c July 2012 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Olympic Torch Tower Cake

Go Team GB!
Olympic Torch Tower Cake something of a surprise entry to this month Olympic Calendar Cakes. After making a sponge cake using a different recipe, heavens knows why I have a perfectly good reliable recipe I usually use. The sponge was something of a disappointment and was best used in a trifle. However I did have some leftover, and decided to make a last minute entry into this months Calendar Cakes.

I made the torch from sugar paste and using a new mould called Sweet Treats bought from the Telford Sugar Craft Show in May. I slightly remodelled the ice cream to create the flame shape, left to dry then painted with lustre dust. Using a pastry cutter cut out disc shapes of sponge, which were sandwiched together with butter cream and jam. Topped off with suitably patriotic sprinkles of red, white and blue and of course the iconic Olympic Torch.

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Olympic Calendar Cake

It's here, at last London 2012 Olympic Games has arrived. So with an Olympic sized celebration planned for at work on opening ceremony day, what other contribution could I make than a cake. I made a standard vanilla sponge, butter cream and jam and topped with some magical sugar paste Olympic rings. I had planned to pipe London 2012 under the rings, but unfortunately I ran out of time. 

Olympic torch kiss in Ironbridge
Go Team GB!!!
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Seaside Cake

Yay, last week my niece was 6 years old and I got to bake her a birthday cake. My mission was to bring the seaside to Shropshire. I'd been planning the cake for a little while, I'd bought some shell moulds and lustre dust from the Telford Sugarcraft Show  back in May.

The Seaside Cake consisted of a vanilla sponge, with jam and butter cream. I only applied the sugar paste sea to the side of the cake and golden caster sugar on the top to give the sand affect. Here are the details on how I achieved the other decorations on the cake.

Sea - to get the sea effect I kneaded a ball of blue sugar paste and ball of white sugar paste together, then rolled out and got this great mixed water effect.

Beach towel and sandcastle flag - this stripey and checker board effect was created by placing tiny pieces of different coloured sugar pastes onto a rolled out piece of white sugar paste. I'd seen this demonstrated by Kathryn Kelly at the Telford Sugarcraft Show. It's a little time consuming and tricky but looks great.

Flip flops, bucket and spade - these were made free hand using a craft knife and a paper template I'd created. I used a tiny blossom butter for the flower on the top.

Shells and Seahorse's - created with sugar paste using the Seahorse & shells mould I bought from the FPC Sugarcraft stand at the Telford Sugar Craft Guild Show. Though they do recommend you use a mixture of flower paste and sugar paste, I only used sugar paste, with no problems. Once dried a applied the lustre dust for colour and sparkle.

Sun - I used a large round cutter, then using a craft knife cut out the shapes to give the sun it's rays, and moulded by hand to soften up the edges. Whilst still pliable insert a cocktail stick half way in. Once dried I wrote on it using an edible ink pen.

There you have it my Seaside Cake.

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Welsh Cakes Fruit Griddle Scones Recipe

Here is a first bake for me, a Welsh Cakes recipe also known as Griddle Pan Scones. Which are not only popular in Wales but also in Welsh Border counties such as my home county of Shropshire. 
Griddle Scones Welsh Cakes Recipe no oven baking griddle pan cooking

Welsh Cakes Recipe 
8 oz Self raising flour
Pinch of salt
2 oz butter
2 oz lard
3 oz sugar
3 oz sultanas or currants or glace cherries
1 egg

makes 12 to 14 cakes
  • Into a bowl add the flour and salt 
  • Add the butter and lard and rub into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Mix in the sugar and fruit
  • Add the egg mixing together to form a firm dough, you may need to add a little milk
  • Roll out onto a lightly floured surface, to about an 1/4 inch thick. 
  • Cut into 3 inch rounds using a pastry cutter.
  • Lightly grease a hot griddle or frying pan and cook, place the Welsh Cakes on the griddle and turn the heat down to low, turn the cakes over once until golden brown.
Serve with or without butter. They tasted wonderful hot, straight off the griddle.
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Griddle Scones Welsh Cakes Recipe no oven baking griddle pan cooking

I'm submitting this recipe as part of July's AlphaBakes Challenge on The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes blog. This months letter is 'W' which in may case equals Welsh Cakes.
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Lip Smacking Strawberry Sweetie Cake

A Strawberry Sweetie birthday cake. This great sweetie cake recipe came about as a result of a cake questionnaire. I had no idea what type of cake I would bake for my cousins birthday last week. 
Strawberry Sweetie Birthday Cake Recipe
Strawberry Sweetie Birthday Cake
So, I'd posted a few questions to her to help narrow down the choices.
  • Cake - Chocolate, vanilla or strawberry 
  • Topping- Icing, butter cream, ganache 
  • Other - chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch, fruit, glitter 
  • Your Top 3 favourite sweets or chocolates please 

Here is the response I received:-
  • Oh my! cake - don't mind what flavour! 
  • Topping preference is - butter cream please! 
  • Top favourite sweets - liquorice twists, strawberry laces, cola bottles, teeth and lips!

