More thoughts on blogging

I have previously written a post about how I feel about blogging, it remains the most read post on my blog, so clearly it struck a chord with readers. That post was written 2.5 years ago, and this morning, I suddenly felt I needed to write some more thoughts on this subject.

You see, after I take a break from blogging, like I did recently, I tend to do the same things over and over again. I quickly write down a few draft ideas to blog about in the next few weeks. And I go on an extended blog surfing trip. Not only am I catching up on the blogs I already follow, I also try to find new bloggers, follow links leading to other links, hook up at a meet & greet (can I recommend again the one at Harsh Reality), check out WordPress suggestions etc. I usually end up with adding a few more blogs to my Reader and more inspiration for my own blog.

This time however I noticed something. Namely that a lot of new bloggers announce in their first blog post that they have thought a long time about blogging and did a lot of research and/or read blog/books about blogging before their first post. I actually can’t remember doing that. I remember that one day I thought, well, why not start a blog and I just started. After that start, yes, I got dragged into the whole blog atmosphere, making connections, monitoring stats and likes, finding blog parties, but nope, all my research before starting the blog consisted of a 15 min look around which blog platform to use (= which one is free and looks easy to navigate) and another hour or so selecting a format.

Naive? Maybe. But then I never set out to be a professional blogger, to make money from it, or to promote a business. Of course, I would be quite happy to be given kitchen gadgets to review, think that could be quite a fun thing to do 🙂 but that’s not why I started this blog. I am also not a writer (I struggle sometimes to get out a coherent sentence) so there is no aim to turn my blog eventually into a (e-)book or into a cookbook. I just want to blog about what I like to eat  – mainly for lunch – and what I like to bake.  And for the last 3 years I have enjoyed blogging, although I do sometimes take a break because of lack of time, inspiration, life getting in the way, or just because I get distracted by other things.

I am actually slowly embracing other forms of Social Media. I still don’t like Facebook and don’t use it, and although I (think I) am on Bloglovin, I never really have gotten the hang of it, nor of Twitter/Pinterest. I do like Instagram though. Often I have made, eaten or seen something I quite like sharing but don’t want to write a blog post about and I do find Instagram is great for that kind of thing. Here again though I am sort of blundering my way through it, finding out how it works after I already pressed the share button, so again a case of “do first – check out how it works later”. The silly thing is that this is not actually how I am. I am a person who very much likes to be prepared, be organised, so just doing things without a proper research is not me.

And that brings me to another thought that kept coming up in my mind the last few weeks which was how impressed I am by some (new) bloggers out there, whilst at the same time realising that their blog style isn’t suitable for me. For example, two of my friends are bloggers, one of them has blogged a bit longer than I have and the other one has recently  started. Whilst both of them are in different countries, and the subject of their blogs is different, they do have in common that their blogs are both well thought out. Well prepped and set up. Their lay-out looks professional. They are clear in the style and message they want to bring out and both have (I assume affiliated) links to products, or give aways. They were both well prepared before they started blogging. More importantly, they both are very personal bloggers. With personal I mean, they blog under their own name, and share photos of their personal life.

I like the anonymity of blogging. Like? I love it. That’s also the reason why I haven’t promoted these 2 blogs or linked to them. Because I like my anonymity. And a little part of me fears that I can be linked to them through their blog. Of course my family and friends know that I blog, most of them do follow or read my blog. And when I meet new people, it sometimes comes up. But – as far as I know – no one else out there can link this blog to me. I avoid mentioning names of friends/family, avoid detailed locations or photo’s that show me. (Yes, I do check reflections in photos). I don’t share too many details of my life. If you would turn detective, I assume that most readers will have figured out that I live in London (given that I wrote a whole blog post about it), that I am female and have an OH. If you dig deeper you might also find out my OH is Welsh and am sure there are more bits and pieces that can be deduced. But there are not many “concrete facts”, nothing that is hard evidence that links Dosirakbento to who I am in real life. I even screen comments…. any comment that uses my real name gets spammed automatically.

Does that make me paranoid? Or fake? I don’t lie on my blog, what I write and post is still who I am, what I think, what I do, what I eat, everything is real, everything is personal in that way. I think the biggest reason for me not to publish my name is that deep down I am a private person. I also don’t like the idea that everything I have typed and posted out there, will remain for eternity (or whatever counts for eternity in blogging land) out there for anyone, anywhere to see and read. So I hide behind the anonymity that blogging can provide.

The silly thing is, I like reading other people’s personal blogs. I like having a little insight in somebody’s life. I love the thoughts and ideas, the daily, weekly, monthly high lights and low lights in their life. I feel happy for bloggers – who I have never met in real life- when something good happens, or sad when something bad takes place. So I don’t have any issue with them sharing their personal info, just with my own….

