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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The importance of recharging your batteries: Mum's Weekend Off!

Being a Mum is the most amazing thing I've ever done. It is everything I had hoped it would be, and more. I am consumed with love for my little man, and cannot imagine my life without him - what did I DO before he came along? 

As well as being amazing, fulfilling, exciting, and beautiful - being a stay-at-home-Mum is exhausting and all-consuming. My head is full of a constant 'to do' list, and my days are full of ensuring my little man is safe, amused and happy while trying to keep the house straight, wash the clothes, buy the food shopping, cook, exercise, socialise and blog. Sometimes the days just whizz by and I end the week feeling exhausted, frazzled and like I could quite literally sleep for a week. 

Last week, Bert got ill - a nasty sickness bug which seemed to come out of nowhere and zapped us of every last bit of energy we had left. There is genuinely not a worse part of Motherhood - watching your little one being so poorly, and being unable to do much to help is horrendous. I get crippled by an overwhelming (and usually over-dramatic) fear that he's worse than he actually is when he's sick, and imagine a million different scenarios of something dreadful happening to him - anxiety slaps me around the face, and usually I come out the other side feeling completely drained and exhausted. Last week was no exception. 

Last time Bert was ill like this I was due to go away to Centre Parcs for a good friends Hen Weekend; and had to miss it - he'd had a stay in hospital that week due to such a bad gastro-enteritis bug, and I felt too worried to travel far away from him for a weekend. As it turned out, he was over the worst of it, and I probably would have been safe to go without a hitch, but you just never know, so I missed out, and stuck to my duties as Mum instead. 

As a pure coincidence, this weekend just gone, I was also due to go away for one of my best friend's Hen Weekend in Norfolk. When Bert was sick on wednesday night I thought 'here we go again' and convinced myself it would be a repeat of last time and I'd have to miss out again. I asked him "Do you have a sixth sense? Do you know when Mummy is meant to be getting a weekend 'off' and decide to stop me?" Hahaha, of course, he doesn't - but it just felt like that. Perfect timing, huh? 

I had promised to whip up some homemade treats to take along to the hen weekend, so with positive thinking at the forefront of my mind, and determined that I would be able to go this time, I got my bake on. Thursday morning was a hive of activity in my kitchen, while my poorly boy sat quietly in front of cartoons, and rested. I baked quicker than I ever have in my life, determined not to neglect my little man, and in a couple of hours I'd managed to whip up 35 iced vanilla dinosaur biscuits and cook 40 turkey dinosaurs. (I'll explain the dinosaur thing later…!) 

Thankfully, Bert was only sick on wednesday evening, and a couple of days off milk, and on rehydration fluids and toast saw him almost back to normal, and I set off on Friday morning feeling reasonably confident that he was on the mend and over the worst. It helped that I was leaving him in the capable hands of his Nanny and his Daddy - both of whom are the perfect mum-replacement if I'm not there. 

I felt exhausted, shattered, drained and a little bit ropey myself - I also felt that nervousness that all mums feel if they are leaving their nest without the little ones, but, determined to have an awesome time and make the most of a weekend of 'being a grown up' as my mum put it, I shook off the guilt, the tiredness and that nagging 'you're ill too' at the back of my mind, and jumped straight in to a weekend full of fun... 

Danni's Hen Weekend:

Friday: A Jurassic Party

Danni and I have been friends since we met at University 10 years ago, she is getting married in early December and I'm so looking forward to her special day. I was especially excited about the fun plans that had been made for her Hen Weekend in Norfolk by her chief bridesmaids Karla and Kate, who are also good friends of mine.

Eighteen of us hired amazing converted barns in Norfolk called High Barsham and Little Barsham (Barsham Barns) for the weekend. I travelled up to Norfolk with Kate and Karla, and we arrived at the barns at 1:30pm on Friday afternoon so as to set up before the bride-to-be arrived at 5pm. 

High Barsham - what a beautiful place! 

The Barn - the perfect party setting! 

