A book is born: Instar on Pinterest


The most common question an author is asked is; ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ One of my favourite films is ‘Finding Neverland’ and the reason I love it so much, is because it shows me how the story of Peter Pan came to life. Ok, I also admit freely that I blub like a baby at the ending every time. But, the truth is I also love it because I’m curious, and I need to know how ideas start.

Follow Jacqueline Jay’s board A book is born – Instar on Pinterest.

A Pinterest board works in the same way, so today I grant you snooping rights with a behind the scene’s tour of the same visual journey I took to write Instar. You get to walk in my pinning shoes, and discover more about my characters, the story and locations used. Now you can see how, and where my ideas came from.

Come and join me in the never seen before world of “Instar”, a story about a seventeen-year-old girl called Maia James, who is plagued by cold shivers so intense they make her bones judder, and every time it happens her memories seem to disappear, like someone or something is stealing them? She wishes she had the power to steal memories but she never expected to get it.

Get updates on Facebook, tumblr or my website.

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Happiness Bombing with 99 Random Messages


What can you do when on holiday in North Devon, it’s cold and your husband is spending time kissing the sand on the beach and not you (aka Power Kiting). I had a little idea which I named ‘happiness bombing’. Based on glamour bombing which involves leaving mystical messages to make people believe in fairies I adapted it slightly by creating inspirational messages in the hope it might make someone smile. Within a day or so of collecting and writing messages on pebbles, creating handcrafted letters and making tags to go onto bubble wands I realised I had 99 random messages to mysteriously plant along the North Devon coastline for walkers and families to find.

Random Message image 2

The first day arrived and I crammed my bag full of messages, heaved it onto my shoulder and felt like a strange variant of the Easter Bunny.  My stomach was sick with nerves and knew I had to find courage to leave these random acts of kindness style messages somewhere for strangers to find.  Taking note of my own pebble message ‘it only takes 20 seconds of intense courage’ I ignored the incessant calls from Mrs Negative telling me ‘You can’t do it’ and I womanned up and set off after taking a deep breath.

Courage image

Once on the pebble beach I found myself loitering suspiciously waiting for people to pass so I wouldn’t be spotted. As I stumbled over the rocks towards the main beach I realised I was just procrastinating to I casually stopped, dropped and rolled away a bit like a ninja but wtih far less finesse leaving a message pebble behind. I felt rather stupid doing this but willed myself to keep going in the name of making at least one person happy for a few seconds.

RandomMessages4

I didn’t stop to see messages being discovered as that was not my intention. Later that day I took myself off for a walk and fate must have decided to play a hand as I couldn’t help but notice a group of girls excitedly scouring the beach.  In one girls hand was a cream envelope and another had a pebble, together they ran excitedly to their Mum to show her their treasures. Gathering around a bench the girls tentatively opened the letter their heads bowed as they read the handwritten message. An hour later I could still see them on a ridge further down looking for more and it made me smile that at least I had given them the gift of looking for magic. The magic of possibility is often underrated as we get older.

Dreams

The next day I was sat out on my balcony with a coffee watching the waves still feeling rather silly after dropping off another round of messages when destiny stepped in again. I could hear a man and a woman talking below on the pavement.

2013-03-28_1364479470

“Where was it?” She asked.

“Over there” he said pointing to the steps leading down to the beach.

Curiosity made me peer over the balcony a little but not enough to be seen and they  both seemed to be searching the area.

“I think you have someone watching over you,” She remarked as she walked further down the path.

I couldn’t hear what the man said in reply as they had moved away but watched as they both stood silently deep in thought further down the promenade.

The next day I spotted one of my cards had been taken from its little plastic wallet (UK weather proofed!) and thrown it into a rockpool. I felt sad about this but I guess you can’t make everyone happy. Later I noticed it was gone, someone must have fished it out of the rockpool and taken it home or there are paper eating crabs in Devon? I realised that perhaps the message wasn’t for the first person who found it because it was meant for someone willing to get their feet wet in order to retrieve it who obviously needed it more.

RandomMessages5

Towards the end of my happiness bombing project destiny stuck out her sparkly sequinned foot and I tripped over it landing with a splat. As I opened my eyes right in front of me was a washed up pebble which I had planted further down the beach a few days ago and I laughed at the irony of being happiness bombed myself what were the chances of that?RandomMessages

One thing for sure magic was definitely at work in wintery North Devon this week I just gave it a little helping hand. Why not send out your own #randommessages and see for yourself what magic can happen.

RandomMessages3This is part of my own personal project at overcoming my personal villians which I call Mr Perfectionism, Mrs Negativity and Miss Procrastination whom have got so strong they’ve kept me from blogging and life itself. Together they work as a team to make me feel I am not good enough to blog but after many months I’ve decided I’ve had enough of listening to their whining so I’ve set myself a challenge to overcome them and each month I tackle something different that is missing from my life. Last month I worked on having more childhood fun with a 007 cupcake challenge for my family. This months challenge was to try to make others happy.

These villians worked hard together to stop me from completing this task before I even got to Devon but helping me beat them is my new superhero Destiny (the one with the sparkly shoes). Before you all cart me off to the psychiatrist I simply found that giving these traits names and charachters helps me to identify when they are at work! If you find these villians stopping you from truly living or having fun let me know and perhaps I’ll share my battle against them so far warts and all…
Lifes villians

Apologies there are no cake goodies for you today but I do have my mind set on something experiemental 🙂 You can however get a quick sugar rush and ideas about what to do with your left over Easter chocolate here with naughty hot chocolate fudge sauce and boy is it good!

ChocFudgeSauce2

p.s if you see this post it means I just beat Miss Procrastination (again)

Rolo Cupcake Challenge


I’ve been playing ‘hide and seek’ with cupcakes and it’s great fun! For the game to work I baked chocolate fudge cupcakes baked with rolo inside adorned with lashings of caramel buttercream.

