Cheetahs In My Shoes

living with the imaginary menagerie and all that it entails


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Saturday Is Caption Day! – The Bake Yummy Assistant One

Mammasaurus and I are creating a new blog called Bake Yummy which clearly called for the creation of a new cake using up some Lindor eggs – and an assistant…

You know the drill…what would your caption be?

Now mooch over to Mammasaurus blog and see what else needs your captioning skills this week


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The Gallery – Easter

This week’s theme on The Gallery is Easter.   We’ve had a pretty low-key Easter this year – the Cheetah Keeper’s father did a brilliant egg hunt, my sister cooked the most awesome lunch (which considering I hadn’t been able to eat for a week with this ***** throat infection was even more awesome) and well, we kind of chilled.  As much as you can chill with 2 children.  Here’s our Gallery for Easter 2012

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Spiced Toffee Apple Cakes

There are many advantages to living down the road to Renata who writes at Just Bring the Chocolate – not only does she write an awesome blog, dish out oodles of common sense, know how to perform the odd miracle, manipulate the NHS and give me a good kick up the backside when it’s needed, I also get home from work on some days to find a dozen eggs waiting for me.  Her chickens are laying and therefore cake is required.

Whilst I know that she is after a batch of my rolo cakes I need to restock on rolos so in the meantime, I set about creating something with the bramley apples that I have in stock.  I wanted to do something a bit more with them than just grate the apple into the sponge mix so I softened the apple off first in a caramel…

So, preheat your oven to about 190C, 170C (Fan), Gas 3/4ish and line some deep bun tins with cases – this batch made 16 cakes.

Peel and core 2 largish bramley apples and chop into small dice.  Pop these into a frying pan (you want a single layer) with 3 heaped tablespoons of caster sugar and 1 tablespoon of water and cook very gently for about 10 minutes until the apple is soft and there’s no obvious liquid left.  As you turn the heat off, stir in 1 teaspoon of mixed spice and leave it to cool a little.  The apple should be soft, slightly golden but not disintegrating completely.

Then, in large bowl put in 150g softened butter, 150g light muscavado sugar, 150g Self-Raising flour, 1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder and 3 eggs. Beat together with your trusty handmixer until you’ve got a smooth batter.  Finally, add you warm apple mix and give it one big mix together.  Unless you’ve let the apple cool completely, the warmth of the apple mix will mean you get quite a runny batter and you need to work relatively fast once you’ve mixed it in because the baking powder will start working and you need to make the most of it!

As usual, the ice-cream scoop method of filling the cases works really well and I filled them to about ¾ full which gave nice domed cakes.

I didn’t want to slather these in buttercream but wanted to add a bit more toffee to them so I sprinkled some little fudge chunks (ice-cream sprinkles) on some and some caramel sugar (other ice-cream sprinkles) on the others.  Demerera sugar or crumbled sugar lumps would do the same job – or bashed up bits of toffee.  You don’t want too much otherwise it will push the cakes down as it melts (still tastes good though).

I baked mine for 20 minutes and they came out looking like this.

I think they’d be great warm with cream, ice-cream, custard (or natural yoghurt if you’re feeling worthy).  Cold, they’re just as yummy.  Enjoy

Other recipes from my kitchen:

 


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Bake Sale Cakes

This week I was asked to make cakes in aid of Shelterbox – the charity that the Cheetah Keeper’s sister and her classmates are raising money for this term.  “For people who need things more than we do” according to her.  They’ve raised well over £300 so far and will be auctioning off a sari next week to see if they can make that total even bigger.

Seemingly, I have a bit of reputation in the cake department but on this occasion I was asked to produce small cakes and plenty of them… The sale was aimed at the children so cakes were being sold at 30p each – they didn’t want my grand concoctions.

So, I thought I’d share with you my recipe for the basic bake sale cake – they’re still yummy but cost less to produce (baking marg is half the price of butter and there’s no added chocolate goodies).  This recipe makes about 36 cakes – adjust it if you can’t bake all these in your oven at once.  I have a basic fan oven and adjust the shelves so that one tray sits on the bottom of the oven, one on a middle shelf and the other near the top.

I would also really, really recommend the investment in some decent muffin tins – my favourite being these from Lakeland as they let the cakes cook gently and evenly.

