November in review – all about the Christmas prep

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An alternative to the caterpillar cake

 

Another month gone, and we’re getting so close to Christmas now. After last month’s obsession with unusual foodstuffs like the Gummi Bear, this month has swung into full on gift searching, but at a more general level. And then the usual array of odd searches that cause me amazement, bewilderment and the odd giggle or two.

So, the top 5 things everyone had on their mind this month were as follows:

1. Foodie gifts and presents – bit obvious with the title of the blog, but a big switch, which suggests everyone is looking for ideas for the foodies in their lives. Over the month my ideas have included where to buy a whole pig, gifts for the tea and coffee lovers, gifts on a budget and what to serve if David Tennant pops round for dinner. Always best to be prepared. And if anyone wants to know, David coming to dinner could be the best gift you could send this foodie!

2. Cupcakes – you weren’t so much making your own as looking for two fabulous suppliers, Bedazzled Cupcakes for if you’re up here in the East Midlands, and The Kent Cupcakery for those in Kent. I would think. Great choices, and I would be getting a move on to get my Christmas order in quick with both, or your local provider. Would make a fabulous alternative to mince pies, or to a Christmas cake. For the adults, have a look at what Sally at The Kent Cupcakery is doing with Limoncello cupcakes! Definitely not one for the kiddies!

3. Hampers – these were definitely beginning to creep up the presents chart, all ready for the festive season. I wrote a piece on hampers back in October, and there are some specific posts on hampers from M&S, Not On the High Street and Funky Hampers. A number of you were looking at hampers you could put together yourself, and I’ll be posting some ideas around this shortly.

4. Caterpillar Cake Tins – wow, this really is the cake of the moment!  Don’t get me wrong, I love a caterpillar cake as much as the next mum, but this month I will be attempting a stable with three horses heads, thanks to MGG and her flicking through of Debbie Brown’s 50 Easy Party Cakes. Photos and tales from the kitchen to follow before much longer. The cake tin is a great route though to a very quick and easy cake, so to be recommended for working parents everywhere who want to turn out a great homemade cake.

5. Alcohol free drinks – some of you are getting ready for Christmas, and providing interesting options for those who don’t, or can’t, drink. I’ve written a few times about how much I like the cordials from Belvoir Fruit Farms, and I will certainly be stocking up on Spiced Winter Berries cordial this weekend. I’ll also be testing my resolve with the Bottlegreen limited edition sparkling presses, which are very pretty, not to mention very tasty.

And for entertainment value, these are my choice searches of the month:

1. Lambrini gifts – stop asking me, I still loathe all of them. Please don’t send me one.

2. Turkey twizzlers – please, I’ve told you before, not on my watch!

3. Campbells condensed soup vol au vent filler – ah, retro food lives on for another month!

4. Asda Vin du Soleil – really, once in this lifetime was enough!

5. Comedy photo aprons – just picture your face on Christmas morning if this one is coming your way!

Looking forward to seeing what comes out top of the pops on the foodie present front come Christmas time. Here’s hoping it’s both tasty, and tasteful for all our sakes!

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October in review

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Nosy or just curious?

 

Being nosy and curious are good attributes for what I do. Which means I am quite fascinated by what terms people search on to end up on the blog. The popular stuff gives a feel for what people are thinking about and looking for, and the random stuff gives you an idea on what’s happening on the edges. Sometimes, on the very surreal edges.

Given the title of the blog, and the key thing I write about, it’s probably no surprise that foodie gifts is the top term, so I’m going to ignore that each month, along with anything with the blog’s title in. So, here we go, a view of October

Top 5

1. Top of the shops is the Giant Gummi Bear. Who can tell why? Although I think they’d be fun to watch someone unwrap one. But I’m sure you’d get fed up of it by about half way through!

2. In a similar theme, lots of people were looking for, and buying, Baconnaise. I love bacon and I love mayonnaise, but I think I’d rather have the two things separately. It seems lots of you disagree and are busy stocking up on this.

3. There must have been a lot of kids having caterpillar birthday cakes if the searches were anything to go by! No more M&S cake though, you were after the cake tin, and Lakeland can oblige.

