A birthday bake for Mr B – Homemade Jaffa Cakes

It was Mr B’s birthday this week and as he hadn’t really asked for anything in particular I decided that a birthday bake would be a lovely surprise for when he got home from work. We are both massive foodies and complement each other really well in the kitchen – his cooking skills are far superior to mine and he regularly produces the most delicious dinners for us. Baking is, of course, more my forte and my skills in this area are, I think, one of the main reasons he married me!

Instead of baking a traditional birthday cake this year, I decided to reproduce one of his favourite sweet snacks – Jaffa Cakes, something which he can quite easily demolish a box of if given the chance. I love the idea of trying to recreate a homemade version of a shop-bought snack as I know that the end result is ultimately going to be better as there won’t be any artificial flavourings or preservatives in it so it will be so much more tasty.

By pure chance I didn’t even have to search for a recipe, as one of my favourite foodie bloggers Jo from Every Nook and Cranny just happened to share her recipe for Jaffa Cakes on her Facebook page in the week running up to hubby’s birthday. With my baking I always try to use the best ingredients and it was definitely worth the extra money I spent on buying the best oranges I could find (in this case from Waitrose) as the jelly was made from the pure juice, freshly squeezed from these delicious fruits. We are lucky at home that we have a masticating juicer and so I was able to extract a lot of juice from each orange and only needed to use 2 as they were very juicy but even if you don’t have a juicer, a traditional hand press squeezer (the metal kind most of us have in the kitchen) is perfectly fine but might mean you end up using a few more oranges than I did. I certainly wouldn’t suggest cheating and using pre-squeezed juice as the fresh produces a really rich flavour which is definitely worth the effort.

FB Jaffa Cakes orange jelly

Ready to make orange jelly 

Definitely worth the effort – look at that delicious juice 

I had thought that it might be a little bit fiddly to create these delicious snacks but actually it was surprisingly easy albeit a little time consuming as the three distinct steps – making the jelly, baking the sponge bases and covering these in melted chocolate each took a little bit of time and required some patience as the sponges needed to be cool and the chocolate not too hot before it could over the jelly.  As recommended by Jo I chose to use a ‘whoopie pie’ pan to make the sponges as it created a flatter bake. I found a mould fairly cheaply on Amazon as I didn’t already have one and would say it is really worth investing in if you plan to make these again (which I certainly will) as you wouldn’t get the correct shaped bases otherwise.  I will, however, share my handy tip for finding a cutter that is small enough for the jelly discs that sit on top, if like me you don’t have one – use a lid from an empty spice jar, it was the perfect size.

FB Jaffa Cakes sponge closeupDSC_0045

Perfect golden discs – and only 8 minutes to cook them!

DSC_0066DSC_0026

Perfect jelly discs made with my make-shift spice lid cutter

Once all the steps are prepared – jelly set, sponges cooled and chocolate melted, the fun really begins as the Jaffa Cakes finally come to life as these separate parts are combined. I approached this final step with trepidation as I wanted them to turn out perfect however it was much easier than I expected thankfully. I finished them about an hour before Mr B came home from work which was just enough time for the chocolate to set. I am so pleased with the results and can happily report that Mr B loved them too and they are almost all gone only a day later!

 

Just like the real thing – only better as they are homemade

If you haven’t already checked out Jo’s blog I thoroughly recommend it – I regularly head there for baking inspiration for and am never disappointed. As well as sharing recipes for sweet treats she also has some delicious savoury recipes if that is more your thing so grab a cup of something warm and get yourself over there to see what you can find.

Share the Joy linky at TheJoyChaser.com

If at first you don’t succeed…

This week’s crafting has been mainly about taking note of the old adage described in the title of this post as I have been busy designing and making a range of mini-totes.

The story of these mini-totes starts with a slight obsession I have developed recently with fat quarter bundles. There is something so appealing about a set of complimentary fabrics bundled together ready to be made into whatever takes your fancy. These bundles can be bought quite cheaply from most places you’d normally get fabric and provide a perfect excuse for creating mini-makes (my favourite kind of make of all).

