Hermione Birthday Cake Tutorial

little girls dressed up as Hermione Granger

There are worse book characters to idolise than Hermione Granger

The youngest children in all families are inevitably influenced by their older siblings, and Mini is no different. She learned to read better so that she could read her sisters’ favourite Harry Potter books. She’s such a huge fan that I am now the only one in the house who’s never read them, nor am mad-keen on everything Harry Potter.

So for her 7th birthday, Mini asked for a Harry Potter-themed birthday party (more in another post) and a birthday cake for her actual birthday that had “something to do with Hermione Granger”. Hmmmm, no challenge for this non-HP fan, then (!)

I decided to do a fairly simple book cake, and call it Hermione Granger’s Diary. I took photos of the process so that I’d remember it for her more complex birthday party cake later that week. And as a bonus, I can use them as a tutorial to show you how easy it was. Remember, I’m not a great cook or a talented cake decorator – if you take your time and follow my top tips, you’ll produce something far, far better. Please share your own hints and tips too!

Hermione cake Harry Potter

Hermione’s Diary Cake

  1. OK, start the day before by baking the cakes and preparing a cake board. Don’t bother buying a board. Just get some stiff cardboard (I cut a bit off a packaging box, but have been known to use a couple of empty cereal boxes) and cover it entirely in tin foil. This makes it look good, gives you something big enough to work on, makes the cake portable, and it’s also easy to wipe crumbs and smears off the side.

  2. Make 2 loaf-cakes and let them cool completely. Maxi suggested I make them both chocolate and orange marble cakes and so I used double the recipe at the link. I didn’t ice them with the drizzled chocolate and I didn’t use food colouring.

  3. Make up a batch of plain buttercream. I used a block of unsalted butter (250g), 2 cups of icing sugar, and my all-time favourite method of making Whipped Buttercream Icing.

  4. Using a sharp knife, cut the top off the loaves on a bit of a slant. This shapes the cakes so that they’ll look a bit like an open book when you press them together. If you were neater than me, you would cut the tops off entirely so that there are no curved edges. If you’re worried about the cakes becoming too thin, you could raise them up by slicing each loaf in 2 and filling with jam and/or cream at this point.

  5. In the interests of thrift, crumble the bits of cake you sliced off and mush them together with a spoon or 2 of buttercream. Effectively you’re making a batch of cake pops, but you’ll use it like mortar to hold the 2 loaf-cakes together.

  6. Put a smear of buttercream on your cake board and place a loaf cake on top (this will hold it down). Squish the cake-pops mortar along the side of the cake, then smear more buttercream on the board and stick the second loaf-cake to the first. Really squish the cakes together.

  7. Now cover both cakes in the rest of the buttercream. Don’t worry about getting crumbs in the icing: it really doesn’t matter because it’ll all be covered in fondant icing.

  8. Roll out some white fondant or ready-roll icing to form the pages along the sides of the cake. I used a 500g block in grand total, but you might need more or less: it depends how thinly you roll the icing. You could be extremely neat and cut them into beautiful rectangles, or you can be slap-dash like me and just wodge them on. I used the excess fondant icing to start to disguise the misshapen bits of loaf-cake, but as I said in (4) above, you could avoid that by slicing the tops neatly and more severely.

  9. Use a blunt edge (spatula, back of a long knife, etc.) along each side to make lots of page marks. The layer of buttercream under the fondant icing will help.

  10. Dip a clean paint brush in some cocoa and use it to brush the edges of the pages to make them look old and dirty. I’m not sure that Hermione’s diary would actually be so grubby, to be fair, but I wanted to try out the technique.

  11. Roll out more white icing and place over the top of the cake. Shape it with your hands so that it looks like an open page. Brush more cocoa along the edges and on the ‘pages’. Roll some coloured fondant icing (or colour the last of the white fondant icing with some food colouring) into long thin sausage shapes and place them around the edges to look like the book’s cover, peeping out from under the pages. Flatten the sausages with a flat edge on top and at the side. If you have any black icing, add a little arch in the middle of the front and back to look a bit like the empty space where the edges of the pages curve away from the book binding. (Or just brush lots of cocoa in that corner to achieve the same / a better effect).

