Sunday, 17 March 2013

Baking For Birthday Boys!

Ben turned one this week and I made a promise to myself that I'd make my nephews the best birthday cakes I could for their 1st birthdays. "It's what Aunties are for" according to Georgina.
So I'll give you a quick peek at my efforts, just in case you have a funny 5 minutes and decide you want to make a giant pirate ship cake like this...

Step 1: Go to Toys R Us and buy a Playmobil Pirate set.

Step 2: Buy a cake board large enough for your beast of a cake.
Step 3: Get 3 wooden kebab skewers and thread some cardboard "sails" onto them.

And now start baking...

I made the victoria sponge "all in one" recipe from BBC good food which has always served me well. Liz W would tell you that you should weigh your eggs and scale up or down the other ingredients. She may well be right but I have never bothered and the results have always been good enough for me...

Then I made Priya's (that was Claire's) reliable chocolate cake that is super easy.

6 oz marge
6 oz caster sugar
3 medium eggs
5.5 oz cocoa
5.5 oz self-raising flour
1 tsp water

Cream the sugar and marge
Add the 3 eggs
Add the water
Sift the flour and cocoa to the other mixture and mix
Divide the mixture between 2 greased circular tins
Bake for 15-18 mins on 190

Then I cut the cakes in half to make semi-circles

Then I cut the edges off so the boat could stand up.

Then I made chocolate frosting from a recipe in my Joy The Baker cookbook. The I sandwiched the (alternating) chocolate and vanilla cakes together with masses of frosting and slathered more on the sides and top of the boat. This frosting recipe was a pain, I won't lie. It was however, as good as Joy promised and I'm sure I'll never find better! The recipe isn't on her blog but this book is worth having (and worth the time to convert US to UK quantities, I promise). I won't type out the whole frosting recipe unless it's requested, but here's the book of utter loveliness, that Scanners was cooing over whilst she helped me decorate the cake:-

And here again, is the lovely Scanners, posing with the day's handywork! (The light was fading at this point after hours of assembling and we were both on a bit of a "sugar low" when the effects of eating a pile of leftover "cannonballs and barrells" had worn off :S)

The chocolate twist "ropes" are wafers from B&M bargains, the cannonballs are maltesers and the mini barrels are made from putting 2 rolos together. The KABOOM cannon ball candle and the musical candle came from Occasion cakes and I borrowed some blue Wilton gel from Georgina to dye the buttercream blue for the sea.

The idea came from a lady called Bree who I found by googling pirate ship cake. Her photography is A LOT better than my few rubbish shots downloaded from my iphone so do check her efforts out...!

And, as Karen had bought cupcake bargain pirate stands, I had to make a few cupcakes too.
Priya says The Primrose Cafe book has the best vanilla cupcake recipe. I made mine from a BBC good food recipe and a Hummingbird Bakery one, neither of which were perfect, so maybe I'll try the Primrose next. The recipe does appear to have a ridiculous amount of sugar though! 

How I wish you could see the "bandanna-style" print on the cake cases - so cute!

And that was it for Benny Boy's birthday.

When Tom turned one he got this from me:-

The track was liquorice wheels rolled out onto lollipop sticks.

I'm not sure if you can really appreciate the size of this train from these pictures but when you know that each wheel is an oreo and that it's sitting on a shelf from Owen's book case you get the idea...! It was HUGE! Every carriage is a loaf tin of Hummingbird bakery pound loaf. Priya was integral to the assembly of this creation and at one point she said it was feeling like a cake-making Ofsted. Luckily, however, the pain of "Cakested" had faded enough for me to put the same effort into Ben's cake(s).

So, Tom and Ben are very welcome to request whatever cake they'd like from Aunty Jo for their future birthdays, but they may be given this book to choose it from as it has a good selection of easy to make cakes of all descriptions and really is the best book I've seen for kids' cakes. 

Happy birthday Ben, I love you and Tom very much!

