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{reading moment of the week}

Tea and Cake London by Zena Alkayat (Black Dog Publishing)

It felt fitting to enjoy this wonderful delight of a book that will never leave us curious as to where to go for tea when we’re up in town again, with some cake from our local cafe (mentioned in the book on page 170). Not all for me of course. The generous slice of plum and ricotta cake was for Milo’s dad, while I chose the peanut butter cupcake with vanilla buttercream and peanut butter brittle.

And relax.


{reading moment of the week}

Milo got his Bookstart Treasure pack through nursery a couple of days ago. He is super pleased with it despite what the photo below suggests (what you can’t see is the post-nursery snack and glass of milk over my shoulder that he really, really wants instead of being made to have his photo taken with his pack!)

He carried it proudly all the way home in his buggy and couldn’t wait to get everything out (and eat and have a drink and read his new books and decorate our World Book Day cake and have a bath and tell me all about burglar alarms and Volvo X5’s and go to bed!)

Here’s a happier picture of him enjoying Whoosh Around the Mulberry Bush and eating!

Bookish Bites : World Book Day 2012

Happy World Book Day! What’s everyone up to today? This is my first World Book Day without Milo at home… he’s at nursery so I can work (it’s a pretty big day for all my clients!) which I feel a little sad about but he’ll be having fun.

His nursery are celebrating by reading loads of books, distributing Book Aid International book marks and goodies and asking children and parents alike what their favourite reads where when they were children. There’s a special post box and everything!

Well, no celebration should go by without cake. I thought it would be appropriate to send Milo off to nursery this morning with a cake that looks like a book, to share with all his friends.

I also thought this might make a handy tutorial for anyone wanting to enter a book shaped cake to the Playing by the Book’s Edible Book Comp! Have you spotted that yet? Pop on over after you’ve read this and get some inspiration!

So, I started off with a basic vanilla madeira cake. You can use a normal sponge and add whatever flavouring you’d like but when you have to carve a cake, madeira is a little more solid as there is a mix of plain and self-raising flour. I made a ten inch square cake as this was going to be for a fair few little people but a seven inch square cake would work just as well.

Once you’ve made your sponge, let it rest overnight to harden a little, then you can carve an open book shape in it by cutting it with a serrated knife. First trim the edges, then create two slopes towards the middle of your cake to look like pages.

Next, mix up some buttercream. I made vanilla using these quantities:

65 grams unsalted butter (softened)
190 grams icing sugar (sifted)
1 tablespoon milk
a few drops of vanilla essence

If you have an electric mixer, leave it mixing the buttercream for approximately five minutes to really whip it into a good texture.

Spread your cake with the buttercream as neatly as you can as this will help the sugarpaste to stick nicely to it.

I used approximately 750 grams of sugarpaste for the whole cake, but I tend to role quite thinly (I worry about rotting small children’s teeth and the inevitable sugar high they’ll have). For a neater finish role your sugarpaste a little thicker, say approximately 0.5cm. Sugarpaste can cover a multitude of bumpy issues that way! I cut a strip to go around the edge of the book first, measuring the tallest edge of the cake as a marker. You can trim the tops of the edges if they rest too tall. I then measured the top of the cake and rolled out some sugarpaste to cover it.

Then score the lines to represent the pages using the back of a knife or a fork. You don’t want anything too sharp to do this. Voila! A blank book to do with what you like!

My mum once made me a cake like this for my birthday and she wrote a whole story about me on it, with pictures and everything! I loved this idea and wanted Milo to get a chance of creating his own pictures in cake form to show his friends so I let him loose with a purple edible pen (just so you know, the actual pen itself is not edible… just the markings!). This is what he came up with.

Wheels, cars and wiggly worms apparently! I then made a World Book Day logo, with an orange background as a nod towards Book Aid International (their logo looked a little too complicated for my sugarpasting skills) and with googly “Axel Scheffler” eyes as Milo likes to say.

There were also some stars at Milo’s request! With no edible glue in the house, I just brushed a little water on the bottom of the logo and stars to get them to stick.


I wonder if they’ll save us a slice?

So how about you? Are you baking anything special this World Book Day?

Christmas baking

I know, I know. It’s the 1st of February already and here I am discussing my Christmas baking. But I wanted to share with you and remind myself how wonderful it is when there is a specific reason to bake, a celebration, an opportunity to try (and scoff) new things. So here we go (minus the Christmas pudding as I don’t like that so didn’t take any photos. I’m reassured by family that it tasted nice and just as a Christmas pudding ought to).

Christmas cake from a Bake-a-Boo bakery recipe. I’m loving this recipe book so much, and, as someone who has only ever eaten Christmas cake for the icing and marzipan before I have to say that this recipe is delicious. Really very tasty! I made it about a month in advance, soaked the fruit for about a week, then baked, later covered with marzipan, then waited approximately a week as you’re meant to do before covering with the icing. It was a weighty cake but fabulous.

Chocolate yule log. I used Nigella Lawson’s recipe from her Christmas book. Very sweet, very indulgent, very much appreciated by my little boy who won’t try anything that has raisins smuggled into it.

