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Posts from the ‘All Things Nice’ Category

Jun 8 / Caro

Recipe: Malteser Cupcakes

Malteser Cupcakes close up

It may be a slightly ironic hobby for a type one diabetic, but I’ve always loved to bake. I love the process as much as eating the results. There is something enormously therapeutic about the manipulation of raw ingredients in to aesthetically pleasing finished products. So baking is one of the things I’ve recently promised myself to make more time for. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to pledge to myself to stop buying any pre-made baked items, but instead to spend time baking anything that I want to eat, and baking something at least once a week. Three weeks in to this pledge, which is as much about creating a bit of time to myself as anything else, I’m doing really well!

I don’t usually blog recipes. In fact, I’m almost certain this is my first, but it’s one that I had to share after whipping it up this week when charged with providing cake for a work colleagues birthday.

There is something about those little malty chocolate balls that everyone seems to love – my colleagues definitely included. So straight away I knew I wanted to use a Malteser theme for the birthday cake. The only problem was with transporting a full size cake in to work, whilst also juggling Thomas on the nursery run, was going to be a challenge. I knew that cupcakes would be much easier. So I set about adapting a Malteser cake recipe – from the Hummingbird Bakery – in to one I could use for cupcakes. This is the end result. I may be biased, but they are really good. And judging by the empty box, my work mates agreed!

Malteser Cupcakes

For the cakes

150ml Sunflower oil – using oil rather than a solid fat makes for a much lighter cake
75ml whole milk
75ml buttermilkcan be tricky to find (Waitrose sell the St Ivel brand, find it near the cream) so you can just use extra milk, or plain yogurt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
215g plain white flour
25g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
310g caster sugar
40g Ovaltine or Horlicks powder
100ml boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 140 degrees centigrade

2. Beat together the oil, milk, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Then add the egg and whisk again.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Then mix in the sugar.

4. Mix the Ovaltine or Horlicks with the boiling water (add a little water to the powder at a time, and stir well).

4. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of wet ingredients a little at a time and mix well. A rubber spatula works well here. After each addition of dry ingredients, add a little of the Ovaltine mixture too. Continue adding until all the ingredients are combined.

5. Divide the mixture evenly between 12-16 cupcake cases – depending on size. You need to fill them about 3/4 full

6. Place in the oven. In my very efficient fan oven, they took about 25 minutes to cook, with one turn at about 11 minutes. In the last five minutes they were checked every 1-2 minutes. This is key as the cakes can easily overcook and become dry. It’s important not to cook them at a higher temperature as this will lead to them becoming more dry around the edges, and also gives cupcakes that “peaky” look. They should spring back lightly when they are done. Take them out of the oven and leave for a few minutes to firm, before transferring to a wire rack.

For the topping

200g chocolate – it’s up to you what you use. For a richer topping, use dark 70% cocoa solids. For a lighter result, try milk. or you could do half and half
225ml double cream
150g Ovaltine or Horlicks
50g full fat cream cheese
50g icing sugar
Maltesers to decorate

1. Melt the chocolate (either in a bowl set over simmering water, or in the microwave)

2. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks (use an electric whisk). Whip in the Ovaltine powder.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the cheese with the icing sugar. Be careful not to overbeat. Add the chocolate to the bowl.

4. Add the cream to the cheese and chocolate mixture a bit at a time, still being careful not to overbeat.

5. Pipe on to the cupcakes and add Maltesers for decoration.

more malteser cupcakes

And then: Enjoy!

Oct 23 / Caro

Photography For Bloggers Course

It started, as so many things in the life of a dentist do, with teeth. Back in May, when he was one week past the eighteen month mark, Thomas finally got his first tooth. A few weeks later, I wrote this post and a few weeks after that entered it in to a Twitter competition. Winning that competition was not only the best thing to come out of Thomas’s late teething, but also the best thing to come out of my blog so far. The prize was a place on Emily Quinton’s Makelight Photography For Bloggers Course.

The weekend before last saw me joining nine other bloggers at Emily’s husband’s studio space in Shoreditch for a day of talking photography and creating photographs. I tend to be quite nervous about meeting groups of people in general, and I’m especially nervous about blogging related events, I think mainly because my blog is so small and I frequently lack confidence in it! But the day was super relaxed and I felt at ease straight away. The other bloggers were friendly and easy to talk to, and Emily herself was every bit as lovely as her beautiful blog will have you believe. Her creative energy was apparent from the very start, with beautiful name badges and thoughtful goodie bags. Plus, in the afternoon, home made cake!

If I were to pick a single word to sum up the day, it may be predictable, but it would have to be inspiring. As we chatted early on in the morning, I admitted that I sometimes struggle to find inspiration for photographs for my blog – especially to accompany posts that focus on emotions or concepts, rather than on, say, days out or directly on Thomas himself. I also think I may have been in danger of becoming what Emily described as a technical bore – someone who knows quite a lot of the technical principles of photography – such as the elements of exposure and how to control them – but creates very boring images with little aesthetic appeal.

As a result of this weekend I think, or hope, that both of those things have changed. We talked a lot about the things that have been puzzling me, such as inspiration and also making time for photography amongst hectic schedules. We also covered lots of basics about composition, lighting, exposure and lenses. Whilst much of this information wasn’t new to me, it never hurts to have your knowledge refreshed. But the bulk of the day was devoted to practice using all the available space in the studio and a fantastic collection of props provided by Emily – everything from boxes and baskets to bottles, bunting, flowers and fruit.

As a result I’ve definitely developed a new found enthusiasm for still life photography. Most of my photography to date has been of places or of people. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by staging shots, or setting them up using props. But now I can’t wait to building my very own prop collection!

Here are some of my efforts from the day.

Flying saucers in paper cup

Autumn leaf and fruits

A hat and a squash... just because!

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard...

Dahlia

Dahlias against blue background

Prop shot

Flowers on the piano

Gin

Gin & milk

IMG_8963

Love Hearts

Saucers

Hamper

(Credit for the setup of this last shot must got to Ruth at www.ruthlgarner.com I just snuck in and took a picture of her lovely scene. I would be quite happy to have her as my stylist!)

 

The name of this blog came about because I began writing it as a record of a diabetic pregnancy. It was a play on the old rhyme “Sugar and Spice” but given that I was pursuing the best control of my blood sugars possible, sweeteners were largely preferable to simple sugar! (And no, I didn’t know I was expecting a boy!) I’m hoping now, with my new found inspiration, that I may be able to add a little more of the “All Things Nice” to this blog. As I believe is common, I may have lost a little bit of my old self in the transition to parenthood. Things that were once important seem less so, and with more demands on my time more prioritising has had to happen. But I’d like to get back some time for more creative pursuits in my life. Doing more things for which the primary motivation is my happiness and enjoyment. Emily’s insights, as a mother of four, have been really helpful in setting my determination for this. I’m hoping eventually to add an “All Things Nice” category to this blog, with posts covering some of my creative and artistic pursuits. It’s probably a lofty goal, given that I already have a huge number of half-written and unpublished posts, and I can’t promise what I create and share will necessarily be worth waiting for, but I’m excited to put some new ideas into practice nonetheless.

And in conclusion, I would highly recommend Emily’s courses. If you’re just starting out with photography and want a good grounding in the basics, along with lots of practice, this ticks all the boxes. And if you’re more confident in using your camera, but looking for ways to refresh your approach or develop your style, she has this covered too. And whatever else, I can guarantee you’ll have a good day!

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