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Baking Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip

The sad and lamentous tale of a veritable Pinterest fail

16/03/2016

After Kitty’s wild success in the kitchen on Saturday, Elma, and to, I suspect, a much lesser degree, Pip were itching to make a cake of their own.  Elma has always believed that she can do anything Kitty can do, even when her more diminutive statute makes it very obvious to the rest of us that she can’t, and maybe she could make a yoghurt pot cake by herself, but one yoghurt cake a weekend is probably enough, and besides, I had a really good idea.

And so as H took Kitty off to another round of birthday parties, I unveiled the plan: the littlest two and I were going to make a secret surprise cake, themed for St Patrick’s Day.  Now the only thing even vaguely Irish about me is that my surname was once Irish but that’s as good as it gets.  H and the children can claim actual decent from that Irish surname but I don’t think that brings them much closer. But why let a little matter like that get in the way of a good excuse for cake.

My idea was to make a green cake, and then cut little shamrocks from it and bake them inside a plain cake and then when you cut into the cake, there would be the surprise; little green shamrocks running through it like the centre from a stick of rock.

As an idea, it was genius. In execution – well spoilers, but read the title!

The green cake actually turned out very well; Elma and Pip helped me whizz it up in the KitchenAid and drop by drop we added a little leaf green gel colour until it was properly Spring green, poured it into a circular cake tin and popped it in the oven. It rose beautifully, filled the house with the buttery scent of fresh cake, and we were off to a winning start.

And then…. well the first sign that all was not going to go quite as I’d envisioned it was the shamrock.  Eternal failure as a mother as I am, I don’t have a shamrock cookie cutter.  Lots of hearts, fish, dolphins, several butterflies and an elephant, but no shamrock.  I actually sent H out to try to find one during the week (with a shopping list that read “small pot of yoghurt, 10cm embroidery hoop, green food colouring, shamrock cutter – not all for the same project!”) but he’d had no joy and (sign number 2), I’d left it too late to order one online.

Oh well we thought, we could just use a flower, and maybe cut down one of the petals to be a stalk?

My flower cutters have six petals, that wasn’t going to work either.

Space for the Butterflies - A Pinterest fail for St Patrick

So we cut out the flowers, and decided that St Patrick probably liked flowers as much as he liked shamrocks, especially if they were green, and pressed on.

Space for the Butterflies - A Pinterest fail for St Patrick

The outer cake was initially supposed to be lemon flavoured but it was at this crucial point, with the cake mix whirling in the background, that I realised that we didn’t have any lemons. But I found a blood orange in need of using up and added the zest and juice to flavour the cake and it was actually delicious – definitely the silver lining. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The theory behind a surprise cake, and it does usually work, despite what you are about to see, is that you put a thin layer of cake mix in the bottom of the tin, add in the shapes cut from ready made cake, smother the whole thing in more cake mix, and bake. It’s like a baked Alaska but with cake.Space for the Butterflies - A Pinterest fail for St Patrick

Space for the Butterflies - A Pinterest fail for St Patrick

We popped our assembled cake into the oven, set the timer and went off to play, reassured by the nice smell of warm orange coming from the kitchen, and with not a hint of what was to come.

The timer went off, and we pulled the cake out to look at it.  It was a beautiful golden brown on top (good), but there was something of a dinosaur’s spine about the central ridge of the cake, all knobbly, and with a decided hint of green to it.

Space for the Butterflies - A Pinterest fail for St Patrick

I pressed it gently to watch the sponge bounce back and then stabbed it a couple of times with a skewer to check it was baked, and we left it to cool.  Only when I came back to tip it out of the tin ten minutes later did the gentle pressure of easing it away from the side force as yet uncooked cake mix up through the centre of the cake.

Ah. Back in the oven then.

A good 20 minutes and some frenzied stabbing with the cake tester later, we allowed it back out of the oven.

It sat, and cooled, and smelt enticingly of cake, and we thought that all might not be lost, not just yet.

Space for the Butterflies - A Pinterest fail for St Patrick

And so as befits a Pinterest-pretty bake, I tucked it up in a little grease proof paper and stripy green string for the big reveal.

Space for the Butterflies - A Pinterest fail for St Patrick

The cake sat on the table, holding the gaze of three small and hungry children that bounced up and down waiting for the first slice and this “big surprise” they’d been promised.  The knife was raised, and neatly sliced a good chunk of cake from the end of the loaf, and as it fell back onto the board with just the tiniest whisp of steam, we saw…

Space for the Butterflies - A Pinterest fail for St Patrick

A white cake with a green blob on top.

