To me, the essence of baking is sharing. Whether it's a chocolate brownie with Steve once the kids are in bed, fun with sprinkles and garish icing with my boys, a Victoria sponge to share with my girlfriends over a natter (also known as book club), pretty cookies at a babyshower, a fruit cake for Father's Day, a birthday cake for a party, Christmas cake with family, or any of the other endless occasions where some home baking is welcome, the point is the company. The cake is just an added bonus.
This blogging lark is really another way to make baking and cooking into a sociable experience. Ruth from Makey Cakey has expanded on this by allowing us to share celebrating her 30th birthday and letting us get to know some other bloggers a little better at the same time.
She decided to set up an ingredient swap to distract herself from her upcoming 30th. It's really not that bad, Ruth - I'm 33 and probably still about 17 in my mind. I know exactly what they mean when older relatives tell me that they don't think of themselves as old!
In fact, one of the boys in the street came to my house the other day with something for me and when Steve answered the door, the boy handed him a bag and said, "that's for the Mum." The Mum???? I'm a completely different generation from the kids in the street. That is as plain as day to them but it comes as a shock to me!
Anyway, Happy Birthday Ruth!
I was lucky enough to be paired with Baking Addict (yes, I do now know her real name - and her home address - maybe she's a little too trusting ;-) ) from The More Than Occasional Baker. We were then to post a surprise ingredient to our partner. I chose to send some pooping corn because I LOVE IT and Baking Addict made it into some lovely nutty, popcorn, chocolate clusters. You can see her post here. My cunning plan worked as I now have a new recipe to make with popcorn - and it's one the boys will love to help me with.
In return, my VERY generous donor sent me the THREE bottles of essence in the first photo. I was delighted and very excited! I think she sent me three in case I didn't particularly like one flavour or another but I love them all. Obviously the possibilities for making something fantastic were endless. In the end, I chose a route that some might think a bit boring - cupcakes. Well, I chose cupcakes as they are quick and easy but my whole family love them and they are something we can bake together. I usually always do the same straight-forward vanilla cupcake recipe so even though it doesn't seem like it, I have been a little adventurous.
The rose ones have a teaspoon of rose essence in the batter and one in the icing. The icing has no other colouring but that from the essence and is actually a beautiful pale pink but you can't see it in the photos. They are sprinkled with crystallised rose petals.
The pear ones are by far the favourites of Steve and the boys. They have pear essence in the cake and the icing and they also have chopped pear through the cake. They work extremely well.
My favourites, though, are the pineapple ones and these have been a revelation. These are my favourite cupcakes ever! The pear and the rose are both British flavours and the cakes I made with them are lovely and wouldn't look out of place at a nice quiet, demure afternoon tea. The pineapple ones, however, are anything but subtle. In fact, the yellow icing is quite garish but that is quite deliberate to go with the rather exuberant taste! Pineapple is an exotic and vibrant flavour and I wanted the cakes to join in the fun! They have essence in both cake and icing and some chopped pinepple from a tin through the cake. The juicy pineapple in the cake is a juicy, zingy surprise and the coconut sprinkled on top adds a pinacolada party atmosphere.
So, I started off this post saying that I think the essence of baking is sharing. Well, no one else in the house will eat my pineapple cupcakes. I think they are too garish for them. They look like they have come from the 80s! Well, I was born in 1979 and developed my sense of self in the following decade so I think the 80s rock! Surely if you look at the plate above and you're the only one to go for the screamingly yellow cakes, it means that you're the exciting, vibrant, hip, young thing? Yes?
And if I don't have to share them, all the better!
Thanks to Ruth and Baking Addict. xxx