Saturday, 8 March 2014
Just a wee quick post from me today! We're busy tidying and preparing our place for my parents who are visiting from across the pond and arriving Monday. So this wont be a huge post, just a quick blog about a very musical birthday cake I created last week...
As I've mentioned before, in my other choir related posts (sewing accessories/ cakes and bunting), I sing with the Cantabile Chamber Singers in Toronto and at the end of February we celebrated my lovely friend and amazing choir conductor's birthday ... ACTUALLY on rehearsal day! So committed!! So although we were busy rehearsing music for our upcoming 'Bach and Beyond' concert at the end of March, we did have a delicious snack break with yummy cheeses, and also shared my red velvet music cake with everyone too!... And if that wasn't enough, a few of us also enjoyed a late night gelato after rehearsal :-)
I was lucky enough to have the Tuesday morning free to bake that day... so red velvet cake here I came. As I have mentioned every time I bake red velvet - I use Joy of Baking's recipe every single time! It is definitely tried and tested! I follow it pretty much exactly, but usually make a buttercream for the filling, and in this case the frosting too instead of the cream cheese icing.
Having bought a new small music note cookie cutter on my last trip to St. Lawrence Market I had known for a few weeks that this would make an appearance on my friend's birthday cake!
Having baked a 'red' velvet cake, and made a white buttercream, it made a great contrast to have the black music notes as the fondant decorations.
I knew the birthday girl wasn't a huge fondant fan, and wouldn't want the cake to be 'overly' sweet, so I went with the buttercream for the filling and frosting and simply placed the 12 music notes circling the edge of the cake.
Leaving room for a set of candles in the middle, the cake was made and ready to go! ... Then just to hoping it made the journey through a few piano student's homes (their dogs were VERY interested in my cake box and bag that day that's for sure!!!)... before safely arriving at the choir rehearsal!
There was a perfect amount for everybody, and we had a great cheese and cake feast mid-rehearsal :-)
A year ago to the weekend I wrote about some super fun crafting I did for St. Patrick's Day! The holidays never get old, so read this post here!
Sunday, 2 March 2014
Brrrrr it is still SO COLD here!! Why is Winter not over yet?! Pretty sure last year I wrote a 'Spring are you Here?!' post as well... Although, having just checked - that was in April and I am SURE the temperatures were not as freezing cold as they have been this long long Winter!
I was more than happy when my lucky cupcake competition winner decided that she would like her lemon cupcakes sooner than later... When I asked about if they were for any particular reason the competition winner told me... "They aren't for a particular occasion. It's February and nothing is yummier or makes you feel brighter than lemon, am I right?"
...SO TRUE! I am also the biggest lemon fan (I believe I have mentioned that many times on this blog before hehe) so yes please lemon cupcake baking day!
So last Sunday afternoon, off to the kitchen I went and whipped up a dozen cupcakes for friend and lucky winner and 2 sneaky extra baked cupcakes for Jonathan and I ... just to taste test of course!
Keep scrolling through the cupcake pictures to get to the recipe at the bottom of the blog post...
After they cooled... I made some lemon buttercream to add to the lemony goodness of the already lemony cupcakes. The more lemony sunshine the better right?! Summer please.
These yummy looking half lemon jelly slices are imported all the way from good old Sainsburys. Did you see this sneak peek on Instagram - if not - follow me HERE!!
A lemon cupcake on a lemon plate?! Oh yeah. Love lemons.
So all cupcakes made, piped, decorated and packaged up ready for delivery!
It's been a week since they were delivered... and in fact the weather got colder. Hmmmm, double lemon cupcakes why did you not work!?
Hopefully the lemon cupcakes "brightened" the winner's day, even if the weather was not physically brightened by them!! ☀
Double Lemon Cupcakes (to make a dozen regular sized cupcakes, with a little extra batter to perhaps make a tester or two!)
