12 years, though. 12 whole years! I can’t actually believe it’s been that long since I sat at my enormous, clunky computer in that little house down a long drive in County Dublin and listened to it making that weird, warbly dial-up sound connecting to our bloody awful internet connection. They say the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and for me, my journey really began when I started writing down my thoughts about moving our young family to Ireland. This led on to being a part of the very early blogging community in Ireland, and from there – well, you know the rest! And what better way to celebrate with you than with cake and sprinkles, and to give you, dearest reader, the most precious of gifts: the best vanilla cupcake recipe I own!
What a 12 years it’s been, though. I’ve got a little thankfulness list right at the front of my notebook and every so often if I’m feeling a bit down, I sit and have a read (I truly recommend it). This little corner of the internet has taken me all over to the world: to my beloved Disney and Universal, to the Cayman Islands and Nova Scotia, to Scotland, Mexico, Slovakia, a chateau in the south of france and Rick’s Café in Casablanca. It’s also given me the most wonderful opportunities: I’ve sailed on beautiful cruise ships, climbed to the top of mountains, I’ve navigated the St Lawrence, seen New England in the fall and gazed up at the Hollywood sign. I’ve written about blogging in the Guardian, I’ve been on the telly in a Sainsbury’s advert, I’ve been a Royal Caribbean Cruises Royal Mum, I’m an ambassador for Three, I’ve written the recipes for two books for Viking Cruises (and just finished an update on The Kitchen Table too), I’ve been on the radio, spoken at World Travel Market, teamed up with David Attenborough and even got a proper job (sort of). Of course, there’s much, much more. I’ve met some wonderful people, made the most incredible friends and continue to have the best fun doing a job that I (mostly) love.
Of course it’s not all been plain sailing (excuse the pun) – there have been down days and days when I’ve wanted to give it all up and get a ‘proper job’, but I’ve also learned so much: that comparison is the thief of joy; that after 40-odd years of crazy hair, I’m probably stuck with it; that being kind to yourself is key; that starving myself into being a size 8 probably wouldn’t make me very happy, but that running three times a week makes me feel strong and healthy; and that being yourself – however weird and awkward you think you are – is probably best. I’ve learned that too much stuff, clutter and chaos makes me anxious, and that I’m happier with less – of everything except cake, especially fairy cakes with sprinkles, which leads me neatly away from all this navel gazing and on to the best vanilla cupcake recipe ever:
Classic vanilla fairy cakes with glacé icing and sprinkles
You will need:
110g salted butter, room temperature
175 g caster sugar
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large free range eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 heaped tbsp icing sugar
Hundreds and thousands
Firstly, preheat the oven to gas 4/180 degrees C
Weigh everything out, sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together, mix the milk, vanilla and eggs together in a jug, and pop some paper cases into your muffin tray.
Next, cream the butter and sugar until it’s really light and fluffy, then alternate between mixing in a couple of tablespoons of the dry ingredients and sloshing in a bit of the wet ingredients, until everything is all combined.
Divide the mixture between 12 paper cases (I find an ice cream scoop helps here), then bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden. Leave to cool.
Mix the icing sugar with a teeny dribble of boiling water, stirring until you have a really thick icing, then slather onto the cakes. Add the sprinkles straight away as you ice as the icing dries really quickly!
Et voila! Cakey, sprinkly goodness. So much has changed in 12 years. My tax bill is a whole lot bigger, as are my children (and, I suspect, my bottom). I guess this celebration is tinged with sadness that I couldn’t raise a glass with my Dad, my biggest supporter and enabler, always cheering me on and rolling his eyes in equal measure, but of course I have my lovely mum and the rest of my wonderful, crazy, loud, weird family to keep me going, and my equally weird and wonderful friends to turn to when things get tough. So here’s to the next 12 years of fun and adventure and food and family. The biggest squeezy hug and thanks to you, whether it’s the first time you’ve ever popped in, or whether you’re one of my wonderful, smart, stylish regular readers. I wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for you. And for that, in the words of the little green aliens, I’m eternally grateful.