Doing Christmas – lametta and cake

Here’s wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas from this blog.
I have decorated the tree …

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 … and then finished it off with lametta – oh, how I love lametta – regardless of fashion – I love the way it pulls the tree decorations together and gives more sparkle than you would expect! {pictures much clearer if clicked}

And then the cake... and I left it rather late (last weekend) to make but still dropped it, well wrapped, into the freezer for three days – just to help it mature! Oh, Yes! Freezing a fruit cake helps it mature, because the ice crystals that form break the cells and releases the juices and flavours from all that fruit, and, if you had followed a recipe like the Adaptable Rich Fruit Cake recipe I use – then you’ll be releasing extra wine flavour too!wp_20161222_20_43_58_pro

My decorations this year used a large holly leaf cutter and a small heart shaped cutter and roll-out icing. Having covered the cake I mixed a little gum tragacanth, so it will harden, with the remaining icing and rolled it out. The white holly leaves and the hearts were cut out from this, the holly leaves left to dry draped over scrunched paper covered with cling-film to give them shape. (The same was done with some other remaining icing – coloured green)

The heart shapes were stuck together in fives to make the ‘Christmas Roses’ and set to rest in a piece of foil, each in a dip in a bun tin. A little icing was coloured yellow and pressed through a sieve to make the centres, ‘cut’ off the sieve and pressed onto a, dampened, centre, with a few presses of the knife tip.

One of the most useful cake decorating things I ever bought from Lakeland was the sets of letters and numbers. These have been used SO many times over the years – the letters much more than the numbers but both are useful.

With these I cut out my message to go all around the cake …

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I hope you can read it … it’s for you …

it says Merry Christmas and a Happy (2017) New Year … my wish for you All  🙂

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Happy Christmas to All my Readers

DSCF0088Happy Christmas everybody! By the time you get this your Christmas day will be either half over or well over (depends if you decide to have a ban on looking at the computer on Christmas Day or not 😉

Regardless of the time, I’d like to send you all best wishes for the season… and hope you have all you need to make this a happy time.

Here we have family visiting  (#2 son. #3 son and his lovely wife) and will have aunts, uncles and neighbours in for Christmas day, making us twelve.

The Christmas tree is looking it usual crazy self (no restricted colour themes or fashion-following for me)

IMG_1648 cropThe cake is a riot of the holly leaves I blogged about making last week

and, as I write, the veg (including a single 3lb plus stripy beetroot from the garden) has been peeled and chopped by my lovely team of youngsters. DSCF0090

 

 

 

So all that is left to do is wish you all the best and thank you all for following the blog and commenting on the pieces, I really do appreciate hearing from you. Thank you too if you are one of the many people who have read my novels over the past year, I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Hope you have a lovely time – Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for a peaceful and joyful New Year

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Too Late to Decorate a Christmas Cake??

No, it’s not too late to decorate your Christmas cake AND make it look special … let’s be honest here… I haven’t decorated mine yet. But, here’s one I did earlier.  As in; I decorated the Christmas cake for our WI party.. and posted the result on Facebook.. and have had more than a few queries about how it was done.  Well, it was fairly simple and really didn’t take very long – though some drying time is needed between stages .. and luckily I had taken a few photos as I went (not really enough but I hope it will give you what you need) DSCF0063

BASICS:

Not wanting to teach my grandmother to suck eggs… but I am often amazed how many people do not start themselves off with a nice flat cake, trusting to luck that the top of the cake will be flat enough. You may skip this paragraph if you are a grandmother experienced in sucking eggs. 😉  If you are doing a quintessential snow-scene the rough or rounded top really doesn’t matter. For almost anything else cut the top off the cake to level it up. Turn it upside down and set on the cake board: the base is now the top and will be lovely and flat!  This can be stuck in place with a blob of royal icing or jam  (though the latter not so firm)  Hint: measure up the sides to the point where the rounding starts. At the same level on 4 sides (or corners if you are doing a square cake), slice into the cake. then, keeping the blade level with the table top work round to the next cut… thus joining the cuts up, all at the proper level, when all the side/s have been cut into then slice through the centre. You should now have a cut ‘top’ surface but a level cake – then you turn it over.

ROLL-OUT

I like fondant icing and, though I did once make it, I usually just buy Regal Ice.  I prefer this one for flavour and texture – but you can use the others if you prefer. If you like marzipan, by all means give your cake a layer of that. Certainly at this late stage it is not necessary to prevent colour ‘bleed’ from the cake coming through, so if you do not like marzipan ( as I do not) you do not have to use it!  The following  instructions would apply to marzipan as well as fondant.

