Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Every girl loves rainbows, and cookies

The girls get two weeks off school at Christmas-time, and because it's the Holiday season it kind of doesn't feel like they're really off school in the same way as other holiday periods.  I suppose it's because it's not as easy to arrange playdates the way we normally would - as other children are busy with their own families, cousins, grandparents and so on.  Nonetheless I managed to get hold of one friend, M, who enjoys baking too - and we decided upon using up some Smarties to make Rainbow Cookies.
They were very pleased to each get a chance to do some ingredient adding, some dough mixing and some cookie shaping.  As you can see, Mini-2 needed a helping hand to reach the counter-top comfortably.
Mini-1 is really rather tall, so needed no additional help to roll out the cookies and place them on the prepared baking tray.
Equally tall is her classmate M, who also enjoyed deciding just quite how much mix was to go in each precise dollop of dough...
Once baked, we noticed that the colour seemed to have baked right out!  I asked for advice on my Facebook page, and it was suggested that Smarties have mostly  natural colourings, so they lose them faster. I was recommended to try M&M's next time, as they wouldn't fade out in baking...  Of course, the girls didn't mind at all.  They were thrilled to be able to eat their delicious creations immediately, and take some home for the rest of M's family.  Well done girls!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Zebra print for Zoe, part 1

I don't normally tell you the names of people whom I write about, in order to protect their privacy.  I suppose I could just 'change their names to protect the innocent' like they do on tv or in magazine articles, but I never remember to do that.  However in this instance, I really hope Zoe doesn't mind me using her name - the alliteration between it and the requested zebra print was just too wonderful to pass up on.  
I had the privilege of doing Zoe's birthday cake last year, and was thrilled to be called on again.

This year her mother sent me an image, and asked if I could make a similar cake.  However the colours were to be different, as purple is Zoe's current favourite colour.  No problem I thought, as I'd really enjoyed making this type of bow on a cake, and was looking forward to trying a different style.  I had two options for making the zebra print, and had tried to do the type where you lay out a huge area of white sugarpaste, then lay the black on top and roll over the two to sort of flatten them both.  It kind of did and didn't work, but...
I'm pleased to report that Zoe was blown away by her birthday cake, and they all loved it!  Happy birthday big girl!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cookies and cream bark, and peppermint bark. Christmas treat time

We love to make bark - it's so easy and fun, and there are so many variations and possibilities.  And it always taste so good!  We started, way back when, with classic peppermint bark, and wanted to make a fresh batch for this Christmas.  I did it with milk chocolate, because I had another idea for add-ins for the white chocolate...
We started by crushing the candy canes as best we could with a rolling pin.
And when we'd been in Australia back in October, I'd seen some Christmas coloured M&M's and just had to buy them.  I had felt they would come in handy for something around about December-time, and this seemed the perfect use for them.  
Add in some candy snowflakes, pop it in the fridge for a few hours and crush it up a bit, and Christmas 2014 peppermint bark was born!
Then it was time to try out that new idea I had - strawberry Oreo bark...  We had seen some Strawberry candy canes and bought them specifically for Mini-2, as she isn't keen on mint at all.  Once they were crushed, we added in some crushed mini Oreo's to the mix.
 I added some holly and Christmas tree sprinkles and popped this tray in the fridge too.
Cracked up and popped in a tin lined with baking paper and this new version of bark was ready for dessert too.  Merry Christmas one and all 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

We built a house, a rice crispy house

Now that I  notice cake and baking-related things a little bit more than I used to (small understatement there, you understand) I couldn't help but notice all the mentions of gingerbread houses at this time of year.  I felt it was possibly a bit beyond me, what with the working and kids and their activities and so forth, so picked up a box kit for a rice crispy house at a local supermarket.  We waited for a suitable afternoon and all got down to the important business of house-building...
 The kit gave you all the ingredients in the right quantities, so we just followed the instructions.
They didn't mention what a mess the marshmallow made of your pots though - this looks like it's gonna take some serious elbow grease to wash!
After pressing the prepared mix into the mould, and putting it in the fridge for the required time, we had our house components.  A little bit of icing was used as the mortar, and the house was ready to be decorated! Both girls were given a side each, some extra mini Smarties and relevant sized sweets and got to it.
The line sprinkles were meant to look like sparkly snow, but kinda got stuck along the way, and all over the work area.
This was mine and Mini-1's side, fairly neat and straight.  We tried to co-ordinate our colours so they made lines along the roof panel.  It sorta worked, right?
And here is Mini-2's side.  She used some of the other sweets and went for a different pattern with her mini Smarties.  

