Baking a show stopper

Last week I baked a birthday cake for a friend of mine. I was busy busy busy and was limited with time. She had requested some sort of raspberry cake but I didn’t have the time to look for a new recipe and then hope that it worked out ok.

I went for one of my two never fails. Quick and easy, once you know what you’re doing and can guarantee it’s always going to taste amazing. Nigella Lawson’s Devils food cake from Kitchen (which is my food bible despite all of the meat in it) is my go-to, stand out, show off beauty.

The page in my copy is covered in crap which is a good sign of a good recipe, and this one is the bomb. Rich, moist and chocolatey you can’t have too big a slice. I’ve made this so many times I think I could do it with my eyes closed. It’s not your everyday cake due to the sheer amount of chocolate alone, but definitely one for a celebration.

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/DEVILS-FOOD-CAKE-5310

With the frosting it asks for 300 grm of dark chocolate, I’ll tell you that can be expensive and I’ve always had lots of left over easter eggs right up until July or blocks of random chocolate I’ve been given as gifts. I’ve thrown this all in and I’ve never had a problem with the higher milk content or anything like that. If it looks way too runny stick it in the fridge it will soon firm up.

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I topped it with raspberries and that was a triumph. I recommend it!

My other show stopper which I use for cupcakes, wedding cakes, birthday celebrations, fete’s anything is the Hummingbird bakery Vanilla/ chocolate cupcake recipie which is in Cake Days.Its never failed! The key is when it says to cream for 5 minutes, you stand there mixer in hand and cream for 5 minutes. Normally I’ll put on 2 of my favourite songs and have a sing-song to make this go quicker.

http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/475442/The-Hummingbird-Bakery-vanilla-cupcakes

http://realfood.tesco.com/recipes/hummingbird-chocolate-cupcakes.html

This will be reappearing again in the guise of a rainbow cake (which I did 2 years ago). It’s such a versatile recipe and the buttercream icing is what I always get complimented on.

I think you don’t have to be a great baker to make a great cake. You just need to find one or two cake recipes you can make flawlessly and that is enough to see you right.  So many people go, I’m not a baker but I do make an amazing lemon drizzle. That’s all you need to take to a cake sale/ Birthday/ afternoon tea etc etc…

Fightng like my ancestors

The last few months at work there have been fights, a lot of them. It’s been tiring.

Normally I have a tendency to argue like my ancestors have done . Maltese people are renown for their short fuse. It doesn’t take much, Drop an apple on the floor, sit on the plastic covered sofa, touch their car the list is endless.  It’s also the style and flair which these are displayed and this probably relates more to men to be fair.

You can see it happening, like a small kettle boiling, beginning hunched and clenched fist they straighten out and like a cockerel their chest will puff out, you see it takes a lot of air to scream out a mouth full of obscenities in one sentence. Then they’re off, fist shaking, sometimes in their mouth, they’re yelling and going for it, occasionally kicking things around & punching crap. Lets call it passionate displays of anger. Although not physically violent towards anybody, it’s just more a tirade of abuse and anger normally accompanied with big sweeping statements “Your all fu@£$ed” to all of your managers in a meeting. All of these situations end in a storming out.

How many times have I wished I could have done that? I normally hold my hands above my head and say, “I can’t believe what I’m hearing?Is this normal? This is nuts” a bit more refined, a bit like George Costanza from Seinfeld.

They’re other key skill is grudge holding. They can hold a grudge for years, lifetimes even. The reason for the fight maybe be long gone, but the grudge remains the same. Genuine reason’s for a grudge have included  1) accidentally brushing against someones tyres 2) looking at someone shifty / not seeing someone in a supermarket 3) Making comment on how much money one may have stuffed in ones mattress. 4) Charging for work which should have been extra mates rates discounts aka free 5) Accusing someone of running a horse racing syndicate.

Overtime I have had to alter my straight talking Australian ways with my anger fulled Maltese passionate rage. There has been a lot of breathing exercises and just walking away, no matter how much I would love to stand up and flip a table over (which def goes against all of my genetic make up).Now I just have to pick my fights carefully. My ancestors would be so disappointed with me.

There is a video on you tube of an angry Maltese man I wont link it, you know how to search if your interested.

About, around and complaining.

I went over to London this weekend to see Belle and Sebastian play at Somerset House.

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No review, the band did have an odd set list choice, they closed with a downer of a song which always has a weird sombre effect on a crowd (they should have closed with the party line, much more upbeat). So it was good, but not absolutely amazing which was a shame as I had been waiting years to go and watch them.

What wrecked the experience was the audience conduct again, I’ve complained about this before , I’m going to do it again… https://wordpress.com/post/67467493/583/

Belle and Sebastian were probably most successful in the late 90’s, even though they are still making amazing albums. The audience thought it was still the 90’s. There was smokers right next to me, one who lit up every 15 minutes, who still smokes like that ? I spent half the night trying to hold my breath and breathe in the opposite direction, didn’t work still got a headache.

