25 February 2014

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

After the success of the lemon meringue cake, I have been eager to get back into the kitchen, this time I decided on a chocolate chiffon cake. Whenever I watch GBBO there's more often than not a chiffon cake mentioned, the name alone has kept me intrigued for a while, as had the method for making the sponge mixture (hint - whisked egg whites where involved).

A chiffon cake is known for it's lightness, the cakes does not contain any fat, using whisked egg whites carefully folded in with the ingredients to give the cake volume.
I used this recipe posted on the Nigella Lawson site. The recipe worked well, although my cake got a bit stuck in the tin despite leaving the cake until it was completely cool and hanging the tin upside down. Although I suspect I was a little impatient and didn't leave the cake quite long enough.


Once I had managed to get the cake out of the bundt tin I covered it in chocolate frosting, although I have to say it didn't look particularly pleasing on the eye. There was a small chunk missing from the top that the tin had claimed that no amount of icing could cover, so I decided to dust the whole thing with a healthy layer of icing sugar which did the trick. 

The cake is one of the lightest and most moist cakes I have ever eaten, although I would suggest only a small serving as it was quite rich.

22 February 2014

Lemon Meringue Cake

Next on my baking list was a lemon meringue cake. Lemon meringue pie is one of my all time favourite desserts and I always order it if it's a desert option on a menu, which got me thinking of how I could translate this into a cake.

I started off by baking three lemon sponges and then spread lemon curd in between each layer. I then covered the whole cake in meringue frosting, which was a first for me. Then using our newly purchased blow torch from John Lewis, I torched the top and sides of the cake to brown the frosting ever so slightly.

For the cake mixture I used duck eggs that I bought from our local farmers market, I'd heard they make cakes lighter than eggs from hens. The sponge was incredibly light and moist, however this might have had something to do with me leaving the sponge for a day in an airtight container before covering it in the meringue frosting.


I took the cake into work as Jason and I couldn't quite manage the whole thing by ourselves! All in all it was a resounding success, although I may have a put a bit too much vanilla extract in the frosting, a minor adjustment needed for next time! 


Recipe 

I adapted a Delia Smith recipe I came across online, here's a link to the original recipe, however I have included my adapted recipe below.

For the sponges -
265g Self raising flour 
265g Margarine 
265g Golden caster sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
2 tbsp Lemon juice
1.5 tsp Baking powder 

4 Duck eggs, lightly beaten
  1. Grease and line three 18cm circular tins.
  2. Preheat your oven to 160ºC.
  3. Cream the margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in the eggs until combined.
  5. Add in the flour, baking powder, lemon juice and zest. The mixture may start to split, if this happens keep stirring the mixture, if it does not come together add a touch more flour.
  6. Divide the mixture evenly between the three tins and then place in the oven for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
For the frosting -
As this is something that I had never attempted before and none of my recipe books had anything close to what I was after I scoured the internet for an easy-ish recipe, and I found this recipe. It's a great easy to follow recipe if it's your first time making meringue frosting.

As I made the frosting the night before and iced the cake in the morning I did as the recipe suggested and put the frosting the fridge over night. However, it did need re-whisking in the morning.

16 February 2014

Crème Brûlée

After a somewhat hectic week with work, Jason decided to make a scrummy dinner for our date night in on Saturday. He's taken a leaf out of my book and opted to make something for pudding that he'd never made before . . . Crème brûlée. 

Armed with our new cooks blowtorch we set about caramelising the sugar, however I don't think we put quite enough sugar on top as it was a very thin layer of caramelised sugar, but it still tasted scrummy none-the-less, definitley one to try again.


Valentine's Day

I have been incredibly spoilt for Valentine's day, amongst all the loveliness Jason bought me a beautiful bouquet of peonies. They are by far my favourite flowers, and after many dropped hints I came home on Friday to a huge bouquet of twelve peonies and some beautiful pastel purple gypsophila. I have separated the bouquet into two vases which have taken pride of place in direct sunlight on our dining room table. The buds were all very tightly closed, however they have very slowly been blooming and they look beautiful . . . 


Peonies starting to bloom . . . 

 

One of the flowers decided it liked the sun rather a lot and has bloomed quicker than the others. I love all of the delicate layers of these beautiful flowers.

9 February 2014

New Year New Challenge

I have set myself a challenge to start baking things that I've never attempted before. I've decided that I'm in somewhat of a baking rut and keep baking the same things over and over again, never attempting anything new. First on my list was millionaire's shortbread, it is one of those baked treats that always looks so inviting. I made mine using this recipe

The tin I used was a tad smaller than the one suggested so my layers were a little thick, however I did like having quite a substantial shortbread base, just not the caramel and dark chocolate!


I will most definitely be trying this recipe out again as it wasn't a 100% success, my caramel middle was a little grainy from where I don't think the sugar had completely dissolved.

Craft Room - Progress at last!

I finally got my butt into gear and sorted out my craft room, and I'm happy to say I'm almost there! I managed to swipe Jason's corkboard and gave it a bit of a face lift and painted the boring pine frame with a cream paint. 

I have since started pinning up images of all of the things that inspire me, to get my creative juices flowing, and it's worked . . . well sort of.


I got online and bought some lovely bits and pieces to start some much needed making. Amongst my purchases where these incredibly pretty pom garlands that I bought from a new website discovery Elephant in my Handbag.


Whilst sorting out my craft room I rediscovered my box of button loveliness . . .and gave them a much needed sort out, and they are now all organised into their colour groups.





