My decadent week of cake

Various things – friends visiting to see our new chickens, the last opportunity for Pudding Club before term starts again and a new found fatalism on the weight front (yeah, topping 100kg again!) has meant I have been cooking an awful lot of cake this week. I made…

Mary Berry’s Victoria Sandwich.

All the icing sugar in the world can't hide the fact the cakes are split and burned!

Which I burnt. Things I learned: a four egg mix is a good amount for my sandwich tins. 2oz of buttercream is not really enough to fill it and it takes an awful lot of jam. I need to turn the oven down. It’s really enough to combine the mix quite loosely – I would normally cream the butter with the sugar quite vigourously before adding the eggs and flour. This recipe calls for all the ingredients to go in at once and only basic mixing. And it’s fine for it.

Coffee flavoured cupcakes

Coffee cupcakes for sister in law visit.

Things I learned: a one egg sponge mix is ample to fill all four of the dinky new cupcake moulds I got for my birthday. Two spoons of instant coffee for the buttercream and two in the cake mix is about right for my taste but a bit too strong for everyone else. I need to work on my two tone icing technique and on icing more generally.

Mary Berry’s Chocolate Roulade

Oh noes! Multiple cracks! But it still looks rouladelicious!

Things I learned: this is easier than it looks. It uses a lot of eggs (might be a good thing once the birds start laying!) No flour! I turned it into a sort of Schwarzwaldkirschroulade with half a bag of frozen cherries turned into a simple jam by boiling with sugar and bits of port and kirsh I had knocking around. I make sure the sponge was good and damp and boiled some of the left up juice to a slightly stiffer set to make a drizzling jus for presentation:

And black forest roulade served with a cherry and port jus.

Dan Lepard’s cinnamon buns

An old favourite. I don’t think I’ve ever made them without burning them a little, however – in this case, although they looked blackened they didn’t taste burnt at all.

What I learned: the recipe fits neatly in my large rectangular roasting tin – I’ve always used my round 9″ cake tin before. If you leave them to prove whilst ringing for a wedding, they will likely go over the top of the tin.

Massively over proven cinnamon buns waiting for the oven to get to temperature

But they will still taste delicious and wonderful anyway.


This recipe is a good’un and came out with the desired highly squidgy interiors. The recipe is extremely detailed, and I might have glossed over the finer points.

I had to pop off to Dunelm to buy a new tin for making the swiss roll needed for the roulade, and whilst I was there, bought a square tin for brownies and tray bakes, which I have felt I needed for a while. This recipe fills it really well.

Even more cooking for chicken visitors!

The picture shows afternoon tea with tuna and yellow pepper sandwiches, a small plate of cucumber sandwich bites, strong black coffee, and brownies and cinnamon buns for after.

Perhaps the main thing I learned is that my mobile phone takes horrible food pictures!


New language teacher on Twitter

Veteran languages ICT guru Joe Dale retweeted a language teacher new to Twitter asking for interesting teaching and learning links.

I had a quick peek through the last few days worth of social media and responded thusly:

A slightly obfuscated post for sure, so here is a bit more detail.

How Children Learn: Portraits of Classrooms Around the World

Just a fab series of photographs taken around the world, including the UK and on many other continents, of what classrooms and children look like. There are many things the same and some striking differences. What struck me? Several countries’ school uniforms look distinctly military to me. How interesting.

Dom’s MFL: Venn Diagrams and Thinking Skills

I’m a big fan of Dom’s MFL page. He’s a languages teacher with some interesting ideas. He blogs quite infrequently, but when he writes something the post is always worth reading. His idea of using Venn diagrams is awesome. It can be done with very little preparation, can be done on mini whiteboards, (une ardoise (ie a slate, also used in the French phrases around having a tab in bar) in French – what is the German for them?) good for thinking skills and as a plenary in that it gets students to show you what they have understood.


Class Dojo is an awesome website I am itching to try with students. Little monsters represent your class on the board and you can use it to give them positive and negative behaviour points. Pretty cool just like that. For me it will help me learn names; for them it will help reinforce my classroom rules. Best of all? You can log into it simultaneously with your whiteboard and your mobile phone, and allocate points to students as you go around the class. is a website for playing games with vocab lists. You can set a learning homework for students to go and play games. You invite them using their school email addresses and you get a record of how often they have played the game. Once you have taught the website a vocab list, you can play any of a number of games with that one list, so students can choose the games to suit them. There are stereotypically boy games and stereotypically girl games as well as more neutral types, and because the students choose, it’s up to them whether they stick to stereotypes or not.

