About Me

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Hi, my name is Alice and I am a self-confessed bake-a-holic. My dream is to one day own a tea room full of gorgeous things, with books everywhere, vintage crockery, and of course plenty of home made cake! On this blog I plan to share all my trials and triumphs from the kitchen, as well as some of my favourite recipes and inspiration that I gather along the way.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Vintage penguins

As well as baking and making, I do love my old things. Not in a creepy sugar daddy kind of a way, more in an old teapot and vintage dresses kind of a way. Items with history have a story all of their own, which I suppose makes it two stories in the case of old books.

I've always loved old books, that smell (I always back it in the old vs new book smell debate), the yellowing of the pages, and the worn corners which suggest all the people who've read it in the past. I got into old penguins in particular a few years back, after realising that not only did they look pretty good on a shelf together, they are also a relatively affordable way into old book collecting.

Ebay has not helped this minor obsession of mine, and I must admit to recently having been on something of a book splurge. So far I've ordered over 50 books in the past fortnight. Oops. As I wait with anticipation for the larger lots to arrive however, I thought I'd share with you all some pictures of what I've got through so far.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Vegetarian cookery books

 One thing that most of you won't know about me is that I have been vegetarian since the age of 6. I simply came home from school one day and informed my mother that I wasn't going to eat meat anymore. I'd always had very clear moral standpoints on things (or been stubborn as my parents put it), but this must have come as quite a shock to her considering that nobody else in the family was vegetarian, and nor were any of my friends at the time. I was lucky in that they were very supportive, and in fact my parents often choose the vegetarian dishes in restaurants now! Along the way I have met a lot of people who assume that because I'm vegetarian I'm of the militant variety and want to 'convert' them, which is not my style. I might encourage them to try vegetarian food, but only to prove that it can be every bit as tasty, and, if I'm honest, to show off my cooking skills.

Anyway, as National Vegetarian Week draws to a close, I thought I'd let you in on some of the best cookery books I've found, ideal for having a try or for ideas to feed to those guests you don't know how to cater for!

This book is amazing! Being Good Housekeeping every recipe works perfectly, and it's full of useful advice. Don't be deceived by the title, the recipes are good for adults too, just scale up the portion sizes a bit. Especially good are the toffee pie and bean and parsnip pie.

Another brilliant book of veggie recipes. This book has lots of great ideas for entertaining, perfect for non vegetarians suddenly faced with veggies to cater for at a dinner party! Try the raspberry and mascarpone sponge. Scrummy.

This is probably my pick of the bunch. An all rounder that has meals on a budget, baking, and entertaining ideas, all in a really easy to use format. Vegetarian cookery is a great deal cheaper than cooking with meat, and my non veggie university housemates were thrilled with this book, which got used nearly every day. Too many good recipes to choose from, you'll have to buy it and pick your own!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

A bit more about me

So, I've put up a few posts now, and I thought it was about time that I told you all a little bit more about me. My name is Alice, I'm 23, and I'm from Hertfordshire in the UK. I've trained as a primary school teacher, but at the moment am enjoying a few months of freedom before plunging into that hectic world!
Making things, and especially cooking has always been a passion of mine. My family aren't historically that into their kitchens, so I haven't had one of those idyllic upbringings where baking cakes with mum or grandma was a regular childhood experience, but I have always spent a lot of time trawling recipe books and admiring the pictures! As a teenager I was more into cooking main dishes, but the baking addiction really started when I went off to uni and lived in a house full of cake-a-holics! Baking was a daily activity and a really social thing, and I increasingly realised just how much I enjoyed it.

My favourite thing to bake is probably chocolate brownie (hence the first post!) but baking anything and everything makes me happy. Lots of happy family holidays in Snowdonia and a love of all things vintage got me thinking how lovely it'd be to run a tea shop one day amidst the mountains, but that's a long way off at the moment!

The plan is to use this blog to share with you what I'm baking and making, and hopefully as a way other people can share suggestions, ideas and advice with me (I have such a lot to learn, how to do those neat buttercream swirls on cupcakes for example) so I'm looking forward to a long and happy blogging future!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Super Summer Cupcakes

So eventually it's time for the first post actually about cakes! Super summer cupcakes at that! I looked at the weather this morning and was over the moon to see the sun shining, hardly a cloud in the sky and the wind a bit less gusty than it has been. All this made me feel incredibly summery, so I put on a pretty summer dress and got to work on some summery looking cupcakes to enjoy in the garden this afternoon with a cup of tea from my lovely new teapot.