The plan for night one was to all stay in and enjoy a Jurassic Park themed tea party (with plenty of booze!) Danni's favourite film in the whole world is Jurassic Park, and so we themed a huge buffet, and all the decorations and cake on the dinosaur theme - I had even managed to pick up a 6ft tall inflatable TRex to join the party! We had so much fun setting it all up, and to our delight Danni totally loved it, and we had an absolute blast! 


Our dino buffet included:

- A fabulous dinosaur cake by Kate
- Iced vanilla dinosaur biscuits by me
- A huge platter of Bernard Matthews Turkey Dinosaurs
- Chocolate Volcano cakes by Kate
- Chicken Kebabs (Triceratops horns!)
- Prehistoric Paella made by Karla
- Watermelon dinosaur spikes
- Dinosaur claws (Doritos)
- TRex Teeth (BBQ triangle crisps)
- Terrifying Tacos
- Dried Herbivore food (vegetable crisps)
- Pterodactyl Platter (cheese and cured meats board)

Kate's amazing dinosaur cake! 

My iced vanilla dinosaur biscuits went down a storm! 

Even the TRex wanted to feast on the buffet!

And like the cool girls that we are, we of course danced around the barn in our slippers - joined by the TRex, naturally! 

DAY TWO: Clay Pigeon Fun & Party Time

Day two of our weekend saw us don our flat caps and head out into the countryside for some clay pigeon shooting fun! An activity Danni had always wanted to have a go at, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give something new a try - it was SO fun, and out of the 15 of us taking part I came 3rd and hit 5 out of 12 of my shots. I was chuffed to bits with that! 

Me and the beautiful Hen, Danni - country bumpkins! 

Fun on a hay bale! 

Rob (from Clay Busters) helping me set up & get ready to shoot! 

Me giving clay pigeon shooting my best shot! 5/12 ain't bad! ;-)

On Saturday night we all got dressed up in our party frocks and headed out to a private function room in a restaurant called The Golden Fleece, in Wells-next-the-Sea for dinner, drinks and dancing! The room had been decorated by Kate and Karla - full of beautiful photographs of us all with Danni over the years - pictures from her childhood, and pictures of her with her lovely fiancee Charlie. The room was adorned with balloons and fairy lights, candles and banners - it looked incredible and was the perfect setting for a rip roaring party! 
The stunning dinner table in our function room

Just beautiful! 

We each had a place setting at the table which was a photograph of us with the hen at a special moment in our lives: this shot is of our graduation 10 years ago! Luckily, I don't mind looking back at 'fat photos' of me now that I've made a positive change - I still get shocked at the size of me back then! 


Me and Danni: the gorgeous hen! 

My dinner was immense - the best rare steak I've eaten in ages with duck fat chips - need I say more?

Bourbon Pecan Pie - my favourite dessert in the whole world - it didn't quite beat the one I eat at Buddies, or my own homemade one, but it came in a close 3rd! 

Of course, for all of the alcohol drinking ladies the weekend ended in slurping vodka-jelly from a giant platter at 4am...followed by horrendous hang overs, and long drives home!

Possibly my favourite picture of the whole weekend??? Ha ha ha ha!

Virtuous me, who doesn't really drink that often (due to a bloody awful skin allergy to alcohol!) thought that the fact I'd laid off the alcohol all weekend would mean that I'd awaken on Sunday feeling spritely and refreshed - instead I felt, well, a bit hung over! No fair! 

As it turned out I've come back home with the major lurgies - a lovely dose of tonsillitis! I am feeling blooming ropey to say the least - and am hoping a trip to the doctors this evening will result in some much needed medication to rid me of this bad throat. This is quite a common cycle for me though I have to say - I tend to get ill after busy/trying/exciting times - I am always ill around Christmas, at the start of school holidays etc - I tend to be able to soldier on, and then when the excitement stops, so do I, big style. 

