Saturday, 22 April 2017

Chocolate Marbled Easter Meringue Nests


Dr. Oetker came up with some great new recipes this Easter, which you can see on their website here. I liked the look of the tear and share hot cross buns but I didn't really have the time. Instead I made this - I actually thought I'd shared this post over Easter, oops!


Dr. Oetker sent me a selection of their products to try and I was intrigued by the powdered egg white as I don't think I have used that before. It replaces fresh egg white and saves you from ending up with a lot of unused egg yolks if you are making meringue.

I decided to make their chocolate marbled meringues; you can find the recipe on this link. Instead of filling them with fruit I gave them an Easter twist by filling with chopped marshmallows, a couple of Cadbury mini eggs and some whipped cream, and drizzling them with some melted Dr. Oetker Cooks' 72% Extra Dark Chocolate.

The egg white powder was really easy to use - I was worried when I mixed the powder with water as directed that I had left it a little lumpy but the lumps disappeared and it cooked perfectly, and I mean perfectly. The meringues were crispy and chewy in the middle and lifted off the baking paper without problem. They are very sweet so I think the original recipe suggestion of filling them with fresh fruit is a good idea, and I recommend dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate which is sweeter.

I'll definitely use powdered egg white again as I often end up with yolks I don't know what to do with - it costs £1.15 for a pack of 4 sachets from most supermarkets.

Don't you just love glossy meringue?


Marbling with melted chocolate
 


Ready to go in the oven


 
And after two hours of baking


 
 Decorated with marshmallows, mini eggs and topped with whipped cream and melted chocolate
 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Red Gingham Mothers' Day Card


This sweet little card was a super-quick make, as most of the elements came from the same pack. I think it was a free gift with a cardmaking magazine and contained the backing paper - which looks like three different papers but it is actually one!

The sentiment in a little frame looks cute - this came from the same pack and I stuck it into the middle of the card. I had some 'happy Mothers Day' sentiments in red in a pack of stickers and placed this on the top of the card.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Restaurant Review: Hawksmoor, Commercial Street, London

For my husband's 40th birthday there was no hesitation when it came to a restaurant for dinner. He absolutely loves Hawksmoor, and since his birthday was a Saturday and we had plans with his family, I offered to take him to Hawksmoor on the Friday night after work.

We've been to Hawksmoor in Air Street near Piccadilly a couple of times; you can read my review here. This time we decided to go to the one in Commercial Street, near Shoreditch, as it is nearer where we both work.

Walking from Bishopsgate and down a side street onto Commercial Street, I looked left and right and saw Nando's one way, the Old Truman Brewery the other and a bunch of shops like Urban Outfitters - nothing that leapt out at me as one of London's best steak restaurants. I had to use Google Maps to pinpoint the location and quickly found it - the restaurant is mainly below ground, with a discreet sign above a door at street level but not much else.

The staff were really friendly and helpful, and I mentioned it was my husband's 40th birthday both on booking and when I arrived, as I got there before my husband and the person in front of me at reception had brought a cake for a surprise birthday for the table he was joining. I didn't have a cake with me as I'd been at home all that day baking a birthday cake to share with my husband's family the following day on his actual birthday!


The atmosphere was noisier and the other diners more 'colourful' (including a drunk couple who spilled a drink over the man next to us and nearly got into a fight), prompting my husband to comment that the Air Street restaurant was a lot quieter and more conservative than the Shoreditch location. I don't know if he's right, but I think the next time we go to Hawksmoor (which we will, because we love it), we will probably choose the Air Street location again.

The steak was beautifully cooked and really tasty - we both had the fillet, pretty steep at £35 but so good - and for dessert, my husband had the sticky toffee pudding (£8) and I'd had my eye on the Crunchy Bar (£8.75, 50p of which goes to Action Against Hunger charity) from the start. As far as I can remember it had a biscuit base, a layer of caramel, ice cream and pieces of honeycomb - it was really good.

I spent ages scrutinising the extensive cocktail menu at the start before my husband arrived, and finally settled upon the Champagne Charlie - so felt a bit silly when I turned to the food menu and printed across the top were their top three recommended cocktails - including the one I had spent ages choosing! Champagne Charlie was described as containing Beefeater gin, lemon, seasonal fruit syrup and champagne. I asked the waiter what the seasonal fruit was and he said beetroot - that isn't a fruit! I was prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt and was actually amazed at how good it tasted!