Fat quarter bundles

A selection of my fat quarter bundles

Whilst perusing my selection of fat quarter bundles one evening I had the idea to make a mini-tote based on the one I originally made when I learnt to sew. Having never adapted a pattern before I decided to dive straight in and resize the measurements so that they would fit a fat quarter piece of fabric. This took a bit of jiggery-pokery with the calculations (not my strong point) but eventually I came up with some measurements which would create a pattern which was about two-thirds the size of the original.

Adapting pattern

The original tote and pattern – with my added scribbles!

Feeling chuffed with myself for my lucky maths, I set about making the prototype mini-tote from some cute cat print  and a contrasting green interior fabric. The thing I really like about this pattern is that it is has a wide base so that it can sit flat and not fall over when it has items inside and the fact that it is lined which gives it durability as well making it visually appealing with the contrasting interior.

Adapting the pattern, cutting and sewing the fabric took me well into the early hours, however, it was worth staying up late as the prototype turned out surprisingly well. The only change which I decided I would make for mini-tote number two would be to widen the straps so their proportions matched the original version better.

Prototype tote

The prototype mini-tote

A perfect tester for my prototype was found in the form of my four year old niece who over the weekend ran it through it’s paces by filling it with all manner of girly items and taking it out and about with her.

Whilst discussing this first make with my sister in law I decided that as well as widening the straps I would add an internal pocket to fit small items into. The original pattern for the larger tote included an external pocket, however, due to the restrictions of trying to fit the pattern onto a fat quarter sized piece of fabric this was not possible on the scaled down version so, for this reason as well, an internal pocket also seemed a good idea for the mini version.

Prototype bag

Plenty of room for lots of girly bits x

The next day’s sewing involved designing and creating an internal pocket and adding this to mini-tote bag number two. By a happy accident, I was also able to create a small purse from a wrongly sized first attempt at a pocket (I forgot to add a seam allowance). The purse is definitely a work in progress and may be the next project I work on.

Steps to success

Creating mini-tote number two

mini tote 2 and purse

Completed mini-tote two and its matching purse

I have since gone on to make two more mini-totes from the same fat quarter bundle (and intend to make one more this weekend) as well as another purse, plus a pink and black version using some fabric from another fat quarter bundle.

Purse 2

A more grown up version of the mini-tote and matching purse

Mini totes

Which is your favourite mini-tote? 

I have really enjoyed making these mini-totes and feel proud of myself for managing to overcome some difficulties I faced and for successfully adapting a pattern (thanks goes to Janet at KitchenTableSewing for the original). My mini-tester certainly enjoyed using the prototype and has since become the recipient of the new improved version with internal pocket and matching purse, much to her delight.

A look back on my crafty year…

As a teacher, I have two beginnings each year, one in January and one in September. These mark two new fresh starts for me and although I am not a person who particularly believes in making new year’s resolutions, on occasions these times in the year do encourage a flurry of action in me, particularly if I have an ambition in mind.   The last time this happened to me was back in the new year of 2010 when I signed up to the dating site OKCupid and by January 2011 I had met and moved in with Mr B, my lovely husband.

IMAGE-864 IMAGE-219

Unsurprisingly a handmade knitted version made an appearance on the big day!

It was in September last year, in another flurry of action, I decided this was the year to start on a new journey and expand my crafting skills in new directions. Since then I have embarked on a busy year of learning and have met some really lovely people along the way.

Learning to sew was my first foray, although I had tinkered with my Mum’s sewing machine whilst making superhero masks and capes for my husband’s stag do, I really wanted to feel more confident and able to create more professionally finished items.  After a short search via Facebook, I enrolled on a beginners sewing course with the lovely Janet over at KitchenTableSewing who, over the course of four evenings and fueled by cups of tea and wonderful homemade cakes, helped me to master the basics of using a sewing machine and produce some wonderful first makesDSC_0205 DSC_0208 DSC_0212 DSC_0223

Can you guess which superheroes they represent??

As usual once the I had been bitten by the bug it was hard for me to stop so inspired by my success on the beginners course I proceeded to create at least 75% of my Christmas presents for friends and family using the sewing machine and learnt a couple of new patterns and processes in the progress.

DSC_0047

My Christmas sewing bounty!

I have since returned to the kitchen table for more cakey yumminess and, of course, sewing guidance from Janet, attending two more of her courses, making my very own Coco from the Tilly and the Buttons pattern and a pair of fancy knickers using some fantastic Liberty print fabric. I was also inspired enough to buy my own machine, a super duper Janome DSK100, which has made my sewing experience so lovely and saved a lot of time with its numerous nifty time saving gadgets.

