Friday, 12 April 2013

Kiddy-friendly cupcakes

Alright I'm sorry. I haven't posted since January, that's awful isn't it? No excuses...just life's been getting in the way of this blog...and so has the main blog I write - The Boy's Behaviour.

But, I do have some things to without further ado -

Kiddy-friendly cupcakes

Yes, there are plenty of cupcake recipes out there, including on this blog, but this is the simplest, easiest recipe and this time my kids (aged 6 and 2) made cakes almost entirely by themselves (with the help of my trusty mixer). They measured everything between them, they cracked the eggs (into a cup first to check for bits of shell), they poured things into the mixer, turned it on, put the cases in the tins, and spooned the mix in. They iced and decorated them and then ate them!

This recipe made 12 fairy cakes AND 12 cupcakes - so small and large cases. And it's in ounces because that's the easiest way to remember it:

4 eggs
8 oz sugar (granulated/caster)
8 oz self raising flour
8 oz margarine

For the icing:
Icing sugar
A little water
Food colouring

Preheat your oven to 180C.

In the mixer, cream together the margarine and sugar til fluffy. Add one egg, then a spoonful of flour, mix until combined. Repeat for the other eggs, then finally add the remaining flour. Mix until smooth and incorporated.

Divide the mixture evenly between the cases and then adult's job is the put the cakes in the oven. The fairy cakes will take around 12 minutes, the cupcakes nearer 15minutes. Remove from the oven and put the cakes on a rack to cool.

Once the cakes are cool, add a dribble of water to a bowl of icing sugar, remember that liquid food colouring will also make your icing runnier. (I prefer to use gel colours).

Then decorate! The best thing about these particular cakes are the toppers, which are pictures printed onto rice paper, bought from Ebay. I got Hello Kitty toppers for Dollop, and Lego Ninjago for Mini - they both declared them the best cakes ever!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Lego man cake

It's been such a long time since I posted, but after all the Christmas mayhem and visits, hopefully I can settle back into a regular routine of cakes, bakes and makes.

Not much time to write at the moment, but here is my latest cake - A Lego man creation for Mini's 6th birthday. Here are the photos to show what steps he was made in. Hopefully when I have more time, I can give you a bit more information....

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Rudolph cupcakes

It's been a while since I last posted for which I'm sorry. I start preparing for Christmas early, but even so November and December are very busy. We also have the arrival of our elf on the shelf at the start of December, so November is the time I plan his visit and his mischief. (For more information on elf visitors, have a look here or'll find plenty out there...).

Anyway that's why I've not been around so much, but I'm here today to write about my festive Rudolph cupcakes.

These are simple chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing then decorated and my kids LOVE them.
You'll need (to make a batch of 12 muffin sized cakes):

For the cakes:
3 eggs
6 oz sugar
6 oz margarine
5 oz self raising flour
1 oz cocoa powder

For the icing:
5oz margarine
10oz icing sugar
1 oz cocoa powder

For the decoration:
6 glace cherries, cut in half
3 curly wurlys, cut into antler sized pieces. 3 should be enough to have a little spare to taste test
chocolate dots/chocolate drops/currants/raisins/black icing

Line a muffin tin with 12 cake cases. Preheat the oven to around 180C.

Mix together all of the cake ingredients, until the batter is thick and well combined. Divide evenly between the cases and bake for around 15-20minutes or until the cakes spring back when the tops are lightly pressed.

Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely before decorating.

Once cool make the icing. Mix together the margarine,cocoa and icing sugar to a thick spreadable consistency. 

Using a palette knife or the back of a teaspoon, spread the icing over the tops of the cakes. Top with half a cherry for the nose, and stab in the pieces of curly wurly for the antlers. Finish with the chocolate dots for eyes.

These are a really quick treat for children and can be made fairly quickly and easily...get the kids to help decorate too!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Festive gingerbread playdough

Some months ago I published a recipe for homemade playdough - the batch of playdough I made then (on 5th August) is still going strong - kept wrapped in the fridge it can last for ages.

But now I've discovered something new, something seasonal, something that smells so good you'll wish it were real edible dough - Gingerbread Scented Playdough. I've also based this loosely on the spices I use in my Gingerbread Syrup recipe (which I use to make gingerbread lattes at home).
And the wonderful thing about this is that the more you play with it, and the warmer it becomes, the more it smells...

