Cupcake and Tea Party

January 10, 2013

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We had a small party for Martha’s 6th birthday this year, as she had a big party for her 5th, and with her birthday so close to Christmas I felt we had enough to do.
So with numbers limited to six of her closest school friends, we made a plan to amuse them in our house. So I came up with the idea of a cupcake/afternoon tea party. I made them a quick half apron each (out of a charity shop double duvet set) and they each had a little rolling pin (90p each from Wilkos) laid out on the dining table, so that we would all decorate a pre-made cupcake (or two) with pre-made buttercream, smarties, jelly tots and I showed them how to make simple roses with moulding icing. A liberal sprinkling of cake glitter and their cakes were done, one for the tea party and one to take home. I was surprised how much of the icing and sweets actually made if onto the cakes and were left over!
Then the girls played the required game of pass the parcel, while I cleaned up a bit and set the table for kid friendly afternoon tea. I made cheese staws and tomato pesto wheels, with half z pack off ready made puff pastry, and cheese, ham and tuna finger sandwiches, scones with homemade stawberry jam and clotted cream and arranged them all, along with the wonderful cupcakes on a cake stand.
I dipped into my collection of vintage (charity shop) tea sets for some floral patterned cups and saucers and cake plates and filled the teapots with pink milk and pink lemonade.
We put candles in Martha’s cupcake to sing ‘happy birthday’ to. A few more games of musical cushions and statues, and it was hometime.
In the party bags were the girls’ aprons and rolling pins and a couple of cookie cutters (big box from Wilkos) some sweets and their cupcake creation (cupcake boxes came from poundland!)
I think it was very successful, the girls all seemed to enjoy themselves, the whole think didn’t break the bank and they made some fabulous cakes!

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I have never made ‘curd’ before, but my sister made lemon curd last year that was delicious, and while making the gooseberry jam the other day found a note for this recipe in my ‘River Cottage Preserves’ book. It is actually a recipe for Bramley lemon curd, but a note at the bottom suggests replacing the apples with gooseberries.
So I took 450g of Papa Peacock’s gooseberries (topped and tailed) and the zest of 2 unwaxed lemons and steamed these in the microwave (8 mins), then smushed the fruit through a sieve to make a smooth purée. I put this in a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water and added 125g of butter and 450g of sugar and the juice of the lemons and melted the butter. Then slowly poured in 4 large beaten eggs, whisking them in with a balloon whisk. Then I turned up the heat and cooked the mixture for 10 mins, my jam thermometer confirmed it had all reached 82 degrees c. Then when all smooth, glossy and creamy, I poured it into sterilised jars.
I have to say it is a bit of a faff, balancing the bowl on the saucepan with the thermometer and whisk threatening to tip the hot curd all over the hob, but absolutely worth the bother the curd is yummy scrummy, like the filling in a posh french ‘tarte au citron’, with an added fruity gooseberry fragrance. The book says it will last 4 weeks – yeah right!

Smooth Gooseberry Jam

July 4, 2012

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Papa Peacock’s allotment provided us with a super huge bag of gorgeous big juicy gooseberries at the weekend. So I got out the jam pan (I don’t have a jam pan, I use my stock pot!).
My girls are incredibly picky and refuse any jam with ‘bits’ in it, and as these gooseberries had a few big black seeds in them I decided to go through all the faff of removing them from the mix before getting the jam anywhere near the breakfast table! I have been known to heat up bitsy jam and pop it through a sieve to make it kid friendly!
I prepared 1kg of gooseberries, snipping the top and tail off them with a pair of scissors, then I washed and steamed them in the microwave, (they took 10mins on full power in my 800w). Then I blitzed the fruit with my hand blender, and pushed the pulp through a sieve to get a smooth purée, no skin or seeds. I put this into my stock pot/jam pan and added 1kg of granulated sugar. Brought it all up to a bubbly boil and kept it there for 10 mins. Then when a bit cooler I popped it into sterilised jars.
It’s pretty yummy, and even though the pulp was a snotty green colour, the jam is a lovely peachy, orange colour. And my girls are eating it!

Pumpkin Pie

October 31, 2011

As its halloween today, I baked a pumpkin pie. I have used the receipe before and its pretty easy and makes a nice and yummy use of all the lovely pumpkins in the shops.

I bought frozen shortcrust pasty, just because I am lazy, my sister (whose birthday it is today) always makes her own pasty and it’s especially delicious! I bought a small edible pumpkin, about the same size as Alice’s head (2 year old toddler) or 8″-9″ in diameter.  I cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits with a spoon, then popped the two halves in a microwaveable bowl and microwaved with an inch of water in the bottom for 15mins on highest setting. (If yours is not cooked by this time pop it back in for a couple of mins at a time until you can smush the flesh easily with a spoon). I left it to cool while I rolled out the defrosted pastry and lined my butter greased pie dish, which is 10.5″ or 27cm wide and 2″ or 5 cm deep. I blind baked the pastry for 15mins at 200 degrees C which in retrospect was probably a bit long as during second baking the edge got a bit too brown, I will probably do 10 mind next time. When the pumpkin was cool enough to handle I scooped the flesh out of the skin with a spoon, and whizzed it up with my hand blender until it was smooth, then added to the pumpkin puree, added a cup of sugar (I used light brown as I prefer it to white in cooking to give a slight caramel flavor), 1.5tsp cinnamon, 1tsp ground allspice, 0.5tsp ground ginger, 0.5tsp salt, 4 large eggs and 1 tin of evaporated milk and applied the handblender to the lot. (The receipe also called for 1tsp of ground cloves but I didn’t have any, I think this is an important flavor for a classic pumpkin pie so will get some in for next year) I poured it into my pie case and it filled it nice and deep. Its a very liquidy filling and a bit of a faff to get into the oven without slopping the filling over the sides but a coating around the edge tends to caramelise the pastry very nicely (think of ‘pasteis de nata’ portugese egg custard tarts). The recipe says bake for 30-40 mins at 170 degrees c, but I did mine a little longer as my oven is rubbish.