No shamrocks, not even flowers, and not a hint of anything hidden in the cake.  The green cake had just floated to the top, and sat there, misshapen but tasty while the white cake had cooked underneath.

The cake is actually pretty tasty, and as the girls get a kick out of having “a green piece”, and we haven’t explained just why we find that so funny, it’s not going to be going to waste, but beautiful it is not.

Space for the Butterflies - A Pinterest fail for St Patrick

In hindsight I think the key differences from previous attempts to this one were that I used homemade sponge for the middle, rather than buying in Maderia cake, and I probably put too much cake mix in the bottom of the tin.  Homemade sponge is so much lighter, and with the extra oomph from more cake mix it just bobbed up to the top of the mixture.

And as for St Patrick’s day; I’m going to stick to colouring in shamrocks from now on!

Baking Crafty Ideas Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip

Spooky fun for half term and Halloween

27/10/2015

To celebrate the start of half term we went hunting for a ginormous pumpkin to carve over the weekend (and found one at Wasperton farm for anyone vaguely nearby). Halloween is nearly here, and while it’s amazing how much more of a fuss is made over it than when we were little, and I’m very much into the cute babies in costumes and cake side of things than anything truly scary or supernatural, I am completely in favour of anything that gives us a good excuse for the kids to dress up and have a feast, especially if it involves cake.
Kitty and Elma took Grandpa on the National Trust Pumpkin Trail at Charlecote on Sunday (a much harder one to solve than last year, possibly because they aren’t real words, but a witchy phrase), I’ve taken Friday off work just to do crafts in every colour of orange and black with the girls, and I’m really looking forward to a chance to lighten the darkness now Autumn is truly here.

So here’s what we have planned:

  • Decorate!  H and I have gradually been adding to a little stash of Halloween bits and pieces over the last few weeks.  We’ve got the pumpkins to carve, orange and black streamers, orange and black stripy straws, chocolate popping candy spiders (from M&S), marshmallows dipped in green sprinkles and even some American candy corn (I’ve no idea what it tastes like but it looks pretty).  I think I know where the Ghostly Bunting ended up too, but we might just spend a little time updating it and adding Pip’s footprints. I really want to make these glow in the dark balloons too; it’s just a glow stick inside a white balloon with a face drawn on but would be so much fun to hang outside. Space for the Butterflies - How to make Ghostlie Bunting - tutorial - Halloween, Ghosts, Footprints, Crafts for Toddlers
  • A feast! The current menu is Roast Butternut Squash and Bacon soup (because it’s orange), Spaghetti Meatballs (Eyeballs and Innerds) and then molten chocolate puddings.  The girls will need no persuasion to dress up, Pip should fit the glowing skeleton shirt worn by both his sisters before him, H does technically have a penguin onesie and if push comes to show I’ll borrow a set of wings from the girls and be a fairy. I’d love to make a giant net tutu but I’ll have to see whether I get enough time.Space for the Butterflies - Halloween crafts for kids
  • Making things! Our bats are currently hanging out in the corner of our lounge ready to be dangled from the light fitting over our dinner table, and the girls have plans for ghosts, lots of paper folded pumpkins and vast amounts of glitter. Jess has an great round up of eight of her top Halloween crafty plans, some of which are seriously scary, and I think the girls are very keen on her masking tape ghost necklaces.
  • Set up for trick or treating.  Most of our trick or treaters go to Kitty’s school, we don’t get too many older kids and we’ve always blown our pumpkin out fairly early because of small people’s bedtime.  Historically I’ve asked everyone for a joke in exchange for their treats, but this year I’m wondering whether to make it a bit harder; you can have a treat if you can pick it up with chopsticks? Have you ever done something like that, and if so, how did it go?
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  • Bake! It wouldn’t be Halloween without Magic Star Smiley Spider Cupcakes but I’m also very very tempted by these Spider Cookies using peanut butter cups – they look so cute!
  • Silly games! Becky’s Ghost Bowling is hilarious and would be so much fun down our hall.

It’s going to be so much fun, I can’t wait! So what do you have planned?

 

Baking Elma Family Garden Kitty Photography PR Collaboration

A fairy garden party for Spring

25/04/2015

Our neighbours have fairies in their trees.  I know this because every night Kitty and Elma peek out of their window and we can see the lights in the magnolia tree. It must be fairies, mustn’t it?

There’s a lovely openness to their imagination at this age; anything really is possible if they want it to be; they’ll happily accept the possibility of fairies in the tree, pixie moments, and just possibly a black hole under the bed that eats socks.

