Monday, 31 August 2015

Birthday cakes!!!

So this month Iz turned 1... where the time has gone I have absolutely no idea but we celebrated her birthday with no less than 4 different cakes :)

So here are the different types of cake and styles of icing we used (you could obviously mix and match any of them!).

Healthy smash cake

I've posted this cake recipe previously (you can click here to read it) - it's completely free from refined sugar and dairy products and you can easily substitute in wholemeal flour for extra nutritional benefits.
For the icing (see the bottom of this recipe) I divided it between 4 bowls and added a different colour to each. I used the Wilton neon food gels which I only got recently but completely love - you only need a drop or two for really strong vivid colours.
I then added 2 colours at a time to my piping bag and piped rosettes onto the cake. I left space between each rosette so I could go back and pipe one with the other 2 colours afterwards.  

This was the first time I'd ever tried this and the icing was pretty runny so not the easiest to work with (but looked great in the cake smash pictures!!) but you can see how easy it is.

If the icing ever gets too runny to work with you can always pop it back in the fridge for an hour or two. Ditto with the cake - even if it's only half-iced!


Amazing pic by Pallavi from "Recapture by Pallavi" although she's now moved abroad :(

As an aside if you are wanting to do a cake smash at home but don't have a cake stand you can make a very simple DIY one by using a hot glue gun and a small ramekin dish. Just glue the ramekin onto the underside of a disposable cake board and there you are :)

 Sprinkle cake
Ever since I saw a picture of one of these I've been wanting to try it out. For the "cake" bit we used our sugar-free wacky cake (full recipe here) as I wanted Iz to be involved in making her 'proper' first birthday cake :)

I lined the cake tin with two pieces of baking paper in a cross and sprayed the middle with easy-release cake spray. This made turning and releasing the cake after cooking super easy. 

After it had cooled I chilled it for a few hours in the fridge (no strong rationale behind the timings - it just clashed with the kids bedtime! Lol) and then dirty iced it with some vanilla frosting. I chilled it for another hour and then added another layer of frosting. My two tips - firstly definitely dirty ice first as it prevents "cake drag" and you have a much smoother icing finish, secondly put a spatula/fish slice under your cake bottom *before* you start icing it... You'll thank me later! 

Once it's iced balance it on top of an up-turned bowl in the middle of a baking tray. Then I used the "pat method" to apply sprinkles - gather a handful of sprinkles loosely in the palm of your hand and bring them quickly into the side of the cake. Don't press too hard or the sprinkles will disappear into the icing. Press gently and most will stick whilst a few (the excess) will drop off into the baking tray. Continue like this round the cake.

Tip - make sure your hands are dry and icing-free before every single "pat" - I kept a piece of kitchen roll next to me and just wiped my hands between each pat. You can then use a heaped teaspoon to target any specific areas that need extra sprinkles and just keep scooping up and recycling any ones that fall into the baking tray.

Lastly when you're happy with the sides, just sprinkle the top liberally and make sure all the edges are well covered.

Once finished gently lift the cake onto a plate or cake board (using the spatula - no damage to the frosting at all - cunning huh?!). Here's the final cake - super pretty and sprinkly!

This was the first time I'd done a sprinkle cake but I love how easy it was and how it looks so polished. Definitely something I'll be repeating :)

Ice cream cone cakes
This is another style of cake I've been wanting to try for ages. Cute, delicious and super practical - could you ask for anymore?! Lol. You can read the whole post here.


Second smash cake
So I got in trouble for not involving Iz's half-brother in her original cake smash. As she'd only been 10 months old then I decided the best option was to just have another one :) great excuse to get my piping bag out again!
I used a packet mix (Betty Crocker red velvet cake) as firstly we did the smash the day after I'd just finished a run of night shifts so I hadn't really had the time (or energy!) to make another rainbow cake like D had. I also figured it was pretty safe to do this as so far Iz hadn't expressed much interest in eating the cakes she'd encountered...

For the icing I covered the sides with sprinkles just like on her actual birthday cake above (I did have a LOT of sprinkles left over from then!! Lol) and then piped the top. I divided the white icing between 4 plastic cups and coloured each with a different food colour gel. Then using a star nozzle and a piping bag (I used disposable ones as couldn't face washing it out in between each colour!) I piped one colour at a time, leaving enough space between "stars" for the other colours.

