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40th and 50th Birthday Biscuits

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40th and 50th Birthday Biscuits

Quick post this one! Just thought I would share the biscuits I made for our camping weekend to celebrate my brother’s 50th and my sister’s 40th birthdays.

Links to the biscuit and icing recipes can be found on my other biscuit posts (see end of this post for links)

I like to draw the biscuit designs so I can work out the best way to ice them/ what colours I need etc.

I trace round the cutter, and then draw in the designs.

For all of these biscuits I did an initial outline in the same colour as the flooding icing, then flooded them, dried them in the oven (super low heat – it’s much faster than letting them air dry), and then went over the outlines again in black. It really makes the designs pop.

To make the black (and brown) I added cocoa to the outline icing, then black (brown) food colouring. Means you can get away with less food colouring – and it darkens as it dries, so don’t worry if it’s not the blackest black when you pipe it.

Cutters were from Sweet and Scrumptious

My 9 year old daughter helped me ice these. She’ll be on junior bake off before I know it!

The birthday boy and girl enjoying their biscuits!

Related posts:

Pride Rainbow 🍪

Iced Biscuits (Cookies)

40th Birthday Cake

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40th Birthday Cake

Yesterday it was my baby sister’s 40th birthday, and apart from making me feel very old, it was of course and excuse to try out my new cake tin, and some of the pretty cake ideas I’ve been seeing on Pinterest.

My new cake tin is ace! It’s a Countless Celebrations cake pan set by Wilton, which I got from Hobbycraft. You can use it to make any letter or number, and I guess a range of shapes, so I figure I will get a lot of use out of it. It’s a deep rectangle, and then has lots of small bits that you put into the tin to shape the letters/numbers. The bottom of the tin is dimpled to keep the bits in place.

I thought I would do one cake in chocolate and one in vanilla to please all tastes. I used the same victoria sponge recipe for both, just substituting cocoa powder for some of the flour. I like the egg weighing method, and I had to guess how much I would need for the tin (one criticism I have of the cake tin is that it doesn’t give any advice about amount of mixture for the different layouts). I went for 7 eggs per cake, and to be fair, I could have got away with 6. This is how it worked out:

7 eggs

400g caster sugar

400g unsalted butter

2 tsp vanilla bean paste

400g self raising flour (replace 50g of flour with cocoa for the chocolate version)

Enough milk to make a slightly looser batter

You know the score… cream the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy, gradually add the eggs and vanilla. Sift in the flour (and cocoa) and mix till just combined. I use my KitchenAid mixer for all steps, but some prefer to fold in the flour.

With the cake tin you make the letter/number backwards and then flip it over so you have a flat surface.

You have to be quite careful with them when releasing them from the pan, or they break! I will definitely invest in some of that spray on non stick stuff for next time I use them.

I cut mine into two layers and added jam (raspberry in one and homemade rhubarb in the other – which goes amazingly with chantilly cream – a kind of rhubarb and custard vibe).

I put a row of raspberries in the middle and piped blobs of cream round the edge (to make it look pretty). Then out the top layer on. The cream was whipped with a little icing sugar and vanilla bean paste. So yummy!

I found that making them into layers and filling/reconstructing them made them quite fragile. Hence the cracks in the photos below!

For the topping I piped cream blobs on the top and then topped it with a range of delicious goodies.

I used my meringue recipe to make meringue kisses (see here), and painted stripes inside the piping bag with food colouring gel. The gold below was paint not gel, and it didn’t work out so well. But the red worked great! I baked them slowly in a low oven.

I cheated with the rest by buying some chocolates, macarons and cutting some edible flowers from the garden (roses and pelargoniums) – make sure you use edible flowers – you can find a list here.

Fortunately I took these pictures before transporting the cakes to my sister’s. Because they were very delicate, and slipped around – half of the top layer of the 4 fell off in my hallway!! So I would only recommend making these and piling them so high of you are eating the cake in the same place that you make it!

Pride Rainbow Biscuits

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Pride Rainbow Biscuits

London Pride is at the beginning of July, and we chose to celebrate it at work this year with a bake sale. With proceeds going to London Friend, the UK’s oldest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans charity. I’m the head of the D&I practice at work, so it was a perfect excuse to combine my passion for inclusion and my love of baking.

I had seen some great rainbow cookies on Pinterest, and was inspired to make something bright and colourful.

I used my go-to biscuiteers vanilla biscuit recipe (as seen in this blog post, or here on their site) and decided to use the biscuiteers powdered egg white icing recipe (see here), rather than the one my friend gave me and I have used in previous posts. This is largely because I went for a lesson at biscuiteers, and they used this icing, and it was great! It uses less of the egg white powder than the other recipe, so it’s cheaper too! I use meri white powder, which I got from The Vanilla Valley – it was the best priced I could find).

