Chocolate birthday cake

birthday cake

When I asked Bert what birthday cake he wanted, he said a Paw Patrol Lookout Tower. (For those who don’t spend 2 hours 20 minutes a day watching, it’s a tower on a tripod base, with a glass-sided look-out room, topped by a periscope, with a helter-skelter slide.) Thanks for the confidence vote, Bert, but your ambitions are not matched by my skills. So I made a cake in the shape of a bowl of dog food. Luckily my skills were not enough to make it look disturbingly (to his friends’ parents) realistic.

This isn’t my recipe but I did find an excellent one for a decent-tasting cake that’s also easy to shape (without crumbling) and ice with fondant icing. I’m recording it here for future years – one day, this will be the basis of a vast, chocolate flavoured Millenium Falcon and my life will truly have been worth living.

Makes a 20cm cake

Cake:

200g self-raising flour

40g cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate)

230g caster sugar

4 large eggs

230g soft, unsalted butter

ΒΌ tsp vanilla extract

100g milk chocolate, grated (choose something from the baking aisle in the supermarket as it will cope well with the heat in the oven without going grainy)

2 tsp milk

Icing:

400g chocolate buttercream icing

500g ready to roll fondant icing (but only for a child’s, themed birthday cake – the stuff is truly disgusting)

Pre-heat the oven to 160/ 140 fan.

Mix all the cake ingredients till well-combined, then spoon into two lined and greased 20cm cake tins. Cook for 30 minutes in the centre of the oven. Check with a skewer – if it comes out of the middle clean then they’re done. If not, put them in for another 5 minutes.

Cool for 10 minutes in the tin then 10 minutes on a wire tray, then put in the fridge for a couple of hours if you’re going to shape and fondant-ice them.

Sandwich the cakes with buttercream (shape the top one into a dog bowl with tapered edges and a circular hollow in the top if you wish) and then cover with more buttercream. Roll out the icing to about 2-3mm thick (using icing sugar or cornflour to stop it sticking) and drape over the cake. If you’re going full Paw Patrol, fill the top with Maltesers and decorate with sugar dog bones and paw prints. (I stuck each Malteser down with a dab of buttercream, but by then I’d moved into The Zone – I also cut sandwiches into bone shapes and made bone-shaped cheese biscuits.)

Recall that blue food dye appears to be like a hallucinagenic drug to small children (the first time Bert ate something this colour he started to see monkeys everywhere), slice, feed small children multiple packets of Haribo and send them home with a plastic whistle. Job done!

 

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Peanut butter and jam mini-brownies

… in 20 minutes.

Today Bert passed his stage 1 gymnastics badge. It involved ‘hopping on one leg and other very hard things.’

He also sulked for an hour when I chose flapjack over chocolate cake at play group (hey, he’d had his Rich Tea!)

This was commiseration and celebration.

Makes 5-6

50g crunchy, unsweetened peanut butter

75g butter

1 egg

25g cocoa powder

50g plain flour

100g golden caster sugar

5-6 teaspoons jam

Preheat the oven to 180/ 160 fan.

Melt the butter and peanut butter.

Mix the other ingredients, except the jam, in a small bowl then stir in the peanut butter and butter mixture.

Grease 6 holes of a cupcake tray and spoon in the mixture to just under the top of each. Better to have 5 good portions than 6 stingy! Make a little hole in the top of each with a teaspoon and add a teaspoon of jam to each.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Eat two each.

Banana and chocolate button loaf


Do I really need another recipe for a banana loaf? Yes, I do.

Bert’s been saving reward stickers for a month now and today was the day we went shopping for his chosen toy (‘Zuma, Skye, Rocky [all Paw Patrol dog characters that drive a vehicle], a dinosaur, a Gruffalo, another Gruffalo’ he said, ambitiously.) He got the Gruffalo and the Gruffalo’s child and we walked back to the car, Bert in full Gruffalo outfit, holding a Gruffalo in each hand and explaining to me he’s going to live in the ‘deep, dark woods’ with the Gruffalos plus the real Gruffalo, cuddling and kissing them and telling stories. Bliss indeed. (Yes, he’s sleeping in the Gruffalo body.)

He tells me Gruffalos don’t eat cake so I’ll have this one to myself.

Makes a 2lb loaf 

125g butter

150g golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg

60ml whole milk 

190g self-raising flour

100g chocolate buttons

Pre heat the oven to gas mark 3/ 170 degreee. Line a 2lb loaf tin (I partly make so many loaves because I have a pack of the ready made paper liners.)

Melt the butter, sugar and vanilla together then mix into the bananas and egg. Add the milk then stir through the flour and then the chocolate buttons. Tip into the tin and bake for about 45-50 minutes. 

If Bert finds six empty packets of chocolate buttons in the bin tomorrow I’ll be mince meat.