There were people taking selfies during every song. Yay your here, now annoy everyone around you and pose idiotically for photos of yourself.

But worse than that was the audience treating the band like they were some CD on in the background. There were times I could barely hear the songs for mindless chatter about god knows what, school fees, house prices, what wines they bought last year in Seville…I’m assuming general wanker-y conversation.

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Why were they there? Mr CM put it perfectly, it seemed like a piece of paper (newspaper say, we know which one) told them they should be here (to appear to be cool) so they all came. It was unbelievable and this situation is getting worse as I get older. Teen’s and people in their 20’s are more musically intense and there to immerse themselves in the experience & the music. Beyond that there are more and more who would rather get drunk and talk loudly about how amazing they are .It’s bloody annoying and rude.

On the up side I did go to liberty, I went because I was dressed for it (in a nice dress) and no one would think I was a shop lifter and follow me around (which is what happened when I went in 2003). Did pick up two fantastic Oliver + S patterns for a fiver each, who would have guessed In Liberty of all places. And they put your receipt in a little card….class.

I also ate cake and doughnuts, a lot of them. I justified that it helped my stress levels come down (which it did).

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Liberty also had two of the most beautiful quilts hanging in the store to celebrate their 140th anniversary. I’ve been looking lately at a book called Art Quilting which I may just buy and do a quilt more like these ones.

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Before there was quilting

It took me into my 30’s to get into sewing/quilting . Before that I had a huge amount of creative energy with no real outlet. I tried drawing and painting (oh my god I suck more at that than knitting) , baking (as you all know I still do) and even scriptwriting (one completed script which I still think is funny and a lot better than a lot of dross that comes on film. Just wasn’t happy with the main story line.)

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In the middle of all of this I did a stamp piece. I thought of this when I had gone past an art gallery widow a few days ago and someone had made something not as great, more like a Pantone chart and was changing £300 for it.

I had just moved to York from Australia in the early 2000’s and I was still half heartedly collecting stamps and postcards(Still do if I find a particullary bad one from the 70’s) .

I went past a small stamp shop that was selling huge bags of 1st and second class stamps for about £2. Kind of like a magpie, I was taken in by all of the colours in the massive bag and it was a bargain. I took it back to the shared house and spent the next 2 months cutting them all out neatly (a lot were still attached to corners of envelopes and postcards).

occasionally there would be a hidden gem printed on these.

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It made me think of the life of the letter, what was attached to the stamp? What secrets did it hold? Was the recipient please to receive the letter?

I painstakingly  glued each small square in a straight line and laid the out. I loved it. I have moved all over the UK and it has hung on my walls wherever I’ve lived.

 

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As I’m putting together a rainbow quilt now I realised that this was my first quilt, my first paper quilt.

Magic Mushroom’s

That title may misleading!

Right I’ve already written this entry and it didn’t automatically save. Now I’m a bit upset and I have to remember everything I wrote. It won’t be as good probably, it never is the second time around. I’ll endeavour.

Back to magic mushrooms, It’s getting closer to Rockette’s Alice in Wonderland birthday party and I’m starting to trail run some baking before the big day. Todays choice was Mushroom cookies from my favourite baking book Sparkle Bakes by Heather Baird.

I did have my suspicions about this recipe . It wants half a cup of flour and a cup and a half of corn flour, yes corn flour! I’ve only used corn flour for gravies. Does it go into custard too?

It all started wrong, I blame the heat and the fact that there was still a bird trapped in the chimney brest (more on that later). But to stat with Instead of creaming the butter and sugar together first,  I chucked the egg straight into the sugar and mixed. By the time I realised I had two options, either chuck it out and start again or just go on and see what happens. I went for the later. hmm

So before they went into the oven they looked like this

oh, how realistic!

oh, how realistic!

But they came out like this

what in the world....

what in the world….

That is my recycle bin and not a new kind of serving platter.

They look more like frisbees than mushrooms! The oven was too hot (the oven being troublesome again) and the bake time said 25 minutes,  now I’m not really a biscuit baking consultant   (on eating them,  yes) . I have baked a few batches though and my instinct told me 25 minutes is a bit too long.  Should have checked them at 15.

So while I was waiting for the bird remover man (not his real job) to show up I thought forget this ,I’m going to make them again.

By now  didn’t have enough cornflour left, so I put in what was left  (1 cup) and used flour for the rest. I don’t know what was wrong with me because I did the same bloody mistake again! Egg and sugar together. Lucky I took the egg out and chucked out the sugar and started again (idiot).

I also turned down the oven temperature, let the batter to sit in the fridge for 10 minutes and only baked it for 15 minutes.

