My Milk Glass Cake Stand

I thought to myself recently “my blogs got a bit show ‘n’ tell lately. I must stop going on about stuff I have bought“.

And I will do. Right after I share my indulgent purchase of the month with you, that is!

I justify this post because I think a lot of us bloggers and blog readers like stuff like pretty cakes, pretty nik-naks and a right good bargain.

Do read on if you are a fan of Vintage Pyrex, Hazel Atlas, Phoenix Opalware, Anchor Hocking Fire King, Jadeite and milk glass in general. And do read on if you have long admired the cake stands that they use as props on The Great British Bake Off and that seem to be in every photograph in every baking recipe book ever.

Look away now if you are concerned about the environmental problems with cheap consumer goods manufactured in China* and the copyright issues and ethics behind knock off goods….

Cos I got me one of these!milk glass cake stand

As Wayne and Garth would say “schwing!!”milk glass cakey

Thanks to a heads up from French for Cupcake on Instagram, I am the proud owner of a 10″ fake milk glass cake (that is actually glass not ceramic) for £9.99! They had loads at my local branch. I ummed and ahhed about what size and colour to get, and I did consider buying a few more to maybe sell on Ebay. But I would feel a right **** doing that. Its all very well selling vintage bits and bobs, as they tend to be one of a kind, but I could never rip people off with something that they could buy in a shop around the corner from themselves. Note to self – this is why I will never be rich. I am not ruthless enough!

Dodgy camera phone pic

Dodgy camera phone pic

I have long admired these cake stands and I am so pleased to own one now, and so chuffed that I saved loads of money with a much cheaper identical version!

I think to celebrate, instead of baking my usual healthy-sugar free-bananary-oaty-peanut buttery-type of slice, I need to bake something photogenic involving lots of layers, food colouring and a shed load of butter cream!

Image from notonthehighstreet.com. Click on picture for source.

Image from notonthehighstreet.com. Click on picture for source.

* It had a sticker on the bottom saying ‘made in China’. The real deal cake stands are made (by hand) by Mosser Glass in America.

Two Healthy Snack Bars

Rob and I have major sweet tooths. I don’t know what it is, but after eating something savoury, we immediately start craving something sweet. Even if we are full.

We both grew up being told that once we have eaten all our dinner, we can have our pudding. (So basically, even if we are stuffed, we will still force a pudding down!) Sugary sweet things will always be a treat to me. And a necessary. Blame it on the parents, eh!

Over the last few years, my baking habits have changed. I no longer bake sugar laden cakes every week. Back in the heady days when I first discovered my love of baking, I was eating a slice of homemade cake nearly everyday. No wonder I went up a dress size!

I had to admit that all the sugar, butter and buttercream (which is again is just sugar and butter) in and on the cakes was not doing me any favours. And my lack of exercise, but thats another story.

Slowly, but surely, I cut down on making cakes. It breaks my heart that I don’t get to practice my main hobby and use my Kitchenmaid mixer as much as I would like too. But Spinderella will last me a lifetime, and I would like a long lifetime in which to use her.

I still really want sugar though! I want something sweet ALL THE TIME!!!! I am addicted!

At first, instead of cakes, I baked flapjacks and snack bars. I absolutely adore flapjacks and they are one of my favourite foods. But they still contain lots of sugar and butter. So the hunt for healthier alternatives was on.

Recently I have been pinning away recipes like a mad thing, check out my board full of healthy snack bars! Thank you internet for providing me with plenty of recipes based around oats, using natural sweetners like maple syrup, honey, dates or bananas instead of sugar, and coconut oil or peanut butter as a fat!

Here are two of my recent favourites that I want to share. For both of these recipes you need a food processor. Sure, it would be nice to have a Magimix or a Kitchenmaid model, but there is no way on earth I would pay £200+ for something that does the same job as my little old £30 job from Phillips. It might not win any awards for design, nor can it manage to grind oats into a fine flour as required in some of the recipes that I have tried (dammit!). But it can cobble together some houmous, veggie burgers and manage to smoosch up a few dates and thats all I use it for! If you don’t have a food processor you might be able to manage making these with a steady hand and a hand blender. Let me know if you can, as I am always looking for ways to reduce my washing up!

