Sunday, 15 May 2022

Passion Fruit Curd Mother's Day Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for Mother’s Day for my mum, my mother-in-law - and me!

I’ve developed quite a taste for passion fruit recently - Passoa passion fruit liqueur is delicious and could definitely be used in baking, but since my four year old daughter was going to have these cupcakes as well I wasn’t going to use alcohol. Instead, I got the passionfruit flavour from a combination of yogurt - papaya, passion fruit and mango flavour, from Morrisons - and passion fruit curd (The Cherry Tree brand, from Ocado).

I wanted a light cupcake using yogurt in the cake mix and these were so light and airy, they probably aren’t robust enough to put a spoonful of curd into the middle but I did anyway (it just makes them a bit messy when you eat them!).

Here is the recipe I used:

125g margarine or butter, softened

150g sugar

2 eggs

150ml yogurt - I used papaya, passion fruit and mango flavour from Morrison's 

225g self-raising flour

1 heaped tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

Passionfruit curd - I used the Cherry Tree brand from Ocado

For the icing:

500g icing sugar

250g butter, softened

Passionfruit flavouring to taste - for example you could add a spoonful of the passionfruit curd, or passionfruit liqueur if the cakes are for adults.

Preheat oven to 180C. Cream the butter and the sugar then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the yogurt, then fold in the flour, baking powder and salt.

Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for around 15-20 minutes depending on the size until the tops are golden brown.

Allow to cool, then using a teaspoon make a small well in each cupcake and add a spoonful of passionfruit curd.

To make the buttercream, cream together the butter and icing sugar and add a spoonful of passionfruit curd, or a few drops of passionfruit liqueur if for adults only - you may need to adjust the quantity of icing sugar if the mixture is too runny.

Using a piping bag and a nozzle, pipe swirls onto the top of the cupcakes. 

I decorated these cupcakes in different ways:

SuckUK customisable cookie stamp - this is a wooden stamp that comes with a plastic disc and little letters, that you insert into the disc to make the message of your choice. You can stamp this onto a cookie before it has baked, or stamp onto a circle of fondant icing, as I did here. I've had this piece of equipment for ages but this was the first time I had used it.

It was quite fiddly to get the letters into the right places, and took a bit of trial and error to work out if they were all the right way around; there isn't a huge amount of space for a message but I managed to get 'happy' across the top, 'mothers' day along the bottom and 'day' in the middle. However, there was only one of most letters and not enough to spell out 'happy' for instance as there was only one 'p', so I had to stamp the missing letter separately. It didn't quite look the same and I was surprised given that 'happy birthday' would be, to me, the most obvious message to use on the cookie stamp that there weren't enough letters to make it! Then I piped some small buttercream flowers around the edge.

Wilton Make Any Message Letterpress Set - this was also something I received as a gift several years ago. The letters are bigger than on the SukUK stamp so I just pressed 'mum' into a circle of fondant icing and placed it on top of each cupcake with a little buttercream. Then I piped some buttercream flowers along the top and bottom.

Piped flowers: I used two different colours of buttercream (pink and purple, though the latter looks a bit grey in this photo), and two different nozzles to pipe a swirl and some smaller flowers onto each cupcake and added some edible silver balls on top.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Strawberry Milkshake Easter Cake

Having guests over Easter is always a good excuse for baking and I find cakes easier than desserts to make in advance. So I made this after work in the evening and decorated it first thing in the morning, in  time for my sister and niece to arrive.

The cake is a strawberry milkshake cake, so called because of the secret ingredient - Nesquik! (For those not familiar with this childhood staple, Nesquik is a powdered flavouring to add to milk, which comes in strawberry or banana flavour. It has been around since I was a child in the 80s, if not even longer!).

I recently made an Oreo cake for my husband’s birthday which I haven’t blogged about yet - it was the most delicious moist chocolate cake, and I decided to create a cake along similar lines. That cake used cocoa powder - and boiling water, to which I attribute the moistness - so for this one, as I wanted a fruity spring flavour but with an ingredient of a similar texture to cocoa powder and suddenly remembered Nesquik!