Rolo Chocolate Cupcake

The Rolo hidden inside was what I hoped would make them a hide and seek cupcake. Although I froze the Rolos for 24 hours before hand in the hope they would remain somehow intact inside the cupcake sadly they didn’t but who cares when your welcomed by an explosion of moist fudgy chocolate cake.

Rolo Chocolate Cupcake

Homemade caramel was added to the buttercream and then drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce and of course a Rolo completed the ensemble.

Rolo Chocolate Cupcake

Then the fun began! Yes fun! I had to write it twice to remind myself as life rang me the other day:

“Excuse me I’m looking for fun.”

Err, I don’t know where she’s gone?” I replied whilst looking up at the ceiling wondering if she was perhaps hanging off there with the remnants of mis-tossed pancake. “Perhaps she’s gone out with childhood wonder and laughter to play.”

“Hmmmm,” Life replied. “When she gets back get her to give me a call”

“Oh, OK.” I sang before a forceful slam reverberated in my ear drum which signalled the end of the conversation.

It was then I realised fun, wonder and laughter must have got bored waiting and gone off exploring without me. After sulking for a few days I had an ephinay of sorts. I could find fun again, yes it might take some work but I was sure I could track them all back down eventually. I set myself a challenge for three weeks as I believe things should and do always come in threes. This challenge would be based on me, us and them. For me: I wanted fun back even more than ‘twihards’ want Edward to show up in their living rooms so they can breathe ‘bite me you sexy beast’.

So I set about wondering and came up with this:

  1. Could I bake a Rolo inside a cupcake and it still be whole?
  2. Is it possible to play a game involving cupcakes?
  3. Could I find fun, bring her back and share her with my Husband and teenage son?

The answer was no, yes, yes in that order. The hide and seek cupcake game is easy with two variations:

  1. Hide cupcakes around the house whichever are not found are yours so hide well and give them a time limit to find them. Hmm about 10 seconds seems fair.
  2. Set a 007 challenge to overcome household obstacles in a race against the clock to find the cupcake in 70 seconds and return back to the starting point and sing the 007 theme tune. If you haven’t seen the coke zero version of 007 challenge you must watch it for inspiration! Think locked doors, chairs, discarded toys, rogue shoes and people getting in your way so pretty much like a normal day but with cake.

They both moaned initially when they realised they had to play a game to get their cupcake but when the countdown started they couldn’t stop their little faces lighting up. You see there is nothing loved more by men than a challenge which involving man V food.

From this challenge I learnt that fun is still out there and although admitedly she just pops in every now and then I aim that one day she might stay a bit longer until the day she moves right back. When you have fun you might notice that the other people in your life seem happier too and when you share the fun you get to witness that sparkle appear back in their eyes that you forgot existed. I’m not quite at the end of my three week challenge but it makes me wonder what else can I do for 21 days?

Try it out yourself: give yourself permission to go and play ‘hide and seek’ cupcakes and find out that fun might just be waiting patiently for you to invite her back in.

Ingredients for Chocolate Fudge Rolo Cupcakes

130g room temperature butter
3 fl oz / 95 ml of boiling water
3 tsps strong coffee granules
75g Self raising flour
75g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
300g caster sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
5 tbsp sunflower oil

70ml sour cream

Chocolate Fudge Rolo Cake Instructions

  1. I froze my rolos for 24 hours (but up to you if you wish)
  2. Preheat the oven
  3. Line a muffin tin with liners (my mix made 13 cakes so I left one to bake later)
  4. Mix coffee with boiling water and add to a pan with butter and chocolate
  5. Heat the mixture gently to melt
  6. Sift all dry ingreadients into your mixer bowl
  7. In a bowl combine and mix eggs, oil and courcream
  8. Add both the egg and chocolate mixture to the dry ingreadients
  9. Mix on low (2 for Kitchen aid) until combined
  10. Add approx 2 tbsp of mixture (I use a cookie scoop)
  11. Add one rolo in the centre of each and top with further tbsp. to cover the rolo
  12. Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins until the top springs back when touched or cake tester is clean
  13. Leave to cool in the tin

Caramel Buttercream Ingredients

125g caster sugar
4 tbsp of water
80ml double cream
½ tsp of salt (optional but does bring out the flavour)
1 tsp of vanilla essence
160g butter
200g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp of milk (if needed to make the buttercream lighter for piping)

Caramel Buttercream Instructions

  1. Heat the sugar and water in a pan until the sugar has disoloved
  2. Continue cooking until it turns a golden colour and thickens slightly
  3. Remove from heat and add cream be aware it may splutter so be careful
  4. Stir and leave to cool
  5. Cream butter and icing sugar for 5-6 mins (Kitchenaid gradually increase to speed 6 once combined)
  6. Add caramel and beat until combined (reserve some caramel to drizzle over your cupcakes)

To Assemble

Pipe or cover your cupcakes with lashing of caramel buttercream, drizzle melted chocolate and caramel over the top and adorn with a Rolo. Then go and hide them, trash the house and set the timer 🙂

Take a break from the grey and bake


2012 is officially the colour of Grey. Floods and continual grey skies create the perfect reading opportunity for stuck indoors women in their millions to one by one drop like flies and seek comfort in the arms of the infamous Mr Grey. I can’t go anywhere without hearing constantly  ‘I’m spending the night with Christian’, ‘I got the last copy whoop whoop’ and my personal favourite ‘I wrestled the woman in Tesco’s for it and won’    Honestly all this grey has turned my female social media friends into whipping, drooling and silk scarf frenzied sex kittens.  As with all good things Ladies you have to take a break some time or bits start to fall off so walk away from Grey and Greyer, give your racing hearts and imaginations a rest. If you really have a need to tie yourself to things that’s fine just tie yourself to the food mixer or oven door and get it over with. You all have to eat sometime so join me in my top ten round-up of bakes over the year and I hear the naughty chocolate fudge sauce is good if that’s your sort of thing.

