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Summertime Strawberry Pie

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Nothing signals the start of summer like British strawberry season.  Perfectly ripe and juicy berries line the store shelves, and seasonal strawberry desserts replace the heavier cakes and crumbles that have featured on dessert menus throughout the winter months.

Strawberries are my absolute favourite summer berry, with raspberries following a close second. When I was pregnant I would eat entire meals consisting only of strawberries. I couldn’t get enough of them, and now my kid can’t either. Leave him alone with a punnet of strawberries and they’ll be gone in a matter of minutes.

Fresh strawberries

We’ve been growing strawberries in our garden this year, and they’re fantastically delicious.  Unfortunately they only ripen 3 at a time which is hardly enough to put on a bowl of corn flakes, let alone make up the bulk of a shareable dessert. Luckily I was able to supplement my own crop by making a trip out to Garsons Farm – a local produce farm where we could pick our own strawberries. Even though the shops are filled with strawberries at the moment, picking your own is so much better. Not only can you choose the ripest, reddest, juiciest strawberries, but it’ll occupy a 3 year old for over an hour! What more could I ask for?

Strawberry Pie

We left the farm with a huge basket filled to the brim of strawberries that were just screaming to be made into a pie.  Strawberry pie used to be my favourite when I was a kid. Chilled fresh strawberries in a sweet jelly topped with sweetened whipped cream. It’s so refreshing on a summery day.

I hadn’t had a strawberry pie in years, so I couldn’t wait to get home and make one with my pickings. This pie is super duper easy to make. In fact, the hardest part about it is waiting for the pie to set in the fridge overnight.

Strawberry Pie

Strawberry Pie Recipe

This recipe is my mom’s from Canada, so uses powdered Strawberry Jello brand jelly for the base.  We don’t have powdered Jello in the UK, but we do have Hartley’s Jelly cubes which I find don’t gel as firmly as the Jello brand.  So if you’re in the UK, I’d  recommend increasing the jelly cubes to 1.5 packages.

Strawberry Pie

Strawberry Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (225g) Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • 1 Quart Strawberries
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Pkg Strawberry Jello,or 1 1/2 Pkg Hartley's Strawberry Jelly
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 Baked 9” pie crust, homemade or store-bought

Instructions

  1. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.
  2. Mash 1 cup of the berries; add enough water to make 2 cups and stir into the cornstarch and sugar mixture.
  3. Cook and stir until boiling. Boil 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add butter, Jello powder (or cubes) and lemon juice. Stir until the Jello powder dissolves. Chill until partially set.
  5. Spoon 1/3 of the jello mixture into pie shell. Top with the remaining berries, and spoon the remaining jello mixture over the berries.
  6. Chill until set. Serve with fresh sweetened whipped cream.
http://www.madewithpink.com/2015/06/strawberry-pie-recipe/

Strawberry Pie

If you find yourself with an abundance of strawberries this summer, here are a few more recipes ideas to help you use them up.

Strawberry Pie recipes

Strawberry & Coconut Milkshake
Pimm’s Salad
Chocolate Pomegranate Cake with Lemon Curd and Strawberries
Strawberry mascarpone tarts
Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Sandwich
Strawberry Granola Frozen Yoghurt Bites
Strawberry Tiramisu

I’m submitting my strawberry pie to a couple of foodie blogger linkups this month as well.

Simple and in season

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A Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake Topper Tutorial

Earlier in the week I showed guys some pictures of the Very Hungry Caterpillar Party I thew for my son’s 2nd birthday.  The positive response and the lovely comments that everyone gave were a welcome surprise, and really just confirmed why I love to do these parties! 

A very hungry caterpillar cake 

I loved creating all of the desserts for Jayden’s Very Hungry Caterpillar party and I was really pleased with the way they  turned out, especially the caterpillar cake topper I made.  I know from my many hours on Pinterest that Very Hungry Caterpillar themed birthday parties are pretty popular, so I thought I’d show you all how I made the Very Hungry Caterpillar cake topper.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Cake Topper Tutorial


Materials:

– Green fondant in a variety of different shades  – I used at least 4 – 5 shades of green totalling about 200g, and a variety of colourings from Wilton and Americolor
– Red fondant – about the size of a golf ball
– Purple fondant for the antenna
– Yellow fondant for the eyes
– Black fondant for the nose
– Edible glue** (recipe below)
– Cocktail sticks
– A non-stick mat such as a silpat or a cutting board covered in cling film
– Tylo powder* – optional (see note below)
– A picture (or a copy of the book) of the Very Hungry Caterpillar to refer to

Instructions:

1.  Take a small chunk (about the size of a small grape) of one of the green fondants, roll it into a ball and set aside.  Next tear off some small pieces (about the size of a pea, or slightly larger) from 2 – 3 of your other green fondants. *You can knead a little bit of tylo powder into your fondant to help it harden – this will help reduce the overall drying time, which can take 2+ weeks.

