A Slight Misunderstanding

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When I said I needed cake minions, what I meant was that I needed a troupe (just a small one would do) of general spatula-wielders, icing stirrers and washer-uppers. This wasn't quite what I had in mind...

Minion cakes (a la Despicable Me) from Emilie Handmade

Even if they don't clean the kitchen and generally do my bidding, I do think they're pretty cool! And that's without having seen the film...

Today is, in fact, a day of wishing for just about any variety of minions, cake-related or otherwise. Bit of a big day in the real world. Looking forward to a return to sanity (or at least the usual level of slight eccentricity) over the Easter break. Hope you all have a good - and slightly eccentric - one, too!


Ice Cream Is Always The Answer

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Tower of Pisa is leaning because the world is really a giant bowl of gelato, which tends not to be the most stable of foundations. Which explains both its elemental appeal (the gelato, I mean, not the tower) and the reason global warming is such a problem.

gelato with cookie towers
Photo by lightmatter (Aaron Logan) on Flickr

And if the world is just the bowl, I'd love to know what else is lurking in that freezer...


Is Done. Is Good.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

There are people who like taking photos. There are people who like cooking. There are people who like taking photos of cooking. And there are lots of people who enjoy the results of cooking (when it goes mostly according to plan, at least). There are also some people who don't just enjoy cooking, photographing and eating, but also the editing, cropping and, worst of all, narrowing down of fifty very similar shots of a plate of whatever-it-was-you-just-made. Or, if they don't enjoy it, they at least have fortitude and avoid procrastination. I am resoundingly not one of those people.

Poster by Ben Barry for Facebook (a maxim that website appears to live by to great effect / frustration, depending on which side of the fence you happen to be); quote by Scott Allen

I have photos of all sorts of baking experiments that I'm bubbling over to share with you, and sit down all keen to write a post. And then I look at the photos. And then at my Google reader. And then tweet a bit (procrastination is infinitely improved by both Artwiculate, and by adding custard to poetry. Or adding custard to almost anything, really...). And then I go and make a cup of tea. You can see where this is going... even if you can't yet see the photos.

So, while I continue to harrumph at pictures of plates of biscuits and slices of cake, my general (if occasionally lessening) ineptitude with a camera and the vagaries of Tastespotting, Foodgawker and the like, here's a little distraction in the form of an intriguing piece of kitchen gadgetry. When I saw it, I wondered why anybody would cross a muffin pan with a foosball table...

Debbie Meyer Cupcake Genius; photo from Cupcakes Take The Cake

It turns out that the rack is put on top of the muffin pan after the pans have been filled with batter, to create  little indentations in the cakes as they bake. So then, the cakes are ready to be filled with lemon curd or buttercream or jam or ganache or whatever intriguing substance you feel inclined to stuff into a cupcake. Assuming you didn't prefer to bake it straight into the cake in the first place!

Now, as the owner of a cupcake corer, I know I have fewer legs to stand on than a heron on a unicycle when it comes to highly specific and relatively-infrequently-used baking accoutrements, but this seems to be making something pretty straightforward just a bit more involved than it might need to be.

What do you think of the cupcake genius, and where do you draw the line with peculiar kitchen gadgets?


No Chintz

Monday, April 18, 2011

If I started out unconvinced by icing transfers, I'd now like to eat my words. And my cake. Especially if my cake happened to be this one...

Cupcake with icing transfer by Hello Frosting
Cupcake with icing transfer by Hello Frosting on The Underground Ferris Wheel (which is such a wonderful evocatively whimsical name, too)

And if I could eat if while perched elegantly on a botanical print chair, with a cup of tea beside me (perhaps on a stack of magazines set on lime-washed floor boards, looking out to a balcony), then that would be very good indeed...

Butterfly chair by Tortie Hoare
Butterfly chair by Tortie Hoare from via Sunday In Bed (which is less whimsical a name, but an excellent idea)

Can you perch elegantly and eat a cupcake, though? Or is it better suited to curling up in a comfy corner and digging in?

