Oreo butterfly cakes 👍
Also a smashing afternoon en amité but largely it was about Oreo butterfly cakes.
Feeling shamed into updating after being pimped by the excellent adultbeginner, I hereby bring you a post entirely about cake what I have made lately.
Earlier this year I accidentally got promoted to my first management role, it was an internal promotion so luckily the panel knew me – probably too – well. One of the questions was about how I would lead my team. “Cake,” I said without even thinking about it. I didn’t think the answer needed any further qualification but apparently it did so I made some stuff up and concluded “but I’d still use cake as a first resort.” For weeks after m appointment every time my director rang up he asked if he was missing out on cake…
I once saw a quote that said “a party without cake is just a meeting” so our team meetings are accompanied by cake. It started in conjunction with challenging myself to make one recipe from every cook book in the kitchen – I thought I’d completed said challenge last weekend but I’ve just acquired my Big Gran’s (so named because she was a good foot taller than my Little Gran) Good Housekeeping recipe book which is a beautiful thing…
As are some of the cakes I’ve made of late:
Okay, a couple of them are biscuits but I still made them with my own fair hands… (And are why I have to take ballet as often as I do or I’d be the size of a house)
Also meringue frosting is the cats whiskers. Absolute bugger to make but so worth it!
Despite all my grand promises (to myself at least) about being less of a Slack Alice on the blog front, I got a bit distracted by my new knitting project…
I was in a meeting the other week, idly doodling to keep my focus on what was going on and I ended up with this. My fingers got twitchy, desperately twitchy. The need to rush out INSTANTLY to buy all the yarn and cast on.
I am really quite excited by this and how nicely it’s turning out. Mostly I can’t wait to finish it so I’m knitting unto like the proverbial loon, which is daft as summer keeps trying to put in an appearance and a great big blanket would be the last thing I’d need right now. Mind you, this is Angleterre with it’s ludicrous weather system so I’ll probably need this in August…
In other news, I hung another year on the line last weekend (not sure how that happened) to slightly misquote Paul Simon. At my grand age birthdays are really just another day, but getting to spend this one with my nephewits was super special – even being dragged out of bed at some unholy hour of a Saturday because they were too excited for me to spend any longer in bed. And they decorated my birthday cake…
Today I have to make cake of my own to obey the Work Birthday Law (Thou Shalt Bring Cake) as I was parted from my kitchen last weekend. Much as I love baking, I’m slightly loathe to be parted from my knitting for the afternoon. OH LIFE, Y U SO HARD?
Somewhere along the way I appear to have misplaced my festive spirit – I think mostly because I am quite confused as to how it is so nearly Christmas (2.5 working days left to go – WOOHOO!). I was away for the first week of December and I kind of forgot things like Christmas were happening because I had my holiday to get through first. On the plus side, I’m not the only hopelessly disorganised person in my life as discussions over the past week have shown and I think after several chaotic lunch breaks charging about the metrop I am pretty much sorted and ready to leave for the wilds of Rural Derbyshire on Thursday.
Berlin, incidentally, was ace – I may even find words about it once I’ve got back to Rural Derbyshire and have time to stop and think.
This weekend I dashed from one harebrained attempt at organisation to another, thwarted somewhat by accidentally sleeping in until almost lunchtime on Saturday and thereby losing half the day. I wrote cards, wrapped presents, cleaned, cleaned some more, went to the supermarket TWICE, went out to visit friends and – perhaps most crucially if you’re in my office this morning – I made cake (and had to clean the kitchen three times as I went along, so more cleaning).
My default setting in life is pathologically lazy and the prospect of sitting down and writing Christmas cards to everyone at work (it’s a small organisation) fills me with dread as I attempt to negotiate the most political of minefields. Last year I realised there was an easier solution: cake. So that was that, I took to the kitchen yesterday and baked as though my life depended on it. Like a less bearded version of Father Christmas, I’ve made a few colleagues’ wishes come true this morning…
More crucially, perhaps, I have only one ballet class left before Christmas! To be perfectly honest, when I look back to last Christmas when I didn’t care if I never took another class again, it seems a little surreal. The break was the right thing to take and I think my sense of perspective about where ballet fits into my life is a lot healthier now. I dance up to four evenings a week in classes I kind of wish I’d found earlier, but hey ho that’s all water under the bridge. Three of my classes kick my butt seriously, and one is fractionally more sedate where I have more time to stop, think, focus and work on things like technique, placement and the whys but even occasionally (when I’m least expecting it) that class will turn round and kick my butt too. It’s a good balance of classes with a good balance of teachers and I can’t wait to get back to it all in the New Year…
Since my last post was quite definitely written in a haze of self pitying misery and woe, I figured this one really ought to be the polar opposite and, frankly, what is more cheering than cake? So this will be a post about cake.
