Festive Chocolate & Cranberry Buns

19 December 2013

These little beauties are the Chocolate & Cranberry Buns I made and took to the after-school mulled wine & cake sale yesterday. I would normally opt to bake a sponge type cake, but I really want to broaden my culinary repertoire with more bready-bakes. It is something I am going to strive to spend some time doing in 2014 - bake bread, buns and pastries. I think it's a bit of an art, and I do find baking with yeast a little daunting. I remember talking to my local baker, saying how I'd love to be able to make a decent loaf and he told me it just takes practice - lots of it. Perfecting a satisfactory loaf seems a great post Christmas pastime. I shall put it on my January 'to do' list.

The House That Lily Built

16 December 2013

This weekend we had another pre-Christmas get-together with friends. But this time Lily took over the 'baking duties'. Along with presents and a festive refreshment, we took along this Gingerbread House that Lily decorated. With six children between the ages of 1 and 8, it was the perfect occasion for such a treat.

I'd never made a Gingerbread House before, but thought, that at the age of 8, Lily might like to give one a go. After a busy week, I decided to cheat a little and purchase ready-made gingerbread (something I would never normally do). However on opening our little flat-packed biscuit house, I found that a wall and one of the roof sides had broken. So, not wanting to disappoint Lily, who was very enthusiastic about her forthcoming house project, I baked the gingerbread from scratch. All in all, it turned out to be a very labour intensive project, but I think you'll agree Lily did a sterling job with the decoration. 

A Festive Chocolate + Ginger Cake

12 December 2013

Christmas started at the weekend for us when we went to a friends Christmas party. The same weekend each year, our friend puts on the most Christmassy of gatherings. I wrote about it a couple of years ago here. This year I baked this Chocolate + Ginger cake to take along. It's adapted from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. You can replace the ginger preserve with the preserve of your choice. I've had successes with raspberry, marmalade and fig, but somehow the ginger version really comes into its own at Christmas. It's a super-quick recipe, perfect for this busy time of year.

Chocolate Ginger Cake.

125 g unsalted butter
100 g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300 g good-quality ginger preserve
150 g sugarpinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
150 g self-raising flour
icing sugar to decorate (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Grease and line the base of a 20 cm spring-form tin with baking paper and set aside.
Put the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and set over a low heat to melt. When it’s almost melted, stir in the chocolate and allow it to melt a little. Take the pan off the heat and stir until the butter and chocolate are smooth and melted. Add in the ginger preserve, sugar, salt and eggs and stir well until everything is combined. Sift in the flour and stir again (taking care not to overmix), then pour the batter into the prepared tin. Bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before you turn it out. Once it’s completely cooled decorate as desired, or leave completely plain. 
For this occasion I topped the cake with drizzled icing and silver balls and a festive scene. It can also just be finished off with a little icing sugar passed through a sieve, like a dusting of snow. Simple.
Photography: Buttercup Days

A Christmas Wreath

9 December 2013

Christmas, for me, is a great excuse to set those creative juices flowing. I've always hankered after the idea of making my own wreath and this year I finally put it into practice. I attended a local wreath-making evening class last week and this was the result. It's not perfect, but I was really pleased with it being my first attempt and all that. 

There were about 25 of us in the class and after watching a demonstration we were left to our own devices and the array of materials on offer. It was easy enough to make once I had mastered the wiring together of the foliage. I kept it natural and relatively simple and included bay, cinnamon sticks and dried orange to give it a delicious aroma. 

Granted, it's not a very rock n' roll way to spend an evening, but my home now has a lovely festive front door and that pleases me no end. A sign of the times I guess.

Beetroot & Ginger Soup

8 December 2013

I've had my first mince pie of the season. They are my biggest festive weakness and I've done well to hold off until now. There will no doubt be many tempting treats to be had over the coming month, so to balance things out a bit, I'll make sure I cook plenty of healthy meals. Soup is always a winner in our house - it's packed full of goodness, it's quick to make and the kids lap it up.

This week I shared one of my favourite winter soup recipes, Beetroot and Ginger Soup, over on Heart Home. For the recipe just pop over to the Heart Home blog.