The manner of eating cupcakes brought back to me that, when I was at uni, and used to eat a luridly pink-iced cupcake for lunch for days than was probably wise, I used to eat my cupcake upside down. It began with peeling off the wrapper, and nibbling my way through the vanilla sponge in anticipation of ending with the glossy icing. This might be another reason I prefer buttercream inside cakes, rather than on top of them, as it makes the turning upside down rather messy. I wonder if an icing transfer would fix this, though...

Do you have particular rituals for eating cakes?


Not Subdued, Fondued - More Cupcakes On A Stick

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What's brown and sticky?
A brown stick.

This sort of dad-joke (fool's) gold can reduce me to a quivering panna-cotta-like heap of mirth*, generally after that witching hour when you realise that you're so tired that the most stupid things become hilarious. Perhaps because of their very stupidity, but I suspect it doesn't do to analyse such things.

Another thing that's brown and sticky is a cupcake in a fondue...

Cupcake fondue from Cupcake Project (where they have a fondue pot that looks like a Hershey's Kiss)

Food on sticks has been rather a preoccupation this week, whether to be dunked in fondues or simply because you can. And finding a way to fondue a cake is perhaps a little too good to be true. Variations on a theme are now coming to mind thick and fast (or thick and gloopy, which might be more appropriate for a fondue). How about cornbread muffins in a cheese fondue? I suspect attempts to DIY a deep-fried Mars bar in the original carnivorous and artery-clogging type of fondue pot might only end in disappointment - but that might not put me off trying it out...

But if you think that the whole fondue-d cake equation is definitely not greater than the sum of its parts, perhaps keeping those cupcakes on a stick simple and elegant** is the best way to go...

Cupcakes on sticks from Style Me Pretty, photo by Carla Ten Eyck

Simple and elegant, though, would mean you miss out on the sheer unadulterated bright perky sugar high of this particular cupcake fondue. It's like a cake version of fairy bread, with extra icing...

Cupcake fondue by Pint Size Social via Only Cupcakes

I'm torn between the appeal of a seemingly bottomless pot of orange glacĂ© icing, and the concern that it might not quite be a proper fondue unless the dunking liquid of choice is bubbling away merrily. Do you fondue?

P.S. Asking that final question suddenly made me think of the Yahoo advertise (back before searches came in every variety as long as they're Google!). Fonduuuuuee! Yee haa optional...

* I'm not sure I've encountered a mirthful panna cotta, but I'm sure it would be fun...
** Can a cupcake be elegant, or is cute the best it can ever hope for?


Temporary Identity Crisis

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The grass can be greener on the other side... of the iceberg. Sometimes, a penguin can be a bit uncertain about whether a dinner suit really is always the best sartorial selection, and if they might like an occasional change from  sashimi for dinner. Maybe other creatures are having far more fun (or at least being more glamorous and with a more interesting dinner)?

This is when a penguin wonders...

All of which is a very thinly disguised effort to make general squee! noises about having discovered a website which has a font made of llamas. Of llamas! What more could you possibly want to randomly discover on a bucketingly wet Saturday afternoon? Well, perhaps an endless tray of brownies and that the spare bedroom has been taken over by speculoos spread and the Kate Spade fall collection. As neither of those is the slightest bit likely, I'll settle quite happily for the llamas...



Friday, April 15, 2011

Xylophobe - a person who can't stand tinkly piano music...

The Choir of Antarctica by ilovedoodle
The Choir Of Antarctica by I Love Doodle (who has a fabulous website, and sells his prints on Etsy

Much less common is the bagwuss, who runs and hides at the first sound of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and has a penchant for wearing pink stripy tops...

Bagwusses - sorry, bagpusses - by geese on Flickr a sea of pink and white stripy feline humbugs! These ones look considerably less jowly and rotund than the original, though...

Between the Other Penguin and me, we cover both bases. Whether it's Alicia Keys, ballroom music or The Whitlams, I do enjoy a piano (where he tends to prefer guitars and synthesisers, and I haven't yet encountered a bloke who enjoys The Whitlams). But busking bagpipers will send me bolting down the road with fingers in my ears quicker than nails down a blackboard...


