Christmas Jumper Gingerbread Men Biscuits

Christmas with a three year old is very different to a Christmas with a baby and we’re only eight days into December. Yes Christmas with a baby is cute with them in awe of the twinkly lights and being content with a piece of paper as entertainment, but once they hit three they begin to understand traditions and events.

  • They get excited about impending events even if their concept of time is skewed – 1st December “Is it Christmas tomorrow?”
  • In time honoured tradition they don an old cot sheet and tea towel to play the part of an innkeeper in the pre-school nativity.
  • On the talk of pre-school nativity, as a parent you’re thrust in to a whole new world of pre-school parent etiquette and witness scenes, not to dissimilar from Motherland, unfurl in front of your eyes. Yes there were parents queuing an hour at the nativity to get front row seats then commando crawling down the aisle to get the best pics of their little darlings.
  • Gro-clocks suddenly lose their power. 5:45 – “Muuummmmmmmmyyyyyy, it’s 123 Santa [advent calendar] time.
  • They like to enthusiastically dance to Wombling Christmas… lots. Even better when it involves wearing a twirly Christmas dress and sparkly shoes.
  • It’s a bit of a whirlwind but great fun too and I’m very conscious that she won’t be as excited in a few years time.

Ever since we made firework biscuits for bonfire night LB has wanted to decorate more biscuits. That’s when the idea of decorating gingerbread men so they could don Christmas jumpers came about. If you wanted a neater finish put the icing in a piping bag, but keen 3 year olds don’t have time for that.

The biscuit is based on a fabulous recipe by The Pink Whisk that doesn’t require any chilling and doesn’t spread while baking. They produce a biscuit with a pleasing snap.

Christmas Jumper Gingerbread Men

Makes around 24 gingerbread men

  • 220 g butter (softened)
  • 200 g soft dark sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 425 g plain flour
  • 100 g icing sugar (you may need more depending on how enthusiastic/heavy handed/messy your child it)
  • food colouring
  • festive sprinkles
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then beat in the egg.
  2. Stir in the ground ginger and flour until you have a soft dough. At first the dough may seem dry but keep stirring and it comes together. Gently knead the dough until it is soft. it has a texture similar to Playdoh.
  3. Roll out the dough until it is about 4 mm thick and cut out your gingerbread men and place on a lined baking tray. using a piping nozzle to make the eyes and smile on the gingerbread men.
  4. Bake at 180°c for 8-10 min until they are just beginning to brown on the edges. Allow to cool on the baking tray for a few minutes before allowing to cool on a wire rack.
  5. While the biscuits are cooling making your water icing. Place the icing sugar in bowl and add boiling water a tbsp at a time until you have icing the consistency of smooth double cream. Split between three bowls. Colour one red and the other green.
  6. Drizzle the icing over the biscuits giving the gingerbread men a rather snazzy jumper. Embellish with sprinkles. Lick the icing spoons when your mum isn’t looking.

Note: this dough freezes really well. In fact it’s better to freeze it than store it in the fridge. Freeze either as a block of dough or as raw pre cut biscuits. Cut biscuits then open freeze before putting inside a freezer bag. Bake from frozen. Voila, tasty biscuits on demand.

Forest School Campfire Cupcakes

Forest School Campfire Cupcakes flatlay

Time speeds by when you’re a parent. Ok those first few weeks with a newborn seem to be the longest days ever, but I think that’s mostly due to the fact you’re awake more than asleep; caring for a little one who thinks sleep is for the weak and feeding every 2 hours for 45 minutes.

Woodland Beasties campfire

LB is now three and what I didn’t appreciate until I was a parent was how those little stages whizz by in a blink of an eye. Just as you get used to a new rhythm something new comes along to change everything. Since LB was 6 weeks old we’ve always done something outdoors be it buggy running when she would happily be contained in a buggy or more recently – a Forest School Playgroup.

Forest School is an educational philosophy about getting outdoors no matter the weather and learning hands-on in nature. Very different to soft play (note: hats off to any parent that braves soft play, those places scare me!).  The amazing Woodland Beasties is based at Heart of the Country Shopping Village by Swinfen, Lichfield and for the last year has been our regular haunt. Bonus is that there is a lovely little fairy door trail in the woods there too.

Woodland Beasties Forest School Playgroup

Some of the best days at Woodland Beasties were in the depths of winter, when the temperature hovered above zero. There was a handful of children and we played, drunk hot chocolate, made popcorn and toasted marshmallow while wrapped up in lots of layers to keep warm.

A few weeks ago was the end of our weekly trips down the A38 to Woodland Beasties as now LB is in pre-school we can no longer fit it in. As a way of saying thank you I made the fabulous ladies who run it a batch of cupcakes. I decided they had to be cupcakes topped with a campfire and the obligatory toasted marshmallow.

This recipe uses the all-in-one method and ideally you need to use an electric mixer. You can make them by hand, it just requires a great deal more elbow grease.