What I'm always struck with on my return from a weekend away, night out, or day 'off' from being Mum, is just how important it is for my sanity to just be 'Lucy' again for a while. To not have to worry about when Bert needs his milk, if I've sterilised bottles, and what clothes he has clean. Being able to shower and go to the loo alone, drink endless cups of tea WHILE THEY ARE HOT, and have long chats with your girlfriends without having to amuse a little person at the same time is JUST so important. If you are a Mum and you don't make time for this, then you really must - even if it is just a few hours to wander round town, have a coffee and read a book in peace, you will thank yourself profusely afterwards. 

Don't get me wrong, I miss Bert like CRAZY when I'm away from him - and I'm one of those annoying Mum's who needs to text and call at least once a day to ensure all is okay - I get regular photo's sent to my phone as 'proof' that he's doing just fine without me. But I also don't let my missing him ruin or take over my time away. Precious time as a grown up might not come along too often, so I'm definitely always mindful to make the absolute most of it - and boy did we do that this weekend! 

Thanks to all the wonderful ladies who I shared the weekend with, and I'm now just even more excited about Danni & Charlie's big day in December! 


Bye for now

Mrs B 

xxx

Monday, 20 October 2014

The SMART WAFFLE from Sage Appliances by Heston Blumenthal *VIDEO REVIEW*

For those of you who read my blog regularly you'll know we recently went on an all inclusive holiday to Cyrpus courtesy of my 'Blogger of the Year 2014' award from Loved By Parents. On holiday we had access to the most amazing buffet restaurant and every morning my husband ate the hugest plate of freshly cooked waffles smothered in chocolate spread, maple syrup and chopped banana. He was in waffle heaven. 

Husband's waffle addiction on holiday left him with a deep waffle-shaped hole in his life on our return! 

When we arrived home, he had waffle withdrawal, and my griddle pan waffles just weren't cutting it!

Then I discovered the amazing SMART WAFFLE by Heston Blumenthal from Sage Appliances, and when they agreed to send one over for me to try, well, my husband genuinely looked like he might explode with excitement. 


I love a kitchen gadget. Any appliance that makes my life easier in the kitchen, can cook an item better than I can, with less mess, and looks beautiful atop my kitchen work surface is a winner in my book. 

I've now been using the Smart Waffle for well over a month , and blimey...we've eaten a LOT of AMAZING waffles. 

I cannot rave about this machine enough - it makes genuinely the best waffles I've ever eaten in barely any time, with NO MESS. Yes, it is pricey at £169.95, but, if you have the budget you genuinely won't be disappointed with this awesome piece of kit (the kids will LOVE you for it, saying that - so will your husband, friends, family…!)

I was so excited about this gorgeous machine of waffleyness that I decided to make a video about it - so here we go my lovelies, my first vlog, a video review of the Smart Waffle...

(Make sure you scroll down and read the rest of the post afterwards as I'll include the recipe for classic waffles, some photos, and a written overview of the waffle iron underneath the video link)


THE SMART WAFFLE - OVERVIEW

  • Can cook all types of waffle from classic, Belgian, buttermilk, and chocolate - you can even develop your own custom setting. 
  • Has a no spill moat which catches and cooks escaping batter as the waffle cooks and the batter expands in the irons. NO MESS AT ALL - the waffles slide out of the irons leaving no mess behind.
  • The Waffle IQ settings mean you can select which type of waffle you are cooking, what colour you'd like it to be once baked (light-dark scale of 1-10) and it will calculate the exact cooking time needed to make your waffle just perfect.
  • Double iron cooks two waffles simultaneously.
  • Waffles cook in around 3-5 minutes, and the countdown timer beeps to let you know when waffles are ready. 
  • LED display and orange back light. 
  • Sleek and beautifully designed machine that looks beautiful atop your kitchen work surface.
  • The 'A Bit More' button allows you to cook your waffles just a little bit extra if you decide you want them a little browner. 
  • Measuring cup and recipes included. 
PRICE £169.95 from Sage Appliances. 