When our desserts arrived I had hoped my husband's might have had a birthday candle stuck in it and was mildly disappointed that it didn't - and then moments later the waiter brought out another plate, with 'happy birthday' written in chocolate and three of their homemade salted caramel rolos - these are on the menu for £4 for 4, and I've often wanted to try them but never have. The chocolate shell contains almost liquid caramel - they are really good and it was lovely to receive them as an extra treat.

So overall it was an excellent meal and a great way to kick off the celebrations for my husband's 40th birthday.
 

 

Monday, 17 April 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 16

Monday; bank holiday
Lunch- bacon sandwich
Dinner- vol au vents with leftover lamb and pomegranate. A slightly odd recipe as I've had some vol au vents in the freezer for ages that need using up and found a recipe for fatayer - spiced lamb pastry parcels with pomegranate - that I thought I could adapt for vol au vents! I think they would go well with salad.
 
Tuesday
Lunch - leftover lamb and pomegranate flatbread
Dinner - out at an event, will grab something en route

Wednesday
Lunch leftover vol au vents with salad
Dinner - potentially out with a friend; if not, I will make yogurt-spiced chicken with rice from a Weightwatchers recipe I printed out years ago

Thursday
Lunch- flatbread and salad
Dinner -turkey, lime and honey stir-fry from an old M&S magazine
 
Friday
Lunch- flatbread and salad
Dinner - smoked mackerel in mustard sauce
 
Saturday 
Lunch - on a bbq course
Dinner - crab and chilli spaghetti for me, spaghetti carbonara for him
 
Sunday
Lunch - scrambled egg bagel
Dinner - roast beef (unless the weather gets really hot and we don't want a roast!)

This is a blog hop, join in!
 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter Meringue Nest with Passion fruit Coulis and Cadbury Creme Egg


Passion fruit - indeed fruit of any kind - and Cadbury Creme Egg are two things that I wouldn't have thought particularly go together, but I have been proven wrong.


Cadbury sent me several Creme Eggs just in time for Easter, along with four recipes where they have teamed up with the Rinkoff bakery. I already made these mini s'more brownie cupcakes with Cadbury Creme Eggs which were really good, and I mean really good.


On Easter Sunday I had my mother- and father-in-law over for lunch and cooked a delicious roast lamb... plus chicken for my husband as he doesn't eat lamb, and butternut squash for my mother-in-law who is vegetarian. So with all that, I needed an easy dessert!


The Cadbury/Rinkoff recipe for meringue nests with passion fruit coulis and Cadbury Creme Egg was just the thing as I could prepare most of it in advance. This is the recipe - I will explain afterwards a few tweaks I made. The recipe below says it makes eight meringue nests but they would be pretty small I think as I had to double the quantity of ingredients to make eight.


You need:
For the meringue:
2 large egg whites at room temperature
100g caster sugar


For the passion fruit coulis:
250ml passion fruit puree (thaw if frozen)
240g sugar


For the ganache:
5 Cadbury Creme Eggs, melted
100g butter
8 Cadbury Creme Eggs, cut into small pieces


Method
For the meringue:
Pre-heat your oven to 120C. Put the egg whites into a large clean bowl and whisk on a medium speed. Keep whisking until they form stiff peaks.


Add the 100g caster sugar a tablespoon at a time and whisk until combined. The meringue should be nice and glossy.


Line a flat baking tray with greaseproof paper or a non-stick baking sheet. If necessary use a bit of butter to make it stick to the tray.


Place a star nozzle into a piping bag and spoon in the meringue. Start by piping a dot in the centre of your meringue nest then in one continuous motion go around the dot twice to make a bigger circle, then go round again on top of the outer circle to make the sides. Repeat until you've piped all nests.



NB The recipe didn't state the cooking time so this is what worked for me Place the baking sheet into the pre-heated oven and bake for one hour until the meringues are crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing from the greaseproof paper and baking sheet.


