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Archive for the ‘Cake’ Category

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Seven year olds can make their own fairy bread. That’s dinner for the rest of the year sorted. 

I’m a long way through the writing of this first book but I’ve hit a little wall. It’s not a big or hard wall, and it’s nothing to do with the book (which will be great and excellent so my publisher who reads this need not freak out and go into labour or anything), it’s just a wall with a sign on it that says ‘nearly there: reduce speed now’.

It’s to do with the fact that if I keep writing at the rate I have been I will finish it well before the deadline and then what fun will having a deadline be? For surely the only point of a deadline is for it to cause enormous trauma and misery to me and everyone around me, right? Like the deadline for my thesis at university, which was approached correctly, by doing bugger bloody all for months on end and then writing almost the whole thing the night before it was due. (more…)

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May Blossom turned two a couple of weeks ago, which means that she now knows All The Things There Are To Know and All The Words To Everything, and it also means that I have now thrown two kids’ parties and am thus an expert in entertaining for smalls. Here is how to do it:.

Invitations: To get the numbers up, it’s useful invite people to your party. I used Paperless Post for electronic invitations. It is simple to use, has lovely designs to choose from and makes it easy to track RSVPs. We also chose to keep the party little this year, which was a good idea, so we just invited a child’s handful of very close friends. There somehow still ended up being twelve two-year-olds. That is a lot of toddlers. We must make more friends without two-year-olds (for a variety of reasons).

Location: Last year we had the party in a park that was a short drive away. That was fine and lovely, but logistically a bit hard. This year we went a thirty-second walk around the corner to the small local park, which would prove handy for H to trudge back and forth the whole time, escorting people to the loo, and getting extra jumpers and other forgotten essentials. We arrived to find OTHER PEOPLE were already having a party, so we scowled at them and set up on the other side of the park.

The other mob were about thirty seven-year-old boys being run ragged like they were in the Army Reserve by a hired PE teacher type of fellow. He had a broad-brimmed hat, a booming voice and a whistle. How is that a birthday party? They took up about eighty-five per cent of the park, leaving us the tiny strip of land next to the metre-high sheer precipitous drop down into the beer garden of the local bowling club. A perfect location for twelve toddlers. The parties managed to ignore each other like two cats who are forced to sleep in adjoining cages at the vet but know it’s only for a week. There were no turf wars. We were magnanimous when some of their guests came over to eat our fairy bread.  Who could blame them? Our party was clearly better.  Mostly because of the… (more…)

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We live in a house with a very small fridge. There’s only one place a fridge can fit in the kitchen, and there’s only one fridge available that fits into that place. And it’s not a big enough fridge.

It has, as you might expect, a very small freezer section. We like to keep it very full of food stacked so precariously that it is dangerous to open the door. Since January, a good 30 per cent of our freezer space has been taken up with a large tub of blackberries, which we picked nowhere near my parents’ property which absolutely does not have any blackberry bushes growing on it anywhere, Mr Council Noxious Weed Inspector Detector.

Since the berries were so hard won, I have been waiting for something worthwhile to cook with them to come along. I don’t know what amazing recipe I thought I was going to stumble across, or what worthy occasion I thought might arise (my receiving a Damehood for Services to Not Pulling My Weight Around The House?), but eventually I just pulled them out one evening when Mum and Dad came round for dinner and cooked them. (more…)

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Yesterday I had the startling realisation that since May Blossom has dropped down to just two breastfeeds a day — in the morning and after dinner — I should probably no longer eat like Mr Creosote. This is, quite frankly, completely shit. I don’t really like eating for one. So in honour of all the not-eating-cake-every-day that I am about to embark upon, I would like to share with you some excellent and delicious things I have eaten. (more…)

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I am a hoarder. I come from hoarders, I married a hoarder and together we have bred a tiny hoarder.