I think it must have been in one of our stories that Kitty first heard about the idea of a fairy tea party and from then on it was fixed in her head as something that would surely happen one day; one day she’d tiptoe into the garden, or around the corner of the path through the woods, and there before her would be a fairy glen with the tiniest table laid for tea, with cakes and sandwiches and all sorts of lovely things, just perfect for a little girls and her fairy friends.

I’ve written before about how much I love playing up to that imagination and letting a few of their dearest dreams come true; when they’re so simple and so easily achievable it’s irresistable; I know it won’t be many years before their dreams are way out of my budget and idea of common sense.

But this, with a little help from some friends, this we could do.

So we spent the morning doing a little baking, making cupcakes and gorgeous butterfly biscuits and then after lunch we drew the lounge curtains, shut the door and told Kitty and Elma that they were invited to a very special fairy picnic.  They got dressed up in their fairy princess skirts and found their wings from  wherever they’d last been abandoned and they and their flower fairy dollies sat giggling waiting for us to say that it was ready.

I laid the table and H refilled the bubble guns and then finally it was the moment they’d been waiting for, and they peeked out from behind the curtain, and then came running through a shower of bubbles.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And from the looks on their faces, I think it was everything they’d hoped for.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

A little path of eggs purloined from the Easter egg stash leading to the nearest we could manage to a fairy glen, the shady post under next door’s beautiful magnolia tree, with their little art table borrowed out of the lounge and a few tablecloths and play silks to set the scene.

The bunting I borrowed from their room; two of the strings have their names on them and usually hang across the curtain rail and the other says Happy Birthday on the back and the ribbons in the bushes are actually their streamers (9ft of ribbon on a stick – they use them for twirling, think ribbon gymnastics sort of thing).

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And when they got close enough to see the table there was a feast! Well a little one, just perfect for two small girls, the poor fairies having been abandoned in the lounge in all the excitement!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

 

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

 

They started with bread and butter cut to a flower shape on tiny plates borrowed from the girls’ toy tea service, together with lemonade in my favourite mini milk bottles, and the most gorgeous pink and white stripy straws, and then moved on to little St Clements’ flavour sponge cakes topped with orange icing and pink sugar paste butterflies.Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Half of the cakes were in plain cases and then dropped into garden cupcake wrappers, and the other half I baked straight into pink tulip cupcake cases.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I really can’t decide which ones I like the best, I’m just so glad I didn’t have to choose, the pink tulip ones look just like flowers and I love the mini garden round the side of the wrappers. Plus if you’re careful enough with the wrappers you can save them to use again another time.

And if all that wasn’t enough, inside the green and white stripy bags were the butterfly biscuits that they’d helped to make in the morning.  It’s a really clever cutter, there’s an inner cutter that is just slightly shallower than the main cutter so it makes a nice deep imprint of all those lovely swirls but doesn’t cut all the way through unless you overdo it, or use the cutter the wrong way up (which Kitty seems to do with every cutter ever no matter how obvious the correct way).  I’ve amassed a number of butterfly cutters over the years (you’d never guess the butterfly love around here would you!) and this is by far and away my favourite.  Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I know I’ve shared these pictures before but I can’t resist putting them in again; they are some of my favourite ever pictures of Elma, and they sum up the whole afternoon.  Kitty loved the bubbles and the butterflies on the cupcakes while Elma said the biscuits were her favourite, and I loved setting it up and watching them giggle their way through.  They spent the rest of the day dancing around the garden dressed as fairies, every now and then nipping back for a cake or a nibble of biscuit, and at the end of the day all that was left was the crumbs and a lot of happy memories.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family lifeSpace for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family lifeSpace for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

So it is a big thank you to MeinCupcake (who also have an English language shop here) who sent the butterfly cutter, stamps to make the sugarpaste butterflies and the sugar paste itself, pink stripy straws, the green and white chevron bags, and pretty cupcake cases and wrappers to make two little girls’ dreams come true.  Their site is a thing of wonder and joy for anyone who likes baking (my sister and I spent at least an hour on there texting each other and then facetimeing so we could show each other what we found) and the delivery was a piece of cake despite coming from Europe, my parcel came by courier, arrived inside a week and was tracked the whole way, perfect.

An afternoon that they definitely won’t forget any time soon.

Baking Family Kitty Recipes

Kitty’s Valentine’s Invention: Chocolate and Strawberry Fairy Cakes

11/02/2015

Kitty is very excited. Apparently, the day after the day after tomorrow is not any ordinary day. It’s not even just ballet class day.  No, it’s Valentines’ Day. What is Valentines’ Day? Well she’s not exactly sure but she thinks it’s when we get roses. And hearts. I asked her who from but she’s not too sure about that, and when I asked who we were going to send valentines too she wasn’t sure about that either.  What she has grasped is that is is a celebration that seems to revolve around pink and chocolate, and she’s wholly on board with both of those concepts.

