How to decorate your Christmas cake

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It really is very quick to do and is bound to elicit much ooohing and ahhing from your guests.
It's all in picture instructions, as I find it the easiest way to show what I mean.
You will need some modelling paste (mix 1 teaspoon of gum trag with 250g of fondant, knead together for 10 mins and leave overnight) a  medium sized paintbrush (size 8) and a small one for outlines ( size 0), a palatte  boiled water, kitchen roll and colours (egg yellow, baby blue, dark brown, pink).
You can download the template here.
Here's how it's done!

Covering your cake

Making your snow globe

Painting your snow globe

 Rectifying mistakes

Finish off with a nice big bow and maybe a few decorative snowflake sprinkles.

Harrods hamper winner

Congratulations to Betty who has won the fabulous Harrods luxury hamper. I have emailed you.
I hope to have some more lovely giveaways next year, I only wish I could send you all a hamper.

Christmas goodies

Monday, December 17, 2012
I thought you may like to see some of this year's Nevie-Pie Cakes Christmas designs.

ps if you are in the UK don't forget to enter my fabulous giveaway here.

Book club cake of the month...December

Saturday, December 15, 2012

This was another slightly unofficial book club, as we went out to a cocktail bar as a Christmas treat and a catch up. However we had all decided to read 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens. 
I don't think that any of us had read the book before, even though we all knew the story back to front. As I was reading all I could see were images from 'Scrooged' in front of me. And now I really want to see the film again, I love the Spirit of Christmas present! 
We all enjoyed the book, it's more of a novella so it is a quick read and guaranteed to make you feel the Christmas spirit. We also felt that Dickens is an amazing writer and was ahead of his time in showing how upbringing can lead to character traits later in life. I must also admit to shedding a tear at the end, (and to constantly singing 'Put A Little Love In Your Heart' from Scrooged'.)
We marked it 81/2 and then moved on to cocktails and a cheese board.

(The Spirit of Christmas Present)

I decided to make little Christmas treats for all the book group members. So I made them gingerbread cookie baubles and illustrated some of the books we had read this year. I then made them guess which ones they were, fortunately they all got them or I would have been worried about my illustration skills.
I have labelled them underneath for you.

Every month we meet we try to remember past marks, and never can, so as a book club service I thought I would recap.
January - The Silent Land by Graham Joyce 5 1/2
February - The Observations by Jane Harris 8 - 8 1/2
April - War of the Worlds by H G Wells 8
May - Cry The Beloved Country by Alan Paton 7 5/8
July - The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey 8 1/2
August - Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James 6 1/2
September - Money by Martin Amis 5 1/2
October - The Hundred Year Old Man by Jonas Jonnason 6 1/2
November - The House of Mirth by Edith Warton 8
December - A Christmas Carol by Carles Dickens 8 1/2

I really enjoy meeting every month with these fabulous ladies and giving myself the challenge of making new cakes for the books.
Here's to a very literary New Year.

Previous book club cakes of the month;
November 2012

Harrods hamper giveaway

Friday, December 14, 2012

What's that? you cry, two posts in one day, I know, I'm spoiling you!
But I couldn't say no to this giveaway, could I?

I am so excited that Harrods have very kindly offered to giveaway a luxury chocolate hamper to one of you fabulous chocolate lovers, although I'm feeling a bit jealous too. 
They gave me the pick of their food hampers and this beauty caught my eye. It is a presented in an edible gingerbread house and stuffed with lollipops, cookies, jelly beans and other confections. It retails at £95 and would make a lovely Christmas treat.
I am hoping to create a sweet theme Christmas display this year and so I felt that this hamper was the one I should pick.

How can I win? You ask.
Well, first you have to live in the UK (sorry rest of the world!)
Then have a look at Harrods hamper selection and let me know in the comment section which one you would love to find under your Christmas tree, please leave an email address with your comment too.
Leave a separate comment if you follow me, if you link to this post via Facebook, Twitter or your own blog. So you could have up to five chances of winning.
The competition will close on Wednesday 19th December at 12pm.  The winner will be drawn using
Good luck.
(I haven't received any payment or products for hosting this giveaway)

Yummy mince pies

Your mincemeat should be nicely matured and ready to break out of the jar. So I thought I would share a mince pie recipe. 
My Gran was a real Lancashire lass and a fabulous baker, she was amazing at pastry, I can still taste her meat and potato pie. However, I have always found pastry really difficult to make, although it should be in my genes! This all changed when I got a fabulous recipe in a free baking booklet, and now every time I make pastry I have to elicit comments on how amazing it is (to much rolling of eyes). I have tweaked it a little as it was originally a savoury pastry recipe. Here's my secret trick to making this pastry Granny-Snape-fabulous, 10-15 minutes before you start, put a beaker of water in the freezer, so that it really is ice cold.

I forgot to add that you should rub the flour and fat together with your fingers until they are like fine breadcrumbs. I hope you really enjoy your mince pies, you can download the recipe here, and the mince meat recipe here

I had to wait a day for the light to return to take pictures of the final products and these three pies were all that was left! (I won't admit to how many I ate)

Homelessness at Christmas

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I have about three or four blog posts hiding in my head and camera at the minute. However they will all have to wait as I have been asked by Shelter to help with their Homeless at Christmas campaign, and I really couldn't say no!

