It was a dark and stormy night....

It's better late then never right? As I write this there is crazy rain outside. Some of the rain we got caught in as we left to go trick-or-treating! However, it slowed down enough for us to get a pretty good hoard of candy!
Before we went out we had party food and cakes at a friends. I of course provided the cakes! 
I made the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes from Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever that I reviewed a few days ago! And died the frosting a green-yellow so we could make monsters! Here are the results: 

What do you think? I think the kids did a great job. As the girls get older I would love to do more scary stuff for Halloween! Like a haunted house or scary movie marathon. But until then I hope next year it won't be so wet! Hope everyone had a fun and safe night!!

Cherry Coconut Brownies!!

I think we all know my favoritism towards brownies. I have said on a number of occasions that I would choose a brownie over any other baked good ever! It really goes against my love for vanilla. The obvious solution might be a blondie, but a blondie really isn’t vanilla it’s more white chocolate. As I get older I am getting to know myself quite well. Or should I say I am more aware of myself? Either way I know I contradict myself a lot! I would pass on anything chocolate for anything vanilla… unless of course it was a brownie.

Back to the point and the point is these Cherry, Coconut Brownies from Paul A. Young’s Adventure with Chocolate are very decadent and moreish.  Recently I visited his shop in Soho and very much enjoyed his Salted Pecan Brownie. Which lead me to revisit his book and to this recipe.

I made them for my mother-in-law’s birthday this past weekend. They were easy to throw together and besides the cooling time takes no time at all. They are perfect brownies that melt in your mouth and make you feel guilty in an innocent way. (See??) Enjoy!!

Cherry Chocolate Brownies
100g unsalted butter, chopped
250g golden caster sugar
75g golden syrup
275g of dark chocolate (around 60%)
4 eggs
70g plain flour
50g unsweetened dessicated coconut
100g dried bing cherries these are hard to source locally and even online if I’m honest. So, I just used dried sour cherries.

Preheat oven to 160°C and then grease and line a 20 x 15 x 2.5cm square tin or brownie pan.
In a medium to large pot over low heat, gently melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together until smooth. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, mixing well (until the chocolate is melted). Whisk the eggs and beat into the chocolate mixture. Add the flour and coconut and whisk until just combined.
Pour into a baking tray (15 x 20 x 2.5cm) or brownie pan lined with parchment paper and smooth out well. Now toss the cherries across the top of the brownie and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool and refrigerate overnight.
Turn out of the tin, remove the paper and trim the edges of the brownies or don’t as these are sometimes the best part of a brownie!! Using a wet knife cut the brownie into whatever-size squares you wish. All depends on how greedy you are! Serve at room temperature or warm.
The brownies will keep for 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. 

My first thoughts on Adventure with Chocolate (buy your copy here or here) and my visit to his shop. 

Sugar Cookie Soccer (Football) Jersey's!!

These cookies were a hit with my daughter's soccer team!!

My oldest daughter plays soccer.
These cookies were for  her and her teammates at their last game.

The soccer balls are just Wilton cake toppers/decorations attached to Oreos!
I attached them with the same candy melts used to color the jerseys! ~ Janet


These truffles were for the teachers at our school. The PTO provides dinner and dessert so that the teachers don't have to go out on Parent/Teacher Conference nights. :) I used two different recipes to make Peanut Butter, milk chocolate, and strawberry truffles! 

Peanut Butter Truffles from Better Home andGardens:

2 cups sugar
1 x 5oz can evaporated milk
½ cup butter
2 cups tiny marshmallows
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
½ tsp vanilla
12oz dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tsps shortening
finely chopped peanuts (optional)

  1. Butter the side of a medium heavy saucepan. In the saucepan, combine sugar, evaporated milk, and butter. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture is boiling. Reduce heat to medium; continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat. Stir in marshmallows, peanut butter, and vanilla. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Chill for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until mixture is thick and can be molded.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls; place on the prepared baking sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes.
  4. In a medium saucepan, combine chocolate and shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip balls, one at a time, into melted chocolate. Let excess chocolate drip off balls. Place on a wire rack set over waxed paper. If desired, sprinkle with peanuts. Let stand until chocolate is set. Makes about 50 truffles.
Easy (Versatile) Decadent Truffles from

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until well blended. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla until no streaks remain. Refrigerate for about 1 hour. Shape into 1 inch balls.