Number One – Strawberry Pimms Cake Pop Truffles

Pimms Cake Pops / Truffles

Pimms Cake Pops / Truffles

This is where it all began and I really enjoyed making these and I think at the time that was probably because at the beginning it did not matter if the cake I baked was wonky or imperfect as it got smooshed up with various fillings to create a mouthful of heaven. If you roll cake balls in meringue before dipping them in chocolate you have an Eton mess variation and perfect for when you need something ball shaped that isn’t salty.

Two – The mis-piped naughty meringue snowmen

My piping disaster (keep on reading to see more!)

See these were a bit of a baking disaster and most of you who have spoken to me over the year will have chuckled at these.  I was not the best at piping back then and figured that the little snowmen rather naughty looking tails would go down in the oven.  Hmmm I guess I was wrong with that one however they will star on this year’s Christmas cards!

Three – Pay Day Cakes  ‘The Macchiato’

The ‘Pay Day Cake’ idea began in March with the premise that you do not scrimp on ingredients but bake a cake that has four layers in a celebration for each week worked. This one is the Machiatto based on the coffee, vanilla and caramel drink at Starbucks. After this followed Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake, The Turkish Temptress and White Chocolate Mousse cake with a secret berry blast that will keep your admirers wondering how you did it? The final cake so far is triple chocolate mousse cake with chocolate covered strawberries – do I pick the longest names or what? What next a fifty shades of grey cake how would that work?

Sticky Toffee Cake

 FourVanilla Essence (DIY)

Homemade Vanilla Essence

A great gift to you or a baking friend – why not make a few at the same time.

This has to be on the list as it is the one ingredient I use in all of my bakes – simple to make, full of flavour and saves £££ and if you add lemonade to a shot of it you have a vanilla vodka spritzer – love the dual purpose nature! Comes with a humourous tale of baking meltdowns.

FiveMojito inspired Polenta Cake

Mojito polenta cake

Polenta cake – this is a dairy and gluten-free option you know you will be safe most places you need to take cake. Moist, tangy, easy to make and very portable with no fussy icing to worry about – bake it and job done and if you like it try the lemon and berry version.

SixJammie Dodger CheesecakesJammie Dodger Cheesecake

Perfect little pick me up with a creamy cheesecake, jamminess and biscuit all rolled into one. You would think a soft biscuit base wouldn’t work but it really does and cute too.  Comes with a tale about synchronicity.

Seven – Raspberry Bakewell Cake

Raspberry Bakewell Cake

Another dairy and gluten free cake (but you would never know) that is just as good as a Bakewell tart but far less hassle. I have a love of simple loaf cakes and my top tip is buy cake liners for your tins to save time from fiddly lining with baking paper. Why not try out Left over Banana, honeycomb and chocolate or Lemon and Blueberry.

EightNaughty Chocolate Fudge Sauce

Just perfect for pouring over ice-cream sundaes, traybakes, puddings or whatever else takes your fancy but I don’t want to know about it thank you very much. Keeps in a jar in the fridge and then just heat and pour over your choosen dessert or body parts includes cute labels as well so you can give it as a gift but please don’t tie the labels to body parts as that would just be wrong.

Nine – Palmiers, Berries and Macaron Ice-Cream

Juicy berry Palmiers with ice-cream oozing with berries and crushed macarons which is the perfect use for them if they have gone hideously wrong as mine do. Accompanied by a funny story of blackberry picking disasters and walking like John Wayne but without needing Mr Grey to do that for me.

TenSprinkle Spiral Cookies

Made for Valentines day with love and such fun to hang on the side of cups (if you cleverly cut them as soon as you take them out of the oven before they begin to harden. Any colour or flavour would work with these and they freeze well so you can make ahead and bake when needed. I keep a frozen cookie roll in my freezer which also serves as a back up weapon to ward off any intruders. Please don’t get any ideas of putting cookie rolls anywhere they shouldn’t go as that would be a hard one to explain at the NHS walk in centre.

Hope you enjoyed my round-up and here’s to more bakes ahead. As for Mr Gey I’m avoiding you for the moment as my kitchen is my own version of a ‘red room of pain’ where I’m often found weeping in dispair, involunatrily tied up in piping bags or yelling with sheer baked ecstacy all without having read the trilogy.  Apparently there is expected to be a 50 shades baby boom which will lead to some interesting questions for those parents in the next decade.  I can imagine their conversations now, ‘Mum, how was I concieved?’ and the reply ‘Well Your Dad tied me to the Kitchenaid and I spanked him with the beater attachment whilst balancing a cupcake on my head’ oh dear Mr Grey what you got us into?

Thanks to all who have supported me, commented, followed and the extra pounds my close friends and family have endured so far in my little journey. What was your favourite?

Love to all x Up next gooey popcorn bars traybake

Tales, Gales and Triple Chocolate Mocha Brownies from a VW Camper


I’m finally back safely inside four walls from a wet and windy week in Devon in our newly restored 1979 Moonraker VW Campervan. This has been my childhood dream which has taken my husband nearly two years of really hard work to make it reality. Join me in my little journey with some funny moments through instagram as well as a quick recipe for triple chocate mocha brownies which I just had to bake when I was finally reunited with my oven (see if you too are a baking addict here).

Triple Chocolate Mocha Brownies

Many of you have met May (the VW Camper) before but here she is:

VW Camper 1979

May’s first trip

The week before the holiday welcomed glorious sunshine which was hotter than anywhere in Europe ensuring that Britain was finally baring its brigade of white legs. Of course in true British style a double bank holiday to celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee and a coinciding half term from school meant that the weather was always destined to take a turn for the worst.

1979 VW Moonraker

Even the rice pops matched!

