Friday, 22 February 2013

Baking with bunnies: Good Fairy Cakes

This is the first in a brand new series of Cottontails blog posts: Baking with Bunnies. (Why on earth didn't I think of this before? It combines two of the things I love most in the world and I get to eat cake in the name of work. Brilliant.)

Anyway. The first recipe is from a lovely book by Lucie Cash called Fairytale Food.

Full of quirky little instructions - "Ensure your cauldron is sparkling clean", "Check your kitchen thoroughly for signs of goblins (little footprints, sticky fingermarks)" - it is a charming, funny recipe book. It also has beautiful illustrations and is almost certainly the prettiest recipe book in my kitchen.

I plan to feature many recipes from this lovely book over the coming months, but I decided to kick off with a classic. So last Sunday, I gathered up some rabbits and we headed to the kitchen to have a bash at fairy cakes....

But these are not just any fairy cakes - oh no, these are Good Fairy Cakes. They have a spoon of lemon curd in the middle, a hint of almond in the cake and the icing, and some edible glitter sprinkled on the tops. Yum.

Good Fairy Cakes

For the cake batter: 
110g softened unsalted butter (I used Stork, it was fine)
110g caster sugar
2 large eggs
110g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 tsp almond essence

good shop-bought lemon curd
60g softened unsalted butter
250g icing sugar
1/2 tsp almond essence
edible glitter (expensive but tiny pot will last for ever - & huge fun!)

1. Preheat oven to 190*c / gas 5 and fill 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases

2. Cream butter and caster sugar together until pale and fluffy, then add eggs one at a time, mixing well

3. Sift flour and baking powder and add to the mixture a third at a time, along with milk and almond essence. Mix well to ensure all ingredients are combined

4. Fill paper cases about two thirds full and bake for about 20 minutes, until cakes are pale golden and springy to touch. Leave to cool on wire rack.

5. While cakes are cooling, you can make the icing. Place butte in a large bowl and whip it up using an electric hand mixer. Add icing sugar a bit at a time and cream with the butter. (At this point mine seemed to go a bit wrong and wouldn't cream properly, but I added some more butter and all was well). Add the milk and the almond essence and mix well until you are left with a smooth creamy icing.

6. Once cakes are cooled, angle a small sharp knife and cut a round out of the middle of each cake, leaving a small hole in the center. Cut the rounds in half (to make fairy wings) and set aside. Fill center of each cake with a teaspoon of lemon curd, then spread or pipe the icing over the top.

7. Add fairy wings and a dusting of edible glitter to complete. Ta-da!

Here is the lovely recipe book (see, I told you it was pretty!) and you can follow Lucie on Twitter too @FairytaleFood.

Finally I should probably point out that this is not a cookery book aimed at children - for example there are quite a lot of boozy recipes - but I am sure it would be a lovely book to flick through and share with a child. Or if not, just grab yourself a fabric bunny. They love it.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Introducing Rudolph

It is a happy day as I am finally introducing my new house rabbit. I have had him for about three weeks now but we have been quietly getting to know each other, and I wanted to give him chance to settle in before beginning his duties as Cottontails' new ambassador.

But the time has come.

So. Ladies and gentleman..... I present...... Rudolph!

Rudolph is a little Netherland Dward cross bunny and we think he is about 18 months old. He is a 'rescue bunny' having been abandoned just before Christmas when his owner no longer wanted him. She didn't even say if he had a name, so the vet who took him in called him Rudolph.

Happily Rudolph made it to a rescue center, The Essex Rabbit Rat and Guinea Pig Rescue. They took care of him, had him neutered and vaccinated, and listed him on the wonderful rescue website Rabbit Rehome, where I came across him.

From when I initially spotted him, it took me about three weeks to take the plunge. Such a very big step, and dear Humphrey left such big paws to fill. There were several phone calls and emails to Wendy, the lovely lady who runs the rescue center. And then one Saturday on January I headed off down to Essex to pick him up. It was a 10 hour round trip! Madness probably, with so many rescue bunnies much closer, but I felt drawn to this little fellow, and as most rescue centers rehome their rabbits in pairs, I was happy to travel to find a single chap, to find the right bunny for me.

Rudolph is settling in nicely and I already love him to bits!

After a life in a tiny hutch, he is very much enjoying tearing around the house. He creates quite a commotion, jumping and racing from the office, across the landing, into the bedroom and back. He hasn't discovered the stairs yet, but I don't think it will be long. And over the last couple of days he has started flopping over on to his back and falling asleep next to me - a sure sign that he is happy and relaxed - and that he trusts me.