And here's a lovely line-up of all the treats we had available to eat on Christmas day itself, made by our fair hands...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sweet and salty Christmas treat

I love making this traybake.  A few times The Team have even requested I make a double batch, so we can keep one, ha ha.  It really is that good.  Such a taste sensation of salty nuts and sweet chocolate....  Mmmm. A friend's sister is pregnant at the moment, and had fallen in love with a photo from my Facebook page of another traybake and had been craving it.  But I hadn't managed to locate any Reese's pieces for a reasonable price (£1.50 per 50g bag was a tad ridiculous I felt) so the friend chose this one for her.  I delivered it in one piece, and I believe it was cut and placed in a gorgeous Santa tin, to be given as a Christmas gift.  Oooh, what a lucky girl!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Malteser Twirl birthday cake

I know it's been a while, and I apologise, and thank you for sticking around!  But life as a working mum is really rather hectic, I had no idea!  There's just no time for anything to be done well, sigh...  But that hasn't stopped me baking, oh no.
Here we have an unusual request this close to Christmas - a huge, decadent and delicious birthday cake smothered in chocolate buttercream and Twirl chocolate bars and Malteser malted chocolate balls.  K ordered it for her chocolate-mad hubby for his birthday, knowing how much he loves both the chocolates.  I was really keen to decorate this one, the smell at Becca Towers was something else!!
Happy Birthday Mr T (no, not the actual guy from the 80's tv series The A Team) - enjoy your cake.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cinnamon danish for Sunday breakfast

I love a cinnamon danish.  Or even a cinnamon roll, which I think is a bit softer and more bread-like.  My Swedish friend P, who sadly moved back to Sweden over a year ago, left me with her recipe for cinnamon rolls.  I've yet to try it, but she tells me it's easy and I know it tastes amazing... one day.
In lieu of that, and because I have learnt to treasure my weekend morning lie-ins now, I decided to try out a pre-packaged cinnamon danish recipe.  It's by Jus-Rol, a company who specialise in ready-made pastry and whom we've tried and liked before (and no, this post isn't sponsored by them at all).  They were quick and easy to prepare and made for a super delicious Sunday morning breakfast treat, with a cup of mocha  (milk for The Team).  Enjoy!
You can even see, in this before photo, the fun roll-up tin the danish came out of and the actual real Swedish pearl sugar that P gave us as a parting gift.  Mmm...  tasty!  Uh, this photo isn't of the right item!  Oops, made by the same company, but those ones down there are croissant.  Wonder if I can find the right photo?? Still, you get the idea right?  ha ha

Monday, October 28, 2013

Caramel, princesses and unicorns for an early birthday treat

Both our girls are quite gregarious, and have lots of friends in their class and outwith school.  But our kitchen table has only 6 chairs, so parties at home are limited in size.  I feel it makes for a more enjoyable occasion, as no-one tends to feel left out when there are only a small group of friends to entertain.  And the girls have certainly never complained, they enjoy the attention too.
In this case, Mini-2 had a group of friends who all lived very near one another and we'd arranged that L was going to come to our house one day after school to play.  But of course, as young kids do, they chatted about it and then G, E, A and K wanted to come too.  Uh, ok sure I said, then racked my brain as to the least stressful way to do that for her...
As her birthday was only a week or so after the planned playdate, we decided to call it an early birthday party and have cake and cupcakes and fun!
Mini-2 chose caramel as her cake flavour, and these super cute picks and cardboard wraps for the table decorations.
We ended up with a 6" cake and a dozen or more cupcakes, so the girls took them home as party favours.
The food boxes match the napkins and cupcake wraps - cute huh?  
Happy early birthday sweet girl.

Cookie decorating parties are such fun

Our girls are, possibly sickeningly for some, the light of our lives.  Really.  They drive us insane at times, but we really are glad they're about.  Would have been all sorts of fun with Mini-3 too, but sometimes you just need to deal with the hand you're dealt.  
Mini-2 has a birthday coming up soon, and a school friend who wanted to come over for a playdate.  Now this particular girl in Mini-2's class lives on a street with about 4 or 5 other girls in their year group.  And when they found out that L was coming over, well, they all wanted to come!  As you do when you're 6.  So they all came.  And I guessed it would be a madhouse for a couple of hours, so figured I'd call it an early birthday party and try to contain the excitement slightly.
Mini-2 chose the cake she wanted (see details in a separate post) and then chose cookie decorating as the activity.  Remember those edible food markers I bought a year or so ago for her 5th birthday cake?  Well they still worked, so were put to good use by the girls at the party.  As with last year, they all had a blast and were thrilled to take home their arty efforts.  Well done girls!
Big sis went for the stripy cupcake case and sprinkles with the red cherry again - ha ha.
Little sis (and birthday girl) decided to write herself a happy message
 Not everyone managed to complete their designs, but they were all happy with them.

