Easter Nest Cake

Baking

Here is the perfect recipe to try this weekend… 

It’s our family’s Easter tradition – we have it every year since we were little! 

Have a go and don’t forget to tag me on your bakes on instagram – @mariablackstone


Ingredients 

6 oz stork margarine (could use proper butter) 

6 oz caster sugar

6 oz self raising flour

3 eggs

1 Tsp vanilla 

2-3 tbsp cocoa

1/2 bar Belgian milk choc

1/4 pint double cream 

4 flakes

Bag mini eggs 

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180*c / 160* fan. Grease and line your tin, I used a ring mould but a deep round 8 inch tin would work well. 
2. Cream the margarine and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

3. Add your eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly in between each one. If it curdles, add a spoonful of your flour.

4. Add your vanilla, then fold in your flour until just combined.

4. Spoon half your mixture into the tin in blobs around the base of your tin.

5. Add a couple of tablespoons of cocoa to the rest of the vanilla mix along with a drop of water (about a tablespoon) and mix together until smooth. It should be a nice chocolatey colour.

6. Add this mixture in blobs in between your vanilla mixture in the tin.

7. Using a skewer or knife, swirl the two mixtures together to create a marbled effect.

8. Bake for 20-25 minutes (dependent on which tin you use, it is cooked when springy to touch and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre. 

9. Leave to cool, meanwhile make your glaze.

10. Melt the milk chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl, either in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water (ensure the bowl does not touch the water) or in short bursts in the microwave. 

11. Once fully melted, leave to cool slightly so the mixture thickens up to a nice pouring consistency – it should be thick enough to coat the cake.

12. Place the cooled cake on a cooling rack with a tray underneath and pour over your glaze. 

13. Once covered, chop up your flakes and top the cake to create a nest effect. 

14. Top with mini eggs, and enjoy!


A girl with an appetite for all things creative, 

Maria x

Mini Egg Blondies

Baking, Photography

Hi Everyone, 

Here is an easy and naughty treat to enjoy over the Easter holidays! Perfect to use up  any left over mini eggs – but if I’m honest, it’s more of an excuse to go and buy more mini eggs! 

I was really pleased with how the photos turned out for these. I baked them yesterday evening, by which time all the natural light had gone (I think I was being ambitious, thinking I could make, bake and photograph them in the natural light after I got home from work at 6.30pm!) 

I decided to experiment with flash, I set up the background, put the finished bake in place, though a little warm (I was eager to get to bed) and got the work. I haven’t really shot any food with flash before, apart from my studio arrangements at university. I will definitely continue to practice with this technique as it means I can photograph and cook more for my blog in the evenings. 

My photography work can also be viewed here.

Beautiful background by Woodrow Studios

Ingredients

225g butter

200g white chocolate

175g plain flour

50g golden caster sugar

150g soft brown sugar

3 large eggs

1tsp vanilla extract

2 x 90g bags mini eggs

For decoration (optional)

3 cubes white chocolate

Handful of crushed mini eggs
Method

  1. Line a square tin (approx. 21cm square) and preheat the oven to 180*c / 160 fan.
  2. Chop the butter and chocolate into cubes and melt together in a bowl placed over lightly simmering water. The mixture may split once melted but don’t worry, this will all be combined together into one delicious mixture. Once melted, remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. 
  3. In a seperate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy, you’ll want it to leave a trail on the surface when you lift the whisk. This should take a few minutes. You will probably want to use an electric whisk or mixer for this other wise you’ll be there all night. 
  4. Pour your chocolate and butter into the egg mixture and gently combine together using a spatula. 
  5. Add your flour and fold in until well combined. 
  6. Add your mini eggs and stir.
  7. Pour into your lined tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes depending on the size of your tin. It’s cooked when you can insert a skewer and sticky cake crumbs are left but no raw cake mixture. 
  8. Leave to cool, then drizzle with some extra melted white chocolate and top with crushed mini eggs.
  9. If you can resist, leave in the fridge or somewhere cool overnight to achieve a delicious fudgy texture. In the mean time you can polish off the remaining mini eggs. (Yes, I purposely bought a family sized bag just for the decoration, don’t judge) 
  10. Enjoy! 

