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’






Late Supper

late supper

The thing about having to get somewhere at a certain time, after spending so many days in your pyjamas and reverting to your own, inner timepiece, is that it can, without warning, leave you feeling exhausted.

And so it was with the wee boy on his first day back.  Although we never get anywhere for the crack of dawn, the whole idea of having to be somewhere was unnerving for the wee one, although he did, eventually, get into the spirit of it all having remembered that a couple of his pals have birthdays this month, so there will still be large amounts of celebrating happening at some point in the very near future.

After picking him up from his first day back, and completing a few errands, we made our way back home.  A home which has acquired a new quirk.  We now have, to compliment the other temperamental gadgets, a heating system which refuses to acknowledge that you need sustained pressure in it in order to heat the house and water system.

Having warmed up so that we no longer looked as though we were smoking indoors when breathing out, the wee boy watched a couple of his favourite short films of the moment and I busied myself with household chores.

But why are you relating the mundane to us?  I hear you ask.

Patience my friends.

A little later on the wee boy popped upstairs to play in his bedroom and, whilst passing, I popped my head around the door to let him know that dinner would soon be ready, only to find him curled up on his bed, fast asleep.

It was 6pm.

Now I realise that some of you may not think that too early for a boy of 5, but he has been reverting to his natural timepiece which is in no way compatible with modern day living.  However, I hoped that he may sleep through until morning.

This was not to be.

Instead, as I was going to bed, he was waking up.  So after quite a bit of too-ing and fro-ing, we ended up sharing a very late supper of cherry jam sandwiches, and milk in the wee hours of the morning (photo taken by the wee boy).

Still not sure why I’m telling you this?  Well, because it’s moments like these that I relish.  There is no unusual ingredient and yet there is nothing like eating at a time when you’re normally asleep, in a place which is usually meant for something else.  A night-time adventure.  Nothing fancy you understand, just something a little out of the ordinary.  And in reality these moments are so few and far between, that when they happen it’s an opportunity to create little snippets of magic.

After all, I doubt there will be much chance of us munching away on cherry jam sandwiches together when he learns to make them on his own, although I am hoping for a few more late suppers before then…

Magic and Sparkle

decorated Christmas Cake

So here it is, at last, the day before the day.  With only one more sleep to go until the big man flies by, we are ensconced, with family, in a place none of us have ever been to before, but that has enough comfortable sleeping spots for everyone to fit in.

We have released the Christmas Cake from it’s catacomb of greaseproof paper and tin foil, and duly covered it in the requisite marzipan and icing. Then, just for good measure, we have sprinkled a little edible glitter on the top.

Of course we haven’t, as I write this, managed to wrap all the presents yet, but then it has become tradition for himself and I to leave some wrapping for the dying embers of Christmas Eve.  I remember one year I was still wrapping presents on Christmas Day as the family were walking up the drive, which does somewhat eradicate the notion of being ‘ready for Christmas’.

To be honest, I’m never quite sure what ‘being ready’ means, although I must have been asked the question more than fifteen times over the last week.

To which I always reply, ‘no, not quite’ and raise my eyes skyward.   It’s a tradition.

Meanwhile, the wee boy has managed to spend the whole day, once again, in his pyjamas, whilst son #1 is experimenting with various drinks combinations, most of which include pepsi – a drink he is only allowed on special occasions – all of which, in my humble opinion, taste vile.  I don’t however, have the palette of an 11 year old boy.

The chocolates, nibbles and various other food items we don’t buy any other time of year, have all been opened, and we are slowly devouring our way through the lot.

If we’re not eating food, we are talking about it.

Gradually, throughout the day, we have sashayed from drinking tea, to coffee, to something that sparkles.

And so the magic begins.

Only one more sleep to go…

Strawberry Cake

strawberry cake

We are nearing the end of our family birthday season as son #1 celebrated his 11th birthday yesterday.  As usual, we made a birthday cake which the wee boy decided should be a strawberry cake.  In December.

Funnily enough, I had seen some strawberries (from Egypt) in our local supermarket the other day as I was flying in for yet another thing that I had forgotten, so we, once again, flew into the shop and picked up a couple of punnets of strawberries.

I made a Victoria Sponge which consisted of 225g of butter, castor sugar and self raising flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 4 eggs.  But instead of adding vanilla extract, put a splash of strawberry essence into the mix.

Now here’s an interesting thing.  I used to cream the butter and sugar together, add the eggs and extract/essence then sift in the flour and baking powder before folding it all into the creamed butter scenario.  However, I watched this very informative food history programme a couple of months ago which said that the only reason people sifted their flour, was to make sure there were no bugs or remnants of other wee beasties, hanging out in the flour.  No other reason.  So, now I just shove the whole lot into my glorious Kenwood and turn the knob on.

