Friday 29 November 2013

Weekly Bake - Victoria Sponge with Sugar and Spice

..and all things nice.
This week we celebrated our god-daughter's birthday and I figured a celebratory meal followed by a vanilla sponge with pink icing would do the trick for a girl who loves everything pink.

I didn't just want to make an ordinary Victoria Sponge, so I used a little trick that I have learned along the way. I added some fresh vanilla to the sponge mix and

whilst it was baking I used sugar, water and the emptied vanilla pod to make the sugar syrup to soak the cakes in once baked.

The best way to get the syrup on to the cakes is to use a pastry brush about 10 or so minutes after they come out of the oven. They need to still be warm, but not hot.

To get the best results I would advice you to bake the cake the day before, and wrap the soaked sponges in cling film and leave at room temperature overnight, otherwise bake it first thing in the morning and ice it as late as possible. It really does make a difference in giving the cake time to absorb all the syrup and letting it settle.

To assemble the cake, you can either just fill it with the buttercream or just jam, so NOT both as pictured above as you will find your cake does a little dance when you start cutting into it, as the cakes are pretty moist as a result of the sugar syrup. Personally I would recommend filling it with strawberry jam.

You don't have to ice it, but personally I think this icing just adds another dimension to this beauty of a cake. I just piped a few swirls to make it look a little more girly and pretty, but I will add here if you are making this dairy free then be warned Pure sunflower spread doesn't make the best buttercream and it can prove really difficult to work with.

As you can see the swirls are very sloppy, the product of dairy free spread. So be warned you might feel a little disgruntled that the piping doesn't quite give the results that you were hoping for. The problem lies in the fact that it needs to be handled in a piping bag and it therefore softens a great deal more than ordinary butter. My advice here is to make sure you put your icing in the fridge for a good few hours so it is as firm as dairy free butter ever will be.

This cake was, yes it is already all gone, delicious!!! It is really moist and I love the taste that the real vanilla brings to both the cake and the icing. One of the things I miss eating since learning that I am allergic to Casein (milk protein) is cream, yes good quality cream, Cornish clotted, double, you name it and a Victoria Sponge is always the one thing I might drool over or a good scone with jam and clotted cream (yum!). This however comes so close and in fact the majority of us preferred it and my be apt to say that it tickled us pink.

So here is the recipe for anyone interested. I have given gluten and dairy free ingredients, but you can simply substitute with normal self-raising flour and unsalted butter and I know you won't be disappointed.

Sponge Ingredients
200g Pure sunflower spread, softened
200g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod
4 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour, sifted

Sugar Syrup Ingredients
100ml water
100g caster sugar
The scraped vanilla pod
300g Pure sunflower, softened
360g Icing Sugar, sifted
Small amount of food colouring (optional)
Strawberry Jam

Preheat the oven at 180C, then grease and line two sandwich tins (I used 18cm).
To make the sponge cream together the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla in a mixing bowl until pale and fluffy. Slowly add the beaten egg into the mixture, scraping the sides to ensure everything is mixed in. If the mixture starts to curdle slightly then add a little flour to bring it together again. I find that you can avoid the curdling by increasing the speed of your mixture when you start adding the eggs, if this doesn't work or you are doing it by hand then just add a little flour to stop the curdling. Slowly add the flour, again scraping the sides to ensure that everything is folded in.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two sandwich tins (I use a scale for this) and then pop then in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. The bake time will depend on the size of sandwich tins you have used and your oven, so start checking sooner if you are using smaller tins.

Whilst the cakes are in the oven, make your syrup sponge by putting the water, sugar and scraped vanilla pod in a pan and by letting it slowly come to boil. I find this is better way to for all the sugar to dissolved. Once it has all dissolved let it bubble (on a low heat) for a couple of minutes just to get the flavour of the vanilla pod and then take it off the stove and let it cool slightly.

Once the cakes are baked, let them cool for 10 minutes and then brush on the syrup with a pastry brush, leaving them in the tins. Once the cakes have cooled completely, you can pop them out of the tins and wrap them in cling film and leave them at room temperature for the rest of the day or overnight.

