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The Red Velvet Pancake experiment… a tasty (but cautionary) tale

12 Feb

Sprinkles – Convo_Pieces

“It looks like a bad burger”.

We both stared at the forlorn lump of batter, burning gently at the edges. Brown bubbles simmered on its surface. Smoke began to rise from the pan.

“I don’t trust this frying pan.”

At some point, suspicion turned upon the frying pan… because you know if you can’t blame the implements, what can you blame. We swapped it for another pan. This did not improve things. Perhaps more red food dye was the answer…

“For a lot of red, we’ve created a lot of brown.”

I stirred the weird lumpy maroon batter mix, thoughtfully. With every stir, the mixture grew browner. Not a nice chocolatey brown, but an inedible shade of blurgh. My main thought: pancake batter and natural food colouring were not a good mix. Also, it smelled strange.

 “This is going to look weird in the sewer after I flush it down the toilet.”

There was only one thing left to do with the mix – and it was not cook and eat it. So down the toilet it went. This was our second batch. (The first had not been nearly so disastrous, the third would be worse.)

“Are we just frying a cake now?” 
“Well, we are Scottish…” 
“We’re not deep frying it.”
“Not yet…”

By this point – the third attempt – we’d created some sort of pancake-cake-biscuit. And a high level of hysteria. Blame the food colouring, but now we just had a massive fit of the giggles. So much so, that I nearly choked on a mouthful of pancake-cake-biscuit. Which somehow seemed even funnier.

Sensible people would have given up… but oh no, not us.


So how did this misadventure involving a whole lot of red food colouring, batter and a potentially misbehaving frying pan come about?

Snowflakes and pancakes - Convo_Pieces

Back in December, we’d stopped somewhere for breakfast. American breakfast. You know, the hearty, heart-stopping kind of breakfast that means you won’t have to eat again that day. And I spied on the menu… Red Velvet Pancakes.

Which seemed like a must order. I love red velvet cake so surely Red Velvet Pancakes were going to be AMAZING. (I was hungry, jet lagged and over-enthused.)

The very nice waiter informed us that their breakfast menu had finished for the day – but their lunch menu was now on. So I had mac ‘n’ cheese for breakfast. Which as your first meal of the day is a whole lot of wrong. (Yes, coming from the girl who wanted red velvet pancakes!)

Red Velvet Pancake – Convo_Pieces

So, we had to come back. The waiter (a different one) eyed us nervously – two Scots demanding, pre-coffee, that they wanted breakfast was obviously more than he’d expected to deal with first thing.

He did a sort of hop from one foot to another as he explained that the usual guy who did the pancakes wasn’t in today but he was sure the Thursday guy could give it a go.

The pancakes arrived. They looked beautiful. So red, so pretty, so Instagram friendly.

But they tasted of… nothing. Not bad, but not great. Just bland. And then I said the magic words…

“We should make these ourselves when we get home. But better.”

Red Mix – Convo_Pieces

Now to be fair, our first batch wasn’t bad. (Which is Scottish/British for pretty darn good.)

We’d used two tubes of Dr. Oetker food colouring gel and had some red-pink batter.

We need another tube. Sod the E numbers.”

But we only had two… so red-pink would have to do.

Red Velvet Pancake Hearts – Convo_Pieces

So we ended up with swirly, heart-shaped pancakes… which super tasty and pretty much tasted like red velvet in a slightly chocolate-y, red-pink way.

Sensible-ish people would have stopped there. (Sensible people wouldn’t be adding food colouring and chocolate to pancake batter would they?)

Red icing – Convo_Pieces

So we decided that we’d make another batch another day. But better. (Ah that word again.)

Now as you now know… batch 2 and batch 3 were an unmitigated disaster of inedible proportions.

But batch 4… well, this time we were going to nail it. Or die trying.

Red Velvet Pancake Mix – Convo_Pieces

However… batch 4 also coincided with a Sunday. And where we live, supermarkets close early on a Sunday. (Well, too early for people who suddenly want to make pancakes at 5pm.)

So, we went off to the local corner shop for eggs, flour and more food colouring.

And came home with eggs, flour, pink Nesquik milkshake powder and red colouring for curries. 

Now, let’s get this out of the way. Nesquik milkshake powder does something weird to pancake mix.

To be fair, nowhere on the packaging does it indicate that you can make strawberry milk that you can add to batter.

So if you’ve ever wondered about this, wonder no more.

Heart Pancake Convo_Pieces

So, food colouring for curries it was…

We used a teeny, tiny, ickle drop and made pink batter.