To make things simple for myself, I decided just to do heart shapes. I always find I need to bake the biscuits slightly less time than the biscuiteers recipe.

I made up flooding icing in 6 colours of the rainbow (yes I know there are 7, but who really knows the difference between indigo and violet!), plus lining icing in red. I’m getting much better at gauging the consistency of the icing. For lining icing I just the mix as it comes in the recipe, and for flooding, dilute with water to shampoo consistency).

I always use gel colours, and I love the Wilton range. I bought a big box of different colours from Amazon a while back, and they are great. Though I reckon you could just have the primary colours, and black, and you could mix your own different colours!

For flooding I’ve started using plastic bottles rather than icing bags. Less messy, easy to control and better for the environment as you just wash them. I have them from a few different places. The ones in this kit from Amazon are good because they are easy to squeeze. Biscuiteers also sell some Goode ones – I picked up a few after my lesson, though they don’t seem to sell them on the website. Except on this kit. I use a Wilton size 1 or 2 plain tip. I don’t bother with a tip for outlining, I just cut a small hole in the bag, and make it bigger if I need to.

A top tip if you have the same colour outlining and flooding colours is to make the outline one first, use it, then dilute what is left to make the flooding icing. I did this with the red icing. I also made a bigger batch of yellow, then added blue to a third to make the green and red to a third to make orange.

Icing them was easy, but actually much more time consuming than I estimated. It turned into a pretty late night! I outlined them all in red first, then piped stripes of each colour onto the biscuits.

I started with thicker stripes (two passes with each colour), and then experimented with thinner stripes, and different patterns. I ran a cocktail stick through some to make them a little tye-dye looking.

I then baked them again for a little while on the lowest oven setting (mine only goes to 80 degrees) to set them. I find this much better than just leaving them to dry. It also means you quickly can pipe over the top with additional designs, without waiting for them to dry for hours. Which I didn’t with these. but did with the biscuits I will write about in my next post.

I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out, and they sold straight away at the bake sale!!

Related posts: 40th and 50th Birthday Biscuits

Tiny Gingerbread Houses

Iced Biscuits (Cookies)

Fox Cake

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It was my neice’s 11th birthday recently and as we were going away with them for half term, I took along a bunch of baking stuff so I could make her a special cake.

Naturally I turned to Pinterest for inspiration, and I kept coming across cute fox cakes that I thought she would love. I’ve also wanted to make a striped zebra cake for ages, so I thought I would combine the two.

I wanted a tall layer cake and this recipe is enough for three shallow 8 inch cake tins, which I cut in half so we had six layers. If you want to get the zebra stripes to work in the best way, it’s probably better to bake one deep cake so the stripes stay in line.

For the white stripes:

175g butter
175g caster sugar

3 medium eggs
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

Milk

For the brown stripes:

175g butter
175g caster sugar

3 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

25g cocoa

Milk

I made them at the same time in two separate bowls.

Cream the butter and sugar then add the eggs. Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder (and cocoa for the dark stripes). Add enough milk to make a soft, loose mix. You don’t want it too stiff.

I actually mushed down 100g of raspberries and added them to the white stripe mix instead of some of the milk. Made it nice and moist.

Now for the fun bit. Grease and line the bottom of the cake tins.

Add a blob of dark mix in the centre of each tin, allow it to spread a little. Then add a blob of white directly in the centre of the dark one, allow to spread a little, then add dark. Keep on going until the mix has spread to the edge of the tin and all of the mix is used up. This is a good video here that shows how it works. Her mix is very runny, but it doesn’t have to be quite that runny. Mine was reasonably thick and I just encouraged it to go to the edges by tipping the tins.

Bake for around 20 mins at 180.

Once cold I cut all of my cakes in half to make six tiers and sandwiched them together with raspberry jam, chocolate buttercream, and on the middle layer I put fresh raspberries too.

The chocolate butter cream was 1 pack of unsalted butter (250g) a couple of tablespoons of cocoa, a couple of tablespoons of milk and enough icing sugar to make it the consistency and sweetness I like – I didn’t measure!

I then iced the outside with chocolate ganache, which was 400g of dark chocolate and 200ml of double cream. I chopped the chocolate and poured over the cream which I had warmed in the microwave. I managed to split it (eek), but discovered if you warm some milk and beat it in, then it magically goes back to the way it should be! Once the ganache was on I put it in the fridge overnight.

I used bought fondant icing (Mary Berry would be horrified). All Renshaws from Hobbycraft One small pack (250g size) of orange, 1/4 small pack of brown and half a large pack (500g size) of white kneaded together. This was the perfect amount to cover the cake, make the ears and tail. If you like your icing thick then use more as I rolled it reasonably thin.