I tell you what, I think the cake comes out lighter than it used to.  Obviously both tins of mixture, when cooked, still resemble an attempt at K2, but that’s my oven.

So, back to the cake.  Having successfully cooked the sponge I turned my attention to the icing and, having tasted the strawberries, decided that they were not pleasant enough to plonk on top of the cake, and went on to severely reprimand myself for even considering buying strawberries in December.  However, as I had already purchased said offending article, I thought it probably best to whizz them up with icing sugar and a little butter to bring out their sweetness and make a beautiful coloured icing.

And this is where everything went a little pear shaped.

Firstly, I hadn’t taken into consideration the amount of water strawberries hold, naturally.  So, having whizzed up the amounts I normally use (half amount of butter to icing sugar) I found myself faced with a beautiful river of deep pink sweetness. No problem, I thought, I’ll just add more icing sugar.  After all, I had plenty.

After the whole jar of icing sugar had been used to no avail, I then did that thing which I presume most people do when they haven’t quite come to terms with the inevitable.  I opened the fridge door, and looked inside.

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned it before, but our fridge is a little temperamental and has taken upon itself to make unilateral decisions as to the level of cold it pumps through itself.  Recently, it’s gone to full blast, almost freezing. As a consequence of which, a can of fizzy pop that has been lingering in the fridge for the last few months, decided it had had enough of hanging around in the ever increasing cold with no attention being given to it, and exploded.  Inside the fridge.

The thing about Christmas, is that the amount of time I can dedicate to menial tasks diminishes exponentially with the amount of time left until the big day.  In reality, this means that anything, such as the fridge wearing the after effects of an exploding can of pop, that should really be given my full attention, is given the ‘quick flick’ treatment.  As in, wipe away what you can see, leave the deep clean for another day.

I know, it’s appalling behaviour and I should feel much more ashamed than I do.  It’s on the list.

Back to the icing.  Having stared, mid distance, into the unappealing fridge, I realised that I had no option but to go out and buy some more icing sugar.  Which I duly did.  And this is where things took another interesting turn.

It seems that the weekend before Christmas, the world and his wife suddenly takes a fancy to buying icing sugar.

Of all the things that worry me, my local supermarket running out of icing sugar has just never made an appearance.   Until now.  Thankfully there was a box of royal icing sugar hiding away at the back of the shelf, so I swiped it up, paid for it, and made a quick exit.

To be honest, it didn’t make that much difference, and I should have maybe let it get itself together in the fridge for a while before popping it onto the cake however, as you all know, birthdays are only 24 hours long, and the clock was ticking.

You’ll be pleased to hear that eventually, everything came together and we managed to put candles onto a sloping cake sat in the middle of a strawberry river. But, as always, once a candle or two is lit, the magic always appears.  And yesterday was no exception.

It tastes pretty good too.

Now then, what else do I have to do?

*pulls out a list as long as your arm*

Christmas Sparkle

Fairy Dust

Well, well, well – how long has it been since I last posted anything?  It seems like forever, but is, in fact, only a few days.

I don’t know about you, but at this time of year, what with the darkness descending so early on in the day, time seems in very short supply.  I know, it’s the same 24 hours at this time of year as the rest of the year, it just feels shorter.

Not only that, but every day there is one form or another of celebration happening, be that birthdays, school pantomimes, christmas parties, or local winter fayres.

This weekend, along with all the other bits and pieces going on, the smoothie bike re-emerged for it’s winter fayre outing.  And so, to add a little magic to the smoothies, I created some very special fairy dust to sprinkle on top of each one, which I have to say, made me gasp with delight every time.

Now for those of you not naturally drawn to all things sparkly you may not realise it, but in the isles of home baking there is a little pot of magic hiding in between the various colourful icings and sprinkles.  It is something I had never imagined would be possible all those years ago whilst making Christmas cards, but thanks to someone who I like to think must be very dedicated to all things sparkly, it has arrived.

Well, what is it?  I hear you ask.

Edible glitter.

*Leaves a moment for you to gasp in awe and wonder*

Not only is this pot of pure fairy dust edible, it can also have things added to it, giving it the smell of Christmas.  I know, how miraculous.

I added cinnamon powder to both the gold and silver edible glitter which meant that every time I sprinkled a little bit onto the smoothie, the slight aroma of Christmas filled the air.  You could, of course, put in whatever spice you fancy. Nutmeg, for example, would work just as well.

The important thing is to add the sound effects whilst sprinkling.  I find that makes all the difference in the world.  Especially to small people who are already gearing up to the most magical event of the year.  Well, most of them.  To be honest, there were a couple of children who were not interested in having magic fairy dust sprinkled onto anything, but I understand it may not be to everyone’s taste, visually.

And now, we are heading into the final few sleeps until Christmas.

So much to do, so little time…