At the moment he spends his nights in an indoor hutch in the Cottontails office, then in the mornings I open the door and he can spend all day and evening hopping around as he wishes. He is so well behaved and uses the litter tray in his hutch 100% of the time. (Apart from an unfortunate incident involving a pile of Mike's clothes. Oh and the occasion on Mike's side of the bed. Do you think he is trying to say something?)

So far there has been no stock nibbling which is a huge relief. But he has chomped his way through a mobile phone charger. And a lamp cable. Both my fault for leaving such tasty nibble-magnets in his path - I am still adjusting from Humphrey, the most perfect and placid rabbit in the world.

And he has a little quirk which I love.... he wags his tail! I have never, ever seen a rabbit do this before but he properly wags his little tail! I have looked it up and apparently it is a sign of excitement and / or defiance. It is very funny!

Anyway, enough words. Let's get to the bit we've all been waiting for.... some photos!

 Under the desk, a favourite spot

 Stretching out under the radiator, a favourite pass time

Rudolph's night quarters

By day he prefers to sit on his hutch, rather than in it

Gazing out at the balcony, looking forward to summer

He often sits under my chair,. This is tricky - I must not wheel about..

Showing an interest in paperwork...

Meeting a new friend - surely the first of many

me and the little fella

Spot the Rudolph!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Maileg Spring 2013 - the rest!

Okay so I've pretty much covered the bunnies in the last two posts, but there are of course many more lovely toys coming from Maileg this spring. Here are some of things that caught my eye at this year's Spring Fair...

The Maileg Mice

Several new matchbox mice are coming, and look! the matchboxes have changed a bit in design, I really like the new ones which picture a little mouse.

There are two new parent mice and, best of all, they come with a house. They didn't have a sample on the stand but apparently it's made from a sort of reinforced fabric / cardboard combination - the same stuff as the newspaper furniture. (Those of you who are Maileg mouse mad will know what I am talking about).

And there is a giant mouse - a Mega Maxi Mouse to be precise. He is huge (about a meter tall). Think carefully before buying this mouse - he could really do with a room all of his own!

There are also some new individual little mice available in Maileg's circus theme. Joining the existing clown there is now a ring master and strong man. And the Big Top circus set looks like great fun. Oh - and there is a beefeater mouse.

The Cats

Three long thin dangly cats have joined the Maileg family this season. They wear natty little neckachiefs and, from memory, were about 30cm in height. (Rather worryingly they are pictured on the same page as the mice in the catalogue. But let's face it, they wouldn't stand a chance against Mega Maxi Mouse.)

Boat and Castle - and new rattles

I really liked these - a fabric boat and castle, they are not huge (about 20cm) but they are padded and stand up on their own. They would be the perfect receptacles for the new style rattles - prince, princess, knight, dragon, pirate, mermaid, captain and shark.

Melamin Dining Sets

This is something completely new and I really love it. Some prettily decorated Melamin dining sets. There is a little toadstool which turns into an egg cup, a plate, bowl and spoon. Also a lovely bib.

Maileg Easter

And of course there are some lovely new Easter decorations - little fabric chicks and bunnies, plus some pretty new Easter tins.

So there we go.

Now I have to go and do some sums, make some decisions and decide exactly what to order...

Thursday, 7 February 2013

More about the new Maileg rabbits...

In my last post I told you about the new Maileg rabbit concept - from March onwards all new Maileg bunnies will only be wearing only underwear, with all additional clothing available to buy separately.

So far I have been working from a PDF of a catalogue,  but yesterday I finally got to see the rabbits for real when I visited the Spring Fair trade fair at the NEC.

I took oodles of photographs for you, but first a guide to the new rabbits themselves, which have changed in size just a little.

My measurements are approximate - I failed to take a tape measure so used a sheet of A4 paper (30 cm in length right?) to try and measure the rabbits. Ever the professional.

The Micro Rabbits are the current 'baby' size, the Mini Rabbits are the current 'small' size, Medium Rabbits are, well, medium sized (the most popular, sort of 'standard' Maileg rabbit), Maxi Rabbit and Mega Rabbit are two new sizes replacing the existing single 'large' size, and Mega Maxi Rabbit is the really huge one - the current XL or 'giant' size.

So it is now a wonderful and extensive family - but that's rabbits for you! On to the photos....

Just look at all the lovely outfits!

Clothes packaging - Front....

... and Back

And finally,who's this? Yes there's a rogue Mega Maxi Mouse.

Once again the rabbits have taken up quite enough space for one post, but in the next couple of days I'll share the rest of the new range with you - think mice, cats, boats, castles and dining sets...