Over the years, H and I have accumulated a lot of stuff. We live in an area that provides council collection of unwanted goods every fortnight, so every fortnight there is both an opportunity to purge our household of broken or unwanted goods, but also the chance to re-home our neighbours’ crap, which we do frequently. Some of my favourite possessions came from a place we like to call Cider Road. (more…)

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The place was gone to rack and ruin. Only the Lighthouse beam entered the rooms for a moment, sent its sudden stare over bed and wall in the darkness of winter, looked with equanimity at the thistle and the swallow, the rat and the straw. Nothing now withstood them; nothing said no to them. Let the wind blow; let the poppy seed itself and the carnation mate with the cabbage. Let the swallow build in the drawing-room, and the thistle thrust aside the tiles, and the butterfly sun itself on the faded chintz of the arm-chairs. Let the broken glass and the china lie out on the lawn and be tangled over with grass and wild berries. (more…)

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May Blossom's Birthday Cake

May Blossom turned one and it was a marvellous day. There were blueberry pancakes with maple syrup and bacon, coffee and champagne (not for the one-year-old, obviously. Only light beer until the age of three. No exceptions.) There were presents galore, including a four-foot-high stuffed tiger and cub, a gift that was ‘for May Blossom and against her parents’, according to her uncles. There was a trip to the park and licking the beaters while I made the birthday cake. There was Skyping of a 102-year old great-grandmother and an uncle in New York, phone calls across the country to grandparents and another uncle.

Birthday pancakes made with new alphabet cookie cutters

Then there was cake eating. Oh my, the cake eating. I have been pretty permissive with what May Blossom has eaten so far in her life. I’ve tried to provide healthy, fresh food and not create an atmosphere where some foods are bad and others good. She’s eaten chips and ice-cream and some biscuits. But I did try not to give her any chocolate cake until her birthday. (She may have tasted a chocolate muffin, which we all know is just cake you are allowed to have at breakfast time.)

So her birthday cake was kind of a big deal. At 4 pm she was hungry so we fed her dinner of chicken, pasta, broccoli and zucchini to offset the full-scale choco-butterfat-sugar assault that was to follow.

We lit a single candle, sang ‘Happy Birthday’ — which made her cry, because it was clearly just a cruel delaying tactic designed to torture her while she stood in front of a massive chocolate cake — and then I cut a slice for her. We stripped her down to her nappy and sat her in the high chair. I placed the cake in front of her and then I don’t really know what happened, because she turned into a cartoon style blur of arms and legs and chunks of flying cake and icing and joy. It was one of the greatest sights of my life.

Afterwards we hosed her off and she stood at her little toy table that plays music (her ‘decks’) and danced to the three alternating 15-second snippets of ‘The Farmer in the Dell’, ‘How Much is That Doggy In the Window?’ and some other unidentifiable tune for twenty minutes without stopping. This cake is magic. They should hand slices of it to runners in marathons when they are flagging. It should be dehydrated and packed in mountaineers’ rations.

In the end, I decided to make use of the resources I had to hand when decorating the cake. Namely, my husband. H is a talented artist. He works mostly in ink, but can turn his hand to a tube of vanilla fudge icing without too much trouble. He created a scene of May Blossom as a Navajo child riding her pony while an owl perches on her arm. It might have been the best drawing ever.

You can make it at home too. Here’s how.

One-Bowl Chocolate Cake

Adapted from The New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne, Harper and Row, 1961.

Ingredients

2 cups sifted cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup warm water

2/3 cup milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Sift the dry ingredients together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the butter, water, milk, eggs and vanilla and blend on very low speed until the ingredients are moistened (use high speed for a dramatic flour and cocoa mushroom cloud all over the kitchen). Mix for three minutes on medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally to make sure there are no flour pockets at the bottom. Don’t include scraping time in the three minutes.

Pour the mixture into a tin you have greased and lined with baking paper. I used a tin about 30 cm long and 20 wide, which made a cake about 5 cm high, which is plenty tall enough for a baby, and gives you a good cake-t0-icing ratio. But use whatever tin you want, but adjust cooking time accordingly.

Bake for 21 minutes for this tin, or until it rebounds when pressed gently in the middle. Or poke a skewer in and see if it comes out with crumbs or batter on it.

Ice when it is cool. I used a sour cream ganache (melted dark chocolate beaten with sour cream). Decorate with gusto.

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