I’ve just got back from ten days in Rural Derbyshire which has been a much needed respite from the world in general. I didn’t get a decent stomp in as the weather mostly conspired against me but on the plus side I did have a lot of familial obligations which meant oodles of time with my nephewits. Little Nephew renamed me ‘Auntie Boo’ at one point which has nothing to do with Bunheads and everything to do with the fact that I spend a lot of time hiding behind things, jumping out at him and yelling ‘boo’. I’m a good auntie like that.
Shortly before my sojourn to the frozen wilds of Rural Derbyshire, my little brother had the nerve to have yet another birthday – something I am never going to wholly approve of. Anyway, we all know that birthdays mean cake, right? Good. Since there was going to be a small birthday related familial gathering, my mother suggested cake and somehow I wound up volunteering to make it. With my mother as my apprentice in some kind of weird role reversal situation… Have a family recipe!
Chocolate Rainbow Cake
Don’t take my word for it that it was ace, have some photos although sadly I neglected to take any of it in its well risen splendour:
Coming soon: new knitting pattern! It’s been far too long since I last wrote one properly but this deserves one. Huzzah. I haven’t quite finished the end product yet, close but no cigar…
To be perfectly frank, this week my mood has matched the weather: grey, unpredictable and a bit miserable. Malaise, truly you have been my great friend this week – apart from the day where I had a hangover (not a sicky hangover, not a buckethead hangover but one of those hangovers where mere existence is too much like hard work). It’s done nothing but rain for weeks and, clearly, it’s really starting to get under my skin. It’s generally been a funny kind of a week all round – I’m not sure how much of that to attribute to my weather matching mood or to the fact that today I got another year older.
My funny old week has included a hideous late meeting at work, too much work and no motivation equating to not really getting anything done, upping my ballet classes back to two, booking my first tap class in twenty years (eep!), discovering a GIANT hole in the sole of my new ballet shoes in the second wear, one super smashing wine fuelled evening with some lovely pals and possibly the loveliest compliment ever about my ballet (which is still giving me the fuzzies a few days later even though I am totally convinced my teacher is clearly delusional for thinking it in the first instance, see: what’s so wrong with being good?).
Things are a little brighter today: my Crackberry is constantly flashing with love, I have a desk covered in cards from my colleagues, I’ve made cake (and therefore everyone loves me) and I had a smashing phone chat with my mother (who I’d had to phone back to apologise for being short with her when she’d phoned me as I was getting off the train and was tangled in headphones and bag straps). I have a day to survive in the office and an evening with the small people then I have to await the Tesco man bringing my gin so I can celebrate properly tomorrow. It could be worse – at least I’m not disinterested in my birthday this year (in fairness I think I only was last year because I’d been celebrating for about three weeks beforehand so when it finally rolled round I’d had enough).
Anyway, the Work Birthday Law is when it’s your birthday you bring in cake. Of course, when you’re me this is an excuse to take to the kitchen and bake ALL OF THE CAKE. I maintain that there is no cake that cannot be improved by the addition of chocolate, fortunately the Green and Black’s book agrees with me on this. One chocolate lemon drizzle, one chocolate ginger and a dozen cupcakes later I had one happy housemate licking the bowl last night and many happy colleagues this morning…
I am firmly of the opinion that everyone needs that one friend that they can share dessert with. I have been out with my Dessert Sharing Friend this evening and now am approximately 70% dim sum and 30% dessert and I got left to finish the dessert because Dessert Sharing Friend had the lame excuse of growing a baby in her tummy (which I am (a) super-duper excited about and (b) plotting knitting for). Talking of dessert, I made a vague pretence at being a grown up over the weekend and had some friends over for afternoon tea which was basically just an excuse for (a) me to spend QT with my kitchen, (b) sparkling wine and (c) these super amazing Phish Food Brownies.
