Organising a charity cake party {guest post}

Baking has become an increasingly popular activity, and it is an excellent way to raise money for a charity. A charity cake party can be easy to organise, relatively cheap to provide for, and thoroughly enjoyable for all that take part. People love to bake, and people love to eat cake. It is a sure winner.

First things first

The first thing to decide upon is which charity the cake party is going to raise funds for. Once decided, a member of the organising party needs to contact the charity to advise them of their intentions, get their approval and support, and most importantly, find out where to send the money raised.

The charity may already have some promotional material they can send to decorate the cake stall, but if not, then it is a good idea to create some. A pamphlet or even a flyer, providing a brief description of the charity and its causes, is easy to create on a computer and will serve to advertise the event.

However, the cake party might be for a new charity that an individual wants to set up, and if so, it may need to be properly registered with the Charity Commission. They will review an application to ensure it meets with certain criteria, such as the ability to raise more than £5,000 every year. People are always happier to make a donation if the charity has a registered number.

Gathering a workforce

Whilst baking can be fun and inexpensive, it can be labour-intensive, so invite family members and friends to help out, either with the baking or serving on a stall. It may sound a little exploitative but kids are great to have as sellers on a stall, as people find it difficult to refuse them. Make sure helpers do not disappear once the cake party is over, as there will be plenty of packing away and clearing up still to do.

Finding a venue

Popular venues for charity sales include church halls and schools, as publicity is easy to generate amongst a congregation or parents, and it allows the children connected with either organisation to really get involved.

It is a good idea to have an outdoor and inside space for the sale, so that if it rains, potential buyers need only step inside to carry on buying. Make the stall attractive with a tablecloth and cake stands, and it is also a good idea to provide some seating, such as diningtable sets, especially if teas and coffees are also on sale nearby. Nothing works better than a cup of tea and a slice of cake, so give buyers somewhere to sit and enjoy them. They may even come back for more.

Taking the money

Ensure that there is a cash box or other container to hold the money, and that there are plenty of coins available as change for notes. Some people may not want to buy the cakes, but may still want to make a donation, so have a large jar available on the stall for donations. 

~ Cheryl 

“Hot Doughnuts Nice and Fresh!"

I've tired to make fried doughnuts a couple of times now and have not been successful. 

I've baked doughnuts with no problem at all so, I didn't really think I'd have that much trouble frying them. Well, I was wrong about that. 

After reflecting I figure it’s probably due to over proving, probably not kneading right or enough, and not regulating the temperature of the oil.

It had to be one or all of those things!

Baked doughnuts are easier, but fried taste so much better! Who doesn't like fried dough?

So, using the first recipe I tried, I tried again!

This time with the results I wanted. They made the house smell delicious! I covered mine in Vanilla Sugar to give them an extra flavor.

Vanilla sugar is easy to make! Just place a vanilla pod, new or used, in a jar of sugar. Some stores now sell it if you don’t use vanilla pods often.

After rolling them in sugar they can be filled with jam or cream. They can be iced or made into rings, they are pretty versatile so use what you like!

I prefer a plain fresh doughnut without all the extra stuff.  So, I made these “Hot Doughnuts Nice and Fresh!" just the way I like them!

If any of my readers are also from Reading (Berkshire) then they will know where the phrase comes from! You cannot have walked down Broad Street without hearing it as the picture below informs us!

Fried Doughnuts:

500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour
50g/2oz caster sugar
40g/1½oz unsalted butter
2 free-range eggs
2 x 7g sachets instant yeast
10g/¼oz salt
150ml/5fl oz warm milk
130ml/4½fl oz water
Sunflower Oil or Crisp n Dry, to fry
vanilla sugar, to coat

For the dough, place all ingredients except a quarter of the water, into a stand mixer bowl. Mix on low until combined. Slowly mix the rest of the water into the dough and beat with the dough hook for 3-5 minutes or until the dough comes together and comes away from the side of the bowl. The dough will be sticky, but it shouldn’t be sticking to the side of the bowl. Also you should be able to handle the dough without it sticking to you.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for an hour or until doubled in size. Tip the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface, and knock it back by kneading it a few times. Do this part by hand, especially as you’ll have just cleaned your dough hook and bowl!

Divide the dough into 10 equal portions and shape each portion into a ball. I just folded the dough into itself to form a ball; I didn’t want to handle the dough too much. Place all balls onto a lined baking tray and allow to rise for another hour or until doubled in size.