For the passion fruit coulis:
In a medium-sized saucepan mix the passion fruit and sugar together. Bring to the boil on a medium heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Put aside to cool.



For the ganache:
In a saucepan heat up a small amount of water and place a glass bowl on top (like a bain marie). Place 4 Cadbury Creme Eggs (yes I know the ingredients list says 5.... perhaps they expect you to eat one while cooking) and butter in a glass bowl and stir until all the ingredients have melted (this should take approximately four or five minutes). The mixture should have a slight gloss and be quite runny.


Leave to cool for a minute or two. Drizzle the ganache and coulis over the nest and top with broken pieces of Cadbury Creme Egg.



Here are my tweaks:
  • I doubled the quantity so each person had two meringues
  • I couldn't find my star piping nozzle so the sides of the meringue are smooth, which doesn't look as good
  • I actually forgot to build up the sides of the meringues so they are flat which isn't as good either!
  • The recipe didn't give a cooking time, I recommend one hour
  • Instead of making the fruit coulis, as I couldn't find passion fruit puree, I bought Sainsbury's mango and passion fruit coulis and used that in the recipe
  • I layered two meringue nests with passion fruit coulis and Creme Egg ganache, then put half a crushed Creme Egg on top of each portion, so using six Creme Eggs in total.
The chocolate and fruit flavours went together surprisingly well, and I loved the chewy meringue and the smooth chocolate. This made a really good Easter dessert!



Saturday, 15 April 2017

Fishcake and Poached Egg in a Tarragon Sauce


This dish was inspired by something I saw in a restaurant that made me think 'that's a good idea!'. I like fishcakes but don't have them that often - the idea is often better than the reality. This dish is a bit different, really tasty and very filling, so you only need one fishcake per person and it goes well with some green veg like broccoli on the side.

The fishcake - I used shop-bought ones but you can make your own - is topped with a poached egg; I use Poachies Egg poaching Bags - 20 Bags and they usually turn out really well with runny yolks unless I leave them in the water a little too long as I've gotten distracted!

The sauce is made very easily, from melted butter, a dash of lemon juice, a little fish stock and some chopped dried tarragon. Place the fishcake in a bowl and the poached egg on top, and pour the sauce around the fishcake. Enjoy!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Eggs Bunnadict


Here's an Easter twist on one of my favourite breakfast or brunch dishes, eggs benedict - it uses hot cross buns, hence the name eggs bunnadict!

The name comes from a dish served by the ETM bar group, which owns bars like the Botanist in the City of London - I haven't actually been to them but read in the Evening Standard about a dish they were serving over Easter: strawberry marshmallow and vanilla and coconut panna cotta on a hot cross bun base. It sounded awesome but I preferred the idea of making something savoury - and when I heard that Marks & Spencer had launched some savoury cheese and onion hot cross buns I decided these would be perfect for the base.

I couldn't get hold of any unfortunately - I asked staff in one M&S Simply Food and they had never heard of them and seemed surprised when I said M&S had recently announced their launch (do they not pay any attention to internal communications?!) and then suggested I try again in a few weeks - after Easter. Hmm.

M&S were then very helpful via Twitter and checked stock at two other stores local to me but said they didn't have any in stock, which was a shame (at least they knew what I was talking about this time!).

I knew there was no way I would have time to make my own hot cross buns so decided to take a punt and make eggs benedict on normal i.e. sweet hot cross buns and see how they would turn out... I was a bit nervous as my husband doesn't like sweet and savoury together and declared the bacon brownies I made from a Nigella recipe "an abomination". So it was a nice surprise when he said bacon, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce on a toasted hot cross bun shouldn't work... but strangely did!

So there you go - if you want a new way to enjoy your hot cross bun this Easter, try this Eggs Bunnadict!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Mini S'more Brownie Cupcakes with Cadbury Creme Eggs


I now have an answer to the question from the famous Cadbury Creme Egg advert: how do you eat yours? I like mine crushed up on top of toasted marshmallow and chocolate brownies!

Cadbury sent me several packets of Creme Eggs, an apron and some recipe cards, and asked me to recreate some of their recipes. One was based around a banana split and neither my husband nor I like bananas, but my eye was immediately caught by these.