 This is the recipe I adapted, using Nesquik in place of cocoa powder, though I only used the recipe for the sponge and not the buttercream or chocolate ganache.

For the buttercream I made a standard butter and icing sugar combination, adding in some strawberry syrup for flavour and colour. I filled the three layer cake and then piped some swirls on the top, before colouring some more buttercream purple and green, to pipe more flowers and little bits of green (foliage, I guess) in between. 

I then decorated the top with Easter marshmallows (you could also use mini eggs if young children aren’t going to eat it) and a little pink glimmer sugar. The ‘hoppy Easter’ cake topper is a plastic sign that my husband printed for me with his new 3D printer, which I love!

Friday, 15 April 2022

Easter Imprint Plunger Cookies

I’m ever hopeful that one day I will develop the knack of decorating cookies so they don’t look like a child has done it, and have resigned myself to thinking I need to book a place on a Biscuiteers course.

But in the meantime I decided to have another go at making and decorating some Easter biscuits. I used a standard sugar cookie recipe like this one:

2800g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

170g butter, softened

150g caster sugar

1 egg

a few drops of vanilla flavouring

Cream together the butter and sugar and then beat in the egg and vanilla flavouring. Next fold in the flour, baking powder and salt.

Knead until you have a ball of dough and wrap in clingfilm. Ideally place in the fridge for at least an hour (though I often skip this part!).

When you are ready to use the dough, roll it out on a lightly floured surface and cut out using cutters.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C - the baking time will depend on the size and thickness of your cookies, but you don't want them to be overbaked, so I would recommend 10-12 minutes then checking if they look like they need longer.

For Christmas I got a set of Easter cookie cutters (which seemed odd to my sister who got them for me, but as I pointed out, my birthday is right after Easter so I would have had to wait a year before I could use them!).

I like these cutters because they have a design that imprints into the dough, and you use the little plunger to push the cookie out. When they are baked, the design did lose a little definition but could still be seen quite clearly.

I used the design as a guide for icing, piping royal icing in different colours and snipping the tiniest piece off the end of a piping bag rather than using a nozzle. Even then I found it really hard to decorate them neatly!

Sunday, 3 April 2022

40th Birthday Card Exploding Box Card

As my school friends (and I) were turning 40 all in the same year, I wanted to make them each a special birthday card for the occasion, using a different type of card design for each one. I had made an exploding boxcard before and used the same template for this one.

You can use a different design on each of the four sides but I decided the card  would look more professional with the same design on each so I used a diamond-patterned paper in what I thought was a nice range of colours – primarily reds, purples and pinks with some other shades too. The base of the card was a purple and white polka dot design, again from a patterned paper, which worked well with the diamond design.

My pop-up elements of this card were a ‘Happy birthday’ die cut, a glittery ‘40’ sticker and a small die cut sentiment saying ‘Life begins at 40!’ mounted onto a small piece of card cut with pinking scissors. I actually bought that in a small pack from Ebay but it’s quite easy to make your own – if you have the time!


Monday, 14 February 2022

Jammie Dodger Heart Cake

This cake is inspired by Jammie Dodger biscuits, which have two layers sandwiched together with jam, and a heart shape cut out from the top biscuit layer to show the jam underneath. It’s very easy to make and fun for Valentine’s Day or someone who loves a Jammie Dodger biscuit!

I used a giant cookie silicon cake pan, which has two parts and lets you bake a cake where the sponges have fluted edging and flowers and also the word ‘cookie’ on the top so they look like giant biscuits.

I used a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out a piece from the top layer to show the jam underneath.

The recipe itself is a pretty simple one:

175g butter, softened

175g caster sugar

3 eggs

175g self-raising flour

1 tsp vanilla flavouring

50ml milk

For the filling

150g butter, softened

300g icing sugar

Strawberry jam


Preheat oven to 180C.

Cream together the butter and the sugar then mix in the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of the flour each time. Fold in the remainder of the flour. Finally mix in the vanilla flavouring and the milk.

Spoon into two greased cake pans and bake for 20 minutes.

When cool, use a heart shaped cookie cutter or cut around a heart template to make a heart shaped hole in the top layer of your cake.