In a large sauce pan, using sunflower oil or Crisp n Dry (what I used) heat the oil to160C-180C. Keep an eye on this, as I had to keep turning my heat up and down to keep it within the range I wanted. Lower each doughnut into the fryer, cooking each side for about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the doughnuts from the oil with a slotted spoon and immediately roll in the vanilla sugar so that the hot fat makes the sugar stick to the sides.

Set aside and leave to cool. Only just slightly! Fresh Hot Doughnuts are Nice and delicious!

notes: I showed off my failed doughnuts here! Recipe is adapted from The Great British Bake Off: How to turn everyday bakes into Showstoppers by Linda Collister. The Game of Throne's Image is from Spotted: Reading Town’sFacebook Page.

A Love/Hate Relationship & Vegan Cupcakes

I sat down to write this post and soon realized I was going on a rant about the Internet.

Then I thought I best rewrite and get to the point. The point being these cupcakes made for my daughter's birthday lunch with her friends.

My youngest turned 4 last Saturday and we had a few friends around for lunch the day before. One of her friend’s parents are vegan and they are raising their children as vegans too.

Since I've made some amazing vegan cupcakes using Ms. Cupcake's book, I turned to it again. 

She has a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake in the book, but Baby Baker wanted a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting so that’s what I made her!

They turned out pretty good! Of course the cakes turned out to be more for the parents then the children. Frosting was licked off and tiny bite marks were left on the cakes.

I consider that a success!

The cake was soft and chocolaty and the frosting was full of peanut buttery goodness! The parents liked them! 

In a nutshell, referring back to my rant I mentioned above, I do have a personal love hate relationship with the Internet.

However, when it comes to my children, I tend to err on the side of caution. I personally don’t think I would have appreciated my parents plastering my childhood over the Internet for the world to see. 

I respect that my children will one day be adults and, as I can’t predict how they will feel about it I don’t offer much information about them on here. Or to be far on any social media site - much to my long distance family and friends distress. 

I could go on and on about this subject, but since I already wasted about 20 minutes doing so then realizing I was rambling and it made no sense as a blog post I took a break and wrote something that made a bit more sense.

Question: Am I the only one who feels the same way? If you're of a generation, like me that grew up without the internet reflecting back would you like anyone being able to access your childhood photos and stories? Also would you like to try these cupcakes? Please leave a comment below or on twitter or facebook (oh the irony)! 

notes: for more vegan cakes and bakes check out Ms.Cupcake’s The Naughtiest Vegan Cupcakes in Town! I've had nothing but success following her methods!

Twinkies made with love by Janet

A while back I decided I wanted a Twinkie pan.

They don’t exist in the UK as far as I am aware.

They aren't that abundant in the US either from what I understand.

Anyhow I decided that it was something I had to have and I had to have it right away. So, my sister Janet sent me one and bought one for herself!

I have yet to use mine.

I've had it for like 6 months or so? I've also had this recipe she used and her pictures for about that same amount of time.


If you've been following my blog for a while, you may remember I would post what my sister Janet had baked recently. I called it “Weekend Baking with Janet” but I haven’t posted anything for her in a long time.

So, I gave her button an update and thought I better get some of her back-dated stuff posted! If you want to know a little more about my sister, check out the about me page or some of her old posts by clicking on the button on the side!

Here is how she made her Twinkies, it is an American recipe and uses cups. I also added a way to make them without the tin at the bottom. However neither of us have tried and tested the method. 

Twinkies cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
½  tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
½  tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350F and spray your molds with nonstick spray.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside. Combine the butter and sugar and beat at a medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, make sure each is completely combined before adding the next.
Reduce the speed and add flour mixture alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the vanilla extract and mix until just combined. Over mixing will make the cakes chewy.
Fill the molds with batter and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cakes are a light golden color and a tester inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool.

cream filling

2 tsp hot water
½  tsp salt
2 cups marshmallow fluff
½  cup shortening
1/3 cup powdered sugar
¼  tsp vanilla

For the filling, mix the hot water and salt in a small bowl and stir until salt is dissolved. Let cool. Combine the marshmallow cream, shortening, powdered sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl and mix with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy.

notes: If you don’t have a Twinkie or canoe pan, try folding a square sheet of aluminum foil in half lengthwise and then in half again to form a smaller square. Wrap the foil square around a 4-inch round spice container to form a canoe shape with the top left open. Remove the spice container and place the molds into a deep baking dish. The recipe was taken from this website. Twinkies were made by Janet, but I wrote the post! How I convert butter from cups to grams and so on…

How to Convert Butter

How I Convert Butter

For recipes on United Cakedom

1 ½



notes: not all butter is created equal, it depends on where you live and what your the cows ate and the amount of water etc... but generically you should be okay with any butter from the store. Try different butters until you find one you like to work with! 

