Traditional children’s party ideas

Going back to basics

 

Children’s parties are a hot topic at the moment with the recent uproar and debate over the mum who invoiced a no-show.

It can be a pricey affair, so we asked our resident baking blogger and mum of four Alice from Alice’s Vintage Pantry to share with us some of her top tips for a traditional children’s party.

 

Over to you Alice ……

 

Alice's Vintage Pantry

 

Looking for something a bit different for your child’s birthday party? Why not go back to traditional kids parties that were common place before children’s entertainers and soft play venues were so popular.

There is something really lovely about organising a traditional kid’s party with traditional games and entertainment and a lovely homemade party tea.

At Alice’s Vintage Pantry we host lots of adult and children’s tea parties. We’ve put together a few tips and ideas to help you plan one of your own.

 

Choose a theme

 

First off decide on a theme for the party and use it to help you plan both the entertainment and the food.

Age dependent you could go for a Teddy Bears picnic, Princesses and Princes, Mad Hatters or Alice in Wonderland or maybe a Village Fete theme.

Invitations can be made with ease, just get yourself a pack of plain cards and get the kids decorating with stickers etc. Games food and entertainment can all be themed to match.

 
American Girl Doll Inspired Birthday Party by Anders Ruff

 

 

Food

 

Keep the food simple and small, nothing that is going to need cutlery.

Finger sandwiches, little cakes and bakes, cut up veg and fruit, cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks.

Perhaps get yourself some shaped biscuit cutters to suit the theme you have gone for and use them to make shaped sandwiches.

 

Blueberry cupcake

 

 

Drinks

 

Use china teapots, teacups and saucers for soft drinks. Kids love pouring their own!

If you are concerned about breakages there are lots of pretty paper cups available to buy, but in our experience very few breakages happen, and they love to use the proper cups and saucers.

 

Activities

 

Along with traditional games like ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ (always goes down well!) and musical bumps, have a couple of organised activities planned to give the children a bit of sitting down time (and a moment of relative calm for you!).

Perhaps bake some vanilla cupcakes and get the kids to decorate them. Disposable icing bags are inexpensive, add a few ‘sprinkles’ or chopped chocolate to decorate, put a named cocktail stick flag in each and they can eat them with their party tea.

Or get some stiff card and cut our photo frame shapes, let the kids decorate them with glitter, coloured pens, feathers etc.

 

.
Mackenzie's 2nd birthday party

 

 

Decoration

 

Consider strings of bunting and petals or beads sprinkled on the table, name place cards for the afternoon tea and fairy lights.

If you have a specific theme then browse the internet for decoration ideas to complement it, there are lots of ideas out there.

 

Cakes

 

Making your own birthday cake can seem a bit daunting but might not be as tricky as you think.

There are lots of simple design ideas available online for you to have a go at, most come with step by step guides, and, let’s face it – the cake is only on display for a few minutes, then cut, packed and wrapped to take home!

So not worth too much of a sweat!

 

 

 

Party bags

 

Paper bags can be bought online or in lots of the discount shops and supermarkets.

They are a great way to create personalised party bags that are a bit different to the norm. Get some stamps, stickers and coloured pens are decorate according to the theme. Stencil or write kids names on them and make sure they put the result of their craft activity in the bags before they go home.

 

Timing plan

 

It might sound a bit dull when you are talking about a kids party – but having an idea of what you are going to do and when can make a massive difference to how well it all goes, and how stressed you feel!

Have a couple of ‘group’ party games to get things going, something like pass the parcel or musical bumps. Break up the party games by scheduling in craft or baking activities.

When you serve the food will depend on the timing of the party, half way through normally works well, a bit more relative calm for you.

 

Be brave…give it a go and let us know how it goes!

 

Alice x

 

Photographs: Nathan Jones via Flickr Creative Commons, Anders Ruff via Flickr Creative Commons, Alice’s Vintage Pantry

 

 

Other articles by Alice ……

Easy chocolate cake recipe

Easy Valentine heart biscuits

The perfect Tiramisu recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes

Sticky toffee cupcake with salted caramel cream

Chocolate & chilli cupcake recipe

Introducing National Cupcake Week – top tips for baking the perfect cupcake

Creating the perfect vintage afternoon tea

Bake the perfect sponge cake

How to pack a healthy lunch box

Auntie Eva’s Parkin recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Mini strawberry shortcake recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Altrincham Market

We visited this thriving local market

 

There’s been a lot of buzz about the re-energized Altrincham Market, so we sent Alice from Alice’s Vintage Pantry along with her family to give it the once over.

 

Over to you Alice ……

Alice's Vintage Pantry

 

Shopping isn’t normally an activity I would choose to do on a Sunday afternoon – especially not with a bunch of little ones tagging along.

But Altrincham Market has a fantastic reputation for catering for all ages and having not been for a while I decided to give it a go.

 

The market on the 3rd Sunday of the month is ‘Vintage Fashion and Vintage Furniture’- so right up my street.

