The Fencing Cake!

The Fencing cake idea came about from a dinner table discussion where the boy announced that he thought as I was at home all day I would have lots of time to make him a cake. After a bit of deliberation I secretly agreed with him and a seed of an idea was formed.

First though you need a little bit of history, as I don’t like cooking, or should I say didn’t like cooking before I left work. I am not a food lover never have been. I do however like a spot of cake, but feeling like I could never make a cake as good as my Nan, my cakes came from packets. I have made some great cakes, but all of them courtesy of my good friend Betty Crocker.

Ok I did have one other attempt at a cake, and with lots of advice from two good friends, one who is a chef, and the other who has done cake courses and made some beautiful cakes. The resulting microwave cake was tasty and looked as planned, a purple octopus cake. The Fencing cake however was going to be a bit more of a challenge, as it was going to have figures.

I set about my research, and after a long discussion with Miss L and a look through some of her modelling and recipe books. A simple sponge recipe with: 220g soft butter, 220g caster sugar, 220g self raising flour, 4 eggs and 100g cocoa powder mixed with hot water, would make the base for my chocolate cake. I cheated and bought some vanilla fudge icing as I have had too many disasters that I wasn’t willing to risk it, this would be my only concession. The ingredients were bought, and with some borrowed tools, cocktail sticks I started what turned out to be a weeks work. I did think about other themes for the boy’s Birthday cake, but there is one thing in his life bigger than all the others so a Fencing cake was the only option.

fencing cake 1

Day 1, and fencer number one. I had my instructions on how to roll and mix the flour paste with the fondant icing, adding colours for the mask, glove and socks. Luckily fencers are mostly white. This proved to make for an easier time, although I still needed some highlight colours. With the help of the book, and sizes for each part, making the first fencer only took 2 hours. I was rather pleased with the results, and adding detail with a food dye pen was a great touch. Confident that number 2 would be ok, I hid him in an airy place to dry out.

fencing cake 2

Day 2, and Fencer number 2. This fencer was going to represent the boy and both Fencers would stand proudly on the cake. I had all my mixed icing, tools and weapons at the ready. But as the first fencer was in a right-handed pose I realised that Fencer 2 would have to be left-handed to add them flat to the cake. There would be no going back now as the boy is a right-handed Fencer! The worst bit was making stripe socks, as my red icing kept melting and going sticky!

fencing cake 3

Day 3 and time to bake! The cake mixed up ok, as I have my lovely new mixer that I treated myself to earlier in the year. It didn’t curdle like other cakes have and was rising beautifully. I wanted the finished cake to be long and skinny like a Fencing pieste, so baked a square cake with plans to chop it in half. A few added touches made, score board, stars and a birthday star, and all was going well.

fencing 4

Day 4 time to put some of the parts together, the cake had baked a bit lop sided but some careful cutting and turning and I managed to get it level. the fudge icing was great and a lovely contrast to the dark cake. Only problem was the crumbs that came off the cake. I was covering this with fondant so know one would ever know! I rolled out my grey icing, and prepared to lift onto the cake. This cake wasn’t small so lifting was a problem. As I got it over the cake it cracked, there was no going back as it was on fudge icing, not like a marzipaned cake that you can remove and try again. I was annoyed with myself, but finished off, trimmed the icing and did the best I could.

fencing cake 5

Day 5, and a restless night worrying about what to do now. My worst fears realised, yes the thunderstorm and high humidity in the night had caused both of the fencers to start to melt. Yes this can happen! A crack across the top and a bodge on the sides and things were not looking good. This is where some creative thinking was needed. A trip to Hobby Craft, and some co-ordinating ribbons which I tacked up on the sewing machine. that was the sides sorted. I rolled more icing for the top to make a pieste to cover the cracks. There was no way the fencers would stand up so taking fencer 2 as it was most like the boy, I set out the top of the cake.

fencing cake

The Fencing cake was finished. I can say it was a labour of love, and something I certainly would do again. I have complete respect for people who make wedding cakes as it must be super nerve-wracking. The best part was the look on my boys face when he saw the cake. I presented it to him at his fencing club, he had no idea at all. They sang Happy Birthday, then all had a piece to share his day.

the cake is finished

So , yes I am at home all day, and yes I can make a cake. If it makes my boy smile than that is all the reward I need. We still have the fencer as the boy doesn’t want to eat him, and now a whole club who want me to make fencers out of icing for them!