4oz unsalted butter, softened
Zest of 1 lemon
4oz self-raising flour
8oz unsalted butter
12oz icing sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon milk
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and line cupcake tray with cupcake cases
2. Cream together butter and sugar in mixer until light and fluffy
3. Beat in eggs one by one, beating well after each addition
4. Zest lemon and add to wet mixture
5. Sift in flour and mix only until combined
6. Divide between cupcake cases and cook in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. (I use the small OXO Cookie Scoop for dividing the batter, and found that 3 scoops for each cupcake case makes the perfect amount with rising to get to the top of the case, without going over the edge!)
While the cupcakes cool, or even ahead of the baking day you can make the buttercream ...
1. Beat the butter in the mixer until soft
2. Add the icing sugar and carefully beat together - my avoiding mess tip here is to hold a tea towel around the top of the bowl of the mixer, enclosing all of that loose powdered sugar that's blowing everywhere in...
3. Add the lemon juice and milk and beat together until well whipped (usually at least 2-3 minutes with the mixer on medium speed).
Pipe or spread the buttercream on the cupcakes as you wish, decorate and enjoy!!
With March Break coming up, and at least a week off from piano lessons for my students, here's what I came up with last year to keep them not only actually doing piano practice, but wanting to practice ... I've started to print these off again and so far they're excited to try them out :) Yey! ♫
Monday, 24 February 2014
Alright... Well there has been a whole lot of baking going on so far this year and not much else! My sewing machine hasn't made an appearance (although I'm definitely going to rectify that in the next couple of weeks) and there hasn't even been much crafting, beyond a few handmade cards and a small Valentine project for Jonathan... So today, you will NOT be reading about cake! (Sorry if that's your favourite part), but it's time for something a little different.
This weekend I came up a new worksheet that I'll be using for my piano students during March in celebration of St. Patrick's Day.
While I was making it, and thinking of how it would work during my piano lessons, I thought it would be great to keep it general - then anybody can use it!
Using PicMonkey for the first time in creating the full worksheet (and then using the image in word, before saving as a PDF!) I used lots of shamrock shapes, with a starting point and 10 small shamrocks before reaching the 'You Win' pot of gold at the end of the line of shamrocks.
My plan for that pot of gold is to have a chocolate coin to aim for!
Keeping it simple and generic I just stated that you should 'Follow instructions and move along the shamrocks to make it to your pot of gold at the end of the game'...
Whether instructions are being given by a piano teacher like me, another teacher or parent this worksheet game can be adapted to anything.
The PDF is on Google Drive, and anybody with THIS LINK can download and print it as you like (just print on 'Actual Size'). Click here to see it. If you're looking for a lower colour option, then perhaps printing in 'draft' will save your printing costs :)
Like I say, the instructions my piano students will be following are musical ones - I have a few students taking RCM piano exams in April so lots of the instructions will be based on scales, chords, ear testing and sight reading etc in preparation for the technical side of their exam.
For my beginning piano students we'll do some fun challenges - playing high/low.. performing a piece loudly or softly, playing their pentascales... And some other fun ways of playing.
In addition to the worksheet, I also created a List of Instructions to print and go along with the worksheet. You can download this one here - just click THIS link!
With there being 10 small shamrocks, and then one final step to finally reach the pot of gold finish point I put a Bonus to Finish instruction as well, this might be something fun, or something my student has trouble with - or maybe the point where the student can play their favourite exam piece, or play their Irish piece of music we'll be learning in March ♫
I'm sure you'll be able to think of LOTS of ways to use this in your lives - whether as parents or as education providers, but here are a few idea I had so far...
Perhaps your child has a spelling test coming up... Can they spell 10 + bonus words correctly in studying for their test!?
Or are there some chores your little one needs some motivation with... Maybe there will be a bonus $1 gold coin waiting for them at the end of the list of Shamrock Chores?!
Have some fun with homework or learning... Follow instructions to gain a 'gold coin' or other reward that fits with your current reward system!