Heat a tablespoon of apricot jam in a small container (Microwave until just bubbling would be fine) Brush the warm jam all over the cake top and sides.

On a worktop dusted liberally with CORNFLOUR (not icing sugar) roll out a kilo of fondant icing. I usually thump it about a bit first to make it square rather than rectangular and it also seems to soften it a bit before rolling.

Roll to a minimum thickness of 5mm – 7mm is preferable – thicker than 7 and it’s just too much icing, thinner than 5 gets tricky to lift and smooth.  Keep turning or moving the icing to make sure it isn’t sticking to the worktop at all.

When it is at least 2 inches (5cm) larger than your cake surface-area, lift, using a rolling pin to support the icing , and drape over the cake centrally.

If it is a square cake: gently, with cornflour dusted hands, ease and smooth the icing down over the corners first. This will leave ‘baggy’ bits along the sides, but with gentle easing this bagging can been smoothed away along the sides until they, and the corners, are all smooth.

If it is a round cake: gently, with cornflour dusted hands, ease and smooth the icing down evenly, so the baggy areas are evenly spread. With gentle easing this bagging can been smoothed away leaving the icing even all around the sides. DSCF0049 edge crop

Make sure your hands are well cornflour dusted and ‘polish’ the top and sides with light circular movements. Press down around the base towards the cake-board.

The icing lapping onto the board can be dealt with in a number of ways. It can be trimmed tight to the cake, which leaves an edge that calls out for a piped trim. You can make sure it covers all the board, and smooth it down right out to the edge and trim level with the edge of the board, or you can cut it into shapes, a wavy line is easy, or use a cutter to give a trimmed pattern. On the cake I made for WI I used a small circular cutter* to make lots of small spikes. *flat-ended apple-corer – but I could also have used a icing nozzle – same size)

Take the excess icing and roll it up together again. If you have some gum tragacanth powder then blend in about quarter of a level teaspoon by kneading it well – this will make the icing harden much better.

Making the DECORATIONS {Note: if you are running VERY close to the date, cut off about a quarter of the kilo of icing and make the decorations first .. then cover the cake when they are dry and ready. Keep the rest of the roll-out well wrapped in cling-film and sealed in an airtight bag}

Roll out icing.. thinner than before. You can use a holly cutter (or two) as I did… but if you haven’t got holly cutters you can use a fluted (sweet) pastry cutter (most of us have those – right?)  See HERE for pictures how to make this type of holly leaves in a previous blog. I then like to mark these with a knife – to show centre line and veins – just a few marks – not necessary — but … DSCF0047DSCF0048

Prepare a A4+ piece if card by folding it into a zigzag and cover it with foil or cling-film. I always  have an odd cereal packet folded up in my cupboard 🙂 (hangover from having children – great source of scrap card) .

As you finish each holly leaf drape it over this zigzag – so each one will have a different curved shape when they dry.

Take remaining fondant and colour it red. Roll it out and cut out letters to spell Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…. if you have letter cutters (A really great item to have in your cake decorating armoury!) – if not then  roll into long thin sausages, shape the letters to spell Happy DSCF0052Christmas, leave to dry on a tray which has been covered with cling-film and dusted with cornflour. (my photo shows silver words — but let’s keep this simple eh?)

To make holly berries roll out a long  thin sausage and cut small even sized pieces and roll to make berries – leave to dry on something they won’t roll off of!!!

 

ASSEMBLY

Make up 1 egg-white’s worth of royal icing (1 egg white beaten with about 200g/8oz sieved icing sugar until thick and glossy)  (or use ready to mix royal icing – about 100g / 4oz) DSCF0051

If you want a candle as I have in the centre wrap its base in a piece of foil.

Put a large blob of icing in the middle of the cake, carefully site the candle in the centre – do not worry if it wobbles at this stage. Add the dried holly leaves starting with smaller ones round the base and culminating with four large ones at the top. This will all help stabilise the candle. Drop some berries onto the wet icing amongst the holly leaves.  Carefully remove the actual candle and leave this arrangement to set.

DSCF0060Mix a little of the icing with a drop of hot water to make a slightly runnier ‘glue’, using a small brush paste the back of the letters and carefully position on the sides of the cake – hold each one a moment to make sure it is holding on. Using the same technique place a holly berry at each spike round the base, then distribute the rest at random but evenly over the remaining space on the top.DSCF0057

Allow all to set then keep covered until the day 🙂 DSCF0066Replace the candle and it is ready to show off.