They have a chocolate brownie base, which is baked into a cupcake case; you spoon marshmallow fluff (which you can buy in a tub from most large supermarkets) on top of the raw brownie mixture and bake it in the oven shortly. Then top them off with some crushed up some Cadbury Creme Eggs.


Not only are these easy to make but they taste absolutely delicious. The brownie is rich and chocolatey, and the toasted marshmallow is chewy and delicious, and the Creme Egg on top gives you alternative bites of chunks of chocolate and the creamy sugary filling. I was really pleased with how these turned out!

Cadbury's recipe is below; I got 8 out of these using large cupcake cases, so didn't use the whole jar of marshmallow fluff and used half a Crème Egg to top each one rather than a whole one.

You need:
125g dark chocolate
100g unsalted butter
125g light muscovado sugar
2 large free-range eggs
75g plain flour, sifted
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tub of marshmallow fluff (you will have some left over)
12 Cadbury Creme Eggs, crushed

Heat the oven to 180C, 160C fan, 350F, Gas 4. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a large saucepan over a low heat. When completely melted, stir in the sugar, then the eggs one by one.

 

Fold in the flour and salt, and then spoon into the cupcake cases so they are nearly full.

 
Pipe the fluff onto each cupcake and bake in the centre of the oven for 12 minutes.

 
Leave to cool and add the crushed Creme Eggs on top.

I was amazed at how the marshmallow fluff rose and set like meringue - I wasn't expecting to do that at all!
 


 
 Here are some of the results!



 
Thanks to Cadbury who sent me the Creme Eggs, apron and a Sainsbury's voucher to buy the other ingredients
 

Monday, 10 April 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 15

Another busy week where I am so late in planning this week's meals it's Monday already and I have no idea what we are eating this week! Of course it's Easter this weekend as well; in the UK we get two public holidays which makes a four-day weekend. I don't have any plans at all at the moment other than a lot of jobs around the house!

Monday
Lunch - macaroni cheese (working from home as I had a doctor's appointment
Dinner - salmon fillet with cous cous and cauliflower rice for me, chicken breast and mash for him

Tuesday
Supposed to be working from home but will go in as I was off yesterday
Lunch- chicken salad
Got someone coming to do us a quote for double glazing this evening so will need an easy dinner I don't need to keep an eye on
Dinner - sausage and chips

Wednesday
Lunch-  chicken salad
Dinner- out with a friend

Thursday
Lunch-  salad
Dinner- my husband is out so I might just have some pasta or something simple

Friday
bank holiday - Good Friday
Lunch - eggs bunnadict (name hat-tip: ETM bar group. But their dish is a sweet dessert involving panna cotta on a hot cross bun base; I'm going to use Marks & Spencer's new cheese and onion hot cross buns (I need to be sorting out the garage rather than making my own) with bacon, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce.
Dinner - tuna with salsa verde from an old Weightwatchers magazine for me, toad in the hole and mashed potatoes for him

Saturday
Lunch- buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup
Dinner- coronation chicken and potato pies from an old Tesco magazine recipe
dessert - hot cross bunny ice cream sundae (a much smaller version of this Sainsbury's recipe)

Sunday
Lunch- it's Easter Sunday so it's going to have to be roast lamb even though my husband doesn't eat lamb! He can have chicken and I think we might invite his mum as well who is vegetarian... might do this recipe, which means I'm cooking three different things, but I never get to have roast lamb so I want it! As I'm not one of the lucky people with a double oven I will do the butternut squash in the slow cooker. Dessert: crème egg meringues from a Cadburys recipe they sent me
Evening - crumpets, hot cross buns

Link up your meal plan post here:

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Rapunzel Cake and Free Cakes for Kids


Have you heard of Free Cakes for Kids? No, it's not a company handing out free samples - it's a charity that helps disadvantaged youngsters have a bit of a treat on their birthday.

For many children a birthday cake is a luxury they don't get - or at least not a home-baked personalised cake with their favourite animals or characters. These days so many children seem to expect that and parents spend a great deal sometimes on their child's cake.

But it's not just about feeling left out among their school friends - many of the children this charity helps are underprivileged, either from families that are below the poverty line or living in temporary accommodation or women's shelters. For them, receiving a birthday cake is hopefully something that will bring a smile to their face, helping them to forget for a moment their hardship, and something that will bring joy to the rest of their families as well.

