c January 2013 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, Books and Me

All Occasion Sweet Shop Hamper Review and Sweet Fairy Cakes

There is nothing quite so exciting as having a whole sweetie shop delivered to your door, even as an adult. That is exactly what happened to lucky me when I took delivery of a wicker hamper full of fabulous sweeties from the All Occasion Sweet Shop.

What an amazing collection of retro sweets it contained, there was something for everyone in the family, and it did not take long for everyone who passed the hamper to lay claim to their favourites.  Whether that be the White Chocolate Mice, Foam Shrimps or Bananas, the Reese’s Pieces, Love Hearts, Parma Violets, Jelly Hearts, Candy Necklaces, Refresher Chews, Flying Saucers, Lollipops, Love Heart Lipsticks, Sherbet Fountains, Rainbow Drops, Jelly Fish, Wham Bars, or Lucky Charms - so many, I’m sure I’ve missed some out. 

I have to say it was a delight to receive. The wicker hamper is of good quality with a handle and buckle straps, the handle is on top of the hamper not the side so when you pick it up everything stays as it should and not tip over.  The sweets are teasingly encased in tissue paper, just waiting to be discovered, the most difficult part is to decide which of your favourites to eat first - or are you like me and like to keep your favourite for last. 

You can just share and eat your way through the hamper, but for me this was the perfect opportunity to bake and create. That’s just what I have been busy doing, adding Love Hearts and Jelly Hearts and Reese`s Pieces to fairy cakes and I do hope you like my special Butterfly Cakes using the Candy Necklace sweets. 
Love Heart and Jelly Heart Fairy Cakes or
Candy Sweet Fairy Cakes

Reece's Pieces and Chocolate Ganache Fairy Cakes
There is a good choice of sweet hampers and unique gifts are offering readers of my blog 15% discount with the unique voucher code (GTCM15)! 

I was sent a sweet hamper free of charge for the purposes of this review.
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Pure Vanilla Book Review and Homemade Vanilla Sugar Recipe

Pure Vanilla by Shauna Server published by Quirk books

A whole book all about Vanilla - from Orchid to extract as the book says. Who would of thought it - vanilla comes from an orchid a fact which I did not know. I never really appreciated the journey a vanilla bean goes through to make it into our bottles of vanilla extract. It really is a lengthy and fascinating process explained in detail in the book.

There is a great range of recipes including both sweet, savoury and drinks too. Immediately from my initial read through I had selected a number of bakes to make:- Vanilla Essence, Vanilla Sugar, Opera Fudge, Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes and Vanilla Bean Tuiles.  

Recipes are in American measurements, so you need to use measuring cups as I did or the converter at the back of the book.
I have already baked the Big Soft Frosted Vanilla Sugar Cookies, which you can see from the photo above, recipe to be posted later this week. It is definitely a keeper!

What I love about the book?

The photography, it's enticing - really makes you want to eat, bake or both.

There are some great ways to use vanilla to create your very own homemade products, such as vanilla sugar or vanilla extract. Not only do you then end up with a product that you have made yourself but also you can use it for months to come, saving you some pennies along the way. 

Would like more of?

I would of loved to have seen photographs of the different stages of the vanilla bean from seed to extract. There was such an interesting chapter on this process, maybe because I am also a gardener I found the growing to ripening story of interest.

I personally also find it helpful if all recipes include a photograph, just so I know I am on the right baking path.

The thumbs up
Great book and full of ideas and recipes you will want to bake. Leave it on your coffee table no visitor will be able to resist picking it up.

Vanilla Sugar Recipe

Simple recipe to create your very own supply of Homemade Vanilla Sugar.

  • Place 2 cups of sugar into a sealable jar.
  • Add one vanilla bean split down the middle, shake. 
  • Leave in a cool, dark place for two days.
  • Remove vanilla bean, Vanilla Sugar now ready for use.

Pure Vanilla is available to buy online, for more information about PGUK Books follow them on Twitter or Facebook. 

Thanks to PGUK Books who kindly sent me a copy of Pure Vanilla to review, all opinions expressed are my own.
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Devil's Food Cake - Nigella Recipe

Devil's Food Cake  - wickedly fabulous
Cake time - more precisely it is chocolate cake which according to Nigella makes this Devil's Food Cake. So what better way to celebrate a birthday than with a chocolate cake. You may recall that last year I made my aunt her character cake for her birthday, this year I thought she deserved something more indulgent.