Aunty Jo xxx 


Monday, 11 March 2013

The Daffodil Restaurant Round-Up

So, the daffodil supper club came and went and in total I raised around £1500 for the Alzheimer's society and am pretty delighted with that fact! I was bowled over by the kindness and support that I received from family, friends and strangers to support my venture!

On the Thursday evening I went along to set up the venue with my Mum and Aunty Liz and scurried around moving tables and arranging daffodils, then in walks David to run his eye over the equipment for the next day... and problem number 1 surfaced. The kitchen had NO GRILL, but I'd promised 80 people cheese on toast to start!!! How.... could.... this.... be.... happening!!! Dave tried to reassure me and put forward some wacky suggestions to get around the problem but I remained sceptical about all of them. Then Pete turned up to witness my panic and whisked Dave to the pub. Dave refused to panic and knew something would work out but I was unconvinced. I was desperate to get hold of a grill but ran into many dead ends. Unbeknown to me however, Pete was to be met in the street the next day by his neighbour who was locked out of his shop. This neighbour was carrying a large piece of cooking equipment and struggling along. Then he asked Pete if he could possibly look after it for the weekend; no problem said Pete, what is it? It was a portable electric grill! And in that instant we were magically saved.

Then the nice surprises just kept happening...

Rob T and his friend Emma turned up with a bottle of Welsh wine for me
 that they'd hunted high and low for...

A "Caerphilly card" came through the post from Kelly and Mark to wish me good luck...

Annabel and James turned up with a case of leftover wedding wine to bump up the funds.

People from yesteryear came out of the woodwork to donate to the cause.

Danielle was able to come along to cook on both nights.

The Welsh cider at below cost price kept flowing from Pete's shop and we even had "Caerphilly stuff" on Saturday.

The lady in the florist gave my Mum an extra 6 bunches of daffodils when she knew where they were going.

Danielle's "veg man" gave us all these for free...

The extra spaces suddenly got filled and I was delighted that the regional fundraiser from Alzheimers came along with a friend on the Saturday night and arranged to write a newspaper article so that I can publicly thank the amazing Marks bread for the really generous bread donation as well as everyone else that I need to.
And David, who could've and should've run a mile from the place on Sunday returned to help me on my clean-up mission.

 The only photo I took was of my ridiculous ingredient collecting that was stacking up in my study during the week before...

As much as I love them, it'll be a LONG, LONG time before I want to see another chocolate brownie. If you enjoyed them or want a fail-safe recipe, check out my previous blog post...

The diabetic alternative of "mango, macadamia and coconut torte" is going to be made by me again very soon though, I'm sure! 

Fortunately, I have been given a few "candid" pictures that friends took over the weekend, however...

The "Colours of the flag nibbles"... 

(Basil, mozzarella and sun dried tomato; feta, queen olive and sweet red peppers) 

The Welsh rarebit...

It's not easy making that dish look glam!

David and I read around the topic of rarebit a lot. I'd recommend using Dorothy Goodbody stout (and drinking the leftovers :) Mushroom ketchup was also good in place of Worcester sauce if you're vegetarian. Also know that it's better to put the sauce on the toast when it has cooled as it will soak through the toast otherwise (great advice Danielle!) If you want to try making this "ultimate cheese on toast" you can find a comprehensive guide to Welsh rarebit recipes here...

The calm before the storm... I've no photos of downstairs but if anyone has any I'd be really grateful...

The Welsh celebrities for the tables...

The Welsh celebrity that got everyone wondering in the picture quiz...

(Laura Ashley!)

 And, as I seem to have broken my "no photos of humans" rule recently, here are some more...

Barman and waitress on day 1...

Day 2...

The poster boy for Welsh tea on day 2...

The upstairs guests on night 1...

Some Welsh ladies showing some love for T.J...

The "clap-o-meter" that accompanied the fez for the Tommy Cooper joke challenge...

Well done to my Dad for his efforts on the Friday and to his prodigee, James, who excelled at his public speech for the 2nd time this month - just brilliant! As was Gareth's Tommy impersonation!
Yes, you too Scanners!

