Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animals!

Im on a silly 4pm to midnight shift tonight*, so to kill some time I thought I would share some Christmassy bits on my blog and wish you all a good one.

I must say that its almost become a tradition for me to have a moan about Christmas on here every year. Don’t worry, I will spare you my grumbles! Ive already complained about Christmas music in this post, and what else can I say that I haven’t bitched and moaned about already!

This year I have baked two batches of ugly (but very yummy) frangipane mince pies, made a disastrous Xmas cake and hung less decorations than ever. And thats about all the festive spirit I can muster up these days!

I have got rid of donated a lot of decorations to charity as the older I get, the more clutter seems to bother me. All I want in my lounge is a herd of camp, glittery deers, a tree full of kitschy decorations and a seasonal Mr Potato head. That is enough for me. Its bad taste minimalism, I guess.

Below are a few snaps of our decorations, including an amazing new bauble that my Mum brought me. Who knows, this might be our last Xmas in this house?xmas 15 1xmas 15 2xmas 15 3xmas 15 4As for my cake, well lets just say that my Xmas cake game is really down this year! I usually bake a cake (or two) and cover it with fondant then decorate with more fondant using my cutters. This year I fancied doing something a bit different. I had a vision of a cute, arty forest scene in my head, with fluffy, snow like icing, some strategically placed fir tree decorations and maybe a deer or two (what can I say, I do like my deers at Xmas!) dotted on top of it….bad cake 1This is not quite what I had in mind!

Oh dear, I made my icing way too runny! Plus the cake decoration shops of my town let me down with their tacky offerings, and I ended up buying a Santa sleigh decoration that was too big to fit top of my cake!bad cake 2Next year I am sticking to shop bought fondant icing!

And maybe buying a bigger cake tin!!!

Anyway, have a good bank holiday everyone. Enjoy!

*Its OK, I volunteered for it. The store I work in is hell at the moment, so I would much rather go in when its a bit quieter!

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.

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

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.

 

Crimbo 2012

So we survived the Mayan apocalypse of 21/12/12, and what do you know, it seems I have finally twigged that Christmas is coming (that sneaky bloody Christmas gave me no warning yet again!)

I have enjoyed seeing other bloggers photo’s of their Xmas decorations, and I wanted to put together my own similar post. But this year for the forth Xmas in a row, we have decided not to bother with the decorations.

Let me explain why, its because we are currently having a major sort out of our loft and have started to rip out stuff and do the prep work to decorate our bedroom. So we are busy doing trips to the tip, selling stuff on Gumtree in our spare time and it just feels like its another chore we could avoid. Plus its so close to Xmas now, it will soon be all over and done with!

We delayed putting the tree up because of the carpets coming two weeks ago, after they were fitted we kinda liked our lounge as it was really, so we did’nt rush to do it. It felt special enough as we had waited two years for them!

Our previous excuses are – in 2009 we had packed up and were expecting to move house (although it turned out we did not move until March’10), in 2010 our house was a disorganised mess following the move, we were still half unpacked and living with the decorating’s dusty chaos. Last year in 2011, I was a bit fed up as I was leaving my job and wasn’t feeling very festive, but Rob did put just the tree up all by himself, to try and cheer me up.

What is festive in our house is xmas1

My Mum bought me it!

My Mum bought me it!

Mum treated me during our trip to Tunbridge Wells on Friday!

Mum treated me during our trip to Tunbridge Wells on Friday, it was in the sale already!

An early Christmas pressie from Mum and Dad!

An early Christmas pressie from Mum and Dad!

All bought for me by my Mum (she's the best!). Dunno why she got the bah humbug one!

All bought for me by my Mum (she’s the best!). Dunno why she got me the bah humbug one!

I did make a Christmas cake. Its the first ever one I have baked (I know, call myself a baker!) I used cutters that my mum lent me and it took me nearly 2 hours to decorate it, but I’m quite proud of it none the less!

Annoyingly it has aquired three small dents.

Annoyingly it has acquired three small dents. It was once perfectly smooth, honest!

Oh and Mum gave me the ribbon for the cake. Did you notice a theme? My parents are two of the most generous, caring people I know, and as well as that, my Mum really tries her best to make me more Christmassy! (She loves this time of year, she even has some Christmas cushion covers!)