So, for 36 little cakes you’ll need to pre-heat your oven to about 180C, 160C(Fan) or Gas 4

3 bun tins lined with cases (I tend to go pretty basic for school)

5 eggs, 250g baking margarine or similar (softened), 250g self raising flour, 250g caster sugar, a generous pinch of baking powder (if you can be bothered) and a splodge of milk, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Stick all the ingredients in a bowl apart from the milk and beat together to a smooth batter.  It should be soft dropping consistency so add milk until you get to that stage.

Use your ice-cream scoop to dollop out the mixture (don’t overfill the cases) and then bake for about 17 minutes until the cakes a just golden and spring back to the touch.

Allow to cool and decorate as you wish.  I just swirled a bit of buttercream on top (200g very soft butter, 400g icing sugar, 1 tablespoon of boiling water) and a popped a sweetie on the top.

Image


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Do Something Yummy – Share Cake

This week, Love All Blogs are asking us to “#dosomethingyummy – share cake!”  and post a picture of cake to raise awareness and support of Yummy Mummy Week – 10-18th March 2012. Yummy Mummy Week is a week long fundraising event where mums are being asked to get together with friends and family and ‘do something yummy’ for CLIC Sargent.

So here you are – cake,

And if you want to do something yummy and bake some cakes in support of CLIC Sargent (or any other charity for that matter) here are some of my very easy recipes – great for baking with children.


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Coconut & Raspberry Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Icing

What do you do when you’ve got half a tin of “rich & creamy coconut milk” lurking when you’ve made a Thai curry?? Make cakes, of course.  You’ll need

3 large eggs
150g butter – softened
150g caster sugar
150g self-raising flour
about ¼ can coconut milk (the creamier the better) – about 100ml
frozen/fresh raspberries
100g dessicated coconut
 

Find a yourself a useful child to line your muffin tin with muffin/cupcake cases and preheat your oven to 180C/160C(fan)/Gas 4 (the lower end of 4).

Put the softened butter (20 secs in the microwave will do it nicely), caster sugar, flour and coconut into the bowl.  All together.  Using the trusty hand mixer, beat all the ingredients together – with the additional coconut this will be quite a thick mix.

 

Add the coconut milk/cream a bit at a time until you get the mix to the ‘soft dropping’ consistency.  The coconut will absorb some of the moisture when it’s cooked so it can be pretty soft!  Get some help to do the mixing (or tolerate your sister having a go).

 

Take your bowl of raspberries – these are from a frozen mix of berries – it would have been far more sensible to use the pack of frozen raspberries I later found at the bottom of the freezer.  You need at least one raspberry per cupcake, ideally 2 or 3.

Using your trusty ice-cream scoop dollop gently fill each case to about ¾ full (two thirds is just as good).  Then push raspberries into the top of the mix.  We put ours into the middle of each cake but you could spread them around the top.  It’s probably best not to put them too close to the edge as they’ll stick to the case and that’s just a waste!

Bake for 20-25 minutes.  I know I always say this, but I don’t know what your oven is like.  They need to look like this when they come out the oven:

Leave to cool.

In the meantime, you can make some coconut icing – if that’s what floats your boat with:

150g very soft butter
300g icing sugar
50g dessicated coconut
about 50ml of coconut milk

Beat the butter, sugar and icing sugar together.  Don’t set the mixer running too fast because you’ll cover the kitchen with icing sugar.  Add the coconut milk a bit at a time until you get it to a smooth, soft butter icing.  Pipe/swirl as you so wish.

If you fancy a more grown up icing – use Malibu or another coconut liqueur as your liquid instead of the coconut milk.

 


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Rolo Brownie Cakes with Meringue Topping

I have a confession.  Just a small one.  I’m the mad woman who trawls the reduced sections in the supermarket – not just the ‘reduced to clear’ chilled shelves but the main shelves (looking for those yellow stickers), the ‘separated from the rest of the multi-pack’ corner and the dregs of whatever season is now over shelf as they prepare to re-stock with whatever’s coming next, usually way, way too early.

And that’s where you find the very reduced tubes of Little Rolos in their Christmas packaging – for 50p – and if ever there was an excuse to create another cake, this had to be it.