By the way.. this is not turning into a cooking blog – promise – but if I left this one until next week it might be too late to decorate your cake!

 

Confession – I have been known to decorate my Christmas cake on Christmas eve 🙂

Have you decorated your cake yet? Come on – confess!

Do you have a tradition of a specific design year after year or do you vary them?

Do share, you know I love to hear from you!

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Anyone For Cake? How to….

Well! What a weekend. The first Looe Literary Festival was a tremendous success! Plenty of people turned out and took themselves down to this pretty Cornish town on the sea. PLUS it was extra interesting being ‘out of season’. There was a different vibe – and this weekend it was definitely a Literary vibe!

I was delighted to have my very own one hour Author Event slot arranged for me in The Old Boathouse Cafe, on the quay-side facing the river just before it emerges into the sea. My audience had a few extras, a small free draw AND CAKE. DSCF7593

I propped the cake up on my book stand – and, to my surprise, it wasn’t until I went to cut it that some people realised it was a cake!

So I’m going to give you a ‘how I made it’ here 🙂  and I hope you like it as much as others enjoyed eating it!

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cooked cake

First I printed off a large picture of the book cover and used this as my template, it meant I needed to cook a cake 12″ by (about) 8″. I happen to have a nice cake tin that allows you to vary its size by inserting two interlocking dividers, with the largest at 12″ x 12″ reducing in size down to 1″ x 1″ (Though you’d probably not use it for that!) You can also make 4 cakes at once, each 6″ square. Anyway – I created the right size cake tin size and made a Victoria sandwich mix that I had calculated would fill it. (in this case cracked the 7 eggs into a jug and weighed the total, then used the exact same weight for the flour, sugar and butter) I dolloped about half of this mixture into the tin, then added 250g melted plain chocolate beating well as it was added to the other half of the mixture, then dolloped this in between the  plain mix, finishing it with a swirling motion to smooth it out then baked it at 180 degrees until cooked (about 35 mins) I wrapped it well and froze the cake.

Now to the decorations. First I mixed about half a teaspoon of gum-tragacanth into about 150g ready-made roll-out icing (Regal-Ice) This means the paste will harden. I rolled it out and carefully cut the rectangle out – placing it on a tray covered with a sheet of cling-film dusted with cornflour, covered lightly, to prevent dust, with greaseproof paper.

I re-rolled the remainder and by resting the paper sheet on top and using a cocktail stick to press on the line, marked out the shapes of all the dark rocks in the picture. DSCF7566DSCF7568

I removed the paper and using the cocktail stick drew lines on the rocks to give them texture. I also cut a long narrow rectangle to put the author name on later. All these I also placed on a tray as before and set them all to dry in a warm place.

When these were all dry I mixed food colouring to make the colours I expected to need. I marked out with a pale food-colour pen, the lines for the layers of cliffs in the distance, the sand and the sea. Then I painted these in with the food colours giving the larger areas a water wash before applying the colour as you do for water colours, but otherwise it was a bit like painting by numbers 😉 DSCF7583DSCF7586

 

The rocks were given a dark wash so that the textures still showed through; all this was left to dry. When the ‘paint’ was dry I assembled the pieces and hand-painted the title with a red food colour.

I cut the top of the defrosted cake and trimmed it to the perfect size then turned it upside down onto a cake-board with a little icing spread on it to prevent it slipping. I rolled out another 200g of Regal Ice and cut 4 pieces long enough to cover all the edges then rolled the rest very thinly and covered the top and sides with this thin layer, held in place by a brushing of heated-up jam. DSCF7585

Three out of the four strips were textured to look like pages, the fourth I hand painted to look like the spine of the book.

NOW! The assembly, The cover was stuck on with icing, as were all the edges… and lo! the book should have been finished. Unfortunately I forgot the extra thickness of the cover when I cut the spine…. and had to add a bit to fill in the gap!! So now you know what to look out for if you do the same .. and I will know for next time too 🙂 DSCF7594 Crop

All in all it may have made my author slot a little different … if you were there – do tell… if you were unable to come .. well I hope to get out and about more next year – maybe to a festival near you! DSCF7604 crop

As always I love to hear your thoughts – do leave a comment 🙂

 

 

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Easy Wild 60s Cake decor

Ok…. so let’s fess-up… it was my 60th birthday earlier this month! Sixty seems more of a millstone milestone than fifty did. However, I saw it in in much the same way *** dancing.

