Happy Birthday Nino: White Chocolate & Lemon Birthday Cake

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

Blackberry & Hazelnut Frangipane

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This week Nino started his settling in sessions at nursery. Having seen him through countless hospital visits, scans and over ten hours of open heart surgery, you’d think I could handle leaving him a cosy room surrounded by toys and a loving team of staff for a few hours. Not so much. It’s been a week of tears, and not all of them Nino’s. Separation anxiety, it seems, isn’t just for babies. Continue reading

Peanut Butter & Jam Mini Cake

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Last year we celebrated Luke’s birthday with a bottomless brunch, the tables filled with food, nearly 30 friends and endless bellinis. Being heavily pregnant, I replaced my alcohol calories with a lot of toast, two platefuls of miniature desserts and likely at least one more croissant than is socially acceptable, soaking up the atmosphere and pondering what we’d be doing for the next birthday as a newfound family of three. Fast forward one year and Luke spent a much more low key couple of hours in the local pub while I stayed at home sticky with Calpol as I snuggled a feverish baby to sleep. When he arrived home at the rock and roll hour of six thirty, Luke promptly fell fast asleep on Nino’s activity mat whilst tidying up his toys (true story), but not before he’d hoovered up a large slice of this peanut butter and jam mini cake. Life as we know it has changed unrecognisably, but wherever there’s a birthday, there will always be cake.  Continue reading

Emiko Davies’ Pear & Chocolate Cake

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It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster in the little loaf household of late. About ten days ago Nino started saying ‘mama’ in a very deliberate way, calling me back if I disappeared round a corner or snuggling in and saying it rather than the indiscriminate sound making we’ve been hearing a little longer. My heart is fit to burst and it’s literally the sweetest word I’ve ever heard, but at the same time this cognitive leap seems to have brought with it possibly the hardest behaviour we’ve seen to date. Our usually sunny little man has been grumbling and fussing, clinging round my ankles, waking multiple times each night and resisting sleep with a renewed and infuriating fervour for someone clearly so in need of it. Until you become a mum it’s impossible to understand how you could love one little person so deeply and completely, yet at times want to pop them in a padded room, pour yourself a stiff drink and sleep, uninterrupted, for a week.

Today our little sleep resister turns ten months old. I know this fussy phase will pass (until the next one, that is . . .) but am also wary of wishing a single day away. With less than two months of maternity leave left I’m trying to live in the moment and soak up each precious morsel of my baby, so in the spirit of celebration (and because my sleep deprived brain might forget if I don’t write it down), here’s what we’ve been particularly loving about you this month, sweet boy.   Continue reading

Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

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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

Festive Chocolate Biscuit Cake with Cranberries, Pistachios & Ginger

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Now that Halloween and Bonfire Night are out the way, I feel like I’m legitimately allowed to mention the C-word. I’m not normally one to plan the festivities too far in advance, but since a certain little person arrived in our lives I’ve been looking forward to his first Christmas and the magic it will bring. There’s a stocking embroidered with Nino’s name that I’m hoping will last a lifetime, his very first decoration for the tree (we have a tradition of getting a new bauble or item to hang every year), matching jumpers to wear, stories to read and a long list of presents to buy, even if he’s (inevitably) more interested in the the boxes they arrive in. And then of course – although I’m not allowing Nino refined sugar til he’s one (mean mummy) – there’s dessert to plan for the grown ups in attendance.  Continue reading

Coffee & Walnut Cake

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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

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate

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Long enough ago to make me feel extremely old, I met my husband-to-be at university. We were young, in love and, being students, didn’t really go on dates. There were late nights clubbing, bacon sandwiches eaten on scruffy sofas and a few ‘fancy’ suppers when housemates were out, but mostly we just spent time together without needing to label it a ‘date’. As we got older there were meals out and tasting menus, holidays, birthdays, trips to the cinema and all the usual things that couples do. It was easy; spending time together didn’t need a second thought.

I’ve owned a copy of Ashley Rodriguez’s Date Night In since it published a couple of years ago (check out this ice cream cake), but it wasn’t until our little man blazed his way into the world and made us a family of three that I truly understood the sentiment behind her words. Since he started a new job and I went on maternity leave, Luke and I have arguably spent much more time together during the week, yet somehow there are days when I find myself missing him. Or missing the ease of existing alongside him before we had this extra human to care for and entertain. Life as a parent is brilliant and bettering and blissful, but it can also be all-consuming and pretty tough at times. Suddenly you’re sharing not just your heart but your time with this new little life, and making space to appreciate, talk to and love my favourite grown up boy alongside our baby sometimes takes a conscious effort. Continue reading

Date, Apricot & Walnut Loaf Cake

Date, Apricot & Walnut Loaf Cake

Up until the end of my third trimester of pregnancy, the only things we had in our freezer were ice, a champagne jacket, frozen blueberries and petit pois. So much of what we eat is quick to cook or relies on an abundance of fresh ingredients, it barely seemed worth the hassle to prepare, pack and label portions of any given meal, let alone the time it would take to defrost before we wanted to eat. It wasn’t until the teacher at our ante-natal classes drew a twenty four hour clock portioned into hour long pieces for baby feeding, bathing and nappy changing on repeat that I realised a few pre-made meals might come in handy for the weeks after Nino arrived. Continue reading

Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

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