More Apologies…

And apologies for all the apologies!

However, I must make one more. And it’s a biggie, I’m afraid.

A lot has happened since my last really blog. We moved house, which I posted about, and right on the heels of that, I ended up with a job interview. And I do mean literally on the heels of moving – it was on the Tuesday following the weekend we moved house! Simple life? What’s that?

In the midst of all the moving house and interviewing for a new job, we also had a birthday, a new birth, a Photomarathon (highly recommend doing the Photomarathon if you like photography or even just like having a jolly good day out in Cardiff!), and a hundred other things. It was like life was put on fast forward and everything was chasing each other to get our attention!

And then, I got the new job. I started on Monday, and I love it already, I’m so pleased to have been given the opportunity. However, it is a full time office job, and this sadly means I will no longer be able to do a weekly Wednesday bake ‘n’ blog. I’m still going to bake when I can, but I can’t promise I will always be able to blog about my bakes. I want to when I can, but it won’t be every week any more, and I can’t say with any certainty how frequent it would be either.

I may only have been writing this blog since January, but it’s been a wonderful experience. And I really do hope I can continue with the experience once I’m into a bit more of a routine with my new job, because I find real joy in both the making and the writing.

So, what I mean to say is – I hope any readers who are still out there will continue to read whenever I can update. Subscribe, or you can like my Facebook page to keep in touch. If nothing else, when Great British Bake Off airs this year I will be posting like mad! This is not a goodbye – just a TTFN! I love cake too much to give up baking, trust me!

Happy baking, dear friends.

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Apologies…

Just a quick note for those who don’t follow my Facebook page. I’m really sorry for the halt in posting at the moment! Me and Mr Tomboy moved house at the weekend, and currently have no Internet, just limited data on our phones. I also can’t get to the computer to edit any images, and wouldn’t be able to upload them if I could! The kitchen is still mostly in boxes, so there won’t be a post today, but I’m hoping that by next week everything will be good to go and I can start baking. Fingers crossed we will have Internet by then too!

Thanks for your patience, blog readers! Remember, if you’re on Facebook, you can follow my page for updates ❤

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

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Apologies for my absence last week! As expected with the upcoming house move, I was packing. But this week, I really felt the need to bake! I’ve done some packing too of course. And now I am exhausted. Zzz. I shall have to put my feet up and enjoy one of these beauties.

With the sun coming out more and more frequently these days, I felt I needed a real summery treat for this week’s bake. And what could be more summery than strawberries and cream?

I have adapted this recipe from one I found online here – it looked like a good bake but when I have made cakes with fresh fruit in before, I have found that the fruit can sometimes lose it’s taste, so I decided to add a tablespoon of strawberry jam for a bit of extra strawberry yumminess. I also popped in a couple of drops of red food colouring to give the sponge just a hint of pink – they just look a bit more *strawberry* that way!

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I debated making a strawberry buttercream, but decided against it. I didn’t want a strawberry overload. So these became strawberries and cream, topped with a generous swirl of smooth, fluffy vanilla buttercream. It’s a great compliment to the gentle strawberry taste of the sponge.

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The sponge itself is so soft and light, with a lovely mild strawberry taste – because of the real fruit, it’s not an artificial taste. If you wanted, you could add more jam or more strawberries for more flavour, but I would take some of the sugar out if you start adding more jam as you might run the risk of the cakes ending up too sweet.

The batter makes 12 large cupcakes, but because they’re not too sweet or heavy, you can easily devour one with a cup of tea, or maybe a lovely chilled glass of Pimms! Oh yes, I can imagine they would go wonderfully with a glass of Pimms…

Ahem. Anyway. I hope you enjoy the taste of summer in these delicious strawberry cupcakes! Mmm…

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Ingredients

Makes 12 large cupcakes

  • 140g butter, room temperature
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 220g self-raising flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • About 4 medium sized fresh strawberries, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp strawberry jam
  • Red food colouring (optional)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 12 hole muffin pan with cases
  • Cream together the butter, jam and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time
  • Sift the flour and salt into the bowl, then fold into the mixture. Carefully fold in the strawberry pieces. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cases
  • Bake for about 25 minutes until the tops spring back when touched. Leave to cool, then ice with a batch of classic buttercream

I have another summery bake to share with you lovely lot next week, something super simple to fit in around the packing of course! We get our keys next Saturday so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to post for a few weeks while we get the internet sorted out in our new house – I will still be able to update on Facebook and Twitter though, so keep an eye on those pages for news!

