Monthly Archives: November 2010

Percy Pig Cakes

Sometimes I have these mad ideas. Why not take something that I love and transform it in to cake form. If you didn’t know, Percy Pigs are fabulous jelly sweets available from Marks & Spencer. The biggest fan I know of Percy Pigs is Cam. Don’t come between him and his beloved Percy Pigs. I’m sure I’m not the only one to spot they have subtly changed the taste of these recently. They used to be raspberry flavoured, but now also have the addition of grape. While playing around with flavour combinations for the cakes I found out that raspberry liqueur topped up with grape juice makes a cocktail that tastes unsurprisingly like Percy Pigs. Ironically Percy Pigs do contain pigs in the form of gelatin so not veggie friendly in the slightest. Don’t waste money on Percy Pig imposters, sorry Eric the Elephant, nothing is the same as these glorious porcine confectionary.

Now I confess, I don’t really like cupcakes or those styled cakes as I often find them too sweet. While I enjoy making and styling them I don’t particularly enjoy eating them. I’d much rather a slice of banana bread or carrot cake. Now if only I could make these type of cakes prettier and more presentable. I made a batch of these experimental cakes a few weeks back and while I wasn’t totally happy with the icing I made, they still went down well. Take it from me, don’t try to put grape juice in the buttercream. It still tastes fine, but gives a slightly odd texture to the icing. Stick to grape flavouring (if you can find it)

Percy Pig Cakes
makes 12 fairycake sized cakes

100g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

100g butter

2 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp raspberry extract/powder (raspberry liqueur will also work) or 1/2 tsp grape extract.

Packet of Percy Pigs

Buttercream icing

90g unsalted butter

180g icing sugar

Raspberry extract (again raspberry liqueur will also work)

1) Preheat oven to 180°c and line a bun tin with fairy cake liners.

2) In a bowl beat together the butter and caster sugar until it is light and fluffy then one at a time stir in the eggs. Don’t worry if it begins to look curdled. Mix in the vanilla & raspberry extract.

3) Carefully fold in the flour.

4) Fill each liner 2/3 with cake mix.

5) Bake for 15-20 min until risen and golden. Allow to cool before icing.

6) In a bowl beat together the butter, icing sugar and raspberry extract until light and fluffy. Pipe icing onto cakes.

7) Place a Percy Pig on top of each cake.

Midlands festive food & gift events

Many thanks to Claire from for letting me use this image.

November and December is a great time in the Midlands for food and craft fairs. Perfect for discovering new producers and picking up some gifts along the way. As a few people have asked me about what happening locally in the next few months I thought I would dedicate a blog post to it. If you know of any events I’ve missed please let me know.


Thursday 18th November – Thursday 23rd DecemberBirmingham Christmas Craft Fair & Frankfurt Christmas Market 10am – 9pm. Around Victoria Square and New Street along with Chamberlain and Centenary Squares. It is now the largest outdoor Christmas Market in the UK. 

Friday 19th November – Sunday 21st November Chatsworth Christmas Market 10am – 5pm. Stalls are located on Lodge Hill, leading up to the Stables, and admission is free.

Saturday 20th November – Sunday 21st November Fabulous Places Christmas Market 10am – 4pm. Round House, Pride Park, Derby. £1 entry, free for under 16’s and Derbyshire Card holders. I went to this last year and can highly recommend it.

Saturday 20th NovemberFood Gusto Christmas Fair 9.30am – 4pm. Packington Memorial Hall. LE65 1WH

Saturday 20th November – Northfield Farm Christmas Fair 9am – 4pm. Oakham LE15 7QF

Wednesday 24th November – Sunday 28th NovemberBBC Good Food Show 9am – 6pm. NEC Birmingham. Keep and eye out for the wonderful Gower Cottage Brownies and Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies there.

Thursday 25th November Christmas House Party 9.30am – 5pm. Rudd Moncrieff, Nr. Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 3AZ. Festive food workshops, Inspiring floral demonstrations, Stylish Gift Wrapping,and Christmas shopping

Friday 26th November – Tutbury Festival of Christmas begins at 5.30pm

Saturday 27th November – Art Market 9am – 5pm. Market Square, Burton on Trent. Featuring local artists and foundation degree students.

