A Unicorn Cake For Little Squirrel’s 3rd Birthday

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It took me a while to decide what the theme of this year’s birthday cake would be for Little Squirrel. I wanted to make something special for her, as I didn’t get round to making her a birthday cake last year with Littlest Squirrel only weeks old.
Little Squirrel really loves all things magical and fantastical such as fairies, unicorns, and mermaids. I settled on the unicorn theme, when a few weeks ago she told me she would like a pet Unicorn called Unicornio for her birthday! (Dora The Explorer fans will understand where this comes from). As usual I took to Pinterest for some inspiration. Here were my favourites from Pinterest…

I stuck to Nigella’s Old Fashioned Chocolate cake for the cake itself and I used a free online tutorial by Celia Adams to create the little unicorn.

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The trickiest part of this cake was creating the rainbow stripes that went round the circumference of the cake. I used regular sugar paste and modelling paste to create the stripes but it was much too malleable and I found it very difficult to keep the stripes uniform and tidy. If I was to do this again, I think flower paste would be the answer.

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Unicorn Cake for Little Squirrel’s 3rd Birthday

Most importantly Little Squirrel absolutely loved her cake.

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Little Squirrel & her Unicorn Cake

This is definitely one of my favourite cakes so far. I love the unicorn, I love the bright colours of the rainbow stripes and I love how happy it made my big 3 year old!

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Cutting the cake…

A Woodland Themed 1st Birthday Cake For Littlest Squirrel

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When planning a celebration cake I often turn to Pinterest for inspiration. For the Littlest’s 1st birthday cake I knew I wanted to stick with the squirrel/woodland theme that I followed for her big sister’s 1st birthday cake, but wanted something new and different.

It was through Pinterest that I came across these two cake designs, and I knew immediately that this was the theme that I would follow…

I loved the stronger colours of the cake on the left, but loved the details of the cake on the right.

It had been two years since I had last baked and decorated a celebration cake, so was a little nervous. On top of that I was coming down with flu on the day the cake was to be baked and decorated, but I had been planning this cake for months, so just had to push through and get it done!

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I had already made the little figures to decorate the cake. The trickiest bit was getting the lettering completed. I am a little disappointed that the finish isn’t as clean as I normally aim for, but I was feeling so ill I just had to get it done!

Birthday Cake Collage.jpgAll things considered, the cake turned out well, and I was really pleased with the bake. On my friend Frances’ recommendation I used Nigella’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake recipe. Many Thanks to Frances for her advice on this bake. If you love beautiful cakes then take a look at Frances’ blog, her cakes are simply stunning!

As for the Littlest, she seemed to enjoy her first taste of chocolate cake. Now, I just need to decide what sort of cake to create for her big sister’s birthday in March!…

Triple Choc Orange Brownies

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Chocolate + orange = pure joy!

Yes, I love this flavour combination… add in a bit of chew factor and I am in my happy place. If you share my love of chewy, chocolatey, orangey goodness, then this brownie recipe is going to be right up your street.
One word of warning, however, this recipe is dangerously quick and easy!

Note – this recipe uses orange extract. I use Nielsen-Massey orange extract, available in Sainsburys and Asda.

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The Recipe

Ingredients

  • 110g (4oz) butter
  • 175g (6oz) caster sugar
  • 50g (2oz) light soft brown sugar
  • 35g (1.5oz) cocoa powder
  • 50g (2oz) self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tsp orange extract
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 100g bar of white chocolate, chopped roughly into chunks
  • a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips
Method
Heat the oven to 170°C (fan oven) / 180°C (conventional oven) and line a brownie tin with greaseproof paper.
In a large heavy-based non-stick saucepan melt the butter, then add the two sugars and stir on low heat for 1 minute.
Remove pan from the heat and add in the eggs, flour, cocoa powder, orange extract and orange zest, and stir until all ingredients are combined.
Add chopped white chocolate and stir through.
Pour mixture in to the tin, sprinkle with chocolate chips, then put on the middle shelf of your oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
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Remove from the oven and leave in tin until completely cool, and then cut into little slabs of brownie heaven!
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Giveaway – Hotel Chocolat Easter Gift

easter-pick-me-up-2014 I love chocolate. I think most people do. So I am excited for my very first giveaway on the blog to be chocolate-based! Hotel Chocolat have very kindly offered to supply a deliciously chocolately prize for one of my readers. How adorable is this Pick Me Up Easter box from Hotel Chocolat? It contains 6 white praline bunnies, 6 salted caramel egglets, and 4 raspberry zinger egglets.

With 76 stores in the UK and stores in Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United States, Hotel Chocolat is a growing brand.

Hotel Chocolat is a British chocolatier that encompasses a new type of chocolate company, connecting luxury chocolate making and retailing with cocoa growing – it is one of the world’s few chocolate makers to actually grow cocoa. Hotel Chocolat remains a privately owned company with the original co-founders still very much involved. – http://www.hotelchocolat.com

If you want to be in with a chance of winning this prize, then simply leave a comment below, telling me what your favourite Easter treat is… Terms & Conditions

  • This competition is open to UK residents only.
  • The winner will be chosen by a random number generator.
  • Only one entry per person.
  • There is one prize consisting of 1 x Pick Me Up Easter gift from Hotel Chocolat. The prize will be sent to the winner directly by Hotel Chocolat.
  • This competition will run until 12.00am on April 01 2014.
  • If the winner does not respond within 3 days, the winner may be redrawn.
  • Your name and email may be used for mailing list purposes by the sponsor.
  • I retain the right to alter the giveaway if required. This may mean the prize offered or the closing date.