Peanut Butter Birthday Crunch Cake

My littlest one had a birthday last Saturday and when I asked her what sort of cake I should make her she said “peanut butter.” Then I asked what she wanted for dinner (they always get what they want for dinner) I got the same response.

So, peanut butter it was. On Friday after nursery I made some chocolate cupcakes with a peanut butter frosting and on her actual birthday I thought I’d make this peanut butter crunch cake I had remembered reading about in the Outsider Tart book Baked in America.

I've been baking from this book now for 2 years and it’s finally dawned on me that they must use a fan-assisted oven. All the cakes I've baked from the book takes almost double the time suggested.

Anyhow we took her out for the day so I had a late afternoon start and because of the extra time needed to cook it through she went to bed without any birthday cake. Luckily she hadn't really noticed.

So, the following day I gave her a square after breakfast. It’s what we call in America a “coffee cake” because you eat it with a cup of coffee and since most people have coffee in the morning I thought it okay to give her as dessert after breakfast. Birthday’s are special and therefore I didn't feel guilty about giving her cake after breakfast. I already felt guilty enough for having terrible time management!

She took one look at it and declared she didn't like it. Didn't even try it, she just didn't like the look of it.

I should know better then to give a child a cake without frosting to be licked off and the cake left…

Lesson learned.

I liked it and everyone I pawned it off on liked it. So, despite the roller coaster of emotions I went through to please a now 4 year old it was a good cake!

Peanut Butter Crunch Cake

340g milk chocolate chips
115g smooth peanut butter

450g plain flour
450g light brown sugar
225g butter, softened
225g smooth peanut butter
4 large eggs
240ml whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb of soda
½ tsp salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180C fan-assisted or 200F for a conventional oven. Grease and line a tray bake tin 12x9x2 inches or 30x23x5 cm, lightly dust with flour tap out any excess.

Melt the chocolate chips and peanut butter in a bowl over a simmering pot of water. Stir occasionally, once melted remove from the heat and set aside. This is for a chocolate swirl in the middle and on top of the cake. (It reminds me of making puppy chow!)

In an electric mixer, on low, beat the flour, sugar, butter, and peanut butter until crumbs form. Remove 3 cups of the crumb mixture and set aside.

Add the eggs one at a time to the remaining crumb mixture. Then add the milk, vanilla, baking powder, bicarb, and salt. Beat until just combined.

Spread half of the batter in the prepared tin, then top with half the chocolate mixture gently swirl it together without combining before topping with the rest of the batter. Then drizzle the rest of the chocolate mixture on top.

Pour over the crumb topping you set aside and gently press down. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer test tells you that it’s done. Cover the cake with tin foil if the crumbs look like they are scorching. Let it cool completely before cutting up and eating!!

notes: recipe is from Outsider Tart’s Baked in America. I have skimmed back through the book and didn't read anywhere that they use fan-assisted. It could state it clearly somewhere? However, this is an observation I've made from baking from the book. Check out some of the other things I've baked from the book!

What’s for Dinner? Lunch? Breakfast? {a note to my readers}

In the past any time I ever posted anything savory it didn't get a lot of love from my readers. So, I learned to stick to the sweet stuff. I do feel more challenged by baking and desserts then I do everyday cooking.

That isn't because it actually is more challenging, but because I am my family’s cook. I cook everyday day, 3 times a day. Cookbooks were my first love, a love that is founded on necessity. I didn't know the first thing about cooking, besides Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (the blue box blues) and scrambled eggs.

So, I taught myself by reading cookbooks. I then discovered that I loved reading about food and where it comes from and then trying all the foods I read about. Then I got the baking bug and hence the blog started.

I’m getting to the point, I promise!

Recently I have been starting to swing back to cooking more then baking. Our dinners started to get very same-y and we needed to change it up a bit. So, (now finally at the point) I’m going to start adding in some of the meals I making for my family and the titles will start with “What’s for …” and I will insert dinner, lunch, or breakfast.

