Just a plain 2nd birthday cake

I know, it’s a bad pun, but it had to be said, particularly as Andrew has made that mistake between plain and plane in the past leading to some funny situations. When I was trying to decide what kind of cake to make Joel for his 2nd birthday, I had a few options: different kinds of transport – car, bus, train, plane – these are the things he loves to spot when we’re out and about. He’s been into planes since he learned to sign the word quite a while ago, and this is one of the only signs that he really took to, unlike Andrew who got more into signing at a similar age. And I’d already made a train cake (Thomas) for Andrew’s 2nd birthday, so I decided that a plane was a new challenge.

I looked on Pinterest for a few ideas, though the ones that came up were mainly round /square cakes with planes on top made out of icing. As my icing skills aren’t perfect, I prefer to make the cake shaped and then ice it rather than make things out of icing. The one actual plane cake that I found was made from bits cut out of a big rectangular tray-bake tin, which I don’t have, so I made it up myself as I went along, using my loaf tins and big round tins. The cake was a simple sponge – I used 10 eggs in the end, so 20 oz SR flour, 20 oz sugar, 20 oz margarine, but I didn’t use all of it in the end and froze some un-iced sponge.

SAM 2855

The body of the plane is two loaf-shaped cakes stacked one on top of the other, with jam in the middle, and then shaved at each end to create the shape of the nose and back of the plane. The main part of the tail is also cut out of another loaf cake, and I made sure I used the crustier bits to give it more strength to stand up on it’s end. The wings and tail fins were cut from a big round cake. The jets were pieces of sponge cut from a round cake using a biscuit cutter. All the extra bits were stuck onto the body using jam.

SAM 2856

Once the main shape was complete, I rolled out the coloured icing and covered the parts in different colours. It’s loosely based on Jimbo (of Jet Set fame), but I didn’t quite get the right colours from memory when I was shopping! The jets have liquorice detail on the sides (Andrew said my jets were ‘brilliant’!), and the windows are also liquorice all sorts, stuck on with red piped icing. The eyes are giant Milkybar buttons with black icing pupils and the mouth is also black icing.

SAM 2858

The final detail that I came up with was mini marshmallows for clouds. Most people understood this, though my father in law did ask if the plan had landed in snow!

The birthday boy was very pleased with his cake, as were the guests at his party, though he was a little unsure of what to do with the candles, even though he likes blowing on his food when it’s hot these days. Oh well, maybe by next year he’ll be able to blow them out on his own.

SAM 2861

SAM 2863

Stone cakes

You may be thinking that these are somehow related to rock cakes. They’re not. The name came about when Granny made some cakes a while ago that she filled with jam and cream, and so when Andrew came to ask what they were called, she said “well, I guess we could call them scone cakes Andrew, because they’re a bit like scones with jam and cream”. Since then, Andrew has remembered, or so he thinks, the impromptu name of these cakes! We say ‘scone’ to rhyme with ‘stone’, and as the word with ’st’ is a frequent word in his vocab, that’s what’s stuck in his mind.

IMG 2377

When it was showering outside one afternoon this week, I asked Andrew if he wanted to do some baking whilst we waited for the shower to pass before going in the garden. His reply was a very enthusiastic YES! When I asked what he wanted to bake, his request was ‘stone cakes’. So that’s what we did. The recipe is very simple – a basic sponge, with some raisins (like a fruit scone), with a filling of jam and buttercream. Like so many bakes, I find simple turns out to be very tasty, and is perfect for getting little ones involved.

Stone cakes Collage jpg

Ingredients

  • 120g sugar
  • 120g butter (or margarine – I usually use marg but butter is what Granny has in for baking at their house where we’re living still)
  • 2 eggs
  • 120g self-rasiing flour
  • 60g raisins

Filling

  • Strawberry jam
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 50g butter

Method

  1. Prepare a muffin tin with cake cases (9-10), and preheat the oven to 180 C.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and a little flour, to stop it curdling, and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the flour and raisins, and mix until the mixture is just combined and smooth.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the cake cases until 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for around 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
  7. Leave to cool completely.
  8. Meanwhile, cream the butter and icing sugar together to make the buttercream icing.
  9. When the cakes are cool, cut a small, round piece out of the tip of each one.
  10. Place a teaspoon of jam and 2 teaspoons of buttercream in each hole, then replace the piece of cake that you cut out, as a kind of ‘lid’ (that’s how I explained it to Andrew when he helped me make them!)
  11. That’s it, they’re finished! Eat and enjoy 🙂

IMG 2371

Creative Challenge
Mini Creations

Cupcake of the month (November): lemon

When I was packing up the recipe books the other day, I came across my cupcake calendar that has a recipe on for each month of this year. I said back at the start of the year that I would make a type of cupcake based on the cupcake of the month in this calendar each month, and I did until August. Then somehow I just forgot! I think the calendar got buried in all the books on the shelf and I’ve had lots of other crafty things to do, including doing more sewing projects (mainly nappy related).