This post  is my entry into The Great Denby Cake Off,you can find out more about the competition here

 

 

Curried Potatoes

Curried Potatoes are one of my favourite foods, whether it is the much-loved Bombay Potatoes or simply just adding them into my favourite sauce. This week I thought I would try something a bit new and set about finding a new way to add curry flavour to my Maris Pipers!

I have just bought a slow cooker and am determined to find some new family favourites, so this week I thought it was time to try curry. I searched the internet and came across a simple curried mince recipe. Since I didn’t have mince, I substituted this for soya, which comes dried and you dehydrate.

Ingredients: 500g of mince, or in my case soya, 1 onion sliced, can of chopped tomato’s, 300ml of beef, or vegetable stock, curry powder (between 1-2 table spoons depending on your taste) 500g peeled chopped and rinsed potato’s.

To the basic recipe I added finely chopped fresh ginger, 3 cloves of fresh garlic, 4 cardamom pods, 5 cloves, and 1/2 a teaspoon of each, cinnamon, chilli, paprika, cumin, black mustard seeds, garam masala.

I sautéed the onion in a little oil till golden before adding the soya, spices, curry powder fresh herbs and stock. Then add the chopped potatoes and cooked in the slow cooker for 6 hours on a med setting.

curried potatoes

The resulting curry was very pleasing, and was enjoyed by everyone including the boy who like me is not a fan of beef mince. The addition of beef stock made a nice meaty flavour and the curry had a good kick to it, from the fresh spices. I especially enjoyed the potatoes, and will certainly cook them this way again as there was enough curry left for Dad to have for lunch the next day too. This mine curried potatoes recipe may not win medals in the looks department, but it wins for us in the taste.

This post is an entry for #FluffyMarisPiper Linky Challenge sponsored by Potato Council. Learn more at Love Potatoes

Birds Eye, quick dinner rescue

Birds Eye have been helping families all over the uk with quick and easy to prepare meals. For me this means something that I don’t have to think about, and can be done between home time and after school clubs like fencing.

I set off with my Birds Eye vouchers to see what I could find. I know Birds Eye do peas! but they do lots more, including fast cook meals. The boy has become fond of one of their new Inspirations range and loves the fish with sun blush tomato, basil and oregano, which is a super speedy tea. In my book you can’t go wrong with fish as it has to be pretty good for you, and fish fingers are one of my freezer staples. I picked up some more well-known (and loved) Birds Eye waffles, or windows as they are known in our house. I also decided to try the new rice fusions, and some chicken pies.

birds eye

So our speedy Birds Eye tea was: chicken pie with windows and rice. The fragrant golden vegetable rice made a nice change, and one pyramid bag has enough for 3 of us. The whole meal took 40 minutes to cook, and while it looked after itself I had some time to help the boy with his school reading. Fitting in homework is something we are going to have to keep on top of now that the boy has moved up a year. Spending more time with the boy can be difficult during the week. Birds eye has a great range of all sorts of different foods for different tastes, and anything that makes my life easier at tea time has to be good.

This post is an entry for #Afterschoolchefs Challenge, sponsored by Birds Eye. Learn more on the Birds Eye Facebook Page.

Actimel for Kids -Healthy Lunches

Actimel for Kids is a great new yoghurt drink perfect for kids lunch boxes or simply used as a healthy snack, with three flavours, and a space theme, we were interested to see what the boy thought.

We were invited to a cookery school in London to get inspiration for school lunches, and the boy was excited to see what he could create. We arrived in plenty of time to see the Actimel team setting up our cooking stations before being treated to some fun space themed snacks. Eating planets made from Melon, and star-shaped tortillas was fun. The kids certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves and with plenty of the New Actimel for kids to wash the snacks down, plates were soon empty.

actimel for kids header Actimel for kids

Soon it was time for us to have a go at making some Funky Lunch creations with Mark Northeast creator of the book with the same name. Our first challenge was to make some flying saucers. With crackers, cheese, tomatoes, olives, and cucumber all foods I would keep in my fridge at home. With basic instructions covered, we were free to make our individual creations.