Banana, chocolate and coconut loaf


For the last few weeks I’ve finally got Bert to sleep at nine at the earliest, despite one night of success when he was silent from eight onwards (mutely doing who knows what) on the promise of a sticker. Last night all the stickers in the world weren’t going to convince him when he knew that ‘I not sleepy’. He got up and watched ‘World’s Most Extraordinary Houses’ – ‘Wow, look that house! It’s like your house!’ – and was finally convinced to remain behind a closed door at about ten. Still, it’s nice to know he appreciates Modernist architecture.

I walked into his room this morning to find his trike (or his motorbike, as he calls it) on his head. I guess he went straight to sleep then.

Anyway, as a result, it’s goodbye, lunchtime naps. How I’ve loved you! How I’ve cherished you! How I’ll miss you!

All the online parenting guides calmly suggest you switch naptime for quiet time, like sitting at a table reading or colouring in for an hour and a half. This seems about as likely as Bert turning down a packet of chocolate buttons. On the other hand, if I series linked Grand Designs, maybe…

Makes a large loaf

175g golden caster sugar

175g wholemeal self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

4 tablespoons dessicated coconut

2 ripe bananas, mashed

3 eggs, separated, whites beaten to stiff peaks

50ml whole milk

100ml sunflower oil

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3 (140-160 degrees) and line a large loaf tin.

Combine all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed banana, egg yolk, milk and oil, then stir into the dry ingredients. Fold through a quarter of the beaten egg white then quickly fold through all of the rest and tip the mixture into the tin. Bake for about 1 hour and ten minutes.

Light and dark birthday cake

birthday cake

When Bert’s ill or very upset, the only thing that will comfort him is his dummy (not normally allowed outside of naptimes and bedtime), John the rabbit, cuddles … and to wear a sou’wester hat. There’s a logic to the toddler mind that’s inaccessible to the rest of us.

Let’s hope he feels better in time for Daddy’s birthday cake tomorrow.

Makes a 20cm sandwich cake

300g self raising flour

300g golden caster sugar

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

Half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

225g softened butter

3 eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

225ml sour cream

100g good quality white chocolate, bashed to splinters with a rolling pin

For the icing:

75g unsalted butter

175g good quality dark chocolate

300g icing sugar

1 tablespoon golden syrup

125ml sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat all the ingredients for the cake together, folding in the chocolate at the last minute. If you’re a better woman than I am, do it the proper way, beating together the butter and sugar, gradually adding the eggs and then the flour. I bung it all in a food mixer.

Divide between two greased and lined 20cm tins and bake at 180 (or the grid shelf on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven with the cool shelf two rows above) for 35-40 minutes. I’d check after 30, especially if you’re cooking in an Aga, which makes its own rules.

For the icing, melt together the butter and chocolate, add the vanilla, cream and syrup and then sieve in the sugar and beat to combine. Ice the cake when it’s cold and the icing has cooled a bit or you’ll get that cow pat look. If you place rectangles of baking parchment under the edges of the cake when you ice it then whip them away when you’ve finished, you’ll avoid a chocolate streaked plate.

Bert decorated it with chocolates (because what this recipe really needs is more chocolate) – he has a ‘more is more’ approach.

Raspberry and white chocolate Eton Mess

raspeton

A treaty Sunday pudding.

Serves 3-4

For the meringue:

2 egg whites

4oz golden caster sugar (the maths is easier with ounces)

For the Eton Mess:

200g raspberries

200ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks

50g white chocolate, smashed to splinters

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks then gradually add the sugar till it’s thick and glossy. Spread out on a lined baking sheet and bake at a low temperature (I did mine in the Aga simmering oven – 140 for a normal oven) for 2-2.5 hours, so it’s cooked but still mallowy inside. Combine with everything else and serve. Bert alternated his with mouthfuls of corn on the cob but I can’t say I’d recommend that.

This gave Bert enough energy to empty the tins cupboard, stacking the contents neatly in the toilet, behind his tiny piano and in the fireplace. There may still be a tin or two of treacle in the utility room.

Chocolate orange cookie-cutter biscuits

cookie

Mostly we just snack on fruit – more because Bert’s appetite for sweetness is insatiable than any principled rejection of sugar. And let’s face it, he’s already a well padded boy. But everyone could do with a biscuit now and then and these are more fun to cut out than play doh is.

We used the letters B, E, R and T and some random animal shapes. Use all the letters of the alphabet for the opportunity to offer someone a snack and insult them at the same time.

Makes about 30 small biscuits

250g plain flour

125g butter

80g icing sugar

Tablespoon of cocoa powder

Finely grated zest of an orange

Juice of an orange

Rub the butter into the dry ingredients by hand, or put them all into a food processor until they start to look like breadcrumbs. Add the orange juice till the mixture comes together and then bring it into a ball and chill.

Roll out on a floured surface to about 5mm thick and cut out your shapes (or encourage a child with still developing hand-eye co-ordination to do the same – you may lose some cookies to raw tasting). Put on a lined baking sheet and cook at 160 degrees (I did it on the bottom rung of the roasting oven with the cool shelf two shelves above) for about 10-12 minutes.

I see this is the first time I’ve tagged ‘chocolate’ as an ingredient. How restrained I’ve been.