Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Chocolate Box Birthday Cake

I mentioned in my last post that my parents came to stay for a few days recently for Mum's birthday. Often I miss a lot of the family birthdays with living across the water so having Mum here provided me with the perfect opportunity to bake her a birthday cake.
I was really struggling for ideas for ages as I wanted something with a bit of a wow factor but that wasn't too labour intensive. I do miss spending hours baking in the kitchen but with maternity leave rapidly whizzing by I want to savour as many moments with my boy as possible.

My parents are quite plain eaters so there is no point in making anything too wacky on the flavour front as they won't enjoy it. I realised I needed a cake that looked amazing but was traditional in taste. I know I could have knocked up a Victoria Sandwich or a Lemon Drizzle fairly quickly but birthday cakes need to be fun and interesting as we only get that special day once a year.

When I think of a birthday cake I always think of sprinkles, lashings of icing and it's more often than not chocolate! By combining these three together I created one of my most favourite cakes to date - my go to chocolate cake sandwiched and coated with a decadent chocolate ganache, a scattering of sprinkles up the sides and a selection of delicious chocolates on top.

This cake took very little time to knock together. I popped it in the oven while Ethan napped and made up the ganache. Once he went to bed I trimmed the layers, assembled and decorated it. To be honest that part should have only taken half an hour at most but a certain little man kept waking up!

Mum was delighted with her cake (phew!) and Dad who isn't a massive fan of chocolate cake said he really enjoyed it too - woop!

I know I've already said it but this was one of my most favourite cakes to make to date. Happy Birthday Mum!

Chocolate Box Birthday Cake
2.5 cups SR Flour
2 cups soft dark brown sugar (although any sugar will be fine)
1 cup cocoa
1 cup veg/sunflower oil
1.5 cups of milk
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs

  • Preheat your oven to 160C (fan)
  • Grease and line two 20cm cake tins
  • Pop all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth
  • Divide between the two tins and bake for 40mins or until a skewer inserted comes out clean
  • Tip onto a wire rack to cool

To Decorate
300ml double cream
200g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
Selection of chocolates

  • Heat the cream until warm but not boiling
  • Stir in the chocolate until melted, smooth and glossy
  • Place in a bowl in the fridge for 2-3 hours until thick and spreadable in consistency
  • Level the sponge layers
  • Sandwich together with the ganache and coat the outside of the cake with a generous amount
  • Carefully scatter the sprinkles up the sides
  • Decorate with a selection of chocolates



Monday, 24 October 2016

An Autumnal Afternoon at Valley Gardens

I can't believe it's been almost 3 weeks since my last blog post but during that time we have been going through some major sleep issues with Ethan. He's never been a great sleeper but he went through a phase of being massively unsettled on an evening and waking up every 30 minutes or so then waking every 1-2 hours on a night before I would cave and bring him into our bed. A bad habit I know but you do what you have to do when you need to sleep.

It turns out he was having a bit of a sleep regression and he has cut his first two teeth. No wonder the poor mite was so upset. Thankfully we have turned a corner (for now!) and I actually have some time on an evening to blog. I've really missed it. I've some family posts to share, a few recipes and I want to tell you all about our most recent cake club event.

For now I want to share some photos from last weekend when my parents and younger brother came to visit. Mum and Dad wanted to come and stay as it was Mum's birthday that weekend and as my brother Stephen is studying for his PGCE down in London he decided to come up for the weekend too. Now we live in a tiny two-bedroom house so 5 adults and a baby was a mighty squeeze but I loved it. I come from a big family who are always in an out of each other's pockets but living across the water means I miss out on that family time. Now don't get me wrong, Mr T's family are lovely but there are a lot less of them and well, it's just different. They are a lot more normal compared to the loons I'm related to!

Since Ethan came along we can no longer spend a lazy afternoon in the pub or just mooching around the house. Our little man needs to get out and now he is starting to get more mobile we have to think carefully about where we go with him. That boy may be little but one fell swoop and he can clear a table full of hot drinks!