Recipe: Scandilicious
Photography: Buttercup Days

P.S. Do you like the new Buttercup Days banner? I opted to change to this black & white illustration to allow the photography to take centre stage. There is still a bit of tweaking to do but it almost there.
Thanks to Keith & Mark at Absolute Zero° for doing their magic with the illustration and to Milly at Cow Systems for making it all work.

Chocolate Cake

26 November 2013

I didn't mean for it to be so long - seven weeks is some lapse of time, even for me. I can't even come up with a credible excuse for it. No, the reason for the delay in posts is simply that life took over. This blog has to play second fiddle to all the other stuff - the business, the kids, school, running the house and everything else that makes up a busy life. 

I have been busy on the blog in a behind-the-scenes kind of way though. I now have a wonderful new logo and banner, which will replace the one you are seeing now. Someone, who is very clever with blog design, is putting it all into place for me (tweaks will have to be made), but I ought to be unveiling my new look to you very soon and I, for one, am quite excited.

Until then, I have a recipe for you: Chocolate Cake. I've made numerous Chocolate Cakes over the years, each with varying degrees of success, but this one came up trumps. It really is the perfect recipe for a chocolaty celebration cake. It does have a hint of 'mocha' to it due to the inclusion of coffee in the sponge and the icing - swap the coffee for milk if you think you'd prefer it.

This particular cake came about when a friend asked me to bake one for her daughters birthday party. She required it to be undecorated so she could add the final touches herself to fit in with the theme of the birthday party. Had I been required to decorate it, I would have gone to town with fresh blousy flowers. 

Chocolate Cake

For the sponge:

  • 180g dark chocolate
  • 200g butter
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee
  • 85g self raising flour
  • 85g plain flour
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g dark brown sugar
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder 
  • 3 large eggs at room temp
  • 75ml buttermilk 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the icing:
  • 175g dark chocolate
  • 75g butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125ml sour cream (or cream)
  • 300g icing sugar 
  • 1 tsp of instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 - 2 tbsp of water

  • Preheat the oven to 160℃ / fan 140℃ and grease a 20cm round cake pan and line the base with baking paper.

  • Break the chocolate into pieces into a small pan and add the butter. Dissolve the coffee with 125ml of cold water and add to the butter and chocolate mixture and melt over a gentle heat. Once melted, set aside to cool.

  • In a large bowl sift the 2 flours and bicarb. Add the sugar and cocoa and stir until it’s all combined.
  • In a separate bowl, or large jug, beat the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the buttermilk and beat again. 
  • Add the cooled chocolate and egg / buttermilk mixture to the dry flours and fold together.

  • Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1 hr 25 min – 1 ½ hours. Check by piercing the cake with a small sharp knife or skewer – it should come out clean. The top of the cake will be firm and may have a few cracks. This is fine as you'll cover it with icing. Allow the cake to completely cool in the tin and then carefully remove from the tin and peel off the paper. Cut in half horizontally ready to finish with the chocolate icing.

  • To make the chocolate icing, break the chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl with the butter, suspended over a pan of simmering water. When melted add the syrup and cream and stir to combine.

  • Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the chocolate mixture. Beat with an electric beater until combined and smooth. Finally add the dissolved coffee and stir to incorporate. Use the icing to fill and cover your cake.

Photography: Buttercup Days
Recipe: Adapted from BBC Good Food Magazine

My Pop-up Tearoom for Macmillan Cancer Support

1 October 2013

On Friday morning I transformed my living room into a pop-up tearoom for two hours to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. I was slightly nervous as to if many people would turn up, but I needn't of worried. I don't think my living room has ever had so many people in it at once. Neighbours, friends, parents from Lily's old school and parents from Lily and Arthur's new school all came and enjoyed homemade cake and tea, and best of all, they all donated so very generously. 

It is hard work preparing and holding this little event; I make all the cakes myself (I even made the tablecloth!), but the support from everyone makes it so worth the effort. This year I made £355.00 (£120 more than last year). The power of cake eh!

