February Round Up: The Going On's and Happenings on United Cakedom

This month started out with flapjacks! I added some chocolate covered cranberries I had picked up at Home Sense. I love that store. It’s dangerous every time I go in there because I always come out with something. They have you backed into a corner because if you find something you like, the chances of them being there when you go back can be slim to none!

Then Sainsbury’s set me their panna cotta mix to try out. I decided to infuse the milk and double cream with black pepper and topped it with caramelized peaches and a drizzle of caramel sauce. It was delicious and inspired by an ice cream I had at an innocent (smoothie) event I attended a couple years ago.

For Valentine’s Day I made a no-bake Chocolate Cherry Tart! It was rich and delicious… one thin slice is all anyone could manage in one sitting. So no one had to worry about pits I used a Cherry Pitter from OXO Good Grips that they sent me to use.

I also received a copy of Deliciously Decorated by Charlotte White to review. The book is full of great decorating tips and tricks! The Giacomo Casanova: Venetian Romance design was my inspiration for these cupcakes:

Other things that inspire me are books!! This month I made Silky’s Pop Cakes inspired by The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton. My girls really enjoyed eating something they read about from the book we've been reading before bed.

Speaking of my girls my littlest one turned 5 in the middle of the month and she requested a turquoise butterfly cake. I did my best and she was happy with the result!

February is full of birthdays including my friend Cathy who turned 30! She has a love of Lucky Charms and so as a special birthday treat I made her Lucky Charm Bark! I think she was pretty happy with it! I tried some too and it was pretty tasty, but mostly I loved the colors!

And last but not least I wrote my first Five on Friday in months! I hope to be better at keeping it up and it becomes a regular thing. I brought it back with five pans and tools that I bought, but have yet to use! I get all these great ideas and I buy things I NEED to make said great idea. However, things don’t always go to plan! Does this happen to you too?

That’s all for February!! March is going to be a bit book heavy as I've been doing a lot of reading! There are reviews and cake and brownies and much more!  

Five on Friday: Five Baking Pans & Tools that I Haven’t Used

Since I started taking baking a bit more seriously I have inquired an over abundance of baking pans, tins, and tools. Some get used all the time like the 8 inch round and square tins and the brownie pan and even my first bundt tin has seen many bakes! There are ones that have only been used once or twice like the 10-inch square pan and heart doughnut pan. Then there are the ones that have never ever ever been used at all!

I haven’t done a Five on Friday in a while and I kind of wanted to get back into it. Here is a list of five baking pans and tools that I haven’t used … yet.

Twinkie Pan or Canoe Pan:
Somewhere in America
Back a while ago now Hostess announced that they were going bankrupt and some people were freaking out that they wouldn't have their Twinkies and Ding Dongs! In the midst of all the news media I was desperate to get my hands on a Twinkie pan or the generic name canoe pan; for no other reason but to capitalize on the news. My sister managed to get a hold of one for me and she bought one for her. She used it and I posted about it here, but I have never used mine. I made a pretty big deal about getting a hold of one, I suppose I should get creative and make my own Twinkies!

Nordic Ware Cookie Cups Pan
This was an impulse buy. I just saw it and I wanted it. So, I bought it and I have yet to decide what to make in it. Thinking mini fruit pizzas... or something to do with peanut butter and chocolate? 

Marshmallow Cutter
I bought this only last year as I have been meaning to make marshmallows for like ever! I even bought some natural flavorings to make flavored marshmallows and still haven’t gotten around to making them! 

Pie Dish
TK Max
I love the movie Waitress where the main character creates and names pies according to her mood. It’s very inspiring to make pies! However I haven’t even started brainstorming pie ideas yet alone make one! I have a pie tin, but it is not very deep and so I bought this one a while back, as it’s nice and deep, but I haven’t actually got around to using it. I should re-watch it and get inspired again!

Individual Square Pan
I bought this as an idea I had for individual cakes. I don’t want to revel too much as it’s still on my to make list. It was purchased 2 ½ years ago! It’s probably about time I get my self-motivated to make my brilliant idea!

notes: I bought all these products, for more information see my contact/policy page. 

Lucky Charms Bark

It’s funny how sometimes the simplest treats are the best and most popular. Bark is just melted chocolate covered with whatever you want and then smashed into pieces. Simple. 

To be completely honest I used to think bark was a stupid idea. I mean it’s just melted chocolate covered in whatever. It’s like why go through all that to make your own chocolate bar? 

But now, now I get it. Making your own chocolate bar is awesome! You can make it literally whatever you want! Because it’s so versatile it makes a great gift!

My friend has a love, which is somewhat un-natural, for Lucky Charms. Instead of just wrapping a box of Lucky Charms up for her birthday I thought I would try to be creative with them!

