Cheetahs In My Shoes

living with the imaginary menagerie and all that it entails


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The Rice Crispie Cake Easter Bonnet

If you haven’t grasped it by now, I’m a bit mad (go read some more of the blog if you haven’t).   I live with 200(ish) imaginary Cheetahs, some banana people, 48 Dinos, 48 Dino Brothers (all called ‘Strike’) and a whole load of medical needs.  I’m also fond of making a cake (or 100), having a go at a bit of crafty stuff and whole-heartedly approve of kids getting stuck in and making a mess.

So when asked whether we could make an Easter Bonnet for the competition at school out of cake, the logical answer would have been….

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO (darling)

The actual answer was – “well yes, ok then”.  Then I realised (duh…) that two would be required (one for each child) and that I had to significantly up my game.  The next line was the cruncher – bear in mind I have already said ‘yes’ – “and we can wear them to school…?  OK, time to make a plan… and after a quick trip to Sainsburys here’s how we made an Easter Bonnet Cake…(and you could too)

I glued a plastic serving bowl on an aluminium platter

you need to use ‘extra tacky’ glue and leave it to set for a bit.  Patience is required – this is the frame that you’re going to build the cake on.

Turn the 'hat' onto it's crown and use something sharp to make a hole to fit your scissors into

Using decent scissors (I used florist’s scissors that can be used to cut wire) work outwards from the hole so that it looks like this

into 8 triangles

Stop cutting when the tips of the scissors touch the edge of the bowl.  I tried gluing the triangles into the bowl (to form the actual hat bit) but that so did not work.  So with a bit, ok, a lot, of electrical tape I taped it all into place and made sure there were no sharp edges.

It's not going to show!

Check the fit!

She does have quite a large head – it fits her brother better but it will have to do.

Make sure the glue is really dry.

Ready for action!

Then get yourself a helper as you’ll need to make a shed load of rice crispie cake.

We used (for 2 hats – just) 250g butter, 10 tablespoons (ish) of golden syrup and about 500g of rice crispie (we used the basics range).

Melt the butter and golden syrup together in the microwave (do it in bursts and stir in-between) and then stir in the rice crispies until you get a thick, sticky mix.  Then smother the frame in it (seriously sticky work) and leave it to set.  Make sure you’re working on a tray or something else that will catch the bits!

and leave to set

We left it to set for 24 hours and then set about decorating it.

With icing, icing pens, sprinkles, cutters, writing icing, and anything else that I use to decorate my more sensible cakes

Leaving us with these

this is the Cheetah Keeper’s creation.  All his own work!

and this is what his sister will be wearing on Friday.  Hopefully it won’t rain, or be too hot and there won’t be any wasps about!  Yes, the chick is wearing glasses – just like she does now.

Fun – yes.  Messy – oh good grief, yes.  Quality family time – yes.  Unique – yes.


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You’re Beautiful – Week 4

So far I’ve been looking for beautiful things to inspire me in the natural world around me.  However, every now and again you go somewhere and something yummy (and a tad materialistic but hey!) makes you think wow!

This was at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush on Saturday.  The good people at Joyville are endeavouring to brighten our January and spread a bit of joy into dull and dark days – and chocolate fountain that plays music, has flashing lights and provides samples of Dairy Milk chocolate definitely did that for us!  If you visit the Dairy Milk site it says that this may be popping up somewhere else soon – keep an eye out!

What have you seen, written or made that’s beautiful or “wow” worthy this week – please link up using the linky below and we can all enjoy a bit of a smile, positivity or joy!

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Easy Chocolate and Cinnamon Cakes

Oddly enough, my children ask me to make cakes every time they have to contribute food for anything at school.  Not a problem – I enjoy it!  However, I am, at times, reluctant to use my good chocolate for cakes that small children are going to devour with little understanding of the importance of chocolate with 70% cocoa solids.  So, for the latest round of Christmas parties, I set about creating a little chocolate cake which was moist, sweet and chocolately, but without involving the addition of any real chocolate…

This mix makes 24 small buns and you’ll need:

