midsummer crown & edible flowers

Back to work and school tomorrow. It’s been such a lovely summer buy I can’t quite believe it’s over.

We came back from wave jumping, rock-pooling and scoffing lots of amazing food (at The Pizza Tipi, Llys Meddyg, St Dogmael’s Farmer’s market and Wright’s Food Emporium) in Wales a week ago to ripe figs, blackberries and sloes. There may still be valiantly flowering cosmos and pots of scented geraniums in the garden but we’re definitely heading towards Autumn.

Before we’re lighting the wood-burner of an evening, I’m remembering some of the midsummer madness of previous months. Including those days when I could be found eating the flower beds once again. While Ruby plundered them for a crown.

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It was the school fete, the theme was a ‘Right Royal Do’ and there was a crown competition – hence Ruby’s early morning flower picking. She was so pleased when she won first prize; her jubilant stance in the garden at the end of the day complete with ladybird face-paint, England cape (part of her goodie bag prize) and drooping flowers was a little different to the picture below.

Ruby in crown

Meanwhile I picked edible flowers for cake-decorating on a stall at the fete. I took Sweet Williams, Calendula, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Pelargonium & Chive Flowers, using a great Sarah Raven guide to double check. There are some other great Sarah Raven edible flower ideas here.

Have to admit, some of the children looked as if they wondered where the hundreds and thousands were, but I was impressed by their creativity, there were some beautiful cakes. Separating the flowers and using the petals sparingly looked particularly pretty – and tasty too.

Must savour these September days and make use of the many edible petals that are still around.

vintage plates & decorating with blackberries

I’ve recently contributed a guest post to Juniper & Rose, Vanessa Campbell’s lovely blog. Vanessa runs cookery courses on cooking and eating delicious, sustainable and ethical food and her blog includes gorgeous images that encapsulate beautifully many simple pleasures from flowers picked straight from the garden to freshly made crusty bread in a French bakery.

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French sourdough breadDavid Austin Roses jug

My blog post was about the simple pleasures of vintage and I mention my stacks of old tea plates, bought at a local barn sale. Last night my mismatched but pretty plates got lots of use. I’d baked some cupcakes for the school Macmillan coffee morning and had some six year olds to help me decorate them. Choosing from the piles of pretty plates took the girls quite some time. As did choosing between calendula, violets, raspberries and lavender for decorating. I seem unable to go for a walk or pop out in the garden at the moment without returning with blackberries, so I had to sneak a few on top.

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Of course it didn’t take long for the girls to sneak in a few other items.

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It made me smile to see my 6 year old helpers initially place petals really carefully around the cakes, then decide that minimalism wasn’t for them.

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As usual I’d started off with good intentions of keeping these sweet treats relatively healthy and natural and my plans had gone slightly awry.

The icing was made from cream cheese, lemon juice and icing sugar as I used here. In an effort to avoid colourings full of additives I tried adding a few drops of my elderberry cordial to some of it. It gave us a pleasing shade of pink that the girls were happy with. Then I let myself be persuaded that sweets were needed. My usual dodgy balance!

We obviously had to sample a few and I had to admit though that the maltesers did add something.

Although I often add grated courgette or other squash to these sort of little cakes – I hesitate to call them cupcakes again as I’m never going to be the sort of person who rustles up Magnolia Bakery style cakes with perfect swirls of pretty buttercream – these were straightforward sponge rustled up quickly when I didn’t have too much time. While I still have Autumn fruiting raspberries to pick I do fancy trying this lovely Ren Behan recipe for raspberry and basil cupcakes though. If I do will definitely try to keep the smarties away!

 

 

 

 

 

Cake decorating with flowers

With several girls coming round to play and lots of edible flowers in the garden, I couldn’t resist having another go at cake decorating with petals.

I picked the first courgette of the year and the first purple carrot (Ruby and I are both quite partial to unusual coloured veg) to grate into the cupcakes. Well, if they’re going to be covered by a sweet, pretty topping, I may as well sneak some extra goodness in.

cake decorating

For the icing, I mixed some icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon into cream cheese until it was a spreadable consistency and tasted nice. Then we all picked calendula, little blue borage flowers, lavender, nasturtium and umbels of tiny yellow dill flowers. Pulling the petals off calendula onto pretty plates ready to be reassembled on the cakes seemed to go down well.

As did the decorating. Icing was spread, petals scattered, sometimes even carefully placed and the results started to look very attractive. I was amazed that nobody remembered the 100s and 1000s in the drawer or the lurid icing colourings stashed in a cupboard.

cake decorating

Obviously it didn’t last long, the less is more decorating techniques soon descended into scattering a whole saucer of petals onto a heap on the cakes. The girls ran off with sticky fingers around the house and I was left with the calendula strewn cushions on the pew they’d sat on.  But I was also left with a few cakes, a bit of the cream cheese icing and quite a lot of flowers to have a go myself in peace. Very satisfying and really quite tasty!

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