You will need:
1 cup of flour
1 cup of warm water
2tsp of cream of tartar
1tsp oil
1/4 cup of table salt
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1tsp nutmeg
Pinch of allspice

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a low-medium heat. Mix with a wooden spoon until it all comes together, forming a ball.

Not only does this smell like gingerbread, but the spices give it that lovely mottled brown colour - perfect for making pretend gingerbread men too!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Homemade marshmallow

Firstly, an apology. I fully intended to take photos of every step of this 'make', and started off well. However, there are no images of the finished marshmallow because my husband and children ate it all (alright, I had a bit too!) before I got a camera near it! But I hope that just goes to show how yummy it is!

So, marshmallow. This is a versatile recipe that can be adapted to introduce flavour and colour. I've slightly adapted a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe.

You will need:
2 egg whites
550g granulated sugar
2 sachets of powdered gelatine (about 25g)
4 tbsp icing sugar
4 tbsp cornflour
A little oil for greasing
Liquid/gel colouring of your choice

Put the sugar and 250ml water into a large pan, along with a sugar thermometer and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. When all dissolved, turn the heat up until the sugar reaches 124C.

This can take a while, so now you can get on with all the other jobs -
Put a small bowl over a pan of simmering water, and add 125ml water and the gelatine. Stir/whisk until the gelatine is melted.Then remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Put the egg whites into a large bowl and whisk (preferably with a stand-mixer) until stiff peaks.

And lightly grease a 20cm square tin.

When the sugar has reached the correct temperature, take it off the heat and stir in the gelatine - it'll bubble up a bit.

Turn the mixer back on and slowly pour the sugar syrup onto the eggs. Beat until it's just pourable. At this point you could add in a few drops of your desired colouring (pink is popular).

Then pour into the prepared tin.

Leave to set in a cool place (but not the fridge) for a few hours. Using a oiled knife to help ease it out, tip the marshmallow onto a light dusting of icing sugar mixed with some of the cornflour. Cut into whatever shapes you like.

Mix together the remaining icing sugar and cornflour. Toss the cut pieces in this mixture, and then it's ready to eat. Store in an airtight tin, lined with greaseproof paper.

Having made this quite a lot now, I decided to experiment this time, and just tipped half of this plain mixture into a tin. I added a few drops of peppermint essence to the remaining mixture, gave it a quick beat, then tipped it into another tin, then swirled a few drops of colouring in with a cocktail stick. This gave me two quite flattish slabs, but as it was a flavour experiment, I didn't mind how it looked really. Despite initial reservations, the peppermint marshmallow disappeared quickest, and so for Christmas I might crush some candy canes and press these into the mixture before it sets for something different.

Edit: I have now tried adding candy canes! I ground them in the blender with icing sugar and cornflour. Then used this dust to roll the marshmallow in. It's blunted my blender blades quite a bit, but tastes delicious. However, I don't think there's anything added (except expense and blunt blades) by doing this, so in future will just continue using peppermint essence.
I've also tried strawberry essence. But despite using half a bottle, I couldn't taste it in the marshmallow once set.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


I've already mentioned Christmas and how I like to make homemade Christmas gifts. This year, as an avid Pinterest user, I've picked up loads of ideas for different presents, and have been pinning like mad over the last couple of months in preparation. You can follow me on Pinterest here, and look at my 'Things that are gifty' and 'Things to try to make' boards. There's also a Christmas board with all things festive too!

Having decided on a few things I'd like to try making, I thought that I'd best test some of those ideas - I don't want to poison anyone, and if things don't work out as planned I'll need time to try again or choose an alternative. So a couple of weeks ago I settled on Limoncello, which I'd seen others pinning as a present idea.

You'll need:
A large glass bottle or kilner jar
75cl vodka
5 lemons (unwaxed, or washed in really really hot water to rinse the wax off)
650gwhite sugar
700ml boiling water

Start by taking large strips of the peel from the lemons and placing in the jar. Try not to get any of the bitter pith in, you just want the peel. Pour the vodka over the top and leave to steep for around a week-ten days. Keep in a dark place, and give it a shake every day.
You could leave this upto a month if you really wanted to improve the flavour, but I was desperate to get on and try it! Now you've made lemon vodka, and you could leave it at that - it's a great gift still.

But I wanted something a bit more than just flavoured vodka, so...
After the initial steeping, put the sugar into a jug and pour over the boiling water. Stir until the sugar is all dissolved. The pour this sugar mix onto the lemon vodka. Give it a gentle shake and leave for another week, again shaking each day.

