Monday 16 February 2015

A family of robins on our Christmas cake

I know I am very late posting about Christmas still but I wanted to share our Christmas cake for last year.
This year I decided I would do something a little different with our Christmas cake and make decorating the cake a family affair. So one morning we all sat down (including Mr Snowballs) and each of us made a little robin to sit on top of the cake.

I had already covered the fruit cake with marzipan and white fondant and added an icy blue pond and a big brown log.

The robins were very simple to make. All you need is:
- 1 x big ball of brown fondant (body)
- 2 x small balls of brown fondant (wings)
- 1 x medium ball red fondant (chest)
- 1 x large ball red fondant (hat)
- 1 x small ball yellow fondant (beak)
- 1 x medium ball white fondant (hat fur)
- 1 x small ball white fondant (hat bobble)
- edible glue/ cooled boiled water/ vodka!

1. Take the big ball of brown fondant and flatten slightly on the bottom so the robin stands up.
2. Flatten the two small balls of brown fondant to make the wings and attach to the sides of the robin's body using the glue/water/vodka.
3. Flatten the medium ball of red fondant and attach to the robin's body for the red chest.
4. Shape the yellow fondant into a beak and attach to the robin's body at the top of the red breast.
5. Slightly flatten the medium ball of white fondant to create the fur trim on the hat.
6. Shape the large ball of red fondant into a cone and bend the top over to create a Christmas hat shape.
7. Attach the small ball of white fondant to the end of the hat.
8. Using a cocktail stick (or similar pointy object) give your robin some eyes!
We also made a fir tree using a large cone of dark green fondant and a pair of scissors to create the texture (by making small cuts in an upward direction around the tree) and covered it in dark green glitter, It was topped with a gold star (fixed to the tree using a small piece of dried spaghetti). The pond was coated with piping gel to make it look icy and the robins were placed around it.

Finally, we added little brown branches, holly leaves and berries around the bottom of the cake and a sprinkling of glitter and icing sugar for snow.

The Snowball family did a great job with each of their robins and I hope this will become a new family tradition  - next year penguins or polar bears? What do you think?

© 2015 Nicola Noble & Little Love Cakes: 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.

Sunday 1 February 2015

Magic Elves 2014

So January had been and gone and I have only just managed to find the time to post the update  about our Christmas visitors.

Sally and Colin came with us to visit Father Christmas. He was very pleased to see them and asked if they had been behaving themselves (and if Sophie and Justin had been behaving themselves too!)
That night they staged an identity parade to find the imposter Father Christmas!
Colin donned his work clothes again to make some cute wooden elf gift tags.
The following night they were found hiding under a big box with another book Katie's London Christmas, to go with the other Katie in London books we have.
This was followed by Boingy and bunny being taught how to write "Elves are our friends"
I think the toy soldiers had had enough of all the naughtiness and decided to tie Sally and Colin up for trying to steal some marshmallows ...
On Christmas Eve morning, Sally and Colin were hiding behind the curtains with new nightclothes for Sophie and Justin. This has become a bit of a tradition.
Sophie and Justin said their goodbyes to Sally and Colin on Christmas Eve night and gave them extra cuddles as they went to sleep ...

... only to discover them still with us on Christmas morning! They were hiding behind the sofa with some big presents from Father Christmas (I'm sure it was them that hid it and not something FC would have done!). It seems they were allowed to stay a couple of extra days to make up for missing the first day due to the snowstorm.
Sophie and Justin really enjoyed having Sally and Colin help them open their presents and playing with them with their new toys. They stayed a few more days and then one morning, Sophie and Justin woke up to find a little thank you note and some sweeties and snow and they'd gone!
We hope to see you again next Christmas and thanks for a fun time Sally and Colin x