2.   Take the small pea sized pieces and stick them randomly around the outside of your larger green fondant ball.  

3.  Roll the ball in the palm of your hands a couple times so all of the shades of green are stuck to themselves. Then start to pinch the ball carefully, pulling and twisting out with your fingers before pushing the pulled part of the fondant back onto the ball.  Do this once or twice, and then continue roll the ball so the colours blend slightly to create a marbled effect.

A very hungry caterpillar cake topper

Follow the example above with the exception of the last picture which has been rolled out flat so I could use it for the pear cupcake topper. 

4.  Refer to your picture of the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and form the marbled ball of fondant into a similar shape to the end tail piece of the caterpillar.  Set aside on a non-stick mat.

5.  Take another chunk (just slightly larger than the previous one) from one of your green fondants, and repeat the process from step 3.  Gently squeeze the sides of the marbled fondant ball between your thumb and index finger and shape so that it’s slightly flat on each side.  Brush a small amount of edible glue on the right edge of the first fondant piece you formed, and stick it to the second piece you’ve made so the two pieces are stuck together.  This will start to form the tail end of the caterpillar.  Lay the fondant pieces that you’ve stuck to dry on your non-stick mat, and pat down the tops lightly so they’re just slightly flat.

A very hungry caterpillar cake topper

6.  Continue repeating the process from step 5 with slightly larger pieces of fondant each time.  Vary the shape of each piece slightly before attaching it to the previous piece.  Use the picture / book as a guide, making sure to follow the shape of the caterpillar body as well.  Take two cocktail sticks and push them about an inch into the fondant, leaving at least 2 inches sticking out. This is how your caterpillar will stick in your cake. 

7.  To make the head take a piece of red fondant and roll it into a ball.  Flatten the ball slightly so it’s the same width as caterpillar body pieces.  Cut the left 1/3 off of the flattened circle, and round the edges with your fingers making sure to leave a flat side to attach the body to it.  Brush the flat side of the head with edible glue and attach it to the green body.  

8.  Poke two holes in the top of the caterpillar’s head (make sure they’re not too big!).  

9.  Take a two small pieces of purple fondant and roll them so they’re about an inch long, leaving one end pointer than the other.  Set aside to dry.

10.  Make the eyes by taking very small pieces of yellow fondant, roll them into tiny balls and flatten them.  Brush the backs with edible glue and stick them onto the red caterpillar head.  Next take 3 tiny pieces of green fondant, roll them into tiny balls and flatten them.  Brush with edible glue, and place two of the pieces on top of the yellow eyes you just made, and the other one as the caterpillars nose.

A very hungry caterpillar cake topper

11.  Leave the completed caterpillar and loose antenna to dry for at least two weeks (the longer the better).  The fondant needs to be completely dry to ensure that it will not bend and buckle when placed standing up on the cake.

12.  Once the antenna are dry, brush the pointy tips with edible glue and place them into the holes you poked in the caterpillars head.  *Save this until you are just about to place the caterpillar on the cake to prevent the antenna from snapping off.

Edible Glue Recipe

Ingredients:

1/4 tsp Tylo Powder
1 – 2 Tbsp Water

Method:  

1.  Pour the water into a very small plastic container or jar with a lid.  Mix the tylo powder in with the water (I usually place the lid on the container and shake vigorously) and leave in the fridge for a few hours or overnight until the powder is fully dissolved.  

A very hungry caterpillar birthday party

Make sure to transport your caterpillar very carefully if you’re not serving your cake at home. Place it on the cake just before putting it on display.  I recommend placing the cake in it’s final spot on the table before finally putting the caterpillar topper on the cake, and then attaching the antenna.

Hopefully I explained everything clearly, but feel free to leave a comment underneath if you need clarification on anything.  

A Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party

 A very hungry caterpillar dessert table

When you’re a kid the day of your birthday party is pretty much the most important day of the year (ok, maybe aside from Christmas, and Halloween).  There’s always such a build up of anticipation leading up to the big day.   What presents will you get?  What will your birthday cake look like?  And worst of all, what if you’re friends forget to come?