IMG 0049

So I thought I could just about squeeze November’s recipe in before advent begins. Tom was pleased because the recipe was for lemon cupcakes, and lemon is his favourite cake. The cake sponge is quite unusual in flavour and texture because it is made with soft cheese as well as margarine, and it does have an almost cheesecake-like flavour to it, though the texture is still more like sponge than cheesecake. I found that the amount of lemon suggested in the recipe wasn’t much, so I added quite a bit more than it said and we didn’t think it was overpowering.

IMG 0047

I hope to be back for one last cupcake of the month recipe in December, depending on how packing goes and if I get time and space to think about it!

Ingredients (makes 6)

Sponge

  • 90g margarine
  • 90g soft cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 90g self raising flour
  • 75g sugar
  • grated rind of half a lemon

Icing

  • 10g margarine
  • 50g soft cheese
  • 120g icing sugar
  • grated rind of half a lemon

Method

  1. Prepare a muffin tin with some cupcake cases and preheat the oven to 170 C (fan).
  2. Cream the margarine, soft cheese and sugar in a large bowl until soft and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and a handful of flour to stop it curdling, and beat until well mixed.
  4. Add the flour and lemon rind and mix until just combined.
  5. Place the mixture into the prepared cupcake cases, and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  6. When they are in the oven, make the icing, by mixing together the ingredients in a bowl until smooth.
  7. Allow the cakes to cool completely before placing a teaspoon of icing on the top of each cake and letting it run across the top.
  8. Eat as fresh as possible (I stored them in the fridge).

Plaited fruity loaf, with toddler help

The second week of the Great British Bake Off was all about bread. In the final ‘show stopper’ round, the contestants had to bake a decorative loaf which would really wow the judges in terms of creativity and flavour. A few of them opted for plaits of some sort; this is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, because I quite like plaiting my hair for fun, and I don’t have little girls to do this on! So, inspired by this round of the GBBO, I decided to bake a simple plaited loaf, with 3 strands.

OK, I know, that’s not exactly showstopper material (though perhaps marginally more impressive than the tomato loaf that the contestant who lost baked!), but I also wanted Andrew to help and have a go at feeling the dough and shaping it into the ‘sausage’ shapes with me, just like he does with his play dough – anything more complicated would have likely ended in disaster! He enjoyed himself and was happy to help me with this relatively easy loaf. Joel also got involved after we’d finished and I was about to clear up – he wanted to play with the left over flour on the board, so I let him have this ‘sensory’ play time.

PicMonkey Collage  3

I also used something that wouldn’t be allowed on the bake off: our bread maker to mix the dough (though they are allowed general mixers, so it’s not much different 😉 ) Working with a toddler is one thing, but also hand mixing and kneading dough with him is another – he went straight to the dough handling and shaping stage with me. So it’s not exactly of bake off standard, but I like being inspired by the show each week.

PicMonkey Collage  1 copy

For the flavour, I went for a sweet dough, based on the hot cross bun recipe in our bread maker’s recipe booklet, except I did half white and half wholemeal flour and left out the salt. That’s why it looks a bit darker than your average hot cross bun – we didn’t burn it, honest!

It came out very well; it was approved by the boys, especially Joel as it is so soft and easy to eat without teeth, and Andrew was impressed that he got to eat something that he helped make. I think it’s a good idea to get kids into handling food in the raw and cooked states, so they can learn about how food is made from scratch, rather than everything coming out of a packet.

PicMonkey Collage  2 copy

Here are the ingredients that we put into the bread maker and then put it on the dough setting. Once the dough was made we took it out and cut it into 3 even parts, then shaped each part into a long strand (or sausage!), before plaiting them in a traditional ‘left over centre, right over centre’ method. We then left it to prove as a loaf for 30 minutes, before baking it for about 15 minutes at 180ºC.

1 cup = the 200ml cup that comes with the bread maker, but as long as you use the same size cup for all ingredients, it doesn’t really matter how big it is.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup melted margarine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 2 cups white bread flour
  • 1 3/4 cups wholemeal bread flour
  • 2 tsp fast action yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins

Cupcake of the month (July): red currant

I’ve not felt like baking in this baking heat, but yesterday saw a slight reprieve in the daytime temperature around here, a mere 24 degrees, so I seized the opportunity to sneak in July’s cupcake of the month recipe.