Which brings me to a question for my readers. What are your thoughts on sharing personal information like your real name and photos of yourself/family/friends? Where is the line between sharing details of someone’s life but not sharing similar details of your own? It’s not like bloggers are friends in real life but at the same time there is this close blogging community and I do know that some bloggers meet in real life at events and do become friends in real life as well.  I guess that each blogger has the prerogative to make that choice, and has to decide what is best for her/him. At the moment I do feel comfortable with what I do share with my readers but I am interested to read your thoughts in the comments.

And because my blog is after all about lunches and cakes, I’m sharing this recently made cake.

It’s definitely cake time here in London!

wp-1488280906954.jpg

Bento Bits

img_0604

Wasn’t quite sure how to call this Bento, but basically there are sweet bits and savoury bits in it!

This bento wasn’t made for myself, I made it for a friend who was staying with me whilst working in London. She didn’t need a bento for lunch (had already other plans) but did need one to sustain her during the day, hence the bits and pieces.

She chose the lovely rabbit/cherry blossom box for packing, so I thought that a rabbit shaped egg would be quite fitting. Other bits packed are cheese hearts and cucumber stars, blossom carrots and a few grapes. The container at the back holds all the sweets bits, ie some different pieces of cake (marmalade and carrot), a chocolate, some nougat, a cake pop (with the white chocolate flower) and more filled chocolates.

I guess this bento doesn’t really count as a fully balanced bento, even though it contains at least 2 portions of your 5 a day (or is it 10 a day now?), but way too much sugar…

It was quite fun though to pack a bento for someone else. Recently I have just been quickly packing some left overs or soup (or instant ramen …!…) into a box for myself without making much effort in creating something good looking. I do think the sweet bits look a bit boring because the colours are all similar but not much that one can do about that. However, the savoury part has all the different shapes cut out and is more vibrant in colour, which made a huge difference.

And my friend did agree with me that food that looks cute(r) does taste better. She even felt inspired to start cutting her cucumber and carrot into food shapes once she’s back home 🙂

 

Merry Christmas!

merry-christmas

This year’s decorated Christmas Cakes:

 

 

This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. December is hosted by Rebecca from The Economic Foodie. Theme: Festive Feeds

our-growing-edge-badge

More (decorated) bakes

As you might have noticed, I changed the subtitle of this blog! It used to be Japanese and Korean inspired lunchboxes and some baking but as I have been baking so much lately – and as I want to show off my bakes 🙂 – I changed it to Bento and Baking.

I have already shown some of my bakes in previous blog posts (what about a Hamburger anyone? Or how about going to the farm?) but below are some more cakes I have baked and decorated this year:

Vanilla cupcakes with cute strawberry/rose decoration. A chocolate cake with sugar roses. Rainbow cake with chocolate buttercream and a Victoria Sponge.

A cake with spots! It was a vanilla sponge with caramel buttercream. And a daisy/rose cake with a checkerboard effect (vanilla & chocolate).

A woodland tree trunk – chocolate sponge with chocolate (fudge) buttercream. A gluten and dairy free vanilla sponge with vanilla “not-butter”cream. And two emoji cakes: a lemon one filled with lemon curd buttercream and a chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache.

Don’t worry, I have not been eating these all by myself :-). They mostly get shared with friends and colleagues. Obviously they’re not complaining…

I think my favourite of these cakes is the tree trunk one, I had so much fun making it and Iike how much it resembles a tree trunk. The most challenging one was the gluten and dairy free one, I made this for a colleague of my OH, as she hadn’t been able to enjoy any of the other cakes before. Measuring out all the pleats was a bit tricky and also because I had to adapt my recipe to be gluten and dairy free. Luckily it worked out well and she really enjoyed it.

Which one do you like most?

Halloween Pumpkin Bride & Groom (mini cake)

Mr and Mrs PumpkinLast weekend we went to a wedding. Or actually, we went to a party to celebrate a wedding.

The happy couple already had their wedding last month, outside the UK, but this weekend they wanted to celebrate with all their UK based family & friends. It was a great party, we had a lovely time, lots to eat & drink, plenty of laughing and dancing and it was wonderful to be able to share this special event with the newly weds.

As part of our gift, I thought it would be nice to make them something. Knowing me, the first thing that came to mind was cake! Of course there was already plenty of cake provided at the party – including some lovely gin & tonic cupcakes which came with their own little gin filled pipette to add an extra boost! (have to admit I emptied that directly into my mouth..not into the cupcake..),  but I thought that they might like a little mini cake, just for him & her.

And because of Halloween, why not a Mr and Mrs Pumpkin?