I really ned to take the course how to use your camera phone like a competent person ASAP.

I really ned to take the course how to use your camera phone like a competent person ASAP.

Better but still flat.

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They tasted nice, but they are really crumbly. And I still can taste a lot of the corn flour.

Next time I’m going to try adding more butter and swapping the corn flour for plain flour . I’ll also bake them in a cupcake/ muffin tin to see if they would hold their shape better. I know a few bakers read this lil blog, any advice?

If you want to try it for yourself you can find the recipe here. http://www.sprinklebakes.com/2010/04/very-curious-party.html

btw, the way to make the stem is to get a soft drink/ water bottle, dip it coca powder and press into the ball of dough. Just in case you were wondering.

IN BIRD NEWS

Like I said in yesterday’s post, something had fallen down the chimney and was sitting at the bottom with nowhere for it to go.

By the time help came I was concerned that whatever was in there was dead because I only heard it once again in the morning. I had a longer dramatic story but it’s 11.19 pm , I’ve been to work and I can’t write it out in the same magical way.

While I hid behind the door, the vent was removed and it was confirmed that something did lurk in there. A MASSIVE wood-pigeon. I very much dislike the wood pigeon, not as much as chickens but more than eagles.

The bird appeared to be pleased with where he was , as he was reluctant  leave. When he was dragged out I could hear his dirty claws over the floor boards and I was praying that there wasn’t poo all over the place.

When I finally did go in I saw the poor bird a bit confused sitting on my front door step. Before I could say oh poor thing  the bird removal help had shooed it out of the door with a gentle kick. And off it went thankfully uninjured. I didn’t want to deal with that.

And amazingly left no “presents”for me on the floor, thankyou pigeon it was the least you could do.

Small strange occurances.

Today started as an ordinary day.

I say ordinary with a sigh because lately (for a long time really) it has been full of stress and complaing at work.

So I went home and looked at more fabric, managed to tear myself away to sew a few blocks.

The first labeled up bag didn’t match and I couldn’t find the right pattern, so I just made it up.

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The second block, I sewed together some quarter square triangles, did it wrong and inadvertently made little bunting instead.

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If that wasn’t sign enough to quit I rush made another block, which I’m not really keen on. Crap should have quit..well I wasnt really ahead was I.

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Later on just before dinner a local pcso (police community support officer) knocked on the door. They look like policeman, last time they came round it was due to a fake bomb threat/evacuation. No panic, more curiosity peering through the peep-hole.

“Nothing to worry about, man parked his bike  against the pub wall and it was stolen did you see anything?This wouldn’t happen back home. Back in Australia if the police came to the door , it was to tell you there was a murder in the street and did you do it?

Not enough excitement?  5 minutes later something fell down the boarded up chimney with a massive thud. It sounded like a cat, but could have been a massive freaking rat or like a seagull. It started to scratch around and bang trying to get out.
Like a horror film….
Freaking out I ran out screaming. Then all was quiet.
Rockette super brave kicked the wall for any response while I hid behind a chair. Nothing.
Hopefully its gotten out and not the other option that I start to smell in a few days…

update -its a bird, it’s still there, it’s 11 at night too late to get someone to remove it…day gets stranger..

Distraction

I said I would write much more frequently, but that has not happened due to procrastination, stress from work and waiting for some photos (you will see that when they arrive) so instead todays topic is about…..

Distraction, it’s evil and time-consuming and I really should have spent the last couple of evenings just wasting time, sitting around or claiming “I’m doing research” when all I’m doing is spending hours and hours deciding what fabric to buy and after hours and hours not committing to buying any of it.

Buy John Lewis Mini Sewing Machine Online at johnlewis.com

Rockette wanted a sewing machine for Christmas, but as when asked “what do you want for your birthday?” followed by her reply, “oh I don’t mind really”. I have no choice but to give her a john lewis mini sewing machine. (or more Lego Friends with the annoying voice). Which is going to be the dark green one and not the pink one because the green one was £15 cheaper. I’m hoping stickers of Unicorns will correct this issue. (psst if you see Rockette, don’t let on, she doesn’t know what she’s getting…She’s really hoping for a minion fart blaster )

With new machine goes accessories! Cath Kidston sewing box on sale, check.

Next fabric, I got it stuck in my head…. (sorry I was slighty distracted by the sound of a drunk old lady coming out of the pub declaring “isn’t this a nice place to live?!”)

Where was I? Oh yeah I got it stuck in my head that Wild -wee gallery by Dear Stella would be amazing for her. Look at that it’s like little fabric dress up! Amazing.

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 how cute is this?? Tutorial below (not mine sadly!)

http://dearstelladesign.com/2014/04/dress-me-up-tutorial-modern-handcraft/

And then I thought oh here’s a reason to buy Heather Ross’ Far Far away finally.

