Fairy Princess Birthday Cake

27 February 2013

I still can't believe I made this cake... but I really did! Thank you for all your lovely compliments when I posted photos on Instagram, Facebook and my Silent Sunday post. I had so many lovely comments at my niece Amelia's 3rd birthday party on Sunday too. I'm feeling very proud of myself and a teeny bit big headed!
Being my usual critical self I wasn't 100% happy with it though. I won't go into the details of what I wasn't happy with but it's wasn't a bad effort for a girl who hadn't baked a cake in her whole adult life until 6 months ago!
After the rush and stress of making Oliver's Spiderman cake a few weeks ago, I was extremely organised this time. Aren't you impressed with my drawing and plans?! I made as many of the fondant decorations on Thursday night to give them plenty of time to harden so I wasn't rushing to do it all at the last minute.

Lots of people  have asked me when I'm going to set up my own business making and selling my cakes. Well I'm not! Yes I've thought about it but there are a few reasons why I don't want to. The main reason is that I'm not willing to sacrifice what little spare time I have to focus on a new business. I already work part time in a job I love which gives me the flexibility of a great work/home life balance. Plus I'm not ready for the stress of having deadlines to work to and having to stay up into the early hours finishing a cake. Also, maybe I'm not confident enough in my abilities yet to want to actually make someone pay for my offerings? Above all, the thing that holds me back is that my kitchen is TINY! I barely have enough room for all the regular kitchen equipment, never mind drawers and boxes of cake tins, decorating implements, packs of icing and all the other paraphernalia. So for now I'm happy to just bake for family and friends.

Rolo Cupcakes

26 February 2013

I made these Rolo cupcakes ages ago. Well it was back in November last year, so sorry for not posting the recipe before now. I made them for a cake sale at work for Children In Need. I always make chocolate cupcakes for the cake sales... for some reason they're really popular! Who am I to deny my chocoholic colleagues. So far I've made Role cupcakes, double chocolate cupcakes, Mars Bar cupcakes but the most popular by far were Chocolate Orange cupcakes that sold out within 3 minutes!

I got the idea for these from one of my favourite baking blogs Sweethart's Cakes & Bakes {thank you Paula}. There are lots of recipes out there for Rolo cupcakes but I decided to stick with what I know and used my fail safe chocolate cupcake recipe... with a Rolo shoved inside!

Rolo Cupcakes

Makes 10
Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 20-25 minutes

100g plain flour
2.5 tblsp cocoa powder
140g caster sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
40g butter, softened
120ml whole milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

300g icing sugar
100g butter
40g cocoa powder
3 tablespoons whole milk

20 rolos

Put the Rolos in the freezer for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight. Take them out of the freezer just before you need to use them.

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F) Gas Mark 3. Line a 12 section bun tray with 10 paper cases {my recipe said makes 12 but I got 10 out of it}.

Put the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and butter in a bowl and beat with a hand-held electric whisk on a slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

Whisk the milk, egg and vanilla extract together in a jug, then slowly pour about half into the flour mixture. Beat to combine then turn the mixer up to high speed to get rid of any lumps.

Turn the mixer down to a slower speed and slowly pour in the remaining milk mixture {scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a spatula}. Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Don't overmix though.

Spoon the cupcake mixture into the paper cases until two thirds full. Place the rolo into the centre of the mixture and press down until just the top of the Rolo is showing.

Pop them in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cake bounces back when touched. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire rack.

Now make the frosting. Beat the icing sugar, cocoa and butter in a bowl with a hand-held electric whisk on medium speed until the mixture comes together and is well combined. Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Add the milk to the butter mixture a little at a time. Once all the milk has been incorporated turn the mixer up to high speed and beat for about 5 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy. The longer you beat the frosting, the lighter and fluffier it will be.

When the cupcakes are cold, spoon or pipe the frosting on top. Finish with some chocolate sprinkles and top with a Rolo and Hey Presto!

Silent Sunday

My Latest Cake Project

23 February 2013

Busy busy busy today! It's my niece Amelia's 3rd birthday party tomorrow and I'm in the throws of making her cake. And it's a whopper by my standards! It's a princess fairy cake with two tiers and a crown on top.

