Victoria Sponge Birthday Cake

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I love a good birthday cake, and this year we have a lot of important (big!) family birthday celebrations! This summer saw a big birthday celebration for my (step) Father in Law! After some discussion with my Mother in Law we settled on his favourite cake – a Victoria Sponge! I have never made a Victoria Sponge before, but I thought it turned out well! I used strawberries to decorate and thought it looked cute! Here is the recipe I followed if you fancy making your own!

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Ingredients:

  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 225g/8oz caster sugar, plus a little extra for dusting the finished cake
  • 225g/8oz self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 225g/8oz baking spread, margarine or soft butter at room temperature, plus a little extra to grease the tins.
  • Strawberries for decorating (plenty, so that you can ‘test’ some too!)

The filling:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 140g icing sugar, sifted
  • drop vanilla extract (optional)
  • half a 340g jar good-quality strawberry jam

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 190c. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins (in hindsight, lining them with baking paper would be a good idea!) In a large bowl, beat all the cake ingredients together until you have a smooth, soft batter.
  2. Split the mixture between the two tins, remember to smooth the surface. Then bake for about 20 mins until golden and the cake springs back when pressed. Turn onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely (mine ended up with a crossing pattern on the top from the rack, so I’ve still not worked out 100% the best way to cool the cake!)
  3. For the filling, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, then gradually beat in icing sugar. Beat in vanilla extract if you’re using it. Spread the butter cream over the bottom of one of the sponges, top it with jam and sandwich the second sponge on top.
  4. Use some of the buttercream to stick strawberries to the top of the cake in a pattern (I went for a circle around the edge) Then dust with a little icing sugar before serving.

As a side note, it didn’t travel so well because I hadn’t let in cool enough (ahh time, that precious commodity!!) so it ended up arriving with the top half mostly slid off!! Hahaha! Oh well, I mashed it back together and I’m told it tasted lovely! Thank goodness I have an understanding family!! 🙂

Cookie Bowls

The family BBQ for Father’s Day was a great excuse for some baking. It’s been a little while, but I still love to bake and it’s fun to create new things sometimes! I wanted to create an exciting pudding for the children to enjoy, but also the grown ups too! Sometimes it is nice to have a pudding that brings out your inner child! I wanted to pretend that it was summer at least, so that meant an ice cream pudding! One of my favourite ice creams is Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough, so I decided to work cookies into it by creating a cookie bowl. It was so easy to do, I will definitely be making these again! The recipe I got from my sister, and it is so good it is now the only one I use!

Ingredients:

  • 125g soft butter
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Cream the butter and sugars together.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla, beat well.
  3. Add flour and salt, making sure everything is mixed well.
  4. Add the chocolate chips and mix evenly.
  5. Melt some butter and cover the inside of a muffin tray.
  6. Get a ball of cookie dough mixture and press down around the inside of the muffin tray creating 12 bowls.
  7. Bake at 180 c for 10 minutes.
  8. Take out and let cool before transferring to a wire tray to finish cooling and setting.

The bowls look pretty full when they come out of the oven, but they settle back down during the cooling process.

We then filled with vanilla ice cream, covered in chocolate sauce and smarties!! Although this part is just a suggestion! Fill it with whatever you fancy! Delicious! Have a go, let me know what fillings you used!!

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Time For Food! Weaning Your Baby

As with all parenting, you are just getting into the swing of things, you seem to have found your groove and then something else happens! You’ve just got over the four month sleep regression (oh the sleep deprivation!!) and you’re back into some kind of rhythm and then it is time for weaning! Quite often this gets discussed early, generally at around 4 months. It is often assumed that babies are hungry at this point and that is why they are waking, you may hear people suggesting baby rice or porridge to help fill baby up so they sleep through. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but babies are not really designed to sleep through! The four month sleep regression is to do with their brain development, so whilst it may not feel like it at the time, it is in fact a good thing!! Just remember, you are doing a great job, there is no guide book to fit all babies – you know your baby better than anyone, go with your gut!

So we were rapidly approaching the 6 month mark and I was a bit worried I hadn’t done much reading on the next step!! Fortunately for me I have a good friend who’s daughter is a year older than my son, so she is great to turn to for advice! I knew she had done Baby Led Weaning with her daughter and it seemed simple enough and I knew that her little girl was a good eater and very independent. It was an approach I wanted to take and, fortunately again, so did my husband! Basically you have Traditional Weaning, which involves feeding purees with a spoon to a baby. Some people choose to start this early, and even some packaging in supermarkets says from 4 months. It is worth noting that this labelling is in the process of changing and the NHS recommends you start weaning from around 6 months. Baby Led Weaning, which often gets called a “new fad” is in fact a much older practice. It does what it says on the tin! The baby leads the way. There is just “normal” food, as in what you or I would eat. They get to explore new tastes and textures and learn about how food actually looks! There are not a lot of rules to remember, just no honey, whole nuts or cow’s milk before 1 year old. Although cow’s milk should be used when cooking (such as porridge) just use whole milk. The only other thing you should look out for is how you cut grapes (length ways, not width ways).