Great work girls!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween mallows and pretzels, not at all scary

Halloween isn't my favourite holiday - simply because I'm a bit of a wuss and don't like scary things.  In case you hadn't realised by now, I'm a hearts and flowers kind of girl, so with all the ghouls and ghosts and spiders around about now, I'm not in my element!  We have a DVD in the house that the girls really enjoy, called ummm, gosh, I can't recall what is called just now, (will add in the name when it comes to me.  Oh, I remember!  It's called Hocus Pocus) and it's about Halloween and that's fun, but hey ho.

So, how does Becca do Halloween in a non-scary way then?  Lucky you, you're about to find out...  I really like the crunchy salty and sweet contrast within chocolate covered pretzels, and had some black candy melts in the house.  Why, you ask?  Why indeed.  I simply couldn't recall what on earth I could have bought them for - I mean, me and black decorations?  It just doesn't make sense.  So anyway, I had these black candy melts just sitting around, plus some orange ones (I know, that doesn't look like a coincidence, but it was - honest!) so got to work.
A little bit of time and a lot of fun later, we had double-dipped marshmallows and pretzels with halloween sprinkles!  These were great fun to make, and so much more fun to eat!
 Mmm, thick chocolate on crunchy salty pretzels...
And how fun are marshmallows?  With chocolate and sprinkles, why yes thank you!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Blazing out of this place

A last minute order for a leaving-do, from a fire station!  I got the message from L that she needed some cupcakes for a colleague who was leaving the Fire Service and could I help, as she knew we were headed off to Oz very soon.  Sure thing I said, and baked her up some strawberry ripple cupcakes with a dollop of jam (kind of like fire, see?) in the middle, topped with luscious vanilla buttercream and wishes of good luck in flames on top.  Ciao, adios, adieu - enjoy!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Becca does decorations, and holidays

The Team were invited to a friend's birthday party, and I was asked to make the party cupcakes.  All very thrilling, and right up our street... But we were going on a late holiday this year, in the October school holidays, to Australia (yes indeed, you read that right!  Australia!!  For the first time in over a decade, and thus with the children.  For nearly 40 hours door-to-door) and were leaving the day of the party.  So not only could we not attend, I couldn't make the fresh cupcakes.
So the mother had an inspired idea - could I make the decorations, and she'd make buy some cupcakes from the supermarket?  Sure thing I said...  Butterflies, flowers, birds and buttons - Happy 6th birthday E!!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Cinnamon Apple Berry bake - come on Autumn!

You may have noticed that I like to pick up recipe magazines now and then.  And try out new recipes that I think sound good.  Well, here's another one...
This one is officially called Little Chefs apple, berry and yoghurt traybake but I prefer to think of it as a Cinnamon Apple Berry bake.  It smelled great when it was cooking, and was so moist and quick to eat! And it seems quite healthy too, with 3 different fresh fruits, natural yoghurt and not much sugar. Certainly I was happy for The Team to have their fill.  
 It even looks good raw, don't you think?  All those delicious berries, mmm...
When the time was up for baking, it seemed very soft inside, so I returned it to the oven for a further 15 minutes or so.  It was still soft and very moist, but I felt it must be done so removed it finally.
It cut up easily once cooled, and was moist all the way through - totally delicious!!  Although for the next time, I'll add a fair bit more cinnamon for a bit more of an Autumnal flavour.  And a friend tried it and she added mixed spice - that would work too.  Enjoy.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mars Bar Slice, with added fun

I had some orange flavoured chocolate buttons and some Reese's Pieces in the baking treats bucket, and couldn't think how best to use them.  Until I noticed the Mars Bars in the sweetie cupboard - bingo!  Off to buy some Rice Krispies and it was game on...
They looked kinda silly lined up like that on the whole tray, but once cut into bite-size pieces - oh my, they looked and tasted amazing!  Lucky for us that this treat was all for The Team  :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One Direction, every little girls dream

It was that time of year again, D's birthday, and this year she was planning a One Direction themed party. They had so enjoyed the little lilac mini cupcakes from last year that that was the go-to idea for this year.  I started out with the little named decorations and let them dry out overnight.  Then made up dozens of mini cupcakes, all named and some even with the party-guests names on!  Then once they were decorated they were lined up and ready to be eaten.
Happy birthday D - hope it was fabulous!!