I've spent quite a bit of time planning it this week and on Thursday night I made all the little bits and pieces that I could make in advance like the crown, wand, name and edging balls {all 135 of them!}

My very professional drawing
The four chocolate cakes have been baked this morning and are waiting to be sandwiched with chocolate ganache and covered in icing. Then I need to build it up {a bit scared about this!} and do all the finishing touches. 
Yes, it needs a bit of cleaning up
I'm hoping it will be finished tonight {and that I don't have to stay up till midnight!} so I'll post a photo of the finished cake onto my Facebook page and Instagram and will do a proper post with all the photos next week.
Wish me luck and that I don't have any disasters!

That Potty Training Dilemma

20 February 2013

Lydia turned two in December so in the next few months I'm hoping she'll be ready for potty training. I'm very firmly in the camp of  'waiting until they're completely ready' when it comes to PT. 

Oliver was 2 years and 9 months when he decided to ditch the nappies. To be honest I wasn't looking forward to potty training but I read somewhere that the average age for boys to be dry was 3 years old so I wasn't worried at all. We had a potty at home and I'd bought some pants and had gently mentioned it a few times to him but I was just waiting until he was ready. Then one day he just started doing his wee's in the toilet, standing up like his dad! So we just went for it and I can count the number of accidents he had on one hand {one was at soft play when he was having too much fun to go to the toilet!}

So soon it's going to be Lydia's turn. She's recently been showing some signs of being ready for the potty. She goes and sits on the potty {but doesn't actually do anything}, she tells me when she's done a poo {not a wee though} and when I mention getting her some knickers, she's really enthusiastic about it. She can count to fourteen... although that's got absolutely nothing to do with potties, that's just me boasting - sorry! I'm happy to wait until she's ready but I'd really like her to be dry by the time we go on holiday in May. It's 11 weeks away so there's still plenty of time to tackle it but I'm not going to rush her. I'm thinking of giving it a go in the next few weeks and if she's really not ready, we'll leave it.

God, it's such a minefield this parenting lark isn't it!? What do you think I should do? Wait or give it a go? Any tips will be gratefully received.

Thank You

19 February 2013

I hold my hands up and freely admit that I'm rubbish at Twitter. I'm much better at Facebook and Instagram so I've got something set up {not sure how I did it now!} that automatically tweets all my new blog posts, Facebook updates and Instagram photos. 

But yesterday I thought I'd have a proper browse on Twitter. So I checked my profile and saw a tweet I received a few days ago {note to self: check Twitter more often} from the MAD Blog Awards telling me I've been nominated in the category of Best Food Blog. WOOHOO!  I'm shocked and proud and happy in equal amounts. I've seen loads of bloggers proudly displaying their 'Nominated' badges but I never thought in a million years that I'd be nominated too.

So I'd just like to say a MASSIVE thank you to anyone that nominated My Darlings and Me. I love my little blog and it's a massive achievement to even be nominated. So now I am very proudly displaying my 'Nominated' badge just to the right and down a bit!

Shortbread Biscuits

18 February 2013

shortbread Lots of families seem to have a shortbread recipe that's been passed down through the generations don't they? I'd love to say that my shortbread was made using an old family recipe too. But alas I'm a totally self taught relatively newbie baker! So this is an amalgamation of  two recipes I found in my baking books.

I've never made shortbread before but it was on my {very long} list of 'must make' recipes. So I woke up on Sunday morning and thought "I'll make shortbread today". Yes I really do think about baking as soon as I wake up! It was a glorious sunny day. So while Hubby was off playing his Sunday morning football match and the darlings were playing in the garden, I set to baking. 

I'm going to file this recipe under 'minimum effort for maximum results'! If I do say so myself, they taste incredible. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to shortbread. There are lots of things you could add to jazz them up but I like them plain... with a cup of tea. 

Shortbread Biscuits

Makes 12
Preparation time 10 minutes
Baking time 25 minutes

225g butter softened
110g caster sugar
225g plain flour
110g cornflour
Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 170C {350F} Gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with parchment or baking paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a hand held electric whisk, until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and cornflour and mix with a wooden spoon until everything comes together. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until you have a smooth dough. 

Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1.5cm and cut into triangles {I used a pizza cutter}. Re-roll any spare bits until you've used all the dough. Prick each triangle a few times with a fork and place on the lined baking tray. 

