Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Afternoon Tea - Engagement Party Number One

So to celebrate our engagement - PB's mum wanted to host an engagement party - thankfully my chief bridesmaid headed off on a six week holiday to Australian, so I had six weeks to prepare!  We decided on an Afternoon Tea theme - so started the hunt for some reasonably priced cardboard cake stands - I found these lovelies in a cheap home-wears shop for £2 each (yes, I did need three!)  I already had two cake stands and with the lovely vintage one my brother bought us, we were set!

Mini Scones with Jam and Cream

The 42 mini scones where the first thing I made - as I knew that I could bung them in the freezer - luckily we had just moved into our new place and bought a new fridge freezer - so I had the whole of the freezer to fill :-) A few days before were serious baking days - mini malteaser cakes from Nigella's recipe (the best chocolate cake ever!) two lots of cake mixture made over 40 mini cakes.  Mini Victoria Sponges (jam centre, swirl of vanilla icing, loveheart decoration and sparkles!), again two lots of cake mixture making over 40. 8 egg whites worth of Meringues (small dollops with food colouring swirls stuck together with raspberry cream), maybe I shouldn't have tried to whisk it up all in one bowl as I didn't get the peaks I was aiming for!  The coloured swirls on the meringues were created by dipping a cocktail stick in food colour and swirling in the mixture before they went in the oven - most of them worked and only a few collapsed due to the excess of colouring! Then my mum bought home-made mini Carrot Cakes and mini Lemon and Poppy Seed Cakes.

Mini Meringues with Raspberry Cream

L-R Carrot Cake, Malteaser Cake, Victorian Sponge, Lemon & Poppy Seed Cakes!
My Latest Cake Stand!
 And although I would of loved to have a cake feast - PB's mum made us some mini sandwiches - Brie and Grape, Ham and Mustard, Beef and Watercress, Creamy Chive Eggs, Smoked Salmon. Taking inspriation from the BBC GoodFood Website.

I then topped this off with a huge bowl of Party Rings :-)

It all went down a treat and I am now planning cakes for the second Engagement do up in Lancaster . . .

Many thanks to Hannah for the lovely photographs!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Bunny in the Brambles Tea Cosy

After commandeering our friend Mark and his van to help us move into our new place - I was tasked with the thank you present creation! I decided on a tea cosy, after hearing that their tea cosy was all naked - plus a perfect excuse to browse Ravelry for new tea cosy patterns.  I found this lovely one by Linsay Mudd and went ahead and bought my first pattern! She also has many more tea cosy patterns, that I will be sure to purchase and knit in time.

This was my first knitting from a chart - and it was mostly successful  although there are a couple of stitches round the wrong way! It knitted up rather quickly and I couldn't wait to go out and find beads for the blackberries, so I embroidered them instead with two strands of wool, one purple and one silvery black.  As usual I also knitted a lining, knitting plain matching pieces to the sides and top - thinks this makes a big difference and means Mr Bunny is flopping about!  For the eyes I used two white buttons with a tiny circle of black felt.

The bunny went down well and also fitted its destined tea pot (phew!)  Now to crack on with the Christmas knitting .  . .

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Cafe au Lait Hand Warmers

So my first free pattern download from Raverly were a lovely pair of Hand Warmers - I did wonder if I was attempting something too tricky - as the lacy pattern looks rather complicated.  Thankfully it looks impressive, but was easy to understand and notice when I had gone wrong!!

* triumphant fanfare* I have finally worked out how to ensure that I don't end up knitting inside-out and back-to-front when using the magic loop method!  I make sure when I tie the first stitch on the left-hand needle I have a long tail - then I use this tail to cast on the number of stitches  leaving the 'working end' in the right place for the first row.  I'm not sure if this is the correct way to cast on - but its works for me, so I am going to continue to use it!  Especially as the first glove was unravelled not once, but twice before I was happy with it - so soul destroying that I almost gave up.