4. Lots of you are on a retro food kick, with vol au vents featuring highly. I think this must be something that’s passed me by, but now determined to see if I can come up with some fabulous versions. Or at least ones that don’t involve Campbells condensed mushroom soup!

5. Finally a lot of you were looking out for a local supplier to me of gorgeous cupcakes. Bedazzled Cupcakes really do put on a dazzling display and you’ll often find them at food festivals in the East Midlands. Worth a mid morning sugar snack!

Top 5 oddities

1. Unless he has a brother, as far as I know it’s Richard Corrigan. Not Keith.

2. What pepper is in the Jamie Oliver kilner jar? Black

3. Sorry, no idea on Thomasina Miers wedding. But hope the half dozen of you looking on the blog for it got her something nice. A quince tree hopefully.

4. How not to burn jam. Keep stirring it. Or buy a Tefal jam maker and let it take the strain.

5. Buy turkey twizzlers? Not on my watch you don’t. I’m not even sure making your own is my favourite idea.

So, bring on November and December, as running into Christmas always throws up some interesting and obscure stuff. Can’t wait!

Fabulous photo to illustrate this by jin.thai on Flickr.

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Sara Lee feel the return of baking?

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Because even a 7 year old can bake!
Because even a 7 year old can bake!

 

According to Channel 4’s food blog, Sara Lee have reported a 22% drop in their international bakery sales. They blame people switching to own brand versions, but perhaps from their headquarters in Wisconsin they can’t see what’s going on here.

We’re all baking again.

Call it nostalgia or a need for comfort, but I see more people in the home baking section than ever before, and lets not forget the rise of the cupcake. I love a good baking session, it’s very relaxing to me. And it’s brilliant for getting kids involved in the kitchen. Who doesn’t remember standing on a stool, mixing stuff up and just waiting for the moment you got to lick the mixing bowl out?

If your foodie loves to bake, or if you’d just like them to do some more, here’s a few suggestions on things that might find them needing a Sara Lee chocolate fudge cake even less:

1. Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache– this is my favourite baking book at the moment. Every recipe I’ve cooked so far (and it’s looking quite well thumbed) has been greeted very favourably, and then with amazement when you tell people which veg are in the cakes. That’s right, veg in cake, and they’ve been brilliant. Chocolate and beetroot, courgette Victoria sponge, and clever ways with everything from sweet potato to turnip. You, and they, will be amazed.

2. Mason Cash bowls – these sum up nostalgic baking to me, and you can never really have enough mixing bowls. I love the look of these, although have to admit the weight of them can be an issue. But one I can usually get over. I’m a bit of a purist so want the traditional stone coloured ones, but there is a pretty pink one around at the moment.

3. Vintage cake stands – check out eBay for the real thing, or try Not On the High Street for some vintage looking and modern versions. A great cake deserves great presentation.

4. Silicone cake moulds – I love these for very easy cooking without worrying about lining the pans etc. Good to use with the kids as well.

5. A fancy tin – Lakeland have some amazing shaped tins, that would certainly cause a bit of a wow, particularly if you have children, big or small. Perhaps you could do away with buying the M&S caterpillar cake and make your own with the Caterpillar Cake Tin.

6. Sparkles and sprinkles – never buy a supermarket cupcake. Either get out and support your local cupcake maker (and there are some lovely people around) or make your own. For which you need fabulous cake cases and plenty of lovely decorations. Splat has one of the best selections around in my view and any combination will provide endless decorating combinations.

7. Superb jam – for me, you can’t beat a Victoria sponge with a great jam filling, although I am not a purist and love mine with buttercream rather than fresh cream. For me, it’s got to be raspberry jam, although also quite partial to blackcurrant. There again, could be a good marmalade for a marmalade cake. Check out England Preserves or Superjam for some good options.

8. A cooling rack – you can’t really bake without one of these, or not if you don’t want soggy bottoms. And, lets face it, who does? You’ll be amazed at the variety! Check out Lakeland, who have single, double, even triple deckers, and 4 stories that fit in a corner.

So, lets keep the baking renaissance going! If you need ideas for cakes with kids, then check out Hugh’s Family Cookbook, they’ll love the Victoria Sponge recipe as it involves weighing eggs!


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