I really have been busy.. honest.

Today has been a manic day. All I seemed to have done today was mop the floor, sort the laundry, do lots of baking and the endless washing up. In between these tasks, I seemed to have had around 15 visitors come through my door (and our house is TITCHY!). I have been doing some very nonchalant baking lately. Trying out variations of cupcake recipes and not necessarily sticking to any particular recipe. There were the lemon cupcakes with the lemon glaze. The chocolate ones with some lovely chocolate buttercream on top. Went manic and ended up doing a tray of Belgian buns a few nights ago, waking up slaveboy at 2 am to feed it to him with a glass of milk*. That was a crazy recipe too, it said to use 35g of yeast for what would have been for a recipe of 15 Belgian buns. I paid no attention to that and just used 7g and it turned out ok. I dread to think what 35g of yeast would have done to the dough. I also did two loaves of olive bread using some leftover goat's milk (sorry, Spiker, I dare to tarnish my body with it) for dinner yesterday as we were running a bit low on foodstuff in the house (let's just put it this way - I am actually out of plain flour - shocking, I tell you).

I had a friend turning up today with her teenage daughter who is 36 weeks pregnant. She had been going on about the brownies I once made her so I made her a batch today so she have some and take some home too. I couldn't have deprived a woman with child, could I? Oh, and I also made some intensely chocolatey brownie cookies. Spiker actually enjoyed those when she popped in today. I also had a go at another new recipe which was Salted Butter Caramel Tart. Next time I do this, I really do promise myself that I will not have a go at it whilst cooking tortellini and baking brownies. Too many details!! Too few hands and brain cells to cope!!!!

It actually turned out beautifully. I served it to slaveboy and he said he now forgives me for losing the butterscotch tart recipe. We also served the children some, and also my sister-in-law. Oh, and also my late mother-in-law's long time best friend, Auntie Joyce who lives round the corner. How random is that?? Apparently, she ate her slice in THREE mouthfuls!

Anyway, I did mean to take pictures of the process, and I promise I will next time but my camera ran out of charge and I was having to make do with my camera phone and really it would have been a bit tricky to take pictures and also stir hot bubbling caramel. I did take a couple of pictures later on though.

*Disclaimer: I realise that this makes me sound like I am a feeder. I am not. I merely woke him up and handed him the plate and glass of milk. He ate and drank on his own volition.

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It would be vegan-friendly had I given it a bit more thought

I had promised Katy, a lovely friend of mine that I would make her something for the charity fundraising she is holding at our local park. They are planning on selling cakes to raise money. As I was making another cake for something else, I decided to use the same buttercream for the cupcakes I plan to make for the fundraising.
So the recipe is a hodgepotch. Between this one and a buttercream recipe which I will outline below. I am only using the actual cupcake recipe from the former recipe and adding chopped white chocolate to the mix. I am omitting the cream cheese center (which would make these cupcakes on their own vegan friendly), and only icing it with the buttercream recipe once the cupcakes are cool enough.

Oil, vinegar, water & vanilla extract
Oil, vinegar, water & vanilla extract
Take the above and add to the dry mix below.

Flour, bicarbonate soda, salt, cocoa powder and some finely chopped white chocolate
Flour, bicarbonate soda, salt, cocoa powder and some finely chopped white chocolate
It should really look like this when you pour the liquid mix in.
Fill them into muffin tins lined with cases. Take it to around 1cm from the rim and you will end up with about 15 cupcakes. Silly number of cupcakes, I know but I don't mind as that means I have three that I can use as tasters. :P
Somewhere here should have been some pictures of the cupcakes before I decorated them but I forgot to take the pictures. Damn.
BUTTERCREAM RECIPE from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite
Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 110g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough.

So here is what they look like. Tis my first attempt at piping buttercream icing so be gentle, guys.

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Money shot...

I am not gonna write about this just now as I am so tired from my 7 year's birthday party, but I just thought this photo might whet your appetite. Oh yes, Spiker, are you ready for fame?
After the success of our first attempt at making cakepops,