Hoping to feed and entertain the kids, and pick up a few bits and pieces for my vintage china collection off I went.

And disappointed I was not.

 

Vintage crockery

 

A recent revamp and refurbishment, has completely transformed the market and what it has on offer for families. It’s now as much a venue as a place to shop.

Home to all the regular traders, and lots more independent talented stall holders too. It offers food, drink, shopping, live music and kids entertainment.

 

Bakery products

 

The traders offer unique products you can’t pick up at a supermarket chain, the atmosphere is much more than a shopping centre could offer.

Big result for Altrincham and all the surrounding communities.

 

 

Altrincham Market

 

Our own family visit started off with food for the kids – all went for Cumberland Sausage Sarnies from Savin Hill Farm and Butchery - very tasty good quality meat. They were a big success with our little ones. And they were big enough sausages that I could sneak in a bit of shopping whilst they sat and munched their way through them.

There were plenty of tables and benches around for them to sit on too, very important when you have little ones with hot food.

I went for sourdough wood fired pizza from Honest Crust Pizza, something I had heard lots about and was particularly excited about trying.

Just yummy!

 

Honest Crust Pizza

 

There were lots more food options on offer, from pies to paella, breads, meats etc. We bought delicious sausage rolls to take home from Pudding and Pie Café, and could have bought much more.

Food done we sat and listened to live music whilst drinking a cheeky Sunday afternoon beer (where else can we do that with little kids?!).

An Easter Egg Hunt (free to enter) kept the kids entertained a good while longer and resulted in our 5-year old winning herself an ice-cream from Gingers Comfort Emporium – one happy little lady.

Now a good hour and a half in to our trip (much longer than shopping with kids has ever lasted before) we found the craft corner where for a tiny price the little ones sat and created these gorgeous sock dogs.

 

Altrincham Market

 

Sock Dog

 

 

We finished our beers, took it in turns to wander the stalls and listen to the music.

Live music, great food, shopping and atmosphere. Suitable for families, foodies, lovers of independents and those who just want to do something a bit different on a Sunday afternoon.

 

Flowers

 

Top marks from me!

 

1st Sunday of the Month
Home House and Garden Market – furnishing for home, furniture, plants, bulbs and flowers

2nd Sunday of the Month
Farmers, Producers and Makers Market – fresh and prepared food from the best of the north west regional farmers and producers

3rd Sunday of the Month
Vintage Fashion and Vintage Furniture Market – vintage, upcycled, recycled, reclaimed, re-covered, re-made, re-modelled

4th Sunday of the Month
Craft and Hand Made Market  - jewellery, craft, handmade objects to wear and for your home, cards, gifts, prints and art

 

 

Alice x

 

Photographs: Alice Bodley

 

 

Other articles by Alice ……

Easy chocolate cake recipe

Easy Valentine heart biscuits

The perfect Tiramisu recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes

Sticky toffee cupcake with salted caramel cream

Chocolate & chilli cupcake recipe

Introducing National Cupcake Week – top tips for baking the perfect cupcake

Creating the perfect vintage afternoon tea

Bake the perfect sponge cake

How to pack a healthy lunch box

Auntie Eva’s Parkin recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Mini strawberry shortcake recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Chocolate Cake Recipe

Showing that the old recipes are often the best

 

With Mother’s Day tomorrow, we’re celebrating mums, baking and passing down those favourite recipes through the generations – creating family history.

When it comes to baking – who better to ask than our regular cakey blogger Alice from Alice’s Vintage Pantry.

 

Over to you Alice ……

Alice's Vintage Pantry

 

Mother’s Day for me is an opportunity to take a little longer getting out of bed.

To watch my kids attempt to make me breakfast (mostly far too little for success).

And to spend some time with my own Mum.

 

I realise how lucky that makes me, I have my Mum and my kids around me, something I don’t take for granted and something lots of others don’t have.

It makes me think a lot about  the generations in my family, lots who have lived before me in very different times and circumstances.

It got me thinking about ‘the way things were’, and how different life was. Seemingly small things like my Nan producing Christmas dinner for around 15 people from her tiny ‘back kitchen’, tiny fridge (and cold slab in the pantry), and tiny oven. I’ve no idea how she managed it.

It’s easy to get used to bigger fridges and ovens and the helpful addition of dishwashers too! She always did it with a smile, then would apply a bit of lippy in the ‘front kitchen’ mirror before sitting down to eat.

 

Recipes scribbled on bits of paper

 

She had a little book filled with recipes scribbled on bits of paper, I never remember her using them, she probably knew most of it by heart.

One of the first cook books I came across was written by Mary Berry, the first of 70 books she has written to date. ‘The Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book’.
My Mum has had it on the shelf in the kitchen for as long as I can remember.

Looking a little warn now, she still uses it and I have borrowed it on lots of occasions.

Recipe books and scribbled recipes handed down from generation to generation are the ones I love the most. Generally speaking they survive because they are good recipes.

Here is one that a friend passed on to me a couple of years ago. It was passed to her from her Mum.

Give it a go and let me know what you think.