The first is this recipe from The Minimalist Baker. Its so moreish and easy to make. Its a bit of a bugger to spread out in the tin to set, but it works well with both Medjool dates and the cheaper Deglet Nour ones. I know as I have tried out both. Its a perfect treat for the 3pm afternoon energy slump and will keep you going until dinner time thanks to its slow burning carbs and all that other good stuff. Try them, you won’t regret it!peanut butter bar
The next recipe is more of a formula than a recipe. I found it here on The Kitchn. I used 1 cup of Medjool dates, 1 cup 50/50 of raisins and cranberries and 1 cup 75/25 of almonds and sunflower seeds. Plus about a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder. Because we all know that added chocolate makes things better.fruit n nut

I mixed my fruits, nuts and seeds purely to keep costs down. Dried fruit and nuts are not cheap, but I am a savvy shopper and I usually get mine from Lidl, Aldi and Grape Tree rather than your traditional health shops. Plus I am sad because I always request my giant tubs of Manuka honey, coconut oil and natural peanut butter for birthday and Xmas presents. Edible bulk buy presents FTW!

Now on to the dates. I was never a fan of dried dates before. They always made an appearance at Xmas time when I was a kid, in those funny oblong containers with their strange plastic stick things to eat them with, and were hard and horrible. But once I tried Medjool dates I was a fan! How can something that is grown on a tree taste so rich, sweet, indulgent and vanilla-ery? I can see why they were called the fruit of the Kings!

Yes, Medjool dates are more expensive, but they are worth it. I have shopped around and the cheapest that I have found is in Sainsburys at £2.15 for 200g. They are in the fridge next to the fruit BTW, in case you head over to the dried fruit baking section like I did. Buy the organic dates and feel smug while you eat your homemade chocolaty energy bars that taste just like expensive Nakd and Trex bars etc!

Going back to all the recipes that I have pinned on Pinterest. To be honest, I don’t think I am going to bother making any of the other date based energy bars, as they are more or less the same recipe again and again, and this recipe/formula is pretty much perfect for me. The fruits, seeds and nuts I have used are all my favourites and they blend together perfectly for just the right level of virtuous sweetness, with a subtle hint of chocolate. Yum.

Parsnip and Banana Cake

My parents gave me a big bag full of parsnips recently that they had grown on their allotment. Thanks to their generosity and green fingered skills we have been eating well lately. I have made the obligatory parsnip soup, a sunday roast with lots of roast parsnips and yet more parsnip soup (I love homemade soup!)

The other day I still had a few left over parsnips, plus a few sad manky brown bananas in my fruit bowl waiting for me to take them to the compost bin, when I suddenly had one of those hey presto moments and thought to myself – boom! Lets make a parsnip and banana cake!

I did a quick Google and found a few recipes online, but in the end I made my own version based on the recipe for carrot cake from my favourite vintage cookbook The Dairy Book of Home Cookery.cake1We both enjoyed this cake, and despite the burnt looking edges it was a very moist and moreish cake. This cake would be lovely with a nice cream cheese frosting on top. I didn’t bother to ice it as I wanted to save a few calories for our eternal (half arsed) dieting quest. Plus the only cream cheese I had in my fridge was the low fat kind with garlic and herbs.

Its really annoying, I find that my oven makes all my cakes have a brown and sometimes dry crust. I have tried using both the fan and conventional settings, but I still get brown edges. I want to bake more photogenic looking cakes for my blog! Maybe I should clean the oven! A word of warning – if you ever come around my house for tea, my cakes taste better than they look, honest!

Ingedients
225g Self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g light brown sugar
75g sultanas (or nuts or choc chips etc. Its up to you, go crazy!)
100g grated parsnip (about 3-4 medium parsnips)
2 ripe bananas
2 medium eggs
150ml oil

Method

  • Grease and line a 20.5cm (8 inch) round baking tin
  • Sift flour and baking powder into your bowl or mixer bowl
  • Add the sugar, sultanas, parsnips, broken up bananas, eggs and oil.
  • Turn on you mixer or beat by hand or with a hand whisk until mixed together nicely.
  • Pour into tin.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 180° for about 1 hour.
  • Cool, ice if you want, slice and enjoy.

cake2

Chocolate Weetabix Slice

Once upon a time, back in the noughties, there was a young (ish) girl called Helen, who once she had her kitchen decorated, started to discover the joys of cooking and baking and she (finally) came over all domesticated. She started to buy and collect recipe books, read food blogs, and she collected lots of recipes that she had torn out of magazines and printed off the internet.

Fast forward six years later to January 2014, where Helen finally got around to making one of the recipes she had printed and had stuck into her (still) unfinished craft project of a homemade recipe book.