This year they are highlighting the number of children who will be homeless, more than 75,000 which is truly shocking.

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s Chief Executive, said:
‘No child should be homeless at Christmas. Every December, Shelter’s helpline and advice centres deal with thousands of people at risk of losing their home. We need everyone’s support in the coming months to prevent families becoming homeless; and to help them find a new home if they do.’

Anyway as a way of considering homelessness Shelter are asking us all to think about what we would save if like some people this Christmas we were made homeless and lost all our possessions.

When I was little it was always Big Ted and if I'm honest he would still be pretty high on my list. However now, and this may seem really sad, it would be my phone. It is my life wrapped up in a little box, emails, photos, games etc.

You can join in, leave me a comment about your one treasured possession. Tweet a picture with the hashtag #justonething.

And of course the most important thing, you can give to help families facing homelessness by donating here.

Mincemeat recipe

Friday, November 30, 2012

Last Sunday was Stir-up-Sunday when you are supposed to make your Christmas puddings and cakes. The fruit for my Christmas pudding is still soaking up the brandy and I am hoping to find time to make it before Christmas day, but who knows? It is such a trial trying to find a four hour stretch when I'm at home with time to steam it. However with the help of a kidlet I managed to get my mincemeat made, so I thought I would share the recipe with you. This is a great recipe if you only want to make a couple of batches of mince pies. Most other recipes I have found made enough to last me for years! 
It is a simple recipe but go ahead and add spices or alcohol to make it more to your taste. 

50g dried cranberries
50g dried blueberries
50g mixed peel
50g cherries washed dried and chopped
150g currants
125g raisins
125g sultanas
100g suet
100g grated cooking apple
150g dark brown sugar

Bung (yes that's a technical term) everything into a bowl, stir and then spoon into a jar. Cover with a lid and leave for a week before using.

You can download the recipe here.

Gingerbread house 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm sorry I have posted this already and it's not even December but I am far too impatient. I went for a very traditional gingerbread house this year, but there is plenty of time for me to create something more unusual!
I will post more pictures when it really is the season!

Chocolate winner!

Congratulations Kathleen Hooper, you have won the Hotel Chocolate advent calender. Can you email me at with your address.
There will be more giveaways soon I promise. 

Oxo Good Grips winner.

Sunday, November 25, 2012
Congratulations to Anita who has won the Oxo Good Grips set. I hope that she enjoys using the products and whips up some delicious goodies soon.
ps Don't forget there are still a few days to enter the Hotel Chocolate advent calender giveaway here. 

A chocolaty giveaway

Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Yes, another giveaway and this time it's chocolate. Hurrah!

Hotel Chocolate have very kindly sent me an advent calender to try hoover up, and they will send one of you lucky people one too.
Of course I couldn't let them send one off to my lovely followers without making sure it tasted OK, I wouldn't be happy for you to have substandard goods.
But with just one chocolate I couldn't really tell... so I had to try another, and another (or five), I'm not sure if there will be any left by Christmas, it is delicious chocolate.

To win your own advent calender, leave me a comment below letting me know what you would love to find behind on of the doors.  You can also have extra entry into the draw if you are a follower of my blog/Twitter/Facebook or if you link to this giveaway on your own blog/Twitter/Facebook .  But please tell me via the comments below or I won't know. 

I will draw the lucky name out of a hat on Monday 26th November 12pm BST.
I'm really sorry but this giveaway is only open to residents of the UK.
Good luck!

Afternoon tea with QVC

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Last week I took two bags full of goodies to a really lovely event in London. I was asked to provide an afternoon tea for the press launch of QVC's Spring and Summer 2013 range. They wanted goodies that would reflect some of these products. 

The items that they choose were as diverse as cushions, nail polish (I made iced gems in the various colours) eye shadows and Lulu Guinness purses! A challenge? Yes! But you know that I love a challenge  Well, actually, there was one challenge too far, they wanted macarons, which my oven won't let me make (that's my story anyway), so I had some help from Lou Lou P's Delights, macaron maker extraordinaire  She also made some amazing facsimiles of cocktail rings from chocolate (you can see them above in the ring boxes, yes they really are chocolate!) and the skull cupcake toppers are her's also. The chocolate lollipops are from Cake for Breakfast, but everything else was made by my own fair hands!

Don't forget to check out my latest giveaway here

Best ever shortbread recipe and a giveaway!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I was very fortunate to be sent a lovely package of Oxo goodies recently. (Not the gravy Oxo but Oxo bakeware) So don't get excited thinking that I am about to post a recipe for bolognaise!

They sent me a lovely bowl which I have to admit is super. I have broken all my medium baking bowls so this has come in very handy ,and is unbreakable...yea! I also received an oven thermometer (I have wanted one of these for ages) a fabulous offset spatula and a pastry brush.
I had a long hard think as to what I could whip up using my new tools.