The way it works is that the parent or more often their school or shelter representative contacts a co-ordinator, and gives them some information like the first name and age of the child and a few things that they like. The co-ordinator then sends out the request to an email distribution list of local bakers and someone responds and volunteers to make the cake. The co-ordinator (in my area at least) will collect the cake from the baker and deliver it to the recipient.

You can find out more about Free Cakes for Kids and sign up to your local group by clicking on the link.

I signed up a while ago but usually by the time I saw the email (as I work full time) there was already a volunteer to bake. A few weeks ago I happened to be looking at my email as the request came in and so I responded - and the next thing I know, I had agreed to make a birthday cake for a girl about to turn seven, who liked Rapunzel and butterflies!

I had nearly two weeks' notice which was really handy as I was able to google Rapunzel cakes and realised that the Disney film Tangled is actually about Rapunzel. I knew I was going to have to make the cake on a day when I was working from home, which worked out quite well as I save time that day by not having to commute into central London (giving me back nearly three hours). Even so I wasn't going to be able to spend hours crafting Rapunzel out of icing!
I ended up ordering a personalised cake topper printed on wafer paper with the little girl's name and age, which I got via the internet. I actually baked the cake the night before and decorated it very early in the morning before I logged on to my computer to work.

Thinking that most children probably won't want a strongly flavoured or unusual cake I decided to stick with a vanilla sponge. The recipe I used is from the Sainsbury's Cake Recipe Collection book:

250g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, beaten
250g self-raising flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
I added a splash of milk as I like my cake mixture to be looser

Preheat oven to 180C and grease an 8 or 9 inch cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar and beat in the vanilla and eggs. Fold in the flour and baking powder and the milk and beat until smooth.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for around 25 minutes, testing with a skewer until it is no longer raw inside. Leave to cool in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack and split through the middle to make two cakes.

It made a decent 9-inch cake which when split and filled with vanilla buttercream made a good height cake (I was worried about it looking too flat).


I covered the cake with a thin layer of buttercream and then fondant that I had coloured lilac.


The cake topper sat nicely on the top (once I had levelled the top of the cake that is), moistened slightly with water (just a tiny bit) so it would stick to the fondant, and I coloured some extra buttercream and piped it using a star nozzle around the edge of the wafer paper.



 
I made the butterflies using a plunger cutter from fondant I had coloured pink and stuck them around the cake.










 

A week or so after the little girl's birthday I received a lovely message via the organiser saying she had been thrilled with her cake and was still talking about it a week later, and that the butterflies happened to be in her favourite colour. I was really pleased to think I had made a little girl and her family happy, even if they were complete strangers, and I will definitely be baking again for Free Cakes for Kids.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Mums Are Like Buttons Box Frame with Buttons - Mother's Day Gift


I've been seeing the phrase 'mums are like buttons' everywhere recently - or at least in the run up to Mothers' Day, which in the UK was March 26 this year (it falls later in the year in other countries including the US).

The whole of that phrase is 'Mums are like buttons - they hold everything together'. I thought that sounded lovely and wanted to make my mum a Mothers' Day card with it on. In fact it started out as a card and turned into a gift!

I tracked down a rubber stamp with that exact sentiment which I stamped onto a square white card blank, and using glue dots stuck buttons in various shades of red and pink around it. I realised afterwards the quote was slightly off centre which was a shame but I'm sure my mum didn't mind too much.

The card looked too heavy with the buttons and I wanted it to be more of a keepsake, so I decided to make it into a framed picture instead.

The box frames sold in Hobbycraft are brilliant for this sort of thing and they are often in half price sales where you can get the smallest size for as little as 2 pounds, so I tend to stock up on a couple every now and then.

The frame made the perfect setting for my Mothers' Day gift.


