Saturday, 26 September 2015

Carrot Cake on International Rabbit Day

Tomorrow my lovely in-laws are visiting and my daughter and I thought that we should bake them something tasty for tea.  So as today is International Rabbit Day we felt it had to be a carrot cake.

(Don't forget to celebrate International Rabbit Day Belle & Boo are offering  15% off everything on our online shop )

And because our #belleandboobakes baking competition is still open to entries I thought my carrot cake attempt might inspire you to enter - although there is no doubt you can do a better job than me! (Click here for full information and to see all the amazing prizes you could win).

I found a super simple carrot cake recipe on the brilliant baking blog Sally's Baking Addiction .

Although I have included the steps below I would highly recommend visiting  Sally's Baking Addiction for the exact method and to see her gorgeous pictures.  


  • I used about 4 medium sized carrots (grated)
  • 1 cup of light or dark brown sugar (about 200 grams)
  • 2 cups of plain all purpose flour (about 240 grams)
  • 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • Yoghurt (I used greek yoghurt) - a small amount!
  • 3/4 cups of vegetable oil (177 ml)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of cinnamon
  • And nutmeg (although I used mixed spice because I didn't have any nutmeg)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract 
  • Pecan nuts ( I used walnuts)
Sally's recipe is given using 'CUPS' as measurements.  If you don't have measuring cups I would recommend investing in some (it makes life very very easy).  Mine are come from Anthropologie but you can get them from most good kitchenware stores.

Also too tempted by the windfalls in our garden I decided to add one grated apple into the mix as well ( and I must admit it probably made the cake mixture too wet).

 Sadly I didn't have any pecan nuts so I opted for walnuts instead.


 Mix the sugar, oil and yoghurt in a bowl with the three eggs and vanilla extract.

Be careful - I got carried away with the yoghurt and kept throwing more in (after this photo was taken I added a few more desert spoonfuls!!!).  The result is that my cake is rather wet and gooey….yummy though.

STEP 2: 
Add in the dry ingredients including the cinnamon.

Add the grated carrots and nuts (this is where I also added the grated apple which I think may have added even more moisture)

My daughter was in charge of folding all the ingredients together   before putting the mixture into a prepared 10 inch cake tin.

We then put the cake in a pre-heated oven at 180 C.

Sally recommends cooking the cake for 32- 38 minutes but I found I needed to bake it for longer (probably because of the added moisture).

And here it is… a carrot cake for Sunday tea with the family. And we think the perfect cake for our favourite bunny Boo.

Remember send us photos of your Belle & Boo inspired cakes by 1st October via social media using #Belleandboobakes .  The competition is open to both adults and children and one person from each catagory will all these beautiful Belle & Boo goodies…..

Belle & Boo prizes for the two winners of the #belleandboobakes competition

Happy International Rabbit Day and happy baking!

Jules x

Friday, 18 September 2015

A Yummy Competition

We are pleased to announce the launch of our first Belle & Boo bakes competition, our own mini bake-off.

We are looking for two winning bakers - a child and an adult - who produce the most creative and imaginative Belle & Boo inspired bakes (kids - make sure you have permission and help from a grown-up).  Entries don't have to feature Belle or Boo but have to be inspired by something from our illustrations on our products or in our books (scroll down for information on 'how to enter' via social media).

Both the adult and child winners will receive ALL these beautiful goodies for themselves and their families:

 I love baking, both on my own and with my children , not only because it's fun but it is also incredibly rewarding and constructive.  I find doing homework with my kids very stressful but baking together means I can apply all sorts of school subjects to real life in a fun way - 'maths' and 'science' but also we chat about countries where recipes come from and how things grow.

My son and daughter baking together
(smiles and bickering too but generally fun)

Sometimes we end up with epic baking fails but most of the time we end up with delicious things to eat (a recent pineapple upside down cake was yummy but we broke a few teeth with the homemade ginger toffee topping! Ooops .... still we had fun making it).

