Going Off With A Bang!

Friday, December 31, 2010

For New Year’s Eve, perhaps a cake would be in order to go with those fireworks. Maybe something that combines the cake and the fireworks. But not just the usual mud cake with a few sparklers stuck on top... oh no, something more dramatic is definitely in order...

New Year's Eve cake with sugar 'firework' detail

Tiered fireworks cake

Starburst cake

Sugar fireworks on cake
Tiered fireworks cake from Lindy's Cakes * NYE cake from Orfo on Flickr * Exploding stars cake from It's A Cake Thing on Flickr * Sugar fireworks from Wisdom of the Moon

To have some more fun with the fireworks feeling, I’d love to try adding pop rocks to the cake, too. A tasty way to end the year!


The Importance Of Second Breakfast

Thursday, December 30, 2010

If you thought hobbits lived idyllic rural existences in the lush and rolling hills of New Zealand, here’s some proof they’ve ventured further afield...

Hobbit-style New York building designed by Caliper Studio
Picture from Inhabitat via NotCot

Yep, hobbits have hit the Big Apple* and hired an architect. This intriguing building is to be found in the West Village, and was designed by Caliper Studio.

In the interests of hobbitty behaviour, I suggest having a second breakfast today. Maybe even two. Perhaps something like this...

Ricotta-stuffed French toast from Simply Breakfast
Ricotta-stuffed French toast from Simply Breakfast

Or, alternatively, it’s very hard indeed to go past this...

Speculoos cereal
Speculoos cereal from Have Cake Will Travel (it looks delicious, but with limited / exorbitant Speculoos spread resources, I don't know that I could go past just smearing it on toast. Or eating it off a spoon...)

If you feel like really pushing the bar out, you could always try this recipe for breakfast polenta that I came across. I’d love to know how it is, but not quite enough to try it before the cooler weather kicks in. Perhaps breakfast couscous would be better for the summer, with piles of fresh berries...

* Clearly they really aren’t so different to the big folk after all!


Lost In A Good Book

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

After the chattering and the feasting and the frantic activity... there is crashing in heaps on assorted couches, in comfortable corners under the stairs, and in hammocks of all shapes, sizes and degrees of difficulty-to-get-into-with-a-cup-of-tea. Not all at the same time, mind you, but you get the picture... gluttony begets sloth. And sloth, if not quite begetting, is certainly much improved by something good to read (and maybe a stray sausage roll or two...)

Which makes this picture seem very appropriate, for those lazily warm afternoons lurking in a semi-dozing state beneath a juicy new book...

Picture by Franck Juery via ffffound.com

It strikes me as very Jasper Fforde... if the book was to close, I imagine they’d be pulled into the story, rather than being squashed.

Wherever you are, I hope there’s a leftover baked item and some good reading...


Accessorise With Cake

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

There’s accessorising with cakes themselves, where the baked goods themselves are designed to be worn as adornments – anything from the most kawaii of cupcake earrings to the most decadent of Boucheron’s delice macaron rings.

And then there’s this pairing, where it’s not about food-inspired designs, but design-inspired food...

Eight seasons wristlet bag

Nine Cakes floral rosette cake

Wristlet from Eight Seasons on Etsy, cake from Nine Cakes via Always a Blogsmaid

The bag is from Eight Seasons, an Estonian boutique on Etsy, and I’ve been coveting it since last summer. Its combination of the delicate flowers with the bold colour is so striking, and it has a wonderful feeling of summery done undone-ness about it. And the cake has the same butter-soft but not too deconstructed Iook to it - it’s quite unusual for such a beautiful cake to have a look like you want to reach out and touch it.

Now the really tricky question... what would you wear it with? I like the idea of it with pale blue or perhaps denim. Or maybe with rich cocoa brown. For some reason, velvety corduroy springs to mind (although that’s not at all summery). Perhaps the two could be paired together? Or go a more well-trodden path and combine it with fresh cream. Cream goes well with just about everything... especially cake...


Catching Your (Sticky) Penguin

Monday, December 27, 2010

To catch your penguin, you need a very large net. A netless or unnetted penguin is prone to escape. So a penguin currently lacking the biggest net of all, an internet*, is most likely right now basking on the deck with a trifle-fed-cat (like a corn fed chicken, but much friendlier and very furry) on her lap, snoozing through the trifle-eating cat’s mum’s recipe book collection. Or potentially has decided to have at least one summer in which she realises in advance the wisdom of not trying to change her legs from their usual shade of white, and is holed up in the kitchen, finding accomplices to sample new varieties of brownies.