The cakes on the calendar this month were called ‘ruby-red’ cupcakes, and required red food colouring as well as cocoa powder to make a deep red colour. However, since we had red currants in the fruit and veg box this week, I thought that I’d make the cakes red by putting red currants in instead of the food colouring – as simple as that. The photos make them look more brown, but when you bite into them, there is lots of redness!IMG 1870

I also had some union jack cupcake cases left from last summer’s olympic and jubilee festivities, and I thought why not bake some cakes with lovely local British summer fruit in them.

IMG 1895

They turned out very well – the recipe makes quite a dense cake, very moist and tasty, as it has natural yoghurt in it. They weren’t too sweet either, as the red currants added a sharpness and the cocoa powder a bitterness as well as the sugar to sweeten. My testers approved, which is the main thing in our house.

Ingredients – makes 12

  • 130g self-raising flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 100ml yoghurt
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g margarine
  • 80g red currants
Drizzle
  • 50g margarine
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 20g red currants

Method

  1. Prepare a muffin tray with cupcake cases, and preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan).
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and beat well.
  4. Add the flour and cocoa powder and mix until just combined.
  5. Add the red currants and yoghurt and mix until just combined.
  6. Spoon into the cases to about two thirds full.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, and leave to cool.
  8. Meanwhile make up the drizzle by creaming the margarine, icing sugar and red currants together – I left a few lumpier bits of red currant for texture, but most of the juice went into the drizzle.
  9. Spoon it onto the top of the cakes.
  10. Eat and enjoy as fresh as possible.

Cupcake of the month (June): cheesecake cupcakes

This month my cupcake calendar came up with a more unusual type of cupcake, one which I’d never thought of doing before. The idea was to make little cheesecakes in cupcake cases – an actually very simple idea, but not something I’ve seen before. I didn’t follow the recipe in terms of ingredients much, I just used a basic baked cheesecake mixture that I’ve done before, but made it in cupcake cases instead of a large cake tin.

I wasn’t sure how they would turn out, but in the end they worked pretty well. A few had issues coming out of the tin – I think the key was to make sure no mixture spilled over the side when I poured it in or during the baking as the mixture rose slightly, because this left a sticky residue between paper and tin. The taste was delicious, just like any other baked cheesecake. These would be handy to serve at a buffet or party where there are lots of different choices and you’d like to try a little bit of a few things – no more trying to cut a small slither of a big cheesecake and it ending up disheveled!

Mini cheesecakes 2

Here’s the recipe…

Ingredients

  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 125g margarine
  • 200g soft cheese (Philadelphia-style)
  • 100ml soured cream
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • blueberries to decorate

Method

  1. Put cupcake cases into a 12-hole muffin tin and pre-heat the oven to 160ºC (fan).
  2. Put the digestives in a large bowl and crush them into crumbs using the end of a rolling pin.
  3. Melt the margarine in a smaller bowl in the microwave and add to the biscuit crumbs.
  4. Mix until well combined and stiff, then spoon into the cake cases and press down with your fingers to make the base.
  5. Mix the soft cheese, soured cream and sugar together, then beat in the eggs and vanilla essence.
  6. Pour the mixture into the paper cases on top of the biscuit base.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until just golden on top.
  8. Turn the oven off and leave the cakes to cool in there until they are cool enough to remove without oven gloves.
  9. Remove the cakes from the tin.
  10. Decorate each cake with a few blueberries or other fruit.
  11. Store in the fridge until eaten.

Cupcake of the month (May): After Eight

Continuing my cupcake of the month feature baed on a cupcake calendar that I was given for Christmas, this month we have a mint and chocolate recipe, which I’ve given the name ‘After Eight’ for obvious reasons. The recipe on the calendar didn’t involve chocolate, but I think that mint and chocolate go so well together, particularly dark chocolate, that I couldn’t resist adapting the recipe to include it. I also made the cake mixture itself much less sweet than the recipe in the calendar, because the icing is very sweet – it tastes like butter mints or Murray mints – and the bitterness of the dark chocolate goes well with this.

After eight cakes

If you’d like to make these yourself, and I can assure you that they are yummy particularly after eight and the kids are in bed, here’s the recipe which makes 10.

