Category Archives: Food

When the cake fails…

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I don’t normally wait until the day of the party to make a birthday cake, but due to a number of circumstances, both in and out of my control, that is what happened. Big L helped out by making up the cake mix ready to cook. Usually this works well, in that he cooks the cake(s) and leaves it to me to decorate, which, depending on what the kids have asked for, can sometimes take hours.

The crumbled mess of chocolate cake.

The crumbled mess of chocolate cake.

Except this time, the cooking of the cakes didn’t exactly go to plan. When I went to tip them onto the cooling racks, the cakes didn’t come out easily. With a bit of a shake, I got the square cake out, except that the base and the middle of the cake were still stuck in the bottom of the tin! Big L had a go at removing the second cake, which was in a loaf pan. After a bit of effort, this cake  slid out of the tin, also leaving behind its bottom half, and broke in two. I sat at the table and stared at the crumbled pieces of rich chocolate cake. With only hours until our guests arrived, I had to think of a solution fast!

Big L told me to go out and buy a cake from somewhere, anywhere! But I couldn’t just waste all this chocolate cake. Luckily inspiration struck and I rushed to the store to obtain some extra ingredients, to create a dessert which I was thinking of as a chocolate trifle, but I think really deserves the name ‘chocolate heaven’! I might even make this again on purpose next time 🙂

'Chocolate Heaven' - a bowl of chocolatey, creamy yumminess.

‘Chocolate Heaven’ – a bowl of chocolatey, creamy yumminess.

Hastily gathered ingredients.

Hastily gathered ingredients.

First I placed further crumbled pieces of the cake into the bottom of a clear bowl. Then I layered thick chocolate custard over the cake. This was followed by another layer of crumbled cake, and a second layer of chocolate custard. This filled the bowl I was using about three quarters of the way up. If I’d been using a deeper bowl, I would have made more layers. Over the last layer of custard I spread a thick layer of freshly whipped cream, smoothing it out with a spoon. To finish, I carefully grated some Toblerone chocolate (which I happened to have in the fridge) over the top of the cream. I refrigerated the dessert until we were ready to serve it.

Crumbled cake in the bottom of the bowl.

Crumbled cake in the bottom of the bowl.

Covered in chocolate custard.

Covered in chocolate custard.

As to the birthday cake, while I was out collecting the chocolate custard and thickened cream, I also grabbed some slabs of plain sponge cake. We placed these side by side and iced them in green butter cream, with silver cachous sprinkled all over the top. It was a very simple, practical and plain cake, but it held the candles for L to blow out, and the kids didn’t mind.

However, the real taste sensation was the ‘chocolate heaven’ dessert! It was soooo good!

So, if you’re like me and have the occasional cake disaster, don’t dismay, throw some custard, cream and chocolate at it and all will be fixed! Please share some of your cake or food disasters and fixes. It always makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one that sometimes has less than stellar moments in the kitchen 😉

(PS. Never, ever, lean over the open grill with a tea-towel slung over your shoulder, it just might catch alight!)

Star Biscuits

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A starry biscuit.

A starry biscuit.

I recently bought a set of star cookie cutters, containing stars in five different sizes. I was very eager to try them out.

 

 

 

Cutting the cookie dough.

Cutting the cookie dough.

I used a basic cookie recipe from The Organised Housewife, it is the best cookie recipe ever! I rolled it out and then used one of the larger star cookie cutters to cut out the biscuits. I found it a little difficult to move the cookie dough in its star shape onto the baking tray without damaging it. To solve this, I carefully used an egg flip to lift each shape and slide it onto the baking tray. I cooked them until the were golden.

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Coles ready-to-roll icing.

Making the biscuits plain allowed me to decorate the top of them without going overboard with the flavours. From Coles I had purchased some pre-coloured ready-to-roll icing (fondant), which I used to make smaller stars to decorate the top of the biscuits. I used green, yellow and red, and made stars in three sizes using the smallest of the cookie cutters. To attach the fondant stars, I used a basic white icing mix (made with icing sugar mixture and milk). I iced each biscuit, and then carefully added some of the fondant stars to each one before the white icing could set.

It was a little fiddly working with the icing shapes as I hadn’t done much like that before, but I really liked the finished biscuits. They looked just how I had envisioned them.

Some of the finished biscuits.

Some of the finished biscuits.

