‘Sinterklaas’ Cake

A few days ago I discovered that I still have some chocolate figurines from a few months ago from St. Nicholas day [Or in Dutch ‘Sinterklaas’]. The chocolate is still good to eat, but we have so much chocolate at home (some still from St. Nicholas day, a lot from Easter … ) that it’s becoming a bit too much :). So I thought it would be a good idea to make something with a IMG_1218few figurines before they get bad (although chocolate doesn’t get bad that fast).

I don’t know if many of you know ‘Sinterklaas’ and celebrate st. Nicholas day on the 6th of December. Here in Belgium, on the 5th of December children put a shoe under the fire place (or just a place in the house) and during the night St. Nicholas passes by (or their parents ;)) and puts candy and presents in the shoes of the children that have been good throughout the year. It’s a bit like Santa Claus at Christmas in the US. Even though my boyfriend and I have gotten a bit too old for it, we still received a lot of chocolate from our parents. So much that there still is some left (and we eat a lot of chocolate).

I decided to make a chocolate cake with some figurines. Cake is always a good dessert, and it’s even better when it’s chocolate cake. My favourite cake is chocolate cake with raisins and nuts that my grandmother always makes. But my cooking skills haven’t gotten to that level yet so I kept it easy.

Recipe: ‘Sinterklaas’ cake

  • Ingredients
    • 200gr butter
    • 100gr sugar
    • 1 bag of vanilla sugar
    • 300gr flourIMG_1220
    • 4 eggs
    • 100gr of dark chocolate or as I did it dark chocolate figurines 🙂 (I don’t know whether milk chocolate also would be tasty).

To make the cake, melt the butter and add the sugar, vanilla sugar and egg yolks. Then add the flower (it’s best to sieve it first). Whip the egg whites until it’s foamy and add it to the rest. Then add the melted chocolate (I’m sorry ‘Sinterklaas’ for melting you).

IMG_1221To whip the egg white foamy I used a hand mixer that I discovered a few months ago in the Ikea. Before I had the hand mixer I used a fork to do it. But it always took me a long time and it was never very foamy. Now, with the hand mixer it’s super easy to do. It works as well as a normal mixer but you don’t need electricity. (It’s the same as our lawnmower. I get more and more fascinated by such tools that don’t need electricity or gas… )IMG_1219

When the dough is finished, put it in a cake mold and let it bake in the oven for about 45 minutes on 180 degrees. Then you have a super tasty ‘Sinterklaas’ cake :).

IMG_1223Do any of you often have left over chocolate? And do you make something with the left over figurines? Let me know so I can try it for myself so our excess chocolate doesn’t go to waste.



The power of vinegar and soda crystals

At the moment I’m immersing myself in the world of home made cleaning products. I still use a lot of commercial products which I think could easily be replaced by home made alternatives.

The use of these commercial cleaning products has become a bit of a habit over the years. When I went living on my own, I went to the store to get all the basic stuff you need in a household like for example a bucket, a bristle, dishcloth and cleaning products. Until then I had no clue what products I had to use for the laundry or for cleaning the floor. With some help of my mother I got familiarised with all the different kinds of products, and discovered that there’s a specialised product available for every different thing.

In the following months and years I learned how to take care of my household, while combining it with a fulltime job. Cleaning and using all these different products just became a habit. I really never wondered about whether I needed them until a few months ago when I finished my PhD and had some time to relax and do absolutely nothing. I started wondering about the usefulness of all these products. After googling a bit, and seeing the amount of home made alternatives, I decided to try to replace all the commercial products by less chemical, and less expensive alternatives. It appeared that white vinegar and washing soda are wonderful cleaning products. I’m still no expert in these ‘home made’ cleaning products, but I thought to share some of my experiences and insights on white vinegar and washing soda:

White vinegar
White vinegar has so many uses!

1) You can use it as fabric softener. The vinegar removes soap residue and secures the colour, so your clothes will be soft and are less likely to lose their colour. To Vinegaruse vinegar as fabric softener just pour a small dose in the fabric softener dispenser (do not add it straight with the clothes). Your clothes will look great, will be soft, and don’t worry, they will not smell like vinegar.
[White vinegar=0.33€/litre versus fabric softener=0.11€ per dose]

2) It can also be used as a cleaning product. You can throw away your product for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom as a mix of white vinegar does the trick. The bath, shower, sink and countertop looked as clean as when I cleaned it with a commercial product, although you shouldn’t use it on a granite or marble countertops. Pour a mix of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and you are good to go. One problem though is that your kitchen or bathroom will have the typical smell of vinegar afterwards. Apparently adding a dash of lemon should improve this, though I haven’t tried it myself just yet.
[White vinegar=0.33€/litre versus kitchen product=5.50€/litre and bathroom product=5.30€/litre]

3) vinegar also can be used as a limescale remover. For example when you have a limescale tap or showerhead, soak it for a few hours in vinegar (or a mix of vinegar and water) and afterwards wipe it clean.
[White vinegar=0.33€/litre versus limescale remover=4.98€/litre]

Washing Soda
Apart from vinegar, there is also washing soda or also called soda crystals (sodium carbonate, Na2CO³, different from baking soda).Soda

1) Washing soda is perfect for unclogging the pipes. It dissolves grease and loosens dirt in the drains/pipes. Cook 1 litre of water, add a cup of washing soda and pour it in the drain. Repeat a few times until the water runs smoothly through the drain. Be sure not to use washing soda together with a commercial drain cleaner since there can be a chemical reaction. As general maintenance you can pour once a month the mix of washing soda and hot water in the pipes.
[Washing soda=1.40€/kilogram versus unclogging product=2.35€/litre]

2) Cleaning the washing machine and dishwater. Washing soda can also clean your washing machine and dishwater. For the washing machine pour a cup of soda soda2in the drum and run an empty cycle on 90 degrees. The soda will clean the drum, remove odours and prevent limescale build-up. For the dishwater add half a cup of washing soda in the product dispenser and run a normal cycle with an empty machine. Yesterday it was the first time that I tried it and my machines looked really clean. I however could not check the effect on the limescale build-up.
[Washing soda=1.40€/kilogram versus limescale remover=5.75€/kilogram]

3) You can also use the washing soda as laundry detergent for white clothes. The soda makes your laundry more white and helps to removes stains. But only for white laundry, don’t use it for coloured laundry since it will make the colour fade. Put some washing soda in the main dispenser where you normally would put the detergent, and wash the white clothes as normal. I tried it and my clothes looked very good, there was no bad smell, and (maybe it was self fulfilling prophecy), I had the impression that the yellowish (sweat)stains in my t-shirt were faded somewhat …
[Washing soda=1.40€/kilogram versus laundry detergent=0.25€/dosis]

4) Washing soda can also be used for cleaning the toilet. You can flush some soda crystals to clean/unclog the pipes. I also noticed that you can clean stains on the pipe itself (the part of the pipe in the toilet that is still visible). Pour a cup of washing soda in the toilet, let it sit for a while and flush after a few hours. Clean the toilet with a toilet brush, and you will see that the pipe is clean again.

Apart from these usages mentioned above, there are also so many other things you can do with white vinegar and washing soda. At the moment I only tried the ones explained above.

Do any of you use home made cleaning products? What are your experiences? All tips are welcome!

Frugal Fiona