  12. Decorate! I used a pen that writes on icing to write something, and made a bit of a bouquet of roses with a tiny bit of green fondant icing I had leftover from The Boss’s birthday cake last month and some shop-bought icing flowers. I shook some little white chocolate stars over the top to use them up (they’ve been lurking in my cupboard for too many years… I swear they’re breeding…).

  13. Add some candles and go!

Midi’s Favourite Cubs Badge

I think I’ve written thousands of words about Midi Minx and her love of cooking and baking (and my love of troughing her creations). Ha, my Instagram page features more of her baking than my own! Recently, she’d been grizzling about Maxi’s speedier accumulation of Cub Scout badges than her own. I can see why: when she’s in Cubs uniform, Maxi looks like she fell out of a cornflakes packet… I explained to Midi that she’d need to be patient and earn her badges slowly, as she learned new knowledge and skills. No, she wants more badges NOW. She asked whether she could get any badges for existing skills. For instance, was there perhaps a baking badge..? Crafty minx! I explained that she wouldn’t get badges just for turning up and that all work for badges has to be equally taxing for everyone. I had a chat with her Akela, who was game for her to work on the badge at home. After a quick check that Midi planned to make something that would be appropriately difficult for her current skillset, she was off!

We checked the requirements of the Cubs Chef Activity badge and any available resources – no point reinventing the wheel, eh? The online pack certainly contains lots of activities (pretty handy, as it appears I’ve now merrily volunteered myself to help other Cubs get their Chefs badge!). Like her sisters, Midi’s been drilled in food hygiene and safety since she was tiny, so we just quickly looked at the relevant exercises in the activity pack and discussed them so that I was certain she’d sufficient knowledge of the areas covered. We didn’t do the food techniques game, as I felt that was a bit too easy for her. Instead I grilled her (badoom-tish!!) on which cooking techniques she’d choose to best cook different foods that I listed.

When it came to planning the menu, I know that the Eatwell Plate listed in the pack was updated and replaced in March 2016 by the Eatwell Guide, so I used that instead as a basis of discussing the food choices with Midi. We talked about food groups and proportions, and because this was already old hat to her, I added the challenge of also varying the flavours, textures and colours of the food. She’s only 8, so I didn’t enforce The Boss’s suggestion of also only choosing seasonal or local produce (!) Maybe next time…

I ended up cutting her a fair bit of slack when it came to actually cooking things up and changing the menu: the preparation took far, far longer than expected, and she desperately squeezed in a quick bike ride with her Dad in the middle of the cooking before it got dark. As a result, there were fewer fruits and 1 less vegetable than she’d originally planned. I helped her change her plan for a seasonal fruit salad into a quick yogurt, honey and nut side-dish with just the one fruit to go with the biscotti. And the swede mash didn’t happen at all because her chopping skills aren’t yet safe enough to slice the thick skin off the swede (and not her hand) competently. Maybe if we’d had (much, much) more time

So what was her Showstopper Menu for 5, then? Midi chose to make a vegetable and lentil soup for a first course to show that she can prepare vegetables, follow a recipe and safely use a liquidiser; she decided on cottage pie and mixed greens for main as they’re quite easy to cook, used different cooking techniques, and are a standard winter dinner in our household; for dessert she made some super-crunchy hazelnut, chocolate and lemon biscotti, with Greek yogurt, honey, nuts and pomelo segments alongside, just because they’re her favourites. They all tasted fantastic, but the best bit for me? She had to serve, clear up and wash everything up afterwards. What a treat for the rest of us!

I’ve written this post partly because I’m desperately proud of her emerging cooking skills and am constantly encouraging her independence, and also so I can send a link to her Akela as proof of what she produced. The photos got fewer as she needed closer supervision / time was running out! I’ve added 2 of the recipes she used (weeeeell, one recipe and one set of directions), so I hope you give them a try, too.

