DESIGN: They Draw and Cook site

This is a new one on me. They Draw and Cook is a wonderful site of visual recipes submitted by illustrators and artists from all over the globe. Practical? Not always, no. Beautiful? Mais oui. Submitting one myself is on my to-do list.

The site owners have also published a few books too. My favourite being this cocktail one.

Merry Christmas x

This year has gone by so fast I feel I haven't caught my breath. This time last year I was waddling around, a stone and a half heavier, and pretty much resigned to the sofa with a stash of tasteless rom-coms and chocolates. Christmas was pretty much cancelled as in my heavily pregnant state I wasn't in the mood to host a big dinner.

So much has happened and life has sure as hell changed beyond all recognition. Cocktails, late nights and beautifully unsuitable footwear have been traded in for strong coffee and playdates (I still wear beautifully unsuitable footwear and the last year has pretty much been one big all-nighter, albeit of the non-fun kind).

Life is slowly returning back to some sort of normal, I'm going back to work straight after Christmas (finding my brain again is on the to-do list) and although a little apprehensive and sad to not be running after my little boy 24/7, it will be nice to have a bit of the old me back. And this Christmas, our dining table will be full of family again (including the newest addition!).

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. Thank you so much for reading this little blog, especially for the die hards who have stuck with me despite my little blog break this year, I promise the new year will be filled with more recipes, reviews and food design finds and for those interested, you can follow my Baby Foodie blog with recipes and finds for little ones and family friendly local reviews.

Lots of love, eat, rejoice and all that sort of good stuff. Hope you all get what you want for Christmas (If you're reading this Santa, I just want sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.)


Christmas Baking Part 2: Bauble Cake

I do this to myself every year. As soon as the Christmas music starts playing in stores and the lights and tinsel starts emerging from storage, I succumb to the festive cheer and convince myself I enjoy baking, launching into a frenzy of icing sugar clouds and silver dragĂ©e chasing. Then I remember I don't really have the time, energy or will for it. And I don't even really like cake. But yet, here I am with this years' effort and I'll probably not stop there. Last year I made hundreds of meticulously iced gingerbread biscuits for all the neighbours. Go figure.

So here is my bauble cake. Not bad effort if I don't say so myself, although being a daft brush, I took a touch too much off the bottom and ruined the shape somewhat. I was going for a vintage bauble look although the husband thought it looks more like Holy hand grenade of Monty Python fame. Once I photographed the cake for the blog I seriously considered shoving it in his face :)

I created the base using Lakeland's new Hemisphere cake pans, which are quite useful as you previously would have to carve a square cake and waste (or if you are me, eat) the off-cuts. My first attempt I used a Fiona Cairns recipe which I should have known better than to use as everything I have made from her Bake & Decorate book has been a "royal" disaster. The cake was heavy, didn't rise much and the wouldn't have made a decent sphere following the pan's instructions to only fill by 2/3. The second attempt I just used a plain ol' classic sponge recipe with a little cinnamon and satsuma juice to flavour. This did rise but then got stuck in the pan even after hefty buttering. As it was quite a light sponge it was prone to breaking but I salvaged it with some crafty buttercream repair work.

The whole cake was then coated with an orange flavour buttercream, allowed to set for an hour before smoothing any ridges, then I rolled a thin layer of royal icing before piping and decorating. 

These tins are a fab idea but I think if you are a novice-ish baker like me, then a sample recipe for a classic sponge suitable for the pan would be a good thing to include on the packet (or their website), particularly ingredient amounts to fill the pans and oven temperature as you are left to guess to some degree. 

Which is a shame as I think I'd get a lot of use out of them if I could guarantee a faff free base. You could make a hill scene with green icing and some trees and skaters for the winter or picnic scene for the summer (well I thought that would be nice!), an island for a pirate theme, a ladybird or turtle for the kids, an igloo, numerous ball sports cakes (may do a Wimbeldon strawberry & cream tennis ball cake this year), planets, fruits... the list goes on. They would also be good as moulds for a semi-freddo, Baked Alaska or Summer Pudding too, so not just for Christmas.

Lakeland Hemisphere cake pans, from £2.99 (3 sizes available).

I was sent the pans to review.

Christmas Baking Part 1: Gingerbread Tree

I rarely bake, but I tend to have a burst of sugar induced baking energy right before Christmas in the hope that it will incite a bit of festive spirit. Being the misery I am, I need all the help I can get!

This one is a bit of a cheat really as it's from a ready-to-use kit. Waitrose kindly sent it to me and unlike the Delia cake kit, this one was a quick bit of fun. Something for the baking novice or the kids to have a go at. The kit contains ready made dough, ready for rolling, some white and green icing bags, green edible glitter and star templates. The template was paper which you had to cut out and keep trimming in order to get all of the star shapes but at £5 for the kit, you would be expecting too much for actual cutters. I suppose you could copy the template before cutting if you wanted to use it again with your own dough.

Bung the shapes in the oven for 15 and after cooling the fun can begin. I tried to go a bit "graphic" and iced a different pattern for each layer, then popped on a little clear glitter and some silver balls for a bit of *sparkle*. I also added an upright star to the top, as 'tis the season for as much bling as possible. Quite happy with it but as with my baking generally, it looked better in my head!

The gingerbread itself was quite tasty, although personally I like more of a burn in my nasal passage with my gingerbread. Still, from packet to belly in about an hour, I think this is a really sweet and simple kit to customise and get creative with.

The second part of my Christmas baking includes some equipment that could double up as breast enhancers and quite possibly a long rant about Fiona Cairns recipes.

I was sent the kit to review.