Christmas Cookies

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We had a Christmas baking session over the weekend, and the kids helped me make some Christmas cookies.

We used a tried and tested cookie recipe I found on The Organised Housewife ages ago. It is the best cookie recipe we have ever tried, and it makes lots of cookies in each batch. We have added many different things to this simple recipe, but my favourite addition is caramel choc chips!

Shaping cookies.

Shaping cookies.

Adding m&ms.

Adding m&ms.

I let the kids shape the cookies, and then add red and green m&ms to the top of each cookie. The kids hid m&ms inside some of the cookies too. The cookies ended up being all different sizes, but mostly round. I had to keep an eye on them in the oven so that the littler ones didn’t burn.

 

Ready to mix the sprinkles into the dough.

Ready to mix the sprinkles into the dough.

We also added red and green sprinkles to some of the cookie dough to make other cookies. We got the sprinkles from Woolworths in a handy Christmas pack that included the sprinkles, silver cachous and little sugar candy cane sprinkles. Once I had mixed the sprinkles into the dough, the green sprinkles pretty much disappeared, but the red sprinkles were still visible. The kids shaped the cookies, and made some of them very large!

The first batch ready for the oven.

The first batch ready for the oven.

After the cookies had cooled, the kids picked out the ones that they wanted to give to their teachers, and we wrapped them up in pink cellophane. We finished each bundle off with curly coloured ribbons, and gave them to their teachers for Christmas presents.

Teacher presents.

Teacher presents.

Strawberry Santas

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I’ve been seeing photos of these little strawberry Santas popping up on my Facebook feed over the last couple of weeks, and I wanted to try it out.

I bought the largest strawberries that I could find because I thought it would be easier to use for this task. For the filling, I made basic white buttercream, but it would have worked well with fresh cream too, or maybe even creme fraiche or cream cheese.

The cut strawberry.

The cut strawberry.

The kids had a couple of strawberries each. L cut her own strawberries up, but I helped A with hers. We cut off the top to give it a flat base when we turned the strawberry upside down for the body. We cut off the point of the strawberry to make the Santa hat. The kids had a good time spooning buttercream onto the cut top of the strawberry to make the head. I think they ate quite a lot of the buttercream along the way too!

Adding buttercream.

Adding buttercream.

Both of the kids had trouble dabbing a small bit of buttercream onto the top of the Santa hat for the pom pom. The first couple had very large pom poms! They wiped the buttercream off these ones and ate it, before trying again.

Each strawberry Santa got two little sugar cachous as eyes and they were done. These were easy to make and didn’t take too long. The hardest part for the kids was waiting until after dinner to eat them!

Strawberry Santa

Strawberry Santa

Ice-cream Cone Christmas Trees

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Waffle cones pre-cutting.

Waffle cones pre-cutting.

I saw this recipe on The Organised Housewife last week, and thought it looked like a quick and easy Christmas food idea. I went to gather our ingredients, but our local grocery store didn’t have any normal pointy ice-cream cones! They had plenty of flat bottomed cones, and waffle cones. I’d already told the kids I had a Christmas activity in mind for after dinner, and I didn’t have time (or the desire) to drive elsewhere to find the cones, so we went with waffle cones.

After cutting.

After cutting.

These could have made some very wonky Christmas trees, so I carefully cut off excess cone using a knife, so that when the cones were turned upside down they sat on a plate without falling over. The bits of cone that I cut off, Big L ate with ice-cream, buttercream, Nutella and sprinkles later.

Icing the cone.

Icing the cone.

Adding sprinkles.

Adding sprinkles.

L helped me to make up a portion of light green buttercream, which we used to cover the cones with. Then we added red and green m&ms, pastel coloured sprinkles and mini m&ms. The kids added jelly babies to the top point of their trees at the star/angel.

Carefully placing m&ms.

Carefully placing m&ms.

This was fun, messy and very sweet, but a great activity around Christmas time.

 

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Cat and Mouse Cake

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I have made this cat and mouse cake a few times for the kids’ birthdays. It is quite easy and has been a big hit at birthday parties. I normally make butter or vanilla cakes, but A begged for chocolate cake, so I used some White Wings mixes to make the cakes.

Prior to icing.

Prior to icing.