My favourite thing to do in the days leading up to my birthday party was going to the cake decorating store with my mom to pick out a Wilton character cake pan.  There were dozens of pans to choose from, and they lined the walls of the shop.  I’d stare at the walls for ages choosing my pan, carefully studying the designs over and over.  I’d choose a different pan each year, and over the course of my childhood I had cakes that ranged from disney characters, to dinosaurs, to a big orange Garfield.  
 
The pans would come with a full sized colour decorating guide that my mom would carefully follow, ensuring that the final cake looked equally as perfect as the one in the guide.  When it came time to make the icing I’d sit in the kitchen while she’d whip up a big batch of buttercream.  Mom would hand me a beater to lick while she divided the icing into tupperware bowls so she could mix up all of the individual colours that were required for the cake. 
 
The decorating technique for these cakes was simple but effective, and consisted of piping hundreds of little stars in various colours all over the cake.  Thinking about it now, this technique is actually quite similar to following a cross stitch pattern. Nothing could beat the taste of those birthday cakes, with their crusted buttercream icing and a scoop of ice cream on the side.
 
Even after all the years that have past since my childhood birthday parties a level of excitement still remains whenever a birthday cake is brought out and presented to everyone at a party – no matter what their age.    

A very hungry caterpillar cake

And it’s that level of excitement that I love to re-create when I decorate cakes for other people – especially my little boy.  He turned two this year, and although he’s not quite old enough to choose the design for his cake, I was pretty sure a Very Hungry Caterpillar cake would make him a very happy boy indeed.  And a Very Hungry Caterpillar themed dessert table would make me even happier!  Instead of only featuring a variety of shades of green, I also opted for a rainbow theme to tie all my desserts  together.  

A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
The decorations were just as fun to put together as the desserts were.  I made good use of my elementary school craft skills by making an ombre green tissue paper “2”, and accordion fan circles which I turned into a Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I also made some little menu cards to label all of the yummy desserts which included:

– Rainbow Birthday Cake with a Very Hungry Caterpillar on top
– Chocolate Cupcakes with matching fruit and leaves from the book
– Vanilla Cupcakes
– Rainbow Jello
– “Caterpillar Food” aka mixed fruit candy
– Lemonade 

A very hungry caterpillar birthday party

One of my favourite little details were something I didn’t even make!  The folks over at DotComGiftShop were nice enough to send me some red and white paper straws, and some adorable little vintage style 1/2 pint milk bottles to display my drinks in.  The bottles were the perfect size for little hands to hold.

In the coming days I’ll be posting the recipes and tutorials for some of the desserts I made, but for now I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of the party. Enjoy! 

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 cake dessert table
A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
 A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
A very hungry caterpillar dessert table
 A very hungry caterpillar dessert table
A very hungry caterpillar dessert table
That’s the end of the party.  Time to clean up!
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Lemon Raspberry White Chocolate Muffins

I’ve got a bit of an obsession with cookbooks.  One that’s been ingrained in me since I was little.  You see, my mum is also a cookbook-olholic so it’s in my blood.  She’s got shelves and shelves of them, but the ones I remember the most were the ones from the spiral bound Companies Coming series.  Company’s Coming was a hugely popular Canadian recipe book series in the 1980’s and 1990’s comprising of nearly 90 books in the original series (over 200 books in total).  Each book was spiral bound and came in a different colour.  I distinctly remember organising them on the shelf by colour, always having a soft spot for the pretty pastel covers without really caring about the recipes inside. 


The Company’s Coming books were so successful that they spawned a chain of cafes under the same name selling coffee, cinnamon buns and muffins among other things.  We had a Company’s Coming cafe in our local mall which has long since closed down, but I still think about their delicious raspberry muffin mini loafs that were accompanied with a big dollop of cream cheese frosting on the side.

I set out to try and re-create the raspberry muffin mini loafs that I’d so longed for, but after considering other potential flavour combinations I decided not to try and replicate them.  Instead I took inspiration from the raspberry mini loafs and made up my own muffins using some of my favourite flavour combinations which worked really well together.  


I combined fresh lemon juice and zest with raspberries and white chocolate chips for a utterly delicious little muffin loaf.  These turned out great, and really helped to fill the void left by the demise of the Company’s Coming mini loafs. 