The first disaster was the brand new fridge (but brought a year ago) which stopped working the night before and filled the van with nasty gases meaning my military precision meal plan was out the window and I was forced to live camping life on the edge (well with ice blocks anyway).

Instagram image

We finally set off and crawled our way to Devon with my Husband’s best bromance friend (I’ll call him Ronald) following behind in his ‘Herbie’ style Beetle which caused a lot of amusement in the Services.  The duo had planned secret signals to communicate with each other on the way down in SAS style (aka Sad and Stupid!).

VW Campervan Herbie Beetle

The troublesome duo

After a 5 hour stop start journey we found another member of the VW family next to us and luckily we got the tent up just before…

Raining

But even with the rain my newly purchased rainbow bunting seemed to make it all a little bit brighter (how stupid was I?)

Rainbow Bunting

A wet campsite

The Twilight Zone

Ron has to lose some weight so as well as starving him for the week (I don’t make as much food as he gets at home) we were making him go for walks too. I like to think of it as VW inspired weight loss holiday camp (people pay loads of money for those don’t they?).  We came across a set of ‘slippery when wet’ steps (220 of them) on our hike wn I suddenly had the urge to stop and turn around. My husband took a photo of me and when we looked back at the photograph there was a rather spooky ‘thing’ standing next to me.  At first I thought it was a mirror image of me but from looking at the actual picture it isn’t.  It does look rather like a man stood next to me and there was nobody there at the time.  This image is only one taken of my computer screen but you get the idea!.  Whatever it is the trail goes right in front of me and certainly makes me wonder what’s out there?

Spooky image

What is it it?????

The ‘Wee Wee’ shuffle

After all the rain I was soaked through and in need of a shower so I plodded off. One of the things I hate about camping is the journey to the toilet block. When you are at home you will never need to get up in the night to go to the loo yet when camping it will be a nightly adventure of dodging guy ropes, muddy puddles and twisting your ankle in rabbit holes to get there. The added joy is that when you are doing this your bladder is fit to burst and the urgency is making you do the ‘wee wee’ shuffle walk all the way there which in reality is speed walking but with a swagger on. Luckily it’s dark and you just have to pray nobody sees you.

wee wee walk

Wet, Wet, Wet

The other joyous thing about camping is the showers and after a day of being wet right through I decided that I would warm up and get some dry clothes. The showering part is alright it ‘s the apres shower that sucks. The clothes that normally I do not have a problem getting on shrink and gain a unique ‘cling-on’ style quality. Every inch of fabric has to be pulled and coerced onto my skin in way that is similar to getting a wet suit on. The challenge of the campsite showers game is you have to do it without getting one inch of your clothes in the grass ridden muddy puddles that form in this unique environment. So there I was feeling a bit warmer, ready to put on my dry pair of smalls when they decided they would do a triple somersault out of my hands. Crying ‘Nooooooo’ I scrambled after them whilst witnessing in horror their second by second descent towards the muddy depths of camping puddle hell. My feet started slipping and sliding on the floor as I overstretched and eventually I came to a crash on my knees half in and half out of the shower curtain to the amusement of my fellow female campers.  There was an awkward few second stillness in the room as they took in my rather crumpled state, a floating pair of underwear with tears forming in my eyes. It was then I got the campers nod that says ‘it’s OK we’ve all been there’ and then they duly carried on brushing their teeth probably thanking their lucky stars that their clothes were dry whilst I regained my composure and dignity.

The sun will come out tomorrow

Every Brit knows that a ray of sunshine means shorts even if it’s still freezing cold outside but who cares the sun is out! We had a picnic (shivering) on the beach and watched the air ambulance rescue some poor surfer and before leaving we found a nice little pub after many arguments and ordered coffees.  ‘That’s not ours is it?’ Ronald innocently asked as the barmaid gave him his coffee. Ronald had never had espresso before so it was quite a shock for him to see such a small cup – bless him. To make up for it he ordered cheesy chips and the rest of them had brownie sundaes whilst I enjoyed a beer in the sun and smirked over the whole mini coffee incident quietly.

San Miguel

What do you get when you cross Herbie, four people and a steep hill? The answer: you get a poor little car screaming her nuts and bolts off to try to get up the hill in first gear!  The big boys had their hands out the windows and were making whipping gestures as if Herbie were a horse. My Son and I furiously were rowing in the back seat to help gain speed and the family in the car behind us were doing pushing movements to try to and help us up the hill!  We screamed with laughter and when she (yes in times of equality this Herbie has had a sex change) finally made it to the top (although it would probably have been quicker to have walked) we got applause from the rather large queue of traffic behind and the car waiting to come down the hill.

Trying to get up the hill

Trying to get up the hill – you can do it Herbie

Always watch where you sit

The next rainy day we ventured to an outlet shopping village. Whilst sat in a coffee shop Ron who is proud of himself for ordering an extra large coffee to make up for his last error.  He looks across to see two not quite so attractive teenage girls walk in. He turns to my Son and says ‘There you go there’s some girls for you’ and laughs. I am shocked to learn hy Son is actually interested in girls (I know I shoudl know better) and my son turns to look his face is an absolute picture of horror which in turn makes the boys laugh. In life I do believe in karma so the next thing we knew there was a loud clatter. All we see is Ron’s head poking out between the two seats which he is now wedged between as his hearty laughter caused him to fall off his chair and the sign behind bent. I actually cried with laughter at this one.

Costa Coffee

Tantrums and Tiaras

By now with the continual rain everyone was forced to be with each other 24/7 which meant that quite frankly we were all starting to get on each others nerves. As much as you may love the people you are with there is a thing called personal space and you miss it when you don’t have any. I found I spent time sat in the loo just for a bit of respite and dryness. We knew the weather was going so I asked my husband if the wind speed was likely to be gale force (the campsite was quickly emptying – did they know something I didn’t) and he promised me it wasn’t and as a occasional windsurfing instructor I believed him.  First big rookie camper mistake – never believe a man when it comes to size or speed.

driftwood

We went for a quiet walk (well needed) with just the two of us and I got a feeling it was time to head back as we sat on the beach in a rare moment of sunshine.

and relax

and relax….