To make the buttercream, just cream the butter and sifted icing sugar together and add the seeds of half a vanilla pod. If you are using food colouring add a few drops or a little paste at the end and mix in. If you are using Pure sunflower spread, I would put it in the fridge for a good few hours before you want to assemble the cake, but make sure you mix it thoroughly before using it. If you are using ordinary butter, I would just make the icing before you want to assemble the cake.

I do hope you enjoy making this and giving it a go, I know our household requested that I baked another last night when the last slice was scoffed, but I think for now I might need to assess December's plan.

I think it might be a good idea to start looking at doing some Christmas preparations every Friday, as not only can I do with a month of fasting before the feast begins, but it will also give me the opportunity to get a few things prepped and in the freezer in time for the big day. So if anyone is interested in joining in on Friday's under the usual Weekly Bake with Christmas food that can be popped in the freezer or chutneys or relish or cake, then please join in so we can all get a little inspiration for the festive season that is upon us. What are your thoughts on this??

Thank you to everyone for your lovely comments and well wishes on my previous post, I really love how supportive this little blogging community is and it makes me feel grateful for the gifts that we as humans have to be kind and caring, it truly is a gift. I am off to read some blogs as I am a little behind and then to finalise the last bits for my sale tonight.

Happy thanksgiving to everyone in the America and Canada!
Wishing you all a very enjoyable weekend.
Warm Wishes

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Life is like a mirror,

 ...we get the best results when we smile at it

I had such a rough weekend and felt a little disappointed that I couldn't go to the Christmas lights switch on or Treacle Market for that matter, but these little things have kept me smiling:

1) Pretty fairy lights
2) Having afternoon tea with the kids in front of the fire on Friday afternoon after school
3) Finishing off little lavender hearts
4) Getting out all the things that I have been working on over the last three months, some of which I will be selling on Friday night and feeling a real sense of achievement.
5) Enjoying a few of my Christmas makes

Lastly, and most certainly not the least is reading all your lovely comments on my blog, you honestly have no idea how much it cheers me up. Thank you to everyone 'you are my sunshine....'

 I really like this saying:
A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.  ~Phyllis Diller
Sending much love your way.
Warm Wishes

Friday 22 November 2013

Weekly Bake - Stem Gingernuts

This week I wanted to have a go at making these Stem Gingernuts as I have been having such cravings for ginger, one would think that I was pregnant again...

I have come to conclusion that I am pretty useless at following recipe's or any instructions for that matter, I much prefer the excitement of experimenting a bit to see what might materialise or go wrong. So again I adapted the recipe to make it Gluten and Dairy Free, but I also wanted to try and make them a little healthier, yeah I know, I mean how healthy can a cookie be??! One do like to fool oneself at times..... and I did a pretty good job of it this time, that's for sure.
So I figured that if I replaced the golden syrup with Agave syrup, which is a great deal healthier in that not only is it nutritious (whilst refined sugar is actually nutritionally bankrupt) it also has a very low GI, which means that it only gradually raises blood glucose levels, giving a much steadier supply of energy, therefore making it ideal for kids and also grown-ups with slightly fatigued adrenals (and some of you might know your DHEA-S levels usually decline with old age, so being kind to these two little adrenal glands can only be a good thing) and it is very common for people with M.E  to have Adrenal Fatigue. So using substitutes for sugar can really help and whilst I appreciate many people would argue to just illuminate sugar from your diet as much as possible, I would argue that the endorphins released from the pleasure of baking and then eating could outweigh some of that (yeah I know a pretty lame theory but it works for me). I simply enjoy baking too much to stop doing it, so I tend to look for ways to make it a little healthier where I can.

