Baking bonanza!

I was lucky enough to get one of these amazing giant cupcake pans for Christmas and with exciting dreams of fabulous prettiful cakes here are my baking attempts.  As you will find out the shape of the pan does make it a little bit tricky to get the perfect cake but they were all very much edible and fun to make!

Heres the pan and some pictures of the baking attempts:

All the cakes were made with a basic sponge mix of 2oz each of flour, sugar and butter to every 1 egg.  Plus a little vanilla and baking powder.

Attempt 1

On first go I put cake mix (using 4 eggs) in both halves of the pan and into the oven preheated to 170 C.  After 30 mins the top of the cup cake (cone shaped half of the pan) was over done but the bottom half still wobberly and not set!  (quite a design flaw!) So, I removed from the oven and managed to gently pull out the top half of the cake and let that cool while the bottom half had another 20mins in the oven.   The sponge was really nice inside but as you can see a bit over done around the edges, covered up with some lemon drizzle!

Attempt 2

Longer and lower cooking was my plan for this time in order to achieve a more evenly baked cake.  Made with a mix with 4 eggs, I also decided to allow the bottom half a bit of extra cooking time so just poured mix in that side and after 10mins at 150 C removed it from the oven and poured mix in the top half of the pan.

I wasn’t too hopefully of a good result after this as pouring cake mix into a hot pan doesn’t seem right!  After 30mins the cake had risen well but was still very wobberly and a combination of too low, too long and opening oven door to check = disaster as the bottom half massively sunk! The top half was also not much better once cooled – the heat from the pan left the sponge very cracked and it crumbled very easily.

Never-the-less, with such a lovely golden brown cake, I persevered and once iced with some butter icing it doesn’t look so bad.  The trimed off cake bits tasted pretty good too!

Attempt 3

This time I tried baking each half separately at a hotter temperature in the hope that the cake would cook quicker and not sink, but not burn either! So with a cake mix of 3 eggs for the bottom half the oven was on at 170 C and after 30mins the cake still wasn’t cooked.  After another 20 mins even though the top was still a little soft I didn’t want the edges to burn so out it came.  Then after the pan had cooled I made up another batch of cake mix with 2 eggs for the top half, again at 170 C and this took around 40mins cooking time.

After some butter icing and lemon and orange decorative jellies here’s the finished result:

Yummers! Hope it tastes nice, sadly I won’t get to try it as it’s going to Cranfield for a charity cake sale tomorrow! But all for a good cause – fundraising in aid of our friend running the marathon, you can read more (and help if you can) here.

Bad tooth = numb face

Been at the dentist this morning.  Booked in to have 2 small fillings on the top and 1 larger filling (to replace an old one at the bottom).  I haven’t had much tooth ache but the bottom one is especially sensitive to hot / cold and needed to be looked at.

On further inspection I needed 2 fillings at the bottom, which the dentist descibed one as ” a massive cavity” Blimey!  So, 3 injections later my whole mouth, chin, lips and nose is now numb…. It turns out that the old filling was hiding a big hole underneath and this mornings investigation ended up being a full on deep drill right to the nerve.  At some point, could be 6 days, 6 months or 6 years it’s going to need a root canal.  Brilliant.

Much flossing and brushing is needed for the future of my teeth, but for now I’m just a little bit dribbly and slury – for the next 4 to 6 hours.

I’m a little busy bee

So it’s been a mental few weeks in Maro World.  I’m finally feeling that there’s light at the end and the wild roller coaster of my life and thing are getting back on the right tracks.

Work has been particularly manic and now we’ve launched our new website – www.creationagency.com – all is looking snazzy and frexh. Regular updates and more tweets should get us some more client attention in the future and the office is really proud and buzzing with new ideas to blog about.

I’ve been studing hard to complete my Marketing Information and Research module of the CIM course.  Some good feedback in my tutorial last night has left me feeling more confident that I’ve really now ‘broken the back’ of my proposal.  With only 3 weeks until hand in though I’ve still got a lot of ground to cover.

There’s a fair few sporting events coming up on the calender too, which I’m mega excited about! Saturday we’re off to The Emirates to watch the Arsenal v Tottenham game which should be a great atmostphere!  Then Sunday I’m zooming up to Manchester to play for Olney Ladies against Altrincham Kersal should be another great league encounter.  So far we’ve been performing really well against some tough sides as we’ve gone up to North 1 in the RFUW leagues.  I got my first try on our lovely new Doff’s Field last weekend so I’m hoping for more good play this Sunday – lets just hope my black toe doesn’t cause too much jip! (more to follow on that one)

I used to think Alton Towers had fantastic rollercoaster rides, I’ve been there a lot and everytime the rides were great.