CLASSIC WAFFLES RECIPE 

(from Sage Appliances)

Makes 8 waffles at around 323 calories per waffle

INGREDIENTS:

3 eggs
430ml milk
125g unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
300g self-raising flour
55g caster sugar

METHOD (Using Smart Waffle)

1. Select CLASSIC setting and dial up your browning control to your favourite setting (I recommend 4).
2. Preheat until orange light flashes up and the words HEATING disappear.
3. Whisk together the eggs, milk, butter and vanilla in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
4. Combine flour and sugar in a large bowl, and make a well in the centre. 
5. Gradually whisk the milk mixture into the dry ingredients to form a thick batter. Don't worry if there are a few lumps. 
6. Using the waffle dosing cup, pour 1/2 cup of batter into each waffle square. Close lid and cook until timer has finished and ready beep has sounded 3 times. 

ENJOY! 

A waffle stack that dreams are made of!

My favourite topping - maple syrup and streaky bacon! Yes! 

Warm straight from the iron waffle soaked in oodles of sweet maple syrup … Mmmmm! 

If you are a waffle loving family, if you've ever enjoyed a waffle in France or Belgium, or out in a restaurant and thought 'I wish I could make these at home' - now you can. Get yourself this amazing bit of a kit, and you'll be feasting on the best waffles in town in your own home. Remember, Christmas is coming…if you ask Santa really nicely you might just get a waffle-iron shaped surprise come Christmas morning. 

Happy waffle munching my lovelies!

Mrs B

xxx

You can follow Sage Appliances on Facebook here
On Twitter @SageAppliances
Or, on their YouTube here. 

Disclaimer: I was sent a Smart Waffle by Heston Blumenthal from Sage Appliances for the purpose of this review. All words, opinions and images are my own (excluding the first image of the waffle iron, which is from Sage Appliances). 

*A big thank you to Reg Wantling for the filming and editing of my review video.*


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Bumbo Floor Seat & Play Tray *REVIEW*



The Bumbo floor seat for babies is a must-have item for any expectant parents out there. Before we had Bert we were lucky enough to be given a Bumbo from a close friend whose boys had grown too big for theirs, and while Bert was small we found it a really handy item. 

The seat is moulded which makes it soft and comfortable for baby, and its shape means you can confidently pop baby into the floor seat, and he/she will be safe and supported. The detachable tray means baby can sit and play, or eat, with a surface to pop their toys/food on within easy reach of their seated position. Perfect. 

A brief overview:
  • The Bumbo Floor Seat and Play Tray combination will help your baby to maintain an upright seated position.
  • Its award-winning design has made it a favourite with millions of mums and dads as their baby's first seat, when little ones are not quite ready to sit up on their own.
  • The contoured seat fits your baby's posture and includes an adjustable safety harness with an easy-click buckle.
  • Soft, comfortable, durable and easy to clean.
  • With baby safely seated on the floor, story times become easier and play time opens a whole world of possibilities.
  • The removable tray provides a convenient play area, keeping toys, drinks and snacks within easy reach.
  • The tray's smooth, easy-to-clean surface is also great for feeding and is dishwasher safe.
  • Suitable for babies 4 months and older, able to support their head unassisted.
The Bumbo comes in a variety of colours, and you can also purchase fun fabric covers to jazz up your seat, making it extra comfy and fun for your little ones. 

Our Blue Bumbo

We used our second-hand Bumbo loads when Bert was small - we also found our cat Pickle took quite a liking to it as well! 

My favourite thing about the Bumbo is how easy it is to clean - we regularly gave Bert his snacks/drinks while sat in it and I never had to worry about what mess he might be making, as a quick wipe over and the whole thing would be as good as new! 

Bert was such an inquisitive baby - constantly wanting to look around and be part of the action - long gone are the days where your baby just lays in a crib or on a mat on the floor until it can crawl, with the Bumbo your inquisitive baby can sit up and look around unaided - Bert loved it, and so did Mummy, any item which means Mummy has her hands free for a few minutes is a winner for me. 