Vegetable and Lentil Soup For 10

Ingredients

  • tasty-lentil-soup

    The finished soup. No garnish needed

    tablespoon of olive oil

  • 2 small / 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • crushed clove or 2 of garlic
  • teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 175g lentils (we used a mix of red and white because it was all we had)
  • 2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • scant tablespoon of tomato puree
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • bay leaf

Method

  1. Serving up - a new skill

    Serving up – a new skill for Midi

    Heat the oil in a saucepan. Fry the onion over a medium heat for about 10 mins till it’s soft and transparent.

  2. Add the carrots and celery, and sweat for a few more minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and ground spices. Stir for a minute.
  4. Add the lentils, stock, tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, a bit of seasoning, bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 30 mins till the veg is soft.
  5. Cool slightly, then liquidise. Check for seasoning. Serve. We stored half in the fridge for tomorrow’s lunch!

Cottage Pie and Mixed Greens

Ingredients

  • cottage-pie-dinnertablespoon of oil
  • 1 large / 2 small onions, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 750g beef mince
  • pint of beef stock
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • about 500g potatoes
  • large knob of butter
  • about 500g brussels sprouts
  • about 300g frozen peas

Method

  1. Peel the potatoes, chop into even chunks. Place in cold, salted water, bring to the boil, simmer for 20 mins or until soft enough to mash.
  2. While the tatties are coming to the boil, put the oven on to heat to 210degC / gas 7.
  3. While the tatties are simmering, heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the onion till soft, then sweat the carrots. Tip onto a bowl.
  4. First attempt at serving dinner in fair portions to 5 hungry people

    First attempt at serving dinner in fair portions to 5 hungry people. And aye, although she’s tall she still needs a step to use the cooker safely

    Turn the saucepan heat to high. Fry the beef mince till browned. Add the vegetables, stock, Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer gently while you’re getting on with the tatties.

  5. Drain the potatoes when they’re ready. Mash roughly with a large knob of butter and a little pepper.
  6. Put the mince in a deep ovenproof dish. Put the mashed potato through a potato ricer and squeeze it in noodles over the mince. Place in the hot oven for 15 – 20 mins until the potato has browned and gone crunchy.
  7. While the cottage pie is in the oven, cook your brussels sprouts (trim the tails, cut in half, pop in a little saucepan. Cover with boiling water, bring back to boil and simmer for 5 mins. Drain, serve with a small knob of butter swirled over them.
  8. While you’re serving the cottage pie and brussels sprouts onto plates, cook the frozen peas in the microwave according to the package instructions.

Hazelnut, Chocolate and Lemon Biscotti

I promise to add more details for this when I check what amendments Midi and The Boss made to the original Paul Hollywood recipe. I can’t reproduce his recipe because it’ll be copyrighted, but I’ll at least link to it.

The Finale… tidying up!

And she’s still smiling. Will she willingly tidy up from now on? (Don’t be silly – you can’t get a badge for that!)

 

Recipe For Rice Skin

I made the minxes a right old carb-fest lunch today: baked tatties followed by baked rice pudding. Weeeeell, I figured the oven was on anyway, it’s the easiest baked pudding in the world, and the cold and miserable weather justified the comfort food.

Over the hour in the oven, it developed a very golden-brown skin. So I put a photo of the finished pudding up on Instagram and asked that perennial old question: do you love or hate the skin?

While you’re having a think about that, here’s the recipe. It’s unbelievably easy!

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Baked Rice Pudding

  • 100g flaked pudding rice
  • 25g sugar
  • 580ml milk (a smidge over a pint. I use whole milk for everything anyway, and in this pudding it will make it creamier)
  • big knob of butter (about 20g)

Preheat your oven to 180degC / Gas 5. Mix the rice, sugar and milk in a deep ovenproof dish. Put in the oven for 15 minutes. Take it out, give it a stir, then drop little knobs (knoblets? Knoblings?!) of butter on the surface. Put back in the oven for 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

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The pudding baked for the same length of time and temperature as the tatties because I threaded the tatties onto metal skewers to cut the baking time. The minxes mixed up some tinned tuna, tinned sweetcorn and mayo in bowls themselves before plopping it onto the tatties and devouring them. They’re all lovers of baked rice pudding skin, so wolfed their lunches down faster than usual so they could choose the pudding with the most skin (Do you do that? Serve up dessert in unequal sizes and let the first finished their main meal choose, to encourage them to eat up / eat faster? Or is that just me…?)