So, for a seriously decadent cake this is what you’ll need:

200g rolos (we had Little Rolos) – this quantity allows for what is known in our house as ‘snitching’ (testing for quality purposes)
100g butter
200g light muscavado sugar
2 large eggs
100g plain flour
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
½ teaspoon of baking powder
 
For the meringue topping
2 egg whites
100g sugar
 

Preheat your oven to 180C, 160C (fan), I reckon that’s around Gas Mark 4 and line a muffin tin with deep cupcake cases.

This is possibly the reason why they were reduced!  They seem to have done the going white thing.  Rest assured, the taste is completely unaffected.

Into a medium size (we used the loyal 2pt pyrex) microwaveable bowl, put the rolos, butter (chopped – it melts faster) and the muscavado sugar.  Microwave on medium for about 2 minutes and then give it all a really good stir to combine thesugar into the chocolate.  Work relatively fast at this point as it keeps the mixture smooth – it should be quite shiny.

Get your beautiful assistant to break your eggs into the mixture and mix it all in really well with the fork.  You’ll be heading towards the gloopy stage.  Then add the flour, baking powder and mix it all together really well.

This mixture is a brownie type mix so will be runny – so I find it easier to use the ice-cream scoop to half fill each of the cases.  I really wouldn’t fill them any higher – the cakes are rich and you run the risk of a volcanic explosion when baking.

Whilst you’re doing this, get your beautiful assistant to whisk 2 egg whites to the stiff peaks stage (in a very clean bowl – we used another 2pt one again).

Stiff peaks should look like this when you take the beaters out – do not be tempted to add the sugar before this stage

Then, a tablespoon (or so, like you’re going to measure it) at a time, add the sugar – using the mixer on a relatively fast setting.  Some say you need to fold the sugar in – I don’t.

Fill a (disposable – it’s so much easier) piping bag with the mix – I used a large star nozzle and pipe a swirl of meringue onto each cake – making sure you leave a border clear around the edge.

I would leave a slightly bigger border that this when you do yours – it’ll stop them exploding quite as much!

Bake for around 30 minutes – as I say with all of my recipes, I don’t know what your oven is like.  You need to get them to the point that the meringue is cooked and the cake/brownie mix is too – otherwise you may end up with the cake sinking under the meringue.  That’s just aesthetic though – it still tastes divine.

If they do bubble over the edge onto the tin whilst cooking (bear in mind you’ve got all that toffee in the mix), when you take the cakes out the oven, leave them for 5 minutes and then give them a little twist in their tin – one at a time.  This should mean they won’t stick to the tin.  Allow to cool in the tin then pop them on a wire rack (if you can be bothered/have space etc).

They should look a bit like this:

You could serve them warm with a bit of cream (other dairy products containing slightly less fat are available) as a desert – you’ll only need one!  Enjoy.


6 Comments

Butternut Squash, Maple & Ginger Cupcakes

We have had a butternut squash lurking for a while.  Some of it’s gone in risotto, some of it in soup and the rest, well, it went in cake today.

I’ve made a butternut squash loaf before which was ‘worthy’ and a great way of smuggling veg into children but pretty boring.  I’m fairly sure that most people don’t wake up at midnight thinking “what would happen if I made a butternut squash mash with maple syrup and put it in a sponge cake” – but then again I’m not ‘most people’.  So, after some late night night plotting, here’s a recipe for very moist little cakes, that don’t have quite as much sugar in as my usual concoctions…

You’ll need:

200g (that’s the weight when peeled) butternut squash cut into small dice
100g softened butter
50g light muscavado sugar
2 balls of stem ginger (keep the syrup in the jar, it’ll come in useful)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
125g self raising flour
2 eggs

 

This is how I made them:

Preheat your oven to 180C (160C Fan) – I think that’s about Gas Mark 4 and either line a muffin tin with cake cases or use silicone ones.

Put your diced butternut squash into a microwaveable bowl.  I used a 2pt pyrex one that was then big enough to use for everything.  Add 1 tablespoon of water and then cover in clingfilm.  Microwave on full for 5 minutes (I have an 800W microwave – you need to cook it until it’s steamed soft).

While it’s cooking chop your stem ginger – I tend to just stick it in a bowl and snip downwards with the kitchen scissors.  OK, I may have been watching too much “I Can Cook” on CBeebies but stem ginger is sticky stuff and this way you don’t take your fingers off whilst trying to hold and cut it at the same time.