Ingredients

  • 50g sugar
  • 160g self-raising flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 75g margarine
  • 1 tsp mint extract
  • 75g dark chocolate, cut into large chunks
Icing
  • 50g margarine
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tsp mint extract (depending how strongly minty you like it)
  • green food colouring
  • grated chocolate to decorate

Method

  1. Prepare a muffin tin by placing cupcake cases in the holes.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar together until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg and milk.
  4. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and mint extract and mix until well combined.
  5. Add the chocolate chunks and fold in until evenly distributed.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cases to about 2/3 full.
  7. Bake at 180ºC for about 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool fully.
  9. Make the icing by beating together the icing sugar, margarine and mint extract, and adding the colouring a little at a time until it gets as green as you would like. Mine are quite Shrek-like, but you may want to go for a more subtle green shade 🙂
  10. Spoon the icing onto the top of each cupcake and spread it around (you could pipe it, but I find that using margarine makes it quite runny compared to buttercream icing).
  11. Finish them off by grating a small amount of dark chocolate onto each cake.

Red veggie crumble #slowcookersunday

This week in the veg box we got some beetroots. Last time we had beetroots in the box, I made a chocolate beetroot cake (it was so much yummier than it sounds!) But this time, as much as I was tempted to make another amazing cake, I decided we really needed a good all in one pot meal from them, that I could prep quickly in the morning and it would be ready for dinner. So of course in came the slow cooker.

Veg crumble 2

I love crumbles, and think they work just as well as a savoury dish as with fruit in a sweet dish (here’s a previous recipe that I blogged). They are real comfort food, and if you slow cook it, you don’t have the hassle of having to cook it about an hour before you eat in the evening when the kids are tired and hungry and therefore you get some stress mixed in with your comfort. Andrew was also very interested to watch me chop the veg and make the crumble, so I let him ‘help’ rub the crumble together (it was already done really, but he dipped his hands in and copied me for about 10 seconds).

Veg crumble 1

I was originally thinking of this recipe as a ‘traffic lights’ one – toddler-friendly you see – as it has beetroots, carrots and green pepper in. But once it was cooked, the beetroot colour basically took over the dish and made it look completely red. This was a hit with Andrew, who loves bright colours, though perhaps not so much actually eating beetroot! He didn’t put up much of a fight though, and was easily persuaded to put the exciting looking red bits in his mouth once the offer of some of his favourite fruits was mentioned for pudding, if he ate all his main course. The red colour also makes this savoury crumble look like a more common fruit crumble that has berries in.

As always with my slow cooker recipes, it was so simple to make….

Ingredients

  • 4 medium beetroots
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 small green pepper
  • 100g dried red lentils
  • 900 ml hot stock (I use low salt)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 270g plain flour
  • 100g margarine
  • dried mixed herbs

Method

  1. Wash the lentils thoroughly and leave in water whilst you prep everything else.
  2. Chop the beetroots, carrots and peppers into small chunks.
  3. Make the crumble topping by rubbing the margarine with the flour and a good sprinkling of herbs until you get a bread crumb texture.
  4. Drain the lentils and add them with the veg and stock to the slow cooker pot.
  5. Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water to form a paste, then add to the pot and stir all the ingredients together.
  6. Cook on low for 4 hours.
  7. Then add the crumble topping and cook for a further 4 hours.
  8. Serve as it is – it’s a one pot meal!

Cupcake of the month (April): parsnip and ginger

This might sound a bit wacky, but I promise you it works. Baking cakes with parsnip is no different really from carrot cakes. The cupcake recipe in my calendar for this month was simply a ginger one, but I’d been meaning to have a go at parsnip cake after the success of my chocolate beetroot cake, and I thought the flavour combination of parsnip and ginger would work well. With all the chocolate hanging around at the moment (that makes it sound like the chocolate needs an ASBO – I can assure you that it doesn’t!), these provide a lighter and different alternative.

Apart from the addition of parsnip, I changed the recipe quite a bit from the calendar one: I only put a small amount of sugar in, a third of what it says on the calendar, as the parsnip adds sweetness and I wanted to make some smaller ones to be toddler-friendly as well as some big adult-sized ones with icing on; I added some stem ginger, because in my opinion, if you’re going to have ginger, you might as well have proper chunks of fiery ginger rather than just ground stuff; I used honey instead of syrup, as usual; I made a few other changes too – so it’s nothing like the original really!parsnip&ginger cupcakes edit

The instructions on the calendar said use a cake mixer. I don’t usually bother with one when baking, unless I’m whisking egg whites (I don’t enjoy the muscle ache afterwards when I do it by hand!), mainly because I don’t have one of those super duper fancy gadgets they have on the Great British Bake Off, just a small handheld one that cost about a fiver from Wilkos when I was a student many years ago. But as the calendar put the idea into my head, I was curious to see how the cakes worked out, particularly as I was guessing it would be quite a dense, moist mixture and therefore any extra air I could beat into it would not go amiss. As I suspected, even with the aerating skills of the electric mixer, the cakes didn’t rise massively, but I like the sticky, moist texture anyway, as is often the case with carrot cakes. I would say it’s fine to use either hand or machine in this recipe – whatever mood you happen to be in.