Piping like this is actually very forgiving as you can just squeeze very small or much larger stars in the remaining gaps, depending how much space you have to work with. I deliberately chose to leave yellow til last as was worried it might get slightly buried by the darker colours otherwise but I suspect doing them in any order would work just as well.

As is typical with babies, Iz spiked a high temperature on the day but we were going on holiday the next morning so there was no time to delay. She was definitely slightly more gentle than she usually is with food but still had lots of fun :)

After her older brothers got involved...

So there they are - the multitude of different cakes used to celebrate my littlest baby turning 1 :)
Have you made any cakes recently? Decorated one for a birthday? Post a picture below or leave a link - I'd love to see!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Blacklighting with a baby

We love our blacklight and welcome any excuse to plug it in. Lots of activities D has done previously have involved neon paints but as Iz still eats everything we had to get more inventive if she was going to join in the fun... So here are some of the baby-friendly (ie edible!) plays we've done:

First make your glowing liquid. I used two different ones:
- tonic water
- thiamine water
Once you've got these two staples then the possibilities are pretty endless :)

Glow bottles

Get some empty drinking bottles and fill with the liquids above. The tonic water glows bluish while the thiamine water is a much more vibrant yellow. Remember to tape or glue the lid shut if your kids are anything like mine!


This didn't work well for us. I boiled some uncooked pasta (I used spaghetti as I know that's a firm favourite with my two) in tonic water but the colour was a bit lame tbh. I think it's because the pasta doesn't absorb any of the water, it just cooks in it. But that gave me the idea for the next thing...

Thiamine rice

Much better than spaghetti as the rice actually absorbs lots of the water when cooking (you could also use couscous etc). Cook exactly as you would normally, just change the water. We used thiamine water and the result was amazingly vibrant glowing rice. Fun for scooping, pouring, even making little sandcastles with some plastic shot glasses! 

Glow oobleck

Oobleck is ever popular here so we had to include it and as it's just cornflour and water it's baby-safe :) make as per usual but just with one of the glowing liquids.

We also added some glow sticks to the mix and both D and Iz enjoyed making them into flags, generally waving them and burying them in the oobleck and rice. They had loads of fun and we got a couple of plays out of everything as even all the perishable bits will keep for a couple of days if you store them in the fridge.

And in case any of you are wondering how/where we do our blacklight activities - this is what our set-up looks like. We do it in D's bedroom as that is the most blacked-out room and the blacklight clips onto the top of the cot rim :)


I'd love to hear if you try any of these and if you have kids who've moved past the eating-everything-stage then I'll post some more (non-edible) blacklight activities next month.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Messy birthday play

I wanted to do something nice for Iz's birthday that was low-key but fun and made the day memorable. For D's last birthday we happened to be in Mystic, CT and went to their aquarium. It was a lovely chilled family afternoon and (imho!) much more relaxing than the tea party we had with lots of other babies for his 1st birthday! But Iz's birthday falls in the summer holidays and so every local attraction/soft play/anywhere was going to be full to the brim with children... So what to do? We love messy play so I thought we'd do something fun at home and try 2 new things I've been meaning to do for ages :)

Flour paint

We've done yoghurt paint (see here) a few times before and I've been meaning to try this for a while - it's perfect as you can make it up in advance but it obviously doesn't need to be refrigerated. It really is as simple as mixing flour and water to make a slightly runny paste and then adding some food colouring - resulting in completely edible paint!

This was a definite hit with them both - next time I might freeze cubes of them and let them have a slightly different twist on the painting with ice cubes that we did before :)

Rainbow jelly/gelatin play

I saw something similar here but I think I was either too impatient when making the gelatin, or the vege-gel substitute (only thing Sainsburys had) isn't as good as proper gelatin or who knows... but the gelatin separated out  slightly from the jelly and so the pieces weren't as firm as I'd hoped and ended up pretty much like regular jelly. But actually I think the more squishy "jelly" texture was much preferred by Iz and D anyway and they loved playing with this.

You can see the gelatin "skin" easily on the orange colour

There was squishing and smooshing. Mixing of colours. Climbing inside for a full body experience. And of course... mandatory eating! 

In the end I actually had to tear D away from playing with it because it started to rain and we were outside - think he would've happily played for hours in it and you could easily extend play by adding some plastic animals or people. I will try making a more "gelatin-y" version of this too - I'm a sucker for anything rainbow after all!


So that was Iz's messy birthday. It was the perfect way for us to celebrate her turning one :)