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…

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Making Plum Jam

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 I am in the process of making jam.  Plum jam.

The thing is I have now sat here for over two hours and the large bucket of plums we picked from our neighbours tree is just not going down quickly enough.  However, my fingers have slowly been coloured by the skins of said plums and are strong contenders for ‘best camouflage of the year’ award. They look like wrinkly plums.   Moreover, the little blighters of stones are often so tricky to release from their fruity coats that I end up cutting around them.  Someone needs to invent a plum de-stoner. They’d make a fortune.

‘It’s so 10 out of 10 annoying’, as one of the fabulous students on ‘Educating Yorkshire, One Year On’ said last night.  That most definitely wins the my ‘favourite phrase of the year’ award.

All my moaning aside, I am actually a very big fan of home made jams and chutneys. Firstly, there is a self satisfaction in utilising the fruit growing around you.  Secondly, there is nothing like the taste of home made jams and chutneys and thirdly, they make great gifts.  Perfect.

Back to the reality of the day.  Having now taken a short break from the de-stoning of plums, I really should get back on the case or I will lose all impetus and they will sit around in the pan, looking forlorn, unloved and very much like unmade jam.

And not even my most loved would appreciate a jar of ’emperor’s new clothes’ jam.

Afternoon Tea

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I’ve always loved the idea of afternoon tea.  It conjures up an image of well dressed ladies in hats and gloves gossiping whilst sipping perfectly brewed tea, poured from a porcelain teapot into porcelain cups which sit perfectly on their matching saucer, accompanied by a three tiered cake stand of sandwiches with their crusts cut off, and cakes, iced to perfection.

The Great Gatsby.

I’m also a huge fan of the meals in between meals idea.  Morning coffee, elevenses, afternoon tea, supper.  In all honesty though, if I were a devotee of preparing every delegated nomenclature of food times, there would be little time left for the million and one other things to do in a day.

However, there is nothing like treating yourself to one of these ‘added extras’ every now and again.  And so it was today, that the wee boy and I took a trip to the park to partake of afternoon tea in the glorious sunshine.

As with all al fresco foods eaten at another location in the sunshine, there is a balance between the food being edible, and it being melted.  A small window of opportunity.  So with this in mind, I put all the elements into the fridge until we were ready to depart, then filled our flask with boiling water, packed mugs, teabags, milk, scones, jam, fresh raspberries, butter and clotted cream into the cool bag and strode off to the park.

It was a wonderful afternoon and felt ever so slightly decadent.  Of course on our return the butter had succumbed to the heat and sprawled over every possible surface it came into contact with.  But butter is an accommodating soul, and our temperamental fridge will make sure it reconstitutes itself in time for it’s next outing.

Perfect.

Rice Pudding

 

 

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I woke up this morning and had just one thought.  Rice pudding.

I know some of you may say, ‘What on earth is she thinking, it’s summer’, and I partially agree with this thought.  Rice pudding conjurs up warm cozy fires, hand knitted jumpers and dark evenings.  The only thing I can think is that yesterday was cold, and today, although brighter and not full of that rain that is hardly rain at all but makes you very wet, I have had the thought, so now need to fulfil it.

I’m not too sure when my love of rice pudding started, but I have very fond memories of eating it with my Scottish grandparents, and then at home, when foods out of a tin were ‘the thing’, we would have Ambrosia Creamed Rice and prunes, which also emerged out of a tin.

However, as I ventured into adulthood, rice pudding slipped very low down the list of foods to eat or cook and has only really crawled back into the top one hundred in recent years.  It may be something to do with having children.

So, this is how I make it.  Grease a dish with butter and sprinkle on 120g of pudding rice.  On top of that sprinkle 60g of sugar.  Today I have used soft brown sugar as we still haven’t bought any castor sugar since last Sunday when we made the chocolate cake.  Now I’m not making excuses, but I really do love the taste of soft brown sugar, which more than likely means someone, somewhere has, or will prove soon, that soft brown sugar is two steps away from the devil himself, and unless you want to dance the light fandango very soon you should ‘step away from the soft brown’ now.  However, until that all comes to my attention I am going to remain blissfully ignorant.

Back to the rice pudding.  On top of the sugar I drip approximately one teaspoon of vanilla extract, then add 1 litre of full fat milk before adding 90g of butter and sprinkling with nutmeg.  It is then baked in a low oven, actually, the oven can be as low or as high as you like, what I mean is, it’s baked in an oven which is on a low heat, gas mark 2 for me, and left to do its thing for approximately 2.5 hours.

When you take it out of the oven, give it five minutes or so to get itself together, and serve.

We had it topped with strawberries as a nod to summer, which is delicious, but to be honest, nothing beats jam.  However, our 4 year old had a very astute observation to make about the rice pudding and strawberry combo.

4yo: Mummy, guess what happens to my strawberries when they have rice pudding on them?

Me: What?

4yo: They make the strawberries go warm

I think I see signs of genius emerging.