So we hope our #belleandboobakes competition will be something you can enjoy doing with your family or on your own.

To give you a bit of inspiration here's a very simple shortbread recipe your child could make with the help of an adult (my children often use it).  Use sweets and icing to make round shortbreads look like Belle's or Boo's face, add ears or hair using 'ready to roll' coloured icing.  Or make your own templates to create biscuits shaped like ballet slippers or hot air balloons , the choice is yours..... 

Very Easy Shortbread 

  • 125 g softened unsalted butter 
  • 60 g caster sugar
  • 125g plain flour
  • 60g cornflour
  • 1 tps orange zest (optional)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170c.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric whisk or a fork until it is light and fluffy.
  3. Sieve the plain flour and cornflour into the butter and sugar mixture (at this point you can also add your orange peel if you wish).  Mix together until all combined.
  4. Press together to with your hands to make a dough and make it into a flat round disk.
  5. Cover with cling film and pop into the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.
  6. Roll our the dough between two sheets of grease proof paper.  It should be about 1cm or 1/2 inch in thickness.
  7. Cut out the desired shapes out and place onto a greased baking sheet (once cut our you might want to pop the 'biscuits' back into the fridge for 5 minutes ito firm up again).
  8. When ready put the biscuits back into the oven and cook for 20 minutes. 
  9. When the biscuits are ready, take them out and allow them to cool. 


For  more inspiration visit our Pinterest page where you will see some truly impressive Belle & Boo bakes by people who are, unlike me, brilliant at decorating (you will be pleased to know these are not entries into our #belleandboobakes competition).  You can also see ideas on our Instagram feed.

How to Enter:
To enter our #belleandboobakes competition all you have to do is:
  1.  Bake something inspired by Belle & Boo (bread, muffins, cakes, biscuits, pies etc )
  2. Post photos of your Belle & Boo inspired bakes on InstagramFacebook or twitter, using the  #belleandboobakes  (please state if it is a 'childs' or 'adult' entry).
  3. You must also 'like/follow' Belle & Boo on one or more of these social media sites/platforms.
  4. If your social media accounts are set to 'private' you can send your entries via email.
  5. Entries must be in by 1st October.
  6. Adults and child entries will be judged on creativity - so be imaginative.
  7. We will select two winners - an adult (over 16) and a child - who will both receive a bundle of amazing prizes for themselves and their family.

Remember your bakes don't have to look like Belle or Boo but can be inspired by any of our illustrations featured on our products and in our books.  Visit our website and see what captures your imagination and get creative.

We hope you have fun baking.  Good luck and we can't wait to see your entries!

Jules x

The Competition Fine Print
  • By emailing us your entries you give us permission for your email address to be added to our e-newsletter list. 
  • Entries posted on social media are only valid if you are following us on that platform. 
  • By entering you give permission for us to use your entry photos on Belle & Boo social media.  
  • Entries must be in by 1st October.
  • Winners will be notified after the 5th October.
  • Full T&Cs can be found on our website.  

Friday, 11 September 2015

Our love of Roald Dahl books & a cake

September 13th is Roald Dahl Day, an annual celebration of all things Dahl, centred around the writers birthday.  This year he would have been 99! 

Reading with our children is a past time we all love at Belle & Boo HQ and we all have fond memories of Roald Dahl books.  His stories never date, even though Charlie & The Chocolate Factory was published 51 years ago it still grabbed my children's imaginations and seemed fresh and exciting. In our eyes he undoubtedly remains one of the best writers of children's fiction ever! Here's why....

Mandy Sutcliffe
Belle & Boo founder and illustrator of brilliant picture books 

"My favourite Roald Dahl book is Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.Why?....because it is just an epic book.  The rags to riches story, the slightly scary element of what was happening to all the naughty children and of course all of the chocolate and sweets and lollies!  I remember I especially loved that all the grandparents shared a bed in the living room -  even though they lived in such poverty it always felt cosy and warm, with an overriding sense of family and love.