The cat’s head is make with a round cake base, with another cake cut up to make the nose and ears. The mice are decorated cupcakes. I just cut a rough circle section for the nose, and then I sliced the piece of cake so that it was about half the depth. I attached it to the round cake using some white buttercream (vienna cream or frosting). I also used some buttercream to attach the triangular ears to the top of the round cake. I don’t worry too much about how the cake looks at this point because I know I will make it look nice with the frosting!

There are lots of recipes around for buttercream, but I used one I found on taste.com.au, it was light and fluffy and very tasty.

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After applying white buttercream.

After applying grey buttercream.

After applying grey buttercream.

A asked for her cat to be grey and white, which is pretty easy. A little bit of black liquid food colouring added to the plain frosting gives a nice grey. As I was also icing the cupcakes in white and grey, I made up a triple batch of buttercream, and divided into two bowls, keeping one white and making the other grey. A double batch probably would have done it, but I’d rather have extra ready to go if needed, especially if I am using coloured buttercream, it’s so hard to get the colour to match if I have to make more.

I roughly added the white buttercream over the nose and to make the inside of the ears. Then I did the rest of the head in grey neatly, butting it up to where the white should end, and covering any excess white frosting along the way. To give the buttercream a bit more texture, I used the flat side of a butter knife’s blade to slap against the buttercream, causing little peaks to form. I did this all over the grey areas, while keeping the white fairly smooth. The kids thought it looked more like fur that way.

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IMG_2377In the end, I decided that I wanted the white to extend a bit further down to encompass the mouth more, so I added some more white buttercream from the nose down. This gave me more room to apply the mouth and nose. The nose and tongue are half a pink marshmallow each, while the eyes are smarties. A chose the pink ones, though I suggested blue or green! The rest of the facial features are drawn on with writing icing. These little tubes are very handy and easy to use.

IMG_2411IMG_2421To make the cute little mice cupcakes, I iced half the batch with grey buttercream and half with white buttercream. The ears are made from pink or white marshmallows cut in half. Each half is placed on top of the cupcake so that the sticky cut edge is facing forwards. The eyes are shiny cachous and the whiskers, nose and tails are added using the writing icing. I had thought about using liquorice strips for the tails, but I am the only one in my family that likes liquorice, so it seemed like a bit of a waste.

Shiny cachou lollies.

Shiny cachou lollies.

The cat’s head was placed in the centre of the pre-prepared board (a piece of plywood covered in foil), and the mice cupcakes were arranged on either side. I only used eight of the mice on the board. The extras did not go to waste though, the kids finished them off quite quickly.

Unfortunately, before the cake could be unveiled at the party, Baby T leant across it and smooshed a couple of the mice and the cat’s nose. The kids didn’t care, they still gobbled it up!

 

Ice-cream Cone Cupcakes

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IMG_2351We had a birthday on a school day for the first time recently, and A asked me to make cupcakes to take along for her class to share. She had seen cupcakes made in mini ice-cream cones somewhere before, and suggested we could make some. I did do a trial run before the big day to make sure I had it right. It turned out to be a rather easy undertaking, and I have made several batches now with great success.

I have used a few different brands of mini ice-cream cones, and have found that the square based cones seem to be a bit more stable than the round based ones when the cake mix is in them, but both work quite well.

Ready for baking.

Ready for baking.

A drippy cone.

A drippy cone.

I lined the cones up on a baking tray, in this instance I used pizza trays, and then fill the cones to about two-thirds full with cake mix. I have only used butter cake mix for these cupcakes, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the kids ask for them made with chocolate cake! I have been baking these cupcakes at a slightly lower temperature than normal, and I check them regularly to prevent overcooking. Sometimes a bit of the cake mix will overflow the cone and drip down the side, but if too much overflows, the cone goes soggy and collapses! So it’s important not to overfill the cones.

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Cooling.

Once the cupcakes have cooled down, I used a basic butter cream frosting to ice the top of the cupcakes. I placed the sprinkles in a bowl, and then dipped the frosted cones into the sprinkles, making sure the tops were completely covered in sprinkles.

The kids in A’s class were delighted with the ice-cream cone cupcakes, and were amazed to find the cones filled with cake and not ice-cream! They were a big hit, and made A very happy.

A frosted cupcake.

A frosted cupcake.

Dipping the cupcakes in sprinkles.

Dipping the cupcakes in sprinkles.

