Twirly Chocolate Fridge Cake

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Given the chance Boo would bake something most days.  She likes to crack the eggs, weigh the flour… but she loves to mix.  She’ll mix stones in a bucket, raisins in a pot, ice cream in a bowl.  She pretends to hold a big bowl in the air and mixes up food for imaginary horses or pups.  Sometimes I try to make our creations at least a little healthy (carrot or corguette cupcakes, beetroot cake) but this week she wanted “Chocolate Mummy!”  And however hard I try to shun the pink, this girl does still like the ballet and the jewels and the twirly dancing, so we made pretty, twirly chocolate cake.

Twirly chocolate fridge cake, to be precise.  A really child friendly recipe with no oven, but lots of mixing, naughty ingredients to be taste tested, and art to top it off. I usually make this with lots of glacé cherries (yum,) but my husband is not a fan so we added mini marshmallows from the store cupboard and they add that rocky road chew to balance the biscuit crunch.  There must be loads of recipes like this, but here is mine.  I really recommend trying it, the posh twirly topping is so satisfying to look at (especially as it was artfully created by a 3 year old)!
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Ingredients:
4oz (110g) butter
2tbsp (25g) caster sugar
2 tbsp (30ml) golden syrup
4 tsp cocoa powder
8oz (225g) digestive biscuits
3 1/2oz (100g) raisins
Cup or large handful of mini marshmallows
4oz (110g)dark cooking chocolate
4oz (110g)milk cooking chocolate
3 1/2oz (100g) white cooking chocolate

First melt the butter, sugar, syrup and cocoa either in a saucepan or (carefully, checking every 30 seconds) in a microwave. I used the microwave and we counted together.

Put the biscuits in a bag with no holes and bash them into little pieces. A few larger pieces add texture, but don’t leave lots of big lumps.

Mix the biscuits, raisins and marshmallows into the butter mix until it starts to stick together.

Line a 1 inch high baking tray, or a flan dish with baking paper. Add the mix to the tray and push it down hard with the back of a spoon.

Now melt the dark and milk chocolate together. I know lots of people do this on the stove, but I find the microwave much easier. Just keep checking on it so it doesn’t burn. Tip the melted chocolate over the cake and spread to cover it.

Melt the white chocolate and drizzle over the cake. Take a toothpick (or something similar, end of a chopstick, knitting needle!) and start to twirl in and out of the white chocolate, creating your arty pattern.

Place in the fridge to harden (or if you can’t wait that long, make space in the freezer for an hour).

Take out and take it out of tray easily using baking paper to lift it.

Marvel at the twirly beauty, then chop it with a sharp knife… and try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting!
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Lazy Lavender Cupcakes

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Lazy days, lazy sunshine, lazy fun and lazy cooking – what a great way to spend your summer!   With their subtle aroma of lavender, these cupcakes manage to relax you with their delicate flavour, and are so simple to bake that you could make up a batch right now to enjoy with your afternoon tea.

I’ve been noticing lots of lovely crafts and recipes popping up using lavender recently, and decided to make good use of some of the beautiful plants growing in my neighbour’s front garden at the moment.  The bees are in nectar heaven, but Big and Little Boo are not so keen on their visiting (there are ALOT of them, and Big Boo did get stung by one on holiday) so helping mummy to collect lavender was a brave task which was rewarded by helping to make these cakes, as they are so simple they are child’s play!

imageAll of the recipes I found were either biscuits (I can cook a good cupcake, but my biscuits never seem so great) or called for lavender to be infused overnight with milk. I’m sure this does develop a much stronger lavender flavour, but I am rather lazy and impatient too, so if I want to make lavender cupcakes, I want to make them NOW. With this in mind we simply made up our favourite basic cupcake recipe, and added about 2tbsp of lavender flowers.  Guess what? They worked a treat, beautiful, light and subtly flavoured and scented- enough to be noticed but not overpowering.

If you fancy a go, here is the recipe we used:

100g sugar (I used half and half but caster sugar is fine, or granulated if you don’t have caster)

100g self raising flour

100g butter

2 eggs

Good vanilla essence, just half the lid.

2 tbs lavender flowers, removed from stalk Some of mine were still fresh and some had dried but both seemed to work)

imageWe mixed the sugar, flour and 1tbsp lavender in the mixer first to pound the lavender a bit and distribute it. Then we added the softened butter and eggs (which Little Boo loves to crack) and finally mixed in the rest of the lavender, saving some of the fresher flowers to scatter on top of the cakes once the mixture had been spooned into it’s cases.

imageThey were cooked at 180 degrees for 19 minutes (that’s my oven for you), left to cool then promptly devoured – the only part of the process that wasn’t lazy!

I do warn you though- eating these cakes may bring out the superhero in you!

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A tasty Barbie Girl – cake!

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Our second birthday cake! My friend and I made this a few weeks ago after a mum admired the volcano cake that we created for Big Boo’s Dinosaur party. Her little girl is princess crazy and we (crazily!) offered to make a Barbie cake for her. The volcano cake turned out so well (I hope you agree!) because it didn’t need to be polished, it was a stony volcano with rubble and lava.

