Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas crafts

The festive season is a time when foody bloggers everywhere are cracking out the sugar, chocolate, cream and cranberries to combine in ingenious ways to express their love for friends and family. For me, this year's little home-made offerings have mainly involved wool and fabric rather than edibles. Here's a selection which speak for themselves:

Felt and button advent calendar, one made for the Munchkin and Munchkinette, and one for Science Nephew

Jewellery case made for a secret santa with my new crafting buddies- we each provided materials and selected a pack for each other to make something from

Leopard and Snow Leopard costumes for the Munchkin and Munchkinette (pictured). I want one too!

And lastly, one which I forgot to photograph, but which its new owner fortunately did - this little gift which went to the lovely Johanna for her daughter Sylvia. I was sad not to be able to fit in a trip to see them when they were in Scotland last month, but you can read all about their holidays at Johanna's blog.

There are more coming, but not yet delivered to their recipients! In the meantime, have a happy festive season everyone! xx

Sunday, 20 December 2009

BIrthday cupcakes

I mainly write about my family on this blog, but The Scientist has a munchkin nephew of his own, too, and a couple of weekends ago we went to his first birthday party. His mum had asked if I'd do some baking (actually I think I'd asked her if I could do some baking!), so I went a little crazy with three types of cupcakes. I've noticed that even quite simple cupcakes are often the quickest things to disappear at party buffets, especially if they have pretty frosting, and I wanted to do my nephew proud.

These two types pictured here are both from the Magnolia Bakery vanilla cupcake recipe. I'm not much up on posh bakeries, but I think that this is the one popularised by Sex and the City. Hey, if it's good enough for Carrie it's good enough for Science Nephew. I found the recipe here, but added cocoa powder to half the batter to make half vanilla and half chocolate. The recipe was nice and easy, but I was interested to see that it uses both plain and self-raising flour. I don't know it that was the reason but the cupcakes were beautifully light and moist. I frosted them with a simple buttercream, again, half vanilla and half chocolate. And then I got a bit carried away and tinted half of the vanilla frosting pink just for the hell of it. A bit of sprinkling with hundreds and thousands finished them off.

We had to travel for a couple of hours to get to the party, so I took the cakes un-iced, and decanted the frostings into separate plastic containers, kept cool with an ice block. When we arrived I set up a little production line in the village hall kitchen, piping the icing onto some, and spreading it on to others. I did sustain a bit of a cartoon comedy cupcake injury half way through, when I stuck my finger into the plastic tip of the frosting bag to push out the last of the icing so I could wash it - and got my finger stuck! The little prongs on the tip jabbed into my finger so I couldn't pull it out again, and I had visions of having to go to hospital to have my domestic injury fixed. Luckily a bit of twisting and pulling, and running my finger under the cold tap so I couldn't feel it, and I got myself out again, and only a bandaged finger testified to my incompetence!

I was really pleased with my pretty cupcakes and they disappeared very quickly. The impact on the kiddy guests was a bit of a shock - the volume and energy levels soared immediately and I may have to look into a 'come-down cupcake' in future! The Munchkin and the Munchkinette got to sample one each when they visited us the next day, and although the Munchkin seemed to get as much on his face as in his mouth, they both loved them, and especially helping to decorate their own. Kiwi Sis is bringing them up to be good little baker-helpers :)

Just by way of comparison, a week or two later I made some more cupcakes to send to a friend, and this time I tried the Hummingbird bakery's recipe. It was quite similar to the other one, but came out quite a bit denser. I don't know if it's because I halved it, and got the quantity of liquid a bit out, but the batter was definitely less runny. I liked the Magnolia ones better but my friend liked her gift very much, and The Scientist thought that they tasted like doughnut in cupcake form. I'm keen to make them again and put some jam in the middle to test this further! Oh, and in looking up how best to post the second batch, I came across this very funny post. Needless to say, I didn't send them off in a jiffy bag :)

Thank you for all the nice comments while I've been offline. Now that teaching is over for Christmas I hope to get back to the blog a bit more.

Magnolia bakery cupcake recipe here