Now all you need to do is strain through a muslin/paper coffee filter, and bottle or jar it, adding a few of the large pieces of peel if you desire. You could make your own labels, and add ribbons to make it pretty. Best served from the freezer, but it'll keep well for months in a cool, dark place.

And how about trying some homemade lemon curd with the juice from the leftover lemons?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Hot chocolate toppers

I went to the Cake & Bake show at Earls Court a couple of weeks ago, and got to meet Edd Kimber, who won the first Great British Bake Off. (his new book is fab...pre order it now!) I also saw many famous baking faces- Paul Hollywood, Mich Turner, Jo Wheatley, Paul Young, and have developed a crush on baker boy Tom Herbert! And whilst there picked up some decorating ideas and lots of freebies to test. And I hope to share some of those baking and decorating ideas soon...

But today's post is a make...

As it's turning chillier we've been drinking more hot chocolate. We all love marshmallows on top so I tend to keep a bag in the cupboard, and we also like cream but I don't keep that in the fridge all the time. But I saw this idea on pinterest and thought I'd try it- Hot chocolate toppers! You can use normal instant hot chocolate, homemade hot chocolate (melted chocolate, cream and a bit of milk - evil) or even my Hot Chocolate Spoons.

It's very simple- whisk up double cream to almost stiff peaks. Spread onto a an inch deep tray that you've lined with cling film.

Freeze overnight.

Remove from the freezer then take the cream out of the tray, removing the cling film.

Set the cream 'slab'on a board, then use your favourite small cutters to cut shapes in the cream. You'll need to work quite quickly else the cream will melt.
I don't like waste so I kept the 'trimmings' too! Which I'll probably use on my own hot chocs when no-one is looking!!

Pop them back in the freezer and whenever you fancy a creamy hot chocolate, just pop a frozen cream shape on to of your drink...

-Use metal cutters, I don't think plastic ones would cut as well.
-Have a small tub or freezer bag waiting to put the shapes straight into.
-Why not sprinkle some hundreds and thousands onto the cream before you freeze it, or swirl some food colouring in for a different effect. You could even set marshmallows in it!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Gingerbread syrup

Admission time - I'm a big Christmas fanatic. Yes, I know it's only September, but X Factor has started, the first Strictly Come Dancing was on last night, and it's dark by 7.30pm, so to me that means Christmas is on it's way.

I mentioned before I'm on a tight budget, which means I start Christmas shopping early in order to help me spread the cost across the whole year. It also means I get some bargains because I buy things when I see them - especially when I see them in sales!!

I also like to make homemade gifts - in the past I've made movie hampers (using a homemade record bowl, filled with Christmas DVDs and popcorn), pinecone firelighters, saltdough decorations, children's 'make your own bird feeder' kits and today's make - Gingerbread Syrup.

In fact, I first started making this a few years ago, not to give as gifts, but because my hubby and I are big Starbucks fans and especially their festive 'Red Cups'. Our favourite Starbucks cup is the Gingerbread Latte, but we can't afford to drink them too often (especially as a trip there now involves drinks and cakes for Mini and Dollop too), and we really missed them at the end of the festive season one year. So I searched for a recipe for something I could use at home instead. After lots and lots of making, coffee-drinking and testing, I came up with the following recipe. Incidentally, this syrup is great over icecream and in hot chocolate too. If you want to gift it, then you can buy pretty bottles, or use empty, clean ketchup bottles!

4 cups granulated sugar (for this and the water I use a standard coffee cup)
2 cup water
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Sterilised glass bottles*

Put the sugar and water into a very large saucepan over a low heat. Gently stir until the sugar is dissolved to make a basic sugar syrup.

Add the spices and vanilla, then turn the heat up to medium, allowing the syrup to boil until it thickens slightly...til it's the consistency of something like maple syrup (runnier than goldren syrup), almost like washing up liquid! Don't worry if you get foamy stuff on top, though you can skim it if you wish. At this stage you can also strain through muslin if you like - but you don't have to.

Leave the syrup to cool slightly, remove the cinnamon stick if you haven't already strained the syrup, then pour into the sterilised bottles. Once cool, add a label. In coffee, we find that we use just enough to cover the bottom of the mug, and we love it with both instant or ground coffee. And we find it keeps best in a cool dark place, not the fridge.