I had thought of a few over complicated things and instantly dismissed them because time hasn't been on my side recently. Then I thought, “keep it simple stupid” as the guys on Fast and Loud always say.

That’s when I thought about bark and then I made it for her a week late and then it took me two days and a lot of hand slapping before I got it to her. Hand slapping because I had to keep my husband from stealing it!

Lucky Charms Bark

150g of Lucky Charms cereal
50g of Lucky Charms marshmallows
400g white chocolate
200g milk chocolate

In two separate heat proof bowls gently melt the chocolate. In a tray bake tray lay out the Lucky Charms cereal. Once the chocolate is melted pour over the cereal in any way you like, but so that it covers the cereal completely. Then sprinkle over the marshmallows and gently press down. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour or so to cool before breaking up with a knife. Then bag it up fancy or just bag it up if you’re not giving it away.

notes: I used Chocolate Lucky Charms that I bought at a little newsagents under the parking garage in the Oracle, Reading. They sell lots of American treats and in a pinch that’s where I go! 

Chocolate Birthday Cake {butterfly}

A little something for the weekend!! I just wanted to share some pictures of my daughter's birthday cake from last weekend.

She turned five. Five is a big deal! It means she's officially left the toddler stage, even if she can still throw a great tantrum and has entered the world of being a proper little girl.

There are a few things I miss about her being little, but I love watching her become herself more! It's the best part of being a parent seeing them grow up and watching them discover who they are even though you already know! 

I was instructed that it had to be a chocolate cake and turquoise and have a butterfly. I think it was a bit more green than blue to be turquoise, but other than that I think I did alright! 

Silky’s Pop Cakes! Inspired by The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton

My favorite part about being a parent is sharing my love of books with my girls. Okay my favorite part is hearing two little voices tell me that they love me and then talk back to me all in the same sentence. That is my favorite part, but my second favorite part is sharing my love of books with them.

I am pretty lucky that they both enjoy a good story! Now that they are a bit older I made an executive decision to start reading them a chapter book before bed instead of children books. I don’t mind some of the children’s books like The Gruffalo, but some are tedious. When I say some I mean at least half of them. It’s great that they can read these books themselves now which means I don’t have too.

We started with The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton and we've been reading one or two chapters a night. We’re almost finished. I was just as excited as they were because I've never read it before either. So, far we've enjoyed the journey’s up the tree and meeting all sorts of crazy characters like Moonface, Silky, Mr. Whatshisname, and The Saucepan Man.

The tree not only has interesting characters living in the tree, but interesting treats. The one that intrigued us the most was Silky’s pop cakes that are small cakes that have a delicious honey filling.

So, one afternoon we made our own version of Pop Cakes, no way are they as good as Silky’s I’m sure, but they turned out pretty darn good!

We made honey cakes, filled them with a bit of honey and popping candy they were super tasty and made a perfect after school treat!

Pop Cakes!

110g unsalted butter
75g light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 eggs
150g self-rising flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon milk
12 tsp of vanilla flavored honey
12 tsp of popping candy (optional)

Heat the oven to 180C and line a muffin pan with fairy cake liners. Beat the butter before adding the sugar and honey beat until lighter in color. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined, beat slowly then fast it might look a little curdled but once you add the flour, which you should do now it will be fine. Add the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and milk and mix until combined. Spoon one tablespoon into each fairy cake liner. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes.
They should be a nice golden brown color. Once they have cooled gently take an apple corer and take out the middles, but save the cake part. Then whisk the honey and popping candy together before adding a tsp of the mixture into each hole in the cakes replace the cake that was taken out and press down.

Icing: Now I iced them with a little bit of icing sugar, milk, and honey. I didn't think to weigh it out I just eyeballed it as I didn't want a lot. It was probably about 100g of icing sugar 1-2 tsp of milk 1-2 tsp of the vanilla flavored honey. Then I took about a tablespoon and drizzled it on top of the cakes and sprinkled a pinch of popping candy on top of each one!

Have you read The Enchanted Wood? If you have, did you always wonder what Silky’s Pop Cakes with there gooey honey centers might taste like?

If you haven’t have you read anything else by Enid Blyton? What one of her novels/books was your favorite?

notes: This post is written in conjunction with my new project #storybookbakes, it is where I will be sharing recipes that were inspired by some of my favorite books!

The last book I was inspired by was Paddington and I made Huffkin’s!!

Deliciously Decorated by Charlotte White {book review}

Decorated cakes have always impressed me. I am especially fond of artistically creative ones, but I have never really felt confident to decorate cakes myself.

Charlotte White writes in her introduction: “Contrary to popular belief, I am no magician and I do not own an enchanted oven. What I do possess are a series of tricks that I use to transform my cakes into little works of edible art.”