And as for that question, do you love or hate skin – me, I hate it. I’d rather eat warm sick than eat rice skin. But I tell the minxes I’m giving them my portion of skin only because I love them so much. Some lies are ok. Honest. And everyone’s a winner, eh?

Nutty Mincepies

nutty-mincepie-close-upThis weekend we were in Edinburgh and had a really delicious meal at Jamie’s Italian. At the end of the meal we were all given a little mince-pie that had a crumble topping. Whilst we all enjoyed it, I reckoned I could recreate and maybe even make it a little better (oh! The arrogance!)

Well, I don’t know if it’s better, but the version I’ve come up with is certainly very easy and tastes even better the day after it’s made – bonus!

If you adapt this yourself, why not comment below and share your top tips with us all? I’m ready to take notes.

Nutty Mince-pies – makes about 18

nutty-mincepiesIngredients

  • 180g + 60g plain flour
  • 90g + 40g butter
  • teaspoon of demerara sugar
  • few tablespoons of icy cold water and a few drops of lemon juice added
  • (optional): handful of nuts of your choice: I used a tablespoon of flaked almonds and a small handful of hazelnuts because it’s all I had to hand
  • half a small jar of mincemeat (I used about 200g total)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 210degC (gas 7) and take out your mince-pie tins. Clear space in your fridge to precariously balance the tins on.
  2. Make the shortcrust pastry:
    • In a food processor (with the whirly double blade), whizz up 180g plain flour with 90g cold butter.
    • When it’s the consistency of breadcrumbs, add icy cold water and lemon juice a tablespoon at a time, pulsing the processor. You’ll only need 2-3 tablespoons.
    • Stop just as the dough is coming together.
    • Roll and cut out the base of the mince-pies (ie make pie cases). I managed 18 with this amount of dough, but it depends how thinly you roll it – you might make more or fewer.
    • Line the mince-pie tins with the pie cases and put in the fridge.
  3. Make the crumble:
    This is about as dusty as you want to get the nutty crumble - still lumps of butter visible

    This is about as dusty as you want to get the nutty crumble – still lumps of butter visible

    in the same food processor (don’t wash it; no need) add 60g plain flour, 40g butter, teaspoon of demerara sugar and a handful of nuts. Whizz it up until it’s the consistency you like. Stop before it’s dust, though, or it’ll be dry and cloying! (And if it does that, serve your pies with cream or custard – sorted)

  4. When the oven’s at temperature, take the mince-pies out the fridge and add a teaspoon of mincemeat into each pie-case.
  5. Spoon the crumble over the top. For me, it worked out about a tablespoon of crumble mix per pie, but it all depends on how many nuts you added.
  6. Bake for 15 – 20 mins.
  7. Remove to a wire rack immediately because any spilled mince-pie mix will cool to concrete, cementing your pies to the tin forever.
  8. Eat alone, with a cuppa, slathered in custard, or drowned in cream.

Battle of the Prinsesstartas

Ah. It seems I never got around to finishing a post last year about the cake I baked for The Boss’s birthday. Well, I did the same one this year: a Prinsesstarta. It was one of the technical challenges on Great British Bake Off a couple of years ago and made a big impression on The Boss. Every year we bake each other a birthday cake; every year I ask for super-lemony drizzle cake and every year he goes for Dundee cake. Till last year. Cackling a little too loudly, he asked for a Prinsesstarta.

Well, I’d seen it made on GBBO and had a detailed recipe. How hard could it be…?

Chuffing hard when you’ve never made a whisked genoise sponge cake or creme patisserie before… After spending all day on the bloody thing, my 2015 attempt virtually ran out the fridge (and out of the kitchen and down the street). The Boss chortled at the mess I managed to hold together with lots of marzipan, which made it lumpy and a bit like Yoda’s face, but declared the taste delicious.

