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    Blogging about baking (and alcohol)

    I know it looks like I’ve abandoned this blog, given the amount of time it’s taken me to post something but that’s not the case – honest!  I have, however, been writing another project I’m working on.

    Having worked for a pub and a bar (and soon to be a steak and ale house too) I figured it was about time I learnt more about alcohol.  So as well as attending some of the training sessions, rum clubs and asking a lot of questions, I thought I’d combine it with another hobby – baking!

    At the moment it’s a cross between using found recipes and making up my own, but please take a look.  And if I can help tempt you, here’s my recipe for Whisky Cake using Chivas Regal Scotch Whisky.

    Ingredients for Whisky Cake
    175g Caster sugar
    185g Self raising flour
    175g Butter
    3 Eggs
    1/2tsp Vanilla extract
    75ml Whisky (I used the Chivas Regal 12 year old Scotch whisky)
    1/4tsp cinnamon
    30ml freshly brewed coffee (I used Ethiopian Mocha coffee)
    75g Butter
    175g Icing sugar
    25ml Whisky
    1/4tsp Orange liqueur

    Pre-heat the oven to 180c
    Cream in the butter and sugar
    Add the eggs one by one, making sure they’re combined
    Add the cinnamon, whisky, vanilla extract and coffee
    Sieve in the flour and fold in
    Bake for about 45mins-1hr, then leave to cool.
    The icing is a basic buttercream; cream in all the ingredients and ice the cake once it has cooled fully.

    Whisky Cake using Chivas Regal with a slight orange and whisky buttercream icing

    Birmingham, Books, Online stuff

    My thoughts on Library Camp 2011

    I felt a bit of a fraud on Saturday morning turning up to Library Camp, an unconference for librarians, until I realised that I had actually spent some time looking after a library.  And I made cake, which actually seemed to be more of a prerequisite for attendance than a library career.  Thankfully everyone was so utterly delightful that I think as long as you are passionate about libraries and had cake you were greeted with welcomed arms.

    Photo of part of the timetable by smilylibrarian from flikr

    The first part of the unconference was the pitching for sessions, duly written on post-it-notes, groups and organised into sessions.  It’s a shame we could only go to five, but when the disappointing thing is too many interesting sessions you know you’re on to a good thing.  Thankfully lots of people tweeted throughout the day so it was possible to catch up on other discussion and people have subsequently blogged their thoughts on them too (like this one from Jennifer Yellin).

    It’s hard to pick favourites, but I really enjoyed the two on advertising and what libraries can learn from retail, which isn’t surprising given that I work in communications and marketing.  Bums on Seats made some really good notes on these two sessions.  The retail session seemed to focus on a lot of practical things that could be done in libraries – displays and books facing outwards, although the idea of having books in categories seemed to split opinion.  Personally I think opening times are one of the biggest barriers to people using the library – something which I mentioned on twitter and seemed to get some good responses.  The last session on advertising was the one I understood the best, having experience in public sector marketing and it seems that some of the problems the librarians found were similar, if not worse, to those I found in the NHS.  Sadly it sounded like the will to market was there, but with little support from their corporate communications teams (one team has to email tweets to the webmaster which are frequently changed and lose meaning)

    The other notable session I sat in on was one on Shared Reading  A group of about ten of us read a short story about a father and son, paused at relevant places, which provoked some really unexpected and strong emotional reactions.  I’m not entirely sure I can convey how powerful and moving this session was, but when a 45 minute session with a group of strangers nearly brings you to tears you might get the idea.  I’m determined to learn more.

    Discussions at lunch about further education libraries, children’s development and a whole raft of bookish talk were really interesting.  Plus I was given a free book by the lovely @JennySarahJones which I found out about thanks to the power of twitter!

    So what did I learn

    • Library folk are some of the nicest people ever and really like their cake.
    • Following a hashtag (#libcampuk11) on tweetdeck when its updated fairly regularly is rubbish, the twitter app was a lot more useful.
    • The cola cupcakes recipe from Hummingbird Bakery book was actually a hit – people even tweeted me to say so!
    • If the people at libcampUK11 are anything to go by, so long as the current government doesn’t completely chop the library budget to shreds, the future of libraries are in good hands.

    Initially I wasn’t sure how interesting I’d find the day or how useful I’d be, but in the end I left Library Camp inspired and hopeful – and determined to use the library more.  A big thanks to those that organised the event and to those in attendance for providing me with some really interesting ideas.


    Baking vegan cupcakes

    I seem to be making a lot of cupcakes recently.  The last few batches have been made from recipes from the Primrose Bakery, but I was invited to an ex-vegan-now-vegetarian friend’s birthday and thought I’d finally have a go at making vegan cupcakes.

    I’ve always shied away from vegan cupcakes because a lot of them seemed to involve adding things that just seemed odd to have in cake.  Admittedly since eating beetroot and courgette cakes I’ve relaxed a bit on that, but we’ve never had tofu in the house and it seems odd to start now.

    Thankfully I found a recipe on The Vegan Society website where the weirdest ingredients are oil and vinegar.  That’s okay; we have those in the house (well we didn’t have vinegar, but we needed it).

    8floz (230ml) soya milk
    1 tsp vinegar
    5oz (140g) caster sugar
    3floz (90ml) vegetable oil
    1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    4oz (125g) plain flour
    1 1/2 oz (45g) cocoa powder
    3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt

    1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C/gas mark 4 and line muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
    2. Whisk together soya milk and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add sugar, oil and vanilla extract and beat until foamy.
    3. In a separate bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are okay).
    4. Pour into liners, filling three quarters of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack. Eat while still warm or allow to cool completely and ice with chocolate ‘buttercream’ .

    From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by I C Moskowitz & T H Romero ( with thanks. Makes 12.


    I couldn’t get the soya milk and vinegar to curdle and I replaced the vegetable oil with sunflower as we had it in the house, but everything seemed to turn out fine.  My housemate did say that the batter looked like melted chocolate and once baked they did look pretty dark with chocolate, but actually they weren’t too sickly.  Even with a load of vegan chocolate buttercream icing on top.

    I’m not a huge fan of baking chocolate cake, but these were easy enough to do, didn’t really require anything too odd and apart from an issue with the silicone cupcake cases (silicone ones went wonky, paper cases were fine) they weren’t really any different to regular cupcakes.  Definitely a recipe for the binder.