 

Chocolate Cake

 

Ingredients:

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 75g plain chocolate
  • 100ml boiling water
  • 175g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 175g light muscavado sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 225ml natural yoghurt

 

Method:

  • Heat oven to 160c
  • Butter a 9” spring clip tin and line the base with greaseproof paper
  • Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and baking powder onto a plate
  • Break chocolate into a small bowl, add the boiling water and stir until melted
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with both sugars until soft and light
  • Lightly mix the eggs and vanilla essence and gradually beat into the creamed mixture
  • Stir in the melted chocolate and then the yoghurt
  • Place a sieve over the mixing bowl, spoon in the flour mixture and sift over the creamed ingredients
  • Fold in the flour lightly and evenly using the cutting edge of a metal tablespoon
  • Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and spread level
  • Set in the heated oven and bake for 50-60 minutes
  • Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then run a spatula around the sides to loosen and transfer to a wire cooling rack and leave to cool

 

Icing:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 150ml crème fraiche
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 75g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

 

  • Put crème fraiche and sugar in a saucepan and place over a medium heat until the mixture starts to boil, then turn down to the barest simmer for 6 mins
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it has all melted
  • Now add the butter and beat it in until completely melted
  • Then add the vanilla extract
  • Beat until the icing thickens and cools then spread it on to your cake…yum!

 

Chocolate & Raspberry Cake

 

Top with raspberries and enjoy with a lovely cup of tea.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Alice x

 

Photographs: Alice’s Vintage Pantry

 

 

Other articles by Alice ……

Easy Valentine heart biscuits

The perfect Tiramisu recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes

Sticky toffee cupcake with salted caramel cream

Chocolate & chilli cupcake recipe

Introducing National Cupcake Week – top tips for baking the perfect cupcake

Creating the perfect vintage afternoon tea

Bake the perfect sponge cake

How to pack a healthy lunch box

Auntie Eva’s Parkin recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Mini strawberry shortcake recipe

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Valentine heart biscuits

Recipe – A gorgeous gift for the one you love

 

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching – it’s time to show the one you love, just how much! Of course you do that every day of the year, but it’s nice to have a focus. With this gorgeous recipe, the only problem will be deciding who you love more – your other half or the biscuits!

Our regular cakey blogger, Alice, from Alice’s Vintage Pantry has put together another quick, easy and delicious recipe for us today so that we can say I LOVE YOU in the sweetest way!

 

Over to you Alice ……

Alice's Vintage Pantry

 

Valentine’s day – a day on which we step-up the romantic gestures, tell our loved ones we love them them and spend a little more time with them.

It sounds great in theory. The reality in our house is that we are surrounded by children all our waking hours, busy trying to get through household tasks, go to work and run a business

 

It doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

I’m also always a bit stumped as to what to give as a gift. Not one for commercialism and pressies for the sake of it, I have decided I should bake for my other half (and the kids!).

Predictable maybe, but something I have spent time on (rather than money), will mean more to my family. So I’ve come up with a simple way to make some pretty looking biscuits, they don’t cost much and are pretty easy to do (you could even make them with children). They also store well in an airtight container, with baking to do for other peoples valentines gifts, this is a godsend for me!

So here is what you need….

 

Ingredients

 

To make the biscuits

  • 125g plain flour
  • 30g corn flour
  • 90g butter
  • 45g icing sugar
  • Egg yolk
  • Heart shape cutters (round cutter – optional)

 

For the decoration

  • Ready made fondant icing in any colour you like
  • Edible sparkle or edible silver balls (optional)

 

 

Method

 

Pre-heat the oven to 180c.

Sieve flour and corn flour together, rub in butter and add icing sugar.

Bind the ingredients together with the egg yolk and a tiny bit of water.

Roll out to around 5mm depth and cut out your biscuits (using your heart shape cutter).

 

Heart shaped cookie cutters

 

Heart shaped biscuits or cookies

 

Place them on a lined baking tray and bake for 7-8 minutes. Leave the biscuits on a cooling wire until cold.

 

Heart shaped biscuits or cookies

 

 

Decoration

 

Roll out your fondant icing and cut out hearts in a variety of sizes to layer on to your biscuits.

Use a small amount of jam to get your icing to stick.

Here are some photos of the ones I decorated (with my four year old). You could also sprinkle some edible sparkle on top.

 

Heart shaped iced biscuits or cookies

 

Either put them in a tin or stack them and tie with ribbon – job done!

Was that a bit too easy??

I’m starting to wonder if the romantic gesture would work better if they took longer to make!!

Ah well, perhaps I better get planning a 3-course meal too!

 

Competition time

 

Heat shaped cookie cutters

 

We’ve got a set of heart shaped cookie cutters to give away to one lucky reader – so you can have a go at making Valentine cookies yourself.

All we want to know is what’s the best or worst Valentine present you’ve ever received ?

Pop it in the comments box below – but only one comment per person please.

So don’t be shy – whether it’s plastic carnations or an Aston Martin, we’d love to know?