The only problem with knitting things in pairs, is that after knitting the first one you still have the second one to knit - it's probably a good job these were a present with a deadline to finish them, as otherwise I may still only have the one!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Macmillan Daffodil Tea Cosy

I started knitting this tea cosy as I liked the big oversized daffodil on the top (daffodils being my favourite type of flowers - debating if we can have them as wedding flowers, certainly bring that bill down!) But I didn't have a home in mind for it - then I noticed that my friend Heather was having a Macmillan Coffee Morning at her cafe in Windermere (Coffee Bar 7 - pop in for a friendly welcome, local knowledge and home-made soup!), so I asked if she would like a donation for a raffle prize. I thought this was an apt home for the tea cosy as it had been designed for Australia's Biggest Coffee Morning by Loani Proir.

I had a bit of a tricky start with this pattern as it seems there is a typo on the second page - it instructs you to knit on 8mm needles - after knitting for a while and having very loose knitting I decided that it must be wrong and read the 'equipment needed' at the start of the pattern, where it states you need 5mm needles and no mention of 8mm.  So I decided it must be a mistake, untravelled my knitting and started again.  When I got to the end of the pattern I felt that the tea cosy was on the short side, so I knitted 12 extra rounds on both the outside and inside pieces.  The daffodil was easy to knit up and looked very striking.  Although the tea cosy started out being a bit tricky, I was rather pleased with the end result and am please to add it to my tea cosy repertoire!

I've also knitted owl and rose garden tea cosies and a cafetiere cosy!  I've got my eye on a few that I have found on Raverly

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Pleat Detail Dress - Creative Open Workshop

Last Christmas I was given a voucher for a workshop of my choice at the Creative Open Workshop in Birmingham. As the voucher had a life of twelve months I thought that would be plenty of time to find a workshop I wanted to go to and the time to do it in!  I kept an eye on the monthly workshop list that kept being posted - numerous things caught my eye, screen printing, bag making, jewellery,dressmaking - but they never seemed to correspond with the weekends that I was up in the West Midlands!  After submitting my thesis, I decided that I needed to make an effort to book my place.  I'd picked my date of Saturday 13 October and hoped that I would be interested in the the workshop that fell on that date - it was for a Pleat Detail Dress.  Not a style of dress I would usually pick, but I decided to go for it and emailed the lovely Francine to book my place.

I already had some fabric to take, that I had bought on a whim a few months before.  If I ever buy fabric without having a project in mind, I try to buy 3 metres so that I will have plenty.  This dress only needed 2 metres and with careful cutting out, I'm not sure I even used that much! So plenty left over for another project.  The dress itself was very simple, one front piece, two back pieces and then a decorative panel for the front.  I took my time and tried to make sure that the flowers match up on each of the pieces - being guided through this dressmaking made me a lot more careful with the pining and measuring!!

Halfway through our workshop we were presented with a chocolate cupcake and a top up cup of tea, served in a beautiful tea cup - definitely my kind of workshop!  I managed to finish my dress apart from sewing the last bit of bias binding, which I did at home.  The dress fits and I was really pleased with the end result - although it definitely needed the added belt to give it a bit of shape.  As we got to keep our pattern, I'm sure I will make another in the future.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Bow Tie

This post has been sitting in my draft pile for ages - As it was a present, I didn't want to spoil the surprise.  However, I hadn't banked on Royal Mail taking nearly two weeks to deliver a first class parcel!!  Thankfully it hadn't got lost and I hadn't started to make the replacement Bow  Tie!

I wanted to make my brother something that could fit through his letter box for his birthday - after a bit of contemplation I decided on a Bow Tie.  After a bit of searching I found this fabulous step-by-step instructions and pattern by Angela Osborne.  The pattern calls for either half a metre with a back seem in the bow tie or a metre if you want to omit the back seem.  However, I think with some careful cutting of patterns you may just about get the pattern cut from a fat quarter, as I had about that much left over.