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The Barbie cake ,however, should be perfection, smooth, no bumps or unintended ripples. Luckily I had my super cake maker friend on hand with some nifty tricks (such as – use cling film to smooth the sides of your crumb icing layer!), but it was still much harder to create a good finish, and we ended up turning the Barbie doll around at the end because the back looked better than the front.

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Well, whatever we thought, the recipient – daughter and mum – were both suitably pleased with the results and it tasted good too, so all boxes ticked (phew! There is so much more pressure creating for someone else). The only problem is that her friend wants to commission us to make one for her daughter, and we swore we would only make one Barbie cake…

PS: Here is the proof that we did make it. I thought about making a mini tutorial but wasn’t sure people would be interested. If you do want to know (you can probably figure it out yourself anyway, or find one made by a professional!) just drop me a line.
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A Dinomite Dino Party!

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Big Boo’s 4th birthday party was last weekend and despite all my stressing (I’m not a natural hostess) all the prep work paid off and we ended up with a really relaxed, enjoyable celebration.  Last year’s dino party was a military procedure planned to the last minute with a whole host of games.  It worked well but was hard work for me as I had to do lots of running around and organising of children.  This year we prepped lots of activities that the children could do themselves and the plan was to intersperse them between free playing.  Luck was with us and the sun came out so the children had free run of the house and garden.

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The first activity was a fossil excavation in the ‘sand pit’ (which was actually a paddling pool filled with sand). Inspired by some pinterest searching I bought a T-Rex skeleton mould from ebay  and filled it with plaster of paris.  Then all I had to do was bury the ‘fossils’ just before visitors arrived and place some paintbrushes on top of the sand.  Once our guests had all appeareWei sent them down to the garden to do some palaentological excavation work.  Big Boo gave a huge exclamation of “WOW” when he uncovered the tail, and the they laid the pieces out on the grass to (almost!) create the T-Rex once they found them all.  They then buried and uncovered them again, and again and again, 4 or 5 times before they got bored.

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After some more sand play we got busy cracking open the dinosaur eggs that the children made earlier in the week.  I’ve got a tutorial here for making them. The only disappointment here was that the children wanted to crack open more than we had, they enjoyed this a lot.

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Due to the mid afternoon timing of the party I stuck to nibbles (monster munch a.k.a dinosaur footprints and bread sticks a.k.a dino bones) and sweet treats. The dinosaur nest cakes at the top of the picture were made with lots of help from Little Boo and you will find a tutorial here.  The gingerbread fossil biscuits were made with these great cutters from amazon. They were pricey but we will use them with play dough too. Finally the cupcakes were piped with green grass buttercream icing and topped with a mini plastic dinosaur.

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We finished with this piñata activity.  These dinosaur eggs did take a few days to make (with stops and starts obviously!) but did end up looking great and were a hit (ha ha!). The children did need a little help to get started but they were all happy to become the baby dinosaurs hatching from the eggs by donning their masks.

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Birthday wishes were sung as the candles were lit on the volcano cake and a “wow” even escaped from one little boy’s lips as the sparkler in the centre of it started to spark.

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The children went home with their piñata dinosaur masks and a little thank you bag with some ‘dinosaur eggs’ (mini eggs) and a couple of toy dinosaurs, and we rounded the event off with a beer (my husband) and a Pimms (myself!) – perfect!

If you are planning a dino event for your little one, I would really recommend any of these activities, and you can find links to tutorials to do the activities above or below:

Dinosaur fossil mould from ebay.

Dinosaur eggs to crack open Tutorial.

Dinosaur nest mars bar cakes Tutorial.

Dinosaur skeleton cookie cutters from amazon.

Dinosaur egg piñata tutorial.

Volcano cake tutorial.

Birthday Boy and Volcano Cake

I’m aware that I haven’t posted for a while and I really keep meaning to. Life has been a bit hectic recently, and I have been crafting and sewing lots, but not had the time (or good weather outdoors) to take any nice photos. I’m holding off showing Little Boo’s new outfit until I can get some better pictures of her in it (as we have been back in winter coats and boots here – in May!), but I do have something to share with you here.

imageBig Boo has turned four this week (I can’t bear that he is growing up so quickly). He had a great birthday at the farm with me, his grandparents and cousin. He got a new ‘big boy’ maxi micro scooter – mainly so Little Boo can use his old one which has been pimped with a pink base board – her favourite colour she keeps telling me 😦 . However, his favourite gifts by far were his schleich dinosaurs and his prehistoric reptiles. He would probably have been happy just with his carnotaurus and styracosaurus (it’s crazy when you hear him using all of these names).

imageAnyway, he wants a dinosaur party again this year, so we are planning some new activities so that it isn’t the same as last year. He wouldn’t realise but it is nice for us to have a change. The party is tomorrow so I’ll blog about how they went once they have been child tested. He also requested a volcano cake, so after researching the Internet a friend and I spent yesterday afternoon creating our little masterpiece. It obviously isn’t professional standard, but we were both pretty chuffed with how it turned out, and so is my son. We took pics as we made, so I’ll add a mini tutorial when I have time and I have made a tutorial here if you would like to make one too.. I will be spending tomorrow morning trying to gently persuade him to let me put sparklers in the volcano hole (he’s a bit sensitive about all things noisy and sparky). But for now, it’s time to wrap the pass the parcel….

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