From these answers I decided to make a Lip Smacking Strawberry Cake using a vanilla sponge, with a pink strawberry flavour butter cream, decorated with strawberry laces and strawberry jelly lips.
Strawberry Sweetie Cake Recipe
Strawberry Lips Sweetie birthday cake
I baked a vanilla sponge, made a large amount of strawberry flavoured butter cream. When I sandwiched the cake together I also added a layer of the strawberry laces, between the strawberry jam and strawberry butter cream.

I levelled the cake and covered with a generous amount of butter cream and smoothed. I had an enormous amount of the strawberry jelly lips, some of which I covered with glitter to add a little glamour to the cake! I carefully placed the strawberry jelly lips on the top of the cake, and finished off with the strawberry laces wrapped around the cake as opposed to using fabric ribbon.
Strawberry Lips and Laces Cake
Strawberry Laces Cake
This cake was such a simple idea but it looked fab-u-lous and tasted a-maz-ing! Help yourself to the slice below.

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Shropshire Diamond Jubilee Pageant

Last week, after months of waiting, the much anticipated visit by The Queen to Shropshire as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations arrived. The event was being held at RAF Cosford, the perfect location for 30,000 people as every year they have 40,00 spectators at the air show. After days of rain and hope upon hope the weather was glorious. So with tickets in hand, my sister, aunt and I jumped in the car and off we set. I'd anticipated tweeting my way through the day, sharing photos and updates of the events. An hour after we had arrived and the Queens arrival imminent, the area was in communications lock down and all mobile signals blocked - so much for that plan then!
Boultons of Shropshire - vintage coach
Love this - a royal peg doll
There were many activities planned throughout the day, live music and singing. There was a huge hanger housing the best of Shropshire businesses and organisations. There were many, many stands and the hanger was very busy. In the centre was a huge floral crown on display. The end of the pageant culminated in a half a mile parade of over 5,000 school children and organisations, themed with the different decades of the Queens 60 year reign.
The Queen in her coral pink outfit

Every family should have one - a Jubilee speed boat
Whilst browsing around the many stalls there were some fabulous food specialists from Shropshire. I discovered some wonderful granola from Shropshire Granola, they had a great show offer on  four bags of granola for £10. Which of course I could not resist.  

All three of us got tempted at the Ludlow Nut Co. stall they had an amazing array of nuts we had a large bag of honey roasted nuts, and chocolate Brazil's. I also tasted some dried mango, which although it did not look that appealing tasted delicious.

This is just a taster of the day, which was magnificent and was worth every minute of the 45 minutes we queued in the car when we arrived. The atmosphere was fun but relaxed and the flag waving infectious. Just before the Queen left the High Sheriff of Shropshire encouraged the crowd to give the Queen three cheers. As Shropshire is so special we should give four cheers. Not sure if that made us look like we were honouring The Queen or, made us look country bumpkins who just did not know how to count! 


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Rhubarb and Gooseberry Jam Recipe

Having experienced success with my Strawberry Jam recipe using the microwave, I thought I would try making some different jam. But what kind? What did I have in the garden?  I discovered a small mountain of Gooseberries and Rhubarb, looking like precious jewels just waiting to be squeezed into jam jars.
Rhubarb and Gooseberry Jam Recipe

Easy Rhubarb and Gooseberry Jam Recipe (using Microwave)

800gr of prepared Rhubarb and Gooseberries (you can make up the weight using any proportion of the two fruits)

1 sachet of pectin
1 kg granulated sugar
knob of butter
Recipe Gooseberry and Rhubarb Jam
Recipe Rhubarb and Gooseberry Jam
  • Place the rhubarb into a bowl, ideally a glass bowl so you can see how the jam is boiling.
  • Cook in a microwave oven on high for 4 minutes,the fruit should be uncovered,check the rhubarb you should notice it starting to soften.
  • Add the gooseberries and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  • Carefully crush the fruit again with a potato masher.
  • Add the sugar and pectin and knob of butter and stir.
  • Cook on high for a further 14 minutes, stirring halfway through. Again the fruit should be uncovered.
  • Make sure that the mixture was boiling vigorously for 4 minutes during this time.
Ladle into you sterilised jam jars. I sterilise mine in the microwave, but you can just as easily pop them into a hot oven or dishwasher.

