Christmas Cake

Here’s a Christmas lesson, this post was written early and posted late because there are so many things that I’m always trying to do at this time of year. I need to learn to slow down and enjoy the time more.

It’s been an introspective year for me. I’ve thought of so many times in my life I’ like to go back to and tell myself to make different decisions or to make decisions for the right reasons not because of being scared or feeling that there was no choice. But time travel isn’t possible and I’m trying to learn to give myself the same care that I extend to others. To allow myself to know I made the best decisions I could at the time with the information I had. We can’t go back in time but we can go forward with all of the life experience and knowledge we have and make decisions for the right reasons in future.

As I write it’s December 1st and I’m waiting for my Christmas Cake to come out of the oven. It’s at least a month after it ‘should’ have been made and it’s made to a much more simple recipe than the usual recipe I use. But rather than having to try and convince myself it’s not happened that way because I’m never good enough or organised enough or have let anyone down I feel happy it’s done now. I decided to do other things up until now and I decided to make this recipe, not the other one. There really isn’t a sort of person who makes the perfect family recipe Christmas Cake and a sort of person who buys a cake there’s only the sort of person who does what they do with the time they have and deserves to be happy and proud of themselves.

As usual, Mary Berry can be relied on to provide a lovely simple recipe.

I made it a bit more special by soaking the fruit in a mix of sherry and brandy overnight before I started.

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My heirloom electric whisk from the 1980s finally gave up the ghost during the creation of cupcakes for the school Christmas Bizarre so I ended up making this using the food processor as I’ve become much too lazy to cream butter and sugar by hand.

Adding the flour and ground almonds and a little orange essence as we didn’t have almond and it seemed more suitable than peppermint which was the other alternative in the cupboard.

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Had to mix in the fruit by hand after draining off the excess alcohol (which I saved to pour on once the cake is cooked) maybe I should have used a slightly bigger mixing bowl because it was a bit tricky to hold such a full bowl while pouring mixture into the tin.

Once the cake was cooked and had plenty more alcohol poured over the top it is cooled and stored for a couple of weeks before it’s ready for the marzipan and icing.

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Christmas Cake

 

 

 

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Lots of parties.

Almost into the third week so here’s two weeks in one before I have to do three weeks in one!

There was a fifth birthday in our house this week and lots of parties to celebrate so both weeks the baking in the house was cake. Last week I made pumpkin cupcakes which were also seasonal.

This week it was birthday cake.

This is just a regular sponge cake made with the same weight each of self-raising flour, sugar and butter or margarine as 3 eggs plus a teaspoon of vanilla essence. The batter was split into three bowls and each one coloured with a different gel food colouring. When baked and cooled it was iced with shop bought buttercream icing and covered in rainbow sprinkles.

Slice of rainbow cake with sprinkles on top

Pumpkins are in all the shops at the moment. It’s a bit soon for carving if you want them to be still fresh on Halloween though plus I hate all the waste so I’m always looking for ways to use what’s emptied out for carving. This recipe requires pureed pumpkin which can be made by baking the pumpkin then removing the seeds and skin or by removing seeds and skin and then boiling the chopped up flesh. It needs to be well strained to remove as much water as possible before being pureed.

I used this recipe which is easy to follow and required things that were already in my cupboard.

The wet ingredients are mixed in a food processor then added to the dry ingredients.

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I found it a bit of a liquid batter which made a challenge for getting into the cupcake cases. Best method seemed to be pouring from the bowl which also works your arm muscles! Which explains the messy cake tray.

img_20171018_211146.jpgI needed to make dairy free icing rather than cream cheese icing but apparently failed to photograph after I iced so this is the finished cupcakes. Without the icing, they were almost like muffins. The taste team approved as did the party guests. If I get time and another pumpkin I might try for a low sugar version.

 

 

Back in the kitchen happy place

DSC_0329Tring out some new flour in my sourdough this weekend. The rolls are a mix of wholemeal and rye flour. They’re made with honey and butter so are sweet and soft. Not my favourite but I wanted them to go with soup which is next on my list along with more flapjack of course. The loaf is made with the regular wheat starter but then all spelt flour. It tastes amazing, the perfect mix of soft middle and crunchy but not too hard crust. I’m thinking the same recipe could be made into baguette shapes and would even make the fussy teenagers happy.

This week we’re almost back on it with the older kids routine which is making everyone a bit less stressed, although we’re still working on some kind of screen time compromise that doesn’t suit anyone!

It’s been the last week at home with one afternoon of trying out school for the youngest. Such a mix of emotions. Not looking forward to having to get out of the house in time for school every day but very much looking forward to routine and time to do things other than child care better.

Baking for fun partly motivated by having forgotten to buy any treats for lunch boxes this week. Back to good old Mary Berry Fast Cakes. These are Chocolate Fudge Squares and live up to every part of their name as expected.

The only issue being they sunk in the middle. Sorted by adding extra icing to make it look flat. So for those who like icing the middle pieces are the ones to aim for!

Extremely yummy, not at all healthy.

Emotional

DSC_1187This blog is about cupcakes a little bit but it’s also about friends and family and how feelings are ok. I made so many cupcakes this week, vanilla ones, chocolate vegan ones, even gluten free ones which tasted good. Why? Because it was my birthday (an age with a 0 in it) and I wanted to celebrate having reached a point in my life where I have friends I can count on and who I love to spend time with. I wanted a party where I didn’t have to be the centre of attention because my friends know and love me just as I am and where I could show them how much I love them all with cake. Because I’m not always good at expressing myself but I’m good at making cake.