2 nights before the supper club my Mum said "Did you do all this because of the daffodil link with Alzheimer's medication?" And my reply was "No, it was because of St David's day; is there a link?"

And there was, it seems daffodils grown in high winds on Welsh mountain tops may have potential benefits for Alzheimer's suffers; so I put this article with people's menus:-

And I also put these extremely handy Welsh phrases with their phonetic pronunciations in English next to them.

Cymraeg (Welsh)       Phonetic  Pronounciation (in English)
Croeso, Croiss-orr
Helô / Hylô / Shwmae Hair-law /  Hill-law / Shoe my!
How are you?

I'm fine, thanks. And you?
Shwmae?   Ti'n iawn?  Teen yown?
Da iawn, diolch. A tithau? Die yown dee ol"ch" Ah tith eye?

My name is ...
... dwi / ... ydw i ..............doo  ee          ................u-doo ee
Noswaith dda Nos waith thar
Nos da Norse darr
Hwyl, Hwyl Fawr Hoil / Hoil vour
Pob lwc! Porb look
Iechyd da! Ye"ch" id darr
Dw i ddim yn deall Do ee thim un day a"ll"
Sha rad un arava"ch" ors gwell oo"ch" un tharr
Esgusodwch fi        Es gisod oo"ch"    vee
Diolch / Diolch yn fawr / Diolch yn fawr iawn
Dee ol"ch"  / Dee ol"ch" un vour  /  Dee ol"ch vour yown
Ble mae'r toiled / tŷ bach? Blair  m-eye-r  toiled? / tee bar"ch"?
Bydd y dyn hwn yn talu am bopeth (gentleman)
Beathe ur din hoon un tally bopeth
Bydd y dynes hon yn talu am popeth (lady)
Beathe ur dunnis hon un tally popeth
Rwy'n dy garu di Roin duh Gary dee
Gad lonydd i fi! Gad yonnith ee vee
Tân! Tarn
Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod
My  vurr  hovren-vard  un  "ll"own "ll"ees-wen-nod

There was no fooling my 2 waiting staff on Saturday though; their Welsh is ardderchog!

And the last of the thank-yous re-iterated partly from my menus...

Thank you Danielle for your culinary expertise; I learnt lots as a result of your assistance
 (mainly to always have a professional chef on board;)

Thanks to James N for being the most excitable staff member - fact!

Thanks to Rhian for showing up both nights and going to town with the costume!

Thanks to Annabel, Lynne, James and Paul for the long night that was Friday and for coming along again on the Saturday to see it from the other side.

And finally thank you to Harry for your last minute washing-up offer and to Nic D, 
who spent her Saturday night away from her kids with her hands in a sink! 

And so that was it... David (being David) asked Grace for a "no nonsense" critique of the evening, which made me smile as it showed how much he cared about doing a good job. Then I tentatively suggested to David that I'd like to do another Supper club in the future and would he like to help. I promised to keep the menu simple and straightforward and make the whole process easy. He looked disappointed and said "I'd probably rather help out and do it again if it was more complicated and posed a challenge!" RESULT!!!

Loads of people told me I was brave/mad for doing this but I didn't think it was that remarkable; I just replied with "but I'd never do a marathon!" It's my passion to cook and entertain and I barely questioned whether my idea would succeed. Okay, that's a slight lie, when David laid out the 240 sausages I did have a what the hell have I done moment, but at that point I knew I had the best help possible.

And just before I put the remaining monies onto JustGiving I had a last minute donation (well almost). Liz's Dad wanted to put some money onto my page but he accidentally sponsored a different Joanne Phillips (who is running a half marathon in Reading!) Then I looked her up and there she was, my name-sake, doing her bit for Macmillan nurses in memory of her Nan who died of a brain tumour. How strange that happened when I was doing all this in memory of my Grandad whose wife died 32 years ago, the day my sister was born... of a brain tumour! And the similarity between the photos of our nans is just unbelievable!

So I sponsored the other Joanne Phillips too! 

Jo :)