Remember if you have screw top lids there is no need to add a circle of greaseproof paper on top of the jam. Carefully put the tops on. 

Once the jam has cooled, label and decorate your jars as you wish.

Rhubarb and Gooseberry Jam Recipe
Decisions?  Rhubarb & Gooseberry or Strawberry Jam

Looking for more Gooseberry recipe ideas? Try my Mini Gooseberry Tarts Recipe

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Blackcurrant Glazed Chocolate Cakes

Blackcurrant Glazed Chocolate Cakes Recipe
Makes approx 20 cakes.  Preheat oven to 200 degrees C / 180 degrees C fan oven

75gr Butter softened
30gr Cocoa powder
4 tbsp Ribena
150gr Plain flour
2 Egg yolks
150ml Buttermilk*
half tsp Lemon juice
half tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp purple food colouring paste

*if you don't have buttermilk, use milk and add a tsp of lemon juice so the milk splits.

Blackcurrant Glaze
150gr Icing sugar

  • Mix the cocoa powder and Ribena together in a small bowl.
  • Mix the butter and sugar together, using a hand whisk.
  • Add the egg yolks and beat for a minute.
  • Add the cocoa mixture.
  • Stir in a third of the buttermilk, add a third of the flour and mix. Continue adding a third of the buttermilk and flour until all mixed in.
  • Add the food colouring.
  • Mix the lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda together and add to the cake mixture.

Divide the mixture equally into the cake cases.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  Allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack.

Blackcurrant Glaze
Sift the icing sugar and add the Ribena half a teaspoon at a time, until you have the right consistency depending on how runny you want your icing. You can either drizzle the icing on or dip the cake into the icing.
This recipe was inspired by an Eric Lanlard Red Velvet Recipe, I thought it a little risque to call the cakes Blue Velvet. 

I would certainly make these again, you could also try making the glace using Crème de Cassis instead of Ribena. I would also consider removing some of the core from the cakes once baked, and filling with some blackcurrant jam. This worked a treat when I made some Red Velvet cakes and filled the middle with strawberry jam.

I am entering these cakes into July's We Should Cocoa baking challenge which this month has Blackcurrant as the magic ingredient. The challenge is hosted by Choclette of the Chocolate Teapot and Chele of Chocolate Log.

I'm also entering these into July's Tea Time Treats baking challenge, this months theme of Cake Stall Cakes & Bakes. The challenge is jointly hosted by What Kate Baked and  Lavender and Lovage who is also this months host.

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Easy Strawberry Jam Recipe

I had picked almost a pound of strawberries from the garden, and there is absolutely nothing I enjoy more than homemade Strawberry Jam. I want to share with you an easy strawberry jam recipe.
Easy Strawberry jam recipe
Here is a very simple jam recipe. You will find that there is not even a large metal pan or thermometer in site, just a Pyrex bowl and a microwave. I admit to being a little sceptical at first about making jam this way. But, I was really pleasantly surprised it was easy and in my opinion less hazardous than making jam on the hob. 

Easy Strawberry Jam Recipe

800gr of prepared Strawberries (wash, trimmed and cut into quarters)
1 sachet of pectin
1 kg granulated sugar
knob of butter
Microwave Strawberry jam recipe
  • Place the strawberries into a bowl, ideally a glass bowl so you can see how the jam is boiling.
  • Cook in the microwave on high for 7 minutes,the fruit should be uncovered.
  • Carefully crush the fruit with a potato masher.
  • Add the sugar and pectin and knob of butter and stir.
  • Cook on high for a further 14 minutes, stirring halfway through. Again the fruit should be uncovered.
  • Make sure that the mixture was boiling vigorously for 4 minutes during this time.
Ladle into you sterilised jam jars. I sterilise mine in the microwave, but you can just as easily pop them into a hot oven or dishwasher.

If you have screw top lids there is no need to add a circle of greaseproof paper on top of the jam. Carefully put the tops on. 

Once the jam has cooled, label and decorate your jars as you wish.
Could there be anything better than Strawberry Jam on toast
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Mini Gooseberry Tarts Recipe

The Gooseberry bush in the garden is now bare and the lovely hairy green berries have been sitting in a bowl in the kitchen, waiting my attention. Here is my wonderfully simple recipe for rustic looking Mini Gooseberry Tarts. 
Gooseberry Tarts Recipe

Mini Gooseberry Tarts Recipe

8oz Plain Flour
4oz Butter
Tablespoon caster sugar

Gooseberries one punnet washed and trimmed
Caster Sugar for sweetening

Cut the butter into cubes, rub the butter and flour together between your fingers, until you have a light crumbly mixture. 
Mix in  a tablespoon of sugar. 
Use cold water to bring the mixture together, to create a firm dough.