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CLICK on any picture to get a better look at them!

And I made a cake (ok, not a surprise) but as I did so I thought that the design would suit a 60s party (as in fancy-dress based on the 1960s) as much as for a sixty-year-old. Actually, it really doesn’t matter what age – just as long as big blowsy flowers are suitable to decorate a large number-shaped cake, and these really do not have to be psychedelic colours at all… they could all be pink, or yellow, or blue, or — well you get the idea …..

And I like to share making cake decorations without using lots of fancy equipment – as many people only get to decorate a few cakes and do not want to fork-out for such stuff on a once in a blue moon basis. So here we go…

The easiest way to make a number cake is to buy or borrow a number-shapes cake tin. However, I opted to make mine easier to cover by omitting the ‘holes’ in the centres – so did not use a shaped tin.

I baked a 12 inch square chocolate and vanilla marbled sponge cake. Same recipe as Victoria sandwich (times-ed up) but longer cooking time and slightly lower temperature. The 12 inch cake took 12 eggs. For the chocolate part I melted 400g plain chocolate in the MW and beat it into half of the mixture. TIP: I always weigh-up the eggs, out of their shells, for a Victoria Sandwich… and then use exactly the same weight in caster-sugar, butter (or soft baking margarine) and self-raising flour – thereafter following the traditional recipe.60 cake plan

I also baked an 8″ round very rich fruit cake. as I knew I’d have some people that liked that … or that part of the cake would keep longer if it didn’t get eaten straight-away.60 cake rnd

I used the round cake tin to mark out the curves for the zero and for the tail on the stick of the 6. The parts were glued together onto the cake-board with apricot jam. My plan above actually shows far more waste than I had .. but none of it goes to actual waste — every-bit eagerly eaten up as a pre-taster!! Brush all over with apricot jam and cover with ready-made roll-out icing (but not ready-rolled) – you’ll need a kilo for each number. Roll out on cornflour – not icing sugar – and ‘pick-up’ supporting the icing with a rolling pin to drape and then, gently with a well-cornfloured hand, smooth the icing over the corners and curves first. Trim to fit.

Take the trimmings and work colours into them and some gum-tragacanth. (this is a specialist ingredient, I’m afraid, but my one pot has lasted me YEARS and I decorate quite a lot of cakes. Also, I’d always go with the real thing rather than the chemical substitute – the price difference isn’t huge)

Apart from this you will need a heart shaped cutter (well worth having for all sorts of decoration). I also used a small 5 petal shape cutter (from a selection tin bought at Lakeland) and a press-cutter with similar number of petals. Now I have experimented with other ’round the house items’ and you can use a circle (cut with an apple-corer or a icing writing nozzle)  for the centre of the flowers, decorated by dotting-it with a fork.

Cut five hearts. DSCF7470 Stick them together by dampening with water.DSCF7471  Cut a centre from a contrasting colour, dampen and press down firmly on the petals. DSCF7473 Support on your hand and wash off all cornflour by ‘painting’ with water.DSCF7478

 

 

 

 

Drape into pre-prepared ‘cups’ of aluminium foil (formed over egg boxes). Leave to dry and firm-up in a warm dry place.DSCF7476

When these are dry prepare to decorate by mixing up one-egg-whites worth of royal icing. Arrange the flowers along the cake, leaving the place where the  hole would be blank. Lift each one, squeeze a blob of icing and rearrange the flower on it. DSCF7486DSCF7485 Decorate by making small leaves as done for the Christmas cake (or if you did get that spring shapes collection from Lakeland – use the small oak leaf shape) Drape the leaves between the flowers, fixed with a little icing.

Candles (if you have them) can go in the empty centres – as could a name if required. (six tall slim candles went in the centre of the 6)

Finally hearts were cut and stuck with water all round the numbers like a ribbon to finish off the cake. Hope you like the 60s effect. DSCF7488

 

 

Why do birthdays with a zero on the end feel momentous?

Which was your best (or worst) number to reach and why?

 

Do share, – you know I love to hear from you

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Did you miss me? Sorry – I was decorating this cake…

yes… I missed my post date …!  What was I thinking doing?

Well I sat down ready to write and then I had one of those moments when you realise that you haven’t done something that MUST be done… and there is no other time to do it than right NOW!

