Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Robot Party.

My baby boy had a robot party this year for his 4th birthday.

The boys helped me make the cake-pops for the first time this year.  Rufus made some rather odd monster ones - very cute! The robot pops are copied straight from Bakerella's book. 

I also made a three layer chocolate cake and kept the decoration fairly simple because of a lack of time.

We had a bouncy castle and all our favourite friends round and it was such a lovely day.

The bunting was made especially for Rufus by Especially For.  She made our owl bunting last year so I asked if she would do robots for us this year and she did a lovely job. 

And, of course, we made our own robot - Snappy!

Here are a couple of photos of the birthday boy in his robot T-shirts.  The green one came as a present from Little Macaroon and the other one I had ordered for him to wear at his party but it didn't come in time. 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

My Cookbooks and Where They Live.

On the last day of July, Dom is going to do a round up of this month's Random Recipes and it is going to be a nosey-parker's dream!
Randomly enough, he has asked us all to post photographs of our cookbook collections and already I have been able to snoop into lots of lovely houses in the posts already up.  I think there is really something wonderful about seeing how other people arrange their homes, isn't there?

So, here are my photos.

The top photo is in my kitchen.  Those are the books that are out in the kitchen because I have been using them ar plan to in the next week.  My Kenwood Chef used to fill that space under the cupboards but, as you can see, it has now been crowded into a tiny area.

Now actually when I went to take photos of my cookbooks, I found that those from the top photo were actually being used to help with robot manufacture.  Here is the photo with Snappy the robot.

The majority of my cookbooks live in the book shelf in the garage.  Not the most idyllic of places but it is handy for the kitchen.

It is a hugely reduced collection as it was pared down before we moved house just over a year ago. Previously the whole bookshelf would have been filled. I do have loads of food magazines and Guardian Weekend cuttings all over the house and I often get cookbooks from our local library.  I LOVE my library service.  I reserve a book online (and have yet to find a book they don't have), it gets delivered to my local library, they text me when it is ready to collect (usually 2-3 days later) and there is no charge at all for this amazing service.  I am just away to order HFW's Everyday Veg book so I expect I'll get it very soon.  

Thanks Dom for an easy and fun challenge this month. 

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Essence Of Baking

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