And it’s had a cross over into our baking.  We’ve been making fairy cakes (because I’m reliably informed that we haven’t made any in ages) and it was Kitty’s turn to choose the flavour; “strawberry!” she said, “and chocolate! And gamilla (vanilla)!”. Most of the time I’d smile and ask her to pick just one, or suggest that perhaps the perfect flavour might be lemon because we’ve got a couple of lemons in the bottom of the fridge that really need eating up before they go weird and squishy, but instead I thought we’d give it a whirl, and so chocolate, strawberry and vanilla it would be.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

We started with a plain 2 egg sponge mix, then divided it into two and mixed mashed strawberries into one half and cocoa powder into the other, then dolloped a spoonful of each into fairy cake cases, chocolate on the bottom and strawberry over the top.  We thought about adding a bit of pink food colouring to the strawberry batter and it would make it stand out better once it’s baked but my children and food colouring are not a great combination so we went for the more subtle approach.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And while our little cakes spent 20 minutes baking in the oven the girls engaged in the time honoured pursuit of licky-scrapers!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

When the cakes were baked and cooled we covered them with vanilla glace icing and, in lieu of anything remotely appropriately valentine’s-esque being found in my box of cake decorating bits and bobs, the girls set to with a tub of leftover could-be-winter-probably-supposed-to-be-Christmas sprinkles.  And the result?Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

 

 

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Well it turns out Kitty was on to something.   The chocolate and strawberry are delicious together.  You might not necessarily be able to see the change between the two flavours as clearly as if we’d used food colouring but it’s there if you look for it, and it’s definitely there once you take a bite.  It’s like a cake version of those Cadbury Roses strawberry creams in the pink foil wrapper.  They always get eaten first in our house so it’s perhaps no surprise that the cake was a hit.

I think I need put Kitty in charge of the flavours more often.

And if you’d like to try them for yourself, the recipe is below:

 

[yumprint-recipe id=’1′]

Baking Family Recipes

Smiley Spider Cupcakes

15/10/2014

I’m never entirely sure how I feel about Halloween. Trick or treating just wasn’t part of my childhood, and the whole thing was vastly overshadowed by Bonfire Night which always involved a massive bonfire on the school playing field, baked potatoes to keep your hands warm and the call and answer of fireworks being let off across the town.  As a family I think we still make more of a celebration of Bonfire Night, though that might just be because we have friends with a garden big enough for some decent sized rockets.

But I am absolutely certain about where I fall on the question of cake.  You should never say no to cake. And well, I’m never one to turn down a good excuse for a bit of themed baking either.  So without too much waffling on and further ado, may I introduce you to the only sort of spiders I willingly welcome into the house and have never chased away with a hoover or scooped up in a tea towel and thrown into the garden.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I first had the idea for these a few years ago, wanting to make a treat for my team at work and looking for any excuse for the acquisition of more cupcake cases (you can never had too many cupcake cases).  They are very simple, and very easy to make, but they look really cute, and taste delicious.  This recipe will make 12 fairy cake sized Smily Spider Cupcakes but if you have a muffin tin instead you could easily make them bigger by multiplying quantities by 1.5 and letting them cook for 3-5 minutes longer.

To make 12 fairy-cake sized Smily Spider Cupcakes you will need:

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

for the cakes

  • 100g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 10g cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs

for the decoration

  • 125g icing sugar
  • 1 packet of Milky Way Magic Stars
  • Black writing icing

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C and line a 12-hole fairy cake tin with paper cases.
  2. Put all of the cake ingredients in a food processor/ stand mixer and whizz until completely combined.
  3. Divide the mixture between the 12 cake cases, it’s about a dessert spoonful each and you want to fill each case about 2/3 of the way to the top.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cakes are risen and spring back to the touch.Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life
  5. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
  6. While the cakes are cooling have a look at your Magic Stars.  They all have little faces set in the middle of the five point star; we need 12 of the ones that have a point over the top of the face like this; Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life rather than the upside down sort that look like this. Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family lifeThose ones can be fed to passing children/husband/considered a cook’s treat!
  7. Whisk the icing sugar in a bowl to break up any lumps then slowly add in 1-2tbsp of water until the icing is smooth and will coat the back of a spoon.
  8. Cover each of the cakes with about a teaspoon of icing and set the Magic Star in the middle, then allow the icing to dry.Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life
  9. Using the writing icing, draw four spiders’ legs between the points on each side of the Magic Star for a total of eight legs per spider.Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And there you have it, enough spiders to spook a whole host of trick or treaters – assuming they last that long that is.

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