Finding Your Inner Bree - With Brie

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I sometimes joke that baking my way of embracing my inner Bree Van De Kamp. Mostly in the sense of domestic goddess with a fabulous line in acerbic understatement. Occasionally for qualities somewhat less noble, but equally compelling. And conveniently overlooking the rabid perfectionist / impossibly repressed / reformed alcoholic elements. I also rather envy her astonishingly well-behaved hair (although it may be immaculate simply from blind fear of what will happen should it dare defy her, combined with either an iron will or a straightening iron).

Alas, my culinary ventures tend to leave me resembling nothing quite so much as a flour-sprinkled haystack. And much as waking up to the smell of cinnamon sounds appealing when it's in the form of warm sticky rolls with cream cheese icing, it's less fun when you realise that it's just... you. Apparently making a vast batch of spiced marzipan cookies and speculaas blondies the evening before take their toll.

So I think it's time for the world to follow this lead and embrace the joy of being a little unkempt...

Embrace Messy Hair print by funnelcloud
Print by funnelcloud

And if that's just too hard, this advice is likely to be much easier to follow...

Eat More Cheese print by funnelcloud
Print by funnelcloud

A recent article in The Punch on retro food brought back (to me and numerous others) the joys of the seventies classic, the fondue. And, with cooler weather on the horizon, perhaps this might be the best way to get more cheese into your life...

Cheese fondue from Sippity Sup
Cheese fondue from Sippity Sup

So, would you prefer perfect hair, or more cheese? Or is it greedy to hanker after both...?


Food With Bite - A Banana Blog

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

There's nothing like scarcity to increase appeal. Bananas are usually, if not quite literally a dime a dozen, at least sufficiently plentiful and cheap as to seem a little pedestrian, especially when there are berries and stone fruit to be had. Now they're up at well over $10 a kilo, suddenly there are all sorts of banana recipes I want to try, and buying bananas to let them go squishy and stick them into recipes seems a little extravagant (in an impractical-yet-mundane way, rather than a purple handbag sort of way).

Which means that delicious possibilities like banana bread ice cream will just have to wait a bit longer...

Banana bread ice cream with peanut butter and stracciatella from Guilty Kitchen

There's also a banana upside down cake by David Lebovitz which is also calling my name loudly from a lurking corner of the kitchen. And as soon as I went hunting for the link to it, another one (with mocha frosting and caramelised peanuts) was added to an ever-growing list. Oh, how I need to christen that lovely shiny new copy of Ready for Dessert...

Bananas might have become such an indulgence that they're not going to put on stripy PJs for less than $10,000 a day. Maybe it's time for a new approach...

Piranhas in Pyjamas!

Whether it's the perfect solution to get kids to eat more fish, or a way to make the naughty corner seem like a pile of cupcakes and rainbows, I can't quite decide. Although either mightn't be a bad thing...


Mars And Venus Buying Paint

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

There's been a bit of a polka-dot fixation going on around here since the recent re-design (and there was certainly a latent fondness for them long before). And, after a visit to the paint shop with the Other Penguin on the weekend, in which I discovered and then attempted to narrow down the impossible number of textures, finishes and shades of pale neutrality which could be applied in painting a plain wooden table, this diagram struck a bit of a chord...

How men and women see colours
Picture via Geek In Heels

That said, and at risk of stepping into much more controversial territory than types of icing and permutations of brownies*, I think there are far fewer differences between men and women than lots of people (with a special shout out to columnists and writers of self-help books) might (like to) think.

But whether you see colours differently when wearing cowboy boots might be worth pondering...

* And all those caveats before stepping in where wiser mortals might fear to tread are most uncharacteristically wary. Clearly some practice at charging headlong into polarising and insufficiently informed opinions like a bull in a china shop is called for!


Dropping A Bombshell. Or Maybe An Eggshell.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wearing black and white might be the only thing waiters have in common with penguins…

“OK, fellas, this isn't looking good. Bob, what were you thinking letting go?!”
“But Sam, it's kinda hard to carry a cake when you've got wings”
“I know, I know, but you didn't see me drop the platter, now, did you?”