Pink not red but the pancakes were rising and smelt lovely. So pink is where we stopped.

Love Pancake Convo_Pieces

And they were good. Insanely good. 

We had made rose coloured velvet pancakes. (I was so over the idea of red by this point.) But that wasn’t why they were so tasty…

In fact, it had nothing to do with the colouring or the chocolate… and everything to do with just being darn good pancakes. And the sprinkles, icing and strawberries.

Now sensible people would have stopped there… and for once, just for once, we were those sensible people. With happy tummies and a whole lot of pancake making mess to clear up, we called it quits on the red velvet pancake experiment.

Strawberry Love – Convo_Pieces

So, on the off chance, you actually want to make some pancakes after reading this, here’s our tried and tested pancake recipe (cut out from New Woman magazine some years ago)… add chocolate and food colouring at your own peril!

Makes 6 large pancakes


125g plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp baking powder
2 large eggs, separated at room temp
250ml full-fat milk (don’t add Nesquik)
6 tbsp melted butter, plus a little extra for cooking
Sprinkles/fruit/icing/maple syrup for serving

How to:

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks, melted butter and milk. Keep whisking to create a batter, but don’t overmix it (it’s OK if it’s a bit lumpy).

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold them into the batter with a spatula. Pour into a measuring jug and gently add blueberries (if you want blueberry pancakes of course!).

Heat a heavy non-stick pan. Add a tbsp of butter to coat the surface and pour in some of the batter. When bubbles form on one side, flip the pancake over with a spatula. Brown for 30 seconds or so and then continue with the remaining batter.

Serve as you please… though in my opinion, sprinkles are a necessity!


A perfect day for a picnic…

26 Mar

On Saturday, Edinburgh was seriously foggy.
And cold. And damp. And very not picnic-y.

Sunday’s sunshine caught me by surprise.
(Plus I slept in as I wasn’t feeling well. Yup, fail!)

So today I’m dreaming about being outside
in the sunshine, stretched out
on a picnic blanket.

Ideally on this gorgeous diy chevron one
(by Kathleen from Twig & Thistle).

Sipping a Strawberry Limeade
maybe with a little gin in it?

Oh yes and I may have invited some
friends with these free printable invites


In reality, my picnics look nothing like this.
I usually have an Ikea fleece, stolen back from a cat
so it’s got extra fluff on it. And a carrier bag
of stuff from our local food place.

But a gal can dream right?
(Especially when she’s stuck at her desk
on a lovely bright sunshiney day!)

So who’s joining me for this
imaginary picnic?

You spin me right round… my 80s record collection

5 Mar

It’s been a bit of a Manic Monday…
so I thought it was time to go all 80s on you!

Of all the thrifty finds I have acquired over the years,
the most surprising is my collection of 80s record singles.

After my parents split up, I became the ‘trustee’ of this vinyl.

Which essentially meant I put it in a box
and then put that box in the hall cupboard.

Then when we moved to our current home,
someone gave us an old record player…
and so a little 80s music discovery began.

What we found was around 100 record singles…

Mostly what was in the charts at the time. (I think.)

We are both children of the 80s
but some songs we knew,
and some we really didn’t.

Like, who the heck are Five Star?

My other half promises me that they were huge
and the UK equivalent of the Jacksons.

Still nothing…

Other ones… I’ve looked at blankly,
could have sworn that I’d never heard
of the song before… and then the minute
it’s on the turntable… instant recognition!

Yup, I would have said I didn’t know
I Want Your Love by Transvision Vamp
but I appear to know all the words!

{Check out those a-ha cheekbones!}

One of the surprises is how involved it is
to play some record singles…

You have to pull a record from its sleeve,
place it carefully onto the turntable,
gently put the needle at the start…
(and try not to just pull it across the record!)

The strange scratchy hissy nothingness noise
before the song starts is really rather enchanting…
so different from how my Spotify playlist sounds!

So how you all? How’s your 80s tune trivia?
(I think I’d be good for a pub quiz now!)
Anyone know all the songs pictured?

Maybe I should make a Spotify list
of all these songs to share?


{Update:} Ok, so here it is…
Zoë’s 80s awesome-tastic playlist.
It’s got all of the record collection I could find.
(Strangely Kylie’s Locomotion isn’t there!)
** Enjoy 80s fans! **

What’s the motto with you?

30 Jan

This… yes, this is pretty much my motto right now.
(Except I actually say ‘I don’t know what
I’m doing but I’m doing it anyway’.)

I do like a good motto.
So much so that my friend once made
me a print of a saying I said a lot.

I think it’s my way of explaining why I do things.
Or me trying to talk myself into doing things!