Photos: Buttercup Days

Those Chocolate Swirl Meringues That We Ate On The Beach.

16 September 2013

It now seems an age away, but less than a month ago, some friends came to visit for the day. It was their annual summer trip down to seaside: they still live where we used to live in Middlesex. With five children between us we headed to the beach in the afternoon. I bought each of our child guests buckets and spades and made an afternoon tea picnic to enjoy before paddling in the sea. I took along a Blackberry, Almond & Cardamom Cake and these Chocolate Swirl Meringues, for which my friend Reena requested the recipe. So Reena, here as promised is that recipe. It's one to do of an evening when your gorgeous children are tucked up snuggly in bed and you feel like a bit of pottering about in the kitchen. 

Chocolate Swirl Meringues

100g good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped or broken
3 large egg whites
150g caster sugar
cocoa powder, to serve

Makes approx 12

Preheat the oven to 150℃ / 130℃ fan / gas mark 2 and line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment.

Heat the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water until melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Put the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously, until all the sugar has been incorporated and the mixture is very stiff and glossy. Drizzle the cooled melted chocolate over the meringue and use a metal spoon to fold it gently through to create a marbled effect with bold chocolate streaks running through the mix.

Carefully place spoonfuls of meringue in 12 large dollops on the baking trays, making billowing peaks on each one with the back of a spoon.

Put the tray in the oven and cook the meringues for 30 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them to cool and dry in the oven overnight.

To serve, pile haphazardly on a large plate or decorative dish and dust with a little cocoa powder.

Recipe: Bill's Cookbook: Cook Eat Smile.
Photography: Buttercup Days

That Week in September + Naked Cakes

13 September 2013

September is a crazy month for us. It starts with a new school year (or in this years' case - new schools), it's the busiest month of our business year and at the end of the month I will be hosting a pop-up tearoom at home as part of Macmillan Cancer Support's 'World's Biggest Coffee Morning'.

The kid's have been settling in well at school, particularly Lily. Arthur is mostly taking it in his stride, but is coming home (at lunchtime!) exhausted. He is due to start full-days after next week - I'm unsure if he is ready for it. We have the option to keep him part-time till after Christmas, so we'll see how he goes next week and decide.

Next week David and I are off to London to play our part in the London Design Festival. As last year, we will relocate our press office to Tent London. This years show, along with its sister show Super Brands London, looks set to be an must-see design event. My three-part review from last year can be found here, here and here, if you want to get a flavour of it. It's well worth a visit.

My parents will be coming to stay and look after the kids, ferrying them to and from school and taking in swimming lessons and cinema trips already scheduled for next weekend. I couldn't think of anyone better to leave the kids with, but despite them being 8 and 4 and doing this 'September thing' for several years now, I still hate leaving them and seem to spend my time in London with a permanent knot in my stomach, which won't subside until I return home.

Once back from London, I have under a week to prepare for my pop-up tearoom, so I've been trying to bake a few sponges this week - the ones that freeze really well - in order to get ahead. Naked, they look very plain, but once filled, iced and decorate they should look irresistible. So far there is a Honey & Poppyseed sponge and a Lemon & Almond Sponge - by the end of the weekend there will also be a Courgette sponge.

This will be my second year as part of the World's Biggest Coffee Morning. Last year was a huge success; exhaustingly busy, but well worth it. You can read about it here. Macmillan's are a worthy charity who I like to support. My original reason for getting involved with Macmillan was in memory of my father-in-law who we lost to cancer 10 years ago, but in the last year two friends of mine have been diagnosed with cancer - these are women who are in my age group with young children. The help that Macmillan's provide when your world is turned upside-down is priceless. In my mind holding this annual event is really a no brainer. Fingers-crossed, in two weeks from now, I'll have a heavy donation box and just crumbs left on the table ..... and normality will return as we move from a busy September into (a hopefully less hectic) October.

Photographs: Buttercup Days

New School No. 3 + Chocolate & Pistachio Biscuits

5 September 2013

It has been a scorcher today - the last burst of summer, before she gives way to autumn. But despite the temperatures, I feel as though summer has ended: school is back, the football season is underway and the supermarkets are stocking Christmas goods (!).