She made a recipe she printed from the internet that she thought sounded intriguing. It was for a chocolate, cakey, slicey type thing with Weetabix™ as an ingredient. Helen did not know what to expect when she made this slice, but when she made it she was so pleasantly surprised that she decided to blog about it!weety sliceRight, thats enough heartwarming story telling. Im going to stop blogging about myself in third person and talk straight.

Its hard to describe the taste and texture of this slice, but I would say its somewhere between a  chocolate Hobnob biscuit and a rocky road slice. Plus this is so easy and fun to make (I enjoyed the crushing the Weetabix part! I am easily entertained!) Go on, give it a go, its a good way to have your Weetabix!!

I have made this tray bake twice now and both times Rob and I have practically inhaled it. I have tried and tried to find the original link for this post, but with no luck. All I know is that it was from an Australian site back in 2008 and if you Google for similar recipes, they all seem to be from down under. Scrap that, I found it! I have posted the original recipe on here with a couple of small changes.

weety 2Ingredients
60g dark chocolate
110g butter
1 tablespoon (20ml) golden syrup
3 Weetabix (about 48g total)
100g (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) desiccated coconut
110g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) dark brown sugar
75g (1/2 cup) plain flour
75g (1/2 cup) self-raising flour

Chocolate Icing
140g (1 cup) icing sugar
10g (1 tablespoon) cocoa powder
5g (1 teaspoon) butter, softened
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
6g (1 tablespoon) desiccated coconut, for sprinkling on top of slice

In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate, golden syrup and butter together over a low heat, stirring frequently. When melted, remove from heat.

In a bowl crush the Weetabix by breaking them up with your fingers, add the coconut, brown sugar and flours and stir until combined.

Add the chocolate mixture and mix well. Firmly press the mixture into a slice baking tray lined with baking parchment using the back of a spoon and brute force.

Bake slice for 15 minutes in a preheated oven at 180º.

Next make the chocolate icing while slice is baking.

Remove from oven and cool for one minute before spreading with icing. Sprinkle with extra tablespoon of coconut.

Allow slice to cool to room temperature before cutting into pieces to serve. Store slice in an airtight container. Suitable to freeze.

Chocolate Icing
Sift icing sugar and cocoa together into a medium bowl. Add butter and milk and stir until smooth. The icing should be quite thick at this stage; however, it will spread easily when placed on the hot slice. This part is a bit tricky, but persevere. If you want to skip this part thats fine. The first time I made this I did not bother with the icing. It does not add much, it only makes it a bit sweeter really, if thats your thing.

Carrot and Apple Flapjacks

I love flapjacks. I think I might have mentioned it before once or twice? Maybe?

Today I want to share a yummy recipe that I sort of created. Or rather, I added my own twist to one of my favourite flapjack recipes.

I currently have an abundance of carrots in my fridge. Long story short – my parents have an allotment and have recently had some of their homegrown goodies stolen. Consequently they have frantically dug up as much of their harvest as they can, so if the tea leaf comes back to help themselves again, they will be out of luck!

Can you believe it eh? Some f***er snuck into the allotments and helped themselves to locally sourced, organic, fresh home grown veg. Stick to robbing produce from the man four main supermarkets chains please crims. Steal produce that is GM’ed, has been sprayed with pesticides, has shocking food miles and is rinsed in chlorine. Not the fruits (literally) of my parents hard labour please…… Although when you put it like that, if I ever was to half inch any veg…..

BTW I would like to point out that I am an honest woman, who would never break the law! Im just doing a little forward thinking about lifestyle choices in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Thats all. Because you never know.

Right lets get down to business and share this recipe. And remember peeps, oats are a slow burning fuel food. Eat these because the high GI’s etc will come in handy when you need to run from brain loving creatures!

flapjacksHel’s Pimped Up Healthy(ish) Flapjacks  (Based on this recipe)

Ingredients

  • 113g (4oz) butter
  • 113g (4oz) golden syrup
  • 225g (8oz) porridge oats
  • 56g (2oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 small eating apple, coarsely grated
  • 3 small carrots, coarsely grated
  • 50-100g currants (or sultanas, raisins, dried fruit you fancy/have to hand)
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 50-100g sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas 4. Line a small shallow baking tray with baking parchment. Melt butter and golden syrup together in a pan, over a medium heat, mix well.
  2. In a large bowl mix together oats, flour, cinnamon and coarsely grated peeled apples and carrots, dried fruit and seeds.
  3. Pour the syrup mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. Spread the mixture into the baking try and level with the back of a spoon.
  4. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until firm and golden brown. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into pieces, then leave to cool again. Store in tin for up to 1 week. If you have any kind of restraint that is. Ours lasted two days.

flapYes, I do watch The Walking Dead. It scares me.