Happy Valentines

 

Alice xx

 

Photographs: Alice’s Vintage Pantry, Alison Staples

 

 

Other articles by Alice ……

The perfect Tiramisu recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes

Sticky toffee cupcake with salted caramel cream

Chocolate & chilli cupcake recipe

Introducing National Cupcake Week – top tips for baking the perfect cupcake

Creating the perfect vintage afternoon tea

Bake the perfect sponge cake

How to pack a healthy lunch box

Auntie Eva’s Parkin recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Mini strawberry shortcake recipe

 

 

By taking part in this competition you are agreeing to 4Manchester Womens Terms & Conditions for competitions and prize draws.

 

Competition closing date: 9pm Monday 10th February 2014.

The winner will be the first name selected at random from all respondents. No purchase necessary. No cash alternative. The Editor’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Closing date is 9pm Monday 10th February 2014. The winners will be notified immediately. Only one entry per person. UK entries only. No automated entries. Supporting ThePrizeFinder – UK Competitions and loquax. If you are a lucky winner, your contact details will be forwarded to the providers of the prize, strictly for the purpose of fulfilling the prize and not for any other purpose.
Please note: Should you be notified as the winner, and you do not respond within 2 days of our notification, we reserve the right to re-draw the winner.

 

Previous competition winners (last 6 months)

Cocktails & Dreams – win a cocktail making masterclass at Lock 91 (29th August 2013). Winner Nicola Robinson.

Creative Stitches & Hobbycraft Show – win tickets (1st September 2013). Winners Claire Jackson, Pauline Rendell, Joanna Arthur, Fran Morgan, Liz Ferguson, Michelle Smith, Dil Price, Pam Gregory, Linda Weatherley.

The Independent Interiors Show – win a house hamper (3rd September 2013). Winner Nichola Gill.

Indulge Fragrance Boutique – win bottles of perfume (8th September 2013). Winners Gillian Shiels, Leanne Williams, Julie Ward.

Creamline Dairies / Getting Kids to Eat Breakfast – win a Saturday Cookshop course with a celebrity chef (18th September 2013). Winner Sara Perry.

The Lounge Gallery – win a Michelle Keeling necklace (22nd September 2013). Winner Alison Ferrara.

The Perfect Princess Party – win a Princess fancy dress outfit (14th October 2013). Winner Emma Wolski.

MINILAND Manchester – win a family day pass to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Manchester (6th November 2013). Winner Andrea Lloyd.

New trends Christmas decorations – win a John Lewis Christmas 2013 teddy (11th November 2013). Winner Rachael Barratt.

Luxurious home products – win a throw from Linen Loft (15th November 2013). Winner Chris Fletcher.

Personalised Christmas Gifts – win a personalised mug from Photobox (18th Novemberr 2013). Winners Katrina Steward, Nicola McConnell.

Bathroom makeover – win a selection of pamper products (14th January 2014). Winner Georgina Jacobs.

 

 

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED

Thank you so much to everyone who entered our competition. The winner is Donna Lawton.

 

 

 

 

 

The perfect Tiramisu recipe

You’ll never try another Tiramisu recipe again!

 

It’s a bold claim, but if anyone can pull it off then cakey blogger Alice from Alice’s Vintage Pantry is our woman. In deepest, darkest January we could all do with a bit of a pick-me-up in the form of a boozy pudding!

 

Over to you Alice ……

Alice's Vintage Pantry

 

Tiramisu…the best pudding ever??!!

Those of you who read my blogs on a regular basis will know my major passion is cake. Lots of it, preferably with a good dose of buttercream, and if there is a scone in sight then some clotted cream too.

Served on some vintage china, it’s a very English thing.

 

It’s what I do and what I love. But this time I have decided to blog about something equally as yummy but definitely NOT English – TIRAMISU!

 

Tiramisu.

I’ve spent many a moment considering what my favourite ever pudding is, and this one is up there at the top, well, depending on who is making it! It has to be homemade, definitely not from a supermarket, and it has to be the recipe below.

This recipe has been with me since my student days at Birmingham University. My house mate at the time introduced me to it, and it has been made in our house on a regular basis ever since. Even my teenage son has been known to peel himself out of his bedroom and make it.

Give it a go, you won’t try another Tiramisu recipe again!

 

Ingredients

 

  • 250g mascarpone cheese
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 65mls cream
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 500g sponge fingers
  • 1 pint strong black coffee (cooled)
  • A little cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons of brandy (or rum if you prefer)
  • 45g caster sugar
  • Chocolate (chopped)

 

Method

 

Beat together the mascarpone and cream cheese.

Add the egg yolks and beat, then add the cream and beat again.

Beat the egg whites to a peak and then add the sugar.

Mix gradually until it looks a bit glossy.

 

Tiramisu mixture

 

 

Beat egg whites

 

Fold the two mixtures together.

Put the brandy and the cold coffee into a bowl and then one by one dip the sponge fingers in, layering them into the bottom of a medium sized serving dish. One layer of sponge fingers followed by a sprinkling of cocoa powder, then a layer of the cream mixture. One more layer of sponge fingers, more cocoa powder and finish with a layer of the cream mixture.