Penguin print by Avalisa, available (among other places) from All Posters, ice cream cake from One Charming Party, and conversation between penguins imagined by their sticky, baking relative. Sometimes I know just how they feel, too – things have a habit of ending up upside down when you least expect it (and least can afford it). Perhaps all available coordination gets used up on ballroom dancing. Or perhaps baking half a dozen things at once at the witching hour is asking for trouble...

As long as you can be clumsy without an audience, it’s not so bad. And if the results turned out as well as this cake, well, I’d be dropping things left, right and centre – but possibly from shock!


Stamp of Disapproval

Sunday, April 10, 2011

If all those stamps yesterday just made you want to stamp your foot, here’s something for the grumpy, the snarky, and those who think that the only queen they want anything to do with went downhill after the demise of Freddy Mercury or wears towering platform heels, a bouffant wig and a feather boa*.

I'm Not Convinced stamp of disapproval
Stamps of Disapproval by Heather K Phillips
Stamps by Heather K Phillips from Schooled

These tell-it-how-it-really-is stamps gave me such a chortle when I first came across them on Paper Pastries. Although I can certainly think of times they’d come in handy...

Though, in defence of queens I do like @Queen_UK on Twitter. Ascerbic asides, bad puns and a slosh of gin – perfect. For some reason, I imagine her as being far more glamorous than her real-life counterpart (not at all difficult, I realise, when you’re competing with sugared-almond pastels and hats that look more like cake boxes. She’s more of a Mrs Lilien version of a queen...

Mrs Leo by Mrs Lilien
Mrs Leo by Mrs Lilien

Perhaps those stamps could do with a we are not amused version. All this monarchy malarkey could be enough to drive you to gin!


Stamp Of Approval

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cake bunting seems to have gone from a quirky one-off to a growing trend. It’s hoisting its custom-decorated flag all over the place and claiming ts turf on behalf of bakers who want to dress up a cake without needing to be a dab hand with a piping bag. And hallelujah to that – those of us who view a spatula as more cutlery than a utensil can breathe a sigh of relief at a distraction from our rough-iced creations!

This twist on cake bunting combines a cheery one-in-every-colour feel with a bit of elegant restraint. At first glance, it might not quite register what it’s made from...

Postage stamp cake bunting from D Sharp
Postage stamp cake bunting design from D Sharp (who sells via Etsy and Big Cartel)

The portrait on the postage stamp reproduced in a range of colours strikes me as a little bit Warhol, but with the slightly muted shades is more toned down than technicolour – Warhol with a polaroid camera, maybe? And the simple white icing mixes the retro charm with clean modern lines.

With the fashion for Union Jack designs and all things vintage, it’s surprising that the classic English postage stamp doesn’t seem to have had a similar revival yet. Perhaps it’ll be the next design equivalent of the cupcake? This rug might not be everyone’s cup of Earl Grey, but it has a certain strikingly eccentric charm...

Postage stamp rug by Rug Maker from Rockett St George
Postage stamp rug by Rug Maker from Rockett St George

I wonder if the hyped-to-pieces English royal wedding will tip Empire chic out of vogue, or if we’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg...


Stick In The Mud

Friday, April 8, 2011

My theory about serving tiny plates of tiny food is that it’s a bit like pouring sand into a jar of pebbles – the sand fills in every last gap because the grains are so small. Yum cha is perhaps the most extreme example... those small, innocent dumplings in harmless little bamboo steamers collectively result in a certain need for a wheelbarrow to be carted out in (perhaps the steamers of pork buns, tarts, noodles, polar bear balls and all sorts of other things play a contributing role as well, but I mostly blame the dumplings. There always needs to be a scapegoat). Tapas can produce a similar (but usually marginally lesser) level of gluttony – I’m sure this is why small plate eating is so in vogue – while it’s also about the enjoyment of sharing food with your friends and the ability to graze across a range of tastes, perhaps the commercial imperative of how much gets eaten plays a part as well.