Consequently, the next few days will involve a few things I prepared earlier, (firstly) because I figure everybody else is probably off basking, snoozing, cooking or otherwise up to fun things and has no inclination to lurk and read blogs and (b)** because I’m still recovering from preparing scheduled posts for Every. Single. Day. of the now not-so-recent honeymoon. Nope, I can’t believe I did that either. Five and a half weeks of pre-scheduled posts. Madness. Curable only with vast amounts of baked goods.

So, here is a small distraction for your general amusement... “Polar Bear Green Tea”, so called by the Food Librarian, via whom I found it...

Trader Joe's Candy Cane Green Tea via The Food Librarian

It’s a nice mental picture when suffering basking in all that summery weather that we’re probably having***.
Thinking about catching penguins also reminded me of a post I loved reading earlier this year, from Garance Dore, about Cooking Your Garance. She writes with such a fabulous sense of character (making it terribly unfair that she’s hilarious and stylish... but she sounds so lovely that you just can’t begrudge it at all!).

* It’s only just after Christmas, what do you mean I can’t tell awful jokes?! I’m sure there were much worse than that in your Christmas crackers...
** Especially for the trifle-eating cat’s mum!
*** And I hope, for all those who bask a little more than I do, that my pre-emptiveness (pre-emption?) hasn’t jinxed that summery weather...


Too. Much. Food!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

When you’ve eaten until you’re about to burst your pippity pop, and are lying in a lethargic heap on a couch / sun lounger / hammock / assorted comfy corner of your choice, then thinking about even more turkey and cake is probably the last thing you would want to contemplate.

But there are these. They look the part, and are completely guilt free...

Inflatable turkey
Inflatable turkey from Fred Flare

Inflatable fruitcake
Inflatable fruit cake (it has its own website... now that really is specialising!)

They might make a bit of a statement down at the beach. Or they could be a passing nod to tradition while you get stuck into smoked salmon, prawns, sausage rolls, roast duck, pavlova, trifle (or even brownies) – whatever sort of celebratory food you might prefer*. And as for bursting your pippity pop, well... pins might be just a little too risky with this sort of a Christmas dinner.

* Although penguins love turkey. Don’t know what to do with all those leftovers? Pass them across to your nearest garbage disposal penguin...


Lock Up Your Trifles...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

...Because there’s a gluttonous penguin in town. Well, actually there’s a gluttonous penguin out of town. Visiting the trifle eating cat and his parents. And intent on frustrating the trifle eating cat’s trifle eating tendencies – at least until a penguin has eaten an adequate sufficiency*!

So, while a penguin climbs happily out of the rabbit hole for a few days, to chatter, pootle, bake, play with the trifle eating cat and lurk in hammocks, there will be some scheduled distractions for Penguins & Parentheses. And, perhaps, some plotting of bigger and better mousetraps to return with next year.

But, before that, what could be more fitting for a penguin in the silly season than this...

Trifle-eating penguin (or is that penguin eating trifle?) from Simon Drew via Chris Beetles

There are penguin prints to be had in abundance, but a penguin with trifle? A penguin with trifle and trouble balancing too much at once? Perfection!

Have a very merry Christmas, and I hope you have much trifle and many happy penguins!

* Which, contrary to rumour and conjecture, is possible. It just takes a lot of trifle. Or guilt. But preferably, guilt with custard...


The Night Before Christmas

Friday, December 24, 2010

On the twelfth day of Christmas my penguin gave to me...
Twelve diners drumming (on the table),
Eleven cakes with piping,
Ten bores with bristles,
Nine penguins dancing,
Eight milk bottles,
Seven owls (just seven?),
Six roasted chickens,
Five golden pastries,
Four wobbling jellies,
Three French badgers,
Two turtle bars,
And a pelican in a pear tree

After the edible, decorative and sometimes just random stuff disguised as the (slightly modified) twelve days of Christmas, which increased in number to match an often disorganised and sticky penguin increasing in speed of running about madly... tonight is a Night Off. In Capital Letters, no less.

Tonight is not so much the splat before the squee, as the start of a gradual build-up of festive squee-ness. The Penguin Wrangler and her family are hosting Christmas Eve dinner, which is a source of great excitement. I’m sure nobody would be so untoward as to drum on the table, though, and we may be one or two more than a dozen in number. Perhaps, if not a baker’s dozen then, a penguin’s dozen (an extra one in case a batch doesn’t go to plan, and an extra extra one in case it does, to enable sampling).

So, before winding up in real life, and winding down activity a little in rabbit hole quarters, here’s a small Christmas thought...