As suggested by the pattern I also made a small matching pocket handkerchief, not sure if it will get used, but at least it is there!  I can foresee me sewing up numerous versions of the bow tie for my brother's future birthdays  . . . maybe he needs a Christmas themed one! 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Baby Tank Top & Cafetiere Cosy

So the news that my friend had a baby boy in the middle of September meant that I had a perfect excuse to go and buy a baby knitting book.  Although the title of the book is a bit misleading - 'What to Knit When You Are Expecting' - there should be an astrix of *or have friends who are!!  I picked this title up in my local Works for under a fiver, bargain - I was particularly drawn in by the baby snug, which I shall endeavour to make in the future.  The only downside of the book, and I find this with ALL knitting books I own or look at, they use the MOST expensive yarn - for the tank top I was supposed to use something that cost £5 a ball, bringing the project in at over £20! Thankfully I found a Patons alternative for a total project cost of £3, with enough wool left over to probably knit another tank top!  As an added bonus this version is machine washable :-)

This project knitted up very quickly and I managed to knit correctly on double-pointed-needles without the knitting being inside out - hurrah! I was slightly apprehensive about the knitting in of the arm and neck borders.  After knitting the arm borders in, I was confident to knit the neck border and although I didn't manage to pick up the number of stitches the pattern dictated - you wouldn't know.  So as my first baby knit, I am rather pleased - I knitted size 6-12 months, so it very probable that it will be far too big for the nearly 1 month old - but plenty of wriggle room!

My other knitting project that I finished this week was a Cafetiere Cosy from a fab book called 'Purls of Wisdom' - I didn't have the right thickness of yarn, so I used two different greys to knit together and they added up to the right 'chunky' weight that was required.  I then used three of the lovely red/pink buttons that came free on the front of Mollie Makes a while ago - they look really striking and I think I shall be knitting a second one for myself . . .

I also had a nudge from a friend to finally join Ravelry and have spent an enjoyable morning queueing up projects that I want to make in the future!  I can't believe that I haven't joined before.  I also had an inspired idea in order to remember what size my double-jointed-needles are - by cutting two slits in an old postcard and then writing on the postcard what size the needles are - sorted!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Peg Bag Apron

I've been thinking about making a peg bag for ages - for the past few years my pegs have had to make do with an empty Cart D'or tub, which didn't really work as I had too many pegs and the lid wouldn't close! The only thing about making a peg bag that put me off, was the fact that I'd have to find a small coat hanger - however much I kept my eyes open for one I hadn't found one so far.

Then I came up with the idea of creating a peg bag apron.  As I had a free afternoon I decided to make my own pattern.  I used a couple of pages from the free newspapers that come through the door - I fractionally made the width of the double page spread smaller and drew a semi-circle with elongated straight bits for the back of the apron.  The front was a piece of the same size, but its corners were cut out with a circular line - this would form the openings to the pocket when sewn together.  I then cut out a rectangle for an extra pocket on the front and also a guide for the waist-band and tie.

I cut two pieces from each pattern from contrasting materials.  I decided that I wanted a detail on the front of the pocket, so used a wide zig-zag stitch on the machine to appliqué a heart on to one piece of the pocket, before sewing together both bits of the pocket, turned inside out and pressed.  I then sewed the pocket in the middle of the front piece of the apron, before sewing the inside and the outside together for both the back and the front of the apron.  I had a bit of interfacing leftover from another project, so added this to the back piece, just to give it a bit of stability.  After turning the right side out and pressing, I pinned together the back and the front of the apron, before sewing along the top and round the side.  The waist band was then pinned on, right sides facing and in line with the top edge of the apron - so that when folded up and over it created the waist band, which was then stitched in place with another line of external stitching.

After seeing what I'd been up to all afternoon, my mum requested her own - only fair as I had raided her fabric stash to make mine!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


The weekend before last felt rather odd - it was the first weekend in three years where I'd didn't feel like I should be reading something or organising the upcoming week. On the Friday I had finally finished my thesis and all I had left to do was print out and bind the 371 pages. Therefore I needed a project, so I had a Saturday trip to John Lewis to peruse its haberdashery department.

I wasn't disappointed - I got some wool for my next project and two lengths of material. One was for a birthday present - so going to have to wait until after I've given it, before I can blog about it. I also spied this lovely fabric that was just calling out to be made into pyjamas. I went with my gut instinct and bought 2 metres - as I hadn't checked to see how much my pattern needed as this wasn't technically on my list!