Today, was Lily's first day at her new school - a big day. It's her third time as 'the new girl'. It was never our plan to move her around schools as we have, but luckily she doesn't seem affected by it, if anything it has made her a rather adaptable little girl, ready to take on any situation she finds herself in, which isn't a bad life skill to have. The school she is at now is where we had always wanted her to go. It's been a bit of a journey, two schools and an almost-house move, but we got there in the end.

My mind was preoccupied today, wondering how she was getting on in her new environment, full of new faces and unfamiliar routines. So I set about baking a batch of these Chocolate & Pistachio biscuits for us to have when she got home - a bit of baking can be quite a good way to kerb anxieties.

3.20pm couldn't have come soon enough. She came out of school smiling and filled me in on the days events on the short walk home. She loves her new school and has made several new friends - I had no need to worry. I'm so very proud of her. 

The biscuits, by the way were also a success. 

Chocolate & Pistachio Biscuits

220g unsalted butter
80g icing sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
280g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
70g whole blanched pistachios

For the dough, combine the butter, icing sugar and salt. Add the egg, flour and cocoa powder. Add the nuts and combine. Chill for 1 hour.

When the dough is firm, roll it into a sausage and cut into 5mm slices. Preheat oven to 190C / Gas 5.
Arrange biscuits on a baking tray and cook for 12 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.

Recipe: A la Mére de Famille
Photographs: Buttercup Days

An Afternoon Down the Plot + A Blackberry, Almond & Cardamom Cake

28 August 2013

The end of summer can bring with it some good allotment days. Granted, there are weeds fighting to take over the minute I turn my back, but there is also warm weather and some half decent harvest. I never loose the trill of picking something from the plot, however small or un-perfect its appearance. Our rather scabby looking cucumbers are bursting with flavour and the rainbow chard and curly kale just keep on giving. 

On our most recent visit we came home with a good picking of raspberries and blackberries, which I used to make my new favourite cake: Blackberry, Almond & Cardamom. I love an almond based recipe, adore cardamom and am always up for a blackberry, so this cake really is my cup-of-tea. The recipe is from Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking ... Scandilicious - probably my most thumbed cookbook this summer.

We ate the cake (with a dollop of mascarpone) and polystyrene cups of tea on the beach with friends who had come down to visit at the weekend. Just perfect.

Blackberry, Almond & Cardamom Cake

Serves 6-8

125g butter, softened

200g golden caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 medium eggs

250g ground almonds

2 tsp gluten-free baking powder

1 tsp ground cardamom

¼ tsp salt

200g fresh or frozen blackberries

200g summer berries to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC/gas mark 4 and lightly oil a 23cm round cake tin.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time along with a tablespoonful of the ground almonds to stop the mixture splitting.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the rest of the ground almonds with the baking powder, cardamom and salt.

Use a large metal spoon to fold these dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Stir until just blended, then add the blackberries and stir once or twice more to incorporate them.

Scoop the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake on the middle oven shelf for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake is well risen, looks golden brown and feels firm to the touch. Let it cool in its tin on a wire rack before turning out.
Serve the cake either on its own or with mixed summer fruits piled on top and with some sour cream, crème fraiche or mascarpone.

This is quite a moist cake, so it will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight tin or wrapped in foil.

Photographs: Buttercup Days

Blood Orange, Mango & Peach Granita

19 August 2013

The weather over the weekend was rather blustery, not cold but mild enough to remind us that we're entering the tail end of summer. Time to start wishing for an Indian summer, and maybe still time to make some truly summery recipes.

I made this Blood Orange, Mango & Peach Granita a few weeks ago during the heatwave. It's summer in a little glass bowl. The recipe is from What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits and Bobs by Katie Quinn Davies. It takes no time at all to make a batch of this pretty ruby-iced pudding, so seize the opportunity while the sun is still shining. The autumn crumbles will have their moment all in good time.

