Sunday, 9 August 2009

Post-holiday sewing projects and You need this cake book

I took knitting rather than sewing on holiday with me. If I had been travelling by car I probably would have taken the quilt which needs quilting, but there was no room for such nonsense on the train. So I brought along a squishy bag full of Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino yarn and carried on knitting 10cm squares for a blanket that will probably not be finished until after the London Olympics have been and gone.

And I came home yearning to sew something. I had bought two kits from Clothkits in their summer sale - the chicken and fox tote bag, and the 1970s cropped cotton trousers.

Yesterday I made the bag.

The kit was for a bag and a purse, but I wanted my bag to have a pocket so I turned the purse pieces into a roomy, divided pocket. I also had some bag clips from u-handbag, so added a bag strap and clip, using the polka dot ribbon that the kit came wrapped up in.

The kit was very straightforward and quick. My only grumble is that the instructions said to make the bag liner with a much bigger seam allowance than the outer bag, which meant that when I came to put the bag together the liner was too small and I had to unpick the seams and re-stitch it with the same seam allowance as the outer bag. But that wasn't the end of the world. I am very pleased with how it has turned out.

The pieces for the trousers are now cut out and with luck I can sew them up this week. I love the acid green colours!

When I was in France I found these pieces of vintage linen at a local 'vide grenier' (sort of a cross between a car boot sale and an antiques sale). I have a handmade linen doily (which cost me the princely sum of €1), six huge, striped linen napkins and a baby's blouse.

I'm still not sure what to do with the napkins. Perhaps they should remain napkins? But the doily and probably the baby's shirt are going to be made into something for my Mum's birthday later this month.

The other thing I came back from holiday with (and I left other books behind in order to fit it in my suitcase...) was a late birthday present from my parents: Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood.

I had never heard of this woman before, but she did a TV show here last year I think. This book is a baking book full of recipes for cake and jam. And the completely odd thing is that all her cakes are full of grated vegetables, and most of them contain no butter and very little sugar. They are healthy cakes!

It sounds strange, but I suppose is a natural progression from carrot cake. There is a victoria sponge cake with potato in it, a cherry cake wth parsnip in it and elderflower buns with courgette in them. The vegetables add texture, moistness and sweetness to replace the butter and sugar.

I tried the double chocolate cupcakes first. They have no butter in them but a huge pile of grated carrot. And they taste AMAZING! I didn't ice them, so they are probably the most virtuous cakes I have ever made. Nobody here guessed they had vegetables instead of butter in them; they taste really rather rich in fact.

And even better, for anyone with a gluten intolerance, all of the recipes use rice flour rather than wheat flour. I haven't got hold of any rice flour yet, so I substituted plain flour (which you can do with all the cakes) but I am keen to try the rice flour and see how it affects the texture and the rise.

I do want to make absolutely everything in this book. The photography is stunning and just makes me want to grab my grater and a glut of vegetables from the fridge and start cooking! The children are particularly excited because they are thoroughly sick of courgettes by this time of the year and would love it if I made cakes with them rather than pasta sauce.

If anyone else has this book, I'd love to hear what you think of it. It was only published in mid-July so I'm not sure if it's all over the shops yet, but Amazon stock it and it already has 13 good reviews. Healthy cakes. Really!


  1. Oooh, lovely bags and trousers! I have spent the last two weeks making zuchinni tray bake, courgette and coconut cake (very carrot cakey) courgette chocolate brownies and beetroot cake. The female customers in the cafe lap it up. The male customers grimace and have started referring to me as Mrs Cropper, as in the Vicar of Dibley. Most unfair!
    I have struggled to find rice flour also. The search shall continue. Those muffins look fabulous. Guess what I'm going to look at now?!

  2. That book sounds really interesting. We can buy rice flour easily here (health food shops) so I will definitely be looking out for it but just maybe will have to look on Amazon.

  3. mmm delicious! Dove's farm used to make a rice flour, I have to say I'm personally not that fond of it, bit of a rough grainy texture but maybe in carrot cake it will be divine......

  4. I stood and drooled over that book for a good long while and then chickened out. You'll have to keep letting me know how good they taste!

  5. Oh, forgot to say - I use part rice flour in one of my biscuit recipes and it makes them a really crispy sandy sort of texture - very good. My supermarket didn't have it, but the health food shop did.

  6. oh fantastic! a sewing post immediately following france! loving this... the cloth bags are super. i just love cloth kits (vicariously - have never purchased one for myself). and now I'm all impatient to see what your mother's gift will turn out to be. you are a master of suspense. oh, and the cake book? how fab!!! i am not much of a cook and rarely buy cookbooks, but this sounds way too good to pass up. thanks so much for the recommendation!!

  7. I do love those acid colours too.

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