The idea of BLW is that the baby learns to chew before swallow. If you are concerned about choking then I would go on a First Aid course (they are often offered through children’s centres or NCT groups), but it is worth noting that research shows that children are more likely to choke on purees than whole foods. This is not to say that choking will happen! A babies gag reflex is much further forward than an adult and is how they move food forward in their mouths. If you would like to find out more about BLW I would recommend the Baby-Led Weaning book and Baby-Led Weaning cookbook by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. This will give you a better understanding to make an informed choice! There are groups on Facebook which are dedicated to BLW where advice and recipes can be swapped. It is worth noting that these groups are not there to debate which method is “better” but to support those who have made the choice one way or the other. They are designed to be supportive and act as a guide for people looking for advice.

I am still in the early stages of BLW, so we are all about exploring new foods! Don’t be frightened if it takes your baby a while, remember they are getting the nutrition they need from your milk or formula (not a debating point) and they are just starting to learn about food. There will come a point where they start eating it, and this will increase and their need for milk will decrease. This is like rolling, crawling, walking, talking…..well everything they do! It takes time, it’s a learning process and you are there to support them along the journey. It is a developmental stage, and an exciting one. If you are able to I would highly recommend hearing Gill Rapley talk about it all! It was fascinating and informative and certainly helped clarify things in my mind!

I’ve started documenting our journey with BLW through Instagram! So pop on over and see what I’ve been making and baking! I will start to put some recipes on here for you to try! What is your favourite food to share with your baby? Any recipe wins you want to share?

Meatballs with pasta, eggy bread and porridge oat sticks with raspberries!

Sickness and parenting, not a good mix!

It’s horrible when you have a sick baby. They can’t tell you what’s wrong and you battle to sooth them through nightmare nights that seem to last eons. They seem to revert and only sleep upright on you and you lay there stressing that each breath seems hard work for them. Surrounded by calpol, snotty rags and tissues, saline solution and breathing in the vapour plugin you wonder if it will ever end. But it does, and they will return to their normal selves. However, by then, more often than not, the parents have caught the cold! Argh!!! What happens when the parent is sick?!

There is no day off. No calling in sick before a certain time, so that you can crawl back under the duvet and rest. There is no extra sleep to recover, you just have to keep going. Your baby does not understand that you are ill! When I have headaches seems to be the time my son wants to practice “singing” at the top of his lungs! My brain feels like it is going to explode! But through the knife like sensation cutting through your eyeballs, you have to try and keep smiling and going through some sort of routine, because it is not their fault and they just don’t get it! I have been pretty poorly lately and that included sinus pain (oh my god bending over to pick up the boy was excruciating each time!) and each day I have been waiting for his Dad to walk through the door! He has been amazingly helpful and been finishing the DIY project too, I have managed to get some rest in the evenings. Trouble is there is always that evening meal to sort out.

So this time I’ve been thinking. We have started our Baby Led Weaning journey (messy but fun!) and we are constantly striving to be healthier and I am starting to enjoy cooking a nice meal. After 4pm tends to be the witching hour in our house (did I say hour?! Haha! Hour! Try until bedtime!) he can be okay a little longer, it depends when he had his nap, but this also does not help our cooking! We have been juggling him, DIY, sorting the house and all other activities into this short time. Being ill has also meant that I just can’t think straight to sort what we are having for tea, let alone doing it! My husband has been resourceful and made omelettes and found a pasta bake jar to use (must have these in for “emergencies”!!!)  so we haven’t resorted to takeaways just yet! I just want to make tea time easier! Then I remembered the slow cooker! Oh the slow cooker! How did I forget about you?! I am now in the middle of compiling a 4 week meal plan so that there is variety, but I don’t have to think about what meals we fancy – it will be already chosen! There of course will be more freedom at the weekend, when we have at least a little more free time! But I think that if we do 2 big slow cooker recipes a week, we will have enough to have leftovers the following night and the stress of cooking will be removed! Well, that’s the theory anyway! I’ll let you know how it goes!!

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Do you have any tips for eating healthily in the week, but quickly too? Also any slow cooker recipes that are a win in your house would be warmly welcomed!

Easter cake – Hot Chocolate Cake

I love chocolate……I mean Easter! Who am I kidding?! I LOVE chocolate in all its beautiful forms! I would bathe in the stuff if I could! Christmas 2015 went spectacularly wrong with me having been hospitalized with my DVT and just before I was hospitalized again on Boxing Day; it was a brief window where I cried all day in agony terrifying my four nieces (as well as the rest of my family). So for Easter 2016 we decided to try and recreate Christmas in some form! I love a good roast dinner, so I was thrilled to be able to actually eat this one (my brother in law is a superb cook!) This time the emphasis was on puddings though! I volunteered myself for a chocolate cake and took to the internet for inspiration! A quick Google search and I found a cake design I loved! I then went in search of a recipe and settled on the Hot Chocolate cake recipe in my Hummingbird Cake Days recipe book (the cakes all look so amazing I drool over the book!)