Top it with a good sprinkling of cocoa powder and some chopped chocolate.

 

Tiramisu

 

Tiramisu

 

 

And there you have it! Let me know what you think!

 

Alice x

 

 

Photographs: Alexis Fam Photography on Flickr, Alice’s Vintage Pantry

 

Other articles by Alice ……

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes

Sticky toffee cupcake with salted caramel cream

Chocolate & chilli cupcake recipe

Introducing National Cupcake Week – top tips for baking the perfect cupcake

Creating the perfect vintage afternoon tea

Bake the perfect sponge cake

How to pack a healthy lunch box

Auntie Eva’s Parkin recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Easy Valentine heart biscuits

Mini strawberry shortcake recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Christmas Cakes Simple

Top tips for baking and decorating your Christmas Cake

 

Nothing screams Christmas is coming more than a bowl full of plump alcohol sodden fruit headed for the oven.

If the thought of baking your own Christmas Cake is a bit daunting, then fear not because I’ve got Alice from Alice’s Vintage Pantry up my sleeve to help.

 

Christmas Cake

 

Alice’s simple tips and fabulous recipe mean that this year you be eating your own cake on Christmas Day!

 

Over to you Alice ……

Alice Bodley

 

Vintage afternoon tea is what we are normally all about – fresh baked scones with jam and clotted cream, layer cakes, strawberry shortcakes and tray-bakes, all served on gorgeous vintage china.

But at this time of year we turn our hand to lots and lots of dried fruit, brandy by the jug full, white icing and red ribbons – yep its Christmas Cake time!

 

 

The smell of brandy soaked fruit will be hanging around our ovens for a while – we just love it!

It’s a busy time of year, but it’s well worth finding the time to bake your own, and it can be a much more straight forward task than you think. Follow our tips and ideas below to keep it simple.

And if baking and decorating your own is really not for you, we can always bake one for you! Get in touch to find out more alice@alicesvintagepantry.co.uk

 

So a few baking tips that are a must for Christmas Cakes:

 

  • Use a good quality deep baking tin.
  • Make sure you double line the tin and then wrap the outside in a double layer of newspaper tied with string.
  • Use a mix of dried fruits – don’t just stick to the raisins, sultanas and currants you might have in your cupboard, try cherries, ginger, prunes and figs.
  • If you don’t want to use alcohol, soak your fruit in Earl Grey tea and pour two tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice over the top once baked.
  • Christmas cakes bake in the oven for a long time – as tempting as it is, make sure you don’t open the oven door until at least ¾ of the way through baking

 

 

Decorating your cake – some ideas to keep it simple:

 

The basics of decorating your cake are really very basic. Just get yourself some ready-made marzipan and ready-made fondant icing.

Start by laying the marzipan over the cake, brush with brandy and then over-lay the fondant. Use your hands to smooth the edges (we use a cake decorator’s tool to do this, but hands are fine for a home-made look).

Now you need to decide how to decorate it. At Alice’s Vintage Pantry we have come up with five different Christmas cake designs, each requires more specialist equipment and takes time.

 

Christmas cake

 

But here we have come up with a few different ideas that keep the decoration simple so that anyone can do it at home.

  • Tie a red or gold ribbon around the cake and top with a bit of holly (remove before you eat!)
  • Use a small star shape cutter to cut out some fondant stars. Lay around the edge of the cake and sprinkle some edible sparkle over them.
  • Buy yourself some Christmas figurines – there are loads available online and they start from as little of 94p! Just place them on top of your iced cake. So simple!
  • Press a star shaped cutter in to the fondant icing on top of the cake, fill the indent with edible sparkle, or ‘edge’ each indent with edible silver balls.

 

Easy Christmas Cake Recipe

 

And as for a recipe, there are loads out there, we’ve tried a few and give top marks to the one featured below.  It’s pretty much as simple as you get and produces a good quality moist cake. We have gone for a nut free cake batter, you can add almonds or any nut you like, just substitute exact weight for some of the dried fruits.

 

Ingredients

 

  • 1.2kg mixed dried fruit
  • Zest and juice of 2 oranges and 1 lemon
  • 150mls alcohol (brandy, whisky or sherry)
  • 225g soft light brown sugar
  • 250g butter
  • 175g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2tsp mixed spice
  • 2tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Method

 

Mix together the dried fruit, butter, sugar, alcohol, zest and lemon in a large pan – heat to boiling point and then simmer for 10 minutes.

 

Christmas Cake ingredients

 

Leave it to cool for around 30 mins before adding the remaining ingredients.

 

Christmas Cake ingredients

 

Tip in to your pre-prepared tin and bake in the oven for 2 hours.

 

Christmas Cake Baking

 

Remove from the oven, prick some holes in the top and pour over another 2 tablespoons of your chosen alcohol. Simple!