I followed the recipe for Devil's Food Cake from Nigella's website, oddly enough though I could not find mention of which size cake tins to use, I decided to use 2 x 8 inch tins.  As chocolate cake go this certainly lives up to it's title - Devil's Food Cake. It is extremely rich and indulgent and the super chocolatey frosting really packs cocoa punch to the cake. A small slice is all you need - never thought I would admit to that when it comes to cake!

I am adding this cake to the Forever Nigella #22 is hosted by Sally at Recipe Junkie. This month’s challenge is to blog any Nigella recipe Food for loved ones. Forever Nigella is organised by Sarah at Maison Cupcake.
I'm am also submitting this cake as part of January's AlphaBakes Challenge on The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes blog of which Caroline is this months host. This months magic letter is 'D' which in may case equals Devil's Food Cake.
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My Blogger Word Cloud

Do you like my wonderful word cloud, apparently I have a lot to say on my blog when it comes to Cake. Previously I have always thought about my blog posts individually, where as this magical tool gives me the chance to take a snapshot of what I have been saying on my blog from the word dot.  I would like to think that by this time next year the word Garden will be more visible in my word cloud. Oh my that sounds very like a New Year's resolution!

You can find a larger version here, you can also create your own based on your Twitter, Facebook or Google+ feeds, although I have yet to give them a try. I have to give a mention to Nickie at Geekalicious who posted her Google+ word cloud, which I have had bookmarked for sometime and was the inspiration for my blogger cloud. So thank you Nickie.

Click here to create your own blogger cloud, select reset, select blogger and type in the name of your blog and start.
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Planting Garlic

At the beginning of December I spotted a tweet from Woollygreen about a competition they were running to win some Garlic seeds. Well lucky for me I won, and just before Christmas the seeds arrived. I have been patiently waiting for some dry weather so I can get it planted. We have had such mild weather of late and with the news that we were likely to get a drop in temperature I was keen to get it planted - it does like a cold spell to make it encourage growth.

I was sent four varieties of Garlic. Before planting each one needs breaking up to reveal all their cloves, it is the individual cloves you plant into the soil. There was far too much Garlic for me to plant in my garden so I thought it only fair to share. Some with my neighbour who is a gardener by trade, and also my friend Linda at The Ferns Bed and Breakfast
The brilliant white of Solent Garlic
I planted two varieties one called Albignesian and the other Solent, very apt as The Garlic Farm who produce the Garlic are based on the Isle of Wight. I will keep you posted on it's progress, hopefully all will go well but as I have never grown Garlic before you never can tell.
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Recipe Carrot and Sultana Mini Loaves

Carrot and Sultana Mini Loaves

I always think baking with any vegetable to be healthy, well for me at least. So my Carrot and Sultana mini loaves are made using carrots, sultanas and low fat cream cheese, I’ve done my best to cut back on the extra calories. Normally when baking Carrot Cake I would use vegetable oil but as the cupboard was bare I used, most successfully, light olive oil. I also did not have enough carrot so added sultana's.

This recipe is adapted from a Carrot and Orange recipe in a Woman's Weekly cookbook. It also gave me a chance to use my Russian Doll measuring cups.

Recipe - Carrot and Sultana Mini Loaves

Makes - 9 mini loaves or 12 cupcakes

Temp - Fan Oven 160 degrees

2/3 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup sultanas
1 3/4 cups self raising flour
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice

2/3 cup of light cream cheese
1/4 cup icing sugar
  • Put the oil, sugar and eggs into a bowl and mix with an electric whisk, until thick and creamy.
  • Add the carrots, flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice. Stir well until all ingredients are combined.
  • Divide the mixture into your mini loaf cases or standard paper cakes.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • Leave in baking tray for 5 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Place the cream cheese and icing sugar into a bowl, beat together with an electric whisk until smooth. Spread the frosting onto the loaves or cakes only once they have fully cooled. 

Tip - Using the low fat cream cheese you may find the frosting slightly runny in consistency, it may help if you place it in the fridge to chill before spreading onto your cakes. Or of course you could use full fat cream cheese.

Carrot Sultana Mini Loaf Bakes Recipe Carrot Cake
This is my entry into January's Calendar Cakes Challenge the theme this month being New Year, New You! Calendar Cakes is a challenge hosted by Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cakes.

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