Tag Archives: food presents

Easy cupcakes for any occasion

I’m not one for jumping on fashion bandwagons of any kind and I’m sure many of us having been making cupcakes or fairy cakes for as long as we can remember; what’s the big deal?

Of course, there isn’t one.  Cupcakes are simply 4442 sponge mixture with the decoration of your choice on the top.  You can take a week making sugar flowers or you can go to a decent kitchen shop and buy some, it all depends on the occasion.  Cookshops usually have a fabulous selection of ready-made decorations, food colourings, edible glitter and pearls.  You can have such fun and don’t need to be a skilled cake decorator to produce something lovely.

Boy the Younger will be 8 tomorrow, so I am sending him in with a tray of simple cupcakes to share with his school friends as he won’t be having a proper celebration until next month.  I’m going to do the same thing that I did for Boy the Elder’s birthday and take him and his chums to an English Heritage property and take a picnic.

  • I trebled the amount of mixture, doing 12 12 12 6 quantities which made 36 cakes
  • I trebled the quantities for the mock cream for the top. 
  • I tinted the mock cream with a tiny bit of pink food colouring – pastes are better than the cheap liquid stuff you get in the supermarket
  • I piped it through a wide serrated icing nozzle such as one might use to pipe mashed potato
  • I bought the sugar flowers and edible pearls from the Kitchen Range shop in Market Harborough
  • I used co-ordinating paper cases for the type of decoration I was doing

I was really pleased with these.  Unused as I am to blowing my own trumpet, I have a duty to let you know that I have a trumpet, so that you can have a go at making these yourselves.


Filed under Children, Family and Friends, Food, Food Presents, Recipes, Storecupboard

Home Made Sweets 3 – Coconut Ice

Coconut Ice

I love coconut ice.  Unfortunately my children do not. 
Their friends do, though, and they love me for it.
This is a good recipe for you to do with your children over half term.

You might also like to have a go at Fudge and Truffles.


1 x large heavy based pan
1 x cooking thermometer (ideal but not necessary)
1 x shallow 8×10” cake tin (20x25cm ish?)

1lb / 480g granulated sugar
¼ pint /150ml milk
5oz / 150g desiccated coconut
pink or green food colouring
a little butter for greasing the tin

Grease the tin with a little butter
Put the milk and sugar into the pan and put it on a low heat, stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved
Bring to the boil, then continue on a rolling boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches soft ball* or 14oC
Take great care not to let it burn or you will completely spoil the flavour
Take the pan off the heat and add the coconut, mixing it in well
Pour half the mixture into the tin and pop it in the fridge to cool
Add a little food colouring to the remaining mixture and stir well in
Pour the coloured mixture over the first, white, half in the tin
When cool, mark into bars or squares with a sharp knife
Leave to go completely cold then cut it up properly

* I would recommend buying a sugar thermometer if you don’t already have one, as it saves a lot of time dropping boiling gloop into saucers of water.  If you don’t have a thermometer, the mixture has reached ‘Soft Ball’ when a teaspoon of the mixture dropped into cold water forms a soft ball when rolled between your finger and thumb.


Filed under Children, Food, Food Presents, Recipes

A marvellous Christmas Cake Recipe

Ideally, one should have baked a Christmas Cake a week ago, but there is still plenty of time if you feed it with brandy twice a day instead of once.  I will do two more posts on how to marzipan the cake and a simple decorative icing.  Also do remember that Christmas Cake is full of fruit and is therefore health food.

Also remember that a small Christmas Cake makes a lovely and welcome gift, particularly for someone who doesn’t have the time to bake, or is perhaps on their own and can’t manage a bigger one.  Adjust the quantities accordingly. 

Lining a cake tin:   When baking a heavy fruit cake, you need to line the tin properly with greaseproof paper. 
Lay out your greaseproof paper on a flat surface and trace round the bottom of the tin twice
Cut out the two circles and set aside
Cut a long strip, the circumference of the tin and about 1″ (2.5cm) deeper than the tin.  Make small cuts at regular intervals all along one long edge.
Grease the tin then place one circle of greaseproof in the bottom
Grease this circle of paper lightly then put the long length of paper around the inside of the tin, snipped side at the bottom so that is overlaps the ready greased circle.
Then place the second circle of greaseproof paper on top of that. 


1 large mixing bowl
1 x food mixer
Greaseproof paper

8oz soft brown sugar
8oz butter
4 eggs – beaten
1½ tablespoons black treacle
9oz wholemeal self-raising flour
1½ teaspoons mixed spice
14oz raisins
14oz sultanas
12oz currants
6oz glacé cherries – halved
2oz chopped almonds

Cream the butter and sugar until very pale 
Beat in the eggs, then mix in the treacle
Gradually fold the flour into the mixture 
Once it is all combined, add all the other ingredients.

Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin, leaving a deep indentation in the middle so that it rises flat
Wrap newspaper around the outside of the tin, leaving a good 2” of paper above the top of the tin 
Secure with the paper with string (do not use plastic string as this will melt).
Bake at 150ºC for 2 hours, then at 140ºC for 1 hour
Remove the newspaper, then leave to cool in the tin 
Each day, drizzle half a capful of brandy or rum over the cake until you are ready to marzipan and ice it


Filed under Christmas, Food, Food Presents, Recipes, Seasonal

Stir Up a Christmas Pudding, O Lord!

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent and was therefore Stir-Up Sunday.  This is so called because the collect on the Sunday before Advent begins “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded.” 

For those of us more focussed on our tummies, this prayer acts as a reminder to stir up fruit of the dried variety and reward ourselves with a delicious Christmas Pudding.  I always get anyone in the house at the time to take a turn at stirring and make a wish while they do so.  My recipe makes enough pudding to feed a small market town, as it is a variation on my grandmother’s recipe from a time when they made two puddings, one to be eaten this year and one to be kept for next.  I don’t hold with this as a year old pudding strikes me as being fairly pointless and a tradition too far.  If you are determined to do it, simply double the quantities listed below.

If you have nut allergists in the house, leave out the almonds and add an extra ounce of raisins or cherries.

And don’t forget, a home made Christmas Pud. makes a lovely and welcome gift, wrapped in a muslin cloth with an attractive ribbon, so think ahead.  Imagine the delight of receiving a bottle of home made Sloe Gin and a round fat pudding; it stirs me up, to be sure. 

And another thing.  Do remember to put some choking hazards in the pudding before you serve it.  A silver coin or a lovely charm are absolutely necessary in your Christmas Pudding and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

1 x very large mixing bowl
1 x chopping board
1 x vegetable peeler
1 x grater
Greaseproof paper
1 x large pudding bowl suitable for steaming –  if you have a pudding bowl with a pierced lid, you won’t need the greaseproof, scissors or string
1 x large pan for steaming

¼ lb / 120g self raising flour
¼ lb / 120g wholemeal or granary breadcrumbs
¼ lb / 120g suet
¼ lb / 120g currants
¼ lb / 120g raisins
¼ lb / 120g sultanas
¼ lb / 120g glace cherries – quartered
3oz / 90g dark brown sugar
2oz / 60g flaked almonds
1 apple – peeled cored and finely chopped
1/8 tsp mixed spice
¼  tspn cinnamon
1/8  tspn nutmeg
the juice and grated rind of ½  lemon
2 large eggs (or 3 small to medium)
1 tablespoon black treacle
1/8  pint / 75ml brandy
¼ pint / 150ml bitter beer

Mix the flour, breadcrumbs and suet together
Add the dried fruit, almonds, apple, cherries and spices and mix well
Add the eggs, treacle, brandy, bitter beer and lemon  and mix thoroughly
Cut a circle of greaseproof paper about 4″ / 9cm larger than the circumference of the pudding bowl
Make a pleat in the middle of the greaseproof paper (to allow for expansion)
Put the mixture into the pudding bowl and flatten the top, leaving at least 1″ / 2.5cm between the mixture and the rim of the bowl
Place the greaseproof paper on top and tie onto the bowl with string
Place the pudding into the large pan and fill with water half way up the pudding bowl
Bring to the boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 8 hours, constantly topping up the water.
When the pudding is cooked and cooled, wrap it in greaseproof paper, then wrap it again in a muslin cloth
Hang it in a cool place in your kitchen until Christmas
When you come to eat it, it can be steamed again for 3 hours or heated in the microwave for about 4 minutes!  The decision is yours.


Filed under Christmas, Food, Food Presents, Recipes, Seasonal

“A Shop-Bought Mince Pie is a Horrid Surprise!”: So make your own Mincemeat

These are the wise words on my special Christmas mince pie tin that I bring down from the loft with the Christmas decorations and it is absolutely true.  Now is the time to be making it so that it has had time to mature, and mincemeat is tremendously easy to make and is far superior to shop-bought.  It also has a satisfying ‘brag-factor’ when you hand them round to your friends who will immediately worship at your feet.

You will need some sterilized glass jars or some sterilized airtight tupperwares to put the mincemeat in.  A lovely big jar of home made mincemeat with a decorative label and ribbon would also make a very welcome Christmas present.


1 x large mixing bowl
1 x chopping board
Jars as above

4oz / 120g suet
8oz / 240g dark brown sugar
8oz / 240g currants
8oz / 240g raisins
8oz / 240g cooking apple – finely chopped
2 lemons – use the juice and you can add the finely grated rind if you like it
2 oz / 60g almonds – chopped
½ tspn mixed spice
3floz / 90ml brandy

Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl
Cover and leave overnight to allow the fruit to absorb the liquid and expand
Put into sterilized jars
Leave for at least a week before using and preferably a month.

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Filed under Christmas, Food, Food Presents, Recipes, Seasonal