 I have also finished my snood, although it doesn't look like I'll be getting to wear it anytime this year owing to the mild and wet weather we've been having. 

 

21 January 2014

Lights, lights and more lights!

I think buying lamps and light shades has become my new favourite pastime, not a weekend seems to go buy when we don't buy one, so far we're up to 10! For fear of boring you with seemingly endless pictures of light shade and lamps, I've instead picked my favourite five . . .


This is our most recent purchase for the lounge from Dunelm Mill


Beautiful origami light shade in the craft room from Habitat


Pretty light shade for the guest bedroom from B&Q


Rabbit night light from the Dotcomgiftshop


Another lamp for my craft room from Dunelm Mill

Craft room

The second bedroom is on it's way to becoming a proper craft room, it's the one room in the house that has needed more work than any other. 

Unfortunately I drew the short straw in the spare room stakes and got the smallest one which has a large square cube in the corner of the room that goes over the stairs. 

We decided to use it as part of the base support for my desk. We bought a sheet of MDF and 3 oak bannister poles from B&Q which we attached to the unsupported end.


I then tacked a padded material onto the top of the table, and then a matt oilcloth on top. To secure the table to the top of the cube we used a strong bonding adhesive which worked wonders.


As you can tell from the above image I wasted no time in getting all my crafty bits of the many boxes and bags, although I desperately need to have a bit of a tidy!

I then got Jason to put up some of my Belle & Boo prints as well as some cross stitch patterns that I'd done (both the fox and woodland sampler cross stitch patterns are available from Penelope Wait's shop on Etsy) and a cute beach hut scene by Sea-Saw Design.

5 January 2014

Crafty Christmas

This Christmas has been a particular busy year for making presents, in a bid to save the pennies we decided to make a lot of our gifts, when I say we I mean me doing the making and Jason the reminding me that things needed to be made! 

All in all I made three moss stitch snoods, two knitted hats with wooly poms made by Jason, one chicken cross stitch pattern, one hamster cross stitch pattern (with up-cycled frame sanded and painted by myself), one pair of oven gloves, one pair of knitted gloves, around 30white air drying clay Christmas tree decorations, 24 cranberry and orange shortbread biscuits, 30 gingerbread men/animals, one Christmas cake, one spice cake and 24 mince pies!

As well as three batches of fudge, two of coconut ice and a chocolate roulade that Jason made, it's safe to say that we were exhausted by the time the 25th December arrived, making right up to an hour before Jason's family arrived to wish us both a 'Merry Christmas!' on the 24th. I'm so glad we persevered, there were times when simply going to a shop and buying equivalents was looking tempting but everyone loved their gifts, and I picked up a lot of new crafting skills along the way. 

Below are some of the makes and where to get the bits and pieces from that I made them with.

Knitted bobble hat . . .


 . . . and the gloves - 

These were fingerless gloves with a sloth for the thumb on the side, I then stitched some bows on using some satin ribbon that I had. I used a super chunky wool to make the hats, gloves and snoods from Hobbycraft.



 Oven gloves 

- I made these for Jason's Mum, and they're similar to the gloves I made Jason.


On these gloves I did the quilting diamonds closer together than those I did on Jason's and I think they look better, I also used a thinner wadding. The strawberry fabric and bias binding is from Fabric Land.


On these gloves I added a loop so that the gloves can be hung on a cupboard handle, I simply made this by folding a length of bias binding in half and catching it when I done the bias binding.

 

Scrummy mince pies 

- I thought I'd try something a little different from the norm, this is what the pies looked like before they went in the oven.


Sugarcraft

- My first attempt at sugarcraft didn't go quite so well, my penguin came out looking a little bit 'special', this one didn't quite make it onto the Christmas cake!


Christmas cake 

- The finished cake! with Jason's brilliant fishing penguin, and my snowman held together using some handy toothpicks. We made the igloo by using a hemisphere tin that we got from Lakeland, we bought this one.

 

Clay Christmas decorations

- These were really easy to make (expect a future post coming soon on how to make these) and everybody loved them! We've got some on our Christmas tree too! I used white air drying clay, letter stamps, a selection of cookie cutters and a rolling pin.




A valuable lesson has been learned for next year, starting making a lot earlier!!!

A New Year and a New Start

It seems like an eternity since I've updated my blog, it has been somewhat of a busy six months. We've moved out of our teeny tiny one bed flat and into a three bed semi-detached house, been frantically making numerous presents for family members for Christmas and busy with work, which has left little time for my blog.

Our house finding journey was unfortunately not a straight forward process with four months spent at Jason's very kind parents, as we struggled to find a house to transform after we'd exchanged on the flat. It seemed like we would never find our home, we where about to give up and re-enter the world of renting when we finally found 'the one' a three bed semi-detached house in need of a some TLC.

We finally moved in on the 8th November. Two van loads and numerous trips in the car we are finally all moved in and exhausted after having my family over for Christmas. Since moving in we've had a frantic six and a bit weeks sourcing beds, a dining table, light fittings and carpet to name but a few to transform the house into our home, and I think we just about managed it!

Below is a snap of the front of house, it's a work in process which will probably take a few years but it will be an adventure with a lot of redecorating! We've not dared to pull back the lining paper that is on ALL of the walls, for fear of the need to re-plaster everywhere, and we're eagerly awaiting the return of warmer drier weather so that we can spruce up our sorry looking front and back gardens.

Keep checking back for more progress updates, I'll also put up all of the pretty things we've sourced and any amazing finds that I discover from now on (I can't wait!!!!)