I think that’s all I wanted to waffle on about, so here’s what you do if you want to have a go yourself. Enjoy! Tom’s verdict: de-scrump-tu-licious!

Ingredients

Cakes – makes 10-12 big plus 10-12 small

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 175g margarine
  • 120ml milk
  • 40g brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 50g stem ginger, plus extra for decoration
Icing
  • 50g margarine
  • 100g icing sugar
  • splash of ginger syrup from the stem ginger jar

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC (fan) and prepare a muffin tin with cupcake cases and a fairy cake tin with cases.
  2. Grate the parsnip, and chop the stem ginger into small chunks.
  3. With a spoon, mix the flour and ground spices in a large bowl.
  4. Put all the other ingredients apart from the parsnip and stem ginger into the bowl and mix with a mixer until well combined.
  5. Add the parsnip and stem ginger and fold in with a spoon until evenly distributed.
  6. Fill the cake cases to about three quarters full.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  9. Meanwhile, mix the ingredients together for the icing until smooth.
  10. Put into a piping bag and pipe onto the cooled cakes (big ones only!) in whatever design you wish.
  11. Finish with a small chunk of stem ginger on top. Perfect!

 Link up your recipe of the week

 

Easter bunny Simnel biscuits

We’ve been busy little bunnies in the baking and crafting departments this week. There have been fewer groups due to the holidays, so I’ve been thinking of ways to keep Andrew amused. I can’t really go wrong with baking, especially biscuits as he loves cutting them out and of course tasting them 🙂 Granny was with us yesterday when we baked these bunny biscuits, and we made them with wheat-free flours so that Grandma can enjoy them too.IMG_0582

There seem to be quite a few Easter cakes in the shops now that are basically slightly different versions of brands that are available all year, usually involving lemon or yellow colouring in some way, for example Mr Kipling lemon tarts or Cadbury’s lemon mini rolls or Jaffa Cakes lemon cake bars. But I rarely see Simnel cakes around these days – a light fruit cake with spices such as cinnamon and ginger and a layer of marzipan in the middle and on top. I love marzipan and I like fruit cakes, so I enjoy Simnel cake. Traditionally it has 11 balls of marzipan on the top, which are said to represent the 11 disciples of Jesus minus Judas who betrayed him.IMG_0585

We didn’t have the time or attention span (in Andrew’s case) to make fruit cake, so we made biscuits based on the idea of Simnel cake. The spices are in the biscuit dough and the fruit is sandwiched between the biscuit and a layer of marzipan on top. We used a bunny shape cutter, although I was convinced I had seen an egg-shaped cutter in Andrew’s bumper pot of cutters when we were doing play-dough the other day, but I couldn’t find it when we came to bake the biscuits, so we had to switch from the egg-shaped biscuits that I had intended to make  originally. bunnies

If you fancy having a go, here’s the recipe, which makes about 20….

Ingredients

  • 60g sugar
  • 120g margarine
  • 180g flour (I used 60g cornflour and 120g gluten-free flour)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp groung nutmeg
  • about 30g raisins
  • 1/2 pack ready to roll marzipan

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150ºC (fan) and prepare two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add the flour and spices and mix with a spoon until a dough starts to form; then use your hands to bring it together as it gets too stiff for the spoon.
  4. Roll out the dough to about 1/2cm thick on the greaseproof paper that you put on the baking trays, and cut out the biscuit shapes. That way, when you’ve cut out the shapes, they are already on the place where they will be baked, and you avoid breaking them in transferring to the paper once cut out.
  5. Once you’ve cut out all the dough, press a few raisins onto the top of each bunny.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until lightly golden.
  7. Remove and allow to cool.
  8. Roll out the marzipan on a lightly floured board to about 1/2cm thick.
  9. Cut out the same number of shapes as the biscuits, and place on top of the biscuits, sandwiching the raisins between the biscuit and marzipan layer.
  10. Eat as fresh as possible!