125g Self Raising Flour
75g Cocoa
200g Softened Butter (stick it in the microwave for 20secs, it just easier)
4 eggs
200g dark muscavado sugar (light muscavado or soft brown is just as good)
and your secret ingredients:
150ml (that’s a normal small pot size or about 3 large desert spoons) of Greek Yoghurt.  Natural yoghurt is just as good (and vanilla would work) but it must not be a fat free one.
1 heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon

This being one of my easy cakes, the method is simple

Line your tins with paper cases (I’ve used muffin cases, it’s what was in stock) and pre-heat your oven to 180C (fan 160C) which I think is about Gas 3.5

Put the flour, butter, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa in a bowl.  Add the eggs and then with your trusty hand mixer, mix to to smooth batter.  Add the yoghurt and mix in – it will make the batter much paler.

Now here’s a trick for you…

Rather than scooping the mixture into each case, use a piping bag for the task.  I use disposable piping bags from Lakeland – they come so that you can cut the tip off to fit your own nozzle.  For just the mix I use prop the bag open in a pint glass (or whatever is to hand) fill it with the mix and then cut the tip off when it’s full.  Twist the top of the bag so you can squeeze the mix down as you go and then swirl a bit of mix into each case.

Bake for about 8 minutes and then (the ninja like skills are required again here) very quickly turn the trays around in the oven so that they bake evenly.  Bake for another 8-9 minutes so the cakes spring back to the touch.  Allow to cool otherwise you’ll burn yourself.

This is the point where the Cheetah Keeper’s sister requested that I make all the characters from the school nativity performance out of icing to go on the cakes.  I cannot do that.  She was a little disappointed so I had to come up with a plan…

These cakes are nice on their own, chocolately, fudgey and they keep well.  You could ice them with butter icing, a dollop of melted Nutella or some melted Milky Way bars.  In that it was late and the cakes needed to be nut free I conceded and melted together a 150g bar of milk cooking chocolate and 50g butter in the microwave.

Stir this combo together until smooth and then dollop a bit onto each cake.  It’s not runny enough to cover the whole cake, it’s just enough to add a bit on the top.  I then added white chocolate stars (available in the cake decoration section in Sainsburys) – which kind of linked into the nativity theme!

A sprinkle of edible glitter finished off the effect and they didn’t last long at the class party!  Any other decoration would work just as well – enjoy x

Here are some of my other recipes – hope you enjoy them!

 


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Oreo Brownie Cupcakes

As a little break from the norm (and because I’m told you, good readers, may be interested), here’s the recipe for the Oreo brownie cupcakes I made yesterday.  The recipe is a combination of various recipes that I’ve refined over time, with thanks to the lovely internet and the Cupcakes book by Susannah Blake.

Photo of an Oreo cookie on a white table.

Image via Wikipedia

So, you’ll need

A pack of Oreos.  Whatever type takes your fancy – (or is on special offer).  You’ll need at least 12 biscuits

  • 150g dark chocolate, chopped/bashed up in small pieces
  • 150g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g caster sugar (although light muscavado sugar makes an excellent alternative!
  • 50g self raising flour

For the icing

  • 200g butter – very very soft
  • 400g icing sugar

You’ll also need 12 muffin size cases – be they silicone or paper cases, they need to be a decent depth and a 12 hole deep muffin tin (if you’re not using silicone).

Pre-heat your oven to 180C, 160C Fan or Gas 4

Firstly, slide one layer of biscuit off each oreo – so you’ve got the layer of cream on the biscuit.  Put this in (cream side up) in the bottom of each cake case.  Save the single biscuit layer for later.

Chop the butter into smallish pieces (no skill required, just break it up a bit) and put it in a heat-proof bowl with the chocolate.  If you are a domestic goddess, melt the two together over a bain-marie.  Alternatively, stick it the in microwave on medium (not high) for 2 minutes and give it a good stir.

Let this mixture cool a little and then add the eggs and beat them in well.  (Don’t do this while the choc/butter mixture is really hot because you’ll end up with chocolate scrambled egg – bleurgh).  Then stir in the sugar.

Finally sift the flour add the flour to the mix and fold in well so there are no floury bits left.  You’ll get a thick runny mixture – akin to a brownie mix rather than a sponge.