A week later I was away teaching, so he got the minxes together and made another one, as a Yoda cake, to show me how it was done. And of course they were great. Harrumph! So the battle was on…

This year he asked for another Prinsesstarta. I told him to take a running jump: he was going to get a Dundee cake as usual. Secretly, though, I spent 2 whole days trying hard not to cough over it, doing a bit, lying down for a rest, then doing some more. Sod the 2 and half hours limit of GBBO! I’m strictly amateur. I made the creme pat extremely thick by cooking it for waaaaay longer than the recipe said, over a lower heat. I didn’t overwhip the cream this year. The sponge rose beautifully like a souffle because… well, I’ve no idea. Just luck this time. And because I made it in a narrower tin (8″), it was thick enough to cut into decent layers. Finally, I had leftover jam from when we foraged all those wild raspberries last year.

It was an overly-tall cake, but oh my stars, it was delicious! Worth the effort for the taste alone, never mind the happy look on The Boss’s wee face when he saw it. Still, life is too short to make another ever, ever again, that IS for sure!

Two 15-Minute Lunches

First, catch your squid...

First, catch your squid…

So, how did the squid-as-a-craft-activity go?

Well, I really hyped it up to the minxes: wow, you’ll be learning more sharp knife skills, and you’ll be making your own lunch! They sat down at their chopping boards, took one look at the squid, and wailed, “Ewwwwww!” as one. Harrumph! These are the girls who munched calamari happily as single-toothed babies? My, how they’ve changed! I think you can see by the photo (left) that only Mini is a good actress for the camera.

I persevered. I got them to pull out the tentacles, wash the body, find and pull out the clear plasticky quill, cut out the beak and chop the tentacles with scissors, then one by one (with me hovering), slice up the body into rings with a big sharp knife. Midi was the only one who actually concentrated – her sisters legged it to wash their hands as soon as I released them from service.

So Midi got to prepare and cook lunch for us all as a treat. It was a really quick and simple Pasta and Squid Arrabiata, served up 15 minutes after starting if you’re an adult happy with a sharp knife, 25 minutes if you’re a 7 yo under instruction. This was enough for an adult and 3 hungry children:

My favourite lunch. Drool!

My favourite lunch. Drool!

Ingredients:

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • splash of olive oil
  • half a red chilli, finely minced
  • 20 halved baby plum tomatoes (or a couple of handfuls of any chopped tomatoes: it’s just what was in the fridge needing used up)
  • 12 torn basil leaves
  • 4 small sliced squid

Method:

  1. Put whatever pasta you’re having it with on to boil separately; deal with that alongside making this sauce.
  2. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil over a medium-high heat in a big saucepan for a few minutes until they start to go brown.
  3. Add the tomatoes, chilli, salt and pepper. Fry for another few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the squid and basil leaves. Fry for 3 – 5 minutes. Stop when the squid’s just cooked and no more. If you cook too long it’ll go rubbery and inedible.
  5. Toss the sauce through some cooked pasta and serve up with lemon wedges.

Personally, I absolutely loved it: the smell reminded me of delicious summer holiday lunches in Menorca and Greece, back when we could afford to go, and it tasted fresh and garlicky and sweet. Yummy!

Little horror!

Little horror!

The minxes hated it. They gave me the full eye-rolling, head-lolling, drooling, crying, nose-wrinkling, gagging hysteria. I wouldn’t have minded if they’d actually tried any of it first, but they refused to even taste it. I demanded that they eat all the pasta, a piece of tentacle and a single squid ring before they left the table. Midi complied quite happily with that, leaving the rest of her squid in a neat pile at the edge of her bowl; her sisters didn’t, and spent the entire time it took Midi to eat with their tongues hanging out their mouths in disgust.