It is within her book that she shares her tricks! She really takes the time to go through each step and the book includes pictures! Which is extremely useful for new time decorators as myself. After I read the book through I couldn't wait to get started!

Now the baking part was easy, I halved the recipe for the Chocolate Mud Cake to make cupcakes. It’s an absolutely gorgeous chocolate cake, by the way! The Giacomo Casanova: Venetian Romance design (pictured below) inspired me; I really liked the purple and gold color combination.

Since this weekend was Valentine’s Day and since it was my first time working with royal icing sugar I kept it simple with some love hearts! This was my first time working with royal icing and I've only ever used fondant a handful of times before. Therefore I wanted to make something I was comfortable with.

I struggled a bit with the consistency of getting the royal icing quite right. It was still a bit wet as some of the dots were a bit drippy looking. I realized I have a lot to learn about royal icing and I am glad I have Deliciously Decorated to help me!

I had a lot of fun making these cupcakes from start to finish and here are a lot more techniques and tricks I have to look forward to trying out!

Here are a list of the designs I am inspired by:
Autumn: Golden Leaves Cake
Winter: Frosted Wonderland Cake (pictured above)
Candy Cane Cake for Christmas (pictured above)
Glamorous Ganache Cake (pictured above)
Organic Lines Ombre Cake (pictured above)
Wisteria Stained Glass Cake (pictured above)
Carry on Glittered Heart Cookies (pictured below)
Judy Garland: Dorothy’s Ruby Red Slippers
Scarlett O’Hara Southern Belle
Marie Antoinette: Rococo to Revolution (pictured/cover)

The best part of this book is that once the techniques have been learned they can be used to create your own creative cake masterpieces! Overall I think the book offers a lot for newbie cake decorators, like myself, and a lot for those who have been decorating for years! As I always say – you learn something new every day! So, why not learn with Charlotte White’s Deliciously Decorated!

notes: Deliciously Decorated by Charlotte White was provided for review by the publishers Ryland Peters & Small - all opinions are my own, for more information please see my contact/policy page above.

No-Bake Chocolate Cherry Tart {Valentine's Day Dessert}

This weekend couples all over the world will be celebrating the ultimate day of love and romance, Valentine’s Day. (This Saturday if you didn't already know!)

Basically it started because of a guy named St. Valentine and apparently he married couples that were refused by the church. He was jailed for it, but while in jail he “healed” the jailer’s daughter. Before he was executed he gave her a card and signed “Your Valentine” as a way of saying goodbye. It wasn't until the High Middle Ages that the day became associated with “romantic love.” Courtly love was very popular then and it’s them we have to blame for the mushy over the top lovey dovey crap we see today.

By that last statement you may think that I am a bit of a cynic or something, but I do love the idea of a holiday that celebrates love. As Frozen has taught us love saves and heals us and that I think is worth celebrating!

Another thing that ‘heals’ people is chocolate. Chocolate is associated with many things and during this love holiday it’s a popular choice of gift and celebratory treat!

Why not wow your loved ones with this amazing No-Bake Chocolate Cherry Tart!

It’s easy and delicious and rich. All the things you want in a Valentine’s Day dessert. Chocolate pairs very well with most fruits and especially with red berries like strawberries, raspberries, and cherries.

Cherries can be a bit tricky because of their pits, but if you have a cherry pitter tool it makes pitting the cherries easy peasy lemon squeezy. OXO Good Grips sent me a cherry pitter to try out, along with a 3-piece Berry Bowl &Colander Set that came in handy when rinsing the cherries before placing them in creamy chocolaty ganche and I used my OXO Good Grips small silicone spatula when mixing my ganache. 

Wait no longer here’s how I made this rich Chocolate Cherry Tart!

No-Bake Chocolate Cherry Tart

419g of chocolate cream filled Oreo Cookies
100g butter, melted
200g dark chocolate, broken up
200g double cream
30-35 cherries, pitted and rinsed

Gently butter a 9 in or 22 cm tart tin and set aside. Place the chocolate biscuits (3 (UK) packages minus four cookies (to eat)) in a food processor and pulse until they look like breadcrumbs. Add the butter and pulse a couple more times until the crumbs and butter combine. Pour into the tin and press down and up the sides of the tin, try to even it out as best you can. I just used my hands it was the easiest way to get it pushed down.
Place in the fridge to cool while you pit the cherries and make the ganache. Pit the cherries according to the instructions of the pitter tool. In a heat proof bowl place both the broken up chocolate and double cream and set on top of a simmering pan of water. Gently stir with a spatula while it’s melting. Once it becomes a smooth shiny ganache pour into the tart tin and then add the cherries. Place in the fridge until ready to serve.

notes: In association with OXO, for further information see my contact/policy page and also check them out they have some great kitchen tools! Recipe is adapted from mowielicious blog. Also I did a short spontaneous video and I uploaded it here. It’s un-cut and I didn't know what I was trying to say half the time, but I thought I’d post it anyway! Let me know what you think!!