Could you resist all those enticing little morsels? Yum cha photo by Edwina Pickles for The Age

Whoever came up with that diet tip of “eat everything off a tea plate and you’ll eat so much less food” has obviously never been to yum cha. Or, for that matter, to afternoon tea...

But you can do away with the little plates entirely, and still have the same effect. And this is where little bites on a stick come in...

It could be baked Alaska...

Baked Alaska on a stick via Cupcakes and Cutlery
Baked Alaska on a stick via Cupcakes and Cutlery

It could be cheese (it could always be cheese)...

Cheese on a stick from The Kitchn
Cheese (with crispy bacon) on a stick from The Kitchn

There are plenty of pops on sticks, but pop tarts? Homemade pop tarts? Yum...

Homemade pop tarts on a stick from Family Kitchen
Pop tarts on a stick from Family Kitchen

Just because it's a drink doesn't mean it can't go on a stick...

Hot chocolate on a stick from Giver's Log
Hot chocolate on a stick from Giver's Log

Even salad's more fun on a stick!

Salad on a stick from parents.com
Salad on a stick from parents.com

Almost everything acquires just a little more novelty when served on a stick! And that's before you get to things that are supposed to be served on a stick. Easter's not too far away, which means it's nearly the season for battered sausages and fairy floss (or, for the less gluttonous or adventurous, sweetcorn). Just as long as it's not a stormy petrel on a stick.

In Japan, there's a whole group of food-on-sticks in the form of dango. If yum cha is trouble, just imagine dumplings that come on a stick...

Dango via The Anime Blog
Dango via The Anime Blog

Closer to home, and a whole lot more appealing than a sausage on a stick, Primrose Bakeshop sells cupcakes on a stick at Paddington Markets. Get ready for a new sort of stick-y penguin!


Going Round The Bend – Orange Wacky Cake

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lots of things can be persuasive when deciding on a recipe to try out. Important things, like the tastes of the people you’re making it for, and how much time it (is meant to) take. Practical matters like whether you can get all the ingredients for it (all those possibilities for yuzu juice and quinces – not necessarily together – are having to take a back seat for now. The inclusion of chocolate tends to move a contender higher up a short-list, too. But a silly name, now, that always grabs the attention. Whether it can keep it (let alone live up to it) can be another matter...

Sticky Penguin orange wacky cake

I was trying to decide on a cake that might lend itself to being taken to a brunch. Something not so indulgent that it was too much of a dessert – some people don’t like too much (obvious) sugar early in the day* – but with a sufficiently distinctive flavour so as not to just fall by the wayside with the toast. It was going to have to compete with bacon after all, and that can be tricky. The idea of a cake that included ingredients that might be consumed at breakfast time (not, in this case, bacon...) appealed to me. So I went looking for cakes with orange juice, coffee or tea, maybe a streusel topping or some fruit. Trying to narrow down quite what I was looking for was a bit of a challenge.

And then I came across a wacky cake. Just what on earth is a wacky cake, anyway? Turns out, it’s a cake that doesn’t use eggs, milk or butter in the batter. Some are even wackier and get mixed directly in the cake tin. It apparently originated from wartime rationing, and uses vinegar and baking soda to make the cake rise. Vinegar in a cake might sound less than appealing but the cake did indeed rise and (somewhat to my surprise) was very more-ish.

Sticky Penguin orange wacky cake

The version I tried out was a sticky orange wacky cake (although if butter and eggs were in short supply in WWII, one can only wonder where on earth people were getting oranges, in days when they were such a treat you were lucky to get one in your Christmas stocking**). Leaving aside historical accuracy (because I don’t want to start getting all Heston Blumenthal and looking for a mock turtle or some other culinary anachronism to be made impossibly delectable), this is a good recipe if you’re looking for an orange cake that doesn’t also involve almond meal***.

If you feel like getting wacky in the kitchen, here’s how to make a sticky orange cake of your own...