Blood Orange, Mango & Peach Granita

1 mango, peeled, flesh cut into round pieces
3 ripe yellow peaches, stone removed, cut into chunks
2 cups fresh blood orange juice
Juice 1 lemon

Add all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and whizz until smooth. Hold a sieve over a deep baking tray (approx 42 x 30cm). Pour the granita liquid through the sieve into the tray pressing as much of the pulp through as you can, discard whatever final bits which won’t pass through then carefully transfer the filled tray into a flat shelf in the freezer. Freeze for 2-3 hours or until required then scrape into fluffy granita snow using a fork or two. Serve immediately.

Photography: Buttercup Days.

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

13 August 2013

Last week, the children and I went to a (4th) birthday party at the beach. The little gathering took place at one of the beach huts and adults and kids alike enjoyed this cake that I bought along.

I've mentioned before my love of the food blog Green Kitchen Stories. The Banana Granola recipe that a featured not so long ago is one of theirs. So is this one. I'm a fan of using vegetables in cakes: not because I'm some kind of health freak, but because I love the way their addition makes for such delicious moist cakes and it is a pretty good way to use any vegetable gluts we may reap from our allotment. I've paired chocolate and beetroots together in the past, and have always been pleased with the outcome, so I was keen to try out this recipe. The beetroot gives the chocolate a depth, meaning it is not too sweet and the texture is good and fudgy. 

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

100 g sunflower oil (coconut oil or olive oil)
125 ml maple syrup (or honey)
50 g dark chocolate (70%), broken into pieces
250 g (approx 3 - 4 medium) raw beetroots, grated
3 eggs
375 ml spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
5 tbsp cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
a little melted butter and a dusting of flour for preparing your tin.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175°C. Using a pastry brush painted your cake tin with a thin coating of butter. If you are using a fancy shaped tin as I did, ensure you butter all the fluted parts to enable your cake to come out the tin cleanly and easily. Finally give your tin a light dusting of flour and set aside.

Warm the oil in a medium size saucepan on very low heat. Add the maple syrup and chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat. 
Add the grated beets. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and then add them to the pan. 
Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt together and stir into the beet mixture. Pour the mixture into your prepared cake tin. 
Bake for 25 minutes or until slightly dark and crackelated on top and still a little sticky inside. Enjoy!
It is utterly perfect served on its own with a cup of coffee or dress it up with seasonal berries and serve with mascarpone.

Recipe: Green Kitchen Stories
Photography: Buttercup Days

A Recipe For Heart Home: Two Popcorn Recipes - One Savoury, One Sweet

30 July 2013

Earlier this week, in an attempt to nip-in-the-bud any school holiday boredom, I purchased a bag of popping corn for my children. At eight and four these little golden kernels of maize act as entertainment as well as a snack. They love standing around the stove when the popping begins; saucepans with glass lids go far to add to excitement.

I took this opportunity to have a play about with flavours. We popped a good quantity of corn and flavoured one half savoury (Parmesan & Marjoram) and the other half sweet (Honey & Cinnamon). Both varieties got the thumbs up.
You can find both of these recipes over at Heart Home today.

Happy Popping!

Photography: Buttercup Days

A Chocolate Cake That You Can Eat During a Heatwave

22 July 2013

Over the weekend we spent a lovely hot afternoon with some special friends, aka my yoga ladies (minus one, plus husbands and children). The occasion was to see our (yoga lady #1) friend Sarah and her two gorgeous girls who were briefly back in their home town for a few days. It was in Sarah's stunning Milan home that we stayed on our trip there at Easter. Marianne (yoga lady #2) and Jamie hosted the afternoon in their lovely garden. The children, eight in all, played like a dream running around bare-footed in-and-out of the paddling pool, while the grown ups relaxed and drank glasses of chilled bubbles.

Later we all enjoyed a delicious barbecue and for pudding had this chocolate cake that I took along, having made it the evening before. You see, according to Sarah eldest daughter Emilia (7), the Milanese don't really know how to bake a decent chocolate cake. Apparently they are always far too dry. A bold statement I know. I can't comment myself as I didn't really eat any chocolate cake whilst in Milan. But Emilia has and this is apparently the case believe it or not.