I guess that won’t be going down in their list of current favourite lunches. But I’ve added the recipe here because I know they’d demolish it and ask for seconds if they’d been given it in a restaurant. And I love it! (As does my purse, at 30p a squid). <—— squid’s in! I’ll get my coat…

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The imaginatively-named Green Pasta Sauce

The imaginatively named Green Pasta Sauce

Today’s lunch was the opposite way round: they loved it, whilst I was ambivalent. It’s one of their favourites – Green Pasta Sauce – and it’s a 10-minute lunch from flash to bang. This is for 1 adult and 3 hungry children, and again start with putting whatever pasta you’re eating it with on to boil, and keep an eye on that while you make the sauce:

Ingredients:

  • a large 2-pint jug stuffed full of spinach leaves
  • 3 tablespoons of cream cheese (or equivalent in processed cheese triangles; I used 4 Laughing Cow triangles)

Method:

  1. Wash the spinach (run the jug under the tap, then drain it out), cover the jug and nuke it on High in the microwave for 2 minutes. It’ll now be about 2 tablespoons-worth of dark green stuff.
  2. Whizz it up with a stick blender.

    Spinach waiting to be whizzed

    Add the cream cheese / cheese triangles and a bit of pepper (pinch of grated nutmeg if you have it and are feeling fancy). Whizz again till it’s creamy.

  3. Dollop over the pasta.

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Little madam!

Little madam!

The spinach I planted in May bolted ages ago, but I kept it in the ground (a) to see what the flowers would look like, and (b) to prop up the broccoli growing beside it. I read that bolted spinach should be ripped up and thrown away because it tastes bitter. Well, I had a wee nibble and it tasted quite sweet to me. Midi agreed. So I pulled up 3 half-metre (!) stalks of spinach and got her to strip the leaves from them to use in today’s green pasta sauce. Yes, it had a stronger flavour than usual, but it’s not bitter or unpleasant. Perfect!

Trout’s Chicken Soup

I’m trying to muster the energy to tell you about last couple of weekends, with a couple of birthdays, parties and poorly children. In the meantime, though, I thought I’d jot down the directions for my favourite chicken soup because I’ve eaten loads of it this week. I love it when I’m feeling a bit off-colour, or when I want something light to eat that’s filling, or when I need comfort food, or when I’m fed-up with bland food. Bland this definitely is not! The minxes love it too, though I suspect in their cases it’s mostly because I let them add the flavourings at the end to their bowls as suits them, ie they get to play with their food.

I also say ‘directions’ rather than recipe, because it’s not the kind of thing I make the same way twice. Finally, this amount is generally enough to feed all 5 of us. And we’re pretty greedy.

1. First, put 1.5 – 2 litres of chicken stock in a big pot. You could use 1 or 2 stock cubes and the right amount of boiling water if you wanted, but honestly, if you’re roasting a chicken any time soon, it’s much nicer and really, really easy to make your own. See directions at the end.

Chicken Soup Ingredients2. Add some vegetables (the last time I added some sliced bits off the green end of a leek and 2 big carrots sliced on the diagonal. The time before that it was chopped onion and a tin of drained sweetcorn. Whatever you like. Think about colours: leek, carrot, red pepper and sweetcorn would look amazing!).

3. Add some leftover chicken meat and / or 1-2 sliced garlic cloves and / or a chopped up ginger slice, if you like.

4. Bring to the boil then simmer for 3 mins to start cooking the vegetables.

5. Add some thin noodles (it’s ASDA udon noodles in the photo. They were perfectly light. Thread noodles are great, too).

6. Continue simmering until the noodles are cooked – 4 mins or so.

Ready to serve up

Ready to serve up!

7. Remove from the heat then add your flavourings! In this amount of soup, I like 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce, 2 teaspoons of fish sauce (nam pla) and the juice of half a lime. I don’t add salt because it doesn’t taste right in this soup.

8. Serve with whatever bread you fancy. Adjust your flavourings to your own taste.

Chicken Stock: pick the roasted chicken carcass of most of its meat. Put the carcass in your biggest pan. Cover it with cold water (about 2 litres of water). Add a single sliced garlic clove, a couple of spring onions chopped into 3 or 4 bits, and a couple of slices of ginger. Bring to the boil. Put the lid on. Simmer gently for 90 mins – 2 hours. Strain. Chuck away the bones and veg. The liquid will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, or you could freeze it the same day.

