9 August 2014

Cookie Monster Birthday Cake

It was Jason's birthday on Thursday. We had a lovely morning of relaxing and chilling out watching the Lego movie, not my first choice of film to watch on my day off, but it was better than expected. We then had a great two hour sugar craft session at Sweet Serenity in Westbourne teaching us the basics, this was followed by How to Train Your Dragon 2 at the cinema then off to Koh! for a scrummy dinner, and back home for birthday cake.

I have been planning the birthday cake for quite some time, ever since I got the giant silcone cupcake mould in fact. 

I made some mini Cookie Monster cupcakes for Jason's birthday a few years back, but I wanted to see if they could work just as well using this mould.

I kept it simple making a vanilla sponge, using the additional insert in the base of the cupcake so that there was a cavity inside for some sweet treats (in this case crispy m&m's), I then covered the whole thing in blue frosting followed by dyed blue coconut. I then made the eyes by meting some white chocolate and then pouring the mixture into baking cases and leaving to set, and then placing a large milk chocolate drop in the centre for the pupils.

I also made my own milk chocolate chunk cookies, these came out a little chunkier than expected, in that they didn't quite fit, but after a bit of manoeuvring and careful carving of both the cookie and the cake I managed to get it to stay in place.

Here's the finished result . . .


A semi-devoured Cookie Monster

16 July 2014

Crafty Like a Fox

I have been in admiration of Louise Walker's faux taxidermy knits for some time now, and I finally plucked (no pun intended!) up the courage to get myself one of her Forest Friend Fox kits. Great value for money at only £30 and you get everything you need, including knitting needles!

I finished making Mr Fox in just two days I was so excited to get him made and hung up in my craft room, although I had a few obstacles to overcome on the way. I had never done a slip stitch before (not quite sure how!) so a quick YouTube video tutorial later and I was on my way. The next challenge was getting my head around the intarsia technique, basically put it's when you knit with more than one colour yarn attached to your knitting needles. I had a grand total of four different bundles of yarn attached to my knitting needles to do each of the fronts of ears, it took a little time but I got there in the end. I'm so pleased with the end result, I'm itching to try my hand at more adventurous knits now . . .

The beautiful hessian packaging that the bits and pieces come in.

Mr Fox finished, even though he's got a bit of a wonky nose and eyes!



5 July 2014

Some Pretty Pictures . . .

For the past 10 weeks I have been attending a Photography short course at the Arts University in Bournemouth, it's been strange going back a few years after completing my degree, its almost like I've never been away, even though there have been a few changes.

As part of the course we had to produce a set of photos with the central theme of either abstract or after dark. I chose to focus on the abstract theme, I had two sets of images that I couldn't quite decide on so ended up taking them both with me to get some feedback on.

 

Flower Power

For these images I focused on close up macro shots (or as close as I could get with the lens I had!) of flowers, I love the hot pinks against the lush green foliage in these photos.

Taken in Bournemouth gardens

Taken in Bournemouth gardens

Taken at Compton Acres

Taken at Compton Acres

Beside the Seaside

In these images I focused on the light within the images and how it highlights certain parts of the object, again I deicded to go quite close in with these shots . . .

Taken on Bournemouth Pier
Taken at Poole Quay

Taken at Poole Quay

Taken on Bournemouth Pier

7 April 2014

Bunnies

We (I) couldn't take not having any animals anymore, and it doesn't look like we'll be getting a dog anytime soon, so we decided to get on the RSPCA website and had a look for a pair of bunnies that might be in need of a new loving home.

We always had a rabbits when we were growing up, and out last rabbit Barley was such a character (plus it's the only animal other than Rosie Jason has actually liked!), I thought it might be a good idea for rabbits to be our first pets together.

We came across the cutest mini lops called Goldie and Copper on the Ashley Heath RSPCA site. They are mother (Goldie) and son (Copper) who had been at the rescue centre since Christmas waiting for there forever home together. Copper had been found along with her bunny rabbit husband at the bottom of a ladies garden, Goldie then had babies. The lady decided to keep two of the babies and hand in Copper along with Goldie and her bunny husband to the RSPCA.

My parents where down for the weekend, and we were out at the local farmer's market picking up some supplies when I got the call that we could go and collect them, they need a bit of tender loving care as they're not used to being handled, but I'm sure they're going to make great additions to the Cluitt/Green household, plus we can let them run around the garden so we won't have to mow it quite so much!

I've left them to it for their first night in their new home (a beach hut inspired pastel mint green and white hutch) but they seem to be settling in well, stay tuned for bunny updates . . .

A very fluffy Goldie

And a very shy Copper

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.