Cream together the butter and icing sugar to make buttercream and spread over the bottom part of the cake. Spread a layer of jam on top, making sure the jam is thick enough in the centre of the cake (where your heart shaped hole will go) that the buttercream can’t be seen. Place the top layer on top of your cake and enjoy.

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Valentine's Chocolate Bark

Chocolate bark is a flat slab of chocolate covered with things like nuts, dried fruit, sweets or with a different colour chocolate swirled through it. I decided to make some chocolate bark with my daughter for Valentine’s Day and made up a recipe as I went along (with a nod to Marks & Spencer’s Percy Pig Choc Corn which I had at Christmas). This makes plenty for a family to enjoy or to give to three or four people in little gift bags.

You need:

300g white chocolate

Pink food colouring

Handful of gummy sweets - I used Haribo Heart Throbs which are usually part of their star mix but you can buy them separately especially at this time of year - I got a box in Poundland Handful of Smarties or M&Ms. I was going to just pick out the pink smarties from a sharing bag I had but my daughter ate most of them!

Handful of popcorn

Handful of marshmallows - I used heart shaped marshmallows that I got from Flying Tiger

Line a small square baking pan with greaseproof paper. Melt the chocolate in a Bain Marie or in the microwave and stir in a couple of drops of pink food colouring.

Pour the melted chocolate into your prepared tin and sprinkle liberally with sweets, marshmallows and popcorn. Put in the fridge until set.

When the chocolate has set hard, remove from the pan and peel off the greaseproof paper. Carefully cut into chunks - I found the easiest way was inserting the point of a dinner knife and pressing down and the chocolate broke itself into random shaped chunks. We ended up giving these as a gift to my daughter’s nursery teachers!

Friday, 4 February 2022

Making your own wooden story spoons

If you have children in your life and are a little bit artistic, these story spoons are a great idea. They are wooden spoons, featuring characters from whatever story you like - you can draw or paint or even cut out pictures and glue them on.
I drew these freehand using coloured marker pens (Promarkers) and then Mod Podge, which is a craft sealant, over the top. I bought a set of five wooden spoons on Amazon for just a few pounds and did the Three Little Pigs story and Red Riding Hood. I drew the three pigs on the first three spoons, and then on the back drew the house that each one built, so when you tell the story and hold up the spoon you can flip it over to show the other side.

The wolf spoon plays a role in both stories- so I drew a plain wolf on one side and the wolf in grandmother’s clothing from Red Riding Hood on the other, so again the spoon can be flipped around during the story. I then drew Red Riding Hood herself on the final spoon and the woodcutter on the other side.
I used these spoons with my daughter who had just turned three at the time (I actually made these nearly a year ago!) and she loved holding up the spoons and telling me the story. They act as prompts but also as characters and can help make storytelling easier for younger children and even more fun!

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Unicorn Birthday Cake - Cakes for Children


Last year my daughter had a ‘lockdown birthday’; COVID-19 restrictions meant that we couldn’t have a party, couldn’t have family to visit and couldn’t do anything much at all really. We still had a nice day, as we got Sophie a balance bike for her birthday, and were able to go to a local park to try it out. Of course I was still going to make her a birthday cake, and this year she asked (repeatedly) for a unicorn cake.

I’ve made a unicorn cake before, but thought this style was a bit grown-up for a three year old and possibly not even as instantly recognisable, so instead I invested in a unicorn cake mould to make it easier for myself. I bought a silicon mould from Ebay for around £7 which I thought wasn’t too bad; I’m sure I will end up using the mould again and if not I can pass it on to someone else. 

I wasn’t entirely sure of the quantity of cake mixture I would need to fill the mould, but luckily the scale of this BBC GoodFood recipe for an easy chocolate cake was just right. My daughter had requested a chocolate cake and I thought this recipe didn’t look too rich, compared to some others I have made in the past.

The cake was really easy to make and un-mould (I use PMW Cake Release spray to grease all my cake tins), and decorating was fairly straightforward too. I’m sure a more artistic person – or more professional cake decorator – could make a more beautiful unicorn, but my daughter loved this! 

