Lemon Meringue Cupcakes. I hate you!!

Just a short one tonight to tell you that I have been traumatised by some lemon meringue cupcakes. It was a while ago now but I’m still not over it.

It was all going so well, I was following a recipe, (which is where it all went wrong I think!!), and I made the batter, hid little spoonfuls of lemon curd in the middle and put it in the oven and made the most perfect, beautiful meringue, my first ever attempt was wonderful.

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Baked the cupcakes for the requisite amount of time, then piped the meringue on, (that bit needs a lot of practise!), popped them back in and the meringue went a perfect light brown and the timer went off.

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They looked a little pale underneath but I thought that might be how they were supposed to be. Until we tested one. (The baker’s prerogative!) It was raw in the middle. Really sloppy raw! It was so gross! So they went back into the oven with tinfoil over to protect that perfect perfect meringue at a slightly higher temperature. To cut a long story short, I was up until midnight, they were overdone and I vowed never ever to follow a recipe so blindly again! I will be trying them again. Just doing it my way!!

I’d love any tips or fail safe recipes for these please. I will not be defeated by a cake!!! 😀

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(I made the photo before I cut it open. Grrrrr!)

I was baking for The Children’s Society’s Bake and Brew and didn’t feel I could charge for them so gave them away. If you feel sorry for me and would like to make me feel better, or you just want to donate to such a wonderful charity, I have a just giving page! It’s right here!!

I have also had some lovely people give me the money at the school gates etc and I’ll be adding that on soon too.

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Baking and Brewing Up for The Children’s Society

There is something very apt about sitting and typing this post in front of the Great British Bake Off!! Anyone else watch it? Made me blub! What a great final!!

I am quite a lot excited about being involved in this cause, I am raising money for The Children’s Society by doing something I LOVE, (baking cakes), with the ultimate pay off that I feel obliged to sell them, (apart, of course, from the quality control tester, test two, ok fine, test batch! 😉 ), to raise money for a brilliant cause.

I mean, I do moan about my children occasionally, ok frequently, fine, most days ok!!!! But I do love them to bits, and I genuinely believe that all children deserve to be safe, and warm, fed and loved, and if I can do a teeny weeny bit to help, that makes me happy.

The very name of this campaign is great isn’t it, the Bake and Brew. Basically, for 5 years, since I had my daughter, well, before I had my daughter really, I was a ‘I have a big mummy tummy, let’s eat all things yummy’ sort of pregnant lady, I really did feel I had a license to inhale cake, and then when she actually arrived, well, it was very hard to leave the sofa for quite a while with the whole ‘boobs out for months’ thing and pringles and cake were so handy, especially as my lovely friends kept bringing it to my side!

Then there were ‘The small baby years’ when it was pretty easy to go to a cafe and actually finish a drink, more boobs out, more cake in as you need to keep adequately fueled, and fast forward five years, now with two lovely children, it is more of a survival method and means of staying awake past 4pm! The boobs are finally away though! 😉

I also mainline tea from the moment I stumble into the kettle in the morning and so this challenge seemed made for me!!

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I completed my first bake last night, and my lovely friend who runs the wonderful Miniature Music, a music group for toddlers that we attend every week, is always one for supporting good causes and let me offer the cakes there!

I’m also thinking of tempting my school run mum friends somehow and taking orders. I also sold my children the cakes for their pudding tonight. They were more then happy to dip into their piggy banks for a good cause. And a vanilla and chocolate chip cupcake with nutella and chocolate chip icing of course!

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I am going to share my recipes with you as I go, but I need to make you aware that I am not brilliant at measuring and so I will liberally use terms such as ‘splash, few, glug’ and so if you are a someone who needs very precise directions, I may make you shudder! It has always mystified my lovely mum that she follows directions with cooking and planting seeds and I have always been more of a type to throw handfuls of seeds down at the wrong time of year or lob in a few extra ingredients when baking and they always seem to turn out ok!