Swiss Roll

Phew! What a week – and it’s only Wednesday! There’s lots going on in the tomboy household at the moment, and I needed a simple bake today. Well, it turns out, there’s not much simpler than a Swiss roll.

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I’ve never made Swiss roll before, and I was first surprised to see that there is no fat ingredient in the mixture. Just three ingredients – egg, caster sugar and self raising flour. Wowsers! And such a short bake time too! I had the cake mixed, baked and cooled within half an hour. I’m really not even joking. It took longer to make the buttercream and to assemble it than it did to actually make the cake. So, so easy. Apart from the fact that I only bought myself a Swiss roll tin a few weeks ago, I don’t know why I haven’t tried it before! Okay it’s pretty much because I didn’t have the tin. But still. I’m still in shock at how simple it is!

The sponge is somehow light yet sturdy – it can take the strain of the roll as long as you’re careful with it. I’ve managed to crack a regular sponge just getting it out of the tin, but I practically dropped this out of the tin onto the side (by accident when I was turning it out!) and the only crack it sustained was where I’d been a bit heavy handed with my knife when I scored it for rolling! Good work, little cake!

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I chose to put buttercream and jam in my roll. I could have gone classic just jam Swiss roll, but we love buttercream in the tomboy household. Mmm. So I thought why the heck not!

I think the extra filling probably made it a bit harder to make a really tight roll, and as a result it’s a little prone to squishing when it gets cut. But as long as it still tastes good, it doesn’t matter right? It’s still got one good roll in it so it’s all good!

I also chose to break the rules a bit with my rolling. I didn’t realise at the time, but I ordered a mahoosive Swiss roll tin. Apparently most tins are usually about 20cm x 30cm. Mine is 28cm x 40cm. Oops. I didn’t really want a massively chunky roll, so I decided to roll it along the width rather than the length, resulting in a longer, thinner Swiss roll. I figure it might go further this way! Although truthfully we’ll probably just have thicker slices. But we can pretend.

Anyhoo, let’s get on with the recipe shall we! I should mention – this recipe was actually printed on the packaging for my tin, so I guess credit goes to Tala bakeware for this one!

Swiss Roll

Makes one Swiss roll – I used a 28cm x 40cm tin, but the cake will just be a bit thicker using a smaller tin

  • 3 eggs
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g self raising flour
  • Half a portion of buttercream
  • Approx. 5 tbsp strawberry jam

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease and line a Swiss roll tin
  • Crack the eggs into a large bowl and add the sugar. Whisk together (with a hand mixer if possible; by hand will take a long time) until pale and fluffy – I used a hand mixer and it took about 10 minutes
  • Sift in the flour and fold in carefully with a metal spoon
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 7-10 minutes until a light golden brown. Keep an eye on it – check it at 7 minutes and do any additional baking one minute at a time. Mine only took 8 minutes
  • While the cake is baking, sprinkle a sheet of greaseproof paper with caster sugar. Once the cake is baked, remove it from the oven and turn out immediately onto the sugared paper. Leave to cool. Mine was cool in ten minutes! You could also do a “pre-roll” a la Bake Off – I didn’t, because chez tomboy is a madhouse and I had to make a phonecall, but the great Ms Berry recommends it!
  • Meanwhile, prepare the buttercream – I added a table spoon of water to make it easier to spread. Place the jam in a bowl and give it a good stir to loosen it

Assembly

  • When the cake is cool, remove the paper it baked on

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  • Dollop buttercream all over the cake – this helps make sure you have an even layer all across the cake, rather than thick areas and thin areas

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  • Then start spreading! Try and get it as smooth as possible, as any lumpy bits will make it harder to roll later

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  • Spread the jam in the same way. You see the jam-free bit I’ve left at the top? This is what I am dubbing “squishing space.” I always find that no matter how thin you spread jam, it squishes out. So I have left this little space for the jam that gets squished along as I roll up the cake! Tada!

