Ever since Nino celebrated his second birthday, we’ve been talking almost daily about what kind of cake family members will be getting for their upcoming birthdays. For Grandpa there was polenta cake, rolled out annually on request (with ever so slight variations to satisfy my urge to experiment). Daddy wants a whiskey one next January. Nino was shocked to discover that his Nonna isn’t that keen on cake, nor is a close toddler friend, but we’ve now been to enough birthdays with caterpillars and rainbows and tray bakes to establish a playing field to work from and, after much debate, we’ve hit on a lemon sponge with fresh strawberry buttercream to make for me at the end of the month.
My go-to is almost always chocolate so it’s refreshing to be pointed in a different direction by my mini kitchen sidekick and I’m excited to make and taste his fruity creation. But before then, chocolate cravings still call – thank goodness for an uncle with a birthday before mine and a last minute lunch invite creating the need to whip up an easy one bowl chocolate cake for a sunny Sunday afternoon. Continue reading
This time last year we were still in hospital. Forty eight hours after he was born, Nino had an emergency balloon septostomy in the paediatric intensive care unit of the Royal Brompton Hospital, a precursor to the open heart surgery he would undergo nine weeks later. I can remember sitting waiting for him to wake from the anaesthetic as if it was yesterday: the flutter and fall of his tiny chest, the sleepy beeps of a dozen life support machines, the artificial light illuminating our twenty four hour world and the sweet nurse suggesting, gently, for the eleventh time that I try to get some sleep myself. Continue reading
A few days before our 20 week appointment when I was pregnant with Nino, I remember reading an article about things you should look out for. After entering into the (relative) safety of the second trimester, it’s easy to think that this second pregnancy scan is all about the gender reveal – a subject of divisive debate between the ‘surprise!’ camp and those who are desperate, indeed need to know – but your stenographer is looking for a lot more than a pair of balls as she swipes cold jelly over your ever-expanding belly. There’s the baby’s brain and spine, fingers and toes, stomach and kidneys, position in the womb and position of the placenta. And then, of course, there’s his (or her) heart. Continue reading
On Saturday we went to a family wedding and had to leave after three hours because Nino (who we’d left with his loving grandparents) had got himself hysterical and was refusing go to bed. He settled, of course, once we were home but this isolated incident sums up the last week or so of our lives – we’re discovering that life with an eight month old baby can be busy and hectic and hard. He’s crawling all over the flat and and attempting to walk, exploring everything and finding it frustrating when he can’t have/reach/walk unaided to what he wants. Sleeping, it seems, is cheating and some of the foods he found delicious a few weeks ago have become a bit of a battleground. That’s not to say he’s unhappy – for the most part he’s the same scrumptious, sunny baby he’s always been – but our little boy is learning to push boundaries, assert his preferences and establish himself as a voice to be reckoned with in our family of three. Continue reading
This Friday just gone I finished work. Our little loaf is due in just over two weeks and I’m finally ready to admit that my forty five minute commute on the tube twice a day is getting a little tiring. Although it’s weird handing over your working life for a year – holiday time! I can hear mothers all around me chuckling – I’m ready to start nesting, preparing our home for this little life to be. The next two weeks will be spent tidying cupboards and sorting last minute decorations, maybe a pedicure for those feet I can no longer reach, long walks with my mum and lunches with friends. People keep saying I should take some quiet time before this little man drops in and changes our lives forever, and I will, but busy is my default setting and just what I enjoy. Which I guess stands me in good stead for the months and years to come. Continue reading
The last time I celebrated a fourth birthday, I was about 3 feet tall. My party took place at the brilliantly named Roly Poly Club, a room made up of what I remember as wall-to-wall bouncy castles where my friends and I careered around, fuelled by the heady mix of excitement and mint choc-chip ice cream (there are rosy-cheeked, chocolate-covered photographs to prove this). My mum reminded me recently that I wrote her a shopping list beforehand ‘in case you get it wrong’, consisting simply of ‘mus bus’ (Mars Bars) and ‘sossighes’ (sausages). All the essentials then. Continue reading
Rich chocolate sponge, condensed milk & whiskey buttercream, chocolate ganache
We’ve just got back from two days in the beautiful county of Rutland celebrating a friend’s 30th birthday. With the recent bout of unexpected and unseasonally warm weather, he couldn’t have picked a better weekend for us to spend outside and out of London (or Leeds, where he lives), enjoying each others’ company, soaking up some sunshine and drinking in the country air.
I don’t really need to tell you that I offered to bring a birthday cake. That goes without saying and is pretty much what you’ve been waiting for, right? Continue reading
A simple cupcake with a hidden core of refreshing cucumber jam
There are few things more British than a cucumber sandwich. Simple and delicate (and delicious when made properly – think paper-thin cucumber, salty butter, soft white bread), this recipe of aristocratic origin is made all the better for being absolutely unnecessary. Traditionally served at tea-time (our way of justifying the indulgence of an additional mid-afternoon meal involving a lot of cake) they have next to no nutritional value, being probably the only sandwich in the world over which I wouldn’t shed a tear to see the crusts removed. But they are a delicious nonetheless, especially when accompanied by freshly-baked scones a glass of cold champagne. Continue reading
Moist chocolate cake layered with rich malted chocolate buttercream
One of the questions I’m most often asked about this blog is where I get my love of food and baking from. My first point of reference is almost always my parents – a childhood where helping my Mum out in the kitchen and making my own birthday cakes was the norm, every summer spent in Italy amongst an abundance of incredible produce and a father whose eyes are a whole lot smaller than the stomach which unfortunately reflects his infectious love of food (sorry Dad!). Continue reading
This weekend I’m up in Yorkshire for various family festivities, so I’m keeping this post pretty short. And sweet (of course), which most of my posts tend to be. Continue reading