Yes – it was Tuesday evening and the WI Christmas cake had to be ready for Wednesday evening… and I was out at the market all Wednesday morning and out again with my OH in the afternoon. Could I do both, blog and decorate the cake? I looked at the time, thought I might but that the cake must come first (sorry) and set about the decorations. DSCF7339 wi cake

It’s not as if I had totally forgotten about this, a few days previously I had made and dried a lot of icing holly leaves and the lettering for the decorations, but there was still the covering, the other decoration bits and the assembly to do.  It all had to be last minute as it was to be a sponge cake ( by request) , and I’d made this and frozen it a week before. I had even remembered in the morning to take it out of the freezer to thaw gently … just somewhere during the day I had forgotten it again (worrying, or what?).

Now I do have a range of holly cutters, but you do not have to have specialist cutters to create this effect – should you wish to – substituting Happy Christmas for the name of our WI, of course 🙂  Holly leaves of three different sizes can be made using just one ‘sweet’ pastry cutter ( the ones with the wavy edges)

Colour some ready-to-roll icing green (I find Regal Ice the best for taste and texture) This is easiest done using powder cake colours rather than the liquid ones – but you can use the liquid if you can’t get hold of the powder – you may just have to knead in a little corn flour to take away the stickiness.

If you have gum tragacanth then blend in a sprinkling to ensure a hard set to your icing leaves. They will firm up as they dry anyway – but gum tragacanth will make sure they are hard.

Roll out your coloured icing on a work surface dusted with corn-flour. This is MUCH better than icing sugar! Use a medium cutter and cut as many circles as you can fit out of the icing. Depending on the size of the holly leaves you want, cut 4, 3 or 2 holly leaves from each circle by cutting on an edge. See photos.

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These can then be enhanced using the back of a knife to mark the rib and veins of the leaf. DSCF7347

Cover a baking sheet with a piece of cling film and dust with corn flour, place the leaves on this and leave somewhere warm to dry. If you want wavy leaves fold or screw up paper of aluminium foil and lay the cling film over this and the leaves on top – leaves will lie on the uneven surface and mould themselves to the shape – resulting in wavy leaves when dry. DSCF7348

If you’ve never used roll-out icing before may I say just four things. 1, Use the base of the cake as the top, and brush warm apricot jam all over the surface. 2, Roll out icing on corn flour – and make sure it isn’t too thin, then lift the sheet using a rolling pin as support and drape over the cake, overlapping the cake out to the edge of the board. 3, Gently press / smooth the corners first (if square cake) then ease the sides down without creases. (If round cake make sure the icing it evenly ‘draped’ around the cake and ease down from the top all round, to form smooth sides.) 4, ‘Polish’ with palm of hand dusted in corn flour, gently and smoothly, then trim off excess.

To attach the holly leaves and letters just moisten the back with water (I use a dedicated paintbrush) and press lightly down – if on side of the cake hold for a moment to make sure it doesn’t slide. To create the 3 dimension effect of holly leaves sticking up, make a small hole in the icing with a cocktail stick, moisten the end section of a piece of holly and press it in, smoothing the icing over the ‘stem’.DSCF7338 wi cake holly crop[

Many, many years a go I bought a set of letters for cutting out of icing – a most excellent and ever useful buy!DSCF7357  However, if you do not have these you can roll out the icing into a long thin sausage ( all that DSCF7358plasticine or play-dough rolling skills come in handy) and use this to ‘write’ a script Merry Christmas on to the top of the cake. Lie it on dry, then when in the right place lift, moisten top of cake and place down in the right place.

Lastly, some white holly leaves cut from the trimmings, mark them up and use to fill in between the green, and a few red berries, made by colouring some of those trimmings red, roll into a thin sausage, cut a small piece, roll on palm of hand and add with the dampened brush tip onto the right place.

So there it is – our WI Christmas cake… and, perhaps, an idea for you – simply done with little in the way of special decoration equipment. Alas, the blog didn’t get written that night … and so this is the new blog post – hope you liked it!

Have you made and decorated your Christmas cake yet?? (Mine is made… but not yet decorated)

Do you find yourself ‘double-booking’ your time?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you

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‘Apeeling’ gadgets and a Cake called Herman

There – now look what I have gone and done – I usually hate that, when to catch your attention words are spelled incorrectly! Krazy Kards, Kwik Fit etc …  grrr – how is any child expected to learn how to spell? Whew.. what another rant already? Enough – today I just have to tell you about my new apple peeler / corer / slicer. Though you don’t have to do all three, there is the option just to core and slice or just to peel.