That night has to be the worst night ever in my camping history and I have already admitted firmly to being a fair weather camper. The tent swayed, buckled and the van rocked and trust me the old adage of ‘don’t come a knocking if the van is a rocking’ clearly doesn’t apply when you’re sat in a tent in the middle of nowhere with winds that were 5mph less than hurricane category (oh how he lied to me). The wind and rain was so loud the DVD the boys were trying to watch could not be heard. Incidently the DVD was ‘idiot abroad’ and I said to my Husband by making us stay he was making us do our own version but called ‘An idiot on a campsite’ which I think should be the next big reality show to hit our TV screens just think of all the things you would see like stupid people who stay in gale force winds and wee wee shufflers falling down holes.

Packing up

Ronald spent the evening laughing at me for being scared of the wind but by Friday morning good old Karma was back in force. Ronald proclaimed loudly and repeatedly that he had officially had enough and was going home, directly home without passing go. That night the wind had blown rain straight into his bedroom compartment throught the air vents, his air bed burst and he woke up doing breast-stroke in his tent and not being a great lover of exercise at the best of times this was the straw that broke the camels back. After many arguments, a full on diva style strop (my husband) and weather searches on the internet we finally gave up and packed up our gear.

Hours of washing later and the next day being warm and sunny (ironic huh) my Son and I sat and played scrabble but from the words you see I must have been traumatised by it all! My husband who is obviously not traumatised by it sodded off in the van to spend yet another day in a field at with VW’s at a show but he got a sunnier day (git). Would I do it again? Yes sadly I would and I am already planning next years trip but perhaps Spain would be kinder to us weather wise.

Scrabble

ChocaMocha Brownies
As we had brownie sundaes on holiday I just had to bake some when I got home – a perfect holiday memory and the coffee addition well thats there to always remind me of that moment in Costa (tee hee). There won’t be posh pictures this time as quite frankly sometimes life is too short but trust me they hit the spot.

85g butter
100g plain chocolate
175g dark muscavado sugar
2 eggs (room temp)
1 tbs instant coffee mixed wtih 1 tsp of boiling water
85g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g white chocolate chips (or chocolate chopped into small pieces)
50g milk chocolate chips (or chocolate chopped into small pieces)

Triple Chocolate Mocha BrowniesInstructions

1. Preheat oven to 180C / 160 Fan / Gas 4
2. Put the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan and melt .  Stir and leave to cool.
3. Put the sugar and eggs into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy.  Fold in the choclate mixture and then sift the flour and baking powder over. Fold in carefully (lightly). add the chopped chocolate and pour into a 18cm tin round or square.
4. Bake for 25-30 mins (depends on how you like your brownies – if you like really gooey you may even fnd it is 20 mins)
5. Leave in the tin to cool and then cut into squares. Job done, sit back and dry off if you have just got back from camping like me. If you have a 20cm tin it will still work but bake for 20 -25 mins and it will be a little bit flatter.  Always tastes the same.

Enjoy x

I am entering these brownies into We Should Cocoa ran by Chocolate Teapot and Chocolate Log Blog as this month it is coffee! This month is hosted by Laura who runs the Kitchen Maid blog.

Jammie Dodger Cheesecakes


I have become rather interested in synchronicity lately after watching the program ‘Touch on’ on Sky 1. Synchronicity is a term used by Carl Jung to explain that the events that happen in our lives are not an accident or coincidence as everything happens for a reason. We have all had times when you go to ring or text someone and before you get to do it they ring or text you. The moment when you are in a real hurry and you drive into a car park and someone drives out just at the right time (OK that never happens to me) but those are very simple examples of synchronicity. I think the Jammie Dodger Cheesecakes I created are an example of synchronicity at work that day for me.

Jammie Dodger Cheesecakes

They began creation in my mind a few months ago when I spottted mini oreo cheesecake’s on the wonderful Grace’s Sweet Life but I never got around to making them. Not until this weekend when the order of the Cosmos (or whatever you believe in) decided that I was going to create them. Firstly the universe made sure Jammie dodgers were on offer so I had multiple packets as they are not a biscuit I buy as they are quite pricey. The cream cheese I had ordered for something else a long time ago which sat folornly waiting to be used decided it would leap out of the fridge at me. The raspberries ordered for a raspberry bakewell cake never arrived ( I was so gutted) so my baking plans for the weekend were ruined (or so I thought)

Jammie Dodger Cheesecakes

The roughly drafted recipe from months ago fell onto the kitchen floor and I realised that now was truly the time. I opened the dodgers with a sense of purpose and began to count the biscuits and this is where I hit my first problem. I assumed there would be 12 in a packet in my rough recipe (always the optimist) to find there was only 8! Dejected I took one dodger, hovered it by my mouth in a knee jerk must have comfort food type reaction. As I grumbled about it all being wrong – blah blah blah, my Son walks in. He hears me moaning and says ‘I’ll just work out the correct ratio for you Mum, give me a pen’. Umm did that really happen?

Jammie Dodger Cheesecake

I needed 92g of cream. Guess how much was left over after the turkish delight cake? Yes exactly 92g and for some unknown reason I did not throw it away although I would normally as I don’t eat cream unless it is in something. The scaled down cheesecake mixture by my Son could not have been more of a perfect fit if it tried. These were meant to happen and I am so glad they did as they are bliss.

Jammie Dodger Cheesecake

I love that you can see the splat on the dodger and the jammy heart through the paper which again is a miracle as I have baked these again and it didn’t happen (I think as I did not push them fully down into the tin in my haste). Thanks to synchronicity my family all raised their little Jammie Queen’s to the sky and admired the splat before sending them on their final journey. I don’t think I can even express how much I love it when baking and synchronicity come together.