The mini cakes are actually made from cake pop mixture – chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream. I shaped the mixture into two pumpkin shapes about the size of a satsuma (his is slightly larger) and covered in orange sugarpaste. With the help of a cocktail stick and a veining (fondant modelling) tool, I then marked the “grooves” of the pumpkins. I also gave each a pumpkin stem.

After that I had much fun decorating him & her. Despite it being Halloween, I didn’t want them to look scary but happy so I gave them smiling faces. The groom was given a top hat – with white rose, and the bride has a veil, flower tiara and a small rose bouquet. The veil has some edible silver lustre on it, and I made a broderie anglaise effect with little cut outs. So funny, I only noticed later that these made the veil look like it had little ghosts (faces) on it 👻

Finally I decorated the board with some flowers, pumpkin plant trails/leaves and of course a red heart.

I was really happy how these turned out and the bride and groom seemed to like it 🙂

 

Cake pops

cakepops.jpg

So what do you do with left over cake?

Turn them into cake pops!

Cake pops are literally that, a cake ball on a lollipop stick. If you google cake pops you will find the most creative designs and versions. Often people will bake a cake to make these and you can even buy a special cake pop maker or molds which will bake cakes in perfectly round balls.

It’s much easier though to use cake left overs, and better as well as you won’t waste anything 🙂

I don’t have a recipe, but normally you crumble up a cake and mix it with some buttercream/frosting. As I had made a dark chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream, I used this for my version. The mixture needs to be moist but firm, you don’t want the cake pops falling apart.

First you roll the cake mixture into balls, approximately the size of a walnut/golf ball (I actually weighed them to make sure they were all equal). If you make them too large, they will get too heavy and will fall off the stick. Plus, you can’t really easily pop them into your mouth! After rolling the balls, I placed them in the fridge to harden up, this took about 45 minutes. I meanwhile prepped my drying board, a piece of foam in which I pierced some holes to fit the lollipop sticks.

I also melted a small portion of candy melts, I used these from Wilton which were supposed to be red but turned out pink! Not sure what candy melts are exactly, I suspect sugar with vegetable fats and colouring, but they smell and taste vaguely chocolaty as well. You can melt them in the microwave. Just take care to stir often and heat in short burst to avoid burning the candy melts!

Once the cake pop balls had hardened up, I inserted the sticks by dipping the top part in the candy melt mixture and inserting this halfway into the cake ball. This helps the stick to “stick” to the cake. Popped the tray bake into the fridge for another 30 minutes so that the candy melt “glue” could set.

I then melted some more candy melts for dipping the cake balls. Aside from the colour failure, I also felt that the mixture was quite thick. This was the first time I made these, so I wasn’t sure of the consistency, but I thinned it out with some Trex until smooth and a bit runny.  I had read somewhere that you should not dip an ice cold ball into a hot coating mixture, to avoid cracking. Makes sense, and I took out the pops from the fridge again and waited for another 10 minutes for them to warm up and the mixture to cool down before dipping the ball into the mixture and carefully tapping off any excess. Not really sure how to best describe it, but there are lots of videos on Youtube that show this. You sort of want a thin, smooth coating all around the cake ball.

After dipping, I either dipped the top half again in some hundreds-and-thousands before the glaze had set, or I stuck them immediately into the foam board to dry.  I had one or two accidents, when the ball threatened to slip of the stick, so I dried these upside down and used them for quality control check 😛

Finally, I wrapped them all up individually in little cellophane bags.

 

 

They look pretty, and are nice – if a bit sweetly- to eat, but also quite a faff to make, so not sure if I would make them very often. I guess I have to find some more ideas for using left over cake… any suggestions?

 

CowParade Cake

Surrey Hills is currently hosting a CowParade event and in the last few weekends we have been #followingtheherd! Ie driving around the beautiful Surrey country side and admiring the cows that are being displayed.

Some cows seems to have paraded onto my cake!

wp-1470301153849.jpg

CowParade is a huge public art event in the world, where life size cows are being painted by local artists, “paraded” around a town or area, and afterwards auctioned off for charity. CowParade was born in Switzerland in 1998 and since then has been staged in more than 80 cities and towns worldwide including New York, London, Mexico, Istanbul, Paris and Buenos Aires.

The cow sculptures are made of fiberglass, reinforced with steel and come in three basic positions – standing (head up), grazing (head down) and a reclining postion. From each CowParade event, 8 to 12 cows will be reproduced and become collectible art items (CowParade’s line of figurines).

We have been collecting the cow figurines for some years now, they are fun reminders of places we visited and pretty artworks to display around the house.  The two in the photo are my favourite ones, one is inspired by Klimt and the other by Dutch Delft Blue tiles & flowers.

I thought it would be fun to make a cake inspired by the cows parading around Surrey Hills. 