funky lunch actimel

I was amazed at the boys creativity, and he really did enjoy the challenge of balancing crackers on cucumber legs. He also loved carving cheese with a knife. Soon we had an assortment of cheese carvings with a slight Minecraft theme. Our next challenge was a space monster sandwich. This simple sandwich would be perfect for a lunch box or treat, and the boy was enjoying himself so much he was still constructing his creation even while the other family’s had moved on.

monster sandwich actimel for kids

We say plenty of the children enjoying not only creating fun food, but the enjoyment of eating their creations. Even the boy who can be a little fussy at times, cleared all the food, and even offcuts from his plate. Inspired by his creations for Actimel for kids, he has been making sandwich cut outs at home. Even going as far as wanting to make his own lunch box creations.

actimel for kids day

Actimel for Kids is a great little yoghurt drink, and something the boy has enjoyed with his breakfasts this week. The boy enjoyed all three flavours, Strawberry, Raspberry and Vanilla with Strawberry being his favourite.

Each little bottle of Actimel for Kids is packed with yummy yogurt, billions of L.casei live cultures, delicious fruit purée* and essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and protein. Actimel for Kids is also free from artificial flavours, preservatives and colours.

 

Why not have a look at the Actimel for kids website for inspiration for your little ones, find out about A.C, Ti, and Mel, and add some funk to your kids lunches! For some lunch inspiration have a look at this video of Mark, and Sophie as they give you some great healthy lunch ideas.

Actimel great kids Lunch ideas

Disclaimer: We were invited to this event to try out new Actimel for Kids, and our travel was compensated. The opinions and photos from the day remain our own, and have not been altered.

 

Let’s Bake by Cathryn Dresser

If you and your kids love baking then have a look at this book from former Great British Bake off contestant Cathryn Dresser. Let’s Bake is a new book from Orion Books, packed with 52 fun bright recipes to get your kids into baking.

I loved watching the TV series and remember watching Cathryn, she may not have won, but I think all the contestants were amazing in their own way. Cathryn clearly has a love of baking and inspiring the next generation. With two children of her own Cathryn who appeared in the 2012 series has some great ideas on how to get your kids into the kitchen.

lets bake

Let’s Bake is conveniently split into seasons starting with Spring, there are a lovely mix of not just cake recipes but also savoury, breads, and even meal ideas. The boy and I decided that we would like to have a go at making the cheese and Marmite helter skelters. The boy and I are big Marmite fans so these pastry twists would be a fab lunch box treat.

marmite twists

Let’s Bake has a nice balance of full colour pictures so you can see how your finished bake should look. Alongside step by step detailed pictures, top tips and a list of what you will need to complete your baking creation. I think this book has a nice mix of more complicated bakes, alongside the usual easy to create recipes, with plenty of lovely looking cakes. With a hard cover it will not get dog-eared in the kitchen and hopefully survive our messy cooking style. I know the boy will enjoy trying out a few more of the recipes from this book, the terrific tiffin looks particularly appetizing.

lets bake summer

You can buy Let’s Bake now from bookshops and online for RRP £12.99.

Disclaimer we were sent a copy of this book to review, the opinions remain our own and have not been altered.

Baking with Fruit Bowl

We were excited to be sent some samples of Fruit Bowl snacks as I often buy these as a healthy snacks for the boy either as an after school treat, or for his lunch box. We have enjoyed the fruit sea and jungle shapes the most as these little fruity gems have an amazing flavour to them. The boy likes the peelers as these are a fun and different way to enjoy fruit.

fruit bowl fruit snacks

I decided to do something a little different and bake with Fruit Bowl Strawberry Flakes. You can find some interesting recipes here on their website, and I chose to try:

Fruit Flakes Muffins

makes about 12 standard sized muffins

  • 255g plain flour (if using self-raising flour, decrease baking powder to 1 tsp)
  • 15ml (3 tsp) baking powder
  • 2.5ml (0.5 tsp) salt
  • 85 – 100g fine granulated (varying depending on how sweet you like your muffins)
  • 1 egg
  • 240ml Milk
  • 90ml vegetable oil OR 85g butter, melted
  • 100 – 140g Fruit Flakes®, single flavour or mixed