I had first seen these at a WI night where we had a local producer of chutneys and mustards come to give us a talk on how his business got started and how he makes all his products. One of the gadgets he brought along to show us how he made his preparation easier was an apple peeler/ corer/ slicer: a modernised version of a Victorian invention. I was fascinated!

Wind forward about 8 months to a TV programme fronted by Stephen Fry on the 100 best gadgets. I came in when they had got down to the top 20 or so.. and there is was. ‘Ha!’ I cried ‘See that – that’s what I was telling you about from WI.’  I told the husband, ‘Absolutely brilliant, I’d love one of those!’ and then forgot all about it.

Until the other week when it arrived. ‘Not very romantic,’ he said, ‘but I guessed you’d like it.’

.. oh and I do!

(sorry that  the video is a bit wobbly – I was holding camera in my left hand whilst turning the handle with my right! Also – it ran out of memory just before I showed the spiral apple cut! (there’s some excellent vids made by others on youtube if you want to look esp. a great one by an Oz firm called Ezi)  As it was a gift I know I shouldn’t have checked up .. but I see you can buy them from around £15 on Amazon or £10 on ebay.

Bonny enjoying the 'spaghetti' peelings

 

After you have finished you have this metres-long peel and the core. Now Bonny the Dog loves apples (she helps herself to windfalls from the orchard in the Autumn) and she hoovers these peelings up like spaghetti. And even better, unlike so many kitchen gadgets, it is so easy to clean, taking very little time! Now, that is impressive – and so it has been used by one or other of the household everyday, sometimes more than once a day, since it has arrived, especially as my elderly parents don’t like eating the peel anymore and do like their apple in slices.

Peeler with ceramic blade

So, I called this appealing gadgets – and that’s because I have also recently bought a simple peeler. Until now I have been a ‘sharp knife’ sort of kitchen demon. Never really seen the need for peelers. Always found the sort with the slot up the blade took too much off and were harder work than a simple knife. Then, first, the handle on my favourite peeling knife broke – irreparable. Then I bought a replacement – well, when I say replacement, I couldn’t get one quite the same so I got one that was about the same size and looked like the handle would be comfortable. It wasn’t. I bought another (more expensive) knife. The blade does not seem to be fine enough and is hard to peel with. Yes, I ‘invested’ in another. The ‘ergonomic’ ridge, digs into my finger and makes lengthy peeling sessions uncomfortable! So when on a pre-Christmas peeling session, my Aunt brought with her a different type of simple peeler I  tried it out. It was wonderful! And it is this type I have just bought, lightweight and with a sharp ceramic blade, it’s a whiz even with our wriggly home-grown veg as well as this neat looking carrot I used for the pic.

 

 

Herman - the Friendship Cake

So where does Herman come in to this? Herman (the friendship cake) is a sourdough yeast based cake that you are given as a starter by a friend and then add flour, sugar and milk to at certain stages to make it ‘grow’, when it has quadrupled in size you divide it into 4 and give away (with the recipe sheet) the other three portions and make yourself the cake. This version required 2 cooking apples, chopped. Of course I used the apple peeler, corer, slicer and then just chopped each apple down into smaller chunks – easy!!

And it’s a yummy cake too! So, what with all the apples and Herman, how is the weight going I hear you ask? (That’s if you are one of the followers of the saga of the Fat Woman Thinning, whereby I am trying to lose weight, post menopause, through a weights exercise programme that my #3 son has worked out for me, designed to burn fat not build muscle and to take minimal time (less than 15 mins a day). If you want the details you’ll have to go up to the FWT? drop-downs from the top bar where you’ll find most of the information and the ‘losing weight’ blogs where you’ll find the rest.)

OH? The results.. sorry, were you waiting.. ok then.. yeah ..2 pounds down this week!! (Yes, I know – wow…!)  waist measurements – relaxed – down a quarter of an inch, pulled-in tight – the same. Comments on this on week 20.

Once last thing that I think might appeal to you or your friends and family – my Win a Kindle Draw (or  1 of 4 other prizes including a slate cheeseboard from AnnMade and ecopies of my Novels) which anyone can enter with just a sign-up to this blog – though there are extra entries also available. As soon as one thousand people have entered the draw will be made. As of today there are only 198 places left – so don’t miss out – don’t let your friends and family miss out – it’s worth a go! Click HERE for full details

What’s your favourite kitchen gadget? Or do you have a cupboard full of those that take longer to clean than they save in time? Love to hear your stories….

 

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Handbag-Fat, Resistance Weights and Zebra Cakes

So, two items caught my eye in the press this week that  I’d like to pass on in case you missed them.