My Dad has been in hospital for a looong time and I wanted to make him a little treat to cheer him up, and I thought shortbread would be perfect as it is not too fussy and great to make a cup of horrible hospital tea a little bit more special.

I have been searching for a good shortbread recipe for ages and not been able to find one that I was really happy with. Part of the problem was the ingredients I was using, all the advice is to use a bit of rice flour in the mix, as this gives the shortbread a nice crunch. Unfortunately every time I have needed to make shortbread I have been out of rice flour (isn't it always the way?) However on a recent trip to my local supermarket whilst passing the 'free from' aisle I happened upon some, so I snapped it up.
Again I trawled through my cookbooks, and, not being able to find a recipe I was happy with, I turned to my Nana's scrap book of recipes. It is really special to me to have her collection of newspaper snippets and handwritten recipes (she would be spending most of her day on Pinterest if she were alive now!). She was born in Scotland and lived in Ireland so if anyone knew how to make a good shortbread it would be her.

The recipe is so easy, you just bung (technical term) everything into the bowl and rub it together until it forms a dough.

5oz Plain flour
2oz rice flour or corn meal
6oz unsalted butter in cubes
2oz icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 150C. Line a baking tin with baking paper. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and rub them together with your fingers until they form a dough. Turn out onto the work surface and roll out until 1.5cm thick. Using a spatula cut the dough to form the bars of shortbread. Then create a pattern with a fork or a skewer. Sprinkle over some sugar. Bake for 30-40 mins until firm and golden brown at the edges. Once it is out of the oven gently go over the lines on the shortbread or re-do the holes to make them more visible.
(You can get a downloadable version here.)

I made a get well soon pattern on the shortbread to cheer up my Dad. I used a wooden skewer to make dots that formed a get well soon message. Then I sprinkled some sugar over the whole piece before baking.

Once the shortbread has baked you may need to go over some the dots again, but do it very carefully so as not to crack the pieces. I also cut through the bars where I had made the original marks while the shortbread was still warm.

After the shortbread had cooled I packaged it up to take with me on my next visit to the invalid. Unfortunately he has been in so long that he has started to loose his appetite but I hope these bars made with love will tempt him a little.

 I love my new Oxo goodies, the bowl is great as it is easy to get every last scrap of doughy goodness out and it is non-slip (great for a klutz like me). I have wanted a large off set spatula for ages to transport cakes and I really need an oven thermometer so I can make some macarons!  Oxo have kindly offered to send one of you lucky followers the same set that I received.

To win your own set, leave me a comment below letting me know what you would love to own from the Oxo cooking and baking range.  You can also have extra entry into the draw if you are a follower of my blog/Twitter/Facebook or if you link to this giveaway on your own blog/Twitter/Facebook .  But please tell me via the comments below or I won't know. The competition is open to everyone.
I will draw the lucky name out of a hat on Sunday 25th November 12pm BST.
I'm really sorry but this giveaway is only open to residents of the UK.
Good luck!

I haven't received payment for this post but I did receive the Oxo products as shown.
(Keep you eyes peeled for another giveaway later this week!)

Book club cake of the month...November

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How organised am I? We only had our book club meeting last night! Normally it takes me weeks to get the post out. So enjoy this new found diligence because it certainly won't last for long.

Anyway, this month, we read The House Of Mirth by Edith Warton. The story is set in 1890's New York and is about Lily Bart a 29 year old (which meant nearly past it!) but very beautiful woman, who is relatively poor compared to the social circle she moves in, and is reliant on her wealthy friend's patronage. She makes a series of self destructive choices and her life starts to unravel.
We all really enjoyed this book, and felt the story had a universality and wasn't confined to the period and social set that it was written about. There are equally self destructive people today who it could apply to. A few of the group did want to give Lily a good shake and tell her to get a grip, but we all felt sympathiy for her situation and a couple of us had shed some tears by the end of the story.
We gave it a solid 8 with no less than 7.5 and a few 9s.

As the characters in the book are constantly drinking tea, I made Earl grey cupcakes. I added a little piece of shortbread  to make tea and biscuits! I am not a tea drinker myself but I found these delicious!
Next month we are having an informal Christmas get-together and may try to read something seasonal.

Previous book club cakes of the month;

Underwater party

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I was sorting through my images, and realised I never posted the pictures of little kidlet's underwater party! (You can see the invitations way back here.)
Sorry, I hope you enjoy them now even though it's a few months late.

She wanted an Octonaut party, but, being a mean Mummy who hates character cakes I persuaded her to change the theme to a general underwater party. 
We found the Ralph Lauren fabric and that sparked the colour scheme and the line drawing details.

These oysters with their faces were especially requested.

I have to admit that I never make meringues, as they tend to burn in my oven, but they do look pretty, so I get in shop bought! We had jelly with gummy fish floating around.

Mini cupcakes (as kidlets never eat all the big ones) with underwater creature toppers. I made a version of my favourite iced gems. These are lustrous pearls.

I am a bit obsessed with ruffles so I added ombre wave ruffles onto the cake.

Of course no party is complete without a pinata. You can see instructions on how to make your own here.
It seems like a very long time ago, but it's lovely to be able to look back and remember my kidlet's happy face!