Then this is what I did: I split the recipe in half and flavored one half with vanilla and the other half with strawberry extract. I coated them both in melted chocolate. For the strawberry truffles, I melted white chocolate and added 1/2 tsp strawberry extract and a drop of pink food coloring.  Then I drizzled it on top so everyone would know the difference in flavors.

To package: I used a 30 count egg container and glued scrapbook paper to the front for a label. For smaller amounts, you could use a cardboard egg carton wrapped in cellophane or cling wrap with ribbons at each end.

Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques by Shauna Sever {book review}

Ever since I was little I have always preferred vanilla to chocolate (especially when it comes to ice cream!) After reading this book it truly felt as though it was written just for me!

I think most people who bake (and cook) take vanilla for granted and see it as boring. Anyone read Fifty Shades of Grey? Christian describes regular sex as 'vanilla'. That's such an insult to vanilla. As it's so much more then regular!

Yes, vanilla is expensive, but a little goes a long way. They're many ways to get full use out of vanilla bean pods that I wasn't aware of until this book!

The 6 chapters are broken down into breakfasts, cakes & pies, cookies & bars, candies & confections, custards & creams, and last but not least drinks!

On my 'must try' list from this book:
Light, Crisp Vanilla Waffles (picture)
Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes (on cover)
Vanilla Cloud Cake
Triple Vanilla Pound Cake
Twinkie Bundt Cake (picture)
Vanilla Snaps
Lemon-Vanilla Dream Bars
Homemade Vanilla Coffee Creamer
Coconut and Vanilla Bean Ice Pops (picture)

I have a real love for baking books so it's rare for me to find fault with them by just reading them. The real truth comes from baking recipes from the book! So, watch this space as I bake my way through my bookshelf! ;0)

Spiced Apple Custard Tarts {from Lily Vanilli's Sweet Tooth}

I'm so excited that when this post is finally up I will be on my way to London to visit Lily Vanilli's bakery in East London. I can not wait!! Had to cancel my plans as my littlest one has a sick bug. London isn't going anywhere....already thinking of a date to reschedule! So, being the impatient person that I am I had to bake something from her book before I went! This past week I baked these very yummy tarts from Lily Vanilli's Sweet Tooth in anticipation of my visit to London!

It wasn't hard to choose as these Spiced Apple Custard Tarts were on top of my list since I read the book a few weeks back. I am not going to share the recipe with you as I think this recipe alone is worth buying the book..... also because I am know to be a bit lazy. It's not a hard recipe but there is a lot of time managing and steps to get right. First you make the pastry and its best if sat overnight or no less then an hour. So, I made my pastry the night before. Then the custard needs to be cold so it has to set for at least 4 hrs. I split my custard the first time.... oops. Then you make the apple filling (not pictured as once I started eating them I wasn't gonna stop for a picture) which needs to cool. Then you need to make the oat crumble for the top and roll and rest and bake the pasty that was setting over night. So basically I couldn't be bothered to write all that out.
However I don't want all my rambling up there to put you off making them if you have a copy of the book or someone you know does. These were absolutely delicious!!! I took them to 2 different friends houses and had nothing but compliments all around! Mine didn't look as neat and tidy as the book picture, but when they taste good who cares if they don't look perfect?!?
Can't wait to share my experience at Lily's with all of you later this week!!

Buy here on Amazon or at The Book People 

No Bake S'more Bars Green Bay Packer style!! {weekend baking with Janet}

No Bake S’mores Bars
·1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
·1 (11.5-oz) pkg. milk chocolate chips (or 1 3/4 cups)
·4 cups miniature marshmallows - green and yellow
·1/2 of a 12.5 oz pkg of Keebler Deluxe Grahams, broken into bite-size pieces

Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with foil.
In a saucepan, heat the cream over medium just until bubbles appear around edge of the pan. This only takes a minute or two.
Remove from heat and mix in the milk chocolate chips until smooth. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally. This should only take about 5 minutes.  You just want it cool to the touch because you don’t want it to melt the marshmallows.
Add the marshmallows to the chocolate mixture and stir gently.  You just want the marshmallows to get coated with the chocolate to coat. Then gently stir in graham cracker pieces until combined.
Pour the mixture into your foil lined pan and gently press down to fill the pan.  Be sure to scrape out every last drop!
Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Remove from pan using the foil and cut into bars with a knife that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Makes 9-12 bars.