The pattern I used was from a book that I has picked up for £2.99 in The Works - rather good for hunting out that bargain crafty book. The only downside to the book is that their are multiple patterns printed on each of the tissue paper sheets in the patterns at the back - so I had to improvise and used baking paper to trace out the pyjama bottoms. They also only give a size small (with no measurements to let you know what that means) yet did state how much extra to add on for a medium and a large. So it was a bit of guessing game to make sure I had the right size. They were easy to sew up - however they were on the huge size and were really wide at the bottom yet they fitted at the top, so I decided to bring them in a bit on the inside seem. I then added some decorative ribbon around the bottom of each leg. As this pattern used elastic at the top I had also purchased some wide elastic whilst out - who knew there were so many different ones to choose from! In the end I went with 'pyjama elastic' as that sounded promising - however it is very soft and is probably for pyjamas when the elastic is external rather than encased within the waistband.

I'm not sure whether I will use this pattern again, as I made rather a lot of adjustments - think I may find myself a better pyjama pattern for next time. There are however some other promising patterns in the book - I've got my eye on the foldaway shopping bag!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Rose Garden Tea Cosy

This blog post has been a rather long time in the writing - but needs to posted before I finish my current tea cosy that I am working on!  After finding that I can actually knit (my mum tried to teach me on so many occasions when I was little and I just couldn't get the hang of it!) I trawled the internet for some free tea cosy patterns to get me started.  I've decided that tea cosies are the best thing to knit - firstly I have HUGE collection of ALB teapots of all different shapes and sizes that need their own individual tea cosy when used and secondly you can see results rather quickly and therefore I won't loose interest, or get disheartened when I find a mistake.

I found this rather wonderful blog from the 'Queen of Tea Cosies' where Loani Prior designs and knits the most amazingly weird yet beautiful tea cosies.  She has various books and this Rose Garden Tea Cosy is adapted from one of them.  I fell in love with the design of this tea cosy before looking at the pattern - when I did I found that would have learn the how to knit on two pairs of circular needles.  It wasn't as scary as it sounds and there are loads of great videos on YouTube showing you how it is done.  This was also the first time that I have knitted a lining for my tea cosy - feels like its adding unnecessary time to the knit, but definitely worth it - the tea stays hotter for longer and the cosy has some structure to it!

After the knitting the green basket-weave cosy I started on the flowers.  The roses are really easy to knit up - yet my lack of crochet skills meant I just couldn't make the rest of the flowers - hence a rose only garden!  Then I started on the leaves, using another new method 'magic loop' knitting (again look for instructional videos on YouTube - it's an easy method once you've seen it done and much better than knitting on double pointed needles!).  I'm not sure whether I was doing something wrong or there was a typo in the pattern, but I just couldn't get the right amount of stitches on my needles.  After a few tries I decided that I would needle felt the leaves instead.  I'd forgotten how therapeutic it is stabbing a bit of fluff until it makes the shape you want!!

After this it was time for construction and sewing on of my roses and leaves.  I was rather pleased with the final tea cosy - however, it has taken a bit of stretching as I hadn't quite got the hang of 'cast off loosely'  meaning its a bit of tight squeeze to get the tea cosy on the teapot - a bit of delicate operation when the teapot is full of hot tea!!

You might like to see the other tea cosies that I have knitted here and here.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

White Tin Loaf & Carrot and Walnut Cupcakes

As the next two weeks are going to be rather hectic finishing my PhD and doing all the time consuming things like printing and binding, I decided to have Sunday off and spend the day baking.  I had to use the fabulous new bread book from Paul Hollywood, that had been in my bed time reading pile for ages (I'm not the only one who reads cookery books before bed am I?).

After my rather successful attempt (if I do say so myself) of the 8 plaited loaf, I decided to go back to basics and try a white tin loaf.  This time I had my scales so could measure the tiny amounts accurately - I thought! - somehow the salt I was using was very light and I ended up putting in a huge amount.  I did question this at the time, but thought, no follow the recipe and believe your scales.  Big mistake - my sandwiches today were rather salty.