The recipe was for 12 cup cakes, but I thought it would work to make a cake! I cooked it for longer than the recipe suggests, as it was a larger quantity! I made two cakes to sandwich together. Exact same ingredients. Same mixer. Same oven. Same me. Same, same, same! They turned out two completely different sizes!! Hilarious! So glads I don’t bake for a living!! Still, buttercream covers all right?!?!?! I spent a lot of my time making the decorations for the top; it’s modelling, but with icing which is fun and delicious! (You really do have to test these things!) It was a battle as I had to keep stopping and sorting my sad boy who was not having a good day! I find the best thing to do when modelling with icing is to have lots of icing sugar powder available because the heat from your hands can make it all really sticky. I also just use cold water as “glue” to hold the different parts together. Also I think the homemade look is important!

I made the buttercream icing (which covers ALL  – my sister is now using it as foundation!!) I added half again to the recipe so i definitely had enough…..to eat as I made it! I carefully and gracefully applied the buttercream (kinda threw it at the cake and hoped it would stick!) then I placed the Orange Matchmaker ‘fence’ all the way around the outside to further disguise any mistakes! Then I sprinkled a crushed up Flake chocolate bar on the top as the mud and added the decorations. It looked pretty good if I do say so myself! Everyone seemed to really enjoy it! Although there is a lot left over…..so will take it for Easter mark two at the in Laws I think tomorrow!!

I would love to see other Easter treats! What did you make? What was your favourite Easter treat?

Diam Bar Brownies

Continuing on my quest for an awesome ingredient for my brownies I decided to try Diam bars. Now I love Diam bars, can even remember the advert from when I was little (Armadillos!!) but my husband doesn’t – he still ate most of the brownies! Initially I used 2 bars, but that was not enough, so I remade them with more! The ingredients and method don’t change, it’s just the one final ingredient that does! What do you think? Would you try it?

Ingredients:

  • 400g caster sugar
  • 250g melted butter (nice and easy because it is a block of butter!)
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or a few sprinkles!)
  • 4 Diam Bars

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C (gas mark 4)
  2. Melt butter, mix in bowl with sugar.
  3. Add cocoa powder to the bowl and mix well.
  4. Pour in the vanilla extract and mix well.
  5. Crack the eggs into the bowl and mix.
  6. Measure out flour, add baking powder and salt to the flour.
  7. Add the dry ingredients a bit a time and mix well. I add about a quarter at a time and mix in so as not to overwhelm the mixture.
  8. Smash up the Diam Bars and add to the mix. Stir well to ensure it is even.
  9. Grease tray (mine is 11 x 7 inches) using the butter packet.
  10. Split the ingredients in two (for a tray the size of mine). Pour one half into the tray and flatten.
  11. Put into the oven, check after 5 minutes. Put in for another 5-10 minutes depending on your oven!
  12. Put on wire tray to cool. Repeat with second half of mixture.
  13. Cut into squares however big you fancy!
  14. Test a piece (or two) with a nice hot cup of tea!!!

Definitely my favourite so far!! But I must further my quest……..what should I include next?

 

Chocolate Orange Brownies

I love biscuits as you all know, but I also love cake! When I was pregnant I had visions of me being an amazing Mum who had time to bake all the time and would always have lovely cakes or biscuits in for visitors……hahahaha! That is so funny now! Mostly, when I actually have time to make some sort of cake, I eat it myself – or my husband eats most of it before it’s even made it to a tin! Still, totally worth making!! I decided one day that I could put alternatives to walnuts in brownies, and since then I have been experimenting to see what works well in a brownie! These are my Chocolate Orange Brownies, my husband’s favourite chocolate!

Ingredients:

  • 400g caster sugar
  • 250g melted butter (nice and easy because it is a block of butter!)
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or a few sprinkles!)
  • 1 chocolate orange (minus 1 piece that I ate when I opened it!!)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C (gas mark 4)
  2. Melt butter, mix in bowl with sugar.
  3. Add cocoa powder to the bowl and mix well.
  4. Pour in the vanilla extract and mix well.
  5. Crack the eggs into the bowl and mix.
  6. Measure out flour, add baking powder and salt to the flour.
  7. Add the dry ingredients a bit a time and mix well. I add about a quarter at a time and mix in so as not to overwhelm the mixture.
  8. Smash up the chocolate orange and add to the mix. Stir well to ensure it is even.
  9. Grease tray (mine is 11 x 7 inches) using the butter packet.
  10. Split the ingredients in two (for a tray the size of mine). Pour one half into the tray and flatten.
  11. Put into the oven, check after 5 minutes. Put in for another 5-10 minutes depending on your oven!
  12. Put on wire tray to cool. Repeat with second half of mixture.
  13. Cut into squares however big you fancy!
  14. Test a piece with a nice hot cup of tea!!!

I normally use my Andrew James food mixer, but this also works by hand! What extra ingredient would you add to your Brownies?