The cakes

I used my fail safe 4,4,4,2 recipe which makes 12 fairy cakes, but as I wanted a little extra, so I did 6oz butter and 6 oz caster sugar creamed, add in 6oz of self raising flour and 3 eggs. I then added a ‘large splash of vanilla essence’ if pushed I’d guess a 2 teaspoons! Mix until pale & fluffy & then fold in about 3/4s of a bag of chocolate chips.

Put equal amounts in paper cases in a muffin tray & bake in a preheated oven. I do 170 degrees, (fan), for 15 minutes.

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Once cooled, put spoonfuls of Nutella on as icing and sprinkles of chocolate chips on.

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Done! Now consume!! With

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So far, that is all I’m coming up with so I would really love to hear your suggestions.

You can tweet me @pinkpearbear, find me on facebook, or comment on here!

I’d also be very grateful if you would tell your friends, more heads make great ideas….or something like that!

A day of firsts.

I had an exciting day yesterday with two new firsts. We were invited to the book launch of a children’s author who was celebrating publishing her 150th book. She had become a little disillusioned with the whole publishing process and this felt like her revival. She has never had a book launch and so decided she wanted to do something special to mark the occasion and to give herself a bit of a boost I think.

The children were so excited, they absolutely love books and to go to an event with a live reading was something that really appealed to them. When they arrived, they were offered a bag to get a lucky dip for a teddy with a number on the label. We went in and settled down on the rug. The children were even more buoyant when they realised there were biscuits and bowls of crisps everywhere, and usually they wouldn’t be allowed snacks so close to dinner time, but because we were out in public, they knew they could wear me down quicker with some extra energetic pleading, and so they got to snack, (in their minds), illicitly, which made it all the more pleasurable.

After a short while, the author, Sally Grindley was introduced and she began a very lively and energetic reading of one of her books, ‘Knock knock. Who’s there?’ involving lots of masks and jumping around. The children were totally enthralled and really enjoyed the story.

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I think you can see how much they enjoyed it from their transfixed little faces! There were even a few scary bits and there was a lot of audience participation required, and provided!

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I think these pictures show the range of emotions the children were experiencing, even the much older children seemed to be held in suspense, especially at the scary bits.

After the readings and a few short talks, there was an extra special presentation. A beautiful cake with one of the book characters sitting proudly on the top, all handcrafted by the very talented Heather from Cherry on The Top in Gloucester. They drew a number and one very lucky little girl matched it to her teddy tag and got to take the wonderful dragon home.

After everyone had had a chance to marvel at the fabulous detailing of the little figure, especially the perfect little cover on the book he was reading, the cake was taken away to cut up and distribute. I’m happy to report that I tried it, (all in the name of blogger duty of course!), and it was absolutely delicious. As a bit of a cake connoisseur, (I eat a lot!), I was very impressed.

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After that fun filled afternoon, it was time for a quick dinner, and then I left our overtired, sugar hyped children to poor Mr PB to put to bed, (sorry again about that love!), and went to pick up my friend because we had very exciting plans. We were off to, wait for it, a WI meeting! Did you laugh? You did didn’t you?? Mr PB did a lot too. Imagining a group of very elderly ladies making jam, (which I actually would have really enjoyed too, truth be known), he teased me a fair bit beforehand, but he couldn’t have been more wrong.

I had heard rumour that the WI had had a sort of revamp, and was now a really energetic, vibrant group with a real mix of women and some wonderful, varied speakers, and it’s all true! The group we went to were chosing topics for next year, and a few that really caught my eye and surprised me were forensic psychology, the life of a spy and Tudor medicines, all of which I would really like to hear, I was pleased to see they were all getting lots of votes as ‘newbies’ weren’t allowed to vote. There was also tea, a lot of cake and so many other fun things planned outside the meetings. And not a Calendar Girls style crochted nipple tassel in sight!!

There was a talk, demonstration and taste test with recipe to make sloe gin, I must admit to not being a big fan of the end result but I don’t like gin, so that is probably not a very good start!!! 😀 It was a bit like cough medicine, but seemed to go down very well with all the gin aficionados there.