Prepare muffin tins with liners or grease lightly. Preheat the oven to 190 – 200ºc, gas mark 5 – 6. Adjust as necessary for fan assisted ovens. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with a fork. Stir in milk followed by the oil/melted butter. Pour all of the liquid ingredients into the dry mixture. Stir until just combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as you stir. This mixing should only take about 30 seconds – too much mixing and your muffins will be ‘heavy’. The batter will be lumpy but no dry flour should be visible. Add the Fruit Flakes® and mix in using 1 or 2 strokes. Fill the muffin liners 3/4 full. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until tops are lightly browned and spring back when pressed gently. Allow to cool for several minutes to make it easier to remove them from the tray. Best served warm.

baking with fruit bowl fruit flakes

The boy and I made these muffins together, and I think we may have over mixed our mixture as our muffins came out looking more like little fairy cakes. We had used five packets of Fruit Bowl Strawberry Fruit Flakes, but I think we could have used less as they were very fruity. The taste was lovely and the boy enjoyed having the muffins in his lunch box for school. I have never tried cooking with something like this but I guess it is no different really, to using dried fruit. Looking at other recipe’s on the Fruit Bowl site there are some very different uses for their snacks, from brownies and cookies to scones and caramel fingers!

strawberry fruit flake muffins

I love all the snacks from Fruit Bowl, and the boy has enjoyed finding some new flavours that he hadn’t tried before. He is not so fond of the School Bars for some reason, but I can guarantee if I put Sea Shapes in his lunch box that the packet will always come home empty.

Fruit bowl snacks are available from all the main supermarkets, although not all of them stock the full range. Have a look on the website to see which shops stock which snacks. With all the fruit bowl snacks they have no added sugar and are additive free, so I have no problems recommending them as a healthy alternative to chocolate and sweets, while also making up one of your 5 a day.

Disclaimer, we were sent a selection of snacks to try the opinions remain our own and have not been altered.

 

Green Earth Pan by Ozeri

We were sent the Green Earth Pan by Ozeri to test, and I have been pleasantly surprised by how easy this 8″ frying pan is to use and clean. So much so that I let the boy loose with it, knowing he couldn’t go wrong. The Greblon non stick coating on the inside of this pan allows air under the food. Cooking the food faster and with less oil needed. We found that simply using a spray oil like the Fussels Rapeseed oil you only needed a couple of squirts and this was enough to prevent food from sticking.

Green Earth Pan by Ozeri

The Green Earth Pan come in a lovely green colour which I was happy with as it compliments other items in my kitchen. The pan has a nice heavy bottom so doesn’t move about on my gas cooker like one of my other lighter pans does. The Green Earth pan is suitable for all hobs, including induction and with an Eco friendly coating I have no worry of harmful plastics of fumes as I cook.

I set the boy the task of cooking a bacon butty, and he found the pan easy to use as the bacon didn’t stick at all. The bacon cooked in no time and was easily turned with a quick flip from the boy. The handle is a nice soft silicone feel so didn’t get too hot and the Green Earth pan stayed put on the hob. The bacon came up all lovely and crispy, just the way I like it, and cleaned very easily after use with no rescue and little elbow grease!

cooking bacon in green earth pan

The Green Earth Frying pan comes in three different sizes from our little 8″ (20cm) pan right up to a 12″ (26cm) so there is a size to suit every family needs. I think the 8″ pan is perfect for the smaller kitchen, and costs from RRP £39.95, but currently on offer for £24.95 which is a better price for the size. We have been pleasantly surprised that the coating can make such a difference and look forward to our bacon butty’s again next week.

Disclaimer I was sent this item for review, the opinion remains mine and has not been altered.

Cake Angels, cakes for Mothers Day

I have found a new love for baking in the last few months and have moved from the Mum that would only ever use a packet mix to one who is more than happy to experiment. So when Cake Angels offered to send me some baking goodies I was very excited. I thought Mothers day would be just the opportunity to share my latest bake with you. Made from my new Leiths cookbook, the Chocolate and Fudge cake was a winner, and you can find the recipe in  the Leith’s cooking bible at the bottom of the post.cake angels

This mix makes a lovely fudgy soft chocolate cake. I think it would freeze well but have not tried yet as this cake doesn’t last more than a day in our house! Onto the decoration, and with the help of Cake Angels we made a super cake for our friend Miss L and the rest of the Steel Band. Everyone said how pretty it was and with lots of different types of sprinkles the boy had a great time decorating it. Cake Angels had sent us some icing, which is a great store cupboard item as it has a long shelf life and keeps well once opened for your next cake. The icing wasn’t too sweet like others I have tried and the Vanilla flavour made a nice contrast to the rich chocolate cake.

chocolate cake

We loved all the sprinkles, from the chocolate whirls and hearts, to the pretty pink flowers. The boy decided to use Mario bombs on the cake this time, and thought they looked very effective. Cake Angels have such a great range of decorations that I am sure there is something perfect for every occasion, and I know I will be stocking up on icing, as my only go at making it myself ended in disaster!