So the pressure was on to bake a 'moist' chocolate cake. Also, what with the heatwave I needed to find a recipe that could cope with the heat, yet still deliver that chocolate hit. In this recipe the sponge does all the work without the need for any chocolate frosting or covering that would sweat in the current heat, making it perfect for heatwaves. Well, I found it. The original recipe is by the talented Katie Quinn Davies and is titled 'Easy Chocolate Cake' - and very easy it is too. I made a few substitutions with ingredients. Below is the original recipe. However, I replaced the Savoiardi biscuits with Jules Destrooper's Almond Thins and the Frangelico with 2 tbsp of milk in order to make it kid friendly. Also, do check the cake as it bakes as mine was cooked in just 35mins - but I do have a rather speedy oven.

Easy Chocolate Cake
Serves 8 - 10

small savoiardi biscuits, crushed
300g good-quality dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
150g unsalted butter, softened
165g caster sugar
4 eggs
155g ground almonds
150g mascarpone
3tbsp Frangelico
icing sugar, shaved chocolate and double cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 200˚C/400˚F/ Gas 6.
Grease and line a 22cm round springform tin and sprinkle with 1tbsp of crushed savoiardi biscuits, just to coat the tin.

Bring a small pan of water to a gentle simmer and melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl that fits snugly over the pan without touching the water, stirring occasionally. Carefully remove from the heat and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition - don't panic if the mixture resembles scrambled eggs at this stage.
Stir in the remaining crushed savoiardi biscuits, the melted chocolate, ground almonds, mascarpone and Frangelico. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 55-65 minutes until the cake has a crust on top and is firm around the edges – a skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Be careful not to overcook, as the centre of the cake should remain a little moist. Dust the cooled cake with icing sugar and sprinkle with chocolate shavings before slicing and serving with a generous dollop of cream.

Photography: Buttercup Days

Banana Granola

12 July 2013

Have you ever made your own Muesli or Granola? It is well worth the effort; though actually there is very little effort involved. I love the fact that you can tailor the ingredients to suit your taste and you know exactly what you are putting into it. Earlier this week I had an urge to fill a Kilner jar with something wholesome and delicious to start the day with. So I did.

These days as well as dipping into my growing library of cookbooks for inspiration, I find myself looking at some of the amazing food blogs that are out there. Green Kitchen Stories, Pastry Affair, What Katie Ate, My Darling Lemon Thyme and Pratos Travessa are just a few that I follow with a passion.

It was Green Kitchen Stories that I turned to for this recipe. I didn't tweak or tamper with it in any way or form. It was a Lily that needed no guilding. In a mere half an hour you can have yourself a jar of this good stuff that will last you a week or more. You can find the recipe here. I like it served with plain yoghurt and fresh berries, Arthur opts for yoghurt and raisins and Lily prefers just plain old milk. David on the other hand sticks to his usual bowl of branflakes. Oh well, that's his loss.

Photography: Buttercup Days

A Recipe for Heart Home: Peach, Rhubarb & Pistachio Tarts

5 July 2013

This is a ridiculously short post, just to let you know that my recipe for Peach, Rhubarb & Pistachio Tarts is featured on the lovely Heart Home blog today. With the promise that summer has finally arrived, these would be just perfect to whip up this weekend and enjoy in the sunshine.

We're heading off to the wonderful Isle Of Wight later today to spend the weekend with my folk. The kids are SO excited, and David and I are raring to get there and relax in the garden, enjoy my mum's home cooking and get some sand (rather than the pebbles of Brighton) between our toes. Bliss!

Have a wonderful sunny weekend. xxxx

Photography: Buttercup Days

A Open Sandwich

27 June 2013

Earlier this week, I made this open sandwich for lunch. I bought the flatbreads on a whim and just topped one with what was lying around in the fridge. This unplanned meal turned out to be a very pleasant one. It's too simple to be classed as a recipe; but if you were wondering ...

