Thursday, 28 November 2013

Things I Love Thursday: Let's Give 'em The Remix

Oh what a busy couple of weeks it has been and I have to say I have been loving it. Spending my days making cakes and creating is making my heart happy but it's hard work. 

But I had the most unexpected treat that gave me a night off on Monday night in the shape of (a very tiny) Bruno Mars.

In exchange for playing Chauffeur to my Auntie and two cousins, I got myself a ticket to see Bruno in Newcastle. I wasn't so bothered about going and I had been asked by a friend when the tickets came out and I'd turned her down. Although his stuff is catchy, I didn't think I liked him enough to want a ticket.

Well let me tell you I am a convert! What an amazing show! He is such a good performer and his average pop songs seem to just come to life on stage. He is so slick at what he does and massively smooth - I even have to admit to swooning (just a bit though.) His band where incredible! They gelled together so well on stage and created the most fantastic '1930s New Orleans jammin' on the street corner vibe'. Loved it. My Auntie had been so excited about going for months and kept breaking out in to little squeals in the car but even she was silenced by him. And for someone whose alias is 'Loud Al' that is no mean feat!

So what else have I been loving this week: Rosie & Chloe - every time I see my younger cousins I think I adore them a little bit more <3 road trip picnics <3 Pringles (unfortunately) <3 Sailor Moon <3 30 minute cat cuddles <3 This <3 This <3 and this <3 it being cold enough to finally wear my Spirit Hood <3 tartan <3 royal icing <3 realising I still remember ALL the words to ALL the Busted songs <3 scouring the internet for new boots, loving them all then buying none.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Warming Pudding: Treacle Roly Poly

Many moons ago, for reasons I can't quite remember, my next door neighbour Oliver asked (using the word loosely here) if I could make him a treacle roly poly. I said I would and then got round to it about 3 months later. I have been rather busy but also I was putting it off because I'd never made one before and was slightly terrified at the prospect of it.

Also, there are very few recipes out there for treacle roly poly; there are loads for jam ones and I wasn't sure whether I could substitute treacle for jam and just proceed in the same way.

I decided I could and went with this recipe from the trusty ol' BBC Good Food website. 

It turns out this was quite a good thing for me to practice: not only have I never made suet pastry but I have also never rolled or steamed anything so I was experiencing a few new things here.

So the suet pastry - what a weird thing. I felt so wartime getting involved with it. Being a veggie, I opted to get the vegetarian suet because, even though I wasn't going to be eating any of it, I just couldn't get my head round the beef fat issue. It's gross. It's similar to how I now feel about gelatin (after previously being able to devour a bag of Haribo Fangtastics in one sitting.)

The actual putting together of the pastry went quite well but I was a bit unsure of how it should have looked; it was bit lumpy. After a bit of Googling I found out that suet has quite a high melting point and that those little lumps would only disappear during baking. Phew.

Next issue: rolling the pastry. Good Food suggest that you leave a gap at one end of your pastry so you can roll it up and seal it. Well I did that but I think I started rolling from the wrong end. I rolled from the gap end which meant that all the treacle I had blobbed in the middle squeezed right over to the other side and I was left with a very oozy meeting point. TREACLE EVERYWHERE!! That stuff is sticky. But I carried on and got it on to my greaseproof/foil blanket and managed to get it in the oven.

The steaming: oh my gosh, how exciting! I had to put a roasting tin full of boiling water on the lowest shelf and place my wrapped poly on the shelf above. This was a frightening experience and something I had to put a lot of trust in; I am so used to being able to tell by sight whether a cake is done or not that the foil armour on the pudding scared me a little. I basically baked it for the hour that was suggested and then another ten minutes just in case. I also don't know whether it should have risen a bit more. It doesn't look so appetising in the below pictures.

I should have tasted it really - it was definitely cooked but who knows whether it was too dry or a bit soggy. But I got no feedback on that front from the 3 boys who inhaled it but no one died so I think it was fine.

The verdict? According to Oliver it needed a load more treacle. I thought I'd put in loads but maybe it had seeped out because I didn't get my roll right. I also thought that maybe treacle sinks into the pastry more than jam does so some of it may have been lost that way. I'll just go crazy next time.

