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.