I also replaced the caster sugar with Palm sugar, something I have been doing for years and if I am honest I actually prefer the taste of it and really like the texture too. It is slightly grainier and a little stickier and it will always make your bake a little browner. So where does Palm Sugar come from? Well interestingly it is made by boiling the nectar of the coconut palm in a two stage-process which then leaves a hard caramel substance that is then ground to a powder form that we get to buy in the shops. It really is a good substitute for sugar as it is believed to also reduce the associated sugar cravings that we get from eating ordinary sugars, and I try and use it as much as possible with the kids even though it is a little more expensive to buy.
To sum it up, I substituted the golden with Agave syrup, the caster sugar with Palm sugar, used 100g of Coconut flour and 250 Doves Gluten free Self Raising Flour (instead of the 350g SR flour) and PURE sunflower spread instead of butter. Then lastly I just doubled the stem ginger to 70g instead of 35g, which I knew would work for our kids as little J's fave ice cream is Booja Booja Ginger, but if you're not that Ginger loving then keep it to the 35g.

Once I started mixing all the ingredients together I very soon realised that this Agave syrup wasn't going to hold its own, so I added two tablespoons of Golden Syrup (heated up) to the mixture to bring it all together, you can see just how healthy these Gingernuts are turning out to be, yikes so much for all the low GI malarky!!


 In the end the mixture worked and they were baked in 15 minutes tops and even though they really are just a little healthier, they are so so so very delicious!!


I was told by a friend today that these are far better than any shop bought ginger biscuits she had ever tasted and I must say I agree. I can't take any credit as the recipe is yet again from my current fave recipe book Great British Book of Baking, which needless to say I am LOVING!

I am more than certain that there will be another attempt at making these, maybe next time I would do half Agave and half Golden Syrup for now though we have biccies to dunk into hot mugs of tea whilst enjoying cosy fires, exactly where I will be later this afternoon.
Thank you to everyone for your lovely comments on the crochet classic snood, I appreciate each and every one of them.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and if you have done a spot of baking and fancy linking in, just add your bake below.

Warm Wishes

Thursday 21 November 2013

CAL - A crochet snood

Joining in today with the lovely Chrissie and Marianne for their weekly 'Blooming Crochet-A-Long'. This week I have been working this lovely 'Classic Snood' by Erika Knight in Drops Big Delight Autumn Forest.


I originally bought this yarn with another pattern in mind, but having seen this Erika Knight pattern done by Chrissie, I just had to give it a go.

I am working it the full length, so it's quite long, but perfect for wrapping around twice, which is exactly the way I like to wear my snoods. This yarn is a dream to work with and I love these gorgeous autumnal colours, aren't they just beautiful?! Especially against this lovely Poinsettia, which my darling other half brought for me this week.

All I have left to do now is to join it together, so hopefully this will happened tonight or possibly tomorrow. If you're interested in this pattern, you can find it in this lovely book.

I have also managed to finish the crochet edgings on the tea towels that I have made, and I am really happy with them all. 'What a difference a day crochet edge makes'.


Thank you for all your very kind comments about my sleeping bunnies, I had such fun making them and can't wait to make some more.  

I will be back tomorrow with my Weekly Bake, but for now I am off to have a look at what everyone have been hooking this week.  

Warm Wishes

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Sleeping Bunnies

See the bunnies sleeping till it’s nearly noon
Shall we wake them with a merry tune?
They`re so still, are they ill?
Wake up little bunnies!
Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop
Hop, hop, hop - Hop, hop, hop
Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop
Hop, hop, hop...

Shortly after my son was born, I purchased a really sweet little small Maileg bunny that looks a bit like this, but without the pj's,  and ever since I have had this desire to have a go at making one. Well the moment finally arrived a few weeks back, I undressed the little bunny and had a go at drawing out a pattern in the size I thought best and with a little tweaking here and there some rather sweet little sleeping bunnies were born.

I had heaps of fun making these little darlings with their long ears and big feet
stitching their little faces

and best of all making their little night dresses.

I couldn't just stop with the girls, no of course not, there needed to be some boys 

I had heaps of fun stitching these little over sized dungarees, especially using fun prints such as this London design

and this sweet Riley Blake design

I just love these prints, they are fun and really lovely designs and it has been such a joy making these. I only intended to make a couple, but got a bit carried away, so I am sure there will be quite a few left after the preschool fundraiser, which I will pop in my Etsy Shop which will hopefully open in the beginning of December. For now though I am working on a myriad of different things, which I promise to share soon.