Black Pepper Panna Cotta with Caramelized Peaches & Caramel Drizzle {product review}

After you read the title you may think I am crazy. Perhaps I am, but that is neither here nor there. 

A couple years ago I went to a taste event hosted by the Innocent Smoothie peoples and they served us pepper ice cream with canned peach slices and caramel sauce. 

It really didn't sound appealing to me, however I try everything once. It was good. It was unbelievably good. The combination just worked and I was thoroughly impressed.

I swore I would attempt it at home, but wasn't really sure a whole batch of pepper ice cream would go down well in my family where half of us are little people who only like strawberry ice cream. So, I hadn't recreated it at home.

Then when I had the opportunity to try Sainsbury’s Panna Cotta Mix, the whole pepper/peach/caramel combo just felt right. I did and I was not disappointed. It was very similar to the pepper ice cream that I was happy with it. The Sainsbury's mix had clear and easy instructions. It makes a simple and easy dessert!

I was also correct as in my girls took one taste and went blech. If you think you may be like my girls and think blech at the pepper in your panna cotta then just make it without and continue you on with the peaches!

Panna Cotta
            250ml milk
            250ml double cream
10g Black Pepper Corns

Follow the instructions on the box, but while you are heating and stirring the milk and double cream add the peppercorns. Once the mixture is ready sieve out the peppercorns and discard. Pour the panna cotta mix into desired moulds, bowls, or glasses as I used here. Chill for 4 hours or more.

Before serving make the …

Caramelized Peaches
2 fresh peaches, sliced
50g golden caster sugar
¼ tsp sea salt flakes
4 tablespoons caramel sauce

Combine the sugar and salt and coat the peach slices in the mixture. Fry on a dry skillet/frying pan until the sugar starts to turn amber, flipping the peaches through out.
Divide between each glass with the set panna cotta and drizzle the caramel sauce on top. Enjoy!

notes: In association with Sainsbury’s, all opinions are my own for further information please note my contact/policy page. Fresh peaches in this country are just not up to par with the peaches I had in the states growing up, so please use frozen or canned peaches if that suits. Just be sure to pat dry the canned peaches. 

Find out what else I tried at the innocent inspires event here
I have made panna cotta before here

Chocolate Covered Cranberry Flapjacks {not pancakes, but chewy granola bars}

If I were asked how to describe a flapjack I would say it was a chewy granola bar. However if a flapjack is baked for a bit longer it ceases to be flapjack any more it becomes a granola bar.

Granola Bars are usually baked longer and are crunchy, but where I come from we have chewy granola bars. Which are flapjacks.

When I was a young girl in America I loved a chewy chocolate chip granola bar. It was probably more like a chocolate candy bar, but you know. We didn't call them flapjacks because in America “flapjacks” are a slang term or sort of nickname for pancakes.

However I no longer think of flapjacks as pancakes. It’s one of the few words that I have adopted since living in the UK.

There are very few words I have adopted; I still say sidewalk, garbage, zucchini and pants. That last one does get me in trouble occasionally. My girls are at the age where things like “pants” or “knickers” are funny. So, I have started to get giggles when I tell them to get dressed and pick out a pair of pants.

No idea why some words have changed and some haven’t I say “chips” for both crisps and French fries to which my husband understands in context. If I say “We’re having fish and chips for dinner” he knows I mean French fries and if I say I want chips and dip he knows I mean crisps. Sometimes he does clarify just to be sure.

No matter if these are called flapjacks or chewy granola bars they are still chewy and they are still good. So, you should make them and eat them.

Chocolate Covered Cranberry Flapjacks

250g butter
200g golden caster sugar
50g demerara sugar
175g golden syrup
500g jumbo oats
200g of chocolate covered dried cranberries

Heat the oven to 180C/350F and line and grease a 20 or 23 cm (8 or 9 inch) square pan or whatever size you have.
Heat the butter, both sugars, and golden syrup in a medium saucepan until the butter is melted don’t let it boil too much if the butter is almost melted take off the heat and stir it until the butter is completely melted.
Add the jumbo oats and stir to coat.
Fold in the chocolate covered cranberries.
Pour into the prepared pan and press down. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes remember if you bake them too long they are granola bars, not flapjacks.
Remember they set as they cool so even if they are looking a bit soft it’s okay. Score before they cool completely.

If you like this post you may like these:

notes: I made these with dark, milk, and white chocolate covered dried cranberries I found at a TK Max if you don’t have chocolate covered cranberries substitute with chocolate chips and dried cranberries in any combination of weight you want to add up to about 200g combined. I looked for a flapjack recipe online and in my library of cookbooks this recipe is a mix of what I found. I didn't use just one recipe.