Then I went to Islands of Adventure in Florida and the rollercoasters there were even better – faster, more spins more loops and totally different experiences, the Hulk and Dueling Dragons the clear winners.  Although I was also completely taken in by the Spiderman Simulation “Your Spider-Senses Will Be Tingling. Put on your 3-D glasses for an eye-popping, pulse-pounding, first-of-its-kind 3-D Spider-Man thrill ride.”  That really, truely was a thrill. I loved it!

Then, we went to Thorpe Park at the weekend (for the first time) and I was impressed.  Although compact and small in ground coverage compared to other big theme parks Thorpe Park still has the big rides that attract thrill seekers.   First up was Stealth (0-80mph in 2 seconds) fast, exhilirating and brilliant fun! But over fairly quickly so glad the queue was only 10 mins.   Then a nice ride on the rapids and luckily it was a sunny day as we did get soaked, quickly followed by Nemisis which was a great, fun and exciting ride.

Then the queueing began for Saw..The Ride.  Already just in the queue I was feeling petrified (I’ve only watched half of the first film as I was too scared) but I hadn’t come all that way (well an hours drive!) to wimp out. One hours queue later…  we’re in line, only 20 or so people to go and then we’re on.  Heart pounding, hands shaking and slightly sweaty brow forming…..an announcement is made “Technical fault… we appreciate your patience whilst riders are removed from the ride….” Hmmm, so 20mins later and the suspense has almost gone, very glad we’re not going to be the first people back on it. Anyway riders were finally removed off the ride, technical fault sorted and we were on.  Crickey was I scared.  But we did it, and it was amazing! Probably the best coaster I’ve ever been on, but that is probably somewhat down to how scared I was to begin with! Totally ACE!

I love foraging.

I love this time of year simply because there is so much free food around! Here’s a few pictures of the massive marrow, all the preserves and a really tasty Beef Wellington that we cooked up last weekend – it was fantastic and well worth the effort.

I do get quite obsessed with making and preserving when fruits are so abundant.  Mainly because the results taste great, make fantastic Christmas presents and I feel much better that food is not going to waste.

So much so that I even went out with a step ladder the other night to reach the masses of plums from a tree overhanging a public path where I regularly walk the dog.  I’ve had my eye on the deep purple fruits for a few weeks as the ground became more and more sticky and covered with windfall fruit – I couldn’t watch the waste any longer!  There is still plenty of fruit to be had but I’ll need a bigger ladder….

Also around where I live there is also an abundance of brambles with masses of blackberries.  Last weekend I was far from alone with my tupperware, steadily working my way along the branches collecting the deliciously dark berries and avoiding the thorns! Easily within 30mins I had about a kilo of fruit which is plenty for us, so I continued my cooking/preserving obsession by making Blackberry Jam last night.  I got 4 jars full and I’m really pleased with it as it is still sharp but sweet and hasn’t set too hard.

It’s the first time I’ve made Jam on my own (usually me and my mum have a jam making marathon weekend but we haven’t found time yet)  and my cast iron pan isn’t quite deep enough for good Jam Safety Standards!  With barely an inch to spare from the top, the moulten bubbling syrup was quite intimidating and needed a watchful eye throughout the whole process, but I’m pleased that both Plum and Blackberry Jam set quite well and didn’t cause any sticky kitchen disasters!

Anyway, this year I really have gone a bit mad and stored away to mellow in a dark cupboard (so far) are:

14 jars of Spiced Apple and Marrow Chutney,

6 jars of Red Onion and Tomato Chutney (made by H2B),

8 jars of Plum Chutney,

5 jars of Plum Jam and,

3 jars of Blackberry Jam (the forth is already half eaten!) And amazingly all this fruit and veg has been free!

I still have a few kilos of Cooking Apples from a friends trees (and many more apples still to be picked) and there are still plenty of blackberries and plums out there!  Plus I can’t forget all the tomatos I’ve grown that are still green – I think I might try Green Tomato Ketchup…

Yes, last night the doorstep had a surprise waiting for me.  The dreaded results letter!!

Way back in June (on my birthday no less) I sat a 3hr exam on the topic ‘Assessing the Marketing Environment’ as part of my course with CIM.   I spent 6 weeks reading, re-reading and studying a case study on Toyota and trying to anticipate what sort of questions would come up in the exam.

During the exam I remember writing a lot, filling masses of pages of the answer booklet, emptying my brain of all the associated knowledge of Toyota that I had accumulated.  So, almost immediately when ‘Time’s Up’ was called out in the exam room I had forgotten everything that I had been scribbling down and had no idea how I had done or if I had even done enough to pass!

