Tuesday, 29 September 2009

We are on

The prince has been plugged in, after much malarky over what sort of cable was needed. The lovely man at Tiverton Pannier market has confirmed I have a stall this weekend. My cake boxes have arrived, as has the edible glitter (D.I.S.C.O!) and flower stamp. I have decided to stamp each cake box with a cupcake image, which is arriving by Friday, by way of decoration till I get my own logo designed...

I have run out of excuses and now it is time to get ready for Saturday. Marvellous mum has offered to come and help with the baking and I think it is going to be all hands to the deck.

So, I will be at the Tiverton Pannier market this Saturday from 8.30am-3pm, come on down!

I'm very excited and very worried. I hope the Prince lives up to his name, but mostly I hope that the people of Devon come and buy my cakes...

Friday, 18 September 2009

The beast has a rival

If running my own cupcake company is ever going to happen, I have long thought that I will need more than the Beast to cook my cakes. Only being able to do one tray at a time, and unevenly at that, is hopeless on a mass scale. So, a cooker it had to be. We had first toyed with getting a second hand one, and saving a few pennies, but then I found out that most second hand cookers are virtually the same price as a new one.

So, I had a look on the internet and visited a few shops, looking at the normal sized ovens...then I happened to glance across the shop floor and saw the range cookers (much the same thing happened to me when trying on wedding dresses, I kept a low profile, hoping to go down the ‘lovely, but not the same price as a sofa’ route, but then I tried on the big dresses...game over, set and match to the big dresses) So, I had seen the range cookers and could only think of marvellously practical reasons why buying such a big cooker was a good idea. I convinced myself quite easily and then did some more searching to find the one that would by my Prince.

I found it, I bought it, and it arrived. Bliss. It is out of its wrapping and waiting to Father in law this Saturday to come wire it in, then we will be cooking with gas (well, electricity, as this be the countryside)

The cows are coming home

It has been a dream and an ambition for us to run our own farm. Since moving to Devon, we have been inching closer. Handsome husband has always wanted ‘more’, to be outside, to be working for himself, to be achieving something, doing it his way. Ever since our visit to West Yeo farm, we have been in touch with the wonderful farmers there. They have been a source of advise and have helped us on the path to becoming the farmers we had imagined. We are going to be organic, small scale, and raise pedigree, heritage animals, which are traditional to the area, a lovely nature and very tasty!

We are even buying our first stock from them, 6 cows are arriving shortly, 4 of them are in calf and due to have their babies in spring next year. We are really looking forward to it, especially Handsome husband who is achieving his goal of making a big change to his life before he is 30.

Illegal jam

For a giggle, Mother in law recently entered me into the local Ploughing and Produce competition, which was being held in the farm just down the lane from them (yes, it’s all go where we live!) She had entered me into catagories of 5 x Butterfly cakes, home-made bread in a bread machine and individual desert. Well, life being what it is, I only had time to whip up the Butterfly cakes, and even then I had to tear over to the in-laws on Saturday morning, Darling boy in tow, to use their kitchen- or more specifically, their eggs, as we had run out... (where are those chickens I've been meaning to get?)

By the way, Butterfly cakes to the uniniaitated are essentially cupcakes, but with the tops chopped off, and sliced in half to make the wings of the butterfly. Butter-cream icing is then added (and perhaps a layer of jam, more of that later) and then the wings stuck back on, with a dusting of icing sugar to complete the look. Very cute, very 1950's retro.

I had never made Butterfly cakes before, let alone even eaten one (how can this be?) So I found a recipe that looked good and followed it to the letter (Rachel Allen, 'Bake' an excellent book, read more about her here http://www.rachelallen.co.uk/ )

The cakes went in the oven and came out needing to be cooled asap. With not much time to go, I stuck them on a cooling rack and put them on the bonnet of our car outside in the chill morning air . I had to keep a constant vigil, as the neighbours loony dog had his eye on them I’m sure.

I practised with the piping bag in the meantime and began the Butterfly makeover just in time, slicing off the tops, adding a blob of home-made jam (delicious and made by Brainy bros wonderful other half) I then piped on the butter-cream icing and stuck the wings on.

With just a few minutes to spare, I raced up to the barn to enter my cakes proudly as number 78. I checked out the competition- quite a few people had chanced their luck at 5 x Butterfly cakes and some of them looked pretty tasty. Only time would tell though, and whilst we waited for the judges to swoop, we bumped up the field in father in laws Land Rover to watch the ploughing match.

Its a tough business, this competitive ploughing and taken very seriously by the score of farmers in a variety of tractors, from vintage to horse-drawn. Darling boy was in his element, all those tractors! (it has to be said Father in law was in bliss too)

The afternoon ticked on and the judges decision was out. We trooped up to see the results. Mother in law had down well with her 3 x carrots, 2 x marrows and 3 x runner beans. She had also ‘placed’ with her marmalade and bread. I eagerly scampered to the Butterfly cakes to see where I had come.

Tragedy. Outrage. Horror.

I hadn’t even placed! Unbelievable! On closer inspection, on all the plates, one cake had been cut in half, and only those without jam had been sampled. All those who had placed did not have jam. Had I unknowingly added an illegal substance to my Butterfly cake? The controversial addition of the sticky stuff had ruled me out of any winning chance- the judges didn’t even sample the fluffy lightness of my sponge, or admire the jauntiness of my wings.

Calamity. Disaster. I was robbed!

Well, we liked them, harrumph.

Sweets for my sweet

My oldest friend, Sensible K has returned to London from a 6 month sojourn in India with her boyfriend. He was working and she was sampling the delights that India had to offer- it was an amazing trip and you can read all about it on her totally brilliant blog http://figsandlavender.blogspot.com/

Sensible K earned her nickname when we were at school together, as best mates knocking about together, Sensible K was almost a full year older than me, and, it has to be said, much more grown up and responsible. ‘Sensible K’ grew about as a silly nickname we used, if Sensible K was going to a particular party, then it was ok in my parents eyes if I went too.

It must be said that Sensible K has since grown into a remarkable woman, someone with the courage to go against the grain and not only carry on, but flourish where others might give up. She is an inspiration and a very good friend.

Sensible K was diagnosed with coeliacs, a wheat intolerance a few years back (find out more here http://www.coeliac.org.uk/ ) Although it understandably took her a while to come to terms with it, she is now a complete whizz and it seems like the whole world has opened up to her, and I salute her for it. Much of my blogging about cakes is, stupidly, off the menu for Sensible K as she is off the wheat, oats and barley. Whilst this rules out anything cakey with flour, it does leave a wide range of delicious delights that skip the white stuff in favour of unusual ‘flours’ made with rice or potato, amongst other things, and the good old almond.

So, on a recent work trip to the big smoke, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to catch the late train home after my meeting and hook up with Sensible K and another old darling friend from school for dinner and giggles. It is Sensible K’s birthday soon, so as an offering, alongside a present and home-made card, I baked up a batch of citrus scented goodies, these orange and almond cupcakes. They are made with almond and potato flour, with eggs, but no dairy also. With the zest of an orange and toasted almonds on the top, these cupcakes were very tasty- I thought (naturally I had to taste one to make sure there were ok). Handsome husband was most put out that I had baked something that he couldn’t eat (as he is sworn off most nuts due to an allergy, almonds being one of them) However, Sensible K thought there were tasty, and that's all that counts.