Maybe it wasn’t really three wise men... maybe it was a long line of penguins...

Penguin paper cut by Ian Penney via Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery

Happy Christmas to you and all your penguins!


Penguins Love Cake

Thursday, December 23, 2010

On the eleventh day of Christmas my penguin gave to me...
Eleven cakes with piping,
Ten bores with bristles,
Nine penguins dancing,
Eight milk bottles,
Seven owls (just seven?),
Six roasted chickens,
Five golden pastries,
Four wobbling jellies,
Three French badgers,
Two turtle bars,
And a pelican in a pear tree

A cake-obsessed penguin doesn’t need much excuse to share yet more beautiful iced creations. And the choice between bagpipes or baking is simply no contest whatsoever!

These cookies* are so wonderfully vibrant and intricate. I love that they're bright and elegant - especially with baking, the two so often seem to be mutually exclusive. What I'd give for such a steady hand with a piping bag...

Mehndi cookies with piped icing detail from Sugar Sugar Creations
Mehndi cookies from Sugar Sugar Creations

This cake looks just like something out of a fairytale... it seems too perfectly imaginary to be real, and too superlative to even be called a cake. And that's before you start in on the pistachio sponge with cherry and caramel sauces...

Christophe Adam buche elixir
Bûche Elixir from Christophe Adam

It's a little like the squiggles I draw on very long phone calls, made festive. And tasty...

Squiggle piped cake from I Am Mommy
Faith cake from I Am Mommy

Oh, my sainted aunts! Oh, my ears and whiskers! Look at this cake!

Amazing floral cake from Abigail Percy on Flickr
Amazing floral cake from Abigail Percy on Flickr (she also has a blog)

Chocolate shavings aren't all that unusual, but I'd never come across icing shavings before. It looks so delicate and pretty, a little like oddments of ribbon...

Raspberry cupcake with shaved icing
Raspberry cupcake from Linda Nguyen on Flickr

This might not meet the definition of a cheesecake, but what else could you call it?

Charcuterie cake from Debbie Does Cakes
Charcuterie cake from Debbie Does Cakes via Design Fetish

These iced cookies are a little reminiscent of embroidery hoops - such lovely, tiny details...

Spring cookie assortment from SweetAmbs with piped details
Spring cookie assortment from SweetAmbs on Etsy

Bird's nest usually suggests some sort of muddled thing (much like a penguin in the early morning, perhaps), so this cake is definitely something a little different...

Birds' nest cake from Magpie Cakes
Bird's nest cake from Magpie Cakes via Camille Styles

Whereas these cupcakes have less of an organic feel, and a bit more of a lean towards psychedelia...

Fancy Florals cupcakes from Icing Dreams
Fancy florals cupcakes from Icing Dreams (also on Flickr)

This has the simple, delicious and perfectly rustic thing down pat. Perhaps I'm getting a bit of a thing about vegetables and cakes*...

Carrot cake with carrot detail from Answers en Croute
Carrot cake from Answers en Croute (it's the ones growing out of the cake that just make this, I think)

And, while this final cake reminds me very much of a storm in a tea cup...

Stormy seas cake from Threadcakes
Stormy cake from Threadcakes

... I don't think the icing obsession is going anywhere just yet!

* It's called guilt, thinks the penguin, hopping off the interwebs in search of a salad


Hang On A Mo

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On the tenth day of Christmas my penguin gave to me...
Ten bores with bristles,
Nine penguins dancing,
Eight milk bottles,
Seven owls (just seven?),
Six roasted chickens,
Five golden pastries,
Four wobbling jellies,
Three French badgers,
Two turtle bars,
And a pelican in a pear tree

Not boars with bristles. Boars, wild or otherwise, are inevitably going to be bristly. No, these are bores with bristles. Another day, another place to put a fake moustache. What is, in its real version, mostly confined to sponsored efforts a month or so ago has sprouted all over the interwebs, out into real life, and pops up in new and ever-more-unexpected places*.

Moustache on a stick
Moustache on a stick from Something's Hiding Here on Etsy

And it's not quite like you can call it a trend. Those tend to come along quietly, make a lot of noise very quickly and then disappear. Note the bit about disappearing. Whereas those moustaches have been hanging around since at least 2008, and seem to not being showing many signs of abating. Despite sadly premature prophesies that they'd jumped the shark.

This isn't so much an if-you-can't-beat-them-join-them effort as much as a series of oh-wow-they've-even-put-one-there moments...

Of course, like almost any trend, there are the edible versions. Available in large...

faux bois moustache cake from Cake Hero
Moustache faux bois cake from Cake Hero

... and small versions...

