Lockdown Eleven

Actually it’s only our fourth lockdown. But it was my daughter’s eleventh birthday recently and the promised trip to the mall (to see if she could figure out what she wanted, since she has no ideas) never happened.

What she needs is a hoodie, and she only likes the zip-through ones. For older girls these are very hard to find! She’s outgrown cutesie stuff made for little girls and while she’s tall enough for age 14 clothes she doesn’t like the ubiquitous logo black and grey stuff made for teenagers.

What on earth are tweens supposed to wear?

And guess what her birthday present was? An executive chair for her desk. She spends a lot of time at her computer because of remote learning, and because she’s writing spreadsheets with her dad for a card game about dragons. Until now she’s been sitting crunched up on a dining room chair, often sharing with a cat.

I also gave her these…

Just add hot milk

Is this a weird thing to give an 11-year-old? I don’t know. She loves hot chocolate and they looked intriguing.

And, of course, she got the latest two Warriors books. She must have about 70 of these books and is on her third read-through in the past 18 months. I think she reads faster than me!

For her birthday cake she requested a cat. I imagined a cat face, just a circle with extra cake to make pointed ears, right? But no, she wants a three-dimensional sculpture. I’ll have to come up with something for our extended family celebration when lockdown ends.

Lilac kitty fur

Meanwhile, for her quiet birthday with just the three of us, I made cupcakes. She requested marbled vanila and chocolate, decorated in realistic colors. I had only blue and red food coloring, so she ended up with white cats and… whatever this purplish color is, which satisfied her as what she calls “lilac” (apparently a dilute brown/grey fur combination).

The cakes rose like crazy in the oven, so I started out very hopeful I lopped off the tops before icing. The only decorations I had were cut-up chocolate stars for the ears, and cut-up sugar hearts for the noses.

So far, so good.

The texture was… okay I guess. A bit weird.

That evening I opened the microwave oven and discovered this inside…

The missing ingredient

… which explains the bready texture. Nobody ever accused me of being an excellent baker.

Actually I do have one amazing foolproof brownie recipe, courtesy of an old friend. It’s typed on a very old butter-and-cocoa-stained bit of paper in my recipe folder with no picture, but they look like regular brownies (as shown). For the best brownies you’ve ever tasted, here goes. I’ve attempted to convert into American measures and it’s not entirely accurate since not even your cup sizes are the same as ours, but close enough.

Generic brownies
  1. Preheat oven to 190C/375F (170C/340F fan-forced).

2. Cream together:
250g softened butter (2 sticks and a bit, 9oz)
200g soft brown sugar (1 cup)

3. Fold in:
3 eggs
200g melted dark chocolate (7oz)

4. In another bowl, sift together:
80g plain flour (2/3 cup all-purpose flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
65g cocoa (3/4 cup)

5. Fold dry ingredients into wet mixture.

6. Pour into brownie tin (about 23cm or 9″ square), bake 30 minutes until crusty on the outside, barely cooked inside. Cool in tin.


The better quality chocolate and cocoa you use, the better the results.

Oil or margarine are not recommended as substitutes for the butter. (I would go so far as to say: please don’t!)

You can optionally add 100g nuts, or place half a walnut on top before baking.

Sprinkle with sifted icing sugar (powdered sugar) to serve.

I love my brownie tin, which looks something like this. Fill the pan, push in the divider, and you get perfectly shaped brownies with that shiny cracked top and cooked edges all around.

If you give the recipe a try, let me know how they turn out. I said “foolproof” but I admit they have failed once or twice where they’ve collapsed when I lifted out the divider. So make sure they’re “set” before you upend the tin. They still taste divine no matter what they look like!

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