Here's a few snaps of our Bumbo in action:

The perfect seat for my little super-hero! Bert at 4 months. 

The Bert-Man - our little super-hero: in his Bumbo & Play Tray at 6 months. 

My little Christmas Elf under the tree in his comfy Bumbo aged 4 months!

The cheekiest of chimps: Bert sitting in his Bumbo Floor Seat - what a cutie! 

Alternative ways to use a Bumbo:


Bert thought his Bumbo was rather perfect for den building!


And the cat thought it was a bed for her too:

Are you quite comfy there Pickle??

Now that does NOT look comfortable! Silly cat! 

Hahahaha! 

Who knew they'd be so perfect for your feline friends too! :-)

Recently, TOMY sent us a beautiful new Bumbo Floor Seat & Play Tray Combo Pack in Aqua, as well as a spotty fabric cover. It is truly a beautiful product, and one we will definitely keep and use for any future children we may have, and of course all the lovely visiting babies of our friends and family. 

So often baby products are mostly style over substance, but with the Bumbo you really do get a balance of both: it is beautiful and practical in equal measure. 

Being as Bert is a little too big for a Bumbo seat now, I used my glamourous assistant Peppa Pig to aid me in the modelling for some of the photographs. ;-)

Our new Bumbo in Aqua, with its Play Tray attached - what a lovely any-gender colour! 

The Aqua Bumbo and Play Tray in all its glory

The restraint belt is included for extra safety.

The Bumbo Floor Seat Aqua from TOMY priced at £36.99 or you can buy the Bumbo Floor Seat and Play Tray Combo Pack from TOMY priced at £41.99.

Peppa Pig modelling our new Bumbo with spotty seat cover! You look very swish Peppa! 

Good girl Peppa you've got your restraint belt done up! 

Bumbo with spotty fabric cover.

A really beautiful and practical product for babies! 

At the moment TOMY are sold out of the spotty covers, but you can pick up one of these alternative beautiful designs on their website now:

Bumbo Floor Seat Cover Owls from TOMY priced at £9.99
Bumbo Floor Seat Cover Elephants from TOMY priced at £9.99
Bumbo Floor Seat Cover Sea Creatures from TOMY priced at £9.99

What Bumbo Have To Say…

"Our Bumbo Baby Seat has become a parenting essential, a product that is superior in quality, comfort and function. We also deliver a seat that brings smiles to your child. Bumbo is your baby's first seat, allowing your little one to see the world in a new way. 

In addition to bringing joy to babies and families around the globe, Bumbo has made an amazing commitment to bringing aid to its community in and around Pretoria, South Africa, where it is based.  Bumbo's founder, Johan Buitendach, has dedicated himself to helping those in need. Bumbo donates nearly 100% of its profits to charity to help the poor, hungry, homeless, disabled and others. With every purchase of a Bumbo product comes a partnership with an organisation that has helped, and continues to help thousands of people in South Africa."


We truly are big fans of the Bumbo in the Bishop household, and I like it even more now that I know the work that Bumbo does for charity as well. I know that our trusty Bumbo will be used for many years to come, and for just over £50 for a seat, tray and cover - I think it is brilliant value. 

What baby product did you buy which became your go-to product when your little ones were small?

Mrs B 

xxx

***Please note that a Bumbo seat should ONLY be used on the floor, and isn't safe on high surfaces such as tables or worktops.***

Disclaimer: We were sent a Bumbo Floor Seat and Play Tray Combo Pack along with a spotty Bumbo fabric cover for the purpose of this review. All words, images and opinions are my own. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Dettol Baby Blanket Donation: Dettol Laundry Cleanser #sharethememories


I'm taking part in Dettol's Baby Blanket Donation campaign.

Dettol are encouraging us mums to "keep the memories, not the bacteria" by donating a baby blanket to their campaign and sharing our special baby blanket memories and photographs across social media with the hashtag #sharethememories

Once collected, the baby blankets will be hygienically washed with Dettol Anti-bacterial Laundry Cleanser before being re-distributed to families in need. 

