Tag Archives: Banana

Battle of the Birthday cakes

December is always a busy month for our family, what with birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas to celebrate and squeeze in alongside the end of term and all the added demands that that almost always inevitably brings. As well as the last-minute rush to make sure cards have been written (and sent) and that presents have been bought (and wrapped), I also have to make sure I have time to bake the perfect cake to help us celebrate G’s birthday in style.

Over the years I have tried my hand at all sorts of cakes and I love spending the time to let my creative side really come out, though Mike might disagree as some of my more complicated masterpieces have kept us up into the early hours as I strive to get every detail just right. Last year I attempted a gluten- and dairy-free red velvet cake for G, which tasted great, but didn’t look as appealing as I’d have liked and so this year I was determined to create her a special treat that looked and tasted the part. G is a definite chocolate lover, something that can be a little tricky when you’re dairy-free, but there are lots of great dairy-free options available and I was determined to use a mix of them to make G a cake that the whole family, including M, could enjoy.

The obvious starting point was the beautiful chocolate mayonnaise cupcakes that I had perfected for Mike’s birthday and which I knew I could turn into a fantastic 2 layer cake. I wanted to create a really sumptuous filling and to my delight discovered this salted caramel flavoured icing mix as I wandered around our local supermarket. Mixed with our regular dairy-free spread, this made the perfect buttercream filling and topping for G’s cake. I finished it off with handfuls of Freedom mallows, shavings of Moo-free chocolate and sprinkles of Sainsbury’s Free From White chocolate chips. The final cake was a huge success: gooey, delicious and everything my chocolate-lover could have wanted for her 15th birthday.

Once G’s birthday celebrations finally came to an end, I was then on to my next birthday cake project, which was to bake a cake for my Aunt for her birthday on December 23. This year was her first celebrating without my Uncle, who sadly passed away earlier in 2018 and the plan was for a family gathering at my Mum’s house to mark the day. Mum was keen for me to bake some more of the chocolate cake that I had made for G’s birthday, but I wanted to do something a little different, especially with Christmas right around the corner, and instead settled on one of M’s firm favourites, banana bread.

When it came to making the cake, G was a huge help and offered to bake a dozen cupcakes, whilst I decided how to decorate them. She did a great job and by the time I’d found the perfect design and all the necessary ingredients, there were 12 wonderful looking cupcakes waiting and ready to go. I took inspiration from the front cover of a fantastic cupcakes cookery book that I’ve used before and gave a nod to my Welsh heritage with a plateful of sheep cupcakes. Safe buttercream icing, a small supply of Freedom mallows, safe cocoa powder and a little fondant icing was all that was needed to create these fun birthday treats,which were not only enjoyed on the 23rd, but saw G and M through Christmas too.

Bananas’ Best Bits

One of the nicest things about adding some new foods to M’s limited list, other than the obvious of…well, you know, the addition of new foods to a highly restricted diet…is that just 3 new ingredients have added a huge number of new recipes for him to enjoy. Each one has brought something different to the cookery table, but the best one in many ways, or so M would have you believe, is the mighty banana. I first started playing with recipes back in March for M’s birthday, when I adapted an old favourite to bake a banana bread birthday cake with reasonable success. M wasn’t impressed by what he felt was an overwhelming flavour of nutmeg, so the recipe has had a few more tweaks to reach what is, by M’s exacting standards, almost complete perfection. It’s no exaggeration to say that the introduction of a 3rd fruit has been a game-changer in our household and so I thought I’d share the best bits about bananas with you all:

Banana Bread – it’s never easy to find recipes that can be adapted, and adapted well, to suit M’s restricted diet and these days vegan recipes are almost always my automatic go-to starter for 10. I found a wonderful vegan banana bread recipe on the BBC Good Food website and it took just a few subtle tweaks to turn it into a tasty, gluten-free, M-friendly baked treat that has been a big teatime hit. The latest twist has been to add some dairy- and soya-free chocolate chips to the dough, which makes the cake taste even more indulgent and a welcome addition to his daily packed lunch for school.

