Bobble Robin Cupcakes

‘Tis the season for festive cupcakes. This year, I went for making cupcake toppers, rather than elaborate edible decoration. These cakes have white chocolate and glitter coating, with bobble robin toppers. I made the robins from felt, beads and cocktail sticks (I’ve been getting into the whole handmade felt thing… it’s a great material to work with). Managed to stop anyone trying to eat one of the robins…

Here they are in their birdly glory:


Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death – M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin CoverSeries: Agatha Raisin, #1
First Published: December, 1992
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Available: | Amazon UK

Agatha Raisin takes early retirement from her PR job to move to a quiet Cotswolds village. In order to fit in, she enters the quiche competition with a quiche she bought. When the judge dies after eating her quiche, her deception comes out. But was the death an accident or murder?

The main focus is really on Agatha trying to find where she fits. Her life has been very lonely up to moving to the village, and she feels like an outsider (which brings her to cheat, as she thinks winning will help her fit in). She does spend time questioning suspects and the like, but she isn’t fully committed to the path of the amateur sleuth and has her own doubts about whether it was murder. It’s clear this book is setting her up to believe in herself as a sleuth.

The mystery was relatively straight-forward, though there are several suspects (one of my criticisms of a number of the mysteries I’ve read recently is there’s only one possible suspect).

I found the main character interesting. Agatha is someone who’s had to struggle for everything she’s got in life. She’s abrasive, ruthless and not above cheating to get where she needs to go. During the story, she has to acknowledge that she’s not always the nicest person. But the people around her also have to acknowledge that she’s good at getting stuff done.

In terms of inclusion, some of the characters are rather stereotyped. The one that particularly got the side-eye from me was describing one of the characters as “gypsy-looking”. She was also someone with poor personal hygiene and a gambling problem.

Then there’s Roy, who comes across as the stereotypical gay best friend and is described as effeminate. I did like that Agatha disapproves of some of his later actions as chauvinistic (like wanting to marry a woman purely to help advance his career). It’ll be interesting to see where Roy ends up going with that. Personally, I liked his first friend (implied boyfriend) Steve, who was serious and wrote everything down in a notebook. He made a good contrast with Roy… but I suspect he wasn’t being set up as a regular series character.

There’s also Bill Wong the British-Chinese detective, who I imagine will be a reoccurring role, though there wasn’t that much of him in this one (he’s mostly there to warn Agatha not to get involved, rather than working with her).

Overall, I enjoyed the story. It fulfils its cozy mystery aim of providing a lighter read, with nothing too graphic (there’s some mild violence and a few instances of stronger language). It also made me want to eat quiche (though I avoided the spinach one). My main criticism is the stereotyping and some of the language used to describe marginalised people, which did detract from my enjoyment of the book.

Strong Gingerbread / Vanillabread Recipe

Single GingerbreadI planned to bake some gingerbread men this year, as my gift to the family. The only thing in the way was I couldn’t find a gingerbread recipe that fitted what I wanted – a version that was very strong, for the person who likes ginger sprinkled on their ginger; and a version with no ginger, for the ginger hater.

So I made the recipes up. As these recipes are mine, all mine, and not copyrighted to anyone but me, I’m posting them for the world (and if you thought I was joking in the blog tagline about random tangents, now you know it’s for real… though this is the first time I’ve posted a recipe). It’s a pretty standard gingerbread recipe, apart from the seasoning. But still, I can feel a certain amount of yayfulness for making it up and it working.

(In the end, I preferred the vanillabread men to the strong gingerbread men, but the family were split on which they preferred, so I take that as success).

Strong Gingerbread Men / Vanillabread Men

Most of the recipe is the same for gingerbread and vanillabread, other than a few exchanges of ingredients. Where the vanillabread differs, the difference is in square brackets, like so – [VM: Only do this for vanillabread!]

Makes about 12-15 biscuits, depending on the size/shape of your cutters. Don’t forget to buy some stuff to decorate them afterwards.

  • 175g (6 oz) black treacle (molasses) [VM: Honey instead of treacle]
  • 115g (4 oz) soft dark brown sugar [VM: White sugar instead of brown]
  • 1 large egg
  • 25g (1 oz) unsalted butter
  • 450g (1 lb) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 pinch of salt


  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Mix the treacle, sugar, butter and egg together. This is easier if you get the butter out a little bit before, so it has time to warm up and soften. [VM: Also add the vanilla extract here.]

2. Sift the dry ingredients together (flour, bicarb, salt and dry seasoning).

3. Add dry ingredients to the soggy ingredients. Everything should now be in the mixing bowl. If the mix is too dry, add a splash of cold water. The final mix should be firm, smooth and difficult to stir… you don’t want it runny, so only add enough water to mix in the ingredients. (For reference, the strong gingerbread needed half a cup and the vanillabread only needed a splash. This may vary depending on the exact ingredients you’ve used.)

4. Cover and put in the fridge for an hour.

5. Once cool, the dough should be reasonably firm. If not, add a little more flour.

6. Roll out to about half a cm (1/4 inch) thick and cut out shapes. Make sure to dust the surface and the rolling pin with flour, or it’ll stick.

7. Place men on a tray – either lightly greased or covered in non-stick baking paper (I used paper, as one sheet will last for all the batches and it’s easier to remove the cooked biscuits). Cook for 10 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 C / Gas mark 4.

8. Place on a wire tray to cool.

9. Decorate when cool with whatever you want. I used icing, sweets, crystallised ginger and edible silver spray.

Gingerbread and Vanillabread on a wire tray

Strong Gingerbread Biscuits (Left) and Vanillabread Biscuits (Right)

TASTE TIP: Strong gingerbread tastes slightly bitter, and isn’t like the stuff in the shops. It can be a bit surprising if you’re not used to it. If you want a less extreme basic gingerbread, swap the treacle out for some sort of light syrup/honey, and cut down the ground ginger to one teaspoon. You can also swap the dark brown sugar for light brown sugar or white.

ZOMBIE TIP: It comes out of the oven soft, but hardens as it cools. Don’t cook for longer than 10 mins as it’ll cool so hard you can use it as ammunition in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

PHOTO TANGENT: If you see a recipe claiming to include treacle and dark brown sugar, and the gingerbread is light golden brown, it’s a stock photo or they didn’t really use treacle. Treacle gingerbread comes out dark, as pictured here, because treacle is black. Always beware following a recipe no one has actually tried…