Raspberry Bakewell Muffins

Its been National Cupcake Week all this week and to celebrate it I baked some muffins!

Confession time – I feel a bit of a phoney. I have a blog, I love baking, I own a dreamy pink Kitchenaid (I know – I am a lucky gal!) But I don’t bake as much as I used too. Its because this year Rob and I are trying to cut back on treats and lose a little weight. Which we have both achieved, whoop!

So as much as I would love to fill my blog content with scrumptious cakes and bakes, I just cannot justify the sugar content.

Plus, my food photography leaves a lot to be desired!

If I do bake anything these days, it is either a cake to give away, or some kind of oaty, peanut buttery, seeded, low sugar, energy bar type of thing. But to honour National Cupcake Week I baked muffins. Basically a cupcake without the icing.

I think the lines are very blurred between cupcakes and muffins. Muffins tend to be quick, one bowl mixes, and cupcakes tend to be elaborate recipes with a lot of faff, but using more or less the same ingredients as a muffin. Does a muffin become a cupcake as soon as you pipe a shedload of buttercream on it? Or if you don’t ice a cupcake do you call it a muffin? Who knows or cares really?

Personally if it was up to me, I say lets just stop labelling small cakes as muffins or cupcakes, and unify them by calling them muffcakes. Because the name always makes me giggle. And yes, I am stupid and immature.

Anyways, here are my muffcakes!muffcakes

Its another Instagram snap I’m afraid. They did not hang around long enough for me to get my proper camera out to take a snap! To be honest I didn’t intend to blog about them, but because Rob declared that these are the best thing I have baked in a long time, I decided to share them.

I really must have been depriving the poor boy of treats if he thinks these are great! Tee hee! Personally, I don’t think you can better a dark, moist, fudgey chocolate cake, but Rob raved about these and they are on his favourite list.

He is easily pleased when it comes to cake. Or bored of oaty, peanut buttery, seeded, low sugar, energy bar type things!

To make them I used this recipe here, then added my own spin with some frozen raspberries (still frozen) and some almond essence in the mix to make my Raspberry Bakewell muffcakes! Yum!

White Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

So when can you call a recipe your own? I used this recipe here, but I changed one of the ingredients and added another. I had a load of brown bananas to use up, but I wanted to bake something with chocolate chips in it, which resulted in my slight changes.

Who knew that white chocolate and banana compliment each other so well? I’m sure plenty of people have made this combination before me, and I know I will definitely be making this again!

Ingredients
285g/10oz plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
110g/4oz butter, plus extra for greasing
225g/8oz caster sugar
2 free-range eggs (I used 1 medium, 1 large)
4 ripe bananas
85ml/3fl oz Plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 bag white chocolate chips minus a few I munched on

Directions

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy in your mixer.
  2. Add the eggs, broken up bananas, yogurt and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well.
  3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda into the mixer and mix up. Add choc chips and mix a little more.
  4. Pour the cake mixture into a lined loaf tin. Do not do what I did and go against your baking instincts, and over fill your baking tin with the mix. Bake some cupcakes with the leftover cake batter. I just hate wasting food, so poured the whole lot in, so my cake bubbled over the tin and now I really do need to clean my oven!
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 180º for around 1 hour or till done.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.narna bread

Gheeze Louise, banana bread is really hard to photograph, its not the most attractive of cakes, its not a photogenic looker like a rainbow cake or ombre cakes that’s for sure!

But what it lacks in the peacock of cakes department, it makes up for in taste! This was melt in the mouth moist, and the white chocolate chips were perfect sweet lumps of tastiness.

 

A Tasty Flapjack Recipe

I love flapjacks big time. I could easily eat nothing but them for the rest of my days. But instead I will be good and try to eat my leafy greens and five a day.

But what is not to love about flapjacks? They are so tasty and so easy to make, and they have oats in them, so they are good for you, right?

When I first moved in with Rob I could not cook, but I could make a mean flapjack without a recipe. It was the only thing I bothered to learn how to cook from my Mum. I just melted roughly half butter or marg with half the same amount of golden syrup, then poured some oats into the saucepan (no need to weigh or measure the three ingredients – just eyeball them) then baked in a medium oven until it turned brown and done looking (again eyeball it). So simple and fail proof.

Over the years I have baked (and enjoyed) many different recipes for flapjacks including chocolate ones, some with lots of sugar as the main ingredient, ones with mashed bananas in (yum). Plus I have also bought (too) many pre-made flapjacks from shops.