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  • Start rolling! Score the cake at the bottom, about a centimeter from the edge, and use the paper to roll the cake up on itself

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  • Et voila! One Swiss roll! Feel free to sprinkle with extra sugar. Cut slices as required

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So there you go! The perfect cake in a hurry.

I also have one little announcement before I sign off. Me and Mr Tomboy are going to be moving house in a few weeks! So I’m going to apologise in advance in case I struggle to get a blog up at any point. We’re due to move in just over 3 weeks, so have a lot of packing to do, and after the move we might not have internet for a while. But once I can blog in our new house, I will have a nice big kitchen and a dining room to blog from, so I am very excited about that. If you have Facebook, you can “Like” my page here for more up-to-date information!

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake

Cheesecake 1

Today, me and my hubby have been together for 8 years!

So, to celebrate, we went to see Avengers. Because we are super cool. It was utterly epic guys.

I also made us some cheesecake! In our early days, back in our university halls, we spent a lot of time devouring cheesecakes. Whole, feed-a-family size cheesecakes. Between two people. We were 19, we could get away with it! Now we’re grown up, we have to be a bit more sensible. In theory.

Anyway, one thing we still adore is cheesecake. It’s our go-to dessert for any kind of occasion. I’ve made a few baked cheesecakes in the past with mixed results, and I have yet to achieve the “perfect” cheesecake – today’s being no exception – but while it doesn’t look the best, it tastes a-maze-ing! Definitely better than store bought. The filling is just SO creamy! And the base so buttery! Mmmm.

I have adapted this recipe from another ofmy M&S Easy cookbooks – this time “Easy Meals for Two”. The original is a vanilla cheesecake with passionfruit seeds on top to decorate. But I soon learned that it was easy to change the recipe up to create a totally different cheesecake.

Today I used double chocolate digestives for my biscuit base. The chocolate on top of the biscuits meant I needed to add a bit more biscuits to the mix, because the chocolate melted with the butter and made a wetter mixture. This would end up being very solid once baked, and I prefer a crumblier base.

When it comes to cream cheese for cheesecakes, only the best will do. Low fat cream cheeses won’t set as well when baked, and also won’t give that classic creamy taste. Not good. Always use a full fat cream cheese – I used Philadelphia. Nom.

As for cream, I actually use cream substitute in the form of Elmlea. I have a bit of a lactose intolerance, and I have found in the past that using real cream can sometimes take it a step too far and cause me to have a reaction. Elmlea, however, doesn’t. It is also sweeter than real cream, and adds to the taste of the cheesecake. Only problem is, they don’t seem to make a small pot of Elmlea anymore, so you end up having to buy a great big tub for just three tablespoons! But you can pour it all over later so it’s not the end of the world.

I have learned in the past that you do not want to add too much cream to the mixture. I did that once because I didn’t want to waste the cream – I ended up with a cheesecake that refused to set, and gooped out in the middle when we cut it! So less is more here. Like I say, you can always pour any unused cream over it later!

I also attempted decorating the cheesecake today. I think if my oven wasn’t so pants and baked things properly, it would have worked. Basically, while my cheesecake baked, I melted some cooking chocolate, and put it into a piping back. Then about half way through the cooking time, I took the cheesecake out and piped chocolate hearts onto the top. If it had cooked more evenly, I imagine they would have stayed intact; however, I had to cook the cheesecake a lot longer than the recipe called for as it just wasn’t cooking in the middle at all, so I ended up with a browned top and cracked chocolate. It doesn’t affect the flavour, just the look of it.

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I had some chocolate left over, so I piped some more hearts onto a sheet of tin foil and left them to set. I used these later for additional decoration!

Cheesecake 4

All in all, it wasn’t the prettiest cheesecake, but damn, it tasted good! Happy 8 years together anniversary, hubby!

Cheesecake 2

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake

Baked in a 15cm/6in pan, will serve 4-6, depending on how greedy folks are!