Sticky Orange Cake
Adapted from a recipe at The Kitchn

What you need
3 cups plain flour
1½ cups white sugar
½ cup soft brown sugar, tightly packed
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Zest of one orange
2 cups of orange juice (I cheated and used bottled juice for the cake)
2/3 cup low-flavoured oil (I used grapeseed; olive oil tends to be a bit too heavy and dominate the flavour, I’ve found)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup orange marmalade
1½ cups icing sugar
Juice from the orange you zested earlier, strained

What you do
1. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F). Line two 9-inch round cake tins with baking paper (I used springform pans, and found they worked well – I’m never keen on trying to extract a cake from a regular tin and risking it disintegrating – or getting dropped!)
2. Sieve the flour white sugar and soft brown sugar and add the baking soda, salt, and orange zest. Mix until well combined.
3. Separately mix together the orange juice, vegetable oil, vinegar, and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk quickly and thoroughly. If it looks a bit like it’s bubbling and expanding slightly, that’s a good thing, and is the reaction between the ingredients starting to happen.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake tins and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cakes are set, springy when gently prodded, and a cake tester inserted comes out barely clean.
5. Let the cakes cool in the pans before removing them. And let them cool completely before icing them (speaking from experience, as somebody who has had beautiful cakes in puddles of icing far too often).
6. Spread the top of one cake with marmelade, and place the other cake on top of it. Allowing a bit of the icing to escape down the edges gives it a rustic and tasty look, I think (but I’m messy, so potentially biased...).
7. Sieve the icing sugar and add the freshly squeezed orange juice, a teaspoon at a time, until the icing is a spreadable consistency. Pour the icing onto the top cake, and arrange using your spatula / butter knife / spoon of choice for this purpose (I like a small, angled metal spatula).

Sticky Penguin orange wacky cake

The cake had a squishy but light density (which does sound like a contradiction in terms) and the orange flavour really came through. I’d be keen to try it using freshly squeezed juice in the cake as well as the icing, next time. I found the taste grew on me – while it initially seemed quite simple-tasting, it was easy to be tempted back for a bit more. It kept well for several days, though becomes squishier in the middle when left – I’d like to try it again in a larger cake tin, perhaps cooked at a slightly lower temperature and for longer (a risky business, messing with cooking times and temperatures) to do a single layer version.

I think I'll definitely be experimenting with wacky cakes again. Have you tried them? I'd love to hear about your wacky baking – or just mildly eccentric baking if you prefer!

* This is a preference I just can’t relate to. Just like breakfast cereal can be eaten at any time of day, so can dessert. Although perhaps for every meal in a day, it might be going a bit far. Unless it’s a special occasion. Or there’s an ‘r’ in the month. Or...
** So I’m reliably informed by those who lived through post-war frugality in England, which hadn’t exactly been rife with tropical fruit (not that an orange really qualifies as tropical, but you hopefully get my drift) in any case.
*** Much as I could eat cakes with almond meal until I turned into a friand, sometimes there’s an urge to try something a bit different. That, and it avoids the need to try to compete with sticky and almondy cakes done so beautifully by friends recently as well!


Harrumph! Tweet! Yum! Eating Those Angry Birds

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A confession: I had no idea what angry birds were until I saw them on a cake. And then I got curious, and googled. And dowloaded. And played. And discovered a new and addictive form of procrastination. And then (when the iPhone battery went flat) I discovered just how much food out there was inspired by those cranky featherballs.

There are bento boxes...

Angry Birds bento box from My Meal Box
Angry Birds bento box from My Meal Box

And cheeses...

Angry Birds Babybel from Cute Food For Kids
Angry Bird Babybel from Cute Food For Kids (who has a round-up of other grumpy eats, too)

And lots...

Angry Birds cupcakes from Aunty Yochana
Angry Birds cupcakes from Aunty Yochana

And lots...

Angry Birds cake from Copacabanya
Angry Birds cake from Copacabanya (Anya Richardson) (via Fonatic71)

Of cakes...

Angry Birds tiered cake by Laura Finlay
Angry Birds tiered cake by Laura Finlay for That Takes The Cake! (via Snarkygurl)

There's even a playable version...

Playable Angry Birds cake from Electric Pig
Playable Angry Birds cake from Electric Pig
Angry Birds cake (before and after) from Electric Pig. Now that's a combination of form and function!