I think the less fuss you make about Xmas the more “meh” you get about it as the years go by. Well that’s whats happened to me. Blame it on working in retail since the age of 16. Xmas music send shivers down my spine and gives me nightmarish flashbacks of working in hectic supermarkets and shops!

Next year we will put them up. I did once enjoy doing so when I first moved out of home many years ago. I am trying to force myself to not be too bah humbug, after all no one likes a grump this time of year!

Bah humbug merry Xmas to you all! see you on the other side!

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

 

Some Stuff I Baked Last Month

This post is really just an excuse to check in here. I have mentioned on here before about a thousand times, that I want to improve my photography. I guess in order to do so I should really start taking more pictures, so here is some stuff I baked earlier.

A fancy pizza recipe from here.


And malt loaf (we love us some Soreen and I wanted to try making some myself) recipe from here. Note (the edited to look overexposed – honest!) snaps taken with the cake still wrapped in baking paper and in a Roses sweets tin. Who says food styling is hard?

In other news I am a little bit annoyed that my menus have gone to the bottom of my page layout. I told Rob and he kindly took the time to explain how web pages and basic HTML work in great detail. Needless to say I zoned out and took none of it in. Basically what I can gather is that some code has pushed them out and it is something that’s easily fixed. My contribution to the conversation was a typical Helen moment “I bet it was that bloody unicorn poop that did it, that unicorn poop has ****** up my blog” Yup, I said that. And I sometimes wonder why I am not taken seriously!

Also Im off to the New Forest tomorrow for a week away with Rob, my parents, my sister, her partner and my two lovely nephews. Valuable family time doing what we do best, eating and drinking too much (when the boys are in bed of course). I cant wait!

I promise to try harder and to try to take a half decent snap of one of the most photogenic places in the UK………….and maybe read my cameras manual………..maybe……….

Here’s Some I Made Earlier

Due to fitting a new kitchen in our house – which I believe I may have mentioned before on here! I have not been able to bake – until today. And I used my Kitchenaid for the first time!!!! Wheeeee!

That was an interesting experience, let me tell you…..not the mixer, no that was amazing! I love it! I almost cried with happiness when I saw it spin for the first time! Anyway enough gushing!

Well, let me tell you about my first bake in the new kitchen with the Kitchenaid…… To start with I did not bother to think too hard about what to bake with it first. I was just thumbing through one of my recipe books and saw a marble cake recipe, and thought I would give it a go as I have never made one before.

So off I went, all super organised by getting the three eggs required out the fridge, to bring to room temperature before I went to work this morning. I was so excited about what I had planned, my first bake since early February this year. So far so good!

When I made the cake (and experienced the daddy of mixers) it also was a good test for the new kitchen layout, as I tend to make a mess and use every utensil/inch of worktop I have when baking. It was all new to me. And I guess I got a little over excited when using the Kitchenaid…….because I forgot to put the eggs in the cake!

Hey, those are my excuses and I am sticking to them! Luckily I realised my huge clanger about seven minutes into the baking time! So I grabbed the cake out of the oven and weighed up my options. I could either A) continue to bake it and call it a vegan marble cake, but then I remembered I put milk in the cake. From a cow. Or B) I could just try adding in the eggs and hope for the best. Or C) just give up!

I chose option B. So I gave the mixture around five minutes to cool down then poured it into a bowl (it already had tiny lumps of cooked cake around the edges can you believe!) Then mixed the eggs into the warm mixture (thankfully they did not scramble!) Then bunged it back in the oven and prayed to the gods of self raising flour that things would work out for the best.

Well its not WWND but it turned out OK(ish). Sure It doesn’t look pretty, but it tastes nice and is surprisingly moist! My first marble cake turned into a chocolate cake with a few plain sponge specks/lumps scattered in it! Not what you would serve it at a tea party!

I am far too embarrassed to post a picture of my disaster on here, so in the mean time here’s some I made earlier!

Some have been previously shown on here, but my photos were terrible! I tried to improve them on PicMonkey! The bottom circle pictures are of cupcakes which were baked over six months ago for a friends baby shower and the pictures were taken with Rob’s iPhone.

P.S. I have a top secret baking project for Robs B.day in a few days planned! Wish me luck, I think I need it!

P.P.S Big kitchen reveal pictures coming in about a week, we just need to seal edges and get the window sill fitted. Ha- I just realised all that’s left is to seal and sill. Pah ha ha!!