The first was the headline ‘Is Your Handbag Making You Fat?

My larger handbag

Ok, so I’m thinking of the odd bar of chocolate or bag of sweets secreted in your handbag for ‘emergencies’ that arrive on all too frequent a basis. (Who, me? Ever?)

But it seems that the renowned cosmetic surgeon (Shudder – is this is just me – can’t bear the thought of going under a knife for cosmetic reasons but can cope with the idea for medical…)  Dr Michael Prager had noticed a correlation between fat distribution and the side his clients carried their large handbags. He noticed these things due to the measurements and pictures he took prior to cosmetic reductions. (shudder)

The fat was more heavily distributed on the side that carried the hefty bag.

Now, if I ever get my photos from Fat Woman Thinning? up onto my blog (I’ll do it when I’m sure they will stay on the blog and not appear all over the place at random) it would be noticeable that the Fat on my upper hips is not distributed evenly.

Having said that – my fat has the unfortunate propensity to settle in ‘lumps’ rather than a smooth covering. Way, way back, in the dark ages when I was at college my room mate was a lovely girl who weighed quite a bit more than I did at that time* but really didn’t look it as her layer of fat was smooth and even all over, whereas what fat I did have then sat in lumpy areas looking like .. well .. fat. (*a lot less than I am at the moment and a weight I’m aiming at)

Bonny checks I haven't forgotten anything

So, back to the photos, yes, one hip definitely has a noticeably larger love-handle lump of fat sitting on it than the other, and I’ve often wondered why and how to get rid of it, and YES it is the side I carry my large, very full and heavy handbag. The good doctor was backed up by Postural expert, Ivana Daniell, who claimed that the imbalance caused by toting the heavy handbag built skeletal and muscle imbalance that affected fat distribution.

All I know is that I am going to do two things. 1, even-up the handbag carrying (swapping shoulders if I have to take my larger (this way I don’t forget  anything) handbag with me) and 2, trying to take my smaller ‘back-pack’ type handbag at other times as this is worn on both shoulders evenly.

The second headline (a sub) was ‘Lift Weights for Brain Boost’

 This is more like it, I thought, as you may know from my Fat Woman Thinning? blogs I am Not Dieting but I am following a quick resistance weights programme (less than 15 mins a day)

The gist of this article was that lifting weights as resistance training not only builds and maintain muscle-mass and strength as we grow older but also helps to  prevent cognitive decline.

The same article also advocated Vitamin D to help prevent memory loss and as you’ll know Vitamin D is generated in our bodies through being in the sunshine – however, Eggs are one of the few foods that provide vitamin D – and you know how much I like to advocate an egg for breakfast (3 cheers for Eggs) And, talking of that – the same article pointed out that Cereals were really the worst way to start the day – and that a protein based breakfast would be more healthy for the brain.

Enough! I know you are all really waiting for the ZEBRA CAKE.

Winning Zebra cakes at our WI group meeting

This was set as the competition for our WI group meeting held this week. Here’s a lovely photo of the three winners.  No, none of them was mine, despite being the one who re-engineered the recipe to be UK friendly (and imperial measure friendly) and to fit an 8inch tin (where all the other recipes are for a 9inch – most people asked had 8inch tins)

The ingredients are really simple and probably in your cupboards now – however, the method is the most unusual I have tried.

Ingredients for 8″ Zebra Cake – a fairly dense, moist sponge cake with concentric circles on tops and vertical ‘zebra’ stripes inside:

3 Eggs

155g    / 5 ¼  oz  caster sugar

150ml  / 5 fl oz   whole milk

150ml  / 5 fl oz   vegetable oil (any – your choice)

2 tsp vanilla essence

180g  /    6 ¼  oz Self Raising flour (sieved)

1 level tablespoon Cocoa powder        }

scant ½ level teaspoon baking powder  } sieved together

a little extra milk – if required (about a tablespoon)

For the full recipe WITH METHOD click here to go to Recipes drop down for  Zebra Cake

 So a very mixed bag this blog post (get it) , and I shall finish with another plug for the great Win a Kindle (or one of 4 other great prizes) DRAW that I’m running here on this blog . Just an email-sign-up gets you an entry in this draw, where only one thousand are allowed to enter, and there’s only 429 places left. As soon as 1000 are signed up to this varied blog we call the draw! Free and easy to enter just click HERE for all the information, then I’m sure you’ll want to share it with everyone you know to give them a chance too!