I am also blessed to have many lovely and loving people in myDSC_1188 family (not least my wonderful mum who supported me through all of the stress and shopping and organising and cleaning) and the same day was filled with many emotions as my kind, principled, loving father-in-law passed away. Even when you know that someone is very ill and have plenty of warning it’s still a shock when that moment comes. So there was sadness, I will never see his smile again or hear him say ‘ah they’re alright’ when I tell off one of my children. We will miss him more than we probably know. But there was also relief as his pain is over and he’s at peace now and he died with all his children and his partner and sister around him in his own bed knowing he is loved. And even surrounding the sadness there was joy. The joy that we knew him and have many wonderful memories and the joy that comes from the comfort of your friends sharing the downs as well as the ups with open and loving hearts.

Life is full of beginnings and ends and celebrations and hard times and all of the mundane day to day in-between. But if life is also full of love all of those times and all of those feelings are OK. It’s OK to be happy and OK to be sad sometimes and it’s OK to share that with each other.

Making so many (over 100) cupcakes meant freezing them before icing them on the day.

Which worked really well except that chocolate cupcakes’ wrappers peeled away as they defrosted. The gluten free cupcakes which finally worked well and tasted good were made using Doves Farm gluten free self-raising flour with their own recipe https://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/recipes/fairy-cakes/

I also made vegan and gluten free scones – more on that next week!

Three weeks in one go

I’ve been making positive decisions over the last three weeks. Some of them have been decisions to do things other than spending time on the computer which is why the baking has happened but the blogging hasn’t.

It’s been a few weeks of thinking about so many things that are completely out of my control. The things that are either shit that happens because that’s just how the world is and the things that are the consequences of bigger life choices that I’ve made. My heart is very much in one day being able to go back to my job of being a birth doula -if you’re saying ‘a what?’ click here. But not dwelling on that as it can’t happen in the next couple of years is easier said than done. Making smaller positive choices within the confines of what is possible for me right now does help but it doesn’t quiet the longing in my heart completely.

In our wider family we’re being forced to face the fact sometimes people have to leave you before you’re ready to let them go and cancer is really shit. There are positive choices you can make to value and love people but sometimes hard times come and it’s ok to be sad, it’s ok to not be ok.

When things are not ok chocolate cake can’t fix anything but it’s still nice to have some.

This recipe hasn’t got eggs and I made it with almond milk so it was completely vegan. I was also in a hurry and I took it out the tin too quickly so it crumbled but it still tasted really good.

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The next week my project at the insistence of my kitchen assistant was strawberry cupcakes. They tasted amazing, too amazing, the taste team was either not available or apparently don’t like strawberries, except the kitchen assistant who didn’t like the icing and then refused to eat any more cakes. Long story short I ate them all. It wasn’t a good decision but I couldn’t help myself.

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And it led to a very positive decision to stop saying I need to do something about my health and start actually doing something. And so the last week has included a lot of making smoothies and salads and no coffee drinking. I’ve gone a bit hardcore to start off but I’m working on a new lifestyle, not a temporary quick fix so I’m planning to mellow as I  learn.

We did a little Easter Baking. It was fun and I think we did a good job of making them like the picture but I don’t know what they taste like.

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Cupcakes for all

It’s been a long week. This blog and the time spent doing some fun baking is now 7 days overdue. But some weeks it takes all the positive decisions I have to get to the end of each day without giving up and the whole point is to find the fun and the joy not to give myself something more that I have to do.

It’s difficult for me to feel I’ve done enough when ‘all’ I’ve done is parenting and cleaning, cooking etc all week but it’s something I’m trying to call myself out on. I know it’s important to look after yourself to have the energy to care for others but sometimes the most important thing to do for yourself is to go to bed early and ignore the ‘you’ve not done enough’ feelings.

I’ve a daughter with a cupcake obsession and an event coming up so today we were thinking about perfecting cupcakes. Vanilla cupcakes made by weighing two eggs then matching the same amount of butter, sugar and self-raising flour and a teaspoon of vanilla flavour are so simple but work so well.

The kitchen assistant’s style of putting the batter in the cases was a little random but very enthusiastic and I managed to pull them together and the cakes taste good. Now we just have to keep working on our icing skills.

Maybe it’s like with the pancakes and we just need better equipment or maybe we need a good YouTube tutorial.

Once the kitchen assistant was distracted I also decided to see if the vegan brownie recipe would work as cupcakes. They cooked quicker but tasted just as good.

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So tomorrow to find a good gluten free cupcake recipe.

Lots of bananas to use up and one or two raspberries

Had lots of bananas to use us which often happens here as we’re not fast enough banana eaters, mostly due to only 2 of 5 family members being  in the banana eating team!

Luckily 4 out of 5 will eat banana related baked goods so we have a lot of banana bread, this one was a Mary Berry recipe:

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But we still had more banana and I wanted something to take to my sister in law who’s a new mummy when we went to meet our niece for the first time found this recipe for sugar free banana and date flapjacks http://www.mumsnet.com/food/recipe/259-Sugar-free-banana-and-date-flapjacks its a bit different to other flapjack recipes because it doesn’t require melting in a saucepan first:

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Just mix together the banana and dates then add the dry ingredients

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And bake

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Failed to remember all the cakes when setting out for our visit so the family ate up the banana bread and the the muffins and this went to breastfeeding support group and was enjoyed although it was a little dry for my taste, going to experiment with the recipe and see if I can improve it next time I have banana to use up.

At the request of the no banana brigade I also made some chocolate cupcakes with raspberries in half of them (not everyone eat raspberries they like to keep me on my toes)  using this recipe http://rebeccabakescakes.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/week-41-chocolate-raspberry-muffins.html

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Lovely easy to mix batter

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Raspberries on top

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Lesson learned don’t overfill when you’re going to add fruit too. Very yummy if not all that healthy.