Friday, 27 July 2012

London 2012 Olympics

Since the announcement that London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics back in 2005, we have gradually been getting more and more excited about it all. We have definitely never been one of those Bah Humbug Brits who thought it was all a waste of money and time and now it is almost here, I'm sure our optimism and enthusiasm will be justified!
We live about 15 minutes from Heathrow Airport so Mr Snowballs decided last Sunday that we would wander on over to do a bit of Olympic team spotting. We managed to see Olympians from Australia, Estonia, Japan, India, UAE and USA and even spoke to a few of them.

We have managed to see the Olympic flame twice this week to on its nationwide relay: once in our local town Richmond and today on the Royal Barge Gloriana being rowed down the River Thames - amazing.
Tonight we are having a few friends and grandparents over to watch the Opening Ceremony with us. I spotted a great idea here about creating a bingo sheet to keep the children amused for some of the time and adapted the idea to be more specific (based on the little snippets of information that have been released). Don't think it needs to be limited to the kids either!
And finally, we managed to get some tickets (despite the ticket fiasco - which is the one negative thing we have encountered so far) and are going to see rowing on Monday at Eton Rowing lake. Sadly not one of the main Olympic venues which would have been very cool but still great. Let's hope the glorious sun we have had this week continues and we don't need brollies!
© 2012 Nicola Noble: Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (in fondant!)

As I may have mentioned before, there was a cake competition as part of our recent street party. I had designed the winning entry in my head and created the cake topper, before I decided to bake and sell cakes for charity instead!

Following on from the lovely ribbon cake I made for my niece's 18th birthday (take a look here), I had great visions of creating a Union Jack type decoration with appropriate sized ribbons in red and blue across a white cake and to top it all, a mini Queen along the lines of the cute Happy Land one from Early Learning Centre.

I made Her Majesty a week or so before the street party to allow her to harden and be able to stand unsupported and I think she turned out quite cute. Rather than let her go to waste, I still entered her into the competition but uniquely positioned on top of her own cupcake. Needless to say, she didn't win but I'm still glad she got to see the light of day ...
We had fun taking photos of her with a couple of doppelgangers and some corgis ...
before I unceremoneously cut her in half vertically for the kids to eat ...
Thank you Ma'am!

© 2012 Nicola Noble: Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Banana and "honey" teabread

Mr Snowball has just started a new job, commuting into central London for the first time in about 10 years, so I thought I would make a gluten-free cake to cheer him up when he got home last night. I had a whole bunch of very ripe bananas sitting in my fruit bowl and normally I peel them and pop them in a bag in the freezer to use another time but found a Mary Berry recipe for banana and honey tea bread so used them "fresh".

I also realised I didn't have the thick honey the recipe calls for, and actually not even enough honey, so I used what I had and made up the quantity with golden syrup.

I'm not sure what difference the golden syrup made - perhaps it made it a bit sweeter than if it had been made entirely with honey, but the sweetness wasn't overpowering. The resulting teabread was delicious and almost half was consumed within five minutes of slicing the first slice ...

Banana and Honey Teabread

Ingredients
225g self-raising flour
¼ level tsp freshly grated nutmeg
100g margarine
225g bananas
100g caster sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
6 tbsp thick pale honey

For the topping
2 tbsp honey
nibbed sugar

Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 4. Lightly grease and base line a 900g/2lb loaf tin with greased greaseproof paper.

Measure the flour and nutmeg into a large bowl and rub in the margarine using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Peel and mash the bananas and stir into the flour mixture, along with the sugar, lemon rind, eggs and honey. Beat well until evenly mixed, then turn into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 1¼ hours or until a fine skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cover the teabread loosely with foil during the end of the cooking time if it is browning too much. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

For the topping, gently warm the honey in a small pan, then brush over the top of the tea bread. Sprinkle with the nibbled sugar.

© 2012 Nicola Noble: Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.

Honeycomb cupcakes

I am running a half marathon in October for charity Parkinsons UK and I need to raise £400 for the place. To kick start my fundraising I decided to bake and sell cakes at our annual Street Party on Saturday.

I made a delicious lemon tray bake (recipe courtesy of Mary Berry) and various cupcakes. As well as my normal "pretty" cupcakes, I also made some simple vanilla ones topped with homemade honeycomb. WOW! Overnight, the honeycomb almost melted into the vanilla buttercream and became all caramelly with a slight honeycomb crunch. Yum yum yum. It was very hard to keep the cakes for the sale!
I will definitely be doing these again and next time I might even put some honeycomb into the cupcakes and see how that turns out!

Baking and selling the cakes turned out be be harder work than I thought it would be when I came up with the brainwave but as I raised £81 it proved worth while. If you would like to sponsor me and help Parkinsons UK click here

© 2012 Nicola Noble: Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Glorious golden honeycomb


I was very surprised watching The Great British Bake Off earlier in the year at how simple it appeared to be to make honeycomb and decided it had to go on my list of things to try. I had the motivation to have a go last Friday and I was amazed at how easy it actually was!

I searched around for a recipe and chose a very simple one - just four ingredients: sugar, golden syrup/honey, water and the magic ingredient bicarbonate of soda.

The resulting honeycomb was so yummy that 20 minutes later none of it was left (mostly consumed by Mr Snowball).

So here is how to make it:

Ingredients

6 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup or honey
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Method

Put the sugar, syrup/honey and water into a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. 

Bring to the boil and boil for several minutes or until all the grains of sugar have disappeared (this should be around 150C). Be careful not to burn it.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda, which will make the mixture froth. Stir quickly but thoroughly and then pour onto a lined baking sheet.

When the honeycomb has cooled slightly, it can be marked into pieces. These are useful for breaking into regular sized pieces when it is totally cold. Alternatively, leave it unmarked and break into random shaped/size pieces.
Be careful not to add too much bicarbonate of soda. I doubled up on everything for a second batch and added two teaspoons which was not good - that was the overriding taste of the finished product which unsurprisingly got thrown out. I will be experimenting with quantities when I made this again and will let you know how I get on ...

I have read elsewhere that food colouring can be added at the last minute to the syrup mixture which could be fun. Something to try next time.

I made another batch on Saturday which I have managed to hide from Mr Snowball as I plan to use it as sprinkles on cupcakes that I am selling for charity at our street party this weekend. Let's hope it doesn't rain and people come and buy them.

© 2012 Nicola Noble: Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.