Forest School Campfire Cupcakes

Makes 6 cupcakes

Note: I always cook cupcakes in foil cake liners. They bake better and you don’t get the greasy marks on the covers like you do with traditional paper ones. You can buy them in all good cake decorating shops or ebay. 

For the cakes:

  • 2 eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp milk

For the buttercream:

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Yellow and orange food colour gel

For the decoration:

  • Quality Street Matchsticks or pretzel, Flakes, Mikado/Pocky sticks, broken into 3cm long pieces
  • Edible gold lustre (optional)
  • Piping bag with 1M tip
  • mini marshmallows, toasted briefly in a gas/candle flame
  • cocktail stick


  1. First make the cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 150°c. Line your cupcake tray with 6 cupcake liners.
  2. Put all the cake ingredients in your food mixer bowl. Start slowly beating the mixture together then once it’s combined (and less likely to shoot out of the bowl!) turn the speed up to medium/high. Keep beating for 5 minutes. You’ll notice how the cake mixture becomes light and fluffy.
  3. Share the mixture between the six cupcake liners. Don’t overfill the liners more than 2/3 full or you’ll end up with highly domed cupcakes. If you end up baking 8 cakes, you make 8 – think of it as a chef perk. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a cocktail stick comes out clean. Once baked remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  4. While the cakes are cooling make the buttercream. Just like the cakes you want to use electric mixer. Put all your ingredients in a deep bowl then beat for 4-5 minutes until the buttercream has increased in volume and it light and fluffy.
  5. Split the buttercream between two bowls. Colour one yellow and one orange. Spoon the buttercream a tbsp at a time, alternating the colours, into a piping bag prepared with the piping tip.
  6. Pipe a small blob of buttercream on to the cakes then place a couple of the Matchsticks on top of the buttercream to secure them. Then pipe smaller stars of buttercream on top to be the flames of the bonfire. Lean some of the Matchsticks against it as sticks.
  7. Put one of your mini toasted marshmallows on a cocktail stick then place this on top of the fire. Sprinkle with edible gold lustre.


Pride and Pudding – Bakewell Pudding


Pride & Pudding

Any regular Butcher Baker Baby reader will know I love a good cookbook and a bit of food history. I’m one of those people who reads cookbooks for fun. Forget fiction, give me a bit of non-fiction of the food & drink genre and I’m lost for hours.

I try to have a one in, one out rule when it comes to cookbooks but I’m not great at sticking to that rule. My work colleagues kindly treated me to a copy of Pride and Pudding by Regula Ysewijn for my birthday, a book that has been on my wanted list for a while.

For starters I love the cover. Quite different from other food books, then once you open the pages you find that this book isn’t just a cookbook; It’s part recipes, part food history. Ticks all the boxes for me.

When you think of pudding you probably think of a sweet dish that is served after a main course but this book looks at all things pudding. Steam puddings, savoury pudding and even white pudding.

I did a Historic Ices course with food historian Ivan Day a few years ago and recognise some of the recipes and photo props featured in the book from the course. If you watched the recent The Sweet Makers you’ll recognise some of the recipe from there too.

Flicking through the book and the recipe that caught my eye was Bakewell Pudding. As someone who lives a stone throw from the Peak District I’ve always had an interest in the local delicacy, very different from the Mr Kipling Cherry Bakewell. I’ve bought Bakewell Puddings from the two shops who claim to be the birthplace of the famed pastry but never baked it as a recipe as been elusive.

Some of the ingredients used in the book are a bit obscure or not the easiest to find, though what do you expect from historical recipes? I was unable to source apricot kernels for the Bakewell Pudding so, on advice of Regula, I subbed for blanched almonds and a touch of almond essence.

Bakewell Pudding side view

I thoroughly enjoyed making the tart with LB and the rough puff pastry (cheekily made in a food processor) was perfect. What differentiates this pudding from the puddings you buy in Bakewell is the addition of candied peel on the bottom of the tart. This peel works well and I think the subtle rosewater (could this be the alleged secret ingredient often talked about?) rounds the flavours off nicely. It turned out not to be as greasy as the versions I’ve bought and dare I say it, tastier.

The pastry recipe in the book makes double the amount you need so guess what I’m baking again next week?

You can find the recipe for Bakewell Pudding on Regula’s blog – Miss Foodwise.



The demise of Children’s Food Trust and why children need to learn how to cook

peppermint rainbow

The news came through Thursday morning about the sad demise of Children’s Food Trust; an incredibly important charity that started out as a government quango supporting schools to teach cookery, then in 2010 turned into charity status and started to get all children eating well. A cut in funding means the charity is no more.