I'm sharing this with the Addicted to Stamps challenge and Fab Funky Challenges

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 14

I've had a really busy week and only done one blog post since the last meal plan, of some Easter cards I made with my friend's daughter. It's been a really busy week - I made a cake for a charity I now volunteer with, and baked my husband's 40th birthday cake, and had a busy weekend of activities for his birthday. I've just sat down on Sunday night - with the weather still gorgeous but apparently getting much cooler in the next few days - to try and figure out what we are eating this week. I've done no food shopping this weekend as we were away and can pick up a few bits mid-week but will have to magic meals out of the freezer I think!

Monday
Lunch- rest of chicken alfredo
Dinner- chicken chargrills, lamb grillsteak, with mashed potato - ended up not making dinner and going to bed as I was ill so my husband ordered a pizza!

Tuesday- working from home
Lunch- chicken and butternut squash risotto
Dinner- pulled pork and potato wedges

Wednesday
Lunch- chicken salad
Dinner- my husband is out, I will have salmon and vegetables and hollandaise sauce

Thursday
Lunch- mackerel salad
Dinner-fishcake with poached egg for me, gammon and poached egg for him

Friday
Lunch- chicken salad
Dinner- pizza topped chicken and chips

Saturday
Lunch- with my husband's family for a belated birthday meal
Dinner- eggs benedict on waffles from this recipe - might miss out the marmite!

Sunday
Lunch- prawn fajitas
Dinner - roast chicken I didn't do last week

This is a blog hop, join in!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Easter Cards 2017 - How to Entertain an 8-year-old

 
This week one of my closest friends asked if I could babysit her eight-year-old so she could go to a work event that ran a couple of hours into the evening. I was happy to help - this is the first time I've ever babysat on my own before but it hardly counts as babysitting when you're just hanging out with an awesome eight-year-old - she was flower girl at my wedding and we get on really well.

I'm sure we would have had no problem finding things to do but the night before I had an idea. I'd been thinking it would be nice to make some Easter cards, which I haven't done for years - in fact according to my blog the last time I made Easter cards was five years ago!

I thought my young friend might enjoy making some cards with me and I was right. I'd been out the night before so was rummaging through my craft stash at midnight to get some suitable bits and pieces for Easter - I didn't take a huge selection so the cards we made were cobbled together from what I'd brought with me!

We had a great time and spent more than an hour making nine cards between us. My young friend was very creative and was very pleased with the cards she had made which she addressed to various family members.

Here are three cards I made:


For this first card I chose a piece of patterned background paper - it's cream-coloured with a daisy pattern, and a border stripe along one edge with a flower picture near the top of the stripe. I glued a blue fabric flower (I only had them in blue) over the top of the flower picture and added a blue gem in the centre.

I had some sticky felt egg shapes which I put on the middle of the card but felt that something was missing; my young friend suggested drawing patterns on them to make them look more like Easter eggs which I did.

I used a 'happy Easter' outline sticker on yellow paper which I then mounted onto paler yellow paper (in retrospect I should have done it the other way round) and fixed two yellow gems on each end and stuck that on the top of the card.


 The felt eggs and blue flowers came from a mini card making kit I remember buying in a pound shop years ago. The same pack had some tulip-shaped flowers - but only the petals, not stems - and some small printed squares with an Argyle pattern. I used one of these in the centre of a card and stuck on the tulip petals, and used my friend's coloured pens to draw a stem and leaves. She suggested I draw a green line around the patterned square as well which I did.

I cut two strips from a piece of patterned paper which I stuck at the top and the bottom of the card and used another 'happy Easter' outline sticker to finish it off.


 
I wasn't really sure what I was doing with this last card. I stuck the remaining strips from the patterned paper I'd cut up for the previous card along the top and the bottom and had a big white space in between. I'd taken some rubber stamps and an ink pad along with me as I discovered I had a chicken stamp and some Easter eggs which I'd never used. I stamped the chick onto the card and the eggs next to it - the egg stamp had 5 eggs of various sizes that form a rectangle shape. I didn't really like the rectangle of eggs as it was so stamped it a couple more times at different angles to make it look like a pile of Easter eggs. I coloured some of them in but left a few plain and coloured in the chick as well.

I also had a stamp with the word 'Easter' - a shame it didn't say 'happy Easter' - which I stamped onto yellow paper and mounted that onto a square of patterned paper, and put that on the top of the card. In all it was a fun crafting session even though I don't think any of these cards are brilliant!