Jennie Maizels
Illustrator and maker of lovely iron on patches.

" Fantastic Mr Fox! I love its anarchy and how the tables turn, it's quite brutal! I was bought up as a vegetarian, so my parents loved the message behind this book.  I loved the animated film version, but nothing beats a child's imagination, in my memory it was a lot more gory, it felt like quite a 'grown up' book to read.I remember staring at the illustrations of animal's with guns & being both horrified & thrilled at the same time. Long after I stopped being read to, I still marvelled at Quentin Blake's fabulous illustrations. I tried to get my own children to enjoy it as much as I did, but they said it was too gruesome and too sad, I don't know what that says about me as a child, as I really loved it! Haha!

Kate Shafe
co-owner of Belle & Boo.

"It would have to be Matilda.  An inspiring story about a strong, independent young girl who uses her wit and intelligence to come out on top.  I can't wait for my girls to read it.  And as usual with all Roald Dahl stories Matilda is very dark in places. Just look at Matilda's parents as well as the maniacal Miss Trunchbull - they are frightening! But it is also very funny, even in some of the most disturbing moments.

One of those 'disturbing' moments has to be when Bruce Bogtrotter steals a piece of chocolate cake from THE TRUNCHBULL and as punishment he has to consume an entire cake in front of the whole school.  This is an enormous cake " fully eighteen inches in diameter and it was covered with dark-brown chocolate icing".  Poor Bruce it makes tummys churn just thinking about it. 
Quinton Blake illustration from Matilda

As tribute to Roald Dahl Day and because we also love baking I am going to make the 

'Bruce Bogtrotter' cake with my daughter taken from Roald Dahl Revotling Recipe book.   It's incredibly rich so I can see why one tiny slice is enough (never a whole cake!). Here is the recipe:

(BTW - keep an eye out for the launch of our Belle & Boo Bake Off Competition coming very soon)

Bruce Bogtrotter’s Cake (Taken from Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes)
  • 225g Dark Chocolate
  • 175g Butter
  • 225g Caster Sugar
  • 4 tbsp Plain Flour
  • 6 Eggs (separated)
  • 225g Dark Chocolate
  • 225ml Double Cream

  1.  Preheat the oven to 170 C
  2. Slowly melt the chocolate and butter  together in a pan, until smooth. Allow to cool slightly to avoid scrambling the eggs in the next step.
  3. Gently add the sugar, flour and egg yolks and beat together until smooth.
  4. Using an electric whisk, in a seperate bowl beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. 
  5. Fold half of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to over-mix. Carefully fold in the remaining egg white, until just combined.
  6. Pour the mixture into a greased and lined 20cm cake tin which is also quite deep. 
  7. Bake for approx 40 minutes, if the top begins to burn reduce the temperature slightly. To check if it is ready put a skewer through the centre, if there is a little cake mixture on the skewer that is fine because it should be a bit gooey.
  8. Whilst the cake is baking prepare the ganache.  
  9. Melt the cream and chocolate together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and allow to cool and thicken. 
  10. Spread over the top and sides of the cake, allowing it to even out the top of the cake if it has sunk.
  11. When the cake is ready take it out of the tin and let is cool properly before smoothering it with the ganache.  
Invite loads of kids over and eat the cake whilst reading and acting out favourite scenes from Matilda and all your favourite Roald Dahl books.

And Enjoy!

Jules x

Find out about Roald Dahl Day celebrations and download some fun craft activities from the brilliant Roald Dahl website.  Or if you can visit the the charming Roald Dahl museum in Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire there are some really fun events happening during September too. 

Monday, 7 September 2015

Belle & Boo at Burford Garden Centre

Over the summer we held 2 Belle & Boo events at the extraordinarily lovely Burford Garden Company
If you haven't been I can strongly recommend a visit, look at how beautifully they have displayed our stock. I could have spent a small fortune, but luckily for my bank balance I was very busy reading, colouring, face painting and generally Belle & Booing with lots of little excited children.