Re-usable Icy Pole Pouches

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The packet of Zipzicles.

The packet of Zipzicles.

The kids love icy poles, especially in the summer, but they are usually full of sugar and the plastic wrapping becomes rubbish, so I only buy them sparingly. Our family prefers to use products that are not disposable where possible, such as hankies, cloth nappies, re-usable food pouches and washable dish and cleaning cloths. So when I found some re-usable icy pole pouches, I got excited. The icy pole pouches I bought are called Zipzicles and I purchased them from Apikali, an online modern cloth nappy and eco-wares store. The little collapsible funnel we use to fill the icy pole pouches also came from Apikali. They have a wonderful range of products and excellent customer service.

Zipzicles ready for filling.

Zipzicles ready for filling.

A and I could hardly wait to try out our new icy pole pouches, so as soon as they were washed we filled them with flavoured milk. A mixed milk with chocolate Nesquik and then helped me fill up the pouches. Once we had run out of chocolate milk, A mixed up some strawberry Nesquik in milk to fill the remaining pouches. She needed help to get the milk as close to the fill line as possible without overfilling, and then I sealed the pouches.

Using the collapsible funnel to fill the pouch.

Using the collapsible funnel to fill the pouch.

Ready for freezing.

Ready for freezing.

We popped them in the freezer and then waited (rather impatiently) for them to freeze. That took several hours, but when they were finally frozen, A and L both enjoyed them a lot. They have had many icy poles since those first ones, we just wash out the pouches, dry them upside down, and then refill them. They are a little awkward to clean, but we normally rinse them and then use a small bottle brush, and that does the job. To dry them we prop them over the ends of the cutlery in the cutlery rack.

Frozen, ready to eat.

Frozen, ready to eat.

The kids particularly like them filled with milk or juice, but they are also good for cordial, yoghurt and pureed fruit. The kids love them, and I always know what is in them!

Quick Baby Brekky

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IMG_0570IMG_0563A while back, I had bought some re-usable baby food pouches so we could put our own baby food into them for use when we’re out and about. They are really handy, and we can use them for yoghurt, custard and pureed fruit for the older kids too. The ones we have are called Squeeze ’ems, but there are a number of other brands available now, and they come in a range of sizes. I bought ours at Baby Mumma, but they can often be found at modern cloth nappy and eco-ware web stores.

When we’re in a hurry to get out the door in the morning, sometimes Baby T doesn’t have a chance to have a good breakfast at home. He loves Weet-bix, so I tried making a quick breakfast in one of the re-usable pouches to take along with us.

I placed some canned peaches in first (well, these were actually in a plastic tub, but I still think of them as canned or tinned). I gave the peaches a bit of a squish through the pouch to break them up, before adding a Weet-bix biscuit, and some full cream milk. I sealed the top of the pouch and let it sit for a few minutes. This let the Weet-bix soak up the milk and become soft. Once it was all soft I shook it and squeezed it to mix the peaches with the weet-bix, and make sure there weren’t too many big lumps that wouldn’t fit out the nozzle.

Mixed up and ready to eat.

Mixed up and ready to eat.

Baby T loves this breakfast on the go. We use other soft fruit in it too, such as canned pears or apricots or fresh banana for variety. It is easy and quick, and I can give him a solid breakfast even on days when we are dashing out to school in a bit of a rush.

Banana and Choc Spread Parcels

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IMG_1051I always have some puff pastry in the freezer for when the mood hits me to bake something quick, easy and yummy! This time I found a lonely banana in the fruit bowl, and a jar of chocolate spread (we had Nutino) in the cupboard. Bananas and chocolate are pretty good together, and in puff pastry, they make an excellent desert.

Before folding the parcels.

Before folding the parcels.

I cut one puff pastry sheet into quarters. On each quarter I placed some of the chocolate spread, and a few slices of banana. Then I folded them diagonally to make triangular parcels, and used a fork to seal the edges of the pastry together. In the oven they went until golden brown.

Ready for cooking.

Ready for cooking.

These were a big hit, though the kids thought I could have put some more chocolate spread into them! Sometimes I wonder why I don’t just give them a spoon and the chocolate spread jar for desert… much less washing up 🙂 These little parcels of deliciousness would have gone really well with some ice-cream or custard too, except we didn’t have any. I will have to be a bit more organised next time!