Then I had issues with the dough taking ages to rise - even with putting it a warm airing cupboard.  In the end I left it on top of the oven which was heating up to cook it! After a bit of googling today I found this fab site that suggested that I hadn't kneaded my dough for long enough and therefore there wasn't enough gluten in the dough.  I am going to have to invest in a stronger pair of arms!

First attempt at the White Tin Loaf 
So although the photo of bread looks rather splendid it didn't make my lunchbox as scrummy as I had hoped!  Lots of things learnt for my next attempt though.

Second attempt at the White Tin Loaf!
Thankfully the Carrot and Walnut cupcakes that I made were delicious.  They were adapted from Rachel Allen's 'Bake' - well I say adapted, they were supposed to be a tray bake and I put them in muffin cases.  The cream cheese frosting is amazing, really light.  I shall be putting these on the make again list and I personally count them as one of my five a day - I grated a huge pile of carrots for these cakes, something my guinea-pig was not impressed to find they were not for him!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Paralympic Closing Ceremony T-Shirts

In the great lottery that was applying for London 2012 tickets, my boyfriend did rather well and we went to see various events at both the Olympics and the Paralympics.  Then to put the cherry on top of our experience we also had Paralympic Closing Ceremony tickets - I decided that this called for special T-Shirts to celebrate.  Over the course of London 2012, we'd got rather into pin collecting - after PB had managed to get his hands on a closing ceremony pin, I decided to use it as my inspiration.

I decided that on the back should be a cauldron, as it was so beautiful. I made this by using ribbon for the stalks and then felt petals, with plenty of glitter glue to make things sparkle.  Although it took longer I sewed everything on, as I felt that would be easier that trying to glue - had tot be careful that I didn't sew both sides together - there were a few near misses!

Then for the front I used fabric paint for the stadium, ribbons sewn on, stars glued on and glitter glue musical notes.  The 2012 logo, I cut out of felt and glued on - glad I made effort to do the extra little bits of colour, as it really made it stand out.  The mascots were on there by pure chance, after popping into The Entertainer I found they were having a 70% and buy one get one free - therefore I could get two key rings for each Tshirt.  They we a bit on the fat side though, so I performed mascot surgery and took most of the stuffing out, therefore they would lie flat when sewn on.

And here are the finished T-shirts - we got quite a few comments and even some requests to take pictures of them!  

Friday, 14 September 2012

GBBO Week Three - Treacle Tart

Okay so I'm rather behind on this post - I blame trying to finish my PhD thesis ready for submission at the end of September and spending my weekends at the Paralympics!

The recipe can be found in the current GBBO Showstoppers book - it's a bit different to other treacle tart recipes that I have made before, as it contains lemon juice and rind.  I really like this addition as it meant that the tart wasn't as sweet as it usually is.

I made my own pastry - although did't leave it in the fridge to chill for long enough, so it kept breaking up.  I also only had just enough left over to do the lattice.  The recipe is very simple, melt the golden syrup, add the lemon juice and rind and then a mountain of breadcrumbs!  I had to use slightly more than the recipe suggested, but then I was using Kingsmill bread - I guess if you used a fresh loaf, you would need less.

The lattice I wove together whilst on top of some grease-proof paper, then I could flip it over onto the top of the tart and adjust as necessary! I shall make all my treacle tart with this additional decoration - really makes it look like a tea-time pudding - especially with a dollop of cream on the side.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

GBBO Week Two - 8 Strand Plaited Loaf

So week two was bread week - to me this seems a little early for bread, but maybe it is the same as previous series! I really enjoyed watching the Bagels and didn't know that they are poached before baking.  Some of the flat breads were inspired and I am going to have to try my hand at the Oat Cakes that are in the GBBO Third Book - as PB is from Staffordshire, he has a soft spot for oat cakes, I'll have to make sure they are good!  I shall report back once I am accomplished in oat cake baking.  Flat-breads and bagels aside, it was the technical challenge that I just had to have a go at - the 8 strand plaited loaf!