Don’t forget to follow my instagram to keep up to date with my foodie adventures. 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Day 10 – 22nd February

Photography, Uncategorized

The birds woke me up this morning, rather than my alarm. Earlier than I had hoped but I had slept fairly well and decided to get up for breakfast. If only waking up for work was that easy. 

I had an amazing breakfast, the hotel is more catered for Europeans, and given the size of the hotel the buffet was extensive. I had some delicious fresh passion fruit, pineapple and pancakes. Then had a roti with an omelette. I sadly can’t stomach curry this early in the morning. It’s not quite the same as having left over take away. The eggs here are so fresh and I wanted to make sure I filled up so I didn’t need lunch. 

I wasn’t going to head to the shops this morning, which was organised by our guide – however he mentioned we would visit a batik factory and I knew I couldn’t pass up the photo opportunity. It was extremely interesting seeing the process and how talented these ladies are. I remember doing it at school and finding it quite difficult. I decided to buy 2 silk scarfs, spending a small fortune but I really haven’t spent overly much this holiday, so thought why not?! This experience was on my list of the top things I have done on my trip along with the elephant safari! 

I then came back to the hotel and chilled by the amazing pool. I took a dip in the pool – the water was so warm and refreshing! I read a bit and sorted out my batik photos. I am meeting my group in a bit for the final time before having dinner together. I am starving! So can’t wait to eat lots and lots of delicious food. 

I may head down to the beach tomorrow evening to see the sunset as I think I may have missed it today. The beach looks okay but isn’t overly beautiful. 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Day 8 and 9 – 20th & 21st February

Photography, Uncategorized

Yesterday we left the hotel and headed on a very, very bumpy road to Wilpattu National Park. Here we went on a safari. For me this wasn’t a patch on the previous elephant safari. However we did see some deer, lots of birds, monkeys, land monitors and a crocodile. We also saw a sloth bear and did spot a leopard which the park is known for. However I didn’t really ‘see’ it, only something that moved as it was very far away. Some people got good pictures however I didn’t as my lens wasn’t powerful enough. We then headed back to the hotel. 


This morning we headed to some more temples. Three complexes full of stupas, buddhas, baths and temples. As much as they are beautiful I am now dreaming of relaxing on the beach. I did enjoy a king coconut, which I was unsure of but it was quite refreshing!
We stopped for lunch and had a nice buffet, I needed to eat as I was feeling rough from the heat. In one of the stupas we had to take our shoes off (obviously) but the ground was so hot, walking on it gave me goosebumps. I felt a little sick after this but nothing some water, food and an ice cold glass of Diet Coke didn’t fix. 


We then headed to our final destination. A three – four hour bus journey to Marawilla, staying at a hotel called Club Palm Bay. I have emailed someone about a taxi to the airport on Saturday so hopefully he will give a good price. He came recommended from Carmen, a girl on my trip. My guide is also trying to organise something for me. 


We arrived at our hotel and it is beautiful. I am going to enjoy my time here. I will relax by the pool for the next few days and take a walk down the beach. Just waiting for my case to arrive to me room before going for dinner! 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Day 7 – 19th February

Inspiration, Uncategorized

I didn’t sleep all to well, the birds at the hotel were up early and making a lot of noise. We had breakfast which was fairly basic, but after the lovely buffet last night I wasn’t overly hungry. We headed to the Dambula Cave Temple dating back to the seventh-century. This is one of the most well-preserved temple & cave sites in Sri Lanka. There were 4-5 caves lined with beautiful Buddhist paintings and statues. This compared to the Temple of the Tooth Relic was far more interesting and impressive. We also saw the huge gold Buddha. 

After this we then headed to a farm. We had a delicious lunch here. The aubergine curry was especially delicious. This farm had around 700 acres of land. We saw buffalo, mangoes, bananas, rice paddies and coconut trees. They grow lots of fruit and vegetables. They have 1000 workers and they get paid 1,000 lkr per day. It was very interesting. 