It’s also the question I get asked a lot. That and when will dinner/lunch/breakfast be ready??

Here are my first couple of posts: 

I hope you enjoy the addition of some of my family’s meals on here. I'd love to hear what you think? Please leave me a comment below or on facebook or twitter

A Holiday of Love {Oreo Truffles}

I have written in the past about how I’m not overly big on holidays. There are parts of holidays that I do enjoy and others I don’t.

It’s very conflicting actually. 

For instance, Valentine’s Day (today) I think it is an incredibly stupid holiday and probably the best of all the holidays.

I think it’s stupid that there is so much pressure put on couples to celebrate the holiday to prove that they are in love. Then it completely ostracizes those who are not coupled up and in love.

There are so many people in my life that I love. Why should it focus mostly on couples? Which is why I like the holiday. A day that celebrates love is a good day in my books!

I made these truffles for the two little people who I love more then anyone or anything in the whole world. It is for them that I celebrate this holiday of love. 

Oreo Truffles:

200g oreos or other sandwich cookies, crushed
100g cream cheese
283g (10oz/1pkg) of white candy melts

Mix the Oreo crumbs and cream cheese together, until completely combined. It will be sticky, but roll the mixture into about 12 one-inch balls. Place in the fridge for at least an hour; they can stay in for longer if need be.

When they are ready, but before you take them out melt the candy melts according to the instructions on the package.

Once it’s all melted, stick a fork into the candy melts before using it to pick up an Oreo truffle and dip into the melted candy melts, gently rock back and forth until covered. Very gently pull them out and let drip until smooth. Don’t worry too much about them being perfectly smooth if you are covering them in sprinkles.

Then set in a cupcake case or on a sheet of grease-proof paper. Cover with sprinkles right away because candy melts set fast. Repeat until they are all done!

notes: These were all over the internet a year or two ago, so it’s nothing new. However they are delicious. It’s the cookies and cream flavor covered in chocolate or candy melts that makes them a gorgeous treat! They also make great gifts and are really versatile! Decorate for any holiday, sports team, or special event!

I forgot to add that these are my entry for this month's Treat Petite, a monthly blogging challenge hosted by The Baking Explorer and Cakeyboi, this month's host. The theme is "Loved Ones" and I think these fit that theme perfectly! There is still time to enter so, head over to his site to find out more!

What’s for Dinner? {Udi’s Gluten Free Ancient Grain Crisp(y) Chicken}

Recently I had an opportunity to try out a new range of gluten-free products.

Udi’s is already a well-known brand in the USA and want to make a splash here in the UK with their amazing gluten-free food.

I decided to use their Ancient Grain Crisps, which come in Aged Cheddar and Jalapeno Cheddar flavors, to make Dorito Chicken as it's commonly known.

Basically you can use any chips/crisps that you want as a coating to make your own chicken nuggets.

I used a mixture of both flavors, since they were for the little ones I didn't want them to be too hot with only the Jalapeno Cheddar flavor. They weren't too hot on their own really, but they did have a bite to them.

Both flavors of crisps were tasty and made a great coating on the chicken. Both my girls ate them up and asked for more!

Udi’s Gluten Free Ancient Grain Crisp(y) Chicken:
Serves 2-3

250g chicken fillets
150g (1 cup) Dove’s Farm Plain White Gluten Free flour
2 medium eggs, beaten
100g Ancient Grain Crisps, crushed use one or both of the flavors!
about 200ml oil, to shallow fry

Coat the chicken fillets in the flour before dipping into the beaten eggs, then coat with the crushed crisps. Heat up the oil in a shallow frying pan. Once it’s hot enough, lower the heat and fry the fillets for 3-5 minutes on each side. Depending on how hot your oil is and how big your fillets on will all contribute to how long they take to cook all the way through. I always check the last one I put in, if it’s cooked then the rest will be cooked too. No one wants to eat partially cooked chicken.  

Serve with salad or rice and extra Ancient Grain Crisps of your choice!

notes: I was sent Udi’s products to review. Please see my contact/policy page for more information. Check out the review! For Udi’s full range check out their website!

Happiness in the form of Udi's Gluten Free Food

Udi’s, a gluten-free brand launching here in the UK, has the simple goal of creating the best gluten-free foods on the planet!