Jammie Dodger Cheesecake

So whether you believe in synchronicity or not I feel it has a lot to play in my life and I am certainly looking out for the signs. They are there you see as when I was photographing these on instagram I ended up having a conversation with Butcher Baker who I have not spoken to too for ages who was in the throws of writing a fantastic post on how to make Jammie dodgers and had sent me a message. The World as they say works works in mysterious ways so why not slow down and listen to the baking messages you get. What have you been told lately?

Jammie Dodger Cheesecakes

Let me know your synchronicty / coincidence stories – be it life or baking! I truly find it fascinating.

Ingredients
1 packet of Jammie Dodgers (8 biscuits)
1 packet of mini Jammie Dodgers (optional for topping)
272g cream cheese
67g vanilla sugar (or use caster sugar)
1 egg (room temperature)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tsp if not using vanilla sugar)
92g single cream (any cream will work fine)
2 tbsp of strawberry jam (optional as a filling to the cheesecake)

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 275f / 135 C / 115 fan
2. Pop a jammie dodger upside down (splat faces down!) so you have the jam centre facing downwards in muffin cases and in a muffin tin x 8
3. Beat together cheese and sugar
4. Dizzle in the egg and mix
5. Ad the cream and mix – add in the vanilla extract and give a final mix
6. Pour mixture into the cases on top of hte jammie dodger until each is near the top
7. Warm the jam so it is runny and easier to pour (about 20 seconds in the mircowave)
8. Add a dollop of jam to centre of each cake and swirl
9. Add one further dollop of jam in the centre so they look like a jammy dodger
10. Transfer to the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 11 minutes and then rotate the tin 180 degrees. Bake for a further 11 minutes (approx your oven may vary). There will be some wobble to the cheesecakes but the mixture will not be runny when it is done.
11. Leave cheesecakes to cool in the tin and then transfer (still in the tin) to the fridge overnight for best results. Do not try to admire the splat at the bottom as it will end in disaster just trust it is there (ifd you pushed it down enough) and enjoy the thrill of seeing it tomorrow when you salute the sky with your new Queen of cheesecakes.  If it does not appear then blame it on synchnocity playing with you.
12. Top with cream and a mini dodger if you wish.

Enjoy!

Jammie Dodger Cheesecake

Coming soon: pay day cake 4 is in development and a little clue there is less cake this time. Other than that I have no idea I’m just going to see what happens.

7 tips for Gluten Free Baking (GF)


So you have been nominated to make a cake for a gathering and then someone says to you ‘hey can you make it gluten free?’.  You get sweaty just thinking about it, I mean gluten free – what is that?  You wonder how you are going to create a cake without flour but somehow find yourself nodding at the same time – well it is rude to say no.  If gluten free baking is something you have not done before you know that hours of internet research is ahead of you .  Where do you even start? Well you read on and find out…

Understand what Coeliac is (taken from coeliac website)

“Coeliac disease (pronounced see-liac, spelt celiac disease in other countries) is an autoimmune disease. Gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye triggers an immune reaction in people with coeliac disease. This means that eating gluten damages the lining of the small intestine. Other parts of the body may be affected.”

It is very limiting to be on a gluten free diet especially when out socialising as you have no control over what has gone into the food and eveything can potenitally be the gluten devil.  Wheat free is generally a food intolerance but coeliac (gluten free) is an autoimmune disease.  Do not think that a person who is Coeliac (GF) will eat be OK eating a bit of gluten every now that they might be a bit ill but they’ll be alright.  Gluten can have a very damaging effect on their intenstines in the long term and cause complications such as infertility, osteoporosis and bowel cancer.  Once diagnosed like an alcoholic they have to avoid gluten for life as this is the only way to control it and even one bit of gluten can upset the stomach and intenstines for day and out them back to square one.

My Top Gluten Free Bakes

I was recently invited to attend an overdue gathering of friends when I got that request for gluten free cake so I set to work to meet the challenge so nobody felt they were missing out.

1. Firstly I started with toffee crisp bars.  These always work well , requitre little effort and everyone lovesthem.  Do check the ingredients of the toffee and marshmallows (made from corn) you buy. If you wnat to cover them in chocolate you will need a gluten free chocolate. Most chocolate is GF (good ones) but some do use it- Nestle chocolate is GF where as Cadburys has been reclassified as having a very low gluten content. I made the toffee crips as a tray bake in a 20cm tin rather than moulds like below for speed. Final tip on that – use a wet wooden spoon to press it down into the tin!

2. A rather dodgy looking but yummy chocolate cherry cola cupcakes was made by my Son and Husband. Note: Cola and GF flour do not like each other!

3. I made fruit alternative as the choclate base was already covered with a zesty lemon polenta cake with fresh berries to satisfy all tastebuds. Polenta is a GF grain and this is more of a dessert cake with a satisfying texture that I really enjoyed.

4. My naughty hot chocolate fudge sauce is also gluten free and we poured it over vanilla ice cream again watch out fo rice -cream but there are some very gluten free varities and I swear by Swedish Glace which I know Saisnbury does stock as it is delicious. When using cocoa in a recipe as always with gluten free baking be vigilant check as it can contain cereals and starch which are a no no.  I use Green and Blacks 70% Cocoa which is GF. Nestle also offer GF cocoa and hot chocolate powders that you can use and are easy to get.

I can tell you now it is worth the effort as anyone on a strict GF diet will love you forever if you make them cake as some varieties in supermarkets are not always that nice and can be very expensive.  To help you understand more here are some general guides as to what coeliacs can and can’t eat. There are many other recipes out there that involve alternative flours but if you are not following a GF diet here are my top tips to adapt a favourite recipe you already have:

1. Use 1 tsp of xantham gum in cakes stops them from being too crumbly in texture which is notorious in gluten free cakes especially ones that don’t have lot’s of moisture in them e.g victoria sponge.