Ideas for teaching and practising telling the time

This is not from a blog I read, but from a link from the MFL Resources Yahoogroup, a fairly high volume mailing list of MFL teachers with some awesome ideas and a lot of help and support. (In the last few days there has been a great deal of mutual support about GCSE results that have been less than expected, and which is stressing out many practitioners)

The blog post itself has over a dozen ideas for teaching telling the time, which is one of those topics which is important but that isn’t immediately easy to make interesting.

A few wider points

1) I have wasted a lot of time on the internet in my summer holidays. But lots of good teaching ideas are going into my mind too!

2) I think increasingly it isn’t so much about making resources as building up places to look. TES is an obvious one (albeit with lousy search). MFL Twitterati and the MFL Resources list are also great.

3) MFL Twitterati 10 minute challenge. Click the link. Spend ten minutes a day/week looking at what other practitioners are doing. Something there will surely inspire you. If you are inspired, join in the conversation and share your own good practice.

4) There’s no way I will be able to keep up with these groups and soc med practices in term time! Bank your good ideas now.

Expanding the menagerie

Several of our friends have been part of the back-garden chicken revolution for ages, and so when some of them decided to upgrade their chicken house from v expensive to eye-wateringly expensive I jumped at the chance to buy their old housing at a knock down price.

It’s taken a few weeks to get the garden ready, and it also didn’t seem fair to stock up on livestock shortly before going on holiday.

But last weekend, with the garden and hen house sorted out we popped along to Hens For Pets out near Ikea to get our chooks. They’re “point of lay”, apparently, but it might take up to five weeks before we get any eggs.

New chickens seem to be settling in quite well

The girls seem reasonably well settled into our garden now, scratching around the bark and hopefully avoiding the poisonous ivy and elderberries growing perilously close to the housing.

The first days, the birds seemed pretty nervous, and we could hear them clucking when cats got too close. Our own cats don’t really seem to have the bottom of their garden in their territory, but it seems to be a free-for-all for a coterie of black and white neighbour cats. Now it seems that both the chickens and the cats have figured out their can’t get through the wire of the run and although both are fascinated by each other, the chickens have stopped the cluck frenzy and the cats have stopped trying to rush the run.

Cats and chickens

The morning/afternoon routines seem reasonably easy to handle, but I haven’t done a weekly mucking out yet. We’ve only been able to fit the coop a fair way from the house, so the biggest thing I’m worrying about right now is forgetting they are there.

Summer of smoothies

So this summer, we have been making a lot of smoothies.

I’ve resisted them for years, because I assumed they relied on using those punnetts of expensive soft fruit, often flown across the world, and out of season. But somewhere on the internet, I got given the idea that bags of frozen berries work just as well, and can go straight into the blender from the freezer.

The frozen fruit is far cheaper than the fresh Class I stuff at the front of the supermarket, and so for the last couple of months I have kept my freezer stocked with berries and the blender in almost daily use.

My supermarket has a variety of berries, and we have mostly been using frozen cherries and a blueberry/strawberry mix. The black forest bags look like they ought to be delicious, but they are chock full of seeds from raspberries and they get stuck in my teeth.

The average smoothie is made with about 80grams of frozen berries, a banana, a small spoon of oats, and enough milk to get the consistency right. There’s two of your 5 a day right there! All of the ingredients can be room temperature, so long as the berries come right out of the freezer, and it still makes a nice cold smoothie without the need for ice.

I have been using these remedially when I am conscious that my diet has been poor and that I am nowhere near getting enough fruit and veg in. In extremis, some days I’ve been making 4-fruit smoothies by adding in canned fruits – the cheapest supermarket basics in the tinned pear and pineapple ranges. Since they’re going to be bashed into pieces, it doesn’t matter what size is in the tin.

Tractor, trailer, combine, bailer: Hereford Rap

Liberal England’s recent post promoting a Shropshire rap reminded me that while we were in France our hosts told us about a Hereford rap that was quite entertaining.

A quick search and Youtube has the file, with the rather catchy refrain:

Tractor, trailer
Combine, bailer
Rotivator, cultivator
Sh*tspreader, plough!

The words and the content pursue some rather adult themes. But it is nice to see all those photos of Hereford cultural landmarks. And an indication of how long I have been gone. A Primark? In Hereford? You’ll be telling me there is a Starbucks next.