I'm sharing these with the Come and Get it card making challenge and Addicted to stamps, plus Dragonfly Jouneys as they all have relevant themes.
 

Monday, 27 March 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 13

Another fairly last minute meal plan as I've been busy with work as usual and also making loads of cakes (well, four) in the space of two weeks! I was away at the weekend for Mother's Day so had to pack everything I would normally do into half the time. So I haven't spent a lot of time pouring over recipe books for this week's meal plan!


Monday
Lunch - sandwich as I will be back too late on Sunday to prepare anything
Dinner - leftover fish pie and cottage pie

Tuesday
Working from home
Lunch - macaroni cheese on toast
Dinner - chicken enchiladas I was going to do last week in the slow cooker but didn't

Wednesday
lunch - bacon and mackerel salad I was going to do last week but didn't
Dinner - out with friends

Thursday
Lunch - meant to be out with a friend but we've realised we probably don[t have time to get somewhere between our two offices, have lunch and get back again, so I might take a packed lunch and we can just meet for a coffee instead!
Dinner - chicken chargrill for him, lamb grillsteak for me that I was going to do last week but didn't

Friday - day off to make my husband's 40th birthday cake
Lunch- something easy as I will be up to my ears in baking
Dinner - out for dinner at my husband's favourite restaurant

Saturday - my husband's 40th birthday
Lunch - out with the family
Dinner - with the family

Sunday
Lunch - bacon sandwich (my husband's favourite)
Dinner - roast chicken or something from the freezer if we go out - we are considering a second day out for my husband's birthday

This is a blog hop, join in!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Strawberry and White Chocolate Unicorn Cake with a Surprise Inside


unicorn cake for Comic Relief

Scrolling through the messages on my Blackberry on a day off, I spotted a message about a bake sale at work for Comic Relief the following week. I always bake cakes when there is a charity bake sale and occasionally there has been a competitive element. I won the work bake-off two years ago with this floating malteser cake:


The following year I made this 'surprise inside' Mini Egg ombre piñata cake, but was out done by one of the other entrants (my sponge was a bit dry)

Easter showstopper mini egg ombre pinata cake

This year I wanted to make something special again and spent a while browsing the internet to get ideas and find out what current cake trends were, and decided to make a unicorn cake. I chose a strawberry cake recipe, bought some of the ingredients, spent time planning exactly what I was going to do... and when I got back to work and read the email properly, I realised that while all cakes were welcome for the bake sale, there were three competitive categories: tray bake, savoury cake, and chocolate cake. And I wasn't going to make any of those.

I considered scrapping my plans and making a different cake entirely but still wanted to do this one, and hit upon an idea: I could make a strawberry cake with white chocolate. I had a feeling that the other chocolate cake entries would all be milk chocolate or plain chocolate so having something with white chocolate might be a nice change.

In the end there weren't that many entries in the chocolate category after all so I won the bake off hands down! The cake tasted delicious, was really light and moist and I hid some white chocolate covered strawberries in the centre, which tumbled out when the cake was cut. It wasn't actually that difficult to decorate either and if the comments I received are anything to go by, it was definitely worth doing!

I didn't want the strawberries to overpower the white chocolate but also didn't want them just in the filling, so I decided to puree the strawberries in a blender and swirl it through the cake mixture in the tin before it was baked. To make sure the white chocolate flavour came through, I made a white chocolate buttercream for the filling and a white chocolate ganache to coat the outside of the cake before covering it with fondant.


Strawberry and white chocolate cake - an original recipe by Caroline Makes

I used a 6-inch cake tin (which is pretty small) as I wanted the cake to be tall but not too large and heavy as I had to carry it into work. This quantity makes four layers of a 6 inch cake.

