Activity Advent – Make a Gingerbread house….

make your own ingerbread house

In this house, Christmas isn’t Christmas without gingerbread in some form or another!

A little closer to Christmas we make gingerbread biscuits to hang on the tree but our favourite thing to make is a gingerbread house which we make quite early as it’s more of a decoration and it takes so long to make that we want it on display for as long as possible ;-)

To make the Gingerbread for the house, you need:
350g plain flour
175g brown sugar
100g butter
1 egg
5 tablespoons of golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons of ginger (we used more because we love the smell of the ginger)

Add the flour, the butter and the bicarbonate of soda to a large mixing bowl.

Get your hands in there and rub the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.

Next, add the rest of the ingredients and knead until everything is combined and you have an easy to work with ball of dough.  Wrap your dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least two hours, removing it about 10 minutes before you’ll be working with it.

On a floured surface roll out your dough until it is about the thickness of 2 £1 coins.

Now you need to make the shapes that will eventually become your house, I have a gingerbread house mould but it would be just as easy to print out this template and cut out the shapes you need.

Once your shapes are ready to go, bake them in a preheated oven at about 180 c for about 10-15 minutes.  Try not to forget about them while they’re in the oven or yours may turn out like mine did looking slightly crisp around the edges :-)

When your house is completely cool, you can move on to making the icing that’s going to hold everything together.

To make the Icing you need:
300g icing sugar (possibly more)
2 egg whites
We used an electric whisker to whisk the icing sugar and the egg whites until they are at the soft peak stage, this is the one bit I didn’t let Miss Frugal help with – no idea when she’ll be old enough to be allowed to use that – probably about 21!  You may need to add some extra icing sugar to get the icing thick enough – I had to add a few spoons more but then again, I used large eggs.

Now for the hard bit – sticking it together and managing to make it stay standing!

We started by piping the icing on to the bottom of one of the end pieces and then sticking it on to the large plate I was using as the base.  We used two small vases to put on either side of it to anchor it in place and then attached one of the sides and the other end.  I wouldn’t have been able to manage without my vases as Miss Frugal’s hands weren’t steady enough to hold the walls in place, you could use tins or anything to anchor your walls.  The icing sets quite quick and really does hold it together so the trick is to use as much icing as you can on the edges of every piece.

After the walls have been standing for an hour or so (we were impatient and only waited 20 minutes) you can attach the roof pieces, again using lots of icing.  As I couldn’t figure out a way to anchor these while the icing set, we did one piece at a time and took it in turns to hold the piece in place – my turn obviously lasting way longer than Miss Frugals!

After the roof has set, you’re ready to get decorating….

Here’s the end result:

It’s definitely not as perfect as it could be but we had lots of fun making it which is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

activity advent

After Eight Cupcakes….

After Eights (along with Baileys, Advocaat and Chocolate Oranges) are things that I only really buy at Christmas so when I was trying to think of what I would use to make some Christmassy cupcakes, I decided to go with After Eight themed cakes.

I bought the supermarket’s own make though as I didn’t know how they’d turn out and I would have been gutted if they’d turned out wrong and I’d wasted a whole pack of After Eights!  They were only 99p and to be honest they tasted exactly the same as the usual ones so I’ll be buying them in future anyway!

150g butter or margarine
150g sugar
3 eggs
125g self raising flour
35g cocoa powder
1 tablespoon of milk
A few drops of vanilla essence
1 200g box of After Eight Mints – chopped up into little pieces.  Leave about 4 for decorating

  1. Cream the sugar and the butter together.
  2. Beat in the eggs, milk and vanilla essence.
  3. Gently fold in the flour and the cocoa.
  4. Add the After Eight pieces.
  5. Spoon into cake cases and bake them in an oven heat to around 180 c for about 1 5 – 18 minutes.

I iced them with my super amazing chocolate buttercream icing and added a quarter of an After Eight mint to each one to decorate.

Delicious!

Activity Advent – Snow flavoured ice cream….

snow flavoured ice cream

Seeing as there may be snow in the next few days I thought now would be a good time to share one of my favourite recipes of all time – Snow flavoured ice cream!

First you need to send a small child outside in to the snow with a big bowl to gather up some clean fresh snow, making sure that they know that the top of the wheelie bin is not the best place to gather clean snow from!

When you’ve got your bowl of snow, you need to put in in the freezer for a while so it doesn’t melt while you sort out the rest of  the ingredients, otherwise it’ll be snow flavoured milkshake and not snow flavoured ice cream ;-)

Next, mix 1 cup of milk, 1/2 a cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence together in another large bowl.  Add the snow bit by but to the milk mixture and just keep stirring until it looks like ice cream.  It’s ready when it gets to this point and you need to eat it straight away because it does melt quite quickly!

Add more snow if it’s a bit watery and pop the bowl back into the freezer to harden it up a bit.

Pity that it doesn’t snow more often or this would definitely be a regular in our house!

activity advent

You know it’s Christmas when there’s a bottle of Bailey Irish Cream in the house….

baileys

I love Baileys Irish Cream but it’s one of those drinks that we only ever really buy at Christmas – you can’t have Christmas without Baileys and Snowballs can you?

It’s on offer for the next couple of days in Morrisons where it’s less than half price for a 1 litre bottle which is a fantastic bargain so I now have a bottle sitting in my cupboard just waiting for Christmas to come around!

We’re not big Christmas cake or Christmas pudding fans here so we make a Chocolate Baileys cake every year to have as our pudding on Christmas day and it’s so easy to make and delicious to eat that I thought I’d share it with you today….

baileys chocolate mousse cake

Snowball cupcakes with Advocaat frosting….

Every year, when I was younger we used to go to my Nana’s house to decorate her Christmas tree for us and every year (from when I was about 11) she used to reward me with a snowball – obviously weaker when I was younger but by the time I got to 18 they were were pretty lethal and I always had to pop out to the kitchen to top up with extra lemonade.

In case you don’t know what a snowball is, it’s a mixture of Advocaat, lime juice and lemonade – topped with a cocktail cherry and it’s absolutely delicious!

So, here’s my cakey version of a Snowball….

For the lemon and lime cupcakes:
150g softened butter
150g sugar
2 eggs
the zest of 1 lemon
the zest of 1/2 lime
the juice of 1/2 lemon
150g self raising flour

  • Pre heat your oven to 180 c.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar until it’s pale and creamy and then add the eggs, one at a time, slowly mixing it all together.
  • Add in the flour, lemon and lime zest and the lemon juice and mix together until it’s well combined.
  • Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for around 15 minutes.  You can tell when they’re cooked as you’ll be able to put a skewer or sharp knife into the cake and it’ll come out clean.

For the Advocaat Icing:
50g butter
75ml Advocaat
300g icing sugar

This  icing is is an easy one to make – you just add everything to the bowl and mix… and mix… and mix!  It does take a while to combine everything smoothly if you’re doing this by hand so I always use my electric beaters (or my husband).

You might need more icing sugar if you want a really stiff mixture to pipe on to your cakes.  I always add more as I go along if I need to.

My favourite bit about making cakes is the icing part although I’m not actually very good at it yet!  If you need advice on the best way  to ice your cupcake then I wrote about my method here and although it’s probably not the professional way of doing it – it works for me (most of the time).

I originally published this on The Diary of a Frugal Family but when I was trying to think of a Christmassy themed cupcake to post about today, I kept coming back to this so I’ve added it here too.

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