Pop in the oven for 25 minutes until they are just turning a light gold colour at the edges. I turned the tray in the oven half way through the cooking time to ensure an even bake. Keep an eye on them so they don't bake for too long and go brown, they must stay quite a pale colour.

Leave on the baking tray for a few minutes for the biscuits to firm up slightly. Then transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle with caster sugar while they're still warm. Enjoy!

Silent Sunday

Banana Muffins

14 February 2013

Oliver asked to do some baking this afternoon and I was more than happy to oblige. I noticed we had two very ripe bananas in the fruit bowl so I had a quick flick through some of my recipe books and we decided to make some banana muffins.

Lydia wanted to join in too, so because our kitchen is so tiny, I set everything up on the dining table. As usual Lydia had a quick stir then lost interest and wandered away to play with her dolls. Oliver was a fantastic helper though and did most of the work. So I can't take much credit for these apart from putting them in the oven!
Banana Muffins

Makes 8 muffins
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 25 minutes

30g unsalted butter
60g clear honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large bananas, very ripe
150g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 190C {375F} gas mark 5. Line a muffin tin with paper cases.

Put the butter, honey and vanilla extract in a small pan over a low heat until melted. Stir and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Mash the bananas. In a large bowl, measure out the flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda and cinnamon. Add the bananas to the melted butter/honey mixture and stir, then add to the dry ingredients. Stir until everything is combined but don't overstir as it should look lumpy and gloopy.

Fill the paper cases no more than two thirds full and pop in the oven for about 25 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Traditional Pancakes Recipe

11 February 2013

    Image source
    Hooray! It's Pancake Day tomorrow... or Shrove Tuesday if you like. Which means it's the best excuse ever to eat pudding without feeling guilty. It's the law*. Well it's a tradition and who am I to argue with tradition.

    I always loved Pancake Day as a little girl and we always had our pancakes in the traditional way with lemon juice and sugar.

    There are so many different recipes out there for traditional pancakes or crepes. But this is my tried and tested recipe that I always use. If you want to go down the classic pancake route, sprinkle them with sugar and squeeze on a little lemon or orange juice. Or for more sweet and savoury filling ideas take a look at my top 10 pancake fillings.

    Traditional Pancakes
    Makes 12

    110g plain flour
    Pinch of salt
    2 eggs
    200ml whole milk mixed with 75ml water
    50g butter

    Put flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and give them a quick mix. Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Whisk the eggs incorporating any bits of flour from around the edge of the bowl.

    Add the milk and water mixture a little at a time and keep whisking. Don't worry about any lumps as they will eventually disappear as you whisk.  Melt the butter... I do it in the microwave in 10-20 second bursts. Spoon 2 tbsp of it into the batter and whisk it again. The batter should now be smooth with a consistency like double cream. Save the rest of the melted butter as you will use this to lubricate the pan. I use a piece of rolled up kitchen paper to smear it round the pan before I cook each pancake.

    Get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to medium. Spoon or pour the batter into the pan, and immediately tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated. It should take only half a minute to cook. Lift the edge with a palette knife to see if it's golden coloured underneath. Flip the pancake over with a pan slice or palette knife. The other side will only need a few seconds then slide it out of the pan onto a plate.

    Stack the pancakes as you make them between sheets of greaseproof paper.

    Image source

    What filling will you be having with your pancakes this year?

    My Top 10 Pancake Fillings

    Hands up who's having pancakes tomorrow. Yes me too! Pancakes are the perfect base for so many fillings. But are you a traditionalist who must have them with lemon juice and sugar? Or do you like to experiment with wild and wacky fillings? I'm in the middle but I admit to swaying more to the sweet fillings over savoury. If I remember correctly, last year we had them with strawberries, cream and chocolate sauce.

    Whichever you like, I've put together a list of my top 10 pancake fillings... five sweet and five savoury. Oh and here's my pancake recipe if you need one!

    Image source
    Sweet Pancakes

    1. Strawberries and cream
    Chop up some strawberries, lightly whip some cream , fill your pancake, eat. Simple but delicious.