So here's a round-up of the elf antics this year:
1 - Telegram from Elves saying they are stuck at the airport due to a snow storm and that the should be arriving tomorrow
2 - They arrive in their felt bags with snowflakes everywhere
3 - Blank letters to write Christmas lists with a special felt envelope to post them to Father Christmas
4 - Reading The great dog bottom swap book to all the doggies in the house
5 - Playing connect 4 (big version with big elves)
6 - Playing connect 4 (mini version with mini elves)
7 - Hiding under the duvet with the Big Book of Crazy Mix-Ups
8 - Toasting marshmallows over playmobil pirate fire (mini version with mini elves); Large marshmallows on a plate with a sign Eat me
9 - Toasting marshmallows (big version with big elves)
10 - Toymaker Colin made wooden dancing elf ornaments
11 - Making snowmen from toilet rolls and hiding in the cupboard
12 - Cookie Maker Sally made Pecan & caramel plaits, followed by pretzels
13 - Elf crime - drawn on Mr & Mrs Snowballs' faces in the night
14 - Sally in her cookie outfit with a big plate of cookies for Cookie Monsters
15 - Naughty or nice list for teddies
16 - Trying to steal money from money boxes - wearing burglar masks with an envelope labelled Swag and climbing up a rope to get to them
17 - Sunbathing, wearing sunglasses, sun cream, towels, glass with straw and picture of sun
18 - Playing toss the marshmallows into the Costa Coffee Christmas cups
19 - Toymaker Colin making wooden elf gift tags
20 - Father Christmas Wanted poster and identity parade of all the Father Christmases in the house
21 - Hiding under a big box with another book Katie's London Christmas
22 - Teaching teddies - "elves are your friends" written on black/whiteboard
23 - Captured by toy soldiers and tied up
24 - Hiding behind the curtains with new nightclothes
25 - They got to stay for a few extra days as they were delayed at the start of December

© 2015 Nicola Noble & Little Love Cakes: 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.

Friday 19 December 2014

Twinkle, twinkle little star - Christmas gifts for BFFs

Each year I organise for Sophie to give some of her friends little Christmas gifts.

Last year we made "stained glass window" gingerbread biscuits ...

... the year before it was marshmallow snowmen gifts ...
and the year before it was reindeer noses:

This year I came across some pretty sparkly ribbon bracelets in a local shop. I bought one for each of her three BFFs (and one for her of course) and as an extra bonus they came in matching chiffon bags.

We personalized them with a sparkly star (template made by Sophie) and added a poem:
Twinkle twinkle little star
Thank you friend for who you are.
Bracelet sparkling like that star
Friends forever, that's who we are. 

© 2014 Nicola Noble & Little Love Cakes: 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 18 December 2014

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas ...

It's that time of year again when we get little visitors to our house ... Sally and Colin, the Magic Elves, joined us again for what is turning out to be another fun and mischievous December. I cannot believe that it's their fourth year with us!
They didn't arrive on the 1st December this year as they were snowed in at the North Pole, but they did manage to send Sophie & Justin a telegram to let them know they were arriving soon, posted down the chimney with a few snowflakes still attached.
The next night they provided blank letters for Father Christmas, a gentle reminder for the children to write their letters. They also gave us a lovely felt envelope to pop the letters in to make sure they reached FC super quick.
They then got Father Christmas to read The Great Dog Bottom Swap story to all the doggies in the house. Mr Snowballs has been telling us all that story for years and it is good to see it's actually real!
Sally and Colin then decided to have fun on our half constructed Christmas tree with a game of Connect 4. It looked to be a tie...
We are not sure what happened on the sixth night, but we woke up the next morning to find that Sally and Colin had shrunk and were playing mini Connect 4. It was a tie again!
Sleepover at the Grandparents found them hiding under a cushion den under a duvet...
Back home again and they had a marshmallow toasting session over the playmobil pirate campfire, using pirate swords as skewers.
We were beginning to wonder if Sally and Colin were ever going to return to normal size again, when we discovered them during the day with a bowl with some giant marshmallows and a note Eat Me! Sophie and Justin obliged and ...
... hooray, the next day they were back to normal. Still toasting marshmallows but this time normal size elves with normal size marshmallows!
On their tenth night with us, Colin showed us what his job at the North Pole is, by putting on his work clothes. It turns out he is a toymaker, and he made two wooden dancing elves. Thankfully the paint was dry by the morning.
The Elves hid very well the next night - they were in the bathroom cabinet and they had decorated some toilet rolls to look like snowmen ...
It was Sally's turn to show us her job at the North Pole, when she donned her Cookie Maker apron and chef's hat and made some yummy pecan and caramel plaits for breakfast. Sadly, the kiddies didn't  ike them,  so she whipped up a couple of pretzels while we were all out, ready for the post-school hunger pangs.
On the 13th night, Sally and Colin were very, very naughty. They decided it would be funny to draw all over my and Mr Snowballs face. The children thought it hilarious, us not so much. I only forgave them because it washed off. Thank goodness they didn't find the Sharpies!
Sally was Cookie Maker again the next night and made some yummy white chocolate cookies for our resident Cookie Monsters. Sally and Colin obviously didn't want to scare them, as they were hiding on the other side of the kitchen window watching them.
They decided to make a list on the white board of naughty or nice teddies. Sophie and Justin's best favourites were on the Nice list, but I do think Sally and Colin were a little harsh on the Naughty list - after all Sally had just made cookies for Cookie Monster and it's not Kiwi's fault he jumps on Sophie's bed - he can't fly!
Being mischievous again, they donned burglar masks and had bags labelled Swag, then climbed some ropes to steal money from Sophie and Justin's money boxes. I think they must have run out of time though as they didn't manage to get any ...
Two nights ago Sally and Colin were obviously dreaming of warmer climes and set up a sunbathing spot: suncream, tall drinks, sunglasses, coconut and "sun'.
And last night, they somehow managed to get hold of some cool snowmen and Father Christmas cups from Costa Coffee and played a game of toss with giant snowball marshmallows and mini marshmallows.
I can't believed there's only one week to go until Sally and Colin head back to the North Pole with Father Christmas but there is still plenty of time for Elf-tastic frolics ...