Ingredients

For the base

  • 100g chocolate biscuits – I used McVities double chocolate digestives
  • 50g butter

For the filling

  • 280g pack of full-fat cream cheese
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 3tbsp double cream
  • 2 small eggs
  • 2tsp vanilla essence
  • 40g chocolate, melted, to decorate – optional

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180°C. Prepare a cake tin by wrapping foil tightly around the base – this stops the butter leaking out too much and burning in the oven!
  • To make the base, melt the butter gently in a saucepan. Meanwhile, place the biscuits in a bag and crush. Once the butter is melted, take the pan off the heat and stir in the crushed biscuits thoroughly. Then tip the butter biscuit mix into the cake tin
  • In a bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Lightly beat the eggs and then beat into the cream cheese mixture, along with the cream, making sure there are no lumps
  • Tip the mixture into the cake tin, then bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, or until the top is set and the centre wobbles slightly when shaken
  • Leave to cool, then run a knife around the side of the tin and release
  • If decorating with chocolate, pipe shapes or swirls of melted chocolate onto the cheesecake about half way through the cooking time; alternatively, sprinkle with chocolate when serving

I have read online that baking the cheesecake in a pan of water keeps the top from burning and cracking, so next time I make one I will try that!

This week’s recipe is adapted from Marks & Spencer Easy Meals for Two; I have switched some ingredients and increased them to make a larger cheesecake.

Variable Cookies

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Okay, you’re probably sitting there thinking “what the hell are variable cookies?”

I shall explain!

Years ago, me and hubby were hanging out with our good friend Will at his parent’s house during the summer holidays. I have no idea why, but we ended up making cookies! Will had this recipe in his repertoire – it was kind of a “chuck things in the bowl and see how it goes” kind of recipe that he adapted from something he had found online. And they were delicious!

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They are called variable cookies because the recipe can be changed up in so many ways. You can change one or more of the ingredients and create a totally different batch of delicious treats. You can put spices or extracts in, or leave them as they are, you can add whatever additions you want. They are so versatile. I imagine they would be fantastic for those of you with kids, because they’re a hands-in-the-bowl mix.

The cookies I’ve made today are using the basic mixture with just two optional ingredients – I will list other variations after the recipe. I’ve made them small, because they are coming with me and hubby on a road trip at the weekend, and this way, hubby can easily eat them while he’s driving, rather than having a big hunk of cookie in his hand! But you can make them any size you like – another variation of these magic cookies!

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These little bitesize cookies are soft in the middle with a crunchy exterior, and packed full of chocolate chips. And despite all the sugary content inside, they’re not sickly sweet. They’re moreish. And they’re so small you can space out your nibbling! In short, they’re the perfect cookies for a road trip.

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So, without further ado, the basic recipe for you to build on and make your own variable cookies!

Variable Cookies

Amount will vary on size of cookie – I made 50 mini cookies

  • 300g plain flour
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 125g butter
  • About 3tbsp golden syrup
  • Chocolate chips (optional)
  • vanilla essence

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Sift the flour into a large bowl, then stir in the brown sugar. I like to squish the brown sugar with the back of a spoon first to remove lumps
  • Chop the butter into rough cubes, then rub into the flour and sugar mixture until it looks like fine breadcrumbs, then mix in the chocolate chips
  • Add the golden syrup and/ the vanilla. This is where it gets messy. Mix the golden syrup into the flour, sugar and butter breadcrumb mix. It will be sticky – keep with it. If the mix isn’t coming together, add more golden syrup, a tablespoon at a time until the mix comes together as a ball. It should be slightly sticky but not overly. If it is too sticky, add more flour
  • Make cookie shapes. I pinched off balls about the size of a 10p piece and then squashed them to about a centimetre thick. Place on baking sheets with space to spread. Bake – see below for variations

Variations

  • Use self-raising flour instead of plain for a softer, lighter cookie. Leave more space on the baking tray for spreading
  • Add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ginger or mixed spice for a little kick, or maybe a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder in place of the same amount of flour for some chocolate cookies. Sift in with the flour
  • Or, for a different kind of flavour, add a teaspoon of an essence or extract – for example, vanilla like I did, or perhaps peppermint or almond
  • You can leave out the chocolate chips, or switch them out for white chocolate, or marshmallows, or really anything you might find in a cookie! I used 200g of milk chocolate chips; you could use less for a more cookie to chip ratio
  • When you bake the cookies, bake them for 6 minutes for really doughy cookies, for 10 minutes for soft, just browning cookies (I did 10 today), or 15 minutes for more biscuity cookies!