Moustache cupcakes from Sprinkle Bakes
Moustache cupcakes from Sprinkle Bakes (these have the added bonus of getting the moustache to be on a stick, and edible)

Or the drinkable form...

Tom Selleck cocktail with moustache
"Tom Selleck" cocktail via Urlesque. Maybe it'll overtake cocktail umbrellas...

You can stick them on the walls (love the frame, if not the mo)...

Framed moustache necklace
Moustache necklace (framed) via Conversation Pieces (originally from Funkey Finds on Etsy)

They can have rather more practical applications (although, while they look beautifully made, I just don't like the idea of shaking my salt or pepper out of a moustache if I think about it too long)...

Moustache salt and pepper from Paper Doll Wood Shop
Moustache cruet from Paper Doll Wood Shop on Etsy

Keeping with the handmade approach, you can even get started with moustaches long before being old enough to grow one for youself...

Moustache pull toy from Seven Acre Toys
Moustache pull toy from Seven Acre Toys (part of me thinks they're kind of cute - perhaps because I've not been deluged with this particular variety (yet) - and part of me thinks of being in therapy later on... "I just have these nightmares where a moustache is following me and I don't know how to stop it!")

Or you could inflict them on share them with the little ones in a more overt way...

Moustache onesie from Handsome Howard
Moustache onesie from Handsome Howard on Etsy via Glamour This!

Or you can wear one yourself...

Moustache necklace from Tatty Devine
Moustache necklace from Tatty Devine

Even your feet can now be adorned with a little fake mo (this also from the bridal blogosphere, which seems to have a disproportionate and utterly mystifying love of moustache paraphenalia - especially in photo booths. Strapless white dress. Check. Matching bridesmaids in multiples of a prime number. Check. Moustaches on sticks. Check!).

Moustache shoe clips
Moustache shoe clips from Rock 'n Roll Bride via Bridalhood**. Pitchfork optional...

You could use your moustaches to achieve... enlightenment...

Moustache lights
Moustache lights via Lady Moustache

And if you thought there was nowhere left for them to infiltrate, there are even moustaches available on battenburg cake! Stuffed battenberg cakes...

Battenburg cake with moustache
Battenburg cake from Sweet English Suzy on Etsy

And I know that's actually eleven, not the promised ten. But, much like those moustaches, I just don't know when to stop!

* A little like Whack A Mole. And just as hard to stop. But not as much fun...
** After you finally escape wedding blogs (except for A Practical Wedding, which is interesting quite apart from any impending nuptials of varying proximity), you end up straight back where you started with one quick google image search!


How Do You Make A Penguin Dance?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the ninth day of Christmas my penguin gave to me...
Nine penguins dancing,
Eight milk bottles,
Seven owls (just seven?),
Six roasted chickens,
Five golden pastries,
Four wobbling jellies,
Three French badgers,
Two turtle bars,
And a pelican in a pear tree

Happy Feet was just the tip of the iceberg – barely the slightest provocation is needed for penguins to dance. Gleeful, excited dancing, that is. A little more mental fortitude can be required to tackle an hour of ballroom practice*.

At this time of year, many things will cause a penguin to start capering round keenly. And lots of those many things relate to food. Gingerbread, in particular, is one of those treats that gets a bit more attention around Christmas time (even though, like turkey, there seems no earthly need to restrict it to a few weeks of attention during which it’s consumed in quantities that would be far more enjoyably and sensibly spread out during the whole year).

Gingerbread has broken out of its cookie cutter mold and has all sorts of interesting interpretations. Here are a few options for spicy indulgence (as well as those intriguing and beautiful ginger martini jellies from a few days ago)...

Gingerbread buttercream to put on gingerbread… or on ginger cupcakes...
iced gingerbread cupcakes from Little Bear Cakery
Iced gingerbread cupcakes from Little Bear Cakery (what a lovely name)

Gingerbread caramels (because tasty and sticky seem to go hand in hand)...

gingerbread caramels from Technicolor Kitchen
Gingerbread caramels from Technicolor Kitchen

Gingerbread popcorn (perfect for watching the ballroom dancing on Christmas night, perhaps?**)

gingerbread caramel crunch popcorn from Taste Of Home
Gingerbread caramel crunch from Taste Of Home

Or you could pretend to be a little more healthy about it and disguise it as breakfast

chocolate gingerbread granola from How Sweet Eats
Chocolate gingerbread granola from How Sweet It Is (I love their tagline 'where gluttony meets fitness'. A tricky balance indeed, especially for a wobbly penguin)

If you want to follow the traditional path and build a gingerbread house (another thing that, like wedding cakes, sadly seems to frequently look better than it tastes), Heston Blumenthal has set the astonishing benchmark for the scale, detail and tastiness that can be achieved (with a small army of sous chefs, that is). Although if anybody can rival that effort, it could surely only be in New York. Or you could take a slightly lower maintenance approach with a gingerbread house bundt pan - but it wouldn't do justice to this...