    2. Nutella and banana
    Another quick and easy filling. Put your pancake on a plate. Spread with Nutella, slice the banana and place on half the pancake. Fold the pancake over.

    3. Banoffee
    Top the pancake with sliced bananas. Drizzle over toffee sauce and roll or fold up the pancake. Serve as they are or with custard or vanilla ice cream .

    4. Maple Syrup
    Instead of the traditional thin English pancakes or crepes, why not try American pancakes.  Drizzle them with maple syrup for the truly American experience.

    5. Apple strudel and ice cream
    Peel  and core a couple of granny smith apples. Cut them into quarters and slice thinly then place in a pan with a few teaspoons of sugar to taste, and about half a teaspoon of cinnamon. Then simmer them until the apples become soft.  Use the apple mixture to fill your pancakes and serve with vanilla ice cream.

    Image source
    Savoury Pancakes

    1. Butternut squash and stilton
    Peel and dice 400g of butternut squash and sauté in the olive oil until golden. Add 100ml of vegetable stock, cover and simmer for 10 mins or until tender. Remove from the heat, drain off the liquid. Stir in 50g of roughly chopped watercress and 25g Stilton. Season to taste. Divide the mixture between four pancakes, rol them up and place on an oiled baking sheet. Scatter over the rest of the crumbled Stilton and bake at 200C {gas mark 6} for 15 minutes or until crisp and golden.

    2. Salmon and mushroom
    Mix sautéed mushrooms with chunks of cooked salmon and hollandaise sauce. Spoon the mixture down the centre of the four pancakes and roll up. Place in a gratin dish and spread more hollandaise sauce over the top. Bake at 180C {gas mark 4} for 10-15 minutes.

    3. Bacon and brie
    Layer up rashers of crispy back bacon, thin slices of tomato and thick slices of brie between 3-4 pancakes. Place on a lightly oiled baking tray and bake for 15 minutes at 200C {gas mark 6}.

    4. Ham, cheese and mushroom
    After you have flipped your pancake in the pan, sprinkle over grated cheddar cheese, smoked ham and sauteed mushrooms. When the cheese has melted fold the pancake over and serve. 

    5. Spinach and ricotta
    Mix cooked spinach, ricotta and a pinch of grated nutmeg in a bowl. Spoon the mixture down the centre of the pancake and roll up. Serve immediately.

    What's you're favourite pancake filling?

    Silent Sunday

    Cherry Blossom Cupcakes

    8 February 2013

    cherry blossom cupcakes
    I made these Cherry Blossom cupcakes ages ago but only recently realised I've never shared the recipe with you. 

    Now I know that not everyone is as chocolate-obsessed as me so these are for you. Yes, I confess I'm a total chocoholic and lots of my baking contains chocolate, but sometimes I feel like something a little lighter and *shock horror* less chocolatey! The darlings also like pink icing so I knew they'd love them.

    The cupcakes have morello cherry jam swirled in the sponge. They're light and airy and pretty and girly! I'd like to think they're they kind of cupcakes that you would eat with afternoon tea in a nice coffee shop.

    cherry blossom cupcakes

    Cherry Blossom Cupcakes

    Makes 12
    Preparation time 20 minutes
    Baking time 20 minutes

    100g self raising flour
    70g plain flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    Pinch of salt
    100g butter, softened
    150g caster sugar
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 large eggs
    85ml whole milk
    90g Morello cherry jam

    For the icing
    75g Morello cherry jam
    125g butter, softened
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    500g icing sugar
    1 tablespoon whole milk

    Preheat the oven to 190C {375F} gas mark 5. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

    Put the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat with a hand held electric mixer until it is pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and milk and mix well.

    Sift in both flours, baking powder, bicarb of soda and salt and beat on a low speed until well combined into a smooth batter. 

    Put the cherry jam in a small pan and heat gently for about 30 seconds or until slightly runny. Pour the warm runny jam into the cake mixture and roughly swirl it in. Don't mix it too much as you want a marbled effect not a pink mixture.

    Divide the mixture evenly between the paper cases making sure they are no more than two thirds full. Pop in the oven for about 20 minutes until well risen and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

    To make the cherry blossom icing, put the cherry jam in a pan and heat gently for about 30 seconds. Strain the warm jam through a muslin and discard any bits. Set it aside to cool a bit.