The gorgeous wooden scandinavian decorations are from Cox and Cox and have been wrapped up safely in tissue paper ready for next year’s yule log outing.

Peppermint Bark. First spotted on the wonderful Little Cotton Rabbits blog, then tracked to Soule Mama, and then onto the recipe on Orangette. If you’ve never made this before, I urge, urge, urge you to run out, get yourself some white and dark chocolate and make it right now.

We didn’t have any peppermint sweets to break up so I used candy canes instead which felt very Christmassy. These were packaged up and given to friends and family as gifts. And then I just had to make some more for us to eat.

Honestly, so, so good!

For Milo, a gingerbread house inspired by reading Melanie’s Hansel and Gretel week of posts over on Library Mice (and the fact that I’ve been wanting to make one since Milo was born!). This could have been a Bookish Bites and probably will be one day, but I wanted this as an extra pressie for Milo.

There was nearly a disaster when Milo’s dad, helping to hold the roof up while everything set, stuck his finger through it, snapped one side of the roof in half and collapsed the whole left side of the house. No gingerbread builders came to my rescue so instead I just glued it back together with icing and turned the massive crack into a ladder for Santa.

Not sure Milo noticed or cared! Much more interested in eating it and parking his little Ferrari out the front! There were also some cinnamon buns, made from a recipe in my Moomin cook book – we scoffed those on Christmas morning and I forgot to photograph. Incredibly tasty. Hope your Christmas baking was full of festive cheer.



Moomin madness – Milo’s moomin party

Thought you might like a glimpse into the rest of Milo’s moomin birthday party. I made moomin bunting from some gorgeous vintage moomin fabric sourced from this lovely lady on Etsy.

And moomin goody bags (I’m not a fan of plastic goody bags. This is a bit more of an expensive way of doing things though all the backing material is from bits and bobs I already had including a few old pillowcases!).

Milo practised his cutting skills on spare paper while I made these little cardboard moomin decorations. I left out all of Milo’s moomin books so the kids could have a look through (not sure how familiar his little friends are with the moomins!).

Moomin biscuits and pictures of the happy residents of Moominvalley enjoying foody delights were scattered over the buffet table. (used as coasters mostly!).

And a whole heap of other lovely foody items, including macaroons, jammy tarts, flapjacks and these pretty dairy-free cupcakes made from a recipe in the Bake-a-Boo Bakery cookbook which I LOVE and thank Melanie at Library Mice very much for recommending.


We had a second day of partying for family and friends who we couldn’t fit into our tiny house on the Saturday… with an extra Battenburg and apple streusel added to the cake selection baked on Sunday morning.

Oh, and did I mention that I made this car cake for his actual birthday to take into nursery to share with his friends. We had a little car-themed tea party with Milo, just the three of us, when he got home from nursery early on his birthday. Car biscuits, sandwiches, pizza, balloons and pressies… lovely. We wrapped up a new Moomin book on his bed for his bedtime reading. Moomin and the Winter Snow.

I don’t think my mixer has ever had such a busy week! Roll on Christmas!

Oh yes, and with regards to yesterday’s Bookish Bites and Milo’s Moomin cake, I had found a picture of the original illustration of Moominmamma’s cake in my Moomin cookbook. It’s here. Below. And so much more complicated than the one in Moomin and the Birthday Button. I chose to ignore its existence.



{reading moment of the week}

Milo and his granddad reading books before bathtime. This was actually taken last Saturday on my dad’s birthday after we’d all eaten a lot of food, had a lovely long walk in the park and eaten a bit more food. What you can’t see from this picture is the hysterical laughter from my mum, Milo’s dad and I while watching this pair read together.

I have strong memories of both my parents reading to me as a child, but mostly my dad as I’ve blogged about before. He’s hilarious to listen to when he’s reading to Milo and it brings back so many memories for me. I can’t really describe what he does or says really except for that there is a lot of commentary and he creates subtext upon subtext to the plot.

They were reading Mog at the Zoo and if you are familiar with it, there are lots of mysterious eyes staring out from trees and the like. According to my dad, these are mine! “What’s mummy doing in that tree? Why’s she staring like that? Oh look, there’s that mummy again!”  I don’t think Milo will be looking at that book in the same way again – fantastic isn’t it how someone new can change a book so much by just reading it in a different way.

On Each Peach Pear Plum (a up coming Bookish Bite I’m sure)… “Well, they’re not looking after Baby Bunting very well. A few inches lower and that bear would’ve shot him.” And later… “Good grief, he could have drowned.” The Wicked Witch was ridiculed for laughing at the end.

Out, I say, with the soft, gentle tones of mummy reading to Milo and in, I say, to the chaotic, hilarity of my dad. Brilliant!

***Milo’s not wearing trousers by the way due to the fact that I couldn’t be bothered to re-clothe him again. Muddy puddles and a boy who likes to scooter through them no matter how deep they are, are the reason my washing machine is on its last legs.

