I have baking related anxiety. It’s the first public outing of my wares at the school my son attends. I really wrestled with this one. To take part, or not to take part in the harvest bake off, that is the question?
Of course it’s not a real bake off, as in there are no prizes, it’s not in any way a competition, Paul Hollywood’s not about to give a withering look to a Boden wearing Mum and reduce her to a snivelling wreck. It’s not even called a bake off. You DON’T HAVE TO BAKE! But I’m no fool, I know how these things work. People pretend they don’t care and they’re not competing, but they are. And worst of all, the food isn’t given to the needy and aged. It’s sold off tomorrow afternoon to raise money for charity. Heavens above! The pressure. People might actually buy and eat these things! They’ve parted with money!
Struck with The Fear, I did contemplate buying a few loaves of bread from Sainsbury’s and scattering flour over them. I also thought about buying some tinned peaches – well, that’s what we took to harvest festival in my day, along with a can of Tip Top. And then my little boy pleaded for me to crack open the fondant icing and make some animals. So, him being one of the loves of my life, I’ve obliged. Here they are. The mice are not my best work. The snails I am happy with. They look unhinged, in a snaily way. What’s hiding underneath? Rice crispy cakes of course. What else does one make for a school bake sale? And it’s pretty hard to get anxious about crispy cakes.
If anyone reading attends the school and happens to see me frantically buying the cakes back, thrusting £5 notes at the poor lady on the stall, please just ignore and walk on by. My son has made me promise to buy at least six. Six! Well, he is a growing lad.
One year ago: Apple and blackberry flapjack and Cheatscake
Two years ago: Father Christmas’ Bakewell tart and Chocolate cupcakes and truffle icing
Three years ago: Roasted red tomato soup and Chicken piggy pot pies
If your child is nuts about the Octonauts then try this: Octonuat cupcakes
Chocolate crispy cakes topped with snails and mice.
- Fondant icing, various colours. For 12 I used about 3 x 250g packs altogether.
- 300g milk chocolate
- 110g rice crispies
Make the toppers the night before. Roll fondant icing out onto greaseproof paper with a VERY CLEAN rolling pin (fondant picks up everything and anything, wash your hands too, they’re likely covered in small pieces of fluff – working with fondant makes even the most slovenly types a bit OCD) to about 1cm thickness then use a circular cutter to cut 12 circles the size of the top of your cupcake cases. Leave on flat greaseproof paper to dry, well spaced.
Cut small holes using the wrong end of an icing nozzle, out of the mice toppers to depict holey cheese. Use the wrong end of a wooden pastry brush to make extra indents. Then set about fashioning your animals.
Snails are simple enough – to make a base for his/her house just make a sausage and roll away, then bend. Two small pieces of white fondant with a toothpick pushed into the middle make eyes. A mouth is made with a toothpick wiggled side to side. If any of the bits of fondant won’t stick to the other bits use a tiny, tiny bit of water to place them on. Use water to attach the snail to the fondant topper and leave to dry, lightly covered with clingfilm but not in an air tight container (and never in the fridge) for at least 24 hours – 48 is preferable. Snail pic for reference:
The mice are a little more tricky. Fashion paws with small dots of white fondant, stick them to the hole you’ve made in the fondant cheese then make little toes by pushing a toothpick in, horizontally – in fact skip this as no-one even sees this bit. Make a tail by rolling a piece of fondant very thinly and placing the end in the cheese hole. Next make a cone for the mice head, stick a pink nose on the end and place in the cheese hole. Make little eyes with a toothpick. Lastly come the ears; they’re a pain in the backside. Small pieces of white fondant squashed into circles with smaller pink fondant squashed on the top. Pinch one end and then flatten it and use this pinched end to fix to the mouse head. Repeat and you’re done! Dry as per the snails.
On the day of eating, line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cases. Melt the chocolate in a large bowl in the microwave in blasts of 10 seconds – you know how ferocious your microwave is. Whatever you do don’t burn the chocolate! It never comes back from the brink after an over heating.
Stir the rice crispies through the molten chocolate and spoon into cupcake cases equally. Level a little with a spoon then pop the dried toppers onto the crispy cakes. Leave to dry and voila! Maximum impact, almost minimum effort. And not an oven turned on in sight.