The cake was covered in a chocolate buttercream and then rolled out white fondant. I coloured some buttercream in various colours and used a piping bag to pipe each section of the mane – after all, everyone knows that unicorns have rainbow hair! 

This photo has come out a little darker than the real thing – you can’t quite see the purple in with the blue and pink, but my daughter thought it was great. She also had a unicorn helium balloon and a few unicorn-related gifts, so referred to this birthday – and continues to do so several months later – as “my unicorn birthday”. 

The year before was “my dinosaur birthday” – when she had a dinosaur cake and several dinosaur-related gifts – and she has already told me that her next birthday, even though it is nearly six months away, is going to be “my Sofia birthday”. So I’m already squirreling away Sofia the First gifts and thinking about how to make a Princess Sofia cake!

Friday, 14 January 2022

Restaurant Review - The Fox, Coulsdon Common, Caterham

I’ve been looking through old photos on my phone and remembering the fun things I did with my daughter pre-pandemic, and all the places we went. Many of them are things I was intending to post on this blog and never got around to - like this one!

It was back in 2018 when my daughter was barely two months old and my school friends came up to meet her as it was also my birthday. I knew I wasn’t really going to be in a position to host so we went out for a pub lunch. I needed to find somewhere that was child friendly and also vegan friendly. Even in the few years since 2018 vegan food has become much more common on menus but at the time I had to do a bit of research to find somewhere suitable.

I decided upon the Fox in Coulsdon Common, Caterham, a spacious Vintage Inns pub with a nice country feel. It did a delicious Sunday roast, a decent choice of vegan food and some very nice desserts. I have actually been here before and even reviewed it before - I don't normally review the same place twice but to be honest I had forgotten about the first time until I had already written this one!

There was plenty of room for the buggy and for me to be able to feed my daughter while sitting at the table. We haven’t been back since but that’s more due to the pandemic and the fact that we just don’t eat out very often, which is something that I think needs to change!

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Butlin's Bognor Regis - Ocean Hotel and Restaurant Reviews, DineAround Explained

Butlin’s today is a far cry from the self catering caravan holidays I remember as a child in the 1980s. Today there are smart hotels, apartments, and a range of on-site restaurants including an American diner and Papa John’s. You’re sure to find something to suit everyone - but if you are considering a stay at Butlin’s how do you decide? Which hotel is best or should you self-cater at Butlin’s, what are the dining options and how does DineAround work?

In September I went to Butlin’s Bognor Regis and have tried to answer all these questions and more in a post on my other blog, MiniMoo Life. If you want to find out more, hop on over there!

Friday, 7 January 2022

The Trading House, London: Restaurant Review

Anyone for a Christmas dinner on a skewer? In the run-up to Christmas I went for a festive lunch at the Trading House, a bar and restaurant near Bank in central London, and this is how my dinner was served!

I always choose turkey when I go out for a Christmas meal but it was described  as a ‘turkey kebab’; I was very curious to see what it would look like, and definitely wasn’t expecting this!

The metal skewer, dangling from a special stand, had pieces of turkey, pigs in blankets and stuffing balls threaded on it, and sat hanging over a small bowl of roast potatoes and vegetables. It came with a small bowl of cranberry glaze and the waiter explained I should pour the glaze into a little dish at the top of the skewer stand and it would drip down over the turkey. It was certainly a talking point - and the food was very good, particularly the roast potatoes which were aided by a small jug of gravy on the side. 

For my dessert I chose gingerbread cake and after the innovative way my main course was served I was wondering how the cake would come - so it was almost disappointing it was simply a square piece of cake with a piece of pear and ice cream on the side! But nonetheless it was delicious and I do recommend the Trading House for both the food and the service.

The building and decor is also a talking point; it's a listed building with ornate columns and detailed carvings on the walls inside as well as an array of mounted stag heads (which I assume are fake...) and a giant taxidermy bird on the corner of the bar. Everywhere you look there is something to raise the eyebrows or nudge your companion and point out - understated it is not. Inspired by the explorers and merchants of the past, the Trading House conjures up a bygone era and at the same time a modern, innovative cocktail bar and restaurant. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Christmas Tree Rice Krispie Treats

These little treats are easy and fun to make and are great for a children’s Christmas party or to make at home with your kids. They don’t involve any baking, and just one pan which children can do under supervision. The idea came from but I adapted it a little.