The ears are triangles with the edges feathered (just cut out little triangles) and stacked them with a bit of black at the top and white inners. I just curled them slightly on my hand, and placed them on top of the cake. I used an egg box behind them to support them until they dried!

The tail is a roll of the main cake colour fondant, with black then white pushed together at the end. I make it look like fur with the back of a knife. This also helped blend the three colours together.

The face is white cut into a shape like the top of a heart and attached to the main cake with a little water on the back.

The nose is a blob of black, and the eyes are thin sausages of black stuck in an arch and then two tiny bits for eyelashes.

As you can see from this slice. The zebra stripes inside didn’t work so well – it looks more like a normal marble cake. It would have been much better as one or two larger cakes sliced and then put back together in the same pattern. Mine got a bit mixed up because it was so many cakes and layers.

All in all though, a successful cake, which tasted yummy and looked cute!

Copper Leaf Drinks Trolley

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Copper Leaf Drinks Trolley

I have been lusting after a copper drinks trolley like this one and this one. But as most of them are at least £150 they are a little expensive.

I’ve had a blue Ikea Raskog trolley for a few years that was holding sewing supplies, and I thought I could do something with that. I don’t think they sell this colour anymore, but they still have it in different colours.

I’ve also become a little obsessed with gilding with gold leaf – I think I’ve watched too much ‘Escape to the Chateau -DIY’! I prefer copper to gold, so I thought I would try that instead.

I bought a starter kit from Wright’s Of Lymm which had brushes, copper leaf, gold size (glue) and varnish all in a handy tin.

Applying the copper leaf is pretty easy, if a little fiddly. You paint on the size and let it go tacky (like post it notes feel). Then you press on the leaf and brush over it with the soft brush that comes in the kit. It really doesn’t matter if it rips or there are gaps because you can just press on another piece, or leave the gap if you like a rustic look. The size stays tacky for ages, so there is no rush.

Beware it’s a messy job – the bits of leaf that you brush off get everywhere!

At first, I did the outside and inside of the main bits of the trolley and left the other bits blue.

However, I decided I wanted it all copper, so I thought I would try painting the legs. I had some copper coloured acrylic paint by Pebeo which I thought I would try.

It needed a couple of thin coats, but I think it looks pretty effective. I like the fact it’s a slightly different shade to the trays. I decided to leave the mesh at the bottom of the trays blue. I may spray them copper at some point in the future, but for now I’m done. I haven’t varnished it, but if I notice the copper leaf stating to chip off I will.

If I was to do this again, I would spray paint the legs and the mesh bottoms of the trays with copper paint first. That would be easier and quicker, and give a lovely even finish. Then I would apply the copper leaf. But I already had the acrylic paint, so I went with that!

My sister suggested some copper fairy lights – because apparently it wasn’t bling enough! So I added these tiny battery powered ones from Amazon

And here is the finished result…

It fits perfectly between two of my cabinets, but because it has wheels it can be pulled out if I need easy access. The lights add a nice little touch if I’m having a dinner party, and overall I’m very happy with it.

Wardrobe to Larder Cupboard

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Wardrobe to Larder Cupboard

I have long lusted over the beautiful larder cupboards you see in the pages of glossy magazines and on Pinterest.

They’re a bit expensive, and I had a wardrobe I bought second hand to be a toy cupboard for my daughter that wasn’t being used, so I thought I would have a go at converting it into a larder cupboard. I bought it for £100, and even though it was in a second hand shop it was brand now. I googled it, and it would have cost £1000 full price.

Here it is pre-make-over. I had already removed the hanging rail and added a couple of shelves, so I knew turning it into a larder was possible with a bit of graft.

Firstly I painted it and replaced the handles/door knobs. The paint was Rustoleum satin finish furniture paint in slate. It doesn’t need primer or even to sand the furniture beforehand. I added a sample pot of Farrow and Ball Inchyra Blue to give it a bit darker and give it more of a blue tone. I’ve never used the Rustoleum paint before, and I was very impressed. Goes on very smoothly and it just took two coats. I put masking tape on the top panel so I could keep it pine coloured, which makes it match some of my other furniture (you can see it just to the right in the picture below). I didn’t paint the inside as I like the wood bare.

The hardware is from Premier Door Handles.

I bought two wooden wine racks from ikea. They’re called Hutten- see here. You have to assemble them, but it’s pretty simple. They each hold 9 bottles, so plenty of wine!

The shelves are from Wickes. It’s called General Purpose Timberboard and you can buy it in different lengths and widths. Unfortunately they don’t do a cutting service anymore, so I had to break out my trusty jigsaw to make them exactly the right width and length!