Back to the subject of knitting though (see tenuous link above to baby knitting), we all remember the ongoing saga of my grey Fair Isle cardigan, right? The one that started out as a pale grey warm up cardigan for ballet (which is kind of a redundant concept at the moment) and then went through several variations on a theme? Good, nice to know you’re keeping up. Yeah, that cardigan: I FINISHED IT well ahead of schedule. Dessert Sharing Friend was disappointed it wasn’t getting an outing tonight (I haven’t washed it yet, that’s why) and my mother commented on the phone last night that I really must have had not a lot to do socialising-wise last week since I’d managed to knit half a cardigan in just under a week… ho hum. I find this is often the case with knitting projects: they spend vastly more time under my bed ‘thinking about what they’ve done’ than I actually do knitting them. If I could just settle down and crack on things would get completed so much more quickly. Anyway, no point crying over spilt milk and all that palaver, I’ve got a lovely
bunch of cocountscardigan.
The cardigan pattern itself is a variation on a theme of Glenna C’s Basic Black. I switched the 2×2 ribbing for a 4×2 C4F rib and added the snowflake band ten rows up from the end of the ribbing – if you look at the chart picture close enough you should be able to see my markings for where all the increases/decreases come in for the various component parts. I’ve also done a garter stitch button band rather than a 2×2 rib and it’s only got the one button because I very rarely bother to wear my cardigans buttoned up. The snowflake design itself is my own, a doodle variation on a theme of a dozen existing snowflake patterns. I confess I haven’t actually woven in all the ends, I’ve knotted some together and I need to ‘wilt’ them with a match to stop them unravelling.
The whole thing is knitted in Sirdar Snuggly which is an acrylic yarn but it’s one of the nicer feeling ones (as opposed to the vile cardboardy stuff you often get). It also has the bonuses of (a) being able to go into the washing machine and (b) not making me want to rip all my skin off wearing it. Small victories and all that jazz, amigos. Now I need to crack on and do some baby knitting…
Things I have learned this week: class is a super struggle after your work Christmas lunch. Pre-class I was unattractively draped over the barre having hit that ‘too full’ wall of sheer exhaustion. To be quite honest, I’m surprised I managed to haul myself into the air for any of allegro. But I survived (just). Unfortunately there were no pirouettes in that class so I couldn’t test out the assertion that drinking wouldn’t help with them – not, mind you. that I’m wholly convinced the tiny glass of fizz I’d had six hours and three courses previously would have made much difference. Anyway, that’s by the by and not really the point of this post – I was merely on an anecdotal tangent as is oft my wont.
Over the summer I accidentally got promoted at work (long story, very dull) but in the immediate aftermath of this I brought ‘brownie buns’ (boring story involving a tragic lack of greaseproof paper in my kitchen) into the office to have at tea break time and declared I was ‘asserting my authority via the medium of cake’. Seriously, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to get some respect around here… So as I had a couple of days off after I got back from Paree I thought I’d have a baking day and take the spoils in to work in lieu of writing Christmas cards (frankly I’d far rather make pastry any day than sit and write Christmas cards, surely that’s not just me?). I baked for about four hours solid, realised my kitchen is poorly designed to deal with the quantity of baking I was doing and lived in mortal fear of putting my foot in a mince pie running up the stairs to the loo…
The spoils resulted in being: Christmas cake muffins (whip up a fruit cake mix and put it in muffin cases rather than one giant cake, cunning), apple & cinnamon muffins, gingerbread stars, mince pies and a couple of stray jam tarts to use up the last of the pastry (yes, okay, I’ve got a bit of an obsession with jam tarts, what of it? :P).
There was probably just the tiniest fraction too much for work so that means my housemate gets me leaving her such lovely notes as this:
Also over the weekend I cooked a roast dinner AND it all came together at the right time. I was properly impressed with myself. Particularly because I have a real thing about meat, and raw meat in particular. But I roasted a whole chicken ALL BY MYSELF. Well I had to get my housemate to carve it but I’d done everything up to that point. Proudest of all though I was of my apple sauce, it was seriously good and just worked to perfection. Usually I don’t put enough water in to stew the apples and it never works quite right but this was nomnomnom… There’s still a wee bit left so I’ve stuck it in the freezer and at some juncture am going to make myself a tiny crumble. Mmmmmm.
Oh yes, remember in my last post I said go and get the Puppini Sisters in your ears? Well, whilst I’m doing a ‘show and tell’ I’m just going to kind of force them on your ears. This number is brilliant, largely because of Queen Mullins’ imaginary trumpet, but mostly because it just highlights how awesomely talented these ladies are (Steph and Marcella are doing a sterling job in making the ukelele sexy):
You know what, you should totally also checkout Marcella and the Forget-me-nots. So yeah that’s Marcella Puppini of Puppini Sisters fame in her ‘other’ band but they’re equally awesome. This song is probably my second favourite of theirs (YouTube seems to be sadly lacking in ‘Born Beautiful’ though):
For a Saturday, I appear to have been somewhat productive. Remember my warm up cardigan I’ve been going on about
foreverfor a while? Well I have FINALLY got my Fair Isle chart sorted, I’ve busted out a couple of tensions squares and just as soon as I’ve finished this entry I’m going to cast it on… eep!