So on Sunday morning I gathered all the ingredients I needed and read through the recipe very carefully as I haven't really made bread before! I was rather amazed at the very few ingredients needed - although missed my digital scales when trying to measure out 10g of salt (I decided to go with a level teaspoon).  After mixing all the ingredients together, the first 'waiting' hour had to begin - thankfully we hadn't had breakfast yet, so I had something to keep me occupied.  When I went back to my bowl, the dough had magically doubled in size (I may have done a little happy dance!).
Then came the technical bit, splitting the dough into 8 equal bits and rolling into strands or tentacles.  My first try at the plaiting was a mess, only the middle strands seemed to be doing anything - so I quickly undid everything and started again! I would have taken a picture, but the dough was beginning to stick to each other and I didn't want to have to roll everything out again.  Reading each step out loud seemed to do the trick and after a few minutes I had a plaited loaf!  Then another hour of waiting - this time I did a spot of gardening to pass the time.

After an hour, I glazed the top of the loaf with an egg wash and popped in a warm oven to bake - the smell was scrumptious! It needed a little longer than the 20-25 minutes stated, but then I had reduced the temperature as it was a fan assisted oven, so maybe that was why.  I was rather pleased with my loaf and maybe another little happy bread dance was partaken in!

I think that bread will become a regular feature in my baking - the time needed is very much worth the results - never before I have looked forward to eating my sandwiches as much!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

GBBO Week One - Upside Down Cake

So at 8pm last Tuesday evening I was sat in front of my TV eagerly awaiting the new series of the Great British Bake Off.  I thought it was a tough first week and now it's in its third series, the bakes are getting a bit more complicated.  I really wanted to create a 'Surprise Cake' and had even drawn some sketches of a carrot cake I wanted to bake - the surprise being that when you cut into it, the carrot cake bit was in the shape of carrots, with plain sponge surrounding it! I had even drawn out templates to fit my loaf tin, but sadly I didn't have enough time to realise my idea - maybe sometime in the future.

The technical challenge didn't really appeal to me either - not very keen on alcohol in cakes and didn't think the Rum Ba Ba's would work with a fruit juice substitute.  So that left me with the 'Upside Down Cake' - I decided to make a summer berries one, as there is loads of yummy fruit in the supermarket.  Although I have the latest GBBO cookery book, I found this very simple recipe on the BBC good food website.  I used fresh berries instead of frozen ones and also decided to create a Victoria Sponge rather than just one cake - getting a bit creative with my pattern of blueberries and strawberries on to the top layer.

I had a bit of a disaster as just as I had finished dolloping the cake mixture on top of my carefully arranged berries I noticed the huge tin of Golden Syrup on the side - I'd forgotten to put the golden syrup on top of the berries.  There was a small part of me that thought maybe I could scrap the mixture off - but quickly realised this was not going to happen.  I decided to bake the cake until it was firm enough that it could be turned out and then add the syrup, before putting back in the tin and back in the oven to finish off cooking!

After they had finished cooling I layered up the cakes with a layer of buttercream - I was toying with using fresh cream, but felt the cake wouldn't last as long.  Next time I also wouldn't use strawberries, as although they make a pretty pattern they lost a lot of their colour - maybe raspberries would have been better!

Friday, 27 July 2012

Olympic Mascot Cupcakes

Were you ringing bells at 8.12am this morning? I was, although the only bells I could find in the whole of my cottage were two very tiny ones on my 'Christmas' earrings - they made a jolly little sound though - couldn't hear anything when I stepped outside my front door though.  Also enjoyed seeing the flame being carried on the Royal Barge this morning (albeit on the television this time) - it is an exquisite vessel.