From what I've tried I have to say I don’t doubt they will achieve that goal! Considering they have already conquered the USA. 

Their mission is to provide those who suffer with Coeliac diseases, gluten sensitivities, or those who just want to cut down on gluten in their diets for a healthier lifestyle tasty alternatives.

Alternatives that will bring smiles to their faces and happiness in their hearts.

There will be two kinds of reactions to that last sentence; those who understand completely and those who just don’t.

Good food of any kind warms the soul, am I right? And those who suffer from food sensitivities or allergies shouldn't have to miss out.

My friend’s boss is a Coeliac and he can’t have dairy. She asked me as a special surprise for his birthday to make him some cupcakes. I managed to whip some up and gave him “the best cupcakes he has ever had.” It also gave him something he usually had to miss out on, birthday (cup)cake!

What I did for my friend’s boss and what Udi’s is doing for others like him, who have problems with gluten, is the exact same thing. We're giving them a chance to enjoy food! The only difference is they are doing it on universal scale!

I was sent a hamper of the first products they are lunching here in the UK, they are already very successful across the pond in America. After trying out everything they sent I look forward to their success and range widening here in the UK.

My favorite was the Cinnamon Sugar Bagel Chips; they made a perfect morning snack. My two little ones ate up the Toaster Pastries, Chocolate Chip muffin, Toffee muffin, and bagels without noticing they were any different from their normal breakfast/snack foods. I tried all of them as well and was very pleased with them.

Check out this post to see how I used up the Ancient Grain Crisps. Which were both very good, if I do say so myself.

Look for them in a supermarket near you! Or you could always contact them on their website or any of their social media sites. I am sure they will be more then happy to help you locate their amazing products.

notes: I was sent a hamper to review, all opinions are my own, please see my contact/policy page above for more information. I am a complete sucker for good presentation and Udi’s has great presentation! Loved the box it was shipped in!

UPDATE FEBRUARY 2017 - Udi's no longer operate here in the UK! 

Killer Zebra Cake {Clandestine Cake Club}

This month’s Clandestine Cake Club theme was “A Novel Idea” where we could create a cake inspired by any book we wanted!

I have several novels and childhood books that I have been inspired by to create edible treats from. Two years ago I had a whole week dedicated to Harry Potter treats. I made a dessert inspired by Neil Gaiman’s An Ocean at the End of the Lane last spring. It’s something I enjoy doing!

Sunshine by Robin McKinley was where I decided to draw my inspiration from this time.

It is a book I have read more then once and have come to love. It sounds like a nice sunshine and roses book, but it's far from it! That's all I'm going to say about that! 

It was a bit of an easy one as the main character Rae aka Sunshine works in a bakery.

She creates all sorts of delicious sounding desserts like Cinnamon Buns as-big-as-your-head, Hell’s Angel’s Food, Killer Zebras, a 6 layer chocolate chip cake, Bitter Chocolate Death, Butter Bombs, Cherry Tarts, Lemon Lechery, and many more.

I've always admired Robin McKinley’s creativity when it came to naming the desserts. I also always wondered where her inspiration came from for the names? Did she have certain desserts in mind?

Originally I was going to make a Bitter Chocolate Death Cake, but someone was suppose to bring Bruce Bogtrotter’s cake from Matilda. So, I thought since there were to be two very chocolaty cakes I would make something else. I needn't have worried as they didn't show, but ah well.

I just liked the way Killer Zebra’s sounded so, I made a stripy cake and the tasty frosting makes it “killer!” Um..hum yeah. Anyway .... It was a pretty good cake, not as rich as expected, but a perfect sweetness to a soft crumb. Yum!

Killer Zebra Cake:

260g unsalted butter, room temperature
420g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
430g plain flour, sifted
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
240ml whole milk
30g cocoa powder, sifted

Preheat oven to 180C conventional & fan assisted/gas mark 6. Prepare 2 15cm round cake tins, greased and lined.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until completely incorporated, scrap down after each egg. Remove half of the batter and set aside.

In a bowl sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Half it. In one half sift in the cocoa powder. Set both bowls aside. Measure out the milk, set aside.
In one half of the butter mixture add a half of the half of flour (so you’re adding a quarter) mix well before adding the vanilla and half of the milk. Then add the rest of the flour (another quarter to make half) mix well. That is your vanilla batter.