Note from Lisa: Look what I found!! UK Packer Backers!! (link not available 31.1.2016) Yay!!! Originally from Wisconsin our family loves the Packers!! I wish I could catch more of there games on here in the UK, but the timing is usually off!! Janet found the recipe for these here and just substituted yellow and green marshmallows for the white!! You can change the colors for your favorite team!!

Baking Out Loud: fun desserts with big flavors by Hedy Goldsmith {book review}

I have lived in the UK now for 7+ years now and it doesn't matter how often I go back to visit or talk to family and friends I still get homesick. When I get that longing for home I always get online and spend a horrendous amount of cash on imported treats from home. Now because of Hedy Goldsmith and her amazing book, Baking Out Loud, I can make classic American treats that I remember from my childhood (home)! 

Not only will homemade versions be better for you, but I bet they taste better! I can't wait to get in the kitchen with this book!! 

What I want to make first!! 

  • Red Velvet Twinks (picture) 
  • tootses
  • fig new t's
  • overstuffed nutters (on cover) 
  • s'more brownies (picure)
  • cinnamon graham crackers (picture) 
  • peach and blueberry crostata
  • chocolate , cherries, + chipotle ice cream 
  • sour cream coffee cake 
  • cinni mini bun bites (picture)
There are a lot more exciting things in this book so if your into "fun desserts with big flavors" I would suggest this book to you! 

Baking Out Loud: fun desserts with big flavors by Hedy Goldsmith 

Rainbow Dash's Rainbow Jellies!!

So, this isn't so much a baked good as a fun treat for kids!

My oldest turns five in December and she wants a birthday party. At first she wanted a My Little Pony Party (or maybe I wanted her to want one!) and now she wants a princess party!

I have a bunch of great ideas for a My Little Pony party and if I can’t use it for her birthday I’ll use it for my 30th in May! ;0)

A rainbow cake with blue frosting would also be awesome for a My Little Pony Party!! 

Anyway, every once and a while we pick up the MLP magazine and they had a ‘recipe’ for rainbow jellies (jello in the USA) I thought these are easy enough and would be great for a party if you topped it with fluffy light blue cream! I didn't do the topping but the girls and I had fun making and eating these rainbow jellies!

To make Rainbow Dash’s Rainbow Jellies: Buy any number of different colored/flavored jelly (jello) make according to instructions and layer in the order of a rainbow* starting with blue/purple at the bottom and topping with red. If you make it in a mold that needs to be turned out start with red at the bottom and so on… Also be sure that each layer is set before adding the next!

I just wanted to not the subtle colors of the UK jelly. The reason it’s subtler is because it doesn’t have huge amounts of unwanted e-numbers and additives! If you made it with Jello you’d get much more vibrant colors, but all those extra unnatural things your body really doesn't need!

notes: *red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink
Hartley’s UK   
Jello USA

Giant Chocolate Cupcake {Breast Cancer Awareness Month}

The word is getting around that I bake and I’m not to bad at it! A friend of a friend was looking for a giant cupcake to give as a get well present for a friend. The only information I was given was it had to be a chocolate cake with pink frosting in the shape of a giant cupcake. I was like yeah I can do that!

I used a silicone mold  if I do it again I think I will invest in a proper metal mold  as the cake didn't come out as easy as I would have liked. Even after greasing the sides and sprinkling flour in the inside. As you can see after a little reconstruction and buttercream it turned out all right! I also think, delicious as this cake recipe was, I would experiment with another recipe, as I can’t blame the silicone mold for all my troubles! ;0)

It wasn't until afterwards I found out the giant cupcake was for a woman who loves cupcakes and who recently had a mastectomy. Here are some breast cancer stats for the UK:
·        nearly 50,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK. That’s one person every 10 minutes
·        just over 12,000 people die from breast cancer in the UK every year
·        breast cancer is the second biggest cause of death from cancer for women in the UK, after lung cancer
·        there are an estimated 550,000 people living in the UK today who have had a diagnosis of breast cancer
·        in women under the age of 35, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer.
Those stats there are enough for me to want to make sure I am checking myself on a regular basis. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, make yourself aware!