Melt 100g butter in a large pan over a low heat along with 200g marshmallows, stirring until smooth.

Add a few drops of green food colouring and stir. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Mix in a large bowlful of Rice Krispies and stir gently until all the cereal is coated. 

Line a large flat baking tray with greaseproof paper and spoon on the Rice Krispie mixture. Press down and spread so you have a thin layer about 2cm thick.

Sprinkle over some Christmas sprinkles then place in the fridge to set for an hour.

When set using a knife carefully divide into triangles to make Christmas tree shapes.

I found that while the top of the Rice Krispie treats had set, the bottom was still very sticky once I had peeled them off the greaseproof paper, so I sprinkled that side with icing sugar which made them much easier to handle.

The original recipe suggested inserting a pretzel as the tree trunk but I found the treats were still too soft and started to break up as I did so, so I decided to just leave them as they were. 

My daughter was a little dubious at first as they were green but soon decided they tasted good!

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Make your own motivational quote cards

I'm not sure what these cards are actually called - 'motivational quote cards' sounds a bit worthy and the sort of thing you might find at a company team-building day. What I mean is a postcard with a message that is in some way inspiring, uplifting or encouraging - something that we could all use every now and then!

During lockdown I was sending a birthday present to a friend, who I hadn't been able to see for a long time because of Covid. I didn't want to just wrap her present and put it in a jiffy bag so I found a box (from one of my many online purchases) and filled in the gaps around her present with a few other things - some mini bubbles (the kind you blow, not drink), a couple of camomile tea bags and a package of home-made chocolate brownies. I also popped in this card:

They are really easy to make - you just need a small piece of card, and some letters. You can buy alphabet letter stickers or rubber stamps very cheaply, or if you are good at calligraphy write your own - or type it on the computer and print something out. I used a piece of red card and multi-coloured letters so didn't add any other embellishments, but you can design the card however you want.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Pizza Express Leadenhall Market - A little bit of post-lockdown familiarity

Pizza Express hardly needs a review as I doubt there are many people who haven’t been to one before! And like most chains you would expect consistency from one location to the next.

But it’s been a very long time since I’ve been to a Pizza Express - (not even including lockdown) and the menu did seem to have changed a bit, so I thought it was worth giving a quick update!

The first thing I noticed was that they had calzone on the menu - I love calzone and don’t remember that being something Pizza Express offered in the past. The next thing I noticed was that the classics menu looked a lot smaller than I remembered - now there is more of an even split between different types of pizza, the classics, the romana with a thinner base, calzone (folded pizza) and calabrese (square pizza) and there’s also a much bigger selection of vegan pizzas than I remember. There are the usual al forno dishes and leggera pizza which I always feel like I ought to order as it’s lower carb and you get salad in the middle - but the middle of the pizza that is missing is the best part!

Then I did a bit of a double take at the prices. It’s been quite a while since I went to a Pizza Express and along with regular price inflation we’ve had a combination of factors that have caused restaurants to put prices up, from higher energy prices to perhaps the need to recoup losses from lockdown. Even so I was surprised that most of the pizzas seemed to be around the £15 mark. I remember when Pizza Express did two pizzas for £15 if you had a voucher - but that was about 10 years ago now!

There are some new flavours and toppings on the menu too and I chose the BBQ burnt ends on a romana base. It had slow cooked beef brisket, which was a little fatty in places, with chipotle, barbecue sauce and red onion. I don’t think I’ve ever had a pizza at Pizza Express that wasn’t actually delicious as they seem to get their flavour combinations just right.

I ate with a friend from work at the Leadenhall Market branch in London; it’s a nice location with a small area upstairs and a large area downstairs so even though it gets busy at lunchtime we had no problem getting a table. There is definitely something comforting about the familiarity of Pizza Express and no doubt I will be back.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Easy Veggie Nuggets

These veggie nuggets are aimed at children but I think would be just as good for adults - and I wonder if instead of shaping into individual nuggets or patties, it would work made into a log and sliced - a bit like a nut roast for Sunday dinner.

