Wednesday, 27 March 2013

And now a cake with purpose, meaning and significance

Unlike the previous cake (or, indeed, this gingerbread) , this cake was made for a reason. That reason was that Z1 was having a birthday party to celebrate reaching the grand old age of five. I rather pushed the beetle theme* and had been mentally planning this cake for quite a while. However, I am not one for trial runs of cakes so, when the day before her birthday party dawned, the pressure was on.
chocolate cake, bug cake, beetle cake, children's cake, buttercream, chocolate buttercream, icing, frosting, piped icing,
Chocolate Beetle Cake
The Husband took both Zeds out for the day and I had the house to myself which was very novel. The secret to this cake is mostly cocoa. The recipe I used specifically said to use hot chocolate powder, not cocoa, but I ignored that and just added in some extra sugar. I had hoped for green or blue sprinkles for the wings but the shop I was in offered up only orange. I also had to buy Sherbet Fountains in order to acquire the liquorice for his "twuntlers" (as Z1 likes to call them). Note also the broken up biscuits (cookies) around him to represent the soil with a few leftover-from-last-time green sprinkles to denote grass. My attention to detail is astounding.

Overall, I felt the children were not sufficiently impressed with my glorious chocolate beetle but they did eat him and I upped the enthusiasm by offering them slices of beetle's bottom. Show me a five year old who doesn't think bottoms are funny and I'll eat my hat**. He got mostly eaten and the parents came forward to have some too so a success overall, I feel.

* I am not really sure why I became committed to a beetle theme but there you go. I did mention it here and as far as I can fathom it mostly grew from my inspired idea about using paper fasteners on paper plates to make beetle wings (more to come on that one) and a general appreciation of beetles.
**terms and conditions apply

Monday, 18 March 2013

A Cake, for no other reason but F*** (with linguistic explanations)

A friend of my brother's in university was very fond of some of the expressions she encountered in Ireland. On of these was "For f***'s sake" which she misremembered as "For no other reason but f***" which seemed appropriate for this blog about a cake I made just because it looked pretty and not really because anyone in the house wanted to eat it.

Z1 wanted to make fairycakes (as I like to call them, being Irish and resisting the American invasion of "cupcake". In the interest of full disclosure, she was, in fact, asking to make cupcakes) on a Sunday afternoon. For some reason, I took against the idea of fairycakes and insisted it would be biscuits (ah, more linguistic divides between Europe and North America - by "biscuits", I mean what are generally referred to as "cookies" on this side of the Atlantic). I even hardened my heart to tears in favour of fairycakes and tried to distract her with the wondrous look of the Zebra-striped cake. I succeeded. Hurrah!

cake, stripes, marble cake, zebra cake, chocolate cake, baking
After baking
cake, stripes, marble cake, zebra cake, chocolate cake, baking
before baking
Our cake mix was thicker than I expected but the dolloping and waiting for it to spread worked pretty well. I felt our pre-baking cake looked reasonably like the Pinterest picture.

As I dolloped, a niggly part of my brain kept telling me that this cake would not be eaten and it was a terrible waste of ingredients. The Husband is not a big cake eater and the Zeds generally lose interest pretty quickly. This didn't stop me from being very excited to cut the cake and see how it turned out. I had to restrain myself from slicing it before it had cooled and before it was iced.

cake, stripes, marble cake, zebra cake, chocolate cake
The final product - iced and sliced

It turned out magnificently in my not-so-humble opinion.  As it happened, the Zeds did eat several slices. So did I. Husband had none and by the time I realised I should have given some to the neighbours, it was a little old so I didn't feel I could. I am half-proud of not having just wolfed it all down myself like a glutton but also rather ashamed at the waste of good ingredients.