               

I spent hours looking for these particular ranges. Its irritating there’s only one of two bits of it in this shop, or one or two bits in the states, or this one has the right print in the wrong colour. And then when you do find a more substantial range of fabrics they will only sell them in half a meter…I dont want half a bloody meter.

I have settled for two bits, which have to come from America. Do I want to pay the shipping of £12?  Do I want to pay the tax when it arrives?

So I’ll probably sit on the basket which has way to much stuff for me in there (I was supposed to be going cold turkey) , and then not get anything;Cause she will be 5 and provided its pink with some sort of unicorn, princess, love heart, frozen, animal on it, she wont care what it is really.

But I did waste about 5 hours I’ll never get back and I did help me take my mind off the evils of my job so really job well done. I’ll just finish that quilt, build my new website, plan a birthday party, cleaning my dump of a house,  tomorrow……

I dont want no scraps.

Look at this mess. Just look at it! It’s all of my scraps and off cuts and some bigger pieces. This was because I spent most of Sunday trying to put together 13 blocks. (Didn’t even sew them just cut ’em up and stuck ’em into lunch bags).

I really can’t be bothered sorting this out. I started with a system but once I take it apart I really truly can’t be bothered putting it back in order. I think I need a better system. Some sort of mini flinging system.I think I just arrange this like my life in some sort or organised chaos.

And some of these cuts are taking forever to get used up! (it’s always the ugly prints).

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Mr Crafty got bored and busy this weekend…..

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That is all lego.

Short on laughs today. Now I’m trying to think of stories they have all left my head, every single one. For some reason the only thing I could remember today was as a young child every Saturday morning my mum would give me a dusting cloth and make me wipe the skirting boards. Why? Wish I knew. It cause many a fights, I only wanted to watch She-ra or Video Hits.  I think she once said it was because I had little fingers.

Musically speaking

I watched God Help The Girl last night, a side project for Stuart Murdoch from Belle and Sebastian. Long and the short of it, it’s a very stylstic film, looks beautiful, nice cheography. The story line is a bit wishy washy. The story line I can only describe as typical. But the soundtrack is brilliant. Very 60’s sounding.

Epic Fail 2, and another story.

Well after Wednesdays post went stratospheric, I’ve had a little rethink about what the general reader really wants. Craft and quilting are ok, same with baking stuff but what gets read more is whenever I’m reminiscing about the 80’s and 90’s.

By the autumn with any luck the shape of this blog will change anyway and the craft will go to another site, but Is what your really want is growing up with immigrants? That I can do.

I’ll do a failed cake update and then I promise a quick story.

EPIC FAIL 2

It’s Rockettes first school fete so I thought I’d bake something. I’ve got a temperamental oven which only gives the correct temperature half the time. The other thing I have is a sonofabitch thermometer that’s decided to give incorrect readings.

Hummingbirds Cake Days came out again, as you know I don’t fail from that book (yeah right) chocolate and coffee loaf was picked.

First point, this doesnt taste like coffee at all. 1 tbsp of brewed coffee mixed with 20ml  of milk isn’t cutting it.

So thanks to my crap Heston Blumenthal oven temperature gauge that failed.( Alright I know it looks beaten up but it should do the job! It’s not that old.)

yeah good work...

yeah good work…

Out came out the loaf on the left.

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WTF! Seriously crap. This was because although the guage said it was 160 degrees it really was more like 200. It wasn’t wasted I chopped off the top and took slices into work which my colleuges  ate happily….sliver lining.

Anyway the other one has gone and I’m hoping it will get bought, it looks humble and basic I know, it was too hot to be fancy.

Living with immigrants 

This will be quick and I only thought about it when I mentioned it in the comments of the last post.

When I first went to Malta about 14 years ago, I stayed with my grandparents and my uncles (I can laugh about it now but it was a very painful 2 weeks) .

Now my Nan was a character. She used to do all sorts, secret gambling, stealing cats she fancied in the streets, having life long feuds with neighbours and shop owners stuff like that.

She took me to the boats around the Blue Grotto so I could see it. She told me “I’m not going on” and I breathed a sigh of relief. But she did insist on coming with me to buy a ticket. So off we went to the little rickety van holding  a short fat moustached man in a vest.

My Nan pushed in front of me and said “1 child” (I was going to add please, but then remembered my Nan had no manners). The man only saw me there and said “What for her? Whats wrong with you?? . I butt in and said  “1 adult please” . But my nan went over me and said in Maltese, (because if you show your not a tourist they give you favours….apparettly)  “shes’ a child, isn’t she???”

The man blew hot air out of his cheeks ,tuted and said, “She’s an adult”. My nan said “Is she? she’s my grandchild? I don’t know mala” I paid full price as I should have done because I was 23.