We wanted to go for a walk but it had to be somewhere not too long as Dad can't manage long walks these days but I'm getting a bit bored of Otley and Ilkley's parks. I had always wanted to visit Valley Gardens in Harrogate and with the weather forecast looking dry we decided to head there.

Myself and Mr T both remarked that it really felt like autumn had arrived. Recently the weather has either been quite mild or raining but that day the air was fresh and crisp with the distinct sound of leaves crunching underfoot.

Valley Gardens is a wonderful place to visit and I can't believe we have never been considering how often we are in Harrogate. A 10 minute walk from the town centre (or 5 minutes from Bettys!) and you will find yourself in a beautiful park. It felt in many ways like we had stepped back in time but I find that with many parts of Yorkshire. So many buildings and streets have been so well preserved that you can almost imagine that it's not 2016 (until you spot someone taking a selfie, that is).

The playground was utterly fantastic and somewhere I think we shall be frequenting as Ethan gets older. If you have any little people I strongly recommend you take them there. We find some parks can be quite busy with children everywhere but everything was well spaced out with plenty of choice for the wee ones and older kids alike.

I loved watching Ethan interact with his Grandparents and Uncle Stephen. They only get to see him every 1-2 months but he's such a sociable and happy baby that he adored the attention that they lavished on him. From pushing him on the swings to taking him down the slide and giving lots of "kisses for Ethan," we all had a lovely family afternoon. It would be nicer if we could see more of my family but I find that having them further away makes me appreciate the time we do spend together so much more.

Some photos from our afternoon...

The hat, it just cracks me up!

Proud Grandparents. 

My boy. Honestly, we are so so lucky!

I just love his face in this picture. He's either laughing at me or with me...

Slide time with Uncle Stephen

"Why must you put me in this crazy hat??"

"Kisses for Ethan..."

I think we are having more fun than Ethan. He does not look impressed!

My boys...

This tree is just stunning, I had to stop and take a photo of it.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Me and Mine - September 2016

Apologies that this post is a few days late but we've had a bit of a whirlwind month from Mr T getting back into the swing of school starting back, the sad loss of my Uncle and the small matter of buying a house...

After renting for many years we have saved up the deposit to buy somewhere to call our own. I'm still a bit nervous that it could go belly up but so far things are moving pretty quickly and fingers crossed we will be in by the end of November eep!

With so much paper work to sort blogging and baking has well and truly taken a back seat but it will be worth it in the end. I actually can't believe we are about to own our own house. Neither of us have Bank of Mum and Dad to help us out financially therefore it's so exciting to know we have saved up every penny of our house deposit.

With so much going on it really does not feel like a month has passed since I last wrote a Me and Mine post. Since then Ethan has well and truly mastered sitting, he can get himself into a crawling position but can't crawl just yet and can bum shuffle across the room if he spots something that he wants. Just this evening he wobbly toddled across the room holding my hands which is something I am so not ready for.

Also this month I popped into work to discuss my return. Maternity Leave it whizzing by and it's crazy to think I have been off for 7 months already with only 3 months left until I return. I'm hoping they will grant me my wish of 3 days in the office and one day at home but I have to wait and see what the MD say - fingers crossed!

Anyway... on to this month's photo. I slightly cheated as it was taken on Saturday so technically it's an October photo but we can pretend it's September... right?? It was such a lovely day - we met up with some friends for lunch and you could feel the weather turning with a distinct waft of autumn in the air. Things felt a little crisper, the temperature slightly cooler but still a warmth from the sun radiating upon us.

I really do adore this photo and how awesome is Ethan's dinosaur hat? We got it from Next and honestly I can't get enough of it. I'm actually tempted to order it in a bigger size for him to wear next year too.

As always I'm linking up with the other Me and Mine posts, make sure you take a look...