Fill each muffin case with the mixture (you’re covering the Oreo underneath) – you can fill almost to the top as it’s not going to rise very much.  This mixture should do you 12 generously filled cakes.

Bake gently for about 25 minutes (now this is how long mine took, every oven is different) until the top is pale and crackly (brownie like) and just firm to the touch.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool (obviously when they’re cool enough to handle).

Once they’re cooled ice to your liking.  For the completely indulgent approach, mix the icing sugar and softened butter together and add a splodge of water/milk/cream to make a butter icing.  A hand mixer really helps this process and you need it quite soft if you’re going to pipe it.   Bash up about 8 of the remaining single Oreo biscuits to a very fine crumb (plastic bag, rolling pin, bit of pent up stress = job done) and beat these into the butter icing.  They won’t make the icing a particularly nice colour but it definitely tastes good.  If you want to change the colour, replace 50g of the icing sugar with 50g of cocoa for a seriously chocolately hit.

I piped the icing with a star nozzle (that’s why you need to make the crumb really fine in the icing, otherwise it gets stuck) but dolloping it on and spreading out with a knife would be just as effective.

Decorate with sprinkles, mini oreos or whatever else takes your fancy.

Enjoy x

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The Cheetahs and the Chocolate Finger Sparklers

First of all, we found Olivia!  She was stuffed down the back of the bed (possibly in a bid to keep her a bit longer – urgh) but with hoodie on and smile in place she has gone off to another home with a delighted Rainbow and a mother feigning enthusiasm.

The Cheetahs did have their race as predicted – but it wasn’t a running race (so why exactly do they need all that training in Running Land? – I reckon it’s the sunshine they like) they went in their racing cars.  All of them – all 9 family groups in individual cars.  It took up the whole width of the pavement and how there wasn’t an accident as they negotiated the children walking to school I shall never know.

Their keeper is still not feeling that great (having woken up in a puddle of blood yesterday morning – it just keeps pouring out his nose) but with a bit of encouragement to oversee the Cheetah race made it into school in a really good frame of mind and was “Star of the Day” for being so smiley.   Good work Cheetah Keeper.

We managed to achieve the Thursday turnaround to get out in time for Rainbows – although it took an almighty amount of encouragement to get out the door.  The Cheetahs seem to be liking coming to Rainbows (unfortunately their keeper seems to think he’s the Rainbow leader which causes a few problems) and were seriously excited about the prospect of making chocolate finger sparklers.

For those of you yet to experience the delights of the relatively safe chocolate finger sparkler (I guess it depends how many you eat as to whether you’ll explode) this is a fantastically easy make for little people.  You need as many boxes of chocolate fingers as you think you will consume (we had 4 boxes which was enough for 18 children to have 4 each), assorted coloured sprinkles and a mug of hot water.

OK – I’ve mentioned the ‘hot’ word.  I am trusting that common sense will be applied here – it needs to be on the hot side of warm but not scalding and you need about 4cm in the bottom of a mug so the chances of it overflowing are pretty minimal.  But hey good mummies (and daddies) be safe out there.  Please.

All you do is dip the end of the chocolate finger into the hot water and then dip the slightly melted wet end into the sprinkles.  Either eat immediately – or let it set. There you have it – a chocolate finger sparkler!

Admittedly it’s probably cheaper to go to your nearest retailer and buy a packet of sparklers on offer (I was appalled at how much chocolate fingers are but they are on special in Sainsburys this week) but you don’t need to worry about gloves, buckets of water and all good stuff like that.  I’d post you a photo but they didn’t last that long.

Apparently the Cheetahs came to Rainbows on their new flying saucer (where did that one come from???) and spent some of the evening flying around the church hall in it.  The Rainbows do look somewhat bemused when the Cheetahs are mentioned – mind you, I think most of the time their keeper bemuses them – especially if they haven’t got a little brother, but they just giggle and get on with it.  The Cheetahs came home in the empty sprinkle jar (they liked the choice of holes to climb through) so I’m going to have to empty them out before I throw it away.

I think they might be up for a bit of firework spotting over the weekend – they’re very much looking forward to the school sparkly party tonight – that’ll be an interesting one, making sure no one stands on their paws…

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