To be honest one doesn't need to look far for inspiration on linen hares or bunnies as so many people are making them, but for me the beautiful linen bunnies made by the lovely Stephanie from Millefeuilles just have the edge and have most certainly inspired me. If you haven't already seen these, you do need to pop over to have a look, they are simply beautiful!!

See the bunnies sleeping till it’s nearly noon
Shall we wake them with a merry tune?
They`re so still, are they ill?
Wake up little bunnies!
Jump little bunnies, jump, jump, jump
Jump, jump, jump - jump, jump, jump
Jump little bunnies, jump, jump, jump
Jump, jump, jump...
Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop
Hop, hop, hop, - hop, hop, hop
Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop
hop, hop, hop...
Warm Wishes

Friday 15 November 2013

Weekly Bake - Coffee and Walnut Cake

This week we celebrated my darling other half's birthday and seeing that he LOVES coffee I wanted to try this Coffee and Walnut cake from the Great British Book of Baking. For anyone interested in this book you can read a little more about it here.



It would please some of you to know that I actually had one of the worse days baking, everything spilled, eggs broke before they were suppose to go into the mixing bowl, you name it, it went wrong. My reasoning was pressure, as I wanted this special man in my life to have a lovely day and I just wanted everything perfect. It did make me laugh as I normally just throw and go and it generally always works, but this time all odds were against me. Why does this always happen when we least need it?? A question that really puzzles me!

Once again I adapted the recipe to make it Gluten and Dairy free by replacing the flour with Doves Self Raising Gluten Free flour, I used PURE spread instead of butter and I used decaffeinated coffee instead of the real deal, largely because I knew this was going to be eaten at night and I didn't want hyper kiddies running riot in the house around bed time. For the icing I used Oat cream instead of normal cream and I will say this, the icing is simply delicious!!! I did however have two attempts at this as the first required far too much coffee for my liking, so I only used 3/4 of a teaspoon instead of the three required and the result was far better.

I also had a go at making these River Cottage Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies as I wasn't too sure that the kids would eat the coffee cake. Yes I hear you think, but surely the kids won't eat beetroot brownies, well look no further if you want to get some beetroot into your children, this is the way forward even if its not the most healthiest of ways. The kids loved these and if allowed would have happily had about three each. Friends who had some also really loved them but for me the verdict is still not out on these brownies, I think I might have a love-hate relationship with them. I am a massive fan of beetroot, I love it raw, cooked and to be honest in any way possible, but I wouldn't say these were the best brownies that I have tasted, for me Nigella wins hands down every time with these Flourless Chocolate Brownies. They are simply THE best!!

The kids helped putting up a few balloons and wrapping the presents, they were so excited to celebrate Daddy's birthday with him. Little Es even practiced a little birthday tune on the harmonica and she even got her little chair ready to sit on to do her little birthday performance, so sweet. It is tough when you work and get home late, but I think the doh was delighted and really enjoyed his evening with the family. I cooked a meal, lit some candles, opened a bottle of red and it really felt like a little celebration.

If you are a coffee and walnut fan, then look no further. This recipe is wonderful and the cake turned out far better than expected. The icing was a little runny at first, but it settled, so note to self, next time leave the icing a little longer before icing the cake.

This is the kids on their way to school this morning dressed in PJ's for Children in Need day. I know that our school will be giving 50% of the donations to the crisis in the Philippines. My heart goes out to all those people so badly affected and I do hope that people keep on contributing in some way or another. If you haven't gotten around to donating and would like to you can do so HERE.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, mine will be mostly spent sewing and sewing and more sewing and resting of course. What do you have planned for this weekend? Thank you for all your lovely comments on my neck warmer, you bring a little ray of sunshine to my life. A warm welcome to my new followers too.

For anyone interested to add your bake, you can do so at the bottom of this post.

Warm Wishes