The one on the left is the final chart, the middle one is a wildly doodled one I did last night (completely shattered). From these I knitted a sample of the pattern to check for tension (it doesn’t really lose any, woo!) – I was idly theorising on the side of the chart about what roles I really want to dance in ballet (that’s a whole other post I’m building up to incidentally).
Feeling virtuous knitting-wise, I made a shopping list and headed off in a supermarketly direction to invest in such everyday mundane things as cereal and mushrooms and some vastly more interesting things with which I planned on doing a lot of baking.
When I was a teenager my mother would occasionally have a day off work in the middle of term just to do her baking without me, my brother and my father getting under her feet. I always thought it was such a glorious concept. Admittedly I couldn’t bake until I went to uni and I learned the essentials over the phone to my mother… like pastry. My mother has taught me to make pastry three times: the first over the phone in my first year at university, the second last Christmas and the third when she came to stay a couple of weeks ago. I think I’ve got the hang of it now so I decided to fly solo this afternoon.
Jam and marmalade tarts. 6oz self raising flour, 3oz butter, beaten egg and milk, jam/marmalade, 15 minutes(ish) at gas mark 6. Pastry, says my mother, is a very forgiving thing to bake. She has a point. She said the same about knitting. She has a point there too. I think from now on I should only take up forgiving hobbies, it might make my life considerably easier… or possibly I should just make more pastry. It is very forgiving: it falls apart, you stick it back together again. Waddya know?
Treacle toffee flapjack. I kid you not, this is possibly the best thing in the world I have made. Ever. I used this recipe and I think it might be the best recipe ever. Well flapjackwise anyway. I’d never made flapjack until earlier this year I thought I’d give it a whirl to take to work for my birthday and I couldn’t believe I’d never done it before it was so easy! Well if we gloss over the bit where I decided it couldn’t possibly be baked and nearly burnt my tongue off trying it to make sure… I’ve not done that since 😉
Raspberry fairy cakes with white chocolate icing. Raspberry and white chocolate chip cakes. Omnomnom. When I had my first job after uni, living in a houseshare I hated and avoided as much as possible – I discovered the raspberry/white choc combination on the occasional evening I spent in Caffé Nero to avoid going home. White choc/raspberry muffin and a gigantic cup of tea made the concept of going back not as terrible as it had been beforehand…
I was in bed by half past seven last night, cwtshed up in my PJs and watching Bones. About an hour and a half later I was overcome by the need for cake. That all consuming MUST HAVE NOW need. So I got up again and schlepped downstairs to the kitchen for a quick emergency baking session. Not quite as glorious as the one I had in my final year at uni which involved having to raid ALL my housemates’ cupboards to get enough ingredients together, but still pretty nifty. I admit freely that I am no LondonBakes in the kitchen (luckily she is one of my favouritest people) but I can cobble a thing or two together when I have to…
Nellie’s emergency cake recipe (variation on a theme of my mother, grandmother, your average Vicky sponge)
4oz self raising flour
4oz caster sugar
2 eggs (do not forget to add these)
Splash of milk
Dash of vanilla essence
Dollop of cocoa powder (optional to make it chocolatey)
The crucial thing to remember here is that I have no real technique for baking a bog standard sponge-esque cake. Life is too short to be creaming butter and sugar and all that jazz. So my dead simple recipe is: dump all ingredients in bowl.
Get out the trusty electric whisk and blitz the lot together until all the lumps are gone. Sample to check it tastes like cake (add anything you feel it’s lacking.)
Spoon out into baking tray/fairy cake cases/whatever. If you’re doing it in a cake tin don’t forget to grease it beforehand! This amount of mixture makes 12 fairy cakes and one small star mould (or approx 16 fairy cakes).
Plonk in oven on gas mark 6/200C for around 10-15 minutes. Check, poke with a skewer – if it comes out clean you’re good.
And eat… (do not consider how many pliés it will take to burn off the cake because CAKE IS GOOD.)
It’s all vaguely more appealing than my dinner tonight…