And the pigs don't get off scot-free either...

Angry Birds pork rinds from Think Geek
Angry Birds pork rinds (because it always comes back to bacon) from Think Geek

And Banksy's, well, been Banksy-ed by the angry birds, too (not just the polka dots!)...

Angry Birdsky by Brandon Ortwein via Design Fetish
"Angry Birdsky" by Brandon Ortwein (via Design Fetish)

What's going to be next - Skyburgers? Maybe after all the kerfuffle in the media about the KFC Double Down it's just a matter of time...


Having Your Cake And Drinking It Too

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In Italy, the hot chocolate can be so thick that a spoon just about stands upright by itself*. So when I first came across this hot chocolate, I had to look twice to decide whether you eat it or drink it...

Hot chocolate cake
Hot chocolate cake via Girly Bubble

Its simplicity seems to make it all the more convincing. Although I'm not necessarily a fan of a hulking great mouthful of fondant (unless it's home made, in which case a penguin in a china shop could be something to be reckoned with...).

For those who prefer their crockery to be a little more permanent, but still in close proximity to a hot chocolate (or just a steaming mug of something less sticky and more caffeinated), this could be an option...

Dunk Mug by Dominic Skinner
Dunk Mug by Dominic Skinner, available from Mocha (via Fashionotes)

It even comes in a left handed version (so as to not drop the biscuits promptly into your lap!) and (would you believe it) polka dots (they're everywhere...).

How do you like to combine your drinks and snacks? Do you have a favourite sort of hot chocolate?

* Meaning that almost all hot chocolates that come after are too watery, too milky, too much like drinking the washing-up water or just not Italian. Better to have loved and lost...


Perky Polkadot Penguin

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Army Reserve advertisements used to say it took "one weekend a month, two weeks a year" - you could sign up and still have enough leave to take a holiday each year, too. This popped into my mind when recently thinking about blogging. Keeping up a blog can take (at least) as long as one weekend a month plus two weeks a year (albeit dispersed across countless late nights, weekend afternoons and random snatches of time here and there). Not only that, but almost every job in the civilised world gives you the ability to take a few days off. Perhaps one of the differences between a job and a compulsion passion is whether you do take that break.

So, after starting {Penguins and Parentheses} on the 21st of March last year, as a quiet little repository for occasional thoughts, and gradually turning it into a slightly-less-quiet repository for rather more regular thoughts that are very frequently about food, it was time for a short break. No leaping celebratory blogiversaries just yet (although I'm certainly hoping for many more happy returns), just a quiet fortnight to draw breath (after posting very nearly Every. Single. Day. including scheduling posts for six odd weeks of traipsing hither and yon through Paris, New York and untold numbers of bakeries).

And now {Penguins and Parentheses} is back, with extra polka dots and the promise (after today's brief detour into navel gazing) to be more sticky and penguin-y than ever. Hopefully with more recipes more often, better photos more often, and lots of capricious ponderings in between.

While I was away I tidied up, too. Hope you like the new look! After much muttering and gnashing of teeth, I've come closer to HTML and CSS than I ever thought either possible or wise. And that was before almost reaching the end of a redesign and then changing my mind and starting all over again. There are still a few corners to be dug into, so it'll be a work in progress for a little while to come, but I decided it was time to take the plunge and unleash a shiny new penguin on the interwebs. Please let me know if you encounter any glitches, or have any suggestions for things you'd like to see...

In the meantime, there's a pairing that just suits the new look of the place, starting with this Damien Hirst painting...

Albumin, Human, Glycated by Damien Hirst
"Albumin, Human, Glycated" by Damien Hirst (via The City Review)

Which inspired this fabulous cake...

Polka dot tiered cake by Martha Stewart
Polka dot cake from Martha Stewart Weddings

Although I do like this modification by Banksy - it seems to link the original work with the cake, in a madly domestic sort of way...

Keep It Spotless by Banksy
"Keep It Spotless" by Banksy (via Eddie Dangerous on Flickr)

Can a penguin change its spots, I wonder...


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