IMG_20150626_222642 IMG_20150802_193742

Some very fancy pants sewn on my super duper machine x

As the New Year approached I decided that my next skill to master would be needle-felting. This was a skill I felt I could teach myself (perhaps with a little help from the internet) and so bought myself a kit to make a felted hedgehog from Hobbycraft.  Although little Wimpole, as my nephew and niece soon Christened him, was a bit rough around the edges I was pretty proud of my first attempt at this new skill.

DSC_0115

Meet Wimpole the Hedgehog

Next I tackled what had become, as a seasoned knitter at least, my nemesis – crochet!  It has always appealed to me but when I have attempted it previously I have found that my knitting technique has worked against me. Professional help was definitely needed. So on a wet Wednesday evening in March I travelled to Hitchin to a recent yarn discovery, the fantastic Knit Knacks shop, and settled in for an evening of wool and hooks.

In the company of three other crochet novices and with the assistance of resident expert Helen Ingram who runs Woolly Chic, a fantastic website selling hand sourced British wool and crochet/knitting kits, I finally got through my hook block and managed to produce a lovely crochet flower by the end of the evening. In these few hours my wool nemesis had become an ally to its much loved knitted friend.

DSC_0342

Floral crochetness x

The final destination on my crafting journey involved travelling the longest distance yet as I signed up for a workshop at Needle and Thread (near Lincoln) to learn how to create textile art using applique and free motion embroidery with the very talented Cathy Emmott of Dear Emma Designs.

I have always admired this kind of needle work and had been searching for a workshop to attend for a long time so was so pleased when I came across this gem.  Over a busy six hours Cathy inspired and assisted a lovely group of twelve crafty enthusiasts to become novice needle and thread artists. This was a fantastic conclusion to my crafty year and definitely worth the four hour round journey!

needle and thread 3

Cathy’s inspirational needlework x

Needle and thread 1

The novice needle and thread artists proudly present their work x

needle and thread 2

My design in progress

The last twelve months have certainly been busy and I have really enjoyed learning new crafting skills. I wonder what the next twelve months will hold for me.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Make new friends but keep the old…

It has been an exciting week for me at sarahkatemakes headquarters, as well as joining the friendly ‘bloggersphere’, I have also become a tweeter, something which I am not sure I am ready for but which I am optimistic about having a go at. I am hoping my new blogging buddy Lucy, at mrsbishopsbakesandbanters, might be able to offer some useful advice as she seems to be a social media queen and is definitely a very friendly blogger with an amazing page.

As you might expect I have been mentioning my new blog to all who will sit still enough to listen or at least read a Facebook message sent by yours truly.   This included my quite untechnological Mum; knowing she wouldn’t have seen it via any social media I made sure when I popped round to her house to take my tablet and share it with her that way.

Once she had finished reading it and given her feedback (thankfully positive). She offered to return the Polly Dolly to me who has sadly been living in a drawer for the last decade or so.

IMG_20150729_234319

As you can see she is a strange looking individual and things just get a bit stranger when you lift her up and see the stuffing falling out or take down her hat and see her balding head (sadly or perhaps thankfully, I took no pictures of these features).

She was definitely an interesting choice for my first proper knitting project. She allowed me to practise a number of handy techniques including increasing, decreasing, colour changes and making miniature items (as seen in her peddler’s basket), all of which I have applied many times since.

POlly Dolly basket Polly Dolly features

I’ve always had good tension with my knitting and this certainly suited this make. Adding to this my tendency to be a crafting perfectionist meaning that whatever the purpose of the final item I won’t say it is finished until I think I’ve done it to the highest standard I can achieve. Despite her unique features I have to say I am quite proud of how she turned out.

Polly was the beginning of my love affair with wool and it was lovely to be reacquainted with her, however she has become quite comfy in her new home so she has been returned to her drawer at Mum’s house.  Perhaps one day she’ll find a nice comfy spot in my dream craft room and I’ll finally give her top and bottom the finishing touches she deserves so she can have pride of place.

It’d be great to hear where it all started for you, what was your first crafting make and did it have a specific purpose or was it a flight of fancy like Polly Dolly?