a blog about an Essex girl living in Swansea, chatting about baking, rowing, other bits and bobs, and some crazy teaching times in India

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Sunday

I think it's acceptable to make a pre-birthday cake.

Funky Monkey.

Told you I was going to.

HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE. Make sure you eat lots and lots of chocolate eggs (or bake them into cakes, I made the filling of this cake out of some of mine...)

Big love, xo

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Recipe Time: Choc choc chocoholic

Yet again, I've been stuffing my face with cake. Or, more accurately, trying to stuff everyone else with cake. Hey, it's cold outside. We need the energy.

Being home means unlimited access to ingredients. We have a few shelves in the kitchen that I refer to as 'The Baking Cupboard' - which is pretty much my version of Disneyland. Along with the essentials (flour, sugar etc.) there are lots of other little nifty bits that are always useful when having a spur-of-the-moment cake making sesh. Which would count for the majority of times that I decide to be baker for the day. There is a rainbow-inspired assortment of food colourings: Dr. Oetker is a big fan of labelling them with fancy names, Sunshine Yellow and Ultra Violet being my favourite. Then there's the various packets of nuts and dried fruits, vanilla pods, sprinkles, chocolate pieces... You name it, it's in there.

Wednesday this week was a productive day. I made two different types of cupcake. Chocolate chips were the major feature, with vanilla buttercream making an appearance on both, except one had a little twist. I added peanut butter to the mix, and also after piping the buttercream on top I left a space in the middle to spoon on a mouthful-sized amount of peanut butter, straight out of the jar. Yummy yummy. Next time though, I think I might work on making the peanut butter ones a little bit lighter. I think there was possibly a lil' bit too much flour in there. My Dad very much enjoyed it, however I'm my worst critic and I say they weren't quite there. Mary Berry would have had some comments to make, I feel.

What a babe.

Sooooo. Let's go by the usual cupcake mix. (Click here.)

Good ol' choccy chip...
If you follow all those instructions apart from putting in the oven (I'm being lazy and not bothering to rewrite. Or copy and paste. Hang on, that would have been a splendid idea...), you need to add about 200g of chopped chocolate into the bowl, and mix it in with the cupcake batter. Make sure the chocolate is cut up into small pieces, much like chocolate drops. You could use those if you prefer. I also used milk chocolate for this, but I suppose dark or white works beautifully as well. Bake like usual.

Pipe on your buttercream in a swirl and add on some decoration. I chose to alternate between coloured hundreds and thousands and chocolate sprinkles, adding white chocolate chunks to the top of each. 

What you'll need for the buttercream...
140g butter or margarine
300g icing sugar
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Making sure the butter is soft, start beating it and add in the icing sugar in small amounts, sieving it as you go.
2. If the mixture becomes too stiff to cream together, add a little bit of the milk.
3. When all is combined, pour in the icing sugar, mixing the buttercream well until all the ingredients are combined.
4. There you have it! Scrummy vanilla buttercream. Pop in a piping bag and away you go. Or just dollop on top for an effortless look! Time for decoration.

The peanut butter ones are a little different. I'd use the same cupcake recipe again, but I'd probably only use 110g of flour, then add about 3 large tablespoons (just stick your spoon in that jar and go for it. Don't forget to lick the spoon afterwards. But don't put it in the bowl after, you minger). Add in 200g of chocolate pieces like before and fold that all in. Cook like usual.

The next bit is icing the cupcakes. Leave a space in the middle after piping on the buttercream. You can pop a dollop of peanut butter there and then decorate that with milk chocolate chunks. I also chose to add a couple of mixed nut pieces on there too.

Hello sugar rush!

Go on, eat up, you've deserved it after all that hard work. Baking is stressful.

Big love, xo

P.S. I'm still really excited about baking a cake for my brother's birthday. Maybe I can make two cakes... A pre-birthday and actual birthday cake? That would work, right?

Monday, 25 March 2013

Descriptive Title Right Here: Reviews and Plans

This term has probably been one of the strangest out of my lot at university. So now I'm so glad to be home! I've gone through a lot of moments this year where I return to the foetal position, curling up in my bed with my little sheep 'hottie' on my belly. That's one of those heat-in-the-microwave type fluffy animals. Except I use mine as pretty much a teddy bear because I have now turned into Benjamin Button and am ageing backwards. I now appreciate this kind of toy more than I did when I was two years old. And this is apparently how I comfort myself when I am homesick these days.
I learnt this word in one of my lectures the other day. It's a Welsh word; it can't quite be defined in English. That's why I think I like it so much.

There have also been multiple nights out, with multiple consequences. I won't delve too deep; I do that far too often and I feel like I may have embarrassed myself quite enough for now. But I will say there have been some absolutely stunning Facebook photos of me in my lycra all-in-one - it's a bit of rowing kit, for those who are reading this horrified at the thought. It was a themed night, and everyone from my club did dress in theirs, so it was okay... I didn't look like an idiot alone. You can't be too embarrassed when it's a collective decision to go out as if you all got dressed in the dark.

Toilet photos on a whole new level.

I have also become closer with a lot of girls this term that I definitely wouldn't have imagined being good friends with last term. Not that they're weird or anything, just that I wasn't best pals with them in 2012. Actually, the first bit is a big fat lie. They are weird, but I wouldn't have them any other way, because of course that would make things a hell of a lot more boring.