Children were greeted by Alice and Warren and given bunny ears to wear.

After a brief introduction of myself and how Belle & Boo came to being, I read 'Birthday Surprise'

Then it was through to the beautiful cafe area for craft activities; making a simplified version of the puppet theatre craft found in our new book 'S is for Sewing'.

 I used to LOVE colouring when I was a little girl, I could have sat for hours and hours and we definitely had to interrupt a few engrossed kids for face painting and more stories. 

It was such a great day, thank you to all that came, I know many of you travelled far with little ones and apologies to everyone that couldn't attend this time....we will be back!

Love, Mandy

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Parties // Amelia's 2nd Birthday

After such a beautiful weekend the rain has now set in and I can't help but be a bit sad that Summer feels 'over'.  But what better way to cure these rainy blues by looking back on a beautiful Belle & Boo summer party. 

Little Amelia turned 2 in June and had this beatufiul Belle and Boo themed party. Her super talented mum made and decorated this cake for the party (which we think looks way too good to eat!). Alongside her hand moulded Belle and Boo, was a badge from our badge cards collection and finished off with bunting made with our mini bunting craft pack.

The birthday girl wore our lovely summery Sun Dress.

But what's potentially even better than her cake was her birthday present, which was a wendy house inspired by Belle's Treehouse from Belle & Boo and the Birthday Surprise. Tucked at the back of the garden near a sweet woodland with an abundance of bunting and balloons, we really think this is just perfection (and the fact it was hand made by her dad makes it even sweeter!).

We love the little details, especially the flower box and the Boo & the Bluebird wallsticker on the interior.

Childhood Perfection!
Summer, we will miss you! 
Love, from Clare

 All photos credit to the talented: The Woodland Wife 
Keep an eye out for her upcoming new country lifestyle blog too. If Amelia's party is anything to go by, it's going to be gorgeous!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Q&A + Cake with Jennie Maizels

Beware - you may find you want to rush off and eat a lot of cake after reading this....

At Belle & Boo we get to work with some incredibly talented people, most recently the amazing Jennie Maizels, an award winning illustrator, entrepreneur and creative genius.  

(Jennie Maizels in her studio)
We met Jennie at a trade show and fell in love with her beautiful range of products.  Lucky for us she was a fan of Belle & Boo and within minutes of meeting she had agreed to produce these beautiful Belle & Boo 'Stick & Iron-On' embroidered patches for us. 

As well as running a successful business, Jennie has published several award winning pop-up children's books, designed and made window displays for Harvey Nichols and The Body Shop and once created a life size replica of Alice In Wonderland out of papier mache!

An inspiring person, we asked Jennie to tell us a bit about her experiences running a business, her family, and she also shared a mouth-watering recipe with us:

Q&A & Cake With Jennie Maizels

You have have achieved and created so many wonderful things – is there any accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?

I recently launched an online Sketchbook Club. This was because I have been sharing images on Instagram from my Sketchbook Clubs I run from my studio near Winchester and people started to request an online version .

I have been overwhelmed by the response! It's fabulous to see people who haven't drawn since school start to get creative again! The modules are suitable for tiny children and adults so whole families have been taking part. It is so so special that I have in some way inspired people to start using sketchbooks again, so yes, this does make me feel very proud!

What gave you the idea for launching the ingenious embroidered stick and iron-on patches?

 I have two daughters who are now teenagers towering above me! When they were (much!) smaller, I had a fixation with stripy tights, something you can only really get away with if you are a child (mores the pity!) they are real ‘Tom Boys’ and would regularly get holes in their pretty tights, I would sew them clumsily, creating big lumps and spoiling the tights completely, it occurred to me that if I could iron or stick something over the little hole that made the tights even more lovely; problem solved! All I could find were big, ugly patches, there really was nothing on the market. So I went about designing my own.