In the other bowl of batter mix in half of the cocoa flour, mix well before adding the rest of the milk, make sure that is well incorporated before adding the rest of the flour and mix well, but don’t over beat.

To create the zebra stripes, spoon about 3 tbsp of the vanilla batter into the center of each prepared pans. Then add 3 tbsp of the chocolate and repeat until the batter is gone. It will spread out don’t worry! Do not level out the top! Whatever you do it will work out.

Bake for 25-45 minutes depending on your oven. I used a conventional oven and it took at least 45 minutes, but the recipe suggests a fan-assisted oven 25-30 minutes. Use the skewer test to make sure it’s completely cooked. Cool in the tins for about 10 minutes before removing them and cooling completely on a wire rack.

vanilla buttercream

100g unsalted butter, softened
300g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
75ml double cream

Beat the butter for a few minutes before adding the sugar, vanilla, and cream. Beat on low, you don’t want icing sugar everywhere! Then once it comes together beat on high for a few minutes until it’s nice and smooth!

It was a very quiet night. I don’t know if it was due to the flooding around the Reading area, but there wasn’t the best turn out. Sometimes it is nice when it’s quieter as we get to chat and get to know each other a bit better! I always really look forward to "Cake Club night as my" girls call it. They also always remind me to save them some cake!

Louise made an amazing Lemon Sherbet Cake inspired by Dumbledore from Harry Potter. Clara and Fiona brought a delicious cherry cake in ode to Enid Blyton. Clare created an orangey loaf cake, that I can’t remember for the life of me what book it was suppose to be from! It was good though! I look forward to our next meet-up!

notes: Clandestine Cake Club: fine one near you! HarryPotter Week; Forgotten Blackbery Pudding inspired by Neil Gaiman, AmericanCupcake Life has a book club that is run by reading the book and creating something inspired by the book, I partake as often as I can! Recipe was taken from Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth.  

What does C stand for in a song sung by a monster? {Cherry & Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies}

It’s tough getting people to be involved in things. Or it’s tough to get people excited about being involved in something.

I’m a part of the PTA and this last Friday we held a Quiz Night for the parents as a fund-raiser for some new out door equipment.

It was a great night out! The entertainment and food were provided, but we could bring our own snacks and drinks. 

I like having wine night with my girls and the occasional cocktail when I’m out, but overall I’m not much of a drinker. So, I brought milk and cookies to the Quiz Night!

As I’m still trying to use what I already have in my over flowing baking cupboard; I used up some dried cherries, left over chocolate chips, and rolled oats to make these cookies.

They were a hit, I passed them around so I could look at other peoples sheets on the celebrity before-they-were-famous picture round… we couldn’t get #10. No one else had it… boo.

We did come in 3rd place! No real thanks to me I’m rubbish at British general knowledge.

I should just stick to baking cookies. These turned out great! They held up well when dunked in milk. The dried cherries and chocolate chips gave it a great sweet and sour twist! Enjoy!

Cherry & Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies:

170g unsalted butter, softened
320g light brown sugar
1 egg, medium
4 tbsp (60ml) sunflower oil
250g plain flour
½ tsp bicarb of soda
150g rolled oats
75g dried cherries
180g dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas4 and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and oil, mix until combined before sifting in the flour and bicarb. Add the oats and mix well, then add the cherries and chocolate chips and fold them in until fully combined. Roll the cookies into balls and place unto the prepared baking sheets, gently press each ball with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly.

Bake for about 20 minutes, switching shelves and rotating half way through baking.

notes: P-parent T-teacher A-association; I love Bellini’s and Pina Colada’s yum! Recipe was adapted from Home Baking by Jo Wheatley

What’s For Dinner? {Old El Paso}

Old El Paso’s Smokey Chipotle Chilli and Honey Casserole &/or Extra Mild, Super Tasty One Pan Rice Meal that's what! 

I do love my Mexican style food!

Old El Paso is a brand that I recognize from home and was happy to see once I made the move over the pond.

Plus my husband has always loved their Enchilada kits and so when given the opportunity to try out a few of their new range I said yes!

The Smokey Chipotle Chilli & Honey Casserole Recipe Mix was amazing! It had the right amount of kick without being too hot. 

This one is ideal with beef (casserole steak) and is great served with rice. It tells you on the packaging what you need to add, but you can always switch out what you like or don’t like or from what you have or don’t have.