But other than that it went down well and tasted liked it should. But what wouldn't taste good fresh out of the oven and smothered in custard?

As well as being a first for suet pudding, this post is going to be my first entry into Calendar Cakes as hosted by Laura Loves Cake & Dollybakes. Hurrah! This month's challenge is 'Puddings' so I think this fits the brief nicely.

Do head on over to Laura's blog to see what other yummy puddings some talented bakers have been whipping up this month.


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Cake Time: Ruby Wedding Anniversaries

One day in September after work I met my family in the local pub where they had been having tea for my cousin’s birthday. No one thought to wait for me, by the way, or even order me a plate of chips. Or dessert. Rude.

Anyway, my Mum took along Rosie’s birthday cake and there it was sitting at the opposite end of the table minding its own business. Then there was a kerfuffle and the waitress who was clearing up, after much conspiring with my aunties, was making her way down to my end of the table. Apparently she was desperate for a cake and at this point any old cake baker would do.

She wanted a ruby anniversary cake for her parents at quite short notice and lucky for her I had just the thing!

Here's one I made earlier...

This might seem like being unimaginative but we'd already done this cake for a different anniversary and it worked really well. Keeping it simple but pretty and elegant. I think when we did this one we managed to get a nice balance: you don't want it to look like a wedding cake but it still needs to be something special.

And nice waitress lady loved the cake so we got to do it again!

My mum ended up making the sugar flowers for both of these cakes - I think the division of labour meant it just fell on her both times but she is the experienced pro and can do them twice as fast (and better) than me.

I love doing cakes likes this in amongst all the children's and character cakes and I would love to use sugar flowers more often. High up on my to do list is teaching myself how to more than just roses! Watch this space!

We made just a few changes to the designs when we did it the second time: we lost the hearts that had been a request the first time, used red ribbon on each tier instead of white, and changed the lettering on the board as per each request.

I still haven't quite got the technique for piping lettering round a board yet! It doesn't seem to flow round very well.(*adds to to do list*) but as the main focus was my mum's pretty sprays I tried not to get too upset about it.

Here's to many more years for the happy couples!

Vicky xx

Monday, 4 November 2013

Not a cake in sight: How I spent my Monday

I could just make this post short by saying I spent it in bed but that makes me seem really lazy and I truely do have justifications for spending it in bed.

Basically, I just needed to.

Mount Grace Priory said good bye to the summer season yesterday, ending it on a beautifully crisp and bright autumn day. Although we don't close completely (we are still open on weekends) yesterday definitely had a 'last day of term' feel about it.

The beautiful Summer Peonies are nothing but a distant memory now!

It seems fitting that the weather today has shifted from being a bit chilly to rather cold and we actually had a frost on the ground this morning: winter is coming! I feel like I'm putting the summer to bed and embarking on a new season of winter projects and preparing for next season, which includes even more opening hours and the re-introduction of weddings on site! And if next summer is anything like this one, cakes will also be keeping me very busy. It's all so exciting but will be hard work.

The site basking in the Autumn sun

Which is why I took a day to have a completely self indulgent, lazy day in bed. It was amazing.

I woke up (not late,) had some lemon water (because it's good for you,) did a bit of online window shopping, had breakfast, read Harry Potter (book 3,) read some more Harry Potter, finished Harry Potter, did some Pilates, had a shower, stuffed my face with Domino's pizza, felt sick and that is about it.

I took this in OCTOBER! Can you believe that blue sky?!

I am not saying I won't have any more days off ever again but I felt like I had to get it out of my system early on as I intend to make full used of the next 5 months of enforced absence from work.

Autumn colours on the manor house

My plan is to use my time to make some serious headway with my business, and to work through all the ideas I've had, whether they are small and simple or the stupidly large and ambitious ones that were thrown around after one too many glasses of bubbles. I am going to dream big and explore them all. I want to work on my craft and come up with my own exciting ideas and creations. And most importantly work on my own self confidence when it comes to these things.

But for now I think I will dig out The Goblet of Fire and get back in to bed.

Vicky xx