Is your everyday / favourite handbag giant sized  and over-weight – do you think it makes a difference?

Or have you ever made a Zebra Cake using one of the other recipes out there on the Internet (they are widely varied) if so, how did you get on?

Love to hear from you!

 

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Christmas day has come and gone and I have just a few minutes to write before the second wave of visitors. Today we will be one more for lunch at 12 as my brother, his wife, my niece, nephew and his wife arrive! So before they do I’d just like to share a few photos and pictures with you. The Dog had a new toy under the tree, a squeaky space-hopper. Now she has never had a squeaky toy before (can’t usually stand them myself) but this is meant to be one of her outdoor toys and it has gone down a bomb with her, Not sure if she likes the squeak or is trying to find out what is inside the thing that wants to get out, but she has found it great fun!

As anyone who comes to this blog via AnnMade will know AnnMade makes slate plates and this year we used slates for our starter of smoked salmon and prawns, and before serving I took a few quick snaps – looks yummy doesn’t it?

As usual out Christmas cake wasn’t quite a typical snow scene (though I have done some with snow on). I decided to do a map of the world with places marked where people with us over the Christmas break had immediate family. Though I had planned this earlier I ended up doing the final bits on Christmas eve with Son #3s girlfriend helping make the masses of holly leaves. The result was quite effective though hastily finished. Tasted good!

And in the New Year I shall be editing my latest novel, ‘The Angel Bug’ as I have heard back from Tim Smit of the Eden Project and he is happy to be featured as the only real person in the novel – so I am ready to move forward now with this. Look forward to publication in the spring. And if you have a new kindle (or other e-reader) and you’d like to feed it with my current novels you’ll find them all on AnnMade Books where you can have a New Year present of All 3 for just £5!*

So today is the great Turkey and Ham pie day, and I must away to make the rough-puff pastry. Here’s wishing you all a prosperous and peaceful New Year.

How did your Christmas go? What are your hopes for the New Year?

*(Offer until End Jan. Extra paid refunded)

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My Nephew’s Wedding Cake

I have spent most of this week cake decorating. I have barely done any of my work on slate, none on writing and very little around the house and garden. This, as you may have guessed, is a special cake. This is my nephew’s wedding cake. Three tier, top and bottom in rich fruit, very rich fruit, and the centre one of chocolate sponge.

Wedding Cake

There were over 90 fondant roses on this cake, all made over a number of evenings. I created the tool to imprint the Celtic love-knot round the sides and repousséd out of thin aluminium sheet (empty beer cans) the tools to imprint rose and rose-leaf patterns for the top and edge of the cake. Just covering the cakes and arranging the roses took over eight hours – nevermind the making of the cakes and the roses.

 

If you ever need a superb and very versatile recipe for a very rich moist fruit cake then here is one we have used for over 40years – it will fit any size or shape of tin – but only comes in imperial measurements!

THE ADAPTABLE CAKE RECIPE

**measure how many pints of water your cake tin holds(to about 1/2 inch from top)

        Then follow this recipe PER PINT !

  • 5 oz currants
  • 2 oz sultanas
  • 2 oz raisins
  • 1 ½ oz glace cherries
  • 1 oz mixed peel (or if you don’t like this add same chopped ‘dried’  ready to eat apricots)
  • 3 ½ oz plain flour
  • ¼ teaspoon mixed spice
  • 3 oz butter (or marg)
  • 3 oz soft dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ eggs
  • wine – any – to soak the fruit ( acouple of glasses willl be enough for a medium sized cake)
  1.  Wash the dried fruit in HOT water to remove the oil. Drain very well, place in large bowl and slosh over the wine (couple of glasses will usually do the lot) and leave to stand, stir occasionally, leave overnight. The fruit will absorb most of the wine
  2. Double line the tin with two layers of greaseproof paper.
  3. Beat together the butter and sugar, add beaten eggs, sieved flour, mixed spice and beat well
  4. Chop cherries and toss in some of the flour (with mixed peel – if using)
  5. Drain soaked fruit (if required) then stir in All fruit, mixing well
  6. Spoon into lined tin, spread to make sides slightly higher than centre.
  7. Bake at 150 C  or Fan oven 140 c

For 3 – 3 ½ hours until a skewer comes out without uncooked cake mix on.

12 inch square = 8 ½  pints approx   *
10 ½  inch square = 7 pints   *
7 inch square = 3 pints   *

***Check with your own tins – take the measurement to about ½ inch down from the top of the tin – not right to the top.

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