Category Archives: Daily Waffle

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So this just happened in the #brightmansions kitchen… Gincake (with recipe) #365

So this just happened in the #brightmansions kitchen... #gincake #365 @estriel @pollygcs

Gin is good. Cake is good. Friends are good. So what better way to christen the Bright Mansions kitchen than by combining the three? The original recipe came from here, but we tweaked slightly.

Ingredients – for the cake

  • 385g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 230g unsalted butter
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly zested lime rind
  • Juice of one lime
  • 60ml gin
  • 60ml tonic water

Ingredients – for the glaze

  • 225g icing sugar
  • 5 tablespoons gin
  • Juice of 1 lime

Ingredients – for the icing

  • 320g icing sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons gin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of a lime or two

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F / Gas Mark 5 / 170-190 C
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until soft, light and pale.
  4. Add one egg at a time, beating each one until fully combined before adding the next.
  5. Add in the lime zest and vanilla.
  6. Add in half of the dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
  7. Mix in the gin, tonic and lime juice, followed by the rest of the dry ingredients.
  8. Pour into your greased/lined tins/cases.
  9. Bake for about 40 minutes until golden and until a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean.
  10. While the cake is baking, mix up the glaze. Mix up the icing sugar with about half the gin and the lime juice. Add more gin until the glaze is very runny. If you need more liquid, add in a bit of tonic water.
  11. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, prick it all over and pour the glaze over the top, allowing it to soak in the cake.
  12. Cool completely.
  13. Mix up your icing, aiming for a very thick consistency. Spread across the top of the cake and cupcakes.
  14. Decorate with a sprinkle of lime zest

Things we learnt

  • The recipe made 1 x loaf cake and 18 x muffin-sized cup cakes.
  • Depending on your oven, and what size cakes you decide to make, the cooking time does vary. The cup cakes were ready at about 30 minutes, the loaf cake took a good 15-20 minutes more as it was much deeper.
  • Sift your icing sugar. No one likes lumpy icing.
  • If you need slightly runnier icing, add a squeeze of lime juice. Do this REALLY cautiously, because it only takes a drop to turn perfect icing into runny goo.
  • This is a really simple recipe, but it does take time. And make sure the cakes are fully cool before icing.
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Social Media works – or how Tumblr made me buy a book

Let me set the scene. It’s a Monday, about 4:45 on a sweltering summer afternoon. It’s that time of day when you’re still working but the heat is starting to get to you, and your other colleague is leaving early, so you give yourself permission to take a five minute break and look on twitter and… The next thing you know it’s an hour later and you’ve only just managed to pull yourself out the Tumblr hole you fell into. Plus you’re £11 the poorer and payday is still a week away.

I blame Alana Whitman.

See, Alana retweeted this which lead to this, and the art was just so good (in particular this caught my eye), and I figured any author that inspires this much love and creativity in her fans might be worth a second glance.

So I followed the link-brick-road to Rainbow Rowell’s tumblr.

I don't know if hearts are coming out of my eyes, but they should be.

Along the way I got sidetracked by Tamora Pierce’s tumblr. Yes, Tamora Pierce has a Tumblr. The real Tamora Pierce. *Nods* Go, I’ll wait here whilst you go roll around in that glory like kittens in catnip.

Back to Rainbow Rowell and her rather awesome Tumblr.

It is the Tumblr of someone who is actively engaged with, and clearly passionate about, her readers and fans. I found her voice delightful, the things she reblogged made me smile, or think, or both. Her fans were witty, talented, and informed – it takes a solid talent to come up with this Hobbit/BBC News mashup. And (without struggling too hard, I will admit), I found myself in love with her world. Before I knew it, I’d followed yet another link and was buying a copy of her book, Fangirl. Not just any copy either, oh no. I was buying the fancy hardcover special edition. In all it’s pink glory (oh my gods, it’s so bloody PINK!)

Had I read a single word of the book before I purchased, like a sample chapter? No (beyond snippets in the fan-art). Has anyone I know read the book and recommended it to me? No.

I’ve gone on record about how I feel about book recommendations. Plus I really don’t like spending hard earned cash on a book I hadn’t even heard of an hour ago, let alone the fancy-pants hardcover when I could get more than 50% cheaper as an ebook without having to wait 2-3 days for delivery.

So what made me this time?

It all comes down to a masterful use of social media, in particular Tumblr. Without hammering me over the head with BUY ME!!!! messages, I was sold. There are no links at the bottom of each post asking me to buy the book. Yet I bought it.

As I said, a masterful use of social media, because I don’t think it was ever planned to be a masterful use of social media. It is genuine.

The cynic in me cries out that this could be a masterful use of social media by a very savvy PR team at the publishers. If this is the case, which I sincerely doubt BTW, my hats off to you. I don’t begrudge the sale.

Because people say social media is easy. People are wrong.

I have done the research!

