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IT’S MY BIRTHDAY… and I got given this beautiful, delicious cake… I LOVE JAM SPONGE CAKE.

31 May

Birthday CakeThis was the birthday cake I got given on Friday 10th May, ready for my birthday and party on Saturday 11th May.  I literally could not believe my eyes.  It was completely and utterly wonderful, not only because of the fabulous decoration and the lovely personalisation but the cake itself tasted delicious, moist, spongy and overall stunning.  I was one VERY happy lady, VERY spoilt lady.  My favourite things, flowers (specifically Gerbera’s) and cake.  EPIC.

The cake may have been a ‘simple sponge cake’ but that was a huge understatement.  Everyone thinks they can make a Victoria sponge cake and they can… it’s easy, but getting a ‘simple sponge’ to be indulgent and worthy of a birthday cake isn’t an easy task. It takes a while to perfect the basic recipe and the baking technique, but once you have got it – as Leanne Camilleri certainly has, you will be away.

Have you ever had a birthday cake from the supermarket… has it felt ‘fluffy’ in your mouth?  I have, and it did.  It also left a strange taste in my mouth and did not leave me wanting more.  Basically, the cake is made from non-fresh ingredients, so keep manufacturing costs low and to increase the profit margin.  So your lovely birthday cake will contain a range of dried milk, pasteurised eggs, syrup and raising agents – which does NOT say HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.

Here is an ingredient list of a standard sponge ‘birthday cake’ from one of the leading retailers…

Sugar , Wheat Flour , Pasteurised Egg , Vegetable Oil , Buttercream (9.6%) [Unsalted Butter, Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Flavouring] , Raspberry Jam (8.4%) [Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Raspberries, Water, Gelling Agent (Pectin), Acidity Regulator (Citric Acid), Flavouring] , Glucose Syrup , Dextrose , Water , Emulsifier (Mono and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids) , Wheat Starch , Raising Agents (Diphosphates, Sodium Carbonates) , Maize Starch , Salt , Stabilisers (Xanthan Gum, Tragacanth) , Preservative (Potassium Sorbate) , Humectant (Glycerol) , Acidity Regulator (Citric Acid) , Colours (Anthocyanins, Carotenes, Titanium Dioxide, Lutein) , Vegetable Concentrates (Algae, Safflower, Beetroot) , Dried Egg White.

My lovely cake from Leanne Camilleri did not contain any of these unnecessary dried/pasteurised ingredients, it was very obviously made from fresh ingredients and this was obvious from the very first bite.  So I am going to provide you with a very lovely, very simple sponge cake recipe so that you to can make all your own sponge cakes from now on.  DO NOT BUY FROM THE SUPERMARKET, it’s easier, tastier and cheaper to make it yourself.

MY BIRTHDAY CAKE (a few images for you here!)

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With candles and complete with all my friends singing away!

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… it’s time to make a wish!

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Time to cut the cake. Believe me I felt very guilty about this!

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The first slice is out…

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… and wow 4 layer! NOW TO EAT.

Leanne Camilleri makes cakes like this as a hobby, so if you would like a cake similar to mine, or maybe something more specific, do let me know and hopefully I can put you in touch with Leanne who can make you one of these wonderful, incredible, tasty, beautiful cakes.  I cannot thank her and my lovely friend for the generous thought enough.  You truly made my birthday.

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SPICING UP MY LIFE with a *pinch* of frugal-ness, a *drop* of creativity and a *spoonful* of patience!

22 Apr

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Recently I have started hoarding spices! As my repertoire has grown over the last year and I have been writing this blog, I have started to acquire a large range of spices. I started to find that buying them in little glass pots (the ones you get in the supermarket) was actually costing me a lot of money and I felt that I was paying more for the glass than I was for the spices. I had a shop around and found a little supermarket in Shoreditch, London where I could get any spice I wanted in a bag for about 89p and I got a lot more spice for my money. There are lots and lots of places that do these bags of spices, so you will definitely be able to get hold of them.

The only issue I had then was that the spice bags were falling over and if this happened after I had snipped the corner off then they would fall over and spill all over my cupboard… cue removing all cupboard items and cleaning. This did not make me happy. I therefore started collecting jars from my friends, house-mates and at work colleagues and within a few weeks I had enough to house my spices. The next issue was that I now could not tell the cinnamon from the five spice from the cumin; without getting all 3 out and having a good sniff. ISSUE. I kept worrying my carrot cakes would be flavoured with cumin and that my curries would be all about cinnamon. So, I decided to get a little bit creative and make tags for my spice jars. Here is what you need:

  • Jars – any size and shape
  • Spices in bags
  • Ribbon
  • Coloured Paper
  • Black pens
  • Hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Time & patience

Now you have everything ready, you can get started and get crafty. So, cut out little tag shapes, rectangular at one end, the other end finishing with a point. Then punch a hole in the end where the point is and write the name of your spice neatly on the tag. Now thread some fine ribbon through the hole and tie around the top of your jar. DONE!

It really is that simple. I think they look great, so I placed them around my garden and photographed them as they just looked so rustic and pretty. Now whenever I go to my cupboard I smile as I made those, but also as I know what spice I am getting!