Globules of Sprinkles!!!
Globules of Sprinkles!!!
Spiker and I decided to challenge ourselves a bit further and make roadcone cakepops for my son's 7th birthday party. EASY!, we declared, some orange candy and a little bit of white, and hey presto, off we go. So we got on to making the pops, shaping them by using icing nozzles lined with cling film. THAT was supposed to be the hard part. Until we realised that the orange candy just didn't melt the same way on a double boiler at Spiker's as it did in a microwave oven at mine. Lots of stirring eunsued, working out if we ought to add some lard, err, no, vegetable suet into the mix. But in the end, the orange candy relented and melted to the consistency we desired. H O W E V E R, it just d i d n ' t quite cover the cone-shaped cake as well as it did the first time we made them. And this, boys and girls, is why there ARE pitfalls to having two very optimistic people working together. THEY NEVER BLOODY GIVE UP AND THINK IT WILL WORK OUT IN THE END. So, we persevered. Took ages dipping them and rolling them, witnessed a couple impale itself through the lollystick and we consumed a couple which simply refused to stay put. I have to also share that we abandoned the plan to use candy dipped pink wafers as a base of the roadcone pops because;
  • by adding such we would not have been able to wrap the roadcone pops
  • the pink wafers were too small to serve as a base for the roadcone pops
  • we (read I) ate so many of the damned things, that I doubt we would have had enough left
By the time we were finished, we were so relieved but we thought we were on the home run. Melted some white candy, Spiker took the first roadcone, dipped it into the white to make the first stripe and it looked like this.

Potential Cake Wreaks entry
Money Shot
Spiker was by now creasing up laughing and unable to talk and dumbo me, was momentarily sitting there looking ever so perplexed and wondering what was up. It took me about 30 seconds later to realise that given the overall colour of the roadcone pop and the unfortunate way the white candy had set on the top of the cone, it pretty much looked like something that an Oompa Loompa (Johnny Depp version) would have been responsible for.
Realising that our will to live had somewhat upped and left us by then, and that we really couldn't give a flying monkey, it was rather unfortunate that slaveboy turned up and said..........
Wait for it...
You know what's coming next, Spiker.....
He said.....
"Can I suggest something?"
I don't know how Spiker did not stab him with the scissors.
Anyhoo, I left the 'cones in Spiker's safe and capable hands and she restored them in time for the party. They all went, noone said anything and in fact, a few actually referred to them as roadcones.

Not quite cakewrecks
Not quite cakewrecks
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Birthday Shenanigans..

Being she of many many children, birthdays do come round very frequently in our household. I had somewhat promised my children, following my rediscovery of baking, that I would make their birthday cakes. The first one was last December when I made this one for my fourth child.

