolutely no after taste of cardboard or vinegar.

We put a very plain liquid icing sugar topping on, and covered in cherries.

You could do whatever takes your fancy.

Birthday Love

birthday lemon cake

Yesterday we celebrated the wee boy’s fifth birthday.

After counting down for 84 sleeps, it has been a long while coming, although for me, a day I was in no particular hurry to get to. I love every day we have together as though it was his birthday, it’s just that on the actual day there is slightly more paper to clear away.

Of course it is also a day of reflection.

Who would have thought, entering that French farce of bright lights and white walls, the team bedecked in various shade of green, white and blue, chatting about goodness only knows what whilst the novice anaesthetist looked on, trying out his idle banter on me, looking ever so slightly out of his depth, we would be at this point so soon?

Who would have thought, as my beautiful man emerged in the doorway covered head to toe in pale blue disposable surgical wear, this was the start of what I now realise is a journey of truly unconditional love?

And then that night, now sporting the surgical stocking look, with a ‘just above the knee’ nighty on (an interesting item of clothing I’ve never worn before or since) and hair that had absolutely no intention of doing anything but draping itself around my head at a 45 degree angle, begging the nurse to take me down to intensive care to see my boy.  My beautiful boy who, when I eventually arrived there, had been dressed in orange.  My favourite colour.

Who knew that this love would just keep growing?

And yet it has, and here we are, five years on.  Although it feel like five minutes. Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration.

Five months.

Anyway…

The day itself began with a request for lemon drizzle cake.  His favourite of the moment, and also one which meant Madeleine would be able to have some, as the wee one pointed out, Madeleine doesn’t like chocolate cake.  I know, it’s a difficult concept to come to terms with, and I may have to mention it in yet another blog before you really, truly understand the impact.

However, I digress.

The day became a series of ebbs and flows.  But every single minute was wonderful.  We had some family and a few very close friends stuffed into our not so large, but very, very comfy home, and managed to nibble our way through all sorts of party food for a good three hours.

Of course the afternoon cake (a request of shop bought Star Wars) missed it’s piece de resistance – a sparkler in the shape of a number 5 – as, despite buying it a couple of months ago and congratulating myself on my forward planning, I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I’d put it.  Always in these situations I will look over and over again in the same place, when really I should just accept that I have probably moved it ‘somewhere safe’ and expect to find it in three months time.  But no, my mind insisted on plodding through the motions even though my eyes had switched off completely.

But that aside, it was wonderful to reach another milestone with such a glorious group of people.

Which brings us up to date as gradually, everything goes back to normal.  Except it doesn’t yet because now, there are only 3 sleeps until son #1’s Christmas show, 11 sleeps until son #1’s birthday and 16 sleeps to Christmas…

Sharon

Sharon

If you took a look at this piece of fruit, would you say it looked like a Sharon?  No, me neither.  Not that I particularly have an idea in my head about what a Sharon should look like, but still, it’s not the most immediate name for this glorious fruit.  That said, I absolutely love the fact that this wonderful orange sphere has, as one of it’s many moniker’s, the name Sharon.  It makes me smile every time.  Anyway…

I don’t know about you, but for some reason I find it more challenging to eat my quota of fruit when it’s cold.   To be honest, I naturally veer towards cake at any time of year, as it compliments tea so well, which is wonderful all year round. So often, autumnal fruit needs working on before you can eat it, which can be off putting when it’s dark – hmmm, not too sure I can truly justify that explanation, but let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that it is perfectly logical…

As it becomes more of a chore, mentally, to chose fruit over cake, I have found that you need to put in place a couple of tricks to make it all look more inviting.  And this is where Sharon, or Persimmon to some, comes to the fore.   You have to be patient with Sharon fruit, so buy a few and let them sit in a bowl, ripening for a few days. As they sit there, they will gradually cajole your mind into thinking that they look rather inviting as a snack.  Unlike the pear which will suddenly go off and become inedible when you nip out to the shops, Sharon will continue to glow a deeper orange, gradually.  Like a well lit fire.

Even when they are squidgy to touch, Sharon never tastes over ripe, in fact the sweetness is glorious.   I have even read somewhere that Sharon can help stave off heart problems, which is interesting, as normally, fruit which naturally sugars when it ripens, such as bananas and grapes, are seen as the devil incarnate to health.

For those of you who may have seen Sharon, but not yet tasted the fruit, I highly recommend you pop down to the grocers and get yourself a couple.  They are in abundant supply at the moment which usually means they have not been force grown and are therefore in much more of their natural state.  I have to say, I eat the skins as well, just like an apple.   However, similarly, just like an apple, the skin can often be a little tough and bruised, and so, in this instance, it is best to peel them.

However you chose to devour your Sharon fruit, the wonderful thing about them is their soft fruitiness which accompanies perfectly, their beautiful colour.   So evocative of summer.  So complimentary to autumn.

Why not give them a try and let me know how you get on?