    Beat the icing sugar and butter in a bowl with a hand-held electric whisk on medium speed until the mixture comes together and is well combined. Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Add the smooth jam to the butter mixture a little at a time. Once it has all been incorporated turn the mixer up to high speed and beat for about 5 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy. The longer you beat the frosting, the lighter and fluffier it will be. If the icing is still too hard, add a little milk as necessary to soften it.

    When the cupcakes are cold, spoon or pipe the frosting on top. Finish with flowers or sprinkles of your choice.

    cherry blossom cupcakes

    Happy Blog-Birthday to Me!

    6 February 2013

    I always thought I created My Darlings and Me on 6th February 2012 but I've just looked back and it was actually on 4th February! So this is a bit late but anyway, I can't believe my blog is one year old !! This time a year ago I published my first ever post and I've never looked back. It only seems like yesterday that I had the idea to start a blog after spending months reading lots of other amazing blogs
    There's no doubt that blogging has taken over my life. I'm constantly thinking of ideas for new posts. My mobile phone and tablet have become my mobile office with all sort of apps for writing and to-do lists and ideas. I have a rule that I don't turn the laptop on until the darlings are in bed but if I get the odd spare 10 minutes during the day (when Lydia is having a nap and Oliver is playing!) I'll work on a new post or look at other blogs on my mobile.

    And then there's my baking obsession! I started baking just for something to blog about but I've become totally addicted to it. I haven't baked in all my adult life but I honestly can't go more than a few days now without trying out a new recipe. And more than anything I love giving them to family and friends for them to enjoy too. I've never had a proper hobby before but now I've got two... blogging and baking!

    So thank you to all who have read, commented on and followed My Darlings and Me. I am so grateful and flattered that you decided to follow my little blog. It's lovely to know someone is reading, whether you stumbled across this by accident or not, it's still nice to know I'm not typing into the abyss!

    And thank you to all those who take the time to blog. I now know how dedicated you all are. You inspire me every day.

    Review: Baker Days Valentine's Cake

    5 February 2013

     Baker Days personalised cakes

    You might not have noticed but I don't normally do reviews. However I really couldn't say no when I was asked by the lovely people at Baker Days to review one of their Valentine's cakes! I went straight to their website and was pleasantly surprised by the massive choice of cake designs. 

    Baker Days make personalised cakes for all occasions... delivered for free all over the UK. Not only are there loads of Valentine's cake designs but also cakes for every occasion you could think of. After you've chosen your design, you then select the size {from a small cake that fits through your letterbox to a large party cake that serves 50-60}  and choose from a variety of cake flavours... double chocolate chip, carrot and fruit are just a few. You then choose how you would like to personalise it... with the words of your choice {within a certain character limit} and you can upload a photo to go onto certain designs too.

    I let Oliver choose the design of our cake and he went for the Cute Kittens Valentine's cake. We went for double chocolate chip cake {naturally!} and I personalised it with the darlings names.

    Baker Days personalised cakes

    A few days later I was very excited to arrive home from work to a letterbox-sized parcel waiting for me. My first thought was 'I hope it's in one piece' as its quite a drop from the letterbox! I needn't have worried as Baker Days made sure it was fabulously secure in it's lovely cake tin. I got it out and began snapping away but evil mummy made the darlings wait until after dinner to taste it! 

    Baker Days personalised cakes

    Baker Days personalised cakes

    And it was worth the wait because it was yummy! The cake was very light and moist and incredibly chocolatey. It was just big enough for us all to have a decent sized slice {2 adults and 2 children}. The only problem was Oliver and Lydia arguing over which kitten they were going to eat!

    Baker Days personalised cakes

    It would be such a lovely present for Valentine's day ...or for any occasion actually. They fact that they can be personalised gives it a special thoughtful touch and I love that the letterbox sized cakes are the perfect size to fit through the letterbox so the recipient will never need to sign for it or go and collect it if they're not in. The letterbox sized cakes are £14.99 which is a fab price for a Valentine's gift... you could spend much more than that on overpriced flowers! 

    Baker Days personalised cakes

    I received the cake from Baker Days for the purpose of the review. 
    All opinions are honest and 100% my own.

    Baker Days personalised cakes