What are the most inventive ways customers have used their embroidered patches? 

I have seen some wonderful ideas on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, from covering cushions, trainers, pencil cases, school bags to iPhone covers and suitcases, they’re endless! I love how they are often used to help very small children identify their possessions at school, by putting a Belle and Boo patch on all of their items, for example, they can easily spot what is theirs, I think this is such a sweet idea.

What do you enjoy about running your own business

Thanks to social media, what was a once fairly isolating career, one can now feel completely connected with customers, stockists and the press etc. I adore the interactions and the constant communication I have with people. This is a very different world to that of my early days as an illustrator, where it was quite literally just me and my pencils! I also get an enormous kick whenever I see my products in use, books being read by children, artwork being created following my online Sketchbook Club, or patches adorning peoples clothes, there lies the real thrill and the real enjoyment behind running any business.

Are there any illustrators/creative people you admire?

When I was little, my absolute most favourite book was ‘The Old Joke Book’ by Allan and Janet Ahlberg, I think their work deeply influenced me. I loved the infinite detail and the fact that no space was ‘wasted’, I can see this in the Great Grammar Book series, which I completed with the late and wonderful Kate Petty, where I approach all of the books with the same attention to detail and obsessive ‘cover every corner’ approach. ‘The Old Joke book’ felt like you really got your ‘moneys worth’, something I still really believe in across all my work.

You have two children. What do you enjoy doing with your family in your spare time?

An obvious answer, but I adore our holidays! But they really are my favourite times of all. My husband and I work silly hours and it is the only time we turn our phones off and get to really relax as a family.

My girls are very creative and we all draw together, which is very special, but sadly, this only happens when we are all together and away from the stresses of work.

At home, we enjoy baking together, my youngest is a fantastic cook and loves experimenting (she doesn't like using recipes!). We also have a sweet little Cocker Spaniel called Dotty. We live near the New Forest, so at the weekends, we spend a lot of time with Dotty on long walks and picnics, which we all love (especially Dotty!)

(Drawing on holiday in Kefalonia.
Check Out Jennies Instagram for more beautiful & inspiring photos)

So you are bit of a baker! Do you have a favourite recipe you could share with us?

Believe it or not, my family’s most requested cake is my Chocolate Beetroot Cake. I even used this recipe to make my sister’s recent wedding cake! It is incredibly moist and intensely chocolatey without being too sweet…recipe below:

(Jennie's Chocolate Beetroot Wedding Cake, made for her sister)

Chocolate Beetroot Cake by Jennie Maizels
250g well-drained, cooked beetroots, pureed (see note) 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
300g caster sugar 
250ml vegetable oil
3 eggs 
225g plain flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Note: I bake the beetroot first, wrap each beetroot in foil and pop in the oven for about 30mins. The skins will pop off under cold water. I think the cake tastes much better with home baked beetroot rather than shop bought cooked beetroot.

1. Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas 4. 
Grease and flour one 20x30cm (9x13 in) or similar sized baking tin. 
2. In a large bowl, combine pureed beetroots, eggs, vanilla, oil and sugar. Mix with an electric mixer on low speed until well combined. 
3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cocoa. Add to the creamed mixture, beating together well. Pour batter into prepared tin. 
4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until done.

For the wedding cake I used a dark chocolate butter icing, but at home I
often just pour over some melted chocolate!

Yum! Yum! Yum!  

 I am now very hungry and desperately trying to finish work early so I can try baking Jennie's cake - it looks so delicious.

Remember please share with us photos of how you use your Belle & Boo patches on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  And let us know if you baked Jennie's cake too.

Happy patching and baking,
Jules x
Check out Jennie's Belle & Boo patches here.
Find out more about Jennie Maizels here
Read about some other talented people we have worked too -  Rhiannon Southwell and Claire Verdet.