Celebrity mum Rachel Stevens has donated the first blanket, and supports the campaign whole-heartedly

Working in partnership with Sparks, the children’s medical research charity, Dettol has pledged to donate £1 for every blanket collected, raising much needed funds for UK families and children who are affected by serious illness or disability.

What a fantastic way to raise money, and support families in need. 

Since having Bert, any charities working on improving the lives, welfare, health and happiness of children have really pulled at my heart strings, and anything I can do big or small to help, I will do gladly. It takes no time at all to pop a blanket in the post, and just that one small act will make a big difference. 

Here are some of my wonderful blanket memory photos of little Bert

Please, join in if you can, and spread the word - encourage your friends to send a blanket donation as well, and help a child in need today, thank you! 

Blankets can be donated via Freepost (no stamp required) to: 

Dettol Baby Blanket Donation
FREEPOST RTKJ-YSGS-SSHR
The Hay Loft
Balcombe Place Stables 
Balcombe
RH17 6AZ


£1 donated by Dettol to Sparks for every blanket received up to 5,000 blankets

DETTOL LAUNDRY CLEANSER

Did you know that your laundry can still harbour bacteria even AFTER its been washed? I didn't and had always just assumed that the washing coming out of my machine was 'clean'. 

Like most families, our washing machine seems to be permanently in use, from food spillages, nappy leakages, and just general toddler-related-mess, my machine has been getting quite a hammering since little Bert came along. 

Not that Bert is messy or anything!!

Dettol have sent me some of their newest product to try out - Dettol Laundry Cleanser is a washing additive that kills 99.9% of bacteria, when used with regular washing powder, even when washing at low temperatures* – so while you can safely wash away the bacteria, your memories will last forever!

Laboratory tests commissioned by Dettol on washed blankets donated by volunteer mums show that baby ‘blankies’ carry a variety of bacteria even after a 40 degree wash with a third of the washed blankets harbouring coliforms – a group of bacteria linked to faeces!! Yuck! 

This statement alone had me running for my gifted bottle of laundry cleanser quick as a flash! I imagined all these tiny nasty bugs crawling all over Bert's blankets and soon gave all of his bedding, muslins, blankets and clothes a wash using this new product.

Overall, I've been really pleased with the laundry cleanser, and it is definitely something I will use regularly for Bert's washing from now on. I'm pleased with how fresh and clean his washing smelt after using it, and it gives me peace of mind to know that his fabrics are now 'clean clean'. :-) 

*Dettol Anti-bacterial Laundry Cleanser is an additive that kills 99.9% of bacteria, even below 30 degrees – proven to work in rinse cycle temperatures as low as 15oC

Dettol Anti-bacterial Laundry Cleanser comes is 1.5L bottles and costs RRP £4.50

Please don't forget to donate your old baby blankets!

Mrs B xxx

Blanket donations will be collected until the end of December. Memories can be shared with @DettolBlanket #sharethememories or on Dettol’s Mission for Health Facebook page. 

For full details on how to donate please visit www.dettol.co.uk/donate

Disclaimer: I was sent a bottle of Dettol Laundry cleanser from Dettol, which I have been trying out on my own washing, but otherwise there was no endorsements or payments for this post, just a desire to help spread the word about this great campaign. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Perfect Fruit Cake *RECIPE*


Tomorrow my twin sister and I turn 28: another year older, another perfect excuse to get baking! 

Every year I bake my sister a birthday cake, and this year she requested something a little different - she wanted a fruit cake, and not ANY fruit cake, a Mary Berry fruit cake. 

I was excited to give this bake a try, as I've never attempted a fruit cake before - and now that the weather has turned, the leaves are falling, the evenings are dark and I'm starting to hear the C-word (Christmas, of course!) wherever I go, it seemed fitting to give it a whirl.