Saturday 27th November – Sunday 28th NovemberChristmas Craft Fair 11am – 3pm. Kedleston Hall, nr Derby. Enterance £1. Free bus service from Derby bus station every hour leaving at 10:30,11:30,12:30 & 13:30. Return bus service from Kedleston Hall leaving at 12:00,13:00,14:00,15:00 & 16:00.

Saturday 27th November Rockafellas Christmas Fair 11am – 3pm. Rockafellas, St Nicholas Place, Leicester LE1 4LD

Saturday 27th November Artists and Makers Christmas Craft Fair 10am – 4pm Melbourne Leisure Centre, DE73 8GF

Saturday 27th November SoURCE Christmas Fair 10am – 4pm Moseley Exchange, Birmingham B13 8JP

Sunday 28th November Seasonal Sundays Entertainment from 12 noon. Ferrers Centre, nr Ashby de la Zouch LE65 1RU

Saturday 4th December Christmas Craft Fayre 11am – 4pm. Rosliston Forestry Centre. Free entrance. There is a superb garden centre opposite. It’s small, but full of the most beautiful plants and the staff are very knowledgeable.

Saturday 4th December – Saturday 5th December Christmas Market 10am – 5pm (last admittion 4.30 pm). Sudbury Hall. No additional charges. 

Saturday 4th December – Saturday 5th December Christmas Food Fair 9.30am – 4.30pm. Baslow Village Hall, DE45 12P

Friday 10th December – Saturday 11th December Festive Gift Fair 11am – 6pm. QUAD, Derby.

Saturday 11th December – Sunday 12th December Christmas Craft & Gift Show 11am – 6pm. Calke Abbey. Free event (normal admission charges for Calke Abbey apply)

Sunday12th December Seasonal Sundays Entertainment from 12 noon. Ferrers Centre, nr Ashby de la Zouch LE65 1RU

Sunday 19th DecemberChristmas Fine Food Fair 11am – 6pm. Free event (normal admission charges for Calke Abbey apply) I’m waiting to hear back from the National Trust to check this event is still going ahead because it has disappeared from the website.

Sunday 19th December Seasonal Sundays Entertainment from 12 noon. Ferrers Centre, nr Ashby de la Zouch LE65 1RU

As far as I’m aware all these events are running. Please confirm with venue before visiting.

Stirring up for Sunday – Whisky Pudding

The tradition to begin Christmas food preparation, inparticular the Christmas Pudding, begins on Stir up Sunday which is the last Sunday before advent. This year falls it falls on 21st November. The term Stir-up Sunday comes from the first verse of the collect for the day and has been adopted by the Anglican church.

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Usually I follow this tradition, but this year due to a hectic diary I made my Christmas Pudding a week early. Of all the traditional festive foods the Christmas Pudding is my favourite, it easily wins over Christmas Cake. Even after being full of a traditional Christmas dinner I can always make way for pudding. I can still remember as  child my dad walking in to the dining room with the pudding all alight.

Many people have traditions when making their puddings from stirring from east to west to represent the 3 kings, having a wish when stirring it and placing a silver coin in the pudding mix. In my case the traditions seem to be how much alcohol I can get in the pudding along with praying it will come out of the mould.

One of the main reasons I make my own pudding (and mincemeat for that matter) is that I’m quite a fussy being when it comes to festive fayre. I’m not a big fan of suet being used it in sweet dishes but use grated butter which works just as well. If it says there is alcohol in it I want to be able to taste it and it must be jam packed with fruit. I also like to experiment with flavours and making these foods heralds the beginning of the festive season for me.

Thanks to my lack of Whisky knowledge, sorry Hubs, this may be one of the most expensive Christmas puddings I’ve ever made. Previous years the fruit has been soaked in Guinness. This year I wanted to use whisky as I though Hubs had quite a collection and we could do with using some of it. I picked up the closest bottle to hand, sloshed a generous amount over the fruit then decided to read the bottle. I had only gone and picked up some of Hubs’ expensive whisky and used £15 of it in the pudding. I then had a sip of it and had used a peaty whisky. I will admit this does dominate the flavour of the pudding, but by the time it is served in December the intensity of the whisky should hopefully mellow a bit and the spices become more dominant. If you didn’t want to be so extravagant with the alcohol replace some or all with orange juice.