Good luck everyone!

Bluebasil Brownies – The Perfect Gift Through The Post

Bluebasil Brownies

I love chocolate, and I love receiving mail, so I was over the moon to receive this beautifully presented box full of fudgy, chocolatey goodness last week.

I first heard of Bluebasil Brownies through Twitter a couple of years ago, and instantly thought… what a great gift idea! A lot of my friends are spread throughout England, Scotland and Ireland, so am always on the lookout for unique gifts that are easily posted.
I have sent Bluebasil Brownies as gifts to several of my friends now. Each time I was met with raving reviews from their recipients, however I had never received a box of brownies myself!

A thoughtful message from a good friend

A thoughtful message from a good friend

Thankyou Kara-Lyn for being incredibly lovely and thoughtful in sending me this wonderful box of treats… the perfect pick-me-up when I was feeling a little run down!

Beautifully packaged box of brownies

Beautifully packaged box of brownies

Inside this box, was a selection of 6 flavours from Bluebasil Brownies… classic chunky chocolate, chunky white chocolate, cardamom, hazelnut, coffee & walnut, and chocwork orange.

At this point, I have to own up to some poor blogger behaviour… I forgot to take a photo of all the flavours before I dug in!!! I can only put it down to the deliciousness of the brownies distracting me!

For me, the Chocwork Orange Brownie is my favourite. Chocolate & orange is one of my favourite flavour combinations,  and this brownie reminds me of a beautiful chocolate orange mousse my Mother used to make.

I also adore the classic chunky chocolate, and the chunky white chocolate… Those chunks of chocolate amongst the smooth fudgy rich brownie are a delight!

Classic Chunky Chocolate Brownie and  Cardamom Brownie

Classic Chunky Chocolate Brownie and Cardamom Brownie

I passed the nut brownies on to my good friend Alex to try, as I am not a huge fan of nuts, and Mr Hungry Squirrel is allergic to nuts. Here’s what Alex had to say –

Really fudgy and chocolatey with just the right amount of nuts. Just gutted I had to share them with my other half!

I can thoroughly recommend Bluebasil Brownies as the perfect gift to send to your loved ones.
They have a shelf life of around 21 days from dispatch if kept in an airtight container in the fridge, although I would be surprised if you managed to keep them that long before gobbling them up!

Smarties Cookies

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I haven’t made cookies in a long time. Cookies and biscuits require a steady and controlled oven temperature, so now that we have a new (normally functioning) oven, I decided to try out a recipe that my good friend Alex introduced me to.
The original recipe is from the BBC Good Food website, although Alex had substituted M&Ms for the chocolate chips, and I liked it a lot! Sadly, our local shops seemed to be completely sold out of original M&Ms last week, so Smarties was the next best thing!

These cookies are sweet, a little crispy on the outside and deliciously chewy on the inside, with a generous chocolate hit from the Smarties! Also, not far away from Millies Cookies in taste and texture… result!

The Recipe

Ingredients

  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g light brown soft sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 125g Smarties or M&Ms
Method
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars for 3-4 minutes until smooth and pale.
Mix in the egg and vanilla extract.
Add the flour and salt and mix until smooth.
Then add in your chosen candy and mix until distributed throughout the dough.
Roll the dough into little walnut-sized balls, and place on baking paper on a baking sheet. I baked 9 at a time to allow for spreading (this recipe made 28 cookies).
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Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until just golden round the edges.

Cool for a few minutes on the tray, and then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

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Store in an airtight container.

Yum yum yum!

Black Cherry Brownies

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Well, after a fairly long break from baking (partly due to Baby Squirrel, party due to a broken oven), I decided it was time to dust off the mixing bowls and get back on it! Also it was time to put my new oven to the test…

My last baking post was Triple Chocolate Raspberry Brownies on the day my labour started in March last year, so it was a happy coincidence that my recipe of choice to christen the new oven was another brownie recipe.
This time I decided to try the Black Cherry Brownies from the Chobani website. I had been desperate to try these since I was sent a box of Chobani yoghurt to try in November last year.

Black Cherry Brownie

The Recipe

Ingredients

  • 225g Chobani Black Cherry Strained Yoghurt
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 285g dark chocolate, chopped finely (I use Bournville)
  • 170g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Grease and line a 20cm x 20cm baking tin with baking parchment.

Black Cherry Brownies Ingredients

In a non-stick pan melt the butter and chopped chocolate on a low heat, stirring regularly. Leave to cool.

Butter & Chocolate

Whisk the yoghurt, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl.

Add the cooled chocolate and butter to the mixing bowl and whisk in.

Next, stir in the flour and salt.

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Pour the mixture in to the baking tin and bake for 30-35 minutes.

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Brownies
This was a super easy recipe, and the brownies were delicious. The Chobani cherry yoghurt gave the brownies a lovely fruity kick, and a lightness compared to a standard (non-yoghurt-based) brownie recipe.
Sadly, my brownies were a little overcooked as the temperature in the oven was too high. However, they were still deliciously fudgy, and I would most definitely give this recipe another go once I have sussed out my oven’s thermostat!