The existing shelves were too deep because I wanted to add spice racks to the backs of the doors, so I trimmed them and cut the new shelf to size.

Obviously you could paint them, but I love the bare wood interior look.

I used these shelf supports from Homebase, because that’s what I had lying around. They are supposed to be for glass shelves, so might not be strong enough, so I may end up changing them.

The final touch is a couple of spice racks that I bought from Silver Apple Wood. They are great because they do them in lots of different widths and number of shelves. These are the deep ones, which means they will take larger items than just spice jars. They are made to order, and they took a couple of weeks to arrive.

I made a mistake with these though – I ordered two the same width, not realising the doors are slightly different widths. I need to get a slightly narrower one.

They’re easy to fix to the door, and come with all the fixings you need. I had to switch to shorter screws as the one supplied were too long for the depth of the door.

And here is the finished item. I’m super proud of how it looks, and can’t wait to fill it.

So how much did I save?

The spice racks were £50 each, and the wine racks £8 each. The hardware was £18.50 and the shelf £20. The paint was about £20. Total £157.50. If you include the cost of the two shelves I had previously fitted (£40) and the wardrobe (£100), it comes to just under £300. The ones I’ve seen are at least £700, so I’ve saved minimum £400.

Now I’m off to clear out my over-stocked kitchen cupboards and fill this one!

Update – completed cupboard with the second spice rack added – perfect for baking paraphernalia.

Making Leaf Mould

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Making Leaf Mould

I’ve had a couple of tries making leafmould in black plastic bags, but with little success. They just seem to become dried out leaves, so I thought I would read up on, and try and do it properly.

It’s November 2018, and there are loads of trees around the edge of the allotment site that have dropped their leaves. So I just pootled around for an hour or so, raking them into big piles, and taking them by the wheelbarrow-full to my plot. Look at the colour of these beauties!

I built a huge pile – it was about 6ft in diameter and 4ft high. I tried to get a mix of leaves from different types of tree, and some were definitely wetter than others.

I was going to build myself a leafmould cage, but for only a little bit more than the raw materials, I picked up this one from Primrose. It’s 90cmx90cmx90cm, which apparently makes it 792 litres volume. It was a doddle to put together, with pre-drilled holes for 3 screws on each corner join.

I then put it in place down the side of the shed, and started to fill it up. I picked up the leaves using this handy set which I bought from the Wisley plant shop. It’s a bit like a dustpan and brush, but with a rake instead of a brush. You can pick up loads – much more than if you are using your hands. It’s made by Burgon and Ball, who I have to confess I am a huge fan of – their stuff is always great quality (and no, this isn’t a sponsored post!)

I scooped the leaves into a couple of large garden bags, and dumped them in the cage – which was a few metres from the pile of leaves – bad planning on my part – should have put the pile next to where I was going to put the cage!

After each bagful, I gave the leaves a good strim to break them up (apparently it helps them to compost quicker if you do that), and then soaked them with water. I used the dirty water from the metal bath/container thingy that sits under the tap at the allotment. Not sure if it will help speed things up, but I don’t suppose it will do any harm.

This is how the massive pile compacted down, just with strimming and water.

And you can see they have compacted again when I pushed them down a little to put the cardoboard on top. I plan to top it up with more leaves when I get chance, but I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve got so far. Not bad for a couple of hours work.

Now I just have to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t dry out, and I may add some coffee grounds, as I hear that also helps.

Would love to hear your top leafmould tips…

Two weeks later update – I acquired a load of coffee grounds from Starbucks, and thought I would add them and top up the cage at the same time.

Interesting to see how much it had gone down just in two weeks. We’ve had a lot of rain, so they are nice and damp.

And here it is nice and full again – I added four barrowloads to get it up to this point.

Let’s see how it gets on with the coffee added. I’m also curious to know how heat has an impact as apparently it’s a fungal breakdown that happens to the leaves, and I would have thought that heat would help. I’m considering putting a layer of bubble wrap around it for the winter (if I have any spare from doing the greenhouse).

Mid-December update. Only a month or so after first filling the bin, and then topping it up again a few weeks later, this is what it looks like. It’s like the amazing disappearing stack!

My Sister has given me three of these lovely big sacks – all at least half filled with wet, and pretty compacted leaves.

So I added them to the bin – I forgot my strimmer, so they’ve gone in whole. Nice and full again!

Update – 1st September 2019

Look how much they have shrunk down

I was a bit disappointed as it looked like it was still whole leaves. BUT when I scraped the surface look what I found

Black gold! And all I did was collect and strim the leaves, add some coffee grounds, and occasionally chuck a bucket of water over them if I thought they were a bit dry.

I am beyond excited, and will definitely use this lot in the raised beds, and refill the cage when the leaves fall this year.