HAPPY CRAFTY TIME PEOPLE!

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Strange little LOVE happenings… I just have to share with you.

8 Mar

Over the last month I have had a few strange sightings of foods that are shaped like love hearts.  I have been keeping you up-to-date about them on my ‘Food Related Bits and Bobs’ section, but it is getting so strange I thought that I would blog about them properly and also add them to my random section to, as I feel it is important to share these strange sightings.  I would also love to hear from you, if you have had any of the same/similar things happen to you i.e. rude vegetables, food letters, strange food shapes in general, as it is so interesting.

So, here is what has been happening to me.

20130214-091703.jpg9th February 2013

I decided to attend a friends baking club, its actually somewhere in Shoreditch, London where you volunteer your time and skills in return for someone elses skills.  On the 9th February I had been asked to share my baking skills, which I did.  I planned to make some little beetroot muffins (as per my blog) and when I arrived my friend Sarah said to me that she had brought me some cake cases.  To my shock and horror they were love heart shaped.  Now, I am a girly girl but I am not a love heart girl.  Sorry, just no.  It is NOT me.  But, fine for the sake of the other participants I thought it would be nice to go through with it, so I spread some CHOCOLATE BEETROOT MUFFIN LOVE.

20130214-095011.jpg14th February 2013

I blogged about it twice last month, but as we all know it was Valentines day. Great for some, not so much for others. I went shopping in my favourite fruit and vegetable shop in Shoreditch, did my grocery shop and off I went home.  I came to prepare dinner and found this little LOVE SPUD in my shopping.  I decided it was a sign and skipped around the house with a grin on my face for the rest of the evening.  It hasn’t turned out to be a sign at all (grrrrr!!), but this was the second time in a week that a random love heart had popped into my life, so I decided to document it and share it with you all.

photo (5)1st March to 6th March 2013

Since the 14th February I have had a few weird sightings of more love heart shaped vegetables and love signs.  The first came last weekend when I was chopping my chorizo for my homemade, pizza (yes including the base, using wholemeal flour people!).  I chopped the first slice, second, third and looked… are my eyes decieving me?  Am I making love hearts?  Yes!  A chopping board full of CHORIZO LOVE this time.  Feeling a little freaked out, but also kind of excitied (forever the optimist it would seem), I created a pattern of them and photographed them… so here they are!

photo (6)The next was when I was walking around Shoreditch and I looked down at some scribblings on the pavement thinking ‘WOW Banksy has branched out into pavement graffiti and I am standing on it’… mixed with ‘who scibbles on the floor in permanent marker pen, pah’… but no, I don’t think I had that quite right and rather it was some little love elf spreading love around Shoreditch, London.  Needless to say, I had no option but to photograph it…

Shoreditch is full of lovely little things like this, but I never see them in REAL LIFE.  So it was totally fab to see one for myself… and yes, those are my favorite brown boots.  The slogan is right ‘LOVE IS ALL U NEED’ (… along with a little bit of food, water and oxygen).

photo (3)My last, but not least sighting came on Tuesday afternoon.  I was running a cooking session (yes, I do this for a job to!) and I was preparing some fresh beetroots for the group, who LOVE beetroots.  They are obsessed.  My co-worker passed me a peeled beet to chop and voila, this little BEETROOT BEAUTY appeared…

As you will know if you are an avid follower of my blog, I have got on a train and headed to the North of England for some family time.  Whilst there I decided to share my love heart related stories.  To this my sister added ‘yeah it happened to me to’.  No way.  Yes way.

photo (7)My sister was preparing lunch for her and her boyfriend in their new home and was chopping some carrots.  There in the middle of the carrot was a love heart.  She instinctively photographed it, as she knew I was having some sightings of my own and then she shared it with me yesterday.  WOW.  So, we can now add a LOVE CARROT to the pile.

I am not sure if there will be any more FOOD LOVE in my life, but I am quite enjoying finding them and being surprised and excited as they appear.  This isn’t someting that has ever happened to me before and although I am optimistic I don’t look for things like this in every day life.  Sceptics amongst us will say ‘you only see what you want to see Gemma’… and yes you are very correct.  But I am not sure you can deny these are love heart shaped foods that I have simply stumbled upon.  I am not making them, adapting them or creating them… I am doing nothing to adjust the shape of anything.  But maybe I do see beauty in things, and for that I don’t think I can be critized.

I hope you enjoy my blog.  Thank you for reading, Gems… with LOVE x

I give you an Onion… HAPPY VALENTINES.

14 Feb

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Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light like the careful undressing of love.
Here.
It will blind you with tears like a lover.
It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion.20130214-055213.jpg
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful as we are,
for as long as we are.
Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.
Lethal.
Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife.

A little word from gems:

Not a recipe from me today… well not yet. But instead my favourite ever poem that for me symbolises love and involves food. Myheaven. My friends and family will laugh at me for this, as at school I was totally obsessed with my anthology book and this is a poem that we studied, back in the day. The poem really struck a chord with me then and I cannot wait to find the love of my life and randomly give him an onion… (…as yet I still have the onion, she says as her eyes water a little and she sniffs – but she carries on preparing dinner.)