Shortbread and Dresses

The kids are on fine comedy form at the moment.

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The other day I picked up Mini Minx from nursery. She came barreling out waving 2 round pieces of paper. “Ohhh”, I cooed, “You’ve been drawing! What are they?”

“That’s your face, Mummy. See? This time I drew you with a smiley mouth”, Mini explained.

“Riiiiiiight”, I said, remembering Wooden Spoon-gate.

“And that one is your big, fat tummy!” she beamed.

“Oh”, I said wittily, to a playground of sniggers. “That’s lovely!”

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Today I was trying to persuade Mini to wear one of the dresses I made for her.

“But it fits you, and it’s pretty, and it’s ironed, and it’s clean. All those other dresses you want need ironed. I’m too tired. Don’t you like it?”

“Yes, I DO love the dress you sewed me, Mummy; I only hate it a tiny, little bit”, she reassured me.

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Right, enough of the humour; back to moaning. Midi has been pressing my buttons All.Day.Long. I think today was a backlash from her broken sleep the night before last. She sneaked into my bed and kicked and shoved and smothered me all night. In the morning, she didn’t even attempt to pretend she’d had a nightmare. When she said she’d just fancied a Mummy-Cuddle because she was cold, I explained (again) that if I didn’t get more sleep that I’d die. She just shrugged.

So this morning she lay about on the living room carpet, refusing to put on any socks, and rejecting any I shoved on her big duck-feet. “They’re Maxi’s!!” she wailed: “Ewwwwww!!” Which is a cheek, because *she’s* the one who’s just had 2 verrucas finally fall off.

She refused to eat breakfast. She dawdled to school. She refused to kiss Mini goodbye.

At lunchtime, she decided to run into the wall in the hall, big heavy shoe first, bringing down all 4 canvasses and bending the hanging frames at the back, and leaving a dent and a big scuff-print. Her rationale for the damage was “I was bored”.

Give me strength!!

She fell asleep quickly tonight, so with luck she’ll wake up her happy self tomorrow and be at less risk of being strangled. And she suddenly has a new back tooth, as well as an extra front lower incisor. Shark Mouth. I remember she was a terribly grizzly teether as a baby, so perhaps all these things are related?

Talking of dresses, Mini’s Challenge to me of not wearing jeans for a month is going well. I unearthed all my “Big Girl” clothes now that I’m a couple of dress sizes fluffier (ahem…) than this time last year. Last time most of them were worn was after Maxi was born (yep, 8 years ago) and some of the big swooshy dresses haven’t seen the light of day for 20 years. Today I waddled on the 4 school runs in a swishy 50s style circle skirted effort with a ruched top that Mini calls my Bra-Dress. It looks like a bridesmaid’s dress. I don’t give 2 hoots 🙂

At nursery Mini made shortbread with one of the other wee girls for their morning snack. I think the kids do baking once a week, and everyone takes turns to help bake. Mini explained how to make it:

“You need this much buttuh”, she said, holding her arms very wide apart. “And you need to mix, mix, mix in soogah. Not too much”.

“How much?” I asked, taking notes.

“Just not too much. And then you need to squeeeeeeeeeeze in de flowah. Lots n lots. An then you roll it an cut out starfish, an bake an bake an bake. In de oven. Then you eat it aaaaall up. It’s very yummy”, she monologued.

Quarter of a 500g tub of Total Greek yogurt (full fat - none of this namby-pamby low fat nonsense); sliced strawberries; hazelnuts; pumpkin seeds; drizzle of maple syrup. Hoover up.

Quarter of a 500g tub of Total Greek yogurt (full fat – none of this namby-pamby low fat nonsense); sliced strawberries; hazelnuts; pumpkin seeds; drizzle of maple syrup. Hoover up.

So what’s a greedy Mummy to do? We made our own. God, it was delicious! I meant to take a photo of it, but I scoffed all the leftovers. Oops. Never mind, I’ll leave you with a photo of yesterday’s healthy breakfast instead. And the recipe for the shortbread: cream 100g butter with 50g caster sugar. Combine with 200g flour by hand. Roll. Stamp out. Prick with fork. Bake at 170degC for 30 mins.