The cake is a 3 layered vanilla madeira sponge – sandwiched with caramel buttercream, and I first covered it in blue (for the sky) and green fondant (for the Surrey hills). I didn’t have a cow fondant cutter and I wanted to make the cows as identical as possible to the CowParade version, so I printed off some pictures and used that as a template to cut the fondant.

I really enjoyed creating different designs for the cows. In a way I felt like the artists must feel who create the life size ones. Unfortunately it was an extremely humid day when I made this cake, so the fondant was a real pain to work with and I had to keep the designs quite simple but I think they look pretty good!

Which one do you like most?

 

(no real cows were harmed in any way when creating this cake)

Farm cake

FarmcakeThis week I made a farm cake!

As you know, aside from making lunches, I love to bake! I learned baking from my mum, I can recall standing next to her (on a stool) in the kitchen rolling out pastry for an apple pie or mixing cake batter (and licking the beaters). She used to bake every Friday, and I can still visualise how the baked goods were stored on a plate in the china cabinet under a cover of foil and pinching thin slices of cake when she wasn’t looking (and of course acting very surprised when it got discovered there was much less cake than there should have been) >*<

The bakes were all quite straight forward, marble sponges and lemon cakes, butter cake or apple pie and in the summer we would make no-bake cheesecakes. We didn’t use buttercream or icing/fondant, although sometimes we would have sweetened whipped cream. These were also the kind of cakes that I made during my student and later years, and it wasn’t until I moved to the UK that I really discovered the world of cake decorating 🙂

I think it was a Christmas 4 years ago, or better said, the months before that Christmas, that I made my first Christmas cake, using a pre-measured baking kit from the supermarket. The kit came with marzipan/fondant included and also simple tips on how to decorate it. I can’t actually remember what decoration I made, I think something with stars, but anyway, since that moment I have been totally hooked on cake decorating!

There are lots of tutorials on YouTube or blogs and websites, and I have learned a lot from watching and just doing, but recently I have enrolled on a cake decoration course to learn the tips & tricks of the trade. During the 10 week course we will be learning about the different types of icing, using modelling tools, colouring fondant, creating flowers and of course decorating cakes. We didn’t have to bring in an actual cake until this week, as up to now we had been practising on (fondant covered) cake boards but this week our mission was to create a novelty themed cake using the skills learned so far.

We had to prepare the cake before class, and also make the buttercream and any decorations used, but during class we learned how to level and layer a cake (aka torting), to fill and re stack evenly, to crumb coat the cake and how to cover in fondant.

After some deliberation (and input from friends) I decided to make a farm cake and chose green fondant to cover my Madeira cake. A Madeira cake is denser and firmer than a Victoria Sponge so therefore more suitable for covering with heavy fondant. I had never made a Madeira cake before, but mine turned out pretty good with only a slight dome. After slicing that dome off,  I turned the cake up side down so that the flat bottom became the top. Because the cake had risen very well and was quite high, I decided to cut it in three layers which I re stacked after filling with green – to match the outside – buttercream and some strawberry jam.

After crumb coating and chilling, I applied a second thin layer of buttercream before attempting to cover the whole cake in fondant. This was rather challenging! The green fondant that I had chosen was very soft and sticky and a nightmare to roll out. It didn’t help that the class room was quite warm so the fondant kept sticking to the counter and I had to use quite a bit of icing sugar. Also, my rolling pin was too short and I had to borrow the one from the tutor, but eventually I managed to cover the cake without too many ripples, bubbles or other fondant disasters.

To turn my very green cake into a farm cake I used brown fondant to make a fence around the cake, with a few flowers and grass tucked in. The fence was made by cutting small strips of thinly rolled paste and attaching these to the cake with some edible glue. I added the wood grain texture and nails with a modeling tool and deliberately made it all a bit wonky looking (in case you’re wondering…). The mud pool for my piggy was also made from brown fondant  and I coloured some more paste to create the pool, rocks and a tiny duck. I also attached some flowers to make a field of flowers for the sheep to eat.

I had made the piggies and sheep in the weekend before, using modelling paste as this is firmer and dries up harder.  The piggies were a bit of a nightmare as the legs and heads kept falling off and various bits broke off during transport so I had to make some emergency repairs with royal icing.

Unfortunately I didn’t make any photos during any of this because I was way too busy kneading and rolling plus had hands covered in icing sugar, but I will try to write a blog post one day on how I created the pigs and sheep. I especially love the sheep and he has been a big hit with everyone that has seen (and eaten) the cake. And don’t worry, he and his friends did not get eaten!

Below are some photos that I did manage to make before and after, and also some tips on how to cut a cake in slices instead of wedges (although as you can see from the photo this method was only partly used)