*the best way I've found is to wash the bottles in hot soapy water, then rinse and put into a cold oven. Turn the oven on to about 140C, and 'cook' the bottles for around 15minutes. Fill whilst they are still hot. Hot liquid poured into cold bottles can cause the glass to crack or worse, explode.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


I'm a planner (I know, I know...don't hate me!) but I have a small, strict budget and meal planning each week enables me to keep within my means, and make the most of leftovers and good offers at the supermarket. Despite my small budget, I want - like most mums - to give my family proper homecooked food. However, I often struggle with thinking of different things to feed them. They're not *too* fussy, and Mini is getting more experimental as he gets older.
So as I was planning this weeks meals, I realised that due to a change of plan one night (we had surprise fish and chips at the seaside) I had a packet of flour tortillas left in the cupboard. I know I could have frozen them, and often do, but Mini has just declared these tortillas to be the best things ever after Chicken and Coleslaw Wraps last week, so I thought I'd use them.
Wraps - yep but had those last week, Mexican Lasagna (the original intention, using chilli for the filling and the tortillas in place of pasta sheets) - but didn't fancy that, so thought I'd offer Quesadillas, with salad on the side. They went down really well, and both children have asked for them again another time.

So you need:
Flour tortillas - you need 2 for each Quesadilla. (1 Quesadilla per adult was enough, and half of a Quesadilla each for my two was just right).
A mozzarella ball, ripped into small pieces. (1 ball does about 4 Quesadillas)
Cheddar cheese - grated, a small handful per Quesadilla.
Salad of your choice.

Preheat a couple of frying pans - they must be large enough to lay a whole tortilla in flat. Brush each pan with a little sunflower or olive oil.
When the pans are hot, lay one tortilla in each, then dot the Mozzarella around the tortilla, sprinkle over the cheese (but not too close to the edges) and then finally lay another tortilla on top.
Give it a minute or two to cook - you want the bottom tortilla to be crisping on the outside, so carefully use a spatula to lift it and have a check. When it's crispy enough it should be easy to flip, so you can then crisp the other side. The cheese should be all oozy and melted inside.

When crisped on both sides, remove from the pan and cut into 6 or 8 wedges and serve with salad of your choice.

Including preparation and cooking these were ready in about 10 minutes, so quick for a warm meal.

In the past the NC and I have had these with Tomato Soup that's been perked up with a sprinkle of chilli powder...very yum, and in the winter I might do this for the children (without the chilli powder!). I didn't think I would feel full up after eating one of these, but I really did, and so did the NC.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Really easy cream slices

Recently we held a surprise anniversary party for my in-laws upcoming Ruby Wedding anniversary. As it was an afternoon tea party, cakes featured heavily! But I didn't want to just make cakes, so my sister in law made a load of gorgeous little sandwiches, and I made these incredibly easy cream slices too. They went down a treat, in fact the raspberry cream slices all disappeared, and there were just a few blueberry slices left.

You will need:
Puff pastry (shop bought or homemade), just a standard block
1 egg, beaten
A little caster sugar
A little flour for rolling

For the filling:
A large carton of double or whipping cream
Fresh fruit of your choice

Preheat your oven to 180C.
Sprinkle flour on your rolling surface.
Roll out the puff pastry to around half a centimetre thick. Then simply cut into 5cm squares. You can re-roll the trimmings once or twice, but after that the pastry will not puff as well and will become tough.
Place on a baking sheet and brush each square with a little beaten egg, then sprinkle a small pinch of sugar over the top.
Bake for around 10 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown. When done, immediately remove to a cooling rack.

Whilst the puffs are cooling, whisk the cream to stiff peaks and pop it into a piping bag with a large nozzle. (If you don't have a piping bag, you can use a knife or pallette knife to spread it instead).

When the puffs are cooled, gently ease the tops off each one. They should be easy to split open like this.
Then pipe or spread the cream inside, top with the fruit of your choice, and place the lids back on.

See, how easy is that?? The hardest bit is splitting the puffs open, and that's really easy! You can even make the puffs (but don't fill them) the night before, just make sure you put them in a tin (not plastic tub) which will help keep the pastry fairly crisp. And feel free to experiment - flavour your cream with vanilla or rose essence, use sliced peaches instead of berries, mix chocolate ganache with the cream, drizzle the tops with runny icing, dust with icing sugar or edible glitter...go mad.