For our Olympic Opening Ceremony Tea I had promised PB another cakey creation - I think he had visions of me building the Olympic Stadium out of cake - but I wanted to create some of my own cupcakes to compliment the ones I made for the Torch Relay.  I wanted them to be mascot themed - but decided that I would have to concentrate on their face rather than trying to create a 3D mascot.  First of all I drew the face of each mascot onto scrap paper, when I was happy I traced it on to thin card - both the head and then a eye for each mascot. (I shall add some more photo's when I've uploaded them from my camera!)  With my templates ready it was time to choose the flavour for my cupcakes - I wanted to do chocolate, but also make them both with a twist, so came up with Mint Chocolate for Mandeville and Chocolate Orange for Wenlock :-)
I used a simple chocolate cake recipe from Rachel Allen's 'Bake'and substituted the plain chocolate with either the mint chocolate or orange chocolate - the smell was delicious, but I was nbsp;good and didn't eat too much of the mixture.  Whilst they were cooling I kept both batches separate so they wouldn't get muddled up.  Then on to the icing - normal butter-cream with added colouring and a few drops of mint essence for the Mandeville cupcakes, I was also going to add orange juice to the Wenlock ones, but I'd forgotten to pick up an orange.  After choosing an open nozzle for my piping bag I was ready for icing - not until I had iced all of one batch of cakes when I'd realised I'd just iced the chocolate orange cupcakes with mint icing  . . . I could have cried! However, I managed to scrap off nearly all of the icing and ice the correct cupcakes the second time round.

The mascot were made from cutting round my templates on rolled out royal icing, dusting with silver dust before attaching the eye made from a thinner piece of royal icing.  I thought they needed a little bit extra so used food colouring and painted on some accents - this has run a little bit, but adds to the overall impression.  Then I stuck the finished mascots on to the corresponding cupcakes. I am rather pleased with the overall look of the cupcakes . . . think I may have overdone it when it's only tea for two!!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Wenlock and Mandeville Cupcake Toppers

Whilst doing my weekly shop in Morrisons I couldn't help picking up two sheets of Olympic Mascot stickers - a bargain at 58p each.  I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do with them, but hey those one-eyed monsters are rather cute - so I knew that I would find a use for them.

After pondering for a few days, I had a idea to make my own cupcake toppers (not sure if that is what they are - kinda just made up the name!).  After I had finally remembered where my cocktail sticks were and had located some scraps of pretty orange and blue paper I could begin. They are the easiest thing ever to make - I stuck the cocktail stick in the right place on the back of the sticker and then the sticker on to the plain side of my backing paper.  Then I just had to cut the sticker out - I found this was easier the closer you could put the bottom of the sticker lined up with the bottom edge of the paper.  Ta-dah! All finished, they didn't take very long at all - just enough time to watch The One Show.  Thinking of making a blue jelly to put the water stickers in . . . .

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Coconut and Raspberry Cupcakes

As well as being sent back with a few sticks of rhubarb this weekend, I also picked a Tupperware box full of home grown raspberries from PB's garden! They smelt delicious and rather than just eat them on the train, which I was rather tempted to do, I decided to hunt out a cake recipe.  I'd half decided on this Apricot and Raspberry Buckle cake during my train journey . . . but I then found a very pretty recipe for Coconut and Raspberry Cupcakes.  The perfect reason to use the 79p sale cupcake cases I'd picked up in Lakeland at the weekend :-)

The recipe is really easy - a throw everything in the bowl (apart from the raspberries!) and whisk until smooth.  Everything was done in the half hour that I had spare between the two episodes of Eastenders last night - very exciting to see the Olympic Flame appear on the set and a treat of live broadcasting! The icing is rather scrummy and I did eat rather a lot of it before I even started icing the cupcakes - oops! The pink of the icing is made from a few left over raspberries.
I really need to stop baking so many cakes and finish the various half-finished crafty projects - watch out for some more tea cosies!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Chocolate Decadence Cookies

This weekend's baking definitely had to be something chocolatey, as PB had been complaining that I only bake chocolatey cakes when visiting friends . . . he has kind of got a point, but I'm sure baking chocolate cakes and cookies all the time would have a detrimental affect on our waistlines - at least by baking fruity cakes I pretend they are 'healthy'. . .

