It’s said that a bad workman blames his (or her) tools.  I try not to but I’m absolutely convinced the canoe I was recently trying to paddle up the Charente river in France really did pull to the left, after factoring in environmental issues – wind, current, small child with paddle up front – the canoe still pulled to the left, even when I turned round and headed back home.  Or, it might be that I’m right handed and have a stronger right arm…

Anyhow, when it comes to baking, it’s rare that errors occur that can’t be fixed somehow. Baking is chemistry and there are a lot of variables besides the ingredients.  The very hot weather on my recent holiday got me thinking about how environmental factors affect what you’re baking.  It was my middle daughter’s birthday this week and she’d asked for flip flop cookies instead of a cake.  I used my favourite, well used, Peggy Porschen recipe for vanilla cookies, chilled the dough for at least an hour and placed the shapes on the baking tray with the usual gaps between them.  When I took the first tray out they’d spread into one another and the texture was much softer and less dense than usual.  It was nearly 30 degrees outside so I’m assuming the whole process was just too hot!  Top tip is to pop the trays in the freezer for a few minutes before baking which should stop them spreading so much.

However, the second tray was better and after decorating, went down a treat, perfect for the beach today!
But of course, I couldn’t just get away with cookies and no cake, so last night I whipped up a vanilla sponge for birthday tea.  Thankfully it was cooler and all went according to plan, although after the beach trip today, I only had a short time to acutally decorate the cake.  Perfect time to try a buttercream-only finish like many of the cakes in Peggy’s Boutique Baking (another recent book purchase!).  I’m under no illusion that achieving a perfectly smooth buttercream finish would be easy, but I’m also convinced that the plastic smoother I bought recently is not up to the job… Ho hum, whether it was the workmanship or the tools, a smooth finish was not going to happen so I went the Hummingbird Bakery route and textured the finish with a palette knife about 20 seconds before the birthday girl arrived home.  Topped with a heart made from fondant rose buds and five white candles, it raised a smile and finished off a perfect 5th birthday. 
 
Eldest daughter has also been taking a great interest in all things scientific and I was so impressed when she shouted from the downstairs loo that it was so hot the soap had melted.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her the housesitter was too mean to replace the handsoap and had simply watered it down…