Saturday, 28 February 2015

February's bake of the month


Phew!!! Just made it in time for this month’s bake of the month.

I always feel sorry for fruit cakes, as with the exception of Christmas and Easter, they’re pretty much ignored for the rest of the time. Not today.

This cake is slightly different to the more traditional fruit cake. Whilst there’s alcohol in it, it doesn’t use the conventional rum, brandy etc. It uses beer (porter/stout to be exact) which gives it a lovely flavour.

The method used to make the cake is also different. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar as you would normally, most of the ingredients are put in a pan and left to simmer. This allows the fruit to absorb the fabulous flavours of the orange juice, mixed spice and beer.

The end result is a beautifully light, moist cake which I’m sure even fruit cake haters would enjoy....

Fruit porter cake (adapted from a Goodfood recipe)

  • 6oz/175g butter
  • 1lb/450g mixed dried fruit
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 6oz/175g light muscovado sugar
  • 7fl oz/200ml porter/stout (Guinness, Caffrey's or whatever you like)
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 10oz/300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice

  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds
  • 2 tbsp Demerara sugar

  • Pre-heat oven to 150º c/Gas Mk 2. Fan oven 130ºc.
  • Line a deep 8 inch/20cm round cake tin with baking parchment or cake liner. 

  • Put butter, dried fruit, orange zest and juice, sugar and porter/stout in a large pan. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until the butter and sugar have dissolved, then simmer for 15 minutes.

  • All the mix to cool for 10 minutes then stir in the bicarbonate of soda. The mixture will foam up but don’t panic as that's supposed to happen.

  • Stir the eggs into the pan then sift in the flour and spice, mixing well.

  • Pour the mixture into the tin, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon, then sprinkle over the flaked almonds and Demerara sugar.
  • Bake in the oven for 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours. To test if it’s cooked insert a skewer (I prefer to use a piece of spaghetti for this but you could use a clean knitting needle or cocktail stick) and if it comes out clean, it’s done.
  • Cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.

The addition of the flaked almonds and Demerara sugar gives the cake a wonderful crunchy topping. You can simply leave them out if you prefer.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

A round up of the news

So, what’s to report since I last blogged. 

I was drastically running out of storage space in the workroom so had a massive clearout. Even though it’s only a small room, it was full of stuff (I even found two dolls belonging to my niece and she’s 27 now....), so it took several days to get through it all. It was well worth it though as I now have space. Yippee!!!!

On the sewing front there’s still an awful lot of fabric left from Mr Gertie’s work shirts so I looked around for ideas to use them in another quilt (or several....). There was a lot of blue fabric in the work shirt collection so one pattern really stood out. The lighter shades came from Mr Gertie’s shirts, the darker colours were bits of fabric I had lying around.

It’s not quite finished. I’ve still got the backing fabric and the actual quilting to, but at least it gives you an idea of what it’ll look like completed.

For Christmas Mr Gertie got some new photography equipment, and as he needed to test them out, I suggest my bags would be perfect for this. It was a win-win situation as he got to play with his Christmas toys and I got some updated photos for eBay and Etsy.

Speaking of eBay, I’ve had another sale!!!!! A large make up bag. That really put the nail in the coffin for the Folksy shop as it’s hardly getting any viewings.  So, I’ve moved all that stock over to my new Etsy shop. It’s only been up and running two days but has had more viewings in that short time than Folksy had since it opened.

I’m still ploughing my way thought various books about selling online, and in particular, promoting via social network, as that seems to be the way forward. As I’ve mentioned before I’m a total social network phobic so might have to employ a teenager to do my marketing for me!!!!!

When I mentioned to my sister that I was setting up ‘Gertie’s Bags’, she asked if I was going to give away any freebies with every order.  I can see where she was coming from as I’ve often received little gifts (key rings, sweets etc) when I’ve bought things online and it does seem good PR. 

I ran the idea past Mr Gertie but he thought it was a waste of time and effort. He can’t see why I make little matching fabric key ring purses that are attached to the zips of all the larger bags. What do you think? Do you give your customers little freebies, and if so what? If I did go down the freebie route it would be only something simple, like a fabric bookmark, which would take no time at all to make.

Have a great week.

Gertie xx

PS why not pop over to Handmade Monday to see what other fellow craft bloggers have been up to.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Jenny bag

Two years ago I made a rucksack for my friend Jenny. She asked if it could be similar to her favourite bag that was getting a little old and worn.  With paper, pen and a tape measure I came up with a design.

Rucksacks and backpacks are very much in vogue (I’ve been using them for years so yeah I’m trendy!!!!!) so I thought I’d put one into production for ‘Gertie’s Bags’.

I didn’t want it make it too big so slightly tweaked the bag pattern that I made for Jenny. The front pocket was made wider and deeper, more internal pockets added and the straps were made longer.

Pattern sorted, now the fabric. I wanted something that would appeal to both young and old. Having bought rather a lot of fabric recently (think credit card yelping!!) I couldn’t justify buying any more. Well, I could, but there would be lots of tutting from Mr Gertie...

I chose something that came from a fabulous shop in Stratford upon Avon. It’s only little, but boy, do they pack a lot of fabric in. It was so good that I went back the following day for more.

I now need to decide where to sell it from. Because Folksy has been pretty disappointing I’m giving Etsy a try so am moving my Folksy stock over to there.  However my first sale came from eBay. I think the only solution is to make another then each will have one.

That still doesn’t solve the problem of which one first so I suspect it’ll be heads or tails !!!!

Have a great week.

Gertie xx

PS why not pop over to Handmade Monday to see what other fellow craft bloggers have been up to.