2. Gluten free cakes can be quite dry so don’t be afraid to add extra moisture. Into a 20cm cake I will normally add an extra 1 – 2 tbs of milk, water or fruit juice (depending on the flavour of cake).

3. Subsitute any ordinary wheat / gluten based flour with a gluten free flour alternative these are available in plain and self-raising. In my own experience Doves farm is my favourite but there are others. You can easily adapt the same recipe you love this way.

4. For fail safe baking and first attempts – go for moister cakes like carrot, coffee or fruit as in my expereience they tend to work better and will not have that gluten free taste twang that you can sometimes get with a vanilla sponge.

5. Check your baking powder is gluten free – I only use this type anyway so that I do not get the wrong one by accident.

6. Icing sugar (by Silver Spoon) is gluten free so you can still use this to make buttercream icing.

7. Watch out for starch (check what sort it is – potato is OK but see tip 7). Corn is OK, wheat must be avoided and oats are ad odd one.  Manufacturers seem to process oat goods in the same spaces as wheat ones therefore cross-contaminating them so my advice is if it it does not clearly state gluten free then don’t use it. If in doubt check the manufacturers website but for the best list of ingredients to avoid click here – once you see the list you will soon start to realise just how limiting a GF diet is and how they sneak naughty gluten into most our food.

Make someone’s day who is GF and bake them a cake.

Hope that helps so you never have to sweat again 🙂

7 Random Facts About Me


Thank you to All that glitters for awarding me the Kreativ and Versatile Blogger award I am truly honoured. I met all that glitters over a conversation about ginger cupcakes.  She runs a fantastic blog with a wealth of interesting articles from beauty, cooking, fashion and food of course!  With such a wide variety to read there is always something to enjoy.  Of course part of the award is that I have to reveal 7 random facts about myself so here goes….

7 Things about me:

  1. I have a second marriage to baking – sometimes I scream at it, argue, fuss, pine for it, laugh at it.  Occasionally it gets the silent treatment and I file for divorce but it never agrees.
  2. I love to stand in the rain – the harder it is raining the better but not on straight hair days.
  3. I love dragonflies as like them I flit from one thing to another with super charged speed.
  4. I have lots of partially started books on all differnt themes that I have written and have never finished one yet but dream of doing so.
  5. I have phantosmia which involves smelling things that nobody else can.  Bizarrly when I smell something really bad I also find bad things happen afterwards.  So with my cooking this could mean the World is going to end most days – well it is 2012.
  6. I hate driving and will physically pull my body inwards when trying to fit through a small gap whilst oooohhhing in true girly style all the way through.  I also duck when I go under low bridges and can be found gripping the seat and trying to put my foot through the floor to find an imaginary extra brake pedal when my Husband is driving.
  7. I recently had a conversation with a friend about things spooky things and the film ‘Woman in Black’ (not that I have seen it) . When I went to bed I had to turn off the light and run to my bed as fast I could and hide under the covers because I had scared myself – how stupid!

My nominations for the Kreative and Versatile Blogger award are:

  • Homedmade by Fleur – A devoted baker with a beautiful face, soul and blog to match. She runs her own cake club and has been on TV but like me she believes in cakeland (a bit like fairyland but the cupcakes have wings).  She is very supportive and has some fantastic ideas.
  • Here’s one I made earlier – is a blog by Kate and she tries out all sort of different baking goodies.  I love her little blog but she does not get many comments and I think she should have more as she has a great blog with simple instructions and images to match.  You all remember what it is like to blog and think nobody is reading what you write so spare a moment, say hello and cheer her on as baking is quite obviously her secret passion.

Rules of the Kreativ and Versatile blog award:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Share seven things about yourself that people may or may not know already.
  3. Pass the award along to others and let them know you’ve nominated them!

The year that inspired me to bake


It is weird to be sat here a year on in the same place and yet life has changed so much. Although the days move on some things don’t change. There is still the whir of the washing machine rumbling and as always my computer screen lights up the corner of my kitchen with its familiar Friday night glow and shortly I will ring my Mum as I always do. I could tell you that I began baking because of child memories or a treasured Grandparents passion for baking but that is not my story. My story began a year ago this evening. A seemingly normal Friday evening where fate thrust me into a situation that although not the most pleasant ended with at least one silver cloud.

Without that evening I would not have truly met my best friend, nor would I get to share evenings with her, cake and coffee which is the ultimate pick me up trio. I began truly baking to welcome her back home. When I looked back I realised I began my blog on her Birthday as I spent the whole week making different cakes pops to cheer her up.

Image of Cake Boules on Sticks

Cake boules on sticks

Weeks went past and I would pop round with cake and tell her all about my ideas and she would listen and encourage me in a way nobody else has. She overcome her fear of technology and after weeks of trying she managed to suscribe to my blog all by herself to make sure I at least had one reader and the day she managed to rate and comment on my post she was so excited I felt quite priviledged.

Over the last six months I have fallen in love with baking and our meetings just don’t seem right unless there is cake and coffee involved. She oohs and ahhs at my cakes, gives me a bite by bite analysis of my bake and eats them all with great delight. One day I fed her mince pies which I knew she loathed so I wrapped them in marzipan to lure her into a false sense of security but always game she ate it anway. Most importantly she laughs with me instead of at me when I have cake disasters. I can remember holding a sad cake above my head outside her house without it falling off the baking paper while we both squealed with laughter.

IMage of The flatest cake ever

The flatest cake ever

She has watched and listened patiently to my random stories and when I first ventured onto twitter hesitantly with my why I will bake mince pies campaign she rolled up her sleeves and got stuck right in. She baked with me with knowing it was something that truly meant a lot to me. My first attempt at meringue snowmen ended rather disasterously with willies and she was the first to laugh rather loudly I have to say.

What happens when piping goes wrong!