Yes, the entry (and cost) points are low, but the only easy thing about it is how easy it is to do badly. It’s damn hard to maintain a group of followers, keep them entertained, engage in conversation, build a profile, all the while retaining a coherent voice and identity, let alone keeping a rabid fan-base happy. People have the online attention span of a brain injured goldfish these days.

It’s not just one blog post, or some tweets, or a facebook broadcasting updates. It’s building all of these, and other, tools into a constantly evolving web of conversation, across a multitude of channels. It’s grabbing my attention before I’m seduced away by the next Benedict Cumberbatch gif.

It’s luck. If I’d looked at tweetdeck 30 seconds later, I’d have missed the retweet that started everything.

To be good at social media (where good = building and maintaing an audience) you need to embrace both the permanence and impermanence inherent in the internet. What I tweet now is broadcast then forgotten, but people read on a time delay, they link to archived content, a conversation you thought closed suddenly spawns a new hydra-head. And you have to keep up with it all. It requires time, and energy, and is intangible because no one can possibly track what influenced a particular sale.

Unless it’s the sale to a slightly bonkers publishing blogger in Oxford, but that’s by the by.

It’s stupidly tricky to do an ROI (return on investment, yes I do know what I am talking about ;) ) on a full social media campaign. You can try, with trackable urls and cookies and google analytics and other fancy thingamajigs, but there still comes a moment in a sales meeting when you have to justify sending 100 proofs to book bloggers on the off chance they might generate a sale or three.

Social Media is word of mouth. It’s the newsboy on the street corner shouting the headlines. It’s the Regency ladies in their drawing rooms a-twitter about the latest three volume novel. And it isn’t a campaign that you can give a month to and then focus on something else. Fangirl isn’t Rainbow’s current book, but if I like it I’m sure to buy her other stuff (power to the backlist!!!). Part of what makes her Tumblr, and Twitter, so engaging is that they have history. They’ve been active for a while. It’s safe to fall a little bit in love because you know they will be there in the morning.

You can’t quantify it. Ten tweets doesn’t equal one book sale. But sometimes one Tumblr post can.

(I didn’t start this post intending to rant about social media and marketing and communities, but that’s where I seem to have ended up. It’s clearly where my head is right now. )

I have a magic ring

the One Ring...

So mine is silver, has no inscription (that I can see), doesn’t make me invisible, and isn’t evil (I don’t think), but it is magic.

It’s a simple silver band that I got several years ago on a bit of a whim, but once I put it on my finger, I never took it off. There it sat, on the middle finger of my left hand, slowly gaining teeny scratches and dings from daily wear, developing in character. I became so used to it that I barely registered it. It was just there.

Then one day, back in May, I took the ring off to put on some handcream. I watched in slow motion as the ring slipped off the bedside table, bounced twice, and disappeared between a crack in the floorboards. There one instant, gone the next. Despite swearing, cursing, flashlights, bent hangers, special springy-clippy-grabby tools, and a lot of patience, the ring was stuck. Nestled lovingly in the dusty embrace of the floor joists, visible, but forever out of reach.

It is bizarre, but I felt bereft. This ring was nothing special, it wasn’t a gift. There was no sentimental meaning behind it, but I felt naked without it. So naked that I bought a replacement – when it came, the new ring was very very similar to the old, as you’d expect from the same brand, but it was a shade slimmer than the last. Plus it looked all new. Still, I started wearing it, and it is now starting to acquire the same marks of life of its predecessor.

Up till this morning I would have said I had gotten over the loss of the old ring. I still thought of it, now and then, sitting under the floorboard, waiting for me to move house (I decided to wait till then before I asked the landlord to rip up floorboards), but I had moved on.

Yesterday another favourite ring, one I have worn every day for the past decade since my great aunt died and left it to me, broke. As it can’t be mended till the new year, I rummaged through my jewellery box this morning looking for a suitable temporary replacement.

And there, sitting on the top, was the missing ring. Exactly as shiny and silver and slightly battered as it was the day it slipped out of reach.

I want to stress this – it is the exact ring that went down between the floorboards in May. Not a very similar ring. Not the replacement ring. The same. bloody. ring.

And no, I haven’t forgotten to tell you about how I spent last weekend using a crowbar on my floor.

I genuinely, honestly, seriously, have no bloody idea how this fracking ring got to be in my jewellery box. As far as I am concerned the ring that is now gracing my right ring-finger IS STILL UNDER THE FLOORBOARDS. I have wracked my brain, trying to think if I ever brought a spare. I have gone through receipts, and I never brought a spare, certainly not a spare I then wore long enough to develop marks, then took off and forgot about. And it wasn’t exactly hiding in the depths of the jewellery box – it was sitting right on the top. Smiling at me. Saying “hello there old friend, I’m back. Wear me?”

There’s only one conclusion. I have Borrowers. Or the ring is magic.

Not sure which I’d prefer.