In regards to university, I have been mostly on top of work. Sometimes I wish I literally was. Standing on top of it and stamping around because I don't actually care about the PACL measurement of democracy. Anyway, what was I saying? On top of work. Yeah, so I'm now a pro at constructing my life around the library opening hours - if that's not something I should add to my CV in big bold letters, I don't know what is.

Let's move on to future plans/assignments/visions/that kind of thing. 

It's my brother's birthday on Monday. The big ONE-EIGHT. Old enough to have a legal drink or two. Or five. He's mostly sensible, so I think he'll be okay. He's going to read this and laugh. All I'm saying is, he's got the I-know-better act down to a T even if that's not the case.

What comes with birthdays? CAKE. Yes, that beautiful sugary thing that after one mouthful you want slice after slice after slice after oh wait, I broke the scales. Why are those in the bathroom anyway? I'd rather be a happy fatty with a lot of cake than a skinny minnie with a glass of water in my hand and a rumbling tummy.

I am clearly going to take this as a chance to show off. I've got a lot of plans regarding this cake. I am ridiculously excited; I'm going the whole hog. Forget a simple sponge cake. None of this standard jam and buttercream nonsense (although it does taste amazingly good). I'm going to be going all out. British Bake Off, watch your backs. Cake Queen is once again donning her crown and apron, going in for a bit of kitchen lovin'.

I might pretend I'm good at crafts and make myself a crown because I'm that much of a loser.

Big love, xo

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

I'll Google it.

When I get married (if I get married... Dog lady plans are already in motion as an alternative. I will be buying a small chihuahua and pretending my name is Elle Woods, along with an assortment of Andrex puppy labradors) I don't just want the standard tiered wedding cake. Of course I do want layers and layers of sponge covered in sickly sweet icing and some flowery sugarcraft decorations. Maybe even a fruitcake or chocolate sponge layer if I'm aiming to please all.

But after a cheese-craving-inspired search on Google (the joys of getting distracted on the internet), I have decided I will have a post-dessert wedding cake. It'll be like a cheeseboard. But better. Who knew that cheese wedding cakes were a trend?

Alternatively, if someone buys me one of these now, I would not be protesting. Tell you what. I'll provide the cream crackers.

I wouldn't want to be privy to my mind if I were you. What with all those thoughts of cheese and crackers, I don't think you'd want to comprehend what else goes on in there. 

Big love, xo

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

It's been a while...

Flip my laptop open, it flickers into life. A couple of whirring noises, the Windows start-up sound flitters through the air. Type password in, easy, simple, anyone could guess it. Or maybe that’s the point? It’s so simple that no-one would think of it immediately. The screen’s only been on standby; Google Chrome displays a range of different tabs, Facebook, Twitter, 4OD, a couple of online journals (probably JSTOR) and a page that displays Brazil’s election results.

I check Facebook to see if I have any notifications, oh, look, I’m popular! The red box over the notifications button invites me to click it. Disappointing. An invite for a game I really don’t want to join, some event notifications for student nights out I don’t plan on going to, and if I’m lucky, someone has messaged me to say hi. My favourite message at the moment is a group one entitled ‘Jess drank pee.’ Don’t ask.

I then flick to my work pages. I frown at the PDFs I need to download from JSTOR, and my mind draws a blank when I try and decipher the stats on the page for Brazil’s legislative elections. Would someone like to tell me when I signed up for a mathematics degree? Never mind making a table out of my results, I can’t decipher the initial statistics I need to put together.

I press the minimise button, and my university work disappears. I turn the volume up to maximum on my iTunes, and press play. My shuffle chooses Kate Nash. I have admittedly bad music taste in general, but this one is good.

I hate seagulls,
And I hate being sick.
-          Kate Nash, I Hate Seagulls

I am so ready to pack my things up for Easter and clamber aboard the First Great Western to London Paddington. I want my train seat back, my pull-out tray, the window to my side. I want to stare out at the Welsh hills and make up stories in my head that I will one day be a pro-explorer and camp there, buying myself a patterned tent and co-ordinating camping gear, with a compact little camping stove where I can toast pink and white marshmallows until they go all gooey. Sugar rush.

"Toast Meeeee"

I feel so stressed out right now. For once I’m on top of my work. Yes, I know. Miracles do happen. I've rekindled my on-off library romance, and we are now officially back in a relationship, after spending at least three long days in each other’s company. So that’s not a problem. I am mostly on top of my exercise regime, apart from my recent ‘man arms’ pandemic where a dodgy Wednesday night picture showed me looking a little bit too muscly for my liking. So that’s not a problem, either.

I want things to be back to normal, please.

I’ll let you in a little secret. I’m not quite as confident as I sometimes pretend to be.

Big love, xo

Monday, 11 March 2013

Monday Morning

Busy weeks, lots of gym work, lots of lectures, time wasted on Facebook, library sessions, living at the marina, spending too much time on rivers, discussing a lot of rowing-related topics, discovering more blisters on my hands and feeling very masculine, eating my weight's worth in food and now coping with a jelly belly, driving to London and getting stuck there, thinking about people that are no longer in my life (love you Grandad), calling up my Mum because she is amazing at reassuring me, having an amazing group of friends, writing an essay, getting very interested in African proverbs and getting a little bit too distracted, eating porridge and drinking tea, sitting in my pyjamas and typing away on my laptop.

So when my essay is finished, I'm actually going to make the effort and write a real post. But I'm having far too much fun writing about postcolonial literature at the moment.

Big love, xo.