For instance it suggests that you use a red pepper, well I already owned a green pepper, so that got used instead.

I think spice mixes are great because you can add whatever you want really. I’m not saying it will always turn out great, but at least you have an opportunity to experiment!

There is also a Creamy Poblano Pepper Casserole Recipe Mix I have yet to try, but look forward too!

The other new range they have recently come out with is the One Pan Rice Meals. I used my leftover roast chicken in the Extra Mild, Super Tasty One Pan Rice Meal.

That is my other favorite part of these type of all in one box meals, is that it’s a great way to use up leftovers. I usually make quesadilla’s with my leftover roast chicken, but this time I thought I’d try it in this One Pan Rice Meal instead!

It made everything sort of mesh together, so it didn't look as nice as the picture on the box, but it still tasted yummy! There was plenty for my family of 4 and for lunch the next day.

It has a nice citrus undertone to the mild spice flavor, definitely can see myself making this one again. 

The other flavor they have out now is Chilli & Garlic One Pan Rice Meal and I can’t wait to try that one out too! If it’s anything like this one I’m sure I won’t be disappointed!

Want to know more about their new products? Check out the Old El Paso website!

notes: Mexican style or Tex Mex as it’s sometimes referred as. Please be aware that if you are swapping ingredients it is wise to stay as close as possible to the amounts listed on the packaging. I was sent the Smokey Chipotle Chilli & Honey Casserole Reicpe Mix & the One Pan Rice Meal to try and review. For more information please see my contact/policy page above. 

Amazing Dessert Restaurants Around Europe {Barbara Strother}

For those who love food and love to travel, there's nothing that quite beats finding a great restaurant abroad. And while there are plenty of food preparation styles that are practiced internationally, it can be absolutely incredible eating a given country or region's specialties in those regions themselves, as authentically as possible!

However, it's not always easy to find the best of the best while practicing food tourism, so in this post we'll seek to identify some of the best dessert cafes, bakeries, and restaurants throughout all of Europe! Specifically, we'll be going into depth on a few of the best selections noted by Utrip in a 2012 article on the same subject.

La Pallaresa - Barcelona, Spain

La Pallaresa is a chocolate lover's dream come true. A cozy little chocolate restaurant and coffee shop located in Barcelona, it's a popular breakfast hotspot and known mostly for its decadent chocolate, and specifically its churros and chocolate menu selection. For those unfamiliar with this particular dessert, churros are essentially sweet, fried dough pastries, and considered excellent for dipping in coffee, or in this case rich hot chocolate! It's actually a fun and relatively simple dessert to replicate at home, and you can find a very nice churros and chocolate sauce recipe at Just A Taste. But if food tourism is your thing, you've got to try it at La Pallaresa!

Giolitti - Rome, Italy

Arguably the single most famous destination dessert on the planet, Roman gelato is a must for any food tourism enthusiast. And while there are various places well worth trying, none will impress a traveller quite so much as Giolitti. Wonderfully flavoured cake and gelato comes in various shapes, sizes, and even themes, with the beautiful "Olympic Cup" being a particularly appealing option.

Backerei Balzer - Berlin, Germany

A famous establishment mentioned by The Guardian as one of the top bakeries in Germany, this is an incredible destination for classic baked goods. Backerei Balzer has remained a family establishment since 1920, and recipes range from the unique specialty streusel and sugar yeast buns, to popular desserts like apple fritters, cheesecake, etc. done as well as you've ever tasted.

As with La Pallaresa, a visit to Backerei Balzer will have you itching to try out certain recipes at home. To get you started, My Smart Buy has several helpful buyers' guides on cookware and baking tools that you may need to pull off some of these wonderful desserts. These include knowing the basics and what you need to look for in terms of the proper equipment.

Indulge Dessert Lounge - London, England

A bit closer to home for many of our readers, the Indulge Dessert Lounge in London offers some of, if not the best dessert options in the U.K. Here you'll find a more traditional menu full of anything decadent you've ever wanted, from chocolate drizzled crepes, to brownies, cheesecakes, milkshakes, etc. Naturally it's a popular destination, but it's well worth the trip to the city if you have an itch for sweets.

For those who wish to dig a bit deeper, there are dozens and dozens of renowned bakeries and dessert locations throughout Europe. But to spark some ideas for your food tourism, these are a few of the very best selections out there. Enjoy!

~Barbara Strother