Chocolate Pound Cake (American recipe will need measuring cups!)
Taken from All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray

3 cups all-purpose flour (plain flour)
3 cups of sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 stick (1/2 cup or 120g) unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 cup shortening (Trex)
1 ¼ cups milk
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325F/160C/gas 3; make sure the tin/pan you are using (especially if using a mould) is properly greased, floured, and lined.
  2. In a bowl of an electric mixer (if you don’t have one should be okay to use a hand mixer) dry whisk the flour, sugar, and cocoa.
  3. Gradually add the butter, shortening, and milk and beat on medium until smooth.
  4. Add baking powder and salt then beat until incorporated. Still on a medium speed, add the vanilla extract and then add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
  5. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 1 ½ hours. Depending on your pan/tin you might want to check it at different times to ensure it’s properly done. Use the toothpick/skewer test when it comes out clean it means the cake is done!
  6. Cool the cake in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Remove the cake onto a plate to cool completely!!
Pink Vanilla Buttercream (British measurements!)
Taken from Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth

100g unsalted butter (just shy of a stick of butter)
300g icing sugar, sifted (no idea how many cups this would be sorry!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
75ml double cream (heavy cream) or substitute whole milk add slowly as you may not need all of it.

  1. Beat the butter alone for 4-5 minutes on high speed.
  2. Add the sugar, vanilla, and cream; beat on a low speed to bring it together. Speed it up to high and beat for another 2-3 minutes.
to Finish:
I suppose it depends on if it’s for a special occasion or not? Just decorate according to your needs! I used a star shaped nozzle and piped flower like dots all over the top and covered in sprinkles! There are so many other ways you could do this though! It’s up to you!

All the information I’ve given comes from this website:
Also if you’d like to know more or give to the cause please follow go here

Soho, London {Bakery Tour: Part 2}

Finally getting around to the second part of my day in London*!!

We walked to Soho after our morning in Covent Garden and we passed a Bubbleology! Having never been I went in to try it out! I couldn't make up my mind on which flavor to get but finally settled on White Peach. The very nice Bubbleologist said it was a popular choice! I really enjoyed it. Very refreshing and flavorful! Tasted a little floral (maybe?), but it wasn't a bad thing!

Then we went to Paul.A.Young, it's a small shop with lots of chocolate. I saw somewhere (probably twitter) that he makes killer brownies so that's what I went for! I also love Pecans so choose the salted caramel and pecan brownie.

I didn't eat it right away* as it says it's good for 7 days at room temperature or 14 days in the fridge and I had already indulged a lot that day. When I finally got around to eating it I didn't even get a picture of it unwrapped! Obviously because I ate it and it was so good that the last thing I was thinking of was taking a picture of it. Now that's a good brownie. It was the right texture and very rich and extremely gorgeous! The sales lady was very nice and answered all of our questions. I always think service is important and will mention it if it's either outstanding or terrible. I will definitely be going there again! 

And last but not least the Hummingbird Bakery! It's pretty much right next door to Paul.A.Young and earlier that day on twitter I learned they started there new daily specials and that Monday's were Cadbury's Double Deckers, Mr. Knightley's favorite candy bar.

So, I stopped in there to get him one of those. I did try a bite and it was okay. I have been to Hummingbird Bakery before and then I had 2 cupcakes one really good the other only so/so. The double decker cupcake was soft and moreish. However the frosting wasn't my favorite. It was heavy literally and figuratively. So, again I feel 50/50 about the place. Love the books though. Maybe that's the problem that I have such great success from the books that I hold the actual bakery to higher standards? I don't know? I wouldn't tell you not to try the new specials, because the cake was good and the filling. It just feel a little short on the frosting for me. 