Anyway, I thought it was time I had some new ones.
Some ‘let’s do this thing’ 2012 sayings…

Here’s my new favourites:

This is… well, I want to say perfect…

But, yes times a million.

Done… and beautifully imperfect, this sounds good to me!

You can’t really argue with this can you?!

If anyone knows how to do this, please let me know!


And this

And this… just because I love it.

And if none of that works, what you really
need is this – a fox riding a rocket!


So what’s your motto?
(If it’s good, can I steal it for me too?)


P.S. Yup, I had a little blog redesign.
Hope you like it? It’s a bit of a work in progress.
(Yes, I don’t know what I’m doing
but I’m doing it anyway!)

1. making stuff and doing things 2.dorothyjeannegoods
3.LisaBarbero 4.kickcanandconkers 5.  designfuersheim
5. imeus design 6. hammer press (via littlegreenshed)
7.hellojenuine 8. corduroy

Bits and bobs and more sideboards…

23 Jan

I’ve been having an early Spring clean.
That’s rearranging, chucking out,
re-finding things I already own…

So far this has involved:

1. Making a little wall display
with my print from The Seventy Tree,
poster card from General Pattern
and little map print by Alison Hardcastle.

2. Acquiring another sideboard.

In my defense, this is actually a drinks cabinet
so I’m not as much of a sideboard addict as I seem.
(None of you are convinced by that right?)

It needs a bit of work (its bottom glass doors are broken)
but it’s lovely and narrow… so it’s perfect for the hall.
Which is exactly where I’ve just plonked it for the moment!

3. Making a tea towel cushion

Back in the summer of 2010, I bought
a ‘owl and pussycat’ tea towl by Gabrielle Reith.
And I’ve just got round to converting it
into a cushion. Looks rather lovely
with my cuddly Custard Cream!

4. Turning Xmas decs into full-time decs

Yes the fairylights are still up!

I’ve also been trying to decide on a home
for the pom-pom wreath my little sis made me
for Christmas… it’s too pretty to put away.

I’m thinking as it’s red and pink
it could be a Valentine’s wreath too?

5. Dropping stuff off at charity shops
and coming home with some finds

Yes I’ve dropped bags of old clothes off at charity…
so it only seems to right to reward myself with
this gorgeous typewriter. Especially as she only cost £3!

We also may have picked up a what
I’m calling a boy’s polaroid too…

We bought film for both cameras – and the results have
been, um, interesting so far! Expect a post on that soon!

6. Rediscovering my SLR

In amongst all the shuffling, I dusted off my SLR
and started playing around with it.
(Yes, cats make easy subjects!)

I’ve gotten very bad at just snapping everything
on my iphone… so I’m determined to
try and get back to using the SLR.

And maybe even learn how to use it properly!


So’s that’s my bits and bobs for a Monday.
Anyone else having a bit of a January
reorganisation? I think I do this every year!

Because it’s Tuesday… how to make ‘not cake pops’

17 Jan

For our wedding, friends and family made
all the cakes, puddings and desserts.

They were all supremely good.
And we had too much.

But two nights before the wedding
I was worried we wouldn’t have enough.
So I wanted to bake.

Someone suggested making cake pops.
One glance at the recipes revealed that
it was not something that my
pre-wedding brain
could cope with.

So I decided to make ‘not cake pops’ instead.
Otherwise known as biscuit and marshmallow pops.

I made them for the kids –
but all the adults ate them first!
Though not before they got
a starring role in our wedding…

Yup…  this is us doing our posed
‘we are signing the register’ picture…
(after having actually signed the register)
complete with biscuit and marshmallow pops!


I’ve made a few more batches since…
that’s how easy they are to make
and how yummy they are to eat.

Here’s how to make your own:
(I take no responsibility for
how many you might eat!)

You’ll need:

Double-stuff Oreos (has to be the double stuff ones)


Long lolly sticks (you can get these from Hobbycraft)

Melting candy (any colour; again you can get this from Hobbycraft)

Decoration (we used white chocolate stars and sprinkles)

A colander and a chopstick


To make your Oreo biscuit pop…

1. Slowly start to melt your candy in a glass bowl inside a pot of hot water.
Keep the water below boiling point or it will burn the candy.

2. Take Oreo double stuff biscuit and insert stick carefully.
(It’s easier if you use a cocktail stick to
create a hole before inserting the stick.)
If the biscuit halves separate then simply use
some melted candy to glue them back together.

3. Place the newly ‘stuck’ Oreos into your freezer for approx 10mins.
(This is pretty important or they fall apart when you dip them in the candy!)