Big thank you to the wonderful William for letting me share his recipe, even if he got it off of t’internet in the first place! He also has a blog – a gaming blog, and a bit more upmarket than mine, as he’s been featured on gaming websites. If you’re into games, I seriously recommend taking a look! Head over to gamerpeak.com

Next week’s post will be on Friday, as hubby and I will be away on our holibobs!

Baby Shower Cakes *Special Post*

Yesterday I was in Stockport visiting family for a bit of a get together in honour of my little cousin and the approaching arrival of her little bundle of joy! I offered to make cakes, and I had my work cut out for me from the beginning, as just two weeks ago when she came to visit, I gave her four cupcakes to take home and she ate all four. So I knew I had to make plenty of cake so that there would be some left over for the other 18 people at the baby shower!

We already knew she was having a little boy, so I wanted to use a blue and white theme, but equally I didn’t want to do something too elaborate – I’d rather do a simple design and do it well, than come up with some magnificent over exaggerated beast of a cake and cock it up. I also knew I wanted to do both a main cake and some cupcakes, all with the same blue and white theme.

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The first thing I found was the adorable cupcake toppers, on a wonderful website called Cake Craft Shop. I only ordered 2 boxes (24 toppers) because I hadn’t yet realised how much Rebecca could eat! So I then fashioned some little building blocks to go on the other 12 cupcakes, which I think have turned out rather well!

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I then came across these adorable cases in Lakeland when out on a shopping trip with my Mom. They’re just so cute! They don’t exactly match the blue and white theme but they do match the baby shower theme (I mean, they’re called baby shower cupcake cases!), and they just happened to fall into my basket, so…

Baby Shower 6

When it came to designing the cake, I didn’t want to go over the top with the blue or boy stuff. When I was buying the toppers for the cupcakes, I also saw these little keepsake claydough booties, which came in white, pink or blue. I decided to go with white, because I didn’t want the added hassle of trying to match a blue icing to the blue of the topper. So then I iced the cake with a pale blue icing (I used a mix of royal blue and navy gel colouring in about 1.25kg of white ready made fondant icing) and then added the white bunting and the congratulations.

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The bunting turned out better than when I did it for my friend’s cake a while back. I found that when I was cutting the bunting with a knife that time, it pulled and I ended up with misshapen flags! But then I came across a great tip. You cut out a star shape with a large star cutter, then cut off the points! So simple! My only large star had rounded points, but I like the softness it gives to the effect, and I think it matches the cupcake edges too. I edged each flag (and every letter!) with the side of my new stitch tool (also from Lakeland) – it took ages! But I absolutely love love love the effect.

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Baby Shower 2

I also ventured for the first time into writing icing. I made a very thick paste with icing sugar and water, and fitted my bag with the smallest nozzle I own. It felt too runny at first so I added more icing sugar. I wish I hadn’t – although it felt soft in the bag, it was a nightmare to squeeze out! I genuinely hurt my hand from all the squeezing. But I managed to pipe the strings for the bunting around the edge of the cake quite successfully, if a little wonkily! I added a little blob of icing at intervals along the strings to attach the flags, piped bows at the top of each loop, and used the rest of the icing to stick the toppers to the cupcakes.

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Originally, I was going to just do swirls of buttercream for the cupcakes and plonk the cupcake toppers on top of it. But after the reception the Mother’s Day cupcakes I made received, I changed my mind and decided to do them that way instead! They just look more fancy don’t they? So much more work but so worth it. For fun I added up how many sugar pearls I used, and not including the ones that escaped onto the floor, I used 1,008. That’s a lot of sugar pearls, yo.

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The cakes were all double quantities of the recipes I have listed in my Mother’s Day special post – I made 18 large vanilla cupcakes and 18 large chocolate cupcakes, and two large (23cm) cakes which I sandwiched with buttercream and strawberry jam. The whole process took me 9 hours – I finished about 12:30 Saturday night. I have never felt so mentally and physically drained after making cake! But the look on my cousin’s face on Sunday when I had set it all up on the buffet table at my Aunt’s house made it all worthwhile. She was really thrilled, and I was thrilled that she was thrilled! I have no idea how people do this for a living though, I don’t think I could do something that big or bigger every single week! Yikes.

But that said, I’m incredibly proud of what I pulled off, even if it’s a bit wibbly wobbly in places!

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