First off, I think it's really important to have a good recipe for cupcakes. You can put what you like on the top, but if the cake itself isn't up to scratch it's going to be a bit depressing. I always use the same recipe for my cupcakes, and it's an adaptation from a Delia recipe.It's quick and simple, makes 12, and they are always deliciously soft and sweet and airy. Unless you forget the baking powder, which I of course have never done *ahem*.

90g self raising flour
90g sugar
90g very soft butter (or margerine)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla essence

  • Preheat the oven to 170c and place cake cases into a bun tray
  • Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix using an electric mixer
  • Spoon into baking cases
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden
  • Cool on a wire rack

As I said, a piece of cake. Literally. If you follow this, you should end up with 12 cakes which look something like the picture below (don't know what's happened to that huge green one at the back, but bagsy it's mine!).

To make them into super summer cupcakes (and because I happened to have a tray of mixed berries in my fridge) I swirled on some buttercream and topped them off with halved strawberries or a few blueberries like so...

Perfect for a summer picnic or afternoon treat, if only someone would make me a cup of tea to go with it!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

My teapot!

OK, so this is the 3rd post and still no cakes! Sorry! Chocolate brownies is about the closest I've got so far, but I assure you there will be some cake based updates soon (and it really is a good brownie recipe).

Today I just wanted to share with you all a new teapot that I own!

Ta da! Isn't it lovely? Oddly it came with 5 saucers, 4 side plates, 2 larger plates and 1 bowl. Not entirely sure what I'll do with that combination of crockery, but I'm sure inspiration will hit me.

As you'll know if you've read the 'about me' bit (testing your loyalty now) my ultimate dream is to own a little tea shop where everything is served in vintage and mismatched crockery, but the garden will have to do for now.

Maybe some iced fairy cakes tomorrow to serve on those plates. Anyone for tea?


Does anything beat some bunting decorating a garden at a summer tea party? (apart from the cupcakes and brownie, obviously). I've wanted to have a go at making my own bunting for a while, and so I thought I'd give it a stab! I decided to stick with just 2 different materials for my first attempt (I'm easily confused) and picked them and my ribbon up from a local market for £5 a metre (the ribbon obviously was cheaper).

To start with, I just hacked at the fabric in order to create what I hoped were triangle type shapes. Perhaps unsurprisingly this didn't really work, so I set about making me a template to pin on and cut the triangles out. It did take me a while to get my head around making sure that the pattern went the same direction on all the triangles (I began to regret buying stripes) but once I'd figured that out I ended up with lots of lovely equilateral triangles (about 18cm on each side, if you're interested).

Next job was to put the triangles back to back and sew them together to get double sided triangles. I did this with a zig zag stitch. I had however managed to lose the sewing machine instructions, and not having used it for a bit this took quite a while to figure out. Still, I got there eventually. Once this was done I pinned, then sewed, them all on to my ribbon. Et voila...

...my first ever bunting!

Hopefully the first of many, and I'm certainly lusting after this book for some inspiration for next time! Bunting (Twenty to Make)

Monday, 23 May 2011

Chocolate Brownies

I've spent a while struggling to find a brownie recipe that works consistently, is straight forward and of course results in perfect chocolate brownies! This is the best I've found so far, not too gooey and not too cakey and more or less bang on in the chocolatey stakes. It makes about 12 decent sized brownies, or more if you want to cut it into little bites. The baking tin I use is 20cm by 30cm, but a slighter smaller tin would be fine too, it would just give you thicker brownies that take a bit longer to cook (see advice at the bottom on how to tell when the brownies are done). Oh, and it tastes especially brilliant just out the oven with a good scoop of ice cream :)

75g Margarine (butter works too, but it does take longer to melt)
340g dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
165g self raising flour
65g cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla essence (almond essence also tastes good)

  • Preheat oven to 170c
  • Melt the margarine in a pan over a low heat, remove once all melted
  • Using a wooden spoon stir in the sugar
  • Stir the beaten egg and vanilla essence into the mixture
  • Gradually stir in the flour and cocoa powder, taking care to avoid lumps
  • Pour into a baking tin (no need to grease or line) and spread out evenly
  • Cook for 30 minutes (see below)
  • Cut up and remove from tray whilst still warm

The real trick when it comes to telling if the brownies are cooked is in my experience the 'talking' and the wobble tests. When you take the tray out of the oven, carefully tilt it from side to side. If it still looks like it's moving under the surface then it probably needs longer. Also, hold it up near your ear (carefully, singed ear doesn't do much for the flavour) and if you can still hear the mixture 'talking' it isn't quite done yet.

The hearts on the borwnies in the picture were owing to a charity event I baked them for and were simply drawn on using a glitter icing pen.
Happy baking!