Funding cuts

kid kneading bread

I’ve worked in the food education sector for nearly 9 years. The majority of that time teaching cookery in schools in the form of one-off workshops and after-school clubs. Unfortunately, it was these cuts, so prevalent in many sectors, that saw me lose my funding a couple of years ago meaning my work in the public sector was no longer viable. This meant I was not surprised when I read the sad news. I used Children’s Food Trust funding to offer cookery classes free to kids from disadvantaged/vulnerable backgrounds.

knife skills with pizza making

You could argue that we shouldn’t need charities to teach kids to cook, but we do. There is a huge concern about kids and their ever-expanding waistlines. Parents told me they couldn’t cook and didn’t know how or want to teach it. I also remember when I started my after-school classes some parents complained and couldn’t understand why I was teaching their child to make bread when you could buy a loaf for 50p. A surprising amount of my pupils had never even eaten rice before or recognised what I believed to be common fruit or veg. This is why we need to make sure that no child misses out on decent food education.

Kids cookery is more than baking

kids bread making class

When I taught cookery to kids I always made sure we did a broad range of recipes making sure I introduced new flavours, ingredients, methods, cuisines and not relying on often not-so-healthy baking like so many kids cookery classes do. Yes, baking is nearly always a winner with kids (& adults) but offer them a rainbow of choice and they may surprise you. I remember one of my pupils leaving at the end of Y6 telling me her favourite recipe that she’d made in all the years I taught her was a Thai noodle salad and that she still made it at home. Before that lesson, she’d never eaten Thai food.

During London 2012 we tried dishes from each continent of the world and even made Olympic flame cakes. My favourite term as when we did Roald Dahl inspired recipes. wormy spaghetti, peach milkshake.


Cooking isn’t just learning about how to cook it teaches so many things: Nutrition, geography, cultural awareness, motor skills, literacy, maths, science, creativity, cause & effect… the list goes on. What a child eats in the early years sets a huge president to future health. Think of it as investing in the future.

calzone making

In all the years of teaching my best pupils were often boys, branded trouble makers with poor academic levels and often from disadvantaged backgrounds. Some had been on the cusp of being excluded yet put them in front of a bowl of raw ingredients and their destructive energy is now transformed into making the perfect bread dough or expertly sliced tomatoes.

saturn bread

Good food can be cheap, but when you’re time-pressed and don’t have the skills or inclination to cook not-so-good food is even cheaper. This is why I strongly believe that if children are introduced to different foods and cookery from an early age it can have a profound impact later on.

Kids in the kitchen

grating orange safely

LB has always been there with me in the kitchen. Partially so I can keep my eye on her while I sort dinner. Kids are like sponges and you’ll be shocked as to what they pick up just by watching. It doesn’t have to be them helping with every single stage, but exploring ingredients so they understand them but also using basic knife skills to help chop easy foods like mushrooms.

This isn’t a political piece, just me mourning the loss of such an important charity that leaves a huge hole in food education that impacts on every child’s future.

Courgette, Lime and Pistachio Cakes

pistachio courgette and lime cupcakes

Yes you’re reading this right. I’ve written a recipe for the blog. I know, it’s been a long time coming.

I attended a food photography workshop with award-winning Joan Ransley back in may that has helped me get my confidence back with photography. I’m still learning to get used to my new digital SLR.

As someone who has been writing a food blog for over 10 years I’ve seen huge changes in blogging and food photography. I’ll put my hands up, especially since LB arrived three years ago, I have really struggled to keep up. Back in 2007 (I’m sounding old now) social media was in its infancy. No Twitter or Instagram and it hadn’t been long since you could only sign up to Facebook with a uni/academic email account. Even iPhones hadn’t been released until late 2007. There were around 100 food blogs in the UK and photography for them didn’t involve styling it was just plonk it on the plate, point, shoot and hope for the best.

Courgette pistachio lime cakes

Courgettes aren’t the most favoured of vegetables in this house, in fact LB positively shuns them at the moment. In a way though I don’t blame her. I find them a bit bland unless they’re pepped up with a load of chilli. Courgettes work well in cakes too. You can’t taste them but they help keep a cake moist.

Courgette, Lime and Pistachio Cakes

Makes 8 cupcake sized cakes

  • 70ml rapeseed oil
  • 1 egg
  • 100g muscovado sugar
  • 1 small courgette
  • 50g currants
  • 35g shelled pistachios
  • 45g self raising flour
  • 45g self raising wholemeal flour
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • lime zest
  • 60g icing sugar
  • juice of one lime
  1. Mix together the oil, egg, sugar, grated courgette and currants.
  2. Stir in the pistachios then fold in the flours, bicarb, mixed spice and lime zest.
  3. Spoon the mixture into to cake cases about 2/3 full. The mixture can be quite sloppy and sometimes it’s easier to decant it into a jug and pour it in. Don’t let the sloppy mixture put you off!
  4. Bake at 150°c for 25-30 minutes until cakes have risen and spring to the touch.
  5. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Mix together the icing sugar and lime juice then drizzle over the cooled cakes.