Magic mushroom
Magic mushroom
It was one that I had made once before but I had lost the recipe and had to just wing it and be creative with some parts of the process (like realising that I needed dowel rods after halfway assembling it - doh).
So, somehow when July 31st arrived, it was comical how I was freaking out at the fact that I had a day to bake and decorate Zak's birthday cake for his 7th birthday party planned for the 2nd of August. I had had a wee chat with Zak about what sort of cake he wanted but honestly, by that time he was so over the moon at the idea of having a big party, he was pretty much incomprehensible. It was pretty much left to him and if it had been left to Slaveboy to decide, he would have just insisted that I bought one as I was snowed under with stuff like doing lunches for the summer workshop week at the local home educating organisation my children used to go to. It would have been the wise thing to do as I was coming home dead tired every day and the cake recipe I had chosen to use for his birthday cake was one I had never tested myself. I only had Spiker's version to go by (which was yummy) and she is afterall a witch as she makes things out of holes (a.k.a. knitting).
The actual making of the cake was not tricky at all, but the baking part took a little thinking through (something I am not naturally predisposed to). The cake recipe was for a 30cm (12inch) round cake tin and it required over 2 hours of cooking - 2 hours of which you MUST NOT open the oven door unless you want to have a sunken cake. I had wanted to make an oval shaped cake which meant I was going to bake the mix in two tins, a round one and a square one. The plan being that once baked, I would cut the round one in half and attach them to either end of the square cake. That part was simple enough.
What I hadn't anticipated for was the fact that my wee oven might not be man enough to deal with the two cakes being baked at the same. I hadn't realised this until after I had started the baking process, and whilst reading the comments on the recipe page, I stumbled upon several comments that the cake was prone to rising and/or spilling out of the tin. Now, there was little risk of the mix spilling over as I had double lined the tins to around two inches the height. The concern was that I might have minimal clearance between the top of the cake when it is rising and the ceiling of my oven cavity.
So, I spent a good part of the 2 hours sat on the floor of my kitchen (thankfully my OCD phase had just been and I could have scraped Dettol from off of my kitchen floor) watching the cakes. You should know by now that I prefer to panic whilst remaining stationary. My 3rd daughter intermittently sat with me too, and other times she was falling over me as she scurried around me doing the washing up. She is such a darling.
The cakes baked pretty well. The top one was a little cracked, I think this was because it was so near to the heat source but because the cake is meant to be so moist, it actually didn't suffer from the slight overbaking. Also, I turned both cakes upside down as I wanted a flat surface for the decorating.
And now I have got you reading this far, I just realised that I hadn't told you what the cake was supposed to be. As part of the party entertainment, Mark (my prodigal stepson) had said that he would set up a 6-lane Scalectrics track. The actual set up was massive. Have a look at some of the pictures I have attached below.
Tracks of Hell
Anyway, the rational thing to do was to make him a racetrack cake really. I distinctly remember having that sinking feeling Friday night, when I was in bed that I had forgottento buy the fondant icing. Even worse, I really had NO idea how much fondant icing I needed and what exactly the design was going to be like. I didn't really spend that long worrying about it because before I knew it, it was 7.30 in the morning, and it was time to get up. The cake decoration lady found me waiting outside the shop at around nine-ish and let me in early because I had that manic look of a mother who had stupidly decided to take on a task far too big for her baking abilities. I think I bought them out of fondant icing (I bought most their white ones as I had this blind faith that I could dye it with my liquid concentrated food dye).
Having had NO time to slice and and ice the cakes with buttercream, I abandoned the plan to take the cakes to Spiker's so we can decorate it together (which would have been a better idea) and decided to just go over there so we can make these roadcone shaped cakepops. You might want to read about it here, AFTER you have made fully sure that you are a paid-up member of the I-do-my-pelvic-floor-exercise-daily society.
So, the cake decorating took place the eve of Zak's birthday party, in between making mini New York style cheesecakes and raspberry & white chocolate muffins. I have to say, the cake is quite forgiving and tolerated a fair amount of handling as I sliced them up and lined them up so that they looked as oval shaped as possible. The buttercream was a dream to make and I really do enjoy the icing sugar clouds that appear whenever I make buttercream icing in the quantity that cakes such as this one require.
For the fondant icing, I dropped a few drops of green concentrated liquid food dye onto the white fondant icing and kneaded it until the colour became consistent and to the shade I wanted. I discovered that I had to ice it in stages as I simply couldn't roll out a piece big enough to cover the cake without causing it to break or tear when I am trying to move it. So, I rolled out a strip long enough to go round the side (I wanted to say sides but his cake hasn't got sides) and then rolled out an oval shaped one to cover the top. I then smoothened the seams with my fingers and a bit of water.
And this is what the end product looks like. Zak was really thrilled with it - we kept being told by him that it was the best birthday party ever and he is still very stoked about it today. It is now the day after the party and we have about 4 slices-worth left.
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My peppers are wonky cos' you sabotaged them...

I am fucking tired. Needless to say that Spiker is too. Spiker is being a real trooper and undertaking ALL of the cooking for tomorrow's lunch at the private educational establishment we are working at for this week. This is so I can take my son to Brighton to his comic book workshop, and at the same time giving me the opportunity to pick up some essential from the Oriental shop Yum Yums.
It's not particularly the cooking lunches bit that is knackering, I think it is more to so with the fact that I am not used to waking up AND getting up at 7a.m. In the Hersponge household, we sort of wake up around 8, roll out of bed at 9 and shuffle for breakfast half an hour later. Things just simple don't happen earlier than 11. It is also Hersponge sproglet number 5's birthday party on the 2nd and I suspect that I have invited 50 people. I am not quite sure how I managed that. Nevertheless, these people will need feeding (can you detect that desperate tone of traditional Malay mother who always has to make sure that she has overfed her guests?). So, I have been baking at night when I get back. Despite all this I am still falling behind. This could be because I insisted that I made a strawberry and whipped cream meringue for my nephew's fiance who had just given birth to their beautiful baby boy less than two days ago. An hour before that (before making the meringue, not before the baby was born), I was making my third attempt at pineapple=upside-down-cake. And you know what, it might as well have stayed upside down. I am gonna give up on that cake. The only time I managed to make it half decent was when I used real pineapples and caramelised it myself.
I have also received some piccies from Spiker of the Tea Party. I am quite pleased with the pictures but really do think that we need more practise at this. I might do that at Sproglet number 5's party this Sunday. I thought I might share some pictures with you.

Globules of Sprinkles!!!
Globules of Sprinkles!!!

When Spiker's OH saw these muffins, I think I grossed him out by asking him if he thought the golden edible flecks looked like fish food.
When Spiker's OH saw these muffins, I think I grossed him out by asking him if he thought the golden edible flecks looked like fish food.
Anyway, I have lots of random pictures that I might put into one post later on. Night all.
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