Once it is completely cool wrap it in a couple of layers of cling-film (nice and tight) and pop it in a tin. Top it up with a little extra booze every couple of weeks.

When you are ready to decorate it remove the cling film and leave to dry the surface for 48 hours (in the tin). If the cake has risen in the centre just use a sharp knife to carefully remove the top and level it out.

 

Christmas Cake

 

Enjoy the baking – enjoy the eating even more!

Hope you have all have a very happy Christmas.

 

Alice xxx

 

Photographs: Alice’s Vintage Pantry

 

 

 

Other articles by Alice ……

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes

Sticky toffee cupcake with salted caramel cream

Chocolate & chilli cupcake recipe

Introducing National Cupcake Week – top tips for baking the perfect cupcake

Creating the perfect vintage afternoon tea

Bake the perfect sponge cake

How to pack a healthy lunch box

Auntie Eva’s Parkin recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Easy Valentine heart biscuits

Mini strawberry shortcake recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auntie Eva’s Parkin recipe

A tried and tested recipe. She’s been making it for 80 yrs!

 

My Auntie Eva is a legend, as is her Parkin – which they call ‘moggie’ round her way (Bradford). So when our regular cakie blogger Alice from Alice’s Vintage Pantry mentioned that she’d like to do a Parkin recipe, I sent her Auntie Eva’s recipe to give it a try.

 

Over to you Alice……

Alice Bodley

 

Parkin…feels like I haven’t made this for a while.

It’s been 12 whole months since it popped out of my recipe books and made an appearance in my well used ovens.

Each year I make several batches to give to friends and family and to take along to Bonfire night parties, and each year I wonder why I don’t get it out more often.

 

As I sit and write this, the smell of Parkin wafts through the house as it rises in the oven. Will I be able to resist trying a little later on tonight? As Parkin vastly improves in taste and texture if you leave it for a few days, I tell myself I will wrap is tightly in foil and leave it well alone until the weekend. If this happens it will be a first, no cake in this house lasts longer than 24 hours. We love our cake and we certainly eat it. It’s one of the major advantages of baking for a living.

 

Bonfire

 

So what exactly is Parkin?

Well there is lots of history to it which I won’t detail here, basically it comes from up North (yippee) and is kind of a cakey version of gingerbread, often baked with oatmeal and treacle. Records of it trace back a good few centuries and no-one seems to know exactly why it has been associated with November 5th (not too concerned about that, just want it to taste good).

Recipes vary massively, we normally bake one that contains treacle and oatmeal, but decided to give this a go this year….

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Auntie Eva’s Parkin Recipe

 

Good old Auntie Eva brings us this one from her home in Bradford at the age of 94! Still sharp as her name (Eva Sharp) she will be delighted to know that her favourite Parkin recipe is being shared with others.

 

Ingredients:

2 breakfast cups of self-raising flour
1 breakfast cup of sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4oz stork margarine (she is very particular about that!)
1 small table spoon golden syrup
1 cup boiled milk
1 egg

 

Method

Really simple to make, just mix the dry ingrediants, rub in the margarine and pour over the milk and syrup – stir well and bake in a 20cm square tin.

 

Parkinmix

 

Bake for 1 hour at 100 degrees, then turn the oven up by 10 degrees and bake for another half an hour.

If you want to add the oatmeal, just reduce the amount of self-raising flour and replace it with the equivalent amount of oatmeal , either double the amount of golden syrup or add a tablespoon of treacle.

Bakers tip: to help you spoon in the syrup and treacle, place your metal spoon in a mug of boiling water before using it – the syrup will just slide of the spoon into your mixing bowl.

Wrap your parkin in foil and leave it for a few days before eating.

 

Parkin

 

Happy baking!

 

Alice x

 

Photographs: Alice’s Vintage Pantry, Alison Staples

 

 

 

Other articles by Alice ……

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes

Sticky toffee cupcake with salted caramel cream

Chocolate & chilli cupcake recipe

Introducing National Cupcake Week – top tips for baking the perfect cupcake

Creating the perfect vintage afternoon tea

Bake the perfect sponge cake

How to pack a healthy lunch box

Auntie Eva’s Parkin recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Easy Valentine heart biscuits

Mini strawberry shortcake recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baking with kids

A few ideas to get you started

 

We’ve got some top tips today from our regular cakey blogger Alice at Alice’s Vintage Pantry for baking with children. And of course I mustn’t forget to mention her very glamorous assistant – daughter Sophie (seen here tucking in to a 4Manchester Women chocolate and chilli cupcake).

 

Little girl eating cupcake

 

Over to you Alice ……

Alice Bodley

 

Rain, heavy rain, light showers, more rain. No surprise our little ones are getting a bit of cabin fever.

Trips to the park are off the list, as is playing in the garden that now resembles a pond, and if I have to suffer the indignity of trying to squeeze my Mummy body up and down through the soft play maze one more time I may be forced to emigrate.

 

 

The summer holidays have only just finished and the children are already fed up.

Drawing, sticking, teddy bears tea parties and den building have served us well, but just aren’t cutting the mustard anymore.