After this we headed on an optional excursion to Minneriya National Park. This wasn’t on the itinerary so I was totally ecstatic at the thought of going to a National Park renound for Elephants. This was something I had considered doing in my free time at the end of the trip, but with a 4 hour journey each way it really wasn’t worth it. There are about 100-150 elephants in this park and we were so lucky that we got to see the majority. Buddhists see elephants as a sacred animal, and this has probably been the highlight of my trip so far. 

We went for dinner in a restaurant in Dambulla called Mango Mango, then headed back to the hotel for a good nights sleep. 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,
Maria 

Day 6 – 18th February

Uncategorized

This morning we left the hotel at 9.30 after a delicious breakfast. I tried an egg hopper which is a Sri Lankan dish consisting of a rice flour pancake bowl, very thin and quite crispy with an egg cooked in the bottom of it. It was served with a delicious spiced onion chutney. I also had some croissants with some pineapple jam – this was very tasty. 

We headed to a Matale Spice Garden. Here we learned about the different spices they grow in Sri Lanka and also how they use this in Ayerveda. This was very interesting especially after the lecture we had yesterday. We then had a 10 minute massage using the oils and for me some Aloe Vera gel as I had a little sun burn. This was free but I gave a tip of 200lkr costing around £1. I wish I could do that at home! I bought some vanilla extract from the shop, it was cheap and smelt beautiful.


We then headed to Nalanda Gedige, a combined Hindu & Buddhist site influenced by India. We didn’t spend too long here and my mind was a bit preoccupied in my mind with the thought of climbing Sigiriya Rock. We stopped for lunch afterwards, I had a fair amount to eat for breakfast so just got some snacks from the supermarket. 


We then headed on to Sigiriya. It is a UNESCO listed ruin. The Sigiriya Rock Fortress had very impressive gardens. They have two principles – preserving nature, and symmetry. We climbed Sigiriya Rock, meaning Lions rock with approximately 1,200 steps each way. The rock rests 370m above sea level. Half way up, there were wall paintings called Frescoes. We couldn’t take pictures of this.


I DID IT. I climbed to the top. I now feel like I can pretty much do anything if I want to. I knew my great aunt of 79 climbed it, so I didn’t really have much choice but to get to the top. The views were amazing, and combined with my sense of achievement I really did feel like I was on top of the world! 


After climbing down, we headed back by bus to our hotel. We had a buffet dinner again which was delicious, vegetable curries, dahls and freshly cooked stir fry. Yummy! 


Off to a Temple tomorrow and hopefully an elephant safari. 


Night all, 

A girl with a creative appetite,

Maria x

Day 5 – Friday 17th

Uncategorized

Today I decided to pluck up the courage and give the hike a go. We left at 6am without breakfast. 

It was a walk from our beautiful hotel, through the knuckles mountain range, so if I couldn’t continue I just needed to walk back. I decided to take it a bit at a time and after 2 hours I got to the top. The views were incredible, and along the way we saw little villages, and our local guide showed us spices and herbs like cloves, black pepper and lemon grass. 

On the way down I had a minor hallucination – thinking a dog was attacking me when in reality it was just my scarf… I was hungry okay. 

Afterwards we had some breakfast and then shortly headed on the bus to Kandy to learn about Ayerveda, meaning life knowledge. This talk was about the history of the traditional herbs used in the practice as well as a discussion of the difference in using a holistic approach vs. Modern medicine. This was quite interesting. 

We then headed on to the city centre and did a walking tour with our guide. We walked all around the lake in Kandy city and then down the main streets. We also saw an elephant and although he was well looked after it was sad to see him chained up. I really do hope I get to see an elephant in the wild on our safari. 

We then headed back to our hotel and enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner. After nearly 33,000 steps today I will certainly sleep well tonight! I have to climb 1200 steps tomorrow so am a little nervous.


Night all, 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x