Have you gathered that I really love flapjacks yet? I am slightly obsessed!

My favourite shop bought flapjack is the chocolate chip one from Marks and Spencer for £1. It is such a treat, if you have not tried it do yourself a favour and get one quick. Just ignore the calorie and fat content on the back of the packet like I do!

I read the ingredients on the back one boring lunch break ages ago, and noticed that one of the main ingredients listed was condensed milk. So I googled for a similar recipe and happened upon this recipe here.

I baked this flapjack and sure enough it was amazing! It was just as good as M&S’s one, if I say so myself!

I have only baked it couple of times, as the ingredients are so rich and fattening, and Rob and I cannot stop at just one slice. It is like crack, be it dangerously addictive crack that can make you obese! So this is a indulgent treat that is made every 18 months or so and was my favourite flapjack recipe.

But that has now changed. As of yesterday, my new favourite recipe for flapjack is this one which was published in the Guardian on Saturday.

Salted caramel flapjacks

150g unsalted butter
200g light brown muscovado sugar
100ml milk
1 egg, beaten
175g plain or spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
175g Jumbo oats
3 tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp sea salt

1 Preheat oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.

Line a 20cm x 30cm baking tray with lightly greased baking parchment.

3 Heat the butter, sugar and milk in a saucepan until the butter has melted.

4 Remove from the heat and stir in all the other ingredients, combining well.

5 Press the mixture into the greased tin and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
flap I can kid myself that it is healthy(ier) as it has spelt flour and semi-skimmed not condensed milk in it right?

In sort of-related news, I have recently invested in some decent sea salt (used in this recipe). It’s because I use a little salt (as instructed) for my pizza dough recipe. But I use the cheap 14p value stuff. The other day Rob was chowing down my homemade pizza and while complimenting me on it, he mentioned that the dough was a little sweet. “But I did’nt use any sugar in it” I said!

So the outcome of that meal was that I paid nearly £3 for some of this stuff. I rarely use salt in my cooking, and this is primarily for pizza doughs and future bread making adventures. I figure if I am going to use any salt, I may as well use the good s**t.

Oh and Rob, if you read this, do not use this salt in the garden in the summer to kill the slugs please! Or I will have a fit if you do. Thanks.

Off topic again, but when I got my pretty plate out of the kitchen cupboard to take a picture for my blog. I managed to break three of my teacups!

Dammit, I am such a clumsy so and so! Now I have only got two cups left to smash. Poor vintage china, It deserves so much better than me!crack

I Attempted to Bake Some Bread

But it went completely Pete Tong!

Initially I was not going to bother blogging about this. But a week later I am still laughing to myself about it, so why not!

It started out promising. My dough rose nicely.doughBut when I left it to prove it started to worry me a tad. It did double in size, granted. But it grew outwards instead of upwards.ermAnd even hung over the edge of the baking tray. Oh dear!oh dearAt this point I should have given up and thrown it away like any sensible person would. But I thought I have come this far and maybe some sort of miracle would happen while it was baking in the oven, and I would end up with some delicious white bread.

Nope, did’nt happen.drop dead bread

I joked that it looked like some sort of weird prehistoric sea creature. Rob agreed with me. But I did not find it so funny when he said it!

Still we ate it. It lasted three days. It tasted OK.

Maybe next time I attempt a loaf of bread, it will be more photogenic! I just need to practice loads, and then get some more practice. It has taken me nearly two years to perfect my pizza dough (post coming soon) and I am still experimenting with a wholemeal version. Dough is a tricky beast to master!

Lime and Coconut Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes the other day to send to Rob’s work collegues at a place he freelances at. And I managed to remember to take pictures of them on my pointless purchase of the month this cute little cupcake stand from M&S. Which they call useful on the website BTW!

red and green should not be seen…….

I used this recipe below –

2oz dessicated coconut
1/4 pt milk
4oz butter or margarine
8oz caster sugar
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
8oz SR Flour

Soak coconut in milk for at least 2 hours. Cream the butter and sugar, beat in eggs, flour and salt, then stir in coconut and milk mixture. Bake at 180° for 25-30 minutes.

For the icing I used roughly –

140g/5ozbutter softened
280g/10oz icing sugar
1-2 tbsp hot water
few drops green gel food colouring
1-2 drops lime flavour oil

I did not have enough frosting to ice all 12 cakes though. I got the flavour oil from my trip to The Cake and Bake Show which I attended at Earl’s Court with my mum last month.

Yep, I bought loads of Jubilee cupcake cases in the sale