I bought 'Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-in-your-mouth Cookies' by Alice Medrich a year or so ago, after being sucked in by the name of the book.  The book is okay, although I've only done a handful of recipes from it, as there is a distinct lack of pictures.  I always find to easier to measure the success of bake if there is a picture to compare it to at the end - this might be why I've only baked the cookies that have pictures in the book (although this does run the risk of me having a grump if they they don't turn out like the picture).  A set of cups is needed for the easiest use of this book, as all measurements are American and working out British equivalent to 'sticks of butter' is essential.

I made the Chocolate Decadence Cookies - in the book they are called 'Bittersweet Chocolate...' however, I used supermarket value plain chocolate and they were still very yummy!  I also swapped the pecans for walnuts, as they are cheaper and I'd already used a whole bag of pecans in the Banana and Pecan Fudge cake I made last week.  I made half as the recipe suggested and then the second half I mixed in some dried cranberries - rather scrummy.

The recipe said it yielded 30 - 36 cookies and I nearly halved the quantities.  I'm glad I didn't as I only managed to get 23 cookies - think I may have made mine on the larger size, but they were no means giant.  Still small enough to have at least two with an afternoon cuppa and not feel guilty :-)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Banana and Pecan Fudge Loaf Cake

I really can't stand ripe bananas and I had two in my fruit bowl this week that were nearly all black - oops, either I'm not eating enough or buying too much! Ah well, it meant that I could hunt down a new banana cake recipe . . . after mooching around the BBC GoodFood website, I found an easy looking recipe for Banana and Pecan Fudge Cake - it looked delicious, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I made a few changes to the ingredients - for some reason, the only small tub of toffee yoghurt I could find was low fat - but this didn't seem to make any difference.  After reading some the comments below (always a good source inspiration on the GoodFood website!) I also decided to buy the cheap own brand toffee rather than something more expensive - worked well too! Plus, this meant that I got to use my hammer in the kitchen again, smashing up the toffee - after placing in a bag.  I may of got a bit carried away, as most of the toffee disappeared into the cake on baking, but I think I prefer it that way. I decided against putting chopped up pecans on the top, but instead picked out the 'pretty looking ones' and had a line down the middle - well it was until on baking the cake rose and made it wonky.

This was a very yummy cake and highly recommended - I've only got a few slices left - oops!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Apple Whole Wheat Muffins

There was a day last week where everybody on my facebook newsfeed was baking cakes.  Thus,  I was inspired to go home and do some baking - I had a fruit bowl full of apples that were steadily becoming past their best.  So I hunted down a recipe for some Apple Muffins that I wouldn't have to buy too many ingredients for - I found this fabulous recipe on the Smitten Kitchen website and picked up a carton of yoghurt on my way home, as I thought this was the only ingredient I didn't have.

Almost had a disaster, when I realised that my jar of cinnamon was up in Wolverhampton (the curse of baking in numerous kitchens!).  All was okay when I found I had a stick of cinnamon in old mulled cider spice pack.  Then I had to work out how to make it into a powder without the aid of pestle and mortar - my options, I decided were to try the small side of the cheese grater or a hammer from my tool kit.  In the end I started off with the grater and then finished off the rest with the hammer :-) great fun! Although my guinea-pig was not impressed with all the noise ...

Disaster averted, I carried on with the recipe, deciding to use my silicon cupcake cases.  Although I had to give them a good wash first - however hard I try to wash and dry the cases, they always seem to grow mould whilst in the cupboard, not quite sure why!  Any one else have this problem?  I had some mixture left over, so filled a few paper cases as well.  This was a very quick bake - 15-20 minutes - forgot to set my timer, so nearly had crispy Apple Muffins! When I got them out of the oven, the the cakes in the paper cases had risen beautifully, but the ones in the silicon cases had not.  Now, this might have been because I didn't fill the silicon cases with enough mixture, but I didn't think I did, as I wouldn't have made the extra ones if I could have shared it out between the original cakes.  Or maybe it had something to do with the silicon cases themselves - ah well, still not convinced on the silicon cake case front.  Also you have to watch people like a demented hawk to make sure that they don't throw away the case and that you can retrieve it in order to use again.  Ah well, perfect excuse to keep buying pretty paper cases when I see them.