Leave to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Mini Gooseberry Tarts Recipe
Roll out the pastry and cut out your cases using a pastry cutter size 9.8cms, press the pastry gently into  the bun tray (I used a deep bun tray). Fill the pastry cases with gooseberries, you should get around 6-7 in each . 
Add a good sprinkle of sugar over the gooseberries. Gently fold the edge of the pastry inwards and gentle brush a little egg wash on the pastry then sprinkle over a little sugar.

Bake in a preheated oven 190 degrees for approximately 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Lovely Mini Gooseberries Tarts

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Sustainability Challenge on an Olympic Scale

Composting - my Gold, Silver and Bronze bins
There is no disputing that one of the most amazing sporting events in my lifetime is just days away - London 2012 Olympics. Coca-Cola one of the official sponsors of London 2012 have launched an amazing competition for bloggers, a chance to win tickets to the Olympics, with their Coca-Cola Olympic Games Sustainability Challenge. Coco-Cola is working hard with London 2012 to create a sustainable games, and Reducing Waste.  

Did you know they will help visitors to the Games recycle their empty packaging by promoting and encouraging recycling. They’ve helped LOCOG to design and create an easy-to-use recycling bin system, and will be recycling all clear plastic at the Games – whether or not it’s from Coca‑Cola product packaging.

Wherever possible, they will use recycled materials for all their staff uniforms, licensed merchandise and merchandising equipment.

So, how am I doing my bit to Reducing Waste. Well this challenge has made me stop and think, I realise that actually I do quite a bit that is now habit or routine. Composting, recycling of newspapers, tetra paks and water filters. I also realise that quite a few products from the house or weekly shopping are recycled or reused in my garden. It may not be on an Olympic scale but if we all work together we can make a difference, and this is my contribution.
Plastic Drink Bottles
Plastic bottles make great mini cloches in the garden for young plants, just cut the bottom off and pop over the plant. You can even choose to unscrew the bottle top on warmer days to give ventilation. I find them particularly good in early Spring to bring on my salads. 
I am also re-using a plastic bottle in the greenhouse with a special nozzle for watering plants, my niece's favourite item in the greenhouse!

Margarine Containers / Food Tubs
I re-use these for storing items in the freezer, or for items as they are defrosting. You can also use them as pots for growing seeds in. I also use empty family size yogurt pots, turned upside down they make great mini greenhouses for pots.

Toilet Rolls
The cardboard centre from toilet rolls make great plant pots, I re-used them this year for my peas and french beans. I planted the young plants straight into my raised beds, the roots then grow through the cardboard which then naturally rots away.

Washing Liquid Dosing Balls / Tops
Any gardener knows the hazards of sticks in the garden, used for staking plants, or holding protective netting. Here is a simple but clever re-use for washing liquid bottles or dosing balls by popping them on the top of canes or sticks. So no unexpected pokes in the eye and also a great way of holding netting up and protecting my valuable treasure of blueberries.

Being on a water meter I am always conscious on how much water is being used or wasted. My fruit and vegetables will not grow without water, so when nature does not supply rain (no problem with that at the moment!) I rely on water I have collected. I have a water butt connected to the down pipe of the house, I also have another water butt near to the vegetable raised beds. But the only way to fill it up at the moment is by manually attaching a hose pipe to the main water butt and decanting the water. 
The plan is to eventually lift the slab path at the rear of the flower bed and run a permanent hose pipe to connect the two water butts. That way the bottom butt (ooh er) tops up automatically. Well that's the plan for the future, I may need to get some extra muscle in to help though!
Venetian Blinds
Earlier this month my parents had replaced an old venetian blind, and were going to take it to the local waste/recycling centre. Being a gardener I am always in need of plant labels, and what an opportunity all these slats presented to me. So a pair of scissors and an hour later, I had hundreds of ready to use plant labels. I guess I had better get sewing more seeds!
Polystyrene Packaging
You know the stuff any electrical or white goods you buy comes surrounded by it. But what to do with it? Here is my answer, break it up and add it as drainage for potting plants. It also works well if you have a very large pot to help bulk out the compost.

Here is a Succulent plant happily growing in half a broken dish!
For the future I want to grow even more of my own fruit and vegetables, using all my own compost and collected water. I get so annoyed at all the  packaging that surrounds fresh food in supermarkets. It's time pressure was applied to introducing stricter packaging legislation, to reduce this mountain of extra waste. I know what's next on my to do list, an email to some in power.

I'm not quite up to zero-waste blogger Karen Cannards standards, but I know I'm heading down the right path. So before I throw anything away I will think hard to how it can either be re-used, recycled or up-cycled.
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