It is not really much of a looker, with its orangy brown filling and my slightly over cooked crust! But she tastes pretty good – I ate the slice I photographed above. If you have never had pumpkin pie before it is a  bit like an egg custard with a sweet spicy flavor and the pumpkin puree gives it a lovely texture. Not sure if the kids are too keen, I made them a apple meringue pie at the same time (see previous post https://mrspeacocksthingstomakeanddo.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/apple-meringue-pie/) which they (and Mr Peacock) chose for pudding yesterday instead of the pumpkin, so all the more for me! Trick or Treat?

Peppa Pig Cake

August 31, 2011

This was the cake I made for Alice’s birthday (almost a month ago!), I wasn’t sure it was a particularly interesting post, but as I have posted about all the other birthday cakes I have made I thought I would write it up in the spirit of consistency.

The cake itself was  a double ‘Betty Croker devils food cake’ mix, one mix for the top layer and one for the bottom with pink buttercream in between. I made the Peppa figure out of coloured packet fondant icing the big pack of the dr oetker stuff. I coloured all the required colours first, pink for her head, arms and legs, red for her dress/body and black for her shoes. The large blob of dark pink I coloured up for the number 2 for the cake at the same time and used it for the detail on her face, her smile and her cheeks. I actually covered the top bit of an icecream cone for her body as this icing is not ideal for modeling it is a bit soft until you pop it in the fridge it has a tendency to slump a bit. Basically I made all the pieces got them nice and cold then assembled them. I coloured some more icing blue and green and covered the cake in the blue (the blue ribbon round the edge hides the pigs ear – see what i did there! – I made of the sides of the cake). I cut a wobbly shape out of the green (in the style of peppa’s logo) then popped her on top, with a few bought icing flowers (sainsbury’s own – in the cake stuff isle) that Martha helped me to stick on with leftover buttercream.

I think it came out ok, if my cake covering had been better it would have almost looked bakery made. Anyway it tasted good and got eaten up by her friends and family at her party with leftovers going to her nursery.

I always seem to have past their best bananas in the house, they seem to be green and crunchy for ages then suddenly as soon as your back is turned they go black! So I am always on the look out for banana recipes to use them up in. I am also getting a bit bored of our breakfast rut, Martha will only eat toast at the moment either with homemade strawberry jam (I made another batch a few weeks ago -see previous post) or peanut butter. Alice is still pretty much happy with anything as long as it happens quickly in the morning, so she usually gets what Martha wants.  I hoped that this reciepe would provide us with a quick breakfast alternative and help to reduce the pile of black bananas currently turning all the fruit in the fruit bowl (yes I know I shouldn’t keep my banana in there!)

The recipe is a tweaked hummingbird bakery one, I use 200g of plain flour and 150g of wholegrain spelt (this is to add some fibre to the breakfast procedings) 3/4 tsp salt, 1and 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarb, 2 tsp ground cinnamon and 160g caster sugar. Pop all this into a bowl and apply the hand mixer until its all the same colour. Then in a seperate mixing jug measure out 375ml of whole milk and add an egg and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract, whizz this up a bit too then add it to the dry mix. Melt 70g of butter in the microwave (I use the dirty measuring jug for this!) and add to the mixture and then add 400g (roughly 4 medium sizede bananas) mashed up with a fork. whiz it all up till its an even consistency and then fill your muffin cases 3/4 full with the mixture. I usually end up with 18 or 20 muffins but they are not monster huge ones, you could fill them higher and get starbucks sized ones if you like. Mix 2 tsps of sugar with a pinch on cinnamon and sprinke on the top before popping them into a pre-heated over at 170 degrees C. They should cook in 20-30 mins but my antique oven takes more like 45, they are cooked when they spring back when you press on the tops. If in doubt sacrifice one by opening it up and seeing if its still mush in the middle – this is usually my taster one anyway.

They are quite tasty, but unfortunatly have not been the breakfast changer I was hoping for as Martha decided that she didn’t like them on seeing them appear from the oven, so is still sticking with toast! Now if I could only remember to bake a loaf for the morning in the breadmaker…

Ice Lollies

July 5, 2011

We have been making these for a few years now, they are particulary popular in summer but my kids will eat them all year round, I like them as it increases their fruit intake and is a sneaky way to get the BBB (Beyond the Best Before) fruit eaten.

I got the moulds a few years ago from Ikea, I assume they still do them, I like these as the shape makes it pretty easy to release the lollies from the moulds (just warm them in your hand and give the ‘stick’ a wiggle) and are a pretty good size (not too big) also the shape of the ‘stick’ holds the lolly even when good and melty, so no hysterical children crying over a pile of fruit slush on the floor!

I basically make a fruit smoothie to freeze into lollies and use whatever I have to hand but they all have a banana as a base fruit (they make the lollies less ‘ice cube solid’) and apple juice to thin out the mix. Today we used up some strawberries that were past their firmness, but I ususally keep some frozen mango and raspberries in the house and use them from frozen. (I quite like sainsbury’s basics frozen fruit salad for good value.) The girls get involved by putting the lolly moulds in the holder, peeling the banana, tasting the fruit, helping to hold the bender and popping the sticks into the poured mixture.

The banana, soft/frozen fruit and a good glug of apple juice all go in a measuring jug and get blitzed up with the hand blender, with the secret ingredient – a splash of undiluted no added sugar squash. This makes the mixture super sweet and the finished lollies more like the bought ones, (have you ever drunk melted calipo?) but without the sugar.