Any other ideas you come up with I'd love to know!! Just leave me a comment telling me how you enjoyed playing this Shamrock game :-)
I'll post some more pictures of the game in use during my piano lessons as we get further into March and play on St. Patrick's Day ♧
Sunday, 16 February 2014
... or should that be Donuts?! That's probably what lots of you all reading this thought! It is the 5th year I have been living in Canada, but there are some things I haven't changed in my spelling, or how I say things. So my apologies to you if you were expecting donuts! But please believe me, doughnuts and donuts ARE the same great tasting treats we all love!
I hope you all had a LOVEly Valentine's Day celebrating ♥ My husband treated me to a delicious dinner he cooked all afternoon ... an incredible lamb roast (my favourite), with mushroom risotto (my favourite favourite!) and then I did dessert... And well, I think you already know what it is!
Last year he also did dessert and thought it would be fun to make our own truffles! Check out last year's Valentine's post to see more on that... He prepared the chocolate truffle, but we scooped and chose the toppings to roll them in - they were so delicious!
So this year, I wanted something we both liked, but that also would be fun to do together after dinner... Cue the DIY doughnuts! During the day I did the prep work for them. Making the dough, letting it rise, cutting it out into the heart shapes and then letting it rise once again before baking them.
That's right - BAKED doughnuts! SO healthy right?! I think in comparison to fried yes... still they're doughnuts but whatever - it was Valentine's Day! Still, they were pretty good!!
I'll start with the recipe and pictures... but keep reading to see the fun part of decorating them which is the bit we did together!
I originally found the recipe here on Spark People Recipes, and although I halved the recipe (which made plenty for the 2 of us!) there are a couple of things I would change next time I make the recipe which I will mention here just in case you want to try it too.
Ingredients (to make 12-16 heart doughnuts, depending on the size you make!)
2 - 2.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon yeast
1/2 cup milk (we drink 1% so that's what went into these!)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Mix 1 cup of flour with the yeast.
2. Heat the milk, butter and sugar until it reaches 140°F (I found this to be when the milk was simmering but not boiling yet).
4. Add more flour, a little at a time until the dough is smooth.
5. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free area for 1 hour, until it doubles in size.
6. Split the dough in half and roll each half into a rectangle. Using a heart shaped cookie cutter (or 2 as I did for different sizes!) cut out hearts from each half. Use as much of the dough as possible!
7. Grease two baking sheets and place the hearts on them. Let them rise for another 30 minutes and preheat your oven to 375°F.
8. Bake the doughnuts for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.
... Now for the fun DIY part of the evening. Decorating the doughnuts (once they were cool!) :)
We each had 4 of the best looking ones as our "real" doughnuts to decorate. But we also had a few small ones each (which I think didn't hold their heart shape as well) and a couple of extra large sized that well, just didn't look as pretty as these!
Dinner cleaned up and our decorating workstation ready!! For most of the doughnuts I made a little water icing - powdered sugar and a little water stirred up and ready to use!
This is one of my favourites that Jonathan made! Icing on top with cookies and cream crumble all over the top. I can totally see this one at Tim Horton's!!
Here are my four you've already seen up at the top...
Icing and chocolate sprinkles...
White icing and edible pearls for the classy look...
The colourful fun guy dipped in sprinkles!
And the pink writing icing stripes on this one... I wouldn't usually choose pink, but well it was Valentine's Day after all ♥
These are Jonathan's featured four! He has the cookies and cream... a good old fashioned plain doughnut dipped in sugar... the bottom left one might look the same as this but actually it's filled with Strawberry Rhubarb JAM!! (His favourite!)... and then the final one is a glazed doughnut!
The original recipe said if we shook the hot doughnuts in sugar it would stick... Hmm well we tried this and it didn't work for us! So we melted some butter and lightly greased them up before dipping them in sugar. This did stick so it worked for us :)
Anddd, with icing and creativity still leftover we also decorated some of the small hearts as well!
We were pretty impressed with the taste of the baked doughnuts and it was a lot of fun to create and decorate these together as part of our Valentine's Day dinner ♥
Have a great week & thanks for reading!!
*** My blog is 1 year old ***
Look back at what I wrote 1 year ago today!
Sunday Tea Cakes ~ Click here to read about these pretty mini sponge cakes!