4. Once Oreos are chilled and the candy is nice and runny,
it’s time to dip them. The best way to coat them is to use
a ‘dip and spin’ technique – as this removes any excess candy.
Use a chopstick to smooth the candy down and clean up the edges.

5. Now you need your colander.
Turn it upside down and use the holes to put the pop’s lolly stick in.
(This way, your pop can dry without getting stuck to another pop.)

6. Before the candy dries, add your stars or decoration.

7. Try not to eat immediately. If you can.
(Of course, you do need to sample some
for quality control so that’s allowed!)


To make your marshmallow pop…

1. Insert the sticks into the marshmallows.

2. Dip into the candy, using the same ‘dip and spin’ technique.

3. Place in the colander and then decorate.

4. Leave to set.

5. And then eat as many as you can…
before everyone else does!


P.S. For a handy paper version of this ‘how to’
get yourself a copy of the Hannah Zakari zine
as they kindly featured my ‘not cake pops’ there.

P.P.S. This is my first post on grown-up wordpress.
Do let me know if anything glitchy,
I feel like a blogging newbie again!


Image 1: Lillian and Leonard at our wedding
Image 3: snapped by my uncle
All other images: by me.

Because it's January… or Jaguars Need You, Larry

9 Jan

So it’s January 2012.

Or it’s Jaguars Need You, Larry
according to my Cats Let Nothing
Darken Their Roar

(I missed out on getting one last year
so I was determined to have the 2012 one.
I’m trying to be good and not peek
at what the following months are…
we’ll see how long that lasts!)

Yup… I even put the cover in a frame.
It’s ridiculous just how much I love it.

So how’s everyone else coping with January?
I’m refusing to take down all the extra
fairy lights from around the flat…
and I’m still happily eating Xmas chocolate
which I need to stop doing soon!

Apart from that, I’m back to work,
back to yoga, back to reality…
and planning (hopefully) some rather
exciting stuff for 2012.

Yes, this cat is going to let
nothing darken her roar…
whatever that means!

Happy 2012 so far everyone xx

P.S. Thanks for all your lovely comments
and interest on the book project I was
working on (still doing a bit now actually).
I’m only part of the book, no solo project yet…
but I’ll tell you all about it as soon
as I allowed to. Promise!

It's beginning to look a lot like a rather crafty Christmas…

12 Dec

So Christmas has arrived…

On Friday night, we bought our tree
(and named him Bruce the Spruce)
then on Saturday we set about decorating.

A lot of last year’s decorations were looking
a little tired… so I decided to make my own,
using things that we had left over from the wedding,
like baker’s twine, paper doilies and washi tape.

Candy canes, word banners
and a stealthy deer!

I looked for pretty paper to make
my Joy word banners with…
I couldn’t find any so I made my own
using washi tape. (God I love that stuff!)

I even cheered up this mirror with a little ‘joy’ too.
(Yes, I was watching Home Alone at the time!)

If you’d like to make your own,
here’s how in this mini ‘how to’:

1.a Find yourself some pretty paper.

1.b Or fail to find to pretty paper
and decide to make some yourself.
I just took A4 sheet of paper
and stuck rows of different Japaneses
washi tape to it. And voila!

2. Draw in pencil your letter shapes
(I do it in pencil so I can rub it out!)
3. Then cut out using scissors or a scalpel.
4. Using a needle, thread some baker’s twine
through each letter twice. Then tie the ends
with a loop and a slipknot so you can adjust them.
That’s it!


I still had lots of paper doilies leftover
from the wedding so I turned them into

… Xmasy doilies with typed phrases
and dotted ’em round the flat.

There has to be a fox right?

I’m counting the elephant as festive since he’s red!
The rest we hung up, using fishing wire…
(it’s virtually invisible which is great for decorations,
not so good when you’re trying to find the end of it!)
We also made some ceramic hearts…
Strangely I didn’t take any pics of making them.
But I did take pics of our ceramic stars.
It’s the same theory, different shapes!
1. Basically you roll out some ceramic clay
(like you would with some pastry).
2. Then use a star/heart shaped cookie cutter
3. Depending on your clay, leave to dry or bake.

(I’m planning on making a little star banner,
that’s why they have holes in them.)

And to complete our ‘love xmas’ scene
I added my wee snowman, tree and pudding.
(The pudding makes me laugh so!)

The rest of the weekend was spent
doing secret crafty stuff.

Handmade presents mainly…
but also crafty things I’m making
for a book which I can’t tell you
more about until next year!

So I’m starting to feel a mite more
festive now… how about you all?

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