That concludes my semi-spur of the moment day trip to London. Planning to go again later in the month! Can't wait to tell you all about it!! 

Places we went:
Bubbleology49 Rupert St, Soho, London, W1D 7PF
Paul.A.Young143 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8WA
Hummingbird Bakery:  155a Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8WG

*It's been a whole week! First part here
*Why this post came later....

Apple and Oatmeal Cookies!!

These are one of my all time favorite cookies. I do enjoy a good oatmeal raisin cookie and I love apples so when I came across this recipe I was surprised I hadn't thought of it before!! 

They come courtesy of a book that you may have heard of before called Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days?? This is the book that sorted started it all. I had a few baking books like 100 Magnificent Muffins and Scones and The Whoopie Pie Cookbook, before I bought Cake Days, but it’s the later that took my baking to another level!

Having made these yesterday for an after dinner treat at a friends I realized even though I have made them a few times it was really before my blog was in existence! So, here you go! Enjoy!!

Apple & Oatmeal Cookeis:

135g softened butter
80g caster sugar
80g soft light brown sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla essence
190g plain flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 granny smith apples (or apple of your choice)
60g rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F. Cream together softened butter with both sugars (either a handheld of freestanding mixer will work here). Add egg and vanilla essence and mix thoroughly. Sift together plain flour, salt, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture in two batches.
Peel and finely grate apples and squeeze all of the liquid out of them, discarding the liquid. I just coarsely grated my apples and you do get apple strips in the cookie, but I’m okay with that! Add rolled oats and 60g of the grated apples to the cookie dough and stir by hand. Break off pieces of the dough (size about 2 tbsp), roll into a ball and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment (leave 3inches between each cookie as they will spread while baking).
Place into the oven and bake for 15-20 min or until the cookies are a light golden brown. Leave to cool and set for about 10 min before transferring them to a wire rack. Makes 10-12 cookies!

Covent Garden London {Bakery Tour: Part 1}

Yesterday was a very rare occasion in that I was able to go to London, on a week day, kid free*!! A friend, who has recently relocated to London, and I took the day to catch up and to try a few sweet treats around Covent Garden!

Our first stop The Cupcake Bakehouse (formerly known as Ella's Bakehouse). We decided to buy two cupcakes and split them in half so we could both try them! The lady at the counter was very nice and helpful and cut them for us! We tried the Raspberry & Lemon and the Black Forest Gateau. Both were very soft and moist and full of flavor. The Raspberry Lemon was a white sponge with raspberries in the cake with a lemon butter cream. The Black Forest of course was a chocolate sponge with a hint of cherry topped with white butter cream, a cherry, and cherry drizzle. Before I went I had read a few reviews about this place not being very good, but I liked it and would definitely go back next time I am in Covent Garden!

Raspberry Lemon Cupcake

Black Forest Gateau

We then stopped for lunch at Jamie's Union Jacks. We shared, again, a pizza called the Old Spot (Slow-roast shoulder of pork, quince & Bramley sauce, Cropwell Bishop Stilton, cracklings & watercress). It was different, but in a good way! 

After lunch we grabbed a macaroon from Laduree!! We both choose the salted caramel macaroon! There were so many flavors to choose from and I had a hard time just picking one. Of course I didn't have to pick just one, but I didn't want to be greedy!! They were exactly what one would expect from a French macaroon! It was just what we needed as a sweet treat after lunch! 

We had some more time, after crossing off Primrose Bakery, Candy Cakes, and a few other sweet places from our list,* so we headed to Soho! One of the reasons I can't continue the post is I brought something back that I haven't eaten yet! Stay tuned for Part 2 coming later this week!! 

Places we went: 
The Cupcake Bakehouse: 20a The Piazza, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8RB  (now closed)
Jamie's Union Jacks:  5, North Hall, Covent Garden Piazza, London, WC2E 8RA (now closed)
Laduree1 The Market Building, Covent Garden London, WC2E 8RB 

*Don't worry I didn't abandon them! One was at school the other with her dad, who has the week off! 
*It's not that we would never visit those places (well Candy Cakes maybe, it's reputation isn't that great) it's just there were others in Soho I wanted to visit more!