Letter-AWell last night results were in and I managed an A grade.  I’m so chuffed with this as it means I got at least 85% (you don’t get a specific mark) so all the late nights spent reading and revising were well worth it.  Hoo-rah!

Tasty tomatoe treats

After a very unsucessful attempt at growing tomatoes last year (long story short – I misunderstood gardening tips over the phone from my dad and ended up thining out all the actual tomatoe growing trusses rather than extra shoots) I gave it another go this year.  Grown from seeds my little plants enjoyed the early sunshine in May and June, and I had high hopes for a bumper yeild.  I used tomatoe food, religiously watered each plant daily and stepped up the late night slug patrols when the July rains swamped the garden with the slippery beasts.

Now the strange weather of sunshine and showers has really boosted the crop and I’m so chuffed with all the green buds as they begin their transformation into ripe, juicy tomatoes.  I sat out in the garden with Rocky last Saturday and enjoyed the heat of the sun along with the tomatotes, the intense smell off the vines filling the air, watching the colours changing to that deep delicious red.

Sorry for the lack of posts, I’m going to try and be more pro-active in writing more blogs in future.  Anyways, the reason for the current drought has been a combination of weddings and holidays!

First up was my sisters big country wedding in Northampton which was totally ace!  After a fairly calm morning (hair in rollers by 8am!) we arrived in good time at the church to find that there had been a power cut so the piano played our entrance tunes, which was no big deal and the comedy value suited my mad but chilled sister and her Hubby!  The party was totally brilliant with great food a fantastic band and fab speaches (including the brides!)   I also helped my dad with the surf theme cake – complete with crashing wave surround (good paper mache fun there!)

Then H2B and I went off to the north norfolk cost with our lovely dog Rocky.  We had a fantastic week of sleeping, reading and enjoying the beach with a few swims in the sea.  Although the plague of lady bugs hampered any trips into the seaside towns! Rocky even had a dip himself – the dog who’s never more than paddled in streams and runs away from waves jumped over the crashing surf and paddled like crazy into the water!  Poor dog seemed to have a mix of utter fear, panic and complete enjoyment at paddling out to meet us in the barely waist deep water! (I suppose thats quite deep when your only a little dog)  We were so proud of him!  So Rocky did a LOT of sleeping and dreaming of his adventure into the surf!

Then we had a trip on a propeller plane over to Guerney for another wedding. It was fairly bumpy, noisy and uncomfortable ride but our long weekend on the island was well worth it, staying here at the Auberge.  Fantastic weather, a beautiful wedding full of comedy moments and a great band.  We even made use of the pool to dip our feet after the walk from church to rception in heels!  The day after we amazingly managed to get up early to collect our bike hire and cycled our way around most of the island, finishing with a delicious meal on the balcony over looking St Peter Port at Christie’s.

A lovely day out.

Today has been a fab day enjoying the sights of Cambridge with H2B, his mum, sister and cousin visiting from Aus.  As well as a comedy narrated punting tour we wandered the many streets, shops and colleges and had a very yummy lunch at Teri-Aki.   Here’s some pics of the day, including my sushi lunch:

A dramatic dog rescue.  Yes, I’ve had a bit of a dramatic morning.

My occasional drive in (I usually cycle to work) along the V4 in Milton Keynes took a dramatic turn when a little jack russel ran out of a Farm House and across the road in front of my car.  Luckily it was a little bit ahead of me with no cars in front so I saw the little dog from a way off and had time to slow down.  At the next roundabout I turned back, thinking to myself that this is someone’s pet that has escaped, if it was my Dog I would definitely hope that some one would bring him back.

I parked up on the side of the road and walked up the redway to where the little guy had run up into the bushes.  He was friendly enough and had that ‘oops, I’ve been a bad dog’ look.  So I scooped him up and started walking toward the Farm House to return him home when another car stopped and asked if I had just found that dog as he saw it go under a car.   Realising then that my right hand (supporting the dogs back legs) was warm, wet and covered in blood.

The man from the other car was a great help and we took the poor little dog back to the house, which was empty, so we phoned the number on his collar – no answer, left a message.   Hmmm, can’t leave a bleeding dog lying on the porch….

Not knowing whether to take him to the vets or wait around we eventually found a path at the back of the house that led to the farm.  A brief wander through hay, mud and cowpats and we found the owner who was really grateful, thanked us and said he’d be off to the vets!  Luckily I think the little dog only had a cut to the top of it’s leg just under the tail and had a very lucky escape!

So now I’ve got the blood off my top, cleaned my shoes and was only 15 mins late to work.  What a morning!

Good deed for the day = check.