Oh, and if you are thinking, birthday must mean cake, here’s a picture of the chocolate cake I made my dad. Best eaten with creme fraiche and a few summer berries (if you are my mum and Milo’s dad. My dad and I… a big old dollop of whipped cream please!)

Carrots, carrots, carrots

Wondering what book for bookish bites I can turn these lovelies into a carrot cake for. Once they’ve grown a little more that is. Any suggestions? Know of any children’s books with carroty foods in?

Bookish Bites : Rocket to the Moon lemony cupcakes

Lerryn Korda’s Rocket to the Moon (Walker Books) is a current favourite in our house, so with a bit of a free morning stretching ahead of us and fancying something sweet for a treat later, Milo and I decided to make some Rocket to the Moon cupcakes.

We started with a snuggly read of the book first. Milo enjoys checking out who everyone is; Is this Gracie? Is this Little Nye? And of course we love saying “rocket to the moon” and imagining that we are whizzing by the stars.

The cupcakes that Gracie and Nella make in the book look like lemony ones to me, with lemon yellow icing, but the cherry on the top made me wonder whether there would be cherries inside too.

Lemon and cherry goes well together, sweet and sharp, so we set about making some lemon, cherry cupcakes with lemon buttercream icing. We used our tried and tested recipe for the cupcakes from The Hummingbird Bakery cook book (Ryland, Peters and Small), with a tweaked cherry conserve addition from ourselves.

Milo did all the pouring of ingredients into the mixer – we always add a touch more lemon than the recipe says too, just for a bit more zing (we’re a lemon loving family!). We use our mixer a lot, this is partly as it’s a time saver but also because Milo’s obsessed with it/all machinery!

Once the cakes were out of the oven and cooled a little, we started with the fun bit. Spoon a little hole out of the top of the cake, pop the spooned out cakey piece to one side, dollop a teaspoon of cherry conserve into the hole and pop the cakey piece on top. This was Milo’s favourite bit.

We made buttercream icing for the topping with a little yellow food colouring to brighten them.

I iced them, Milo popped the cherries on top and then we ate! The cherry conserve jam splodge in the middle was very tasty, though next time I might just add cherries to the mix itself because it was a touch sweet. Milo’s verdict: “Yummy cakes. Another one.”

Lerryn Korda sounds like an interesting and nice person, firstly because she did something I’d have loved to have done and that’s studied film in New York. I studied film, but in Southampton. I’ve been to New York and it’s not at all like Southampton. She also loves trains and gets very excited about stationery as do I. There are other books in Playtime with Little Nye series that we will definitely be exploring. We’ll also be looking out for her new book Lulu and Bob out this month which looks lovely too.

Rip the Page!

Soule Mama is a lovely blog that I read often. It makes me feel massively inadequate as a mum and human being as I seem to have half the energy that this lovely mother has and just the one child to look after. But even so, such lovely ideas, gorgeous crafts, photos, adorable children, wonderful knitting and lots of chickens and farming – I can’t help but read.

A recent post definitely caught my eye. A family writing club inspired by the book Rip the Page which looks like a lot of fun. I do find myself reading these ideas for activities for older children and wishing Milo was a bit older so we could do them ourselves, but that’s just silly. I’m stunned at how fast he’s growing up anyway so I’ll take this idea and store it in my brain (on this blog) until he’s old enough to write and then be grateful for having it then. Just like board games. Can’t wait to play board games with my boy.

Rip the Page however, I’ve just ordered. It looks fantastic! There’s even a letter of encouragement inside from Lemony Snicket. No further purchase encouragement needed! So, I’m excited for when the book pops through the door and I can read and learn and try and be ready for when Milo’s old enough so I can enthuse and encourage.

There will also be new pens, new notebooks (is there anything else so lovely as a new notebook), hot chocolate and popcorn. Or maybe cake. Probably cake.

A bookish party – incredible!

I have a small confession to make. I am a little obsessive about reading American party planning sites and American house reveal sites. Namely Sara’s Party Perfect and Hooked on Houses. Am I just nosy? Hooked on Houses I like to think, is a set design thing because I studied film and this interests me, but really it’s probably just that I want to see more of the houses that appear in films I like and celebrity houses. I am, I’m nosy.

The party planning thing is just all about the cake and the detail. You just wouldn’t get parties like this in England, would you? I think we’re a bit more relaxed and traditional and this is so not a bad thing, but I do love the level of detail and thought that goes into these “events” and this one on Sara’s Party Perfect caught my eye recently. A children’s book party courtesy of Amelie’s House blog:

These pictures really do speak for themselves, but honestly pop over there to take a look at the rest of them and the party description.

I don’t think I could possibly cut up Milo’s old picture books to make bunting, but photocopying pages, yes, I could definitely do that. The bunting is very cute.

I like the bookish activity element to this party too.

Honestly, I dread to think how long it would take to organise something like this. It took me yonks just to make all the cake for Milo’s second birthday party (having forgotten I’d already made a load and they were in my mum’s freezer), but with all the extra details on top. Phewf!

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