The evening was rounded off with a talk and demonstration by a raw food chef, vegan, vegetarian cafe owner and general all round super healthy person, Jay Halford, who owns The Core in Cheltenham. He made some courgette and cucumber ‘spaghetti’ with a spiralizer, (never thought I’d say this but I need one of these gadgets in my life!), and a sort of vegan pesto. It was seriously delicious and super healthy. Not two things that usually go together in my mind. It made me realise that I need to act on the random thoughts about getting healthy that flit through my mind about once a week. It’s going to be very hard for this die hard cake addict to change her ways, but I’m determined to give it a go. Baby steps though, today was a bad start with two chocolate biscuits for breakfast, baguette for lunch and vegeburger and chips for dinner. Oh well, with a diet this bad, it must be easy to make improvements right?!

All in all, I thought the whole night was really really good fun, and I’m so pleased to see a massive revival of what is, quite literally, an institution, and I can’t wait to sign up!

With regards to my new lifestyle change ideas, I promise not to become a diet bore. Mainly because I’m not convinced there will be a diet, but also because I have just got involved with a very awesome cause, the Bake and Brew in support of The Children’s Society, so I will need to get my cake bake on, in the name of charity of course. Maybe I can combine the two somehow, and make some healthy versions of the different monthly themes. Hopefully I can better my first raw ‘brownies’ effort when I didn’t de-stone the dates and almost broke Mr PB’s tooth!! 😀

Watch this space for more details, oh and any healthy but sweet treat recipes would be very much appreciated! This month’s theme is traybakes!

This is me doing my very best, 'serious WI member, I'm a grown up too' face!! :D
This is me doing my very best, ‘serious WI member, I’m a grown up too, trying not to laugh’ face!! 😀

Doing something.

I am trying to do something to make a change. I have written about the refugee situation, and how it broke my heart, but I didn’t want to just leave it at that. I joined a local facebook group that is gathering donations and arranging trips to take them out to Calais. I also offered to do a run out myself. It makes me feel nervous, I don’t know what to expect, but I have read some wonderful stories written by people that have been out to do the very same thing, and I feel that if I can make even a fraction of a difference, to help just one family, I will have done something.

My heart still hurts when I think of all those children, senseless young lives cut short, but so many more are out there, tired, cold and hungry. I have had a massive clear out too, it was actually easy to give things up. My friend gave me a badge once, it said ‘All these things, of which we have no need.’, and in my case, I feel that that is more then true. I have a hoarding gene and am loathe to throw anything away, ‘just in case’ or if it holds a sentimental memory. Trouble is, everything can hold a sentimental memory! I keep clothes, birthdays cards, shoes, coats, toys, books, nothing gets thrown away. Now however, I have filled bags and bags of things. Things I know for sure I won’t really wear again, a cropped shirt may hold many fun memories of nights of but come on, I’m a 32 year old mum of two, the way my diet is going, by the time I get my body in a fit state for anything shorter then mid thigh length, my daughter will be at an age where I will be a crippling embarrassment to her, in a neck to ankle covering outfit, never mind a flesh flashing top! 😀

This is just my stuff, I've not even started on the rest of the family's things yet!
This is just my stuff, I’ve not even started on the rest of the family’s things yet!

I am splitting our things in two. Half will go to the refugees and half to another charity who collect through the pre-school my daughter attended. After all, there are people suffering everywhere, including in our own towns and not everything is suitable, not sure there is any need for pretty high heels in the jungle!!

I will keep you updated with how the trip goes, I’m not sure when it will be exactly, but I know there will be people in desperate need for a long time to come, and so help will still be needed when the initial drive has eased.

I had one negative comment on my previous post, and while the woman’s attitude really shocked me, her words made me think. She believes that it is a ploy to get terrorists into the country, she fully blames the father for the deaths of his family. If she truly believes that, surely even blinded by hatred she could see that by offering gestures of kindness, warm clothes, a kind voice, a smile, we can try and mend relations? These children are going to grow up. They will remember kindnesses shown to them now, and maybe we can make things more peaceful for future generations.

I’m not naive, I know that not everyone will be in genuine need, I realise that we can’t support everyone, but surely by donating some old clothing, showing some compassion, giving up some time, we can try and spread some love and care rather then fear and hate.

Don’t tell the kids though, I’m going to have to tackle their things when they are both out! 😀