Without that day a year ago I would never have truly known the big heart and strength my friend has that inspires me each day to keep on going. I write this post as I know you can hear me saying the words to you as you read and I am too chicken to say it out loud. We both know this would involve heavy breathing, flapping of arms and spelling of words out loud. From me this is a sincere thank you as I don’t think you will ever realise how much you changed my life and yes in a good way before you try to tell me jokingly otherwise!

Ps you will be proud of me as I did not spend hours rewriting this it comes from the heart mistakes and all.

x

Baking Addiction Series (Part 2)


True Confessions of a Baking Addict – I blame Adriano Zumbo
As always this is based on a true story (my neighbours do not talk to me anymore apart from the ones I feed cake too)

Baking addiction as you can see from part one of the series has a lot to answer for in my life.  When recently leaving for work I was having a bit of a baking addict episode and from referring to the handy guidelines in part one I knew I had already reached stage two of baking addiction that day as in the short space of 60 seconds I had:

1. watched erotic images of layered chocolate mouse cake by Adriano Zumbo (a highly recognised patisserie found in Australia).
2: stopped mid step down the driveway gazing longingly at the cake on my phone screen.
3. experienced a feeling of unusual warmth despite cold temperatures outside.
4. found myself licking my lips as if I could taste the velvety chocolate.
5. a twinkle in my eye reserved only for highly calorific sweet cakes that make me want to rub my face in them.

If you have not heard of Adriano Zumbo I found him winking at me from the Good Food channel with a series called Zumbo’s. Initially I thought is was quite inspirational to have an exercise program on a food channel to combat all those calories viewers must gain just from watching.  I soon realised to my utter delight that Zumbo’s was not an exercise program but a beautiful patissiere.  My luck was in as I was not going to be cavorting round my living room trying to look sexy but exercising my eyes over an unprecedented array of macarons and tarts and therefore he had my complete and undivided open mouthed attention. Wow!

The Confession
However Mr Zumbo and his staff got me into a spot of bother the other morning many thousands of miles across the World from the gorgeous patisserie.  Let me take you back to a normal school day.  If this was a confession style TV show you would hear the sad violins playing right now.

Mr Postman
After watching Zumbo’s the night before I knew I wanted to find the recipe for Adriano’s decadent chocolate mousse cake.  Completely besotted with the sultry chocolate images on my phone, my son got into the car ahead of me and a loud tutting sound made me look up.  I saw the post man approaching with his usual weary steps so I smiled in acknowledgement but instead of his usual morning cheery wave he turned abruptly and crossed over to the other side of the street his pace quickening.  How rude I thought to myself and I had another quick glance at the cake just to make it all better (click image for recipe).

Chocolate Junior Masterchef Challenge

Am I dressed?
After the cake imagery disappeared from view I felt a combination of withdrawal pangs and a nagging curiosity as to what could have upset the Post Man that morning who is normally such a cheery soul.  I looked down initially to make sure I had actually got dressed (it has been known). Luckily today was a day where I was fully ready to go to work, my skirt was not tucked in knickers (that is a whole other story) and was therefore fairly presentable, so what was it?  My gaze returned upwards when I saw the neighbour opposite quickly shuffling children into the car with a notable glare.  The dog next door just sat and stared at me, barked twice and whipped her tail high in the air before turning to show me a full delightful view of her backside (who says dogs can’t talk?).  Whatever I had done recently neighbours and dogs were clearly not impressed by it.  Whilst I may not notice much in my Adriano Zumbo ‘WIlly Wonka’ style bubble after a rule of 3 set of incidents I knew I must have done something very wrong indeed.

I got into my car still confused and looked at my son.  He shifted his eyes away from me so I asked him what I had done wrong?  The conversation went like this:

Me: Did I do something to upset the Postman and Neighbours?
Son: Well …. yes but it’s a bit embarrassing to explain.
Me: It’s OK you can tell me, now come on what was it I did?
Son: Well you were kind of yelling and panting.
Me: What an earth do you mean?
Son: Well you know that shampoo advert (long pause)
Me: The Herbal Essences one?
Son: Dunno, you know the one where the lady is screaming in the shower when she washes her hair?
Me: Yes , the Herbal Essences one (still not realising)
Son: Well you were making that kind of noise.  Loudly!
Me: Oh (awkward silence)

His reply caused a cold sensation that tingled down my spine as I realised with much embarrassment that I had truly arrived that morning at stage 3 of baking addiction courtesy of Mr Zumbo and his crew.  I can only assume this comes from the withdrawal symptoms from knowing that this particular cake is nearly a whole days flight away from the UK and therefore there is no way I am ever going to get my hands on one.  My inner psyche must have though it would be funny to involuntarily make me do the baking addicts call for cake by reenacting the restaurant scene with orgasm style yelling from ‘When Harry met Sally’.  I would not have minded so much but apparently my Son tells me I was in full Dolby digital surround sound for the whole street to hear just as the Postman arrived which perhaps explains why the Postman always rings twice at our house?  Mortified I quickly drove off from the house not daring to look at who else was out in the street and the car was oddly silent all the way to School. 

Feeding my Addiction
So what is a person to do when they reach this state of addiction?  Do I:

1. Attend Bakers Anonymous (#BA).
2. Continue to feed my baking soul with tasty treats.
3. Save up for 5 years so I can fly off to sunny Australia and drool outside Zumbo’s window and lick the glass.  I must have had this stuck in my head as when I googled the location of Adriano’s I put in ‘Lickation’ by accident and that is a place you do not want to go on Google!  I seem to have a fondness for standing outside shop windows – as you can read in my Tiffany inspired champagne layer cake post.

What would you do and which stage of baking addiction are you at – comment and let me know your baking confessions as I am sure I am not alone!  I’d love to write a book on it, in fact I can see the title now ‘True Confessions of Baking Addicts’.  More  in the series to come so sign up so you do not miss an episode of baking drama!