Of course these can also be made using regular paper muffin cases, but they won’t be nearly as cute as these pretty patterned mini loaf cases that I received from DotComGiftShop.  I’ve just noticed the pink ones aren’t available anymore, but they’ve got plenty of other designs and sizes to choose from. The lovely folks over at DotComGiftShop also sent me some of their patterned paper tape that’s so popular right now.  I attached the tape to the ends of some cocktail sticks to make some cute little flags.  


As you can see DotComGiftShop also sent me some slightly larger loaf cases which I used for a second batch of muffin / loafs.  I’ll explain more about this second batch in another post a bit later.  I’ll give you a hint though – the recipe comes from a new cookbook that I recently added to my ever growing collection.  I just couldn’t help myself!


Lemon Raspberry White Chocolate Chip Muffins 

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup (125ml) Lemon Yogurt  
3 Tbsp (45ml) Vegetable Oil  
Tbsp (30ml) Lemon Juice  
1 Egg   
1 tsp (5ml) Lemon Extract   
1 1/2 Cups (188g) Flour (plain)
3/4 Cup (170g) White Sugar  
2 tsp Baking Powder  
1/4 tsp Salt  
1 Tbsp Grated Lemon Zest  
1 Cup Frozen Raspberries  
1/3 Cup White Chocolate Chips
Tbsp Coarse Sanding Sugar for decoration (I used India Tree brand)

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Arrange loaf cases on baking tray, or grease or line a 12 cup muffin pan. 

2.  In a large bowl, mix together the yogurt, oil, lemon juice, egg, and lemon extract. Set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, and mix until just combined. 

4. Gently stir in the frozen raspberries and white chocolate chips. Fill the prepared muffin cups so they’re about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle the sanding sugar over the tops for decoration. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Let cool before serving.


Check back soon to read about my second batch of muffin loafs!

White Chocolate Speculoos Rice Krispy Treats

 
A few days ago I found my self home alone.  Childless.  Husbandless.  All by my self.  And with no one to disturb me I decided to make the most of my time along by relaxing in a luxurious hour long bubble bath.  OK, OK I’m totally lying.  I did no such thing.  I actually found myself cleaning out the fridge and cupboards.  Not nearly as relaxing huh?  I was going through my cupboards when I came across a jar of leftover Speculoos from the Speculoos Swiss Roll I made a couple of months ago.  I also found a few half used boxes of cereal and some white chocolate(ish) bars by Silver Spoon which are very similar to candy melts but with a better consistency.  And since I’m trying to use up the contents of my cupboard at the moment, I figured what better way to do so than by combining everything to create some white chocolate Speculoos rice crispy treats.  
 
I guess you could say these are my take on the traditional “crispy cakes” that are so popular here in the UK.  Crispy cakes are basically just a mixture of cereal (usually cornflakes or rice krispies) along with melted chocolate, and sometimes marshmallows and/or raisins.  They’re virtually effortless, but oh so delicious. Essentially they’re idiot proof.  And they were probably one of my favourite homemade things that my co-workers would bring into the office to share with everyone. 
 
I’ll admit right now that I’ve never made crispy cakes before.  I don’t know why, but probably because they were just too simple – I’m aways trying to come up with new and exciting desserts, or attempting to re-create ones that I’ve found online or in recipe books.  

 
These are probably the simplest things I’ve ever made – aside from Jello.  Three ingredients. That’s it.  White chocolate flavoured cake covering (or candy melts), Speculoos (Biscoff Spread) and Rice Krispies.  Really, that’s it!
 
 
White Chocolate Speculoos Rice Krispy Treats
 
Ingredients: 
 
300g White Chocolate Cake Covering or Candy Melts
3/4 Cup Speculoos (Biscoff) Spread
4 Cups (120g) Rice Krispies cereal
 
Instructions:
 
1.  In a heat proof bowl or measuring cup, melt the white chocolate cake covering over a double boiler.
 
2.  Add in the Speculoos spread, and stir until fully incorporated with the melted white chocolate.
 
3.  Add the rice krispies and stir until they are fully mixed in with the speculoos white chocolate mixture.  Immediately spoon into small muffin cups, or spread in a flat layer over some foil or a silicone mat.  Allow to set for 10 minutes before serving.
 
I made a combination of the traditional “crispy cakes” in little cupcake cases, as well as some “bark” style treats.  After the flat bark style treats had set I just broke them into large pieces, but you could use cookie cutters to make fun shaped treats as well.