A left over courgette and red pepper were roasted in a little olive oil with lemon zest and thyme. Onto the flatbread I piled a generous handful of mixed salad and baby spinach leaves. Then went on the still-warm roasted vegetables. I halved some red grapes and added those along with a lonely piece of feta. A dollop of hummus dusted with paprika was placed in one corner. Mint leaves from the balcony followed with some pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds. Finally, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and splash of balsamic vinegar. 

It's not quite a sandwich and not quite a salad. It's as quick as a flash to make and healthy to boot. The start of a new lunchtime staple.

Life Lately + Chocolate, Crushed Raspberry & Honeycomb Cupcakes.

24 June 2013

Last week, we received some good news. Really good news. Lily has been offered a place at the same school that Arthur will be starting in September. After four years, an almost-house move, and two schools, our daughter will finally be attending our local school of choice. I had almost given up hope and was trying to fathom out how we were going to manage the school runs with two children that were in different schools in different parts of town. But last week, we got the call we had been waiting for. The relief, to finally feel settled on the school front, is huge. 

I can't help feeling for Lily though - the 'new girl' yet again. However, at the moment she is fine about it all. Moving school every two years is her norm to date. The school she will be leaving is tiny, so it won't be that much of a challenge to stay in touch with some special friends plus she has a couple of friends from her previous school and preschool at her new school. All those old paths are soon crossed again, even at the age of eight it seems. 

For now, Lily still has another three weeks left at her current school, then we have the summer holidays before a new chapter begins with a new school for both of my children. 


I made these cakes at the weekend for Lily to take to a birthday party. They were Chocolate, Crushed Raspberry & Honeycomb Cupcakes and apparently a hit with the gaggle of eight-year-old girls.

Photography: Buttercup Days

Blood Orange + Rosemary Cake

20 June 2013

A couple of weeks ago I made this Blood Orange & Rosemary Cake to take to a friends birthday party. The recipes comes from my latest cookbook purchase What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits and Bobs by Katie Quinn Davies. It was a case of 'wishing I had bought this book a few months earlier' as the author obviously has quite a thing for blood oranges - there are several recipes in the book that feature them. I too, love a blood orange, but sadly their fairly short season finished a couple of months ago. 

However, I was determined to make this cake. I simply replaced the blood oranges for regular oranges and hunted down a carton of blood orange juice to use when the juice of an orange was called for. Essentially it hit the spot - the marriage of orange and rosemary was still very much there and it was worth sourcing that carton of blood orange juice to make the natural dusky pink icing - so, so pretty.

I will, of course make a point of re-visiting this recipe when blood oranges are back in season. It just has to be done.

Blood Orange & Rosemary Cake
Serves 8 - 10

225g unsalted butter, softened
220g caster sugar
2 tsps cointreau (absent from my drinks cabinet, I used brandy)
3 free-range eggs, beaten
1 blood orange, peeled, pith removed and cut into segments
3 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
300g plain flour, sifted
2 tsps baking powder, sifted

blood orange syrup:
juice of 2 blood oranges
juice of 2 oranges
1 tbsp caster sugar

blood orange icing:
juice of 1 blood orange
320g icing sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 180℃ (fan), 200℃, gas mark 6 and grease a 9cm, 1.4 litre capacity bundt tin, or alternatively, grease and line a regular 22cm springform cake tin.

Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar for 10 mins until light and creamy. Add the Cointreau and the eggs and combine.

Whizz the blood orange, orange and rosemary in a food processor until the rosemary leaves are finely chopped and the oranges are blended to a pulp. Add to the butter and sugar mixture and beat together on low speed until combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, beating between additions, until everything is well incorporated.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until the top is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Meanwhile, to make the blood orange syrup, place the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 mins or until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has reduced by about a third. Keep warm until the cake is ready.

Leave the cake to cool a little before transferring it to a wire rack. Place a plate underneath the rack to catch any drips, then prick the top of the cake with a skewer and spoon the warm syrup over the cake and leave to be absorbed.

Make the icing by combining the blood orange juice and icing sugar until smooth. Drizzle the icing all over the cooled cake, then chill the iced cake in the fridge for 20 mins before serving.