You may also be interested to know:
  • although I generally avoid posting updates about the same thing on multipe social media platforms, I was so excited and proud of this one that I think I did the triple whammy of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
  • people on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram asked for the recipe - I haven't posted it here as I just used a Victoria sponge recipe that I found on the BBC recipe  website. I think it was probably Delia Smith's. I added cocoa to half the mix in place of some of the flour. I also got the buttercream recipe from the BBC and added cocoa in place of one of the ounces of icing sugar.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Birthday party and beetle planning

cartoon beetle, beetle drawing, beetle, bug, insect
 Z1 will be 5 this month and we are having a birthday party for her. Husband and I are providing the entertainment. I will take charge of cake and Pizza Pizza will provide the pizza. A community centre will be providing the battleground party space.

beetle, bug, stag beetle, insect
I was less than dedicated unsuccessful in getting Z1 to make a list of who she wanted to invite in advance so we just invited everyone she could think of. We added any forgotten people from her class as we distributed the invitations to cubby holes. I printed out 30 invitations thinking we'd need a few spares. There were no spares. We have now invited thirty* children between the ages of four to six to a party, have undertaken to entertain them and have assured the parents they can drop them off rather than staying if they want.

ladybird, ladybug, beetle, bug, insectI have a plan for doing a beetley sort of craft. Considering the hiccups I sometimes encounter doing crafts with just Z1, this might be an overwhelming day. Preparation is key, though, and I have over 2 weeks to get ready at this point. I even invented a beetle-themed jumping about type game the other night so it can be a beetle-themed party. Goodness - maybe I'll even make a ladybird cake**.

You may also be interested to know: When on holiday in France with my family when I was about 16, we were staying in a small house in the middle of nowhere. One thing that happened on that holiday was that we saw a rather large stag beetle. I estimated it to be about 1 1/4 inch long, at the time. Exciting times.

*  We currently have 8 confirmed attendees and 1 "no"
**I suggested this to Z1 and she wasn't keen so I may be off the hook on that one.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Good and bad things resulting from Sunday's gingerbread

 As I mentioned before, we made gingerbread on Sunday afternoon. I got a couple of comments and, in replying to them, I realised I hadn't mentioned some significant parts of our gingerbread experience. I have divided them into good and bad things.

Good thing: The baking gingerbread made our house smell lovely.

smiley, frowny
Bad thing: We really needed a nice smell to cover up the smoky smell that had been caused by me putting the butter in the preheating oven to soften it and then forgetting it. Dripping butter in a hot oven causes a lot of smoke.

Good thing: Our smoke alarm wasn't in the kitchen when the butter incident happened (don't worry, it's back where it belongs now) so didn't add to the smokey stress.

smiley, frowny
Bad thing: The oven handle came off while the oven was preheating which meant I had to fix it with a screwdriver while wearing oven gloves. This was a little perilous and quite annoying.

Good thing: I managed to fix it without swearing (audibly) and without burning myself or the Zeds.

Good thing: The gingerbread really is rather tasty and we have some  leftover dough still in the fridge to make more.

So, overall, the good outweighed the bad.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Sunday gingerbread (this time with ginger)

food, gingerbread, cookies, biscuits,
Stacked gingerbread
I decided to bake rather late on a Sunday afternoon as there was an hour or so before dinnertime and I didn't want to turn on the television or break up endless battles over plastic figurines, which seemed to be the other option on this particular day.  We had been reading The Gingerbread Baby so Z1 thought gingerbread would be a good idea. It was, as the book says, cold outside and warm inside.
gingerbread, baking, cookies, biscuits
Cooling gingerbread
(notice fingerprints on the middle one)

In hindsight, baking when feeling slightly exasperated and desperate isn't the best idea. However, in a way we did better than last time as we did have ginger this time. I didn't have golden syrup but the fancy molasses was fine.

gingerbread, decoration, smarties, food, cookies, biscuits
Z1's decorated and
beheaded gingerbread man
gingerbread, decoration, smarties, food, cookies, biscuits
Z2's decorative effort

It turns out, gingerbread was an excellent pre-dinner snack as Z1 ate all her dinner even after the brutal beheading and devouring that you see pictured (in part).