Since making my own Christmas pudding I’ve always wanted to try a spherical mould for curoisity and nostalgic reasons. Bizarrely it looks a bit like a cyberman. I now know from experience why these moulds have gone out of fashion. Eventhough I had buttered the mould I had a few tense moments getting the pudding out of the mould and did wonder if we were going to get two crumbled hemispheres. Due to the pudding being a sphere we also had a few hairy moments when the newly released pudding started to roll on the worktop, cue flashbacks of On Top of Spaghetti.  This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t use the mould again. It would work really well for other steamed pudding along with desserts like icecream bombe. The coking instruction below are for making it in a pudding basin rather than a mould.

Mrs Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses — to take the pudding up and bring it in… Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered — flushed, but smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.” Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol

Whisky Christmas Pudding
makes 1x 2lb pudding

500g luxury mixed fruit
100g dates, chopped
250ml whisky
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1 medium bramley apple, peeled and grated
100g cold butter, grated, plus extra for the basin
100g dark muscovado sugar, plus 2 tbsp
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
50g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
2 eggs , beaten

1) In a large bowl soak the mixed fruit, dates, orange & lemon zest and apple in the whisky for 24-48 hours.

2) Butter a 2lb pudding bowl then lightly coat the butter in 2tbsp of muscovado sugar by slowly tipping and turning the bowl.

3) Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit that has been soaking. Stir until well combined. Spoon into the basin and level.

4) Take a sheet or foil and greaseproof and make a pleat in the middle (this allows for the expanding pudding). Place over the top of the pudding bowl, greasproof paper side down, and fix in place with string.

5) Sit the pudding bowl on top of an upturned heatproof saucer inside a saucepan. Pour boiling water half the way up the pudding. Cover and steam for 6 hours. Top water up as required.

6. Once the pudding is cooked cover with fresh greasproof paper and foil. Store in a cool dry place. To reheat either cook in the microwave (minus the foil), on medium, for 10 or steam for a further hour.

Introducing my Little Helpers.

Although I teach children how to cook as a day job I don’t have children of my own so while at a family party to celebrate Guy Fawkes night I recruited two little helpers in the form of Cam and Immy to help me road test some Silver Spoon products including black food colouring (used on my Black Velvet Beetle Cakes), writing icing, chocolate letters, coloured coco beans and sugar strands.

Let me introduce my two new helpers:

Cam (aged 6) loves: Percy Pigs, hates: lamb

Immy (aged 10) loves: swimming, hates: onions

I made the chocolate fairy cakes and basic buttercream before hand then the Little Helpers had free rein to try the different ingredients and decorate them how they liked. As that night was the family bonfire party from early on Cam decided he wanted his cakes to look like bonfires, of which he did a superb job and Immy’s were inspired by fireworks. Cam was very much drawn to the edible glitters (from Cake Decor) in my cake decorating box and christened them Cake Makeup. One thing I did realise when processing these photos is that my camera hates taking photos of items with edible glitter on them, it just doesn’t know where to focus and leaves the pictures blurred. Apologies to Immy & Cam as these are the best pictures I got.

Cam’s verdict:

I really liked the chocolate letters they were tasty, but I couldn’t spell all my words because lots of letters were broken. The coloured coco beans were my favourite.

Unfortunately lots of the chocolate letters were broken when they arrived with me or the letters broke when being taken out of the packet. I think the packaging could really be improved to stop breakages. There also seemed to be a distinct lack of common letters and soon ran out of useable letters.

Immy’s verdict:

The writing icing is really hard to use and Jules had to help us. When the icing did come out of the tube it was difficult to control where it was going and getting it to stick. I liked the coloured coco beans the best, they are like mini smarties!

I have since found tips on how to make the writing icing easier to use.

Along with cake making they carved some pumpkins and made Guys to go on the fire. Family tradition states that I’m in charge of the mulled wine/cider and Hubs chief firework lighter as it satisfies the pyromanic in him. After watching the display we all come back inside for a big family dinner. This year’s dinner was a delicious slow roasted lamb with roasted vegetables accompanied with Beyerskloof Pinotage then followed by a cheeseboard and sticky toffee pudding. Perfect meal for Bonfire Night if you ask me.

Cam & Im are now my official testers for food related to products aimed at children and have said how they would love to try more things. Be warned Cam & Immy give Gregg Wallace & John Torrode a run for their money.

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