The recipe came from an Instagram account called @zaynesplate - it’s really easy to make and you can adapt it with your own vegetables. You can see the recipe here.

I used broccoli, carrots, chickpeas, rolled oats and cheese as the recipe suggests. I think if you were making this for adults or older children I wouldn’t blend it and would leave the texture more varied, and perhaps add sweet corn as well. My daughter enjoyed these and there was plenty left to go into the freezer for next time.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Davina’s cheesy apple savoury scones

A few years ago the television presenter Davina McCall - best known for Big Brother - decided to give up sugar. I was vaguely aware that she had written a cookery book and I am trying to cut down on sugar so had a look on Amazon - and discovered she has written loads of books!

I liked the sound of her book Sugar Free in a Hurry as I don’t have a lot of time to cook these days - between a full time job and parenting a toddler and trying to keep the house in order too (which my husband helps with, but I am the only one who cooks).

 I made these apple and cheese scones from the book, which were really easy to throw together - and fun for my daughter to help make too!

Follow this link to see the recipe.

Personally I couldn’t taste the apple and would add a lot more if I made this again, though would have to experiment with the consistency of the dough to make sure it wasn’t too wet. I also used extra nature cheddar and even then think it could have used a bit more. The scones turned out well though and I would definitely make some sort of savoury scones again using this recipe as a basis and maybe playing around a bit with the different flavours. If you have a really good recipe for savoury scones let me know in the comments!

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Eataly London review - Lunch and a tourist attraction

A cornucopia of Italian food, a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, a good place to meet friends or have lunch with colleagues, somewhere to get a leisurely breakfast before you catch a train, a tourist attraction somewhere you can pick up ingredients for dinner to take home or even take an Italian cookery course - all this under one roof?
If you like Italian food then you simply must visit Eataly on Bishopsgate, next to Liverpool Street Station. It opened in May 2021 during the pandemic, and when I returned to my office nearby in September it was the first place I went to check out on my lunchbreak. I was amazed!
Walking in I thought I had either entered an Art Deco arcade in Milan or perhaps the Sefridges food hall. A huge effort has been put in to make this a beautiful place with a high end feel (and rest assured the prices match!) with decorative archways and even the way the produce is arranged which is truly Instagram worthy. Check out some of my photos below!

Whether it’s a wall of coffee, a pick and mix selection area with Italian chocolates rather than the usual gummy sweets, watching the bread ovens get fired up or watching mozzarella being made, there is so much to take in. The charcuterie counter had more types of ham and salami than I could imagine; there are also fridges selling pre packaged products. The wine floor has over 2,000 different bottles and the pasta aisles had me dying to take some home and try - I will definitely be back to pick some up once I have decided what to do with it. There were colours and shapes of pasta I’d never even imagined - I particularly loved these striped sombreroni which are little sombrero hats that apparently you stuff like cannelloni and bake in the oven. But at around £7 a bag they are definitely more of a one off treat!

While I was there I decided to get some lunch. There is a chiller cabinet with sandwiches but I wanted to try the freshly cooked food. There’s a counter where you can buy pizza by the (square) slice, a fresh pasta bar, a cafe where you can get pastries and a proper restaurant upstairs though I couldn’t see a menu without going in.

I went for the pasta which had three or four options (I don’t know if these change or always remain the same) and opted for tagliatelle with bolognese sauce. It was served in a cardboard tub with a lid, which I took over to the seating area; free water is provided which I thought was really nice. The pasta was very good - I love fresh pasta - but at £11.50 it was very steep for lunch and I don’t think this is something I would do again unless I was meeting a friend for lunch.

Overall though I loved Eataly; the products are pretty expensive though I do want to come back and buy a few things once I have thought of some things I will actually use - but it’s also a lovely place to have a wander round and simply enjoy seeing so many specialist and unusual (in the U.K. at least) Italian products under one roof!