Cut a small hole in the clingfilm (the bowl will be hot – really hot) and drain off the water.

Add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup to the squash and then mash together with a fork.  Or you could use a blender if you want to do more washing up. Mix in the stem ginger too.  It doesn’t need to be really smooth but all mashed up.

Add to this warm mix, your softened butter (cut it into dice, it’ll make things easier), flour, sugar and eggs.  If you want a more domed cake add half a teaspoon of baking powder.

Then add a teaspoon of ground ginger.  If you want a zingier cake, add a little more ginger.

 

 

Using your beautiful assistant (and your trusty hand mixer) give all the ingredients a good mix together.  The mix you’ll get is quite gloopy – this is what’s going to keep your cakes nice and soft.

Using (if you’ve got one) an ice-cream scoop fill your cases to about two thirds full.

Bake for 15 minutes – they should be a pale golden colour and spring back when you press down on them.

In that I have absolutely no self-control, I tried one of these whilst still warm.  They would be excellent with a bit of ice-cream or custard as a pudding.

They were going to get a swirl of maple syrup buttercream (100g very soft butter mixed with 200g icing sugar , 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and a dash of hot water if necessary but the gannets in my household got there first…

Some of my other yummy recipes:

 


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2011 according to the Cheetahs

So 2011 has been the year that the Cheetahs and their keeper found, ahem, fame.  From small beginnings (ie just being annoyingly in shoes when it was time to put them on) and the odd Facebook status update they’ve now got their own blog (ta daaaaaaaaaaa – yes I know you’re reading it) and their keeper’s mother has met, via the wonders of the bloggesphere and Twitter some super lovely people.  So, here’s our review of the year, possibly chronologically correct, and quite possibly not – a lot happens in a year.

January.  The Cheetah Keeper had a gastroscopy that showed that he was doing ok and didn’t need his reflux meds any more.  Huzzah!  He also started Nursery at “Big School” where the staff instantly fell in love with him (and took to the idea of the Cheetahs remarkably well).

February.  The Cheetah Keeper’s mummy had a big operation on her elbow and didn’t get better quite as quickly as she thought she would.  11 months on it’s still nice to have all the feeling in her fingers that had been missing for at least 2 years.  She also received the news that her bid for £5000 of funding for the new school project (that’s me in the turquoise top) had been successful and went round with a smile on her face for ages.

March – I have no idea what happened in March.  We probably went to the zoo – oh, and we drank the Mandeville Monster milkshake for the first time discovering a new (and somewhat expensive) vice treat.

April.  The Cheetah Keeper’s sister turned 6 and was a bridesmaid.  A few(!) cakes were made.  It was gloriously sunny and the Cheetahs, having been very quiet for a while returned.  My facebook status read “…Has put the cheetahs to bed. Not only can these ones run even faster than the ones at Whipsnade, apparently one is inside the duvet cover preparing porridge ready for breakfast in the morning..”  I also got to be grown up and went to Frankfurt for work for 4 days – involving an extremely inebriated Lithuanian who’d lost his car.

The Cheetah Keeper (planning ahead as ever) asked for a steam roller for his birthday so he could smooth out the roads but only a little one otherwise his feet wouldn’t reach the pedals.  Baking totals for April :  42 eggs, 15 packs of butter, 4kg of sugar (at least), 2.5 kg of flour, 1/4 pot baking powder, 1/4 bottle vanilla extract, 162 paper cases, a pint of whipping cream, a litre of yoghurt, 0.5kg ground almonds and a whole load of washing up.

May:  The Cheetah Keeper was 4.  I made some more cakes.  His favourite present was a bag of marbles.  I got very stressed with the NHS (again).  The Cheetah Keeper returned (albeit briefly) to his refluxing ways. We holidayed in Mablethorpe and the Cheetah Keeper & his sister really discovered the joys of playing together on the beach.

June: More cake was made.  About 240 of them.  It was very hot.  I got annoyed with OPC’s (other people’s children) and was immaturely amused by the letter home from school asking us to peg willies together.