Time to mix it all up with a bit of kiddy baking!

Yes I know it’s messy, a little frustrating (they probably won’t do it like you would) and it won’t necessarily result in something you would feed your mates, but they love it! Not only do they enjoy it, but it’s a great chance to teach them something new – weighing ingredients, counting out cupcake cases, learning new words – when else will they learn about ‘whisking’ and ‘sieving’?

There are lots of simple recipes that are great for baking with kids, some more suitable for slightly older kids, but there is something for everyone.

For the older kids make:

  • Cupcakes
  • Cookies
  • Flapjacks

 

With the little ones:

  • Chocolate dipped strawberries
  • Cupcake decorating (bake them yourself first)
  • Even icing and decorating plain biscuits goes down well.

 

Last week I went for chocolate dipped strawberries, simple but fun and just about all I was brave enough to manage with 1yr old twins and a 3yr old.

It worked well but I thought my 3yr old was up to a bit more of a challenge. So today (whilst Dad bathed the twins) we baked and decorated cupcakes.

 

Read on to see how we got on and for the recipe we used……

 

Child hand washing

Hand washing to get us started……

 

child counting out the cupcake cases…

Counting out the cupcake cases……

 

Getting the mixture in to the cases…sticky fingers time…...

 

Getting the mixture in to the cases…sticky fingers time……

 

Sophie’s selection of decorations - vast majority of the blue sparkle ended up decorating the floor…

 

Sophie’s selection of decorations – vast majority of the blue sparkle ended up decorating the floor……

 

Child decorating cake

 

Topping the cakes – actually tasted very good!

All in all a SUCCESS!! A bath was required and the kitchen needed a scrub down, but we were happy!

If you fancy giving it a try here is the recipe we used, a few ideas for variations and some thoughts to help you survive your afternoon baking.

 

Basic Cupcake Recipe

175g soft butter

175g caster sugar

175g self raising flour

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon whole milk

 

Method

Preheat oven to 180c

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Lightly whisk the eggs just to break them up, then add in the vanilla extract. Slowly add the egg mixture to the creamed butter and sugar.

Sieve the flour on to the top of the mixture and pour on the milk. Gently mix together until fully incorporated.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases (cases should be about two-thirds full) and bake in the centre of the oven for 18-20 minutes.

Leave to cool completely and decorate with toppings of your choice.

 

Toppings and variations

  • Buy ready-made fondant icing, roll out and use a cutter to make circles to place on top of the cakes, then decorate with little flowers or hearts and edible glitter.
  • Make some vanilla butter icing and pipe in large swirls onto the cakes; decorate with smarties or anything you like.
  • Cut out a little sponge from the top of the cake, fill with jam, replace the ‘lid’ and cover with icing.
  • For a chocolate surprise filling push a square of chocolate into the centre of each cupcake just before you put them in the oven.

 

A few thoughts to help you survive:

  • Start with a shopping trip – take your little ones to the baking aisle and let them choose some cake decorating bits and pieces – most supermarkets have a great selection of coloured icing, cupcake cases and decorations. Perhaps set a limit to how many items they can choose. Whilst you are there you can get a bit of your weekly shop done too.
  • If your children are very young weigh the ingredients yourself and set them aside. Let them have a go at breaking an egg into a bowl, then press on with your ready prepared ingredients (perhaps even make them yourself first and just let them do the decorating).
  • Try and stay relaxed – the kitchen will be a mess (probably a complete right off), the kids will lick the bowl and try to eat all the decorations before you get started – just enjoy the chaos – there will probably come a time when they won’t want to spend a minute with you near the oven.
  • Decant some of the decorations into small cupcake cases – this will stop them going wild and will hopefully limit the mess.

 

Give it a go and send us your photos – if not of the kids, at least of the mess they create!

 

Alice xx

 

Photographs: Alice’s Vintage Pantry

 

Other articles by Alice

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes

Sticky toffee cupcake with salted caramel cream

Chocolate & chilli cupcake recipe

Introducing National Cupcake Week – top tips for baking the perfect cupcake

Creating the perfect vintage afternoon tea

Bake the perfect sponge cake

How to pack a healthy lunch box

Auntie Eva’s Parkin recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Easy Valentine heart biscuits

Mini strawberry shortcake recipe

 

 

 

 

 

Gluten free vanilla cupcakes

Have you baked gluten free before?

 

National Cupcake Week logo

 

We’re trying something a bit more healthy for day 5 of National Cupcake Week (16th – 22nd September 2013).

This great recipe is easy to make – especially when in the hands of our baking expert Alice from Alice’s Vintage Pantry.

Most recipes can be adapted to gluten free – you just need to remember to add a bit extra moisture.

 

 

Over to you Alice ……

Alice's Vintage Pantry

 

Have you ever baked gluten free before? It’s not as much of a challenge as you might think.

It’s true that the gluten in flour adds springiness (is that a real word?!) to a cake but there are lots of fantastic gluten free flours and ingredients out there to help you keep the spring without the gluten.