One last thing:

The Boss got Honduras in the office World Cup sweepstakes. “Are they any good?” he asked nervously. (No, dear).

Fish Birthday Cake Tutorial

easy fish birthday cake tutorial

Fish Cake

Happy birthdayI made Maxi a fish birthday cake and it seemed to go down quite well… I took photos along the way to remind me how to make it next year, so this is a wee photo tutorial in how to do it. I bet you could make it far, far better! Maybe next year I’ll do an all-chocolate one, with gills made of Flakes and flat scales made of white and milk chocolate buttons. Yum! Can’t wait!

You can base this cake around any round cake you like: sponge cake, Victoria sandwich, pound cake, fruit cake, etc. I made a Madeira cake (recipe at the end). Partly because it makes a dense sponge that’s really easy to cut, partly because I know I can make them easily and they turn out the way I want every time, and partly because I’m greedy and I love them.

1. Start with your round cake.

1. Start with your round cake.

Anyway, the cake can be any size. This one is from a 9″ cake tin.

So: start with your cake. It’s up to you whether you level off the top or not. I didn’t bother.

2. Slice cake from the middle to the edge on the diagonal; lay the slice to the side.

2. Slice cake from the middle to the edge on the diagonal; lay the slice to the side.

3. Cut the tail slice in a curve and cut that in half

3. Cut the tail slice in a curve and cut that in half

4. Place the 2 small pieces to the top and bottom as fins.

4. Place the 2 small pieces to the top and bottom as fins.

5. Smother in buttercream.

5. Smother in buttercream. No need to worry about a crumb-coat and no need to be neat – just smother that fish in buttercream (I used 200g butter, a little milk and about 450g icing sugar).

6. Roll out ready-made icing and place over central part of fish.

6. Roll out ready-made icing and place over central part of fish.

7. Roll out marzipan and cover the 2 fins and the tail.

7. Roll out marzipan and cover the 2 fins and the tail.

8. Ice stripes on the fins and tail; add a mouth. Use leftover buttercream to sandwich pink strawberry buttons as 'bubbles'

8. Ice stripes on the fins and tail; add a mouth. Use leftover buttercream to sandwich pink strawberry buttons as ‘bubbles’. I used a shop-bought tube of icing: they look like big toothpaste tubes, come with 3 different shaped nozzles, and are sold in the home-baking aisle. The pink buttons were in the home-baking aisle, too.

9. Stick rows of sweets in the side as scales; use buttercream to stick a Party Ring biscuit on as an eye.

9. Stick rows of sweets in the side as scales; use buttercream to stick a Party Ring biscuit on as an eye. I used a few little packets of Fruit Buttons as fish scales. I thought they might be in rainbow shades of pink, red, orange, yellow and purple, but they turned out to be various shades of orange. And they were a nightmare to stick in the icing: too soft. Meh! Next time I’ll use Smarties or chocolate buttons.

Close-up of the scales

Close-up of the scales

fish cake tutorial 11

I added little wave wiggles and some writing and details using a little tube of chocolate icing I had leftover from another cake. I admit that I only added them because stupidly I’d placed the cake too much to the left and had a big gaping space (doh!), but it made the whole cake look pretty good.

easy fish birthday cake tutorial

Fish Cake

Madeira Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 300g butter
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 400g plain flour
  • 20ml baking powder
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • grated rind of 1 lemon

Method

  1. Put oven on at 170degC/340degF/gas 3. Line a 9 inch round cake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar till light and airy.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.
  4. Gradually add the beaten eggs to the creamed mixture. Add big spoons of flour any time the mixture even hints at curdling.
  5. After that, add the egg and flour alternately.
  6. Stir in the lemon rind.
  7. Spoon into the prepared tin.
  8. Bake for about 1hr 10 mins. If the top is getting too brown, put some foil over it. At the end, check the cake’s cooked the whole way through by putting a skewer / clean knitting needle in the centre and checking that it comes out clean. If mixture sticks to it, it needs at least another 10 mins baking.