Anyway, I thought I'd allow cakes and sugary goodness to dominate this post as I seem to have baked my way through the festive season.
We made these little bags of Zimtsterne (that's lemon cinnamon stars) and Peppermint Hearts for our local friends and the little teacakes and I delivered them on Christmas Eve...we walked for three hours and finally stopped for a cup of tea and the warmth of a radiator at the final delivery destination.
The peppermint creams recipe can be found here. The Zimtsterne are easy to make and deliver a powerful lemony almond hit...I saved a bag for us to eat on the final leg of the walk home as I felt that nearly five miles walking in the snow had earnt them...or mostly on perilous ice actually as the snow had nearly gone.
But anyway, onto one of my Christmas gifts. I had asked my Mama if she might find a copy of Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache for one of my Christmas gifts and it's just as dreamy as I hoped it might be (yes, that's right, it has over a billion positive reviews on Amazon...well, maybe not quite a billion). The book is utterly, utterly lovely. The premise for the book is that Harry Eastwood loves cake. She loves everything about it and wants to find a way to eat it daily without turning into a Victoria sponge herself. So while she embraces piling on butter cream atop the cake where you can really taste and appreciate the lovely naughty butteryness, she chases away the calories that are less consciously and less enjoyably consumed - namely the butter inside the actual cake. Here the butter is replaced by grated courgette, butternut squash, carrots or beetroot. Oh and did I mention there's no flour in them either...for she also can't bear the idea of people with gluten allergies missing out on the fun, and so rice flour is used throughout - another thing that really appeals to me.Mr Teacakes was dubious about the cakes and asked that I make courgette-free cake for him to take into work when it is his birthday next week. My best friend told me that she couldn't imagine they'd be edible and others nodded sympathetically when I gushed about the idea of it. I have to admit as I whisked together the ingredients for Mint Chocolate Cupcakes this morning I felt incredibly nervous, but I kept Harry's warm words in my head and tried to remain confident. I've read the book cover to cover and it's hard not to bake with an absolute certainty that these cakes will be magical, simply because it comes across so transparently that Harry has nurtured and brought each cake recipe to life with as much love and attention as one might with one's own child - the recipes are interspersed with diary entries where she shares her delight and disappointment during her days of perfecting and tweaking the recipes.
The verdict...these cakes taste just like cakes...only more wonderful. There is not a hint of vegetable to them in look, texture or smell. Mr Teacakes happily gobbled back his earlier cynicism with every bite and declared them to be amazing...and yes, could I please make some for him to take in to work. The children adored them...but tonight will be the real test for we are taking them to a new year's eve party and the host happens to make the best apple pie I've ever tasted, so I know that his taste buds will winkle out any oddness.
That aside, the text that I sent my friend about the book this morning sums up my feelings on it: Dear Doubter, cakes are DIVINE and am bouncing off the walls with vegetable-fuelled happiness. Bugger, book will make a cake Evangelist of me. Big love, F x
Actually, no it doesn't quite sum it up at all...not nearly enough words and babble. Did I mention that I actually think this book could be life changing?
The children are just as delighted by their very own Usbourne cookbook and they made these delicious fairy cakes last week - they really were scrumptious.
Finally, I must share with you how delighted I am to have all my digits as I go into 2010. The week before the schools broke up I was working at something of a breakneck (or should that be finger-slicing) speed on some last minute presents and accidentally sliced through my finger with the rotary cutter (for those that aren't familiar with one, its a tool that can cut through thick layers of fabric using an incredibly sharp circular razor blade). I am of a rather squeamish disposition and had to hide the bloodied finger from myself so that I might avoid fainting. After wrapping it in swathes of toilet roll while looking the other way I managed to telephone Mr Teacakes who I was told was in a meeting. I managed not to cry as I asked if they wouldn't mind interrupting the meeting to let him know that his wife had sliced part of her finger off. After asking me to send a photo of it to him (I'm sparing you that, but actually I'd cleaned the bathroom that morning and even in my traumatised state I couldn't help noticing that the blood looked somehow very christmassy against the perfectly white porcelain of the sink - I'm imagining holly berries, robin redbreasts and crisp white snow here...but somehow that just sounds a little weird...oh dear) Mr Teacakes quickly put his pants on over his trousers and whizzed home to bandage the whole thing up properly and assess whether I needed stitches (the verdict was that it could have done with some, but that some Steristrips might save us from sitting in casualty for hours with merry pre-Christmas daytime revellers).
Anyway, it also happened to be the coldest week imaginable and I suddenly found myself with a finger the size of a large Cumberland sausage that didn't have a hope of wriggling its way into gloves. So how fortuitous that Helen sent me these beautiful wrist warmers the very same day - I couldn't quite believe it.
They are the most perfect shade of grey and I am utterly in love with them...and I can now tell you that they look even lovelier with my equally sized sausage fingers in them (recovery is almost complete...phew!).
Anyway, wishing you all the loveliest of new year's eves and the sparkliest and happiest of years to follow,