We decided to bake it together last weekend, as my mum and sister came up to stay for a lovely girlie weekend while my husband went away for a stag do. My sister also enjoys baking, but isn't very confident by herself in the kitchen (yet - I'm working on it!) So, the deal was: 


"If I make it with you this weekend, and teach you how to do it, you have to make it again by yourself at home, and feed it once a week with brandy up until Christmas, when we will all devour it" 

Challenge accepted by my sister we set to work:

The fruit cake is a dense fruit-heavy spiced cake which smells just like Christmas. It's really easy to make, and just takes a long, slow bake. It is the perfect cake to bake on a cold autumn weekend, when you want your house to be warm and smelling delicious. 

We used Mary Berry's classic fruit cake recipe on the BBC Food website (full recipe here) which instructs you to soak your fruit in brandy over night:


A delicious mix of currants, sultanas, apricots, cherries, raisins, and candied peel steeping in brandy over night. 

Once your fruit has soaked up the brandy over night, it is simply a case of lining a tin and mixing all of the ingredients together, followed by the steeped fruit. I used a 25cm round/7cm tall tin which worked perfectly (the recipe states to use a 23cm round/9 inch high tin, but this must be an typing error and they must mean 9 cm high rather than inches - haha I'd LOVE to see a 9 inch high cake tin!!)

The ingredients all mixed up before adding all of the brandied fruit mix

I know some people aren't keen on tasting cake batter because of the raw egg it contains, but I urge you to try this one, just a little spoonful - it is the best tasting cake batter I've ever eaten! 

Once you've spooned the batter into the tin, decorate the top using whole blanched almonds and halved glace cherries. You need to push them lightly into the cake batter, and they will bake beautifully into the top of the cake. 

All ready for the oven

The cake needs to be covered in a loose layer of baking paper, to stop it burning on the top, and baked at a low temperature (140) for 4 hours 15 mins - 4 hrs 45 mins (check after 4 hrs 15 mins as mine was perfectly cooked). The cake should be firm to touch and a skewer should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool for as long as you can manage in the tin - pierce with a skewer a few times over the top when it comes out of the oven and pour little splashes of brandy down the holes - the cake will drink it up like you wouldn't believe. 

All baked, and waiting to be devoured by three hungry ladies! 

pretty pattern baked into the top

Obviously, we couldn't wait to dive into this divine cake, so we only allowed it to cool for an hour and a half (it was still warm, and crumbly), if you leave it for longer the structure will become firmer and it shouldn't crumble as much. If you want to, you can bake the cake up to 3 months in advance of eating, store it wrapped in parchment paper, and feed it with a glug of brandy once a week right up until you eat it - this is what my sister is going to do for Christmas. I can't wait to taste our Christmas version - can it possibly be any better than this masterpiece? We will see. 

Mmmmmm…..fruit cake perfection

The cake was absolutely immense! It is genuinely and confidently the BEST fruit cake I've ever eaten. It is rich, moist, spicy and has that warm hit of brandy which makes it so comforting. 

The recipe states that it feeds 8 people- again, this HAS to be another typing error on the recipe - as if the cake fed 8 you would a) be sick at that size portion as its a huge cake and SO rich, and b) you'd be eating over 1000 calories a portion!! I think this cake easily serves 20 people a good sized portion, at 466 calories a slice - much more sensible (BBC Food take note!)
We'd taken 5.5 slices out of the cake at this point - there's no way on earth it serves 8 - haha! 

A scrumptious slice of Christmassey-fruit-cake-heaven

I MUST recommend that you bake this cake yourself! It is SO worth it. Yes, it's a pricey cake to bake but it goes an awful long way, and will top any cake you could buy in the shops.  A 16 cm fruit cake from Harrods costs nearly £20, and my cake was 25cm and cost just under £20 to bake - and I'm pretty confident this one tastes better. 

It would also make a fab Christmas gift for any fruit-cake-lovers out there! 

So, what are you waiting for? Get baking. 

Mrs B

xxx