450g butter, softened or margarine like Stork
450g caster sugar
8 eggs
450g self-raising flour
200g white chocolate, grated
50ml milk
227g punnet strawberries (or roughly that amount), hulled, chopped and blended in a food processor until pureed

for the strawberry centre:
75g strawberries
50g white chocolate

for the buttercream:
175g butter, softened or margarine like Stork
350g icing sugar, sifted
100g white chocolate, melted
pink food colouring
PME Cake Release or butter/marg for greasing the cake tins

for the ganache:
60ml double cream
120g white chocolate

to decorate:
about 1kg fondant - I find it easier to have extra for rolling out
PME gold edible lustre spray
black food colouring or a black edible ink pen
a wooden dowel or similar, about 8 inches long
star-shaped piping nozzle and piping bag

First if you want to fill the cake with chocolate-dipped strawberries you need to start by making these. The other thing I'd recommend using for the centre of the cake is Rainbow Drops - I had been planning to use these as I thought I had some in the cupboard but then couldn't find them!
 
Image result for rainbow drops

If you are using strawberries: Melt the 50g white chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave or a bain marie and dip in some chopped strawberries and leave on a wire rack to set. I actually did these the night before I needed them, though they don't take that long to set.


Preheat the oven to 180C and grease two loose-bottomed 6-inch cake tins. or spray with Cake Release.
 
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar then beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour then grate in the white chocolate, then carefully stir in the milk.


Spoon a quarter of the cake mixture into each of the two tins (so you will fill four in total).

Take a few spoonfuls of the strawberry puree and swirl through the cake mixture in the tins. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the cakes are cooked through but still fairly soft.

 
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack.


Wipe out the two tins, grease or spray again and spoon the rest of the cake mixture into the two tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes and leave to cool as before.

Make the buttercream by creaming the butter and the icing sugar and stirring in the melted white chocolate.

Make the chocolate ganache by heating the cream in a small pan until simmering. Remove from the heat and add the white chocolate and stir until melted. Set aside until it has cooled and thickened to a spreadable consistency.

When you are ready to assemble the cake, carefully level the cakes - if they have risen unevenly, slice a thin amount off the top of the cakes so they are flat.


Place the bottom cake on a cake board. Then take the next two layers and using a round cookie cutter, cut out a circle from the middle of both cakes. Spread some buttercream on the bottom layer, place the second layer on top and spread buttercream on top, leaving the hole free; place the third layer on top and repeat. Reserve a little of the buttercream to make the unicorn's hair.


You will now have a three-layer cake with a hole in the middle and a solid bottom layer. Pop your chocolate-dipped strawberries or sweets or whatever you are using into the hole, and place the solid top layer of cake on the top.


Spread the white chocolate ganache around the outside and on top of the cake.


Roll out the fondant on a mat dusted with icing sugar until it is large enough to cover the cake. Lift by draping it over a rolling pin and place on top of the cake. Smooth down the sides and trim the bottom.

Using the offcuts, roll two thin sausage shapes and twist one over the other, tapering as you get to the end - this will be the unicorn's horn. If you want you can use flower paste and the horn should stand up on its own; I used fondant which is too soft, so I poked a wooden dowel into the horn, leaving about an inch and a half at the end, which I later used to insert into the cake.


Place the horn onto newspaper or kitchen paper and spray with PME gold lustre spray. Leave to dry.


Using more of the fondant offcuts, shape two ears - I made these quite thick so they would stand up. Colour a small piece of fondant with pink food colouring and cut two flat pieces to stick inside the ears. I then used a cocktail stick inside each ear to attach them to the top of the cake.

I bought an edible ink pen by Rainbow Dust which has a thin end and a thick end; it took me about ten minutes to get the lid off one end and the other one wouldn't budge at all! So I could only use the thin end. It would have worked better if I'd waited for the fondant covering the cake to fully dry but it was already 11pm so I drew on the eyes, with the nib of the pen cutting into the fondant more than I would have wanted, and I would have preferred a thicker line, but it looked ok.


Add a little of the pink food colouring to the rest of the buttercream and using a piping bag and star nozzle, pipe some hair on top of the unicorn's head. Finally take the horn when the gold spray has dried and fix onto the top of the cake.

When you cut into the cake, the strawberries inside will tumble out, which is a nice surprise - you can just about see the strawberry swirl through the cake as well.


This cake would be lovely for a little girl's birthday I think - and of course it won the Comic Relief bake off!

I'm linking this up with Cook Blog Share, hosted by Eb at Easy Peasy Foodie.

Hijacked By Twins
 
I'm also sending it to We Should Cocoa, hosted by Choclette at Tin and Thyme.