July.  The end of term was upon us, it was hot, we were tired.  A magpie got stuck in our chimney and needed rescuing – I was very brave.  Red Riding Hood whipped a pistol from her knickers in the school show, I got cross with the people fighting in adjoining offices and now, being 36 years old, Amazon asked if I would like to pre- order “Gentle Gym for the over 50’s” on DVD.  The Cheetah Keeper was very keen on examining his poo (to see if they looked like tadpoles) and went for his first taster day in Reception. “Mummy, we’re in Ladybirds and the children with the blue writing [on their name labels] are in Buttonflies”

I made some more cake and realised that I was having my last afternoons as a mummy with a pre-schooler.  We holidayed in Wales and I realised that I was, finally, enjoying being with my children rather than just managing/transporting/looking after them.  The Cheetah Keeper’s nosebleeds returned.

August.  The Cheetahs took over.

“Happy days in the paddling pool. The Cheetah Keeper still insists that the coolest summer look is winter fleece hat, sunsuit top, no shorts/pants and wellies – and also that we have 3 small banana people living under our house who get bananas in through holes in the garden, look a bit muddy and drink Capri Sun.”

“the banana people had a play in the paddling pool under the house and then went to London Zoo to see the animals. The cheetahs have been playing jumping in the bath and making really big splashes and the Cheetah Keeper became a robot”

“the cheetahs and the banana people didn’t want to come to the splash park with us this morning so went (in their super speedy car, of course) to the one at London Zoo because it’s better. 2 groups of the cheetahs are going to Spain tomorrow (packing their suitcases at the moment) for 12 days but the other 2 groups are staying at home because the babies are too small to go and need to stay with their mummies.”

“well the banana people all behaved nicely in the car on the way to Norfolk today, as did the cheetahs. The cheetah party going to Spain are flying from Luton Aeroport tomorrow now and those with us enjoyed chicken nuggets, beans and chips for tea, apart from one of the baby ones who liked curry. They all sat with their legs crossed and with their paws in their laps like 5 star listeners.”

“the banana people and the cheetahs seem to have had a subdued day. After enjoying running around the hotel room and jumping in drawers they have been to the beach and done some very big jumps in the sea that splashed to the moon. Other than that I think they have been a tad tired – rather like their keeper”

they then got some crocodile scooters (that didn’t snap as they were going along) and trainers for when they’re doing running races, crocs for ‘other’ shoes and wellies for puddle jumping – with crocodiles on, of course.  They took themselves to London Zoo (and came with us to Whipsnade, of course)

“the cheetahs enjoyed their trip to London – I’m not sure what they liked best – looking out the window on the train (even at the lights in the underground tunnels), watching The Tiger Who Came to Tea/sliding down the banisters at the theatre, having lunch out or visiting the London Transport Museum. Am slightly concerned though that apparently in their car, if people don’t drive like they should, they fly their car into the air and shoot the bad drivers down…”

” The cheetahs have invited 4 groups of 12 dinosaurs to stay. They’ll all be sleeping in G’s bed but only roar little roars. Except at 7am when they need to wake everyone up. They’re friends with the banana people too so may visit them under the house.”  I was obviously thrilled.

And finally, on August 23rd, Cheetahs In My Shoes was born.  You can read the rest of what the Cheetahs have been up to on here.  And for those of you that have, I thank you greatly!

So I will now fast-forward *weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee* to now.  New Years Eve.  The end of 2011.  The Cheetahs have been really busy over the Christmas period – very active and pretty much essential to every day existence.  I think we sometimes forget that Christmas, although a period of great excitement for children, can be a bit overwhelming – for the Cheetah Keeper the changes in routine, the arrival of a whole load of new things in our house and the requirement to eat in different places and do different things was pretty stressful.

So the Cheetahs have been everywhere with us, got up to a whole load of mischief, played on their space-hoppers, had 10 new babies on Christmas Day, received a scalectrix, had a curry on Christmas Eve and generally been there to keep the Cheetah Keeper in a place where he can cope with what’s going on.

And what for 2012?  Another stay in GOSH for the Cheetah Keeper at the end of January and then we’ll see what happens.  I’m not making resolutions, I don’t want to set myself up to fail.  We shall see where life, the Cheetahs, the world and everything takes us – and blog about it on the way.

Much love to you all

The Cheetah Keeper’s Mummy xx