Heston Blumenthal gingerbread house
Heston Blumenthal's gingerbread house via Lou Lou Makes (baking with hard hats... does that qualify as an extreme sport?)

Or you could go from the sublime to the ridiculously cute, with something much more... portable...
gingerbread cup-egde houses from Not Martha
Miniature gingerbread house from Not Martha (and if you read the full post, they're even more amazing)

And for those who can’t go past the traditional gingerbread men, even those have been getting an update (and getting feisty)...

Ninjabread men
Ninjabread men from Worldwide Fred

Or finding their own ways to cope with the stress of the festive season...

Gingerbread yogi cutters from Baked Ideas
Gingerbread yogi cutters from Baked Ideas via The Kitchn

Or maybe that yoga is just to help them take a more zen-like approach to their inevitable fate... a bit like these cutters do, too...

already been chewed gingerbread men from Worldwide Fred
ABC (already been chewed) cookie cutters from Worldwide Fred via Cooking.com

And if you prefer your gingerbread characters with a bit more anthropomorphism, it’s hard to go past a penguin…

Gingerebread penguins from The Crafty Penguin
Gingerbread penguins from The Crafty Penguin (and these are so cute, and remind me so much of certain puppets made by the ever-surprising Porcavore)

Alternatively, you could pootle on the computer looking for gingerbread for so long that you start dreaming about one of these…

Gingerbread laptop
Gingerbread laptop from Peppar Kakshus via Black Eiffel

And if none of the above appeals, and you don’t want gingerbead pancakes (with or without chocolate chips), crepes or muffins, then bunker down for a few more days and it might blow over till next year. But if you get trampled by a gluttonous penguin in pursuit of a gingerbread cannoli (really), don’t say you weren’t warned!

* This seems to have gone from the sweepingly general to the pointedly specific even more quickly than usually happens...
** Unless those Latin dancers make you want to step away from the Christmas treats again. Sorry, pointedly specific again…


If One Milk Bottle Should Accidentally Fall...

Monday, December 20, 2010

On the eighth day of Christmas my penguin gave to me...
Eight milk bottles,
Seven owls (just seven?),
Six roasted chickens,
Five golden pastries,
Four wobbling jellies,
Three French badgers,
Two turtle bars,
And a pelican in a pear tree

I don’t understand the fuss about milk.

It’s an unwelcome distraction from important dairy options like ice cream, yogurt and, most importantly, cheese. All sorts of cakes, sauces, puddings, porridges and especially custards need it to exist, but that just makes it an ingredient, albeit a very useful one. And, just as I wouldn’t want to go and eat a cup of flour, I don’t want to go and drink a cup of milk. Unless you pair it with an equal amount of melted chocolate, and then I’m more than happy to consider it.

Even when small, as soon as somebody asked me if I wanted some milk, rather than it being, first, a biological necessity and, later, an assumed and unavoidable requirement, I leapt at the chance to avoid unadulterated cowiness ever after.

So it seems almost a pity to waste milk bottles on, well... milk.

There are vintage ones...

vintage milk bottles
Picture via Living Room Spot

Some of them come in little baskets...

au lait milk bottles in holder
Au Lait via Lushlee

There are ceramic ones which combine a sturdy shape with an air of delicate fragility...

Milk bottle from Alyssa Ettinger on Etsy via Tartelette and Oh, Hello, Friend

Or cheery patterned ones...

Robert Gordon milk bottles via Imprintables
Milk bottles from Robert Gordon via Imprintables

There are more sophisticated painted ones...

Angus & Celeste hand-painted ceramic bottles
Flower painted bottle vases from Angus and Celeste via The Finders Keepers

You can put interesting bits and pieces in them...

Three Potato Four milk bottles
Milk bottles from Three Potato Four's shop

There are even some trying to get away with being cartons...

ceramic milk carton from Sorbet Living
Milk "carton" by Sorbet Living via Not On The High Street

And there are lots of beautiful coloured ones...

Bison milk bottles
Bison milk bottles* via Ohara Design Group

... which, of course, come from Bison. Because so many lovely things do (you'd be positively mad to miss them!).

* Suitable for a wide range of decorative and purposeful uses... not just bison milk...


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