 

The bigger supermarket stores now stock them as standard, or you can buy them from specialist baking shops or online.

Xantham Gum

 

Some baking powders aren’t gluten free so it’s worth getting both gluten free flour and baking powder.

If you can it’s also worth picking up some ‘Xantham Gum’, it helps to bind the ingredients together and stop the cake crumbling (just add half a teaspoon to your cake mixture).

Most recipes can be adapted to gluten free – the key thing to be aware of is that by using gluten free products you are likely to end up with a drier cake, so add a little more liquid to the mixture.

At Alice’s Vintage Pantry we are regularly asked to include a gluten free option to our afternoon teas. We have a few favourite recipes that work particularly well, this one for vanilla cupcakes we adapted from the much loved Hummingbird Bakery.

 

Gluten Free Cupcake

 

We choose to adapt this one because of the wet consistency of the mix, much better for gluten free flour.

 

Ingredients

 

  • 125g gluten free plain flour
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon Xantham Gum
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 130 mls milk
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

 

For the topping

 

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 90g butter
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Method

 

  • Preheat the oven to 170c.
  • Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, xantham gum and butter together until well combined.
  • Mix in half the milk.
  • In a separate bowl mix together the remaining milk, egg and vanilla extract.
  • Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  • Pour in to cupcake cases and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes.

 

To make the butter icing topping:

  • Put the icing sugar (sieved) and butter in to an electric mixer and mix on a slow speed until combined.
  • Add the milk and vanilla extract and turn up the speed for 5 minutes.

 

Give it a try…can you tell that it doesn’t contain gluten?

The cakes will be paler in colour but will taste really good!

 

Alice x

 

Photographs: Alice’s Vintage Pantry

 

Other articles by Alice

Blueberry cheesecake cupcake recipe

Sticky toffee cupcake with salted caramel cream

Chocolate & chilli cupcake recipe

Introducing National Cupcake Week – top tips for baking the perfect cupcake

Creating the perfect vintage afternoon tea

Bake the perfect sponge cake

Baking with kids

How to pack a healthy lunch box

Auntie Eva’s Parkin recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Easy Valentine heart biscuits

Mini strawberry shortcake recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes

 A recipe for delicate gorgeousness in a cupcake

 

National Cupcake Week logo

 

We’ve gone for a delicate fruity cupcake recipe today for day 4 of National Cupcake Week (16th – 22nd Septmeber 2013)

It’s a little bit of heaven in bun case!

This recipe is a firm favourite with Alice from Alice’s Vintage Pantry, and they can be found regularly on her delicious afternoon tea tables.

 

 

Over to you Alice ……

Alice's Vintage Pantry

 

The delicious combination of a cream cheese frosting and soft blueberries makes this one of our all-time favourite cupcakes.

We are asked to make these again and again, and they pop up in many of our vintage afternoon tea parties.

They look and taste amazing.

 

Originally featured in Sainsburys magazine the recipe is fairly simple and never fails!

 

Blueberry cupcake

 

Ingredients

 

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 200g blueberries
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten with a couple of drops of vanilla extract in
  • 175g self raising flour, sieved
  • 2 tbsp milk

 

For the topping

 

  • 175g butter
  • 250g cream cheese (at room temp)
  • 350g icing sugar (sieved)

 

Method

 

  • Preheat oven to 190c, gas mark 5.
  • Put caster sugar and 100ml water in a small pan and heat until sugar dissolves.
  • Bring to the boil and add blueberries (keep 36 back for decoration).
  • Heat for 1 minute then remove and cool in a sieve over a bowl.
  • Continue to heat the syrup and boil for 3 minutes then leave to cool.
  • Then whisk the butter on its own in the mixer until is really soft.
  • Add in the sugar and mix until pale and fluffy (I normally do it for about 5 minutes).
  • Add the eggs whilst mixing on a slow speed.
  • Sieve flour on top of mixture and put the milk in.
  • Mix slowly until the flour is combined.
  • Add the softened blueberries and mix by hand until fairly evenly distributed.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes until risen and lightly golden (may take a couple of minutes more).
  • Cool on a wire rack.

 

To make the icing

 

  • Whisk together butter and cream cheese until smooth, then whisk in icing sugar until smooth.
  • Add one table spoon of the blueberry syrup and chill in fridge.
  • When the cakes are cool (and they have to be really cooled), pipe the icing on top using a large piping bag with a large star nozzle.
  • Add two or three blueberries to each.

 

Enjoy!

 

Alice x 

 

Photographs: Alice’s Vintage Pantry

 

Other articles by Alice

Sticky toffee cupcake with salted caramel cream

Chocolate & chilli cupcake recipe

Introducing National Cupcake Week – top tips for baking the perfect cupcake

Creating the perfect vintage afternoon tea

Bake the perfect sponge cake

Baking with kids

How to pack a healthy lunch box

Auntie Eva’s Parkin recipe

Keeping Christmas cakes simple

Easy Valentine heart biscuits

Mini strawberry shortcake recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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