Banana & Chocolate Chip cookies – so often my recipes are a response to an unexpected need and these cookies are no different. One of M’s English lessons recently revolved around a tale of children stealing cookies from the staff office and his tutor group were given the opportunity to re-enact the story during a lesson. M came home from school very upset that he hadn’t been chosen to be one of these wannabe thieves and felt excluded because he knew he wouldn’t be able to share eating the cookies once they had successfully been taken. Fortunately, a quick call to the Head of Year 7 and an even quicker Google search found this wonderful recipe, which again required just a few tweaks to make a batch of M-friendly cookies that could be smuggled out of the school office alongside the ones for the rest of his class.

Banana, Apple & Lime Smoothie – one of M’s most precious possessions at the moment is the Nutribullet and Smoothies recipe book that my Aunt has given him as a memory of my Uncle. M feels even closer to him as he peruses the different recipes, trying to work out which he can safely make and enjoy and smoothies have quickly become a staple of his everyday diet. It’s even given him a great vehicle to trial raspberries as a handful added to the fruit mix works a treat. Despite his regular reluctance to get up and get ready for school, M can frequently be found whipping up a smoothie as an alternative to a more normal breakfast and he happily drinks it as he and G walk to school each morning. For a child who has always struggled with what to eat first thing in the day, these smoothies have been a real success story and a welcome break from the stresses that have all too often been a constant part of our morning routine.


The Battle for Breakfast (magnificent muffin recipes included!)

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_to_work_on_an_egg

Who can forget this advice?

Over the past 12 months, there has been a lot in the national press about the numbers of children who are arriving at school without having eaten any breakfast.  More schools have introduced breakfast clubs, in some cases financially supported by the teachers, to ensure that pupils get that all important start to their day.  The benefits of a good breakfast to see us all through our day are well-documented and as a Mum, I’ve tried install those principles in my children.

G is a fantastic breakfast eater and always has been.  I remember, at an early age, picking her up from nursery and being told by the astounded key-worker that she had eaten 3 whole weetabix for her breakfast that morning.  What amazed me more, was that she had already eaten a full bowl of cereal (2 weetabix) at home before getting to nursery – where my tiny mite had put those 5 weetabix we will never know,  She happily munches her way through an overflowing bowl of rice pops and cornflakes with raisins and milk and, if she has enough time, then another bowl will be consumed too.

Courtesy of controlengeurope.com

Courtesy of controlengeurope.com

M is the complete polar opposite of his sister.  He is much more like me and doesn’t like to eat as soon as he wakes up in the morning.  The problem is that due to his sleep issues, I inevitably have to wake him for school and even showering and dressing before we attempt breakfast rarely achieves much success.  It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get M to eat even a scrap of breakfast, which simply reflects his current health and declining appetite.

Which is why I’m constantly and desperately searching for a tasty morsel that will entice him to eat first thing, whilst being relatively healthy. We’ve tried toast, bacon sandwiches, cereal, porridge, fresh fruit and yoghurts, all with relatively limited success.  One day he’ll eat something like it’s going out of fashion, the next day it’s like getting blood from a stone.  I was stuck for ideas until last weekend, when inspiration hit.  We were up in London for an extended celebration of my Mum’s birthday and at breakfast on the Sunday morning, G disappeared off to the buffet and came back bearing a mini chocolate chip muffin for me as a thank you for taking them to London for the weekend.

As I munched my way through this tiny treat, it struck me that it was just the thing that might tantalise M’s tastebuds first thing in the morning. All I needed to do was find a muffin recipe and do some of my free-from jiggery-pokery to turn it into the perfect M-friendly nibble.  We had a huge amount of rapidly-browning bananas in the fridge, so a recipe for banana muffins seemed the obvious choice.  I found one, played around with the ingredients and ended up with this wonderful looking batch:

By the time I got round to photographing the end result, 3 had already been devoured by G&M - success!

By the time I got round to photographing the end result, 3 had already been devoured by G&M – success!

Excited by the instant success, and with some left-over bacon and soya- and dairy- free cheese (yes such a thing really does exist) lurking in the bottom of the fridge, I found, adapted and baked a recipe for bacon and cheese muffins.  These turned out a little more anaemic-looking and seem to be a recipe I’m going to need to tweak a little more to perfect:

Less golden than the banana ones, but still delicious

Less golden than the banana ones, but still delicious

So, from one evening’s work, I’ve found 2 new recipes – banana muffins and bacon & cheese muffins – and have a pair of happy children.  The only problem?  As much as M loves the muffins, it appears they weren’t the weapons I was searching for and the battle to get him to eat breakfast rages on!