The Cake Angel range can be found in your local supermarket and for inspiration why not pop along and look at their Pintrest page, or find them on Facebook, and Twitter.

.Disclaimer, we received a selection of products to review, the opinions remain our own and have not been altered.

OXO Flip and Fold

OXO Good Grips Flip and Fold Omelette Turner is a handy tool and the one you look at and think, “I don’t need that!” It is also a tool that once you have it you think, how did I do things without it! We used ours for pancake day and as I don’t trust that I will be able to flip a pancake without it landing on the floor, this came in very useful. I did find that the large size of the Flip and Fold a bit awkward at first, but after getting used to it was easy to prepare lots of steaming hot pancakes.

Flip and Fold

I also tried the OXO Flip and Fold on a cheese omelette, one of my quick and easy midweek meals. One I like usually have to cook the top side under the grill. Using the OXO Flip and fold I found it easy to slide under and flip over to cook the second side of my omelette to perfection. The OXO Flip and fold is also dishwasher safe, and heat-resistant up to 600*c so wont melt.

The Flip and Fold Omelet Turner is just one of a range of tools available from the OXO Good Grips range available from most retail stores, supermarkets and online and can be bought for RRP £8.00. With flexible edges it is easy to slip under the omelette while cooking to either flip and cook the other side or fold in your favourite filling.

 

Disclaimer we were sent the OXO Good grips Omelette Turner to try the opinions remain our own.

 

Chicken and Leek Pie

I had all these amazing intentions when I finished work last August, I was going to get the house clean, finish the decorating and cook homemade meals all the time. I am not so sure any of these happened? As anyone who owns a blog knows it seems to eat up your days, and nights and any other time you let it! So since August I have mostly been child-minding the broken other half, taking the boy to his clubs, meeting up with friends, and the odd bit of baking.

So I have now decided that cooking needs to be a bigger part of what I do, and it starts here. Ok I think it might fall by the wayside from time to time, but as a novice cook, I am determined to open up my cooking talent to more than just opening a jar!

My inspiration for this change of heart came in the most unusual form. I have enjoyed baking the odd cake, which came out of a packet. Now I make time to do it properly, so when I won a Leiths Cookbook, I thought great a Christmas gift for a family member. Little did I know that this huge cookbook would have everything I would need to change my family meals. It started with Chilli, ok something all of you may cook regually. Something I am ashamed to say I have NEVER! made. The boy was supportive with “Urghh whats that!” so I let him choose rice or jacket, he chose rice, and followed the clean plate by please can I have seconds!! So inspired by what I have to admit was a meal I also enjoyed, I followed with Chicken and Leek Pie. This one is not in the Bible, so internet to the rescue.

Chicken & Leek Pie

2 chicken breasts, 1 Leek, 1 carrot, 225ml chicken stock, 85g cream cheese (I used crème fresh) pinch tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon mustard, Pastry. (I used shop bought puff pastry)

Fry the chicken till browned and set aside. Fry the sliced leek in a little butter and a splash of water till soft (7mins) add the diced carrot cook for 3 more minutes. Add the stock and boil till it has reduced by half add teaspoon of mustard, tarragon and cheese and stir in. Transfer mixture to a pie dish. Top with your pastry and bake in a 180c oven for 30/35 mins. Serve with your choice of fresh veg, I went for roast tattys, and beans.

You have to understand, I have never been taught to cook, I wouldn’t have a clue how to make a stock or a sauce, (I used a stock cube) so this is all a little new to me. Being able to produce something that not only was edible but actually tasty was a complete shock to me.

I plan to continue my journey with small steps, and set aside one day when I am not rushing about to cook a meal from scratch. Tonight the Chicken pie is back on the menu, so pictures will follow!

I cooked the pastry lid separate this time so no soggy pastry, and was very pleased with the results as another tasty family meal.

chicken and leek pie