© 2014 Nicola Noble & Little Love Cakes: 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. 

Monday 3 November 2014

Gluten free pumpkin cupcakes with pumpkin frosting

It's that time of year again when we buy our pumpkins from the local store, spend an hour or so scraping away the inside and carving a face on it only to have to throw it all away a day later. How sad!

I can't say I am that fond of pumpkin. I always feel it is such a waste to throw the perfectly good flesh away but whenever I try to use it for some recipe or other it always comes out yuk! Pumpkin soup - not great (although the little snowballs liked it), roasted pumpkin - a sloppy mess ... so where am I going wrong?

I came to the conclusion that it is not me, it is the pumpkin's fault. I bought a can of pureed pumpkin just to prove to myself that it is the pumpkin and made a discovery. Pure pumpkin has a very specific taste - not one that I am keen on personally - but if you add lots (and I mean lots) of spices, especially cinnamon, it can be quite nice!

So yesterday, we were invited to a post Halloween party and I decided to make pumpkin cupcakes using the canned pumpkin. And as the cupcakes didn't use the whole can, I used the remaining pumpkin for the buttercream frosting. And they tasted GOOD. So good I might even have a go at pumpkin pie sometime (when I master gluten free pastry!). But I still need to figure out how to get the scooped remains from the Halloween pumpkin into a puree that I can cook with?

There's always next year ...
So here's the recipe for the pumpkin cupcakes with pumpkin buttercream:

Pumpkin cupcakes

280g self-raising flour/gluten free flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
110g margarine
200g caster sugar
5 tbsp brown soft sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
180ml milk
250g pureed pumpkin (canned is fine)

Preheat the oven to 190°C / Gas 5. Place 24 paper cases in muffin tins.

Mix together the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and set aside.

Beat the butter, caster sugar and brown sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  

Add the eggs one at a time, allowing each one to blend into the butter mixture before adding the next. 

Remove the bowl from the mixer then stir in the milk and pumpkin puree and then stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. 

Pour the cupcake mixture into the prepared muffin cases.

Bake in the preheated oven until golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 25 minutes. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the icing (see below) then when cool pipe the pumpkin buttercream onto each cupcake and decorate with sprinkles or jelly worms or other suitable toppings.

Pumpkin buttercream

90g unsalted butter
 100% pumpkin puree
900g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Cream together the butter and the pumpkin puree in an electric mixer, until the butter is a light orange colour. The pumpkin won't totally combine at this stage so you won't be able to get a completely smooth mixture even after several minutes but don't worry about it, it will blend well once the icing sugar is added.

Beat in the vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Add the icing sugar and mix well until smooth. I always add the icing sugar and mix by hand first to avoid clouds of icing sugar billowing out and settling across my whole kitchen. Once the icing sugar has started mixing in to the point that it doesn't fly everywhere, I then finish it off with the beater on my trusty Kitchen Aid until it's smooth and blended evenly.

Little Love Cakes creates high quality and bespoke cakes for any celebration in the Twickenham/ Teddington/ Richmond area. Visit us on Facebook at littlelovecakeslondon.

Each cake is baked and decorated using high quality ingredients and is decorated with care and great attention to detail - we know it's the little things that make a cake special and unique. 

© 2014 Nicola Noble & Little Love Cakes: 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.