Making Notes: Bath Bombs

I had seen instructions for making bath bombs before.  But I was always put off by the danger of premature fizzing – the part in the instructions where you have to spray on just enough water to make it all stick together but not enough to set off the reaction that should only happen in the privacy of your own bathroom.  So I was delighted to come across this variation.

– 180g Bicarbonate of Soda
– 60g Citric Acid
– 3-5ml Essential oils
– (optional) flower petals
– (optional) a few drops of food colouring

– Ice Cube Tray – the bendy sort
– Mixing bowl (one you won’t want to use for food afterwards)
– Spoon (ditto)
– (optional) Plastic Dropper/Pipette

This makes enough to fill a normal sized square ice tray, with a little left over.  I mostly use one from IKEA which has 16 holes that are a flowery shape.   I’ve also done star shaped ones, although they were a bit trickier – it’s best to choose a shape without thin parts which could break off.

The ratio of bicarbonate to citric acid is a straightforward 3:1 so you can increase or decrease quantities to fit different size moulds so long as you retain that ratio.

And all you do is mix the two powders together before adding the essential oil and the food colouring, if desired, a little at a time (which is where the pipette comes in handy), stirring it in well.   You can also add dried flower petals such as lavender or rose, if that is appropriate for the oil you have chosen.

Then just press the mixture into the moulds, very firmly.  You will be surprised at how much you can fit into those tiny holes when you press it down really hard.

Leave it for a good few hours – I normally wait overnight – then carefully turn them out.   They will have taken on enough moisture from the air to make them stick together without starting to fizz.

I made loads of these for Christmas and can’t believe I don’t have a photo of any.  I made them in the shape of stars, with some cosmetic-grade glitter sprinkled into the moulds first so they came out sparkly.  Then I put them into a (clean) coffee jar, decorated it with gold glass painted stars, and added a ribbon and a label.    I used a ready made christmassy oil blend of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, orange and pine, which saved me having to work out the right mixture myself.

I’m not sure if this no-added-water method would work for big bath balls, but it’s certainly simple and effective for these smaller ones.  My four-year-old can even make his own, with just a little supervision and plenty of blue food colouring!


Chocolate Mallow Cake

Today was a good day.  I made a cake.

It’s been ages since I last did any baking.  It’s something I tend to go through phases with.  A while back I was making cakes at least once a week.  Then I got a bit bored with the effort of icing, the new baking powder I bought had a strange effect on my normal sponge recipe, and I ran out of consumers (no one in my house can afford to eat quantities of fattening treats).

But today a good friend of mine (a self-confessed chocaholic) needed cheering up.  So I got out my recipe book, turned to the section headed “Chocolate” and came up with this little beauty – Chocolate Mallow Cake.   Best of all, I had all the ingredients in my cupboard already.

That pleased me enormously.  Not because I couldn’t be bothered to go to the shops, but because having a well-stocked larder makes me feel like a proper homemaker.  Which could be why I have seven different sorts of flour in my kitchen cupboard, and almost as many types of sugar.  And luckily, hiding in amongst them was today’s crucial bag of marshmallows.

The cake was pretty easy and quick to make, although the marshmallow topping proved to be rather a labour of love.

Perhaps I was supposed to use big toast-on-a-fire marshmallows rather than little scatter-on-hot-chocolate ones.  But they did the job, and after five minutes in the oven they were ready for their chocolate coating (The recipe said “drizzle” but I thought of my melancholy friend and decided to “pour” instead.)

I will probably make this again. It was simple enough to put together, impressive to look at and delicious to eat, with a fudgy texture which was enhanced by the sweet chewiness of the topping.

My friend enjoyed eating it, and I enjoyed making it.  And I carried it to her house in a wicker basket, covered by a gingham cloth – which made both of us smile.

Making Notes: Recipe Jars

Here goes with the first of my ideas/instructions for homemade gifts.  I did a few of these for Christmas, they are super easy and were a useful option for the younger ones on my list.   A couple of adults got them too, but fewer than I had originally planned – I was worried that people might be insulted by the implication that they can’t cook without help.

There are two varieties: Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Chocolate Brownies.  They use different sizes of jar, which is handy because it gives you options if you can only find one size.   (They are always available from Lakeland and other kitchen supply shops, but buying them at those prices makes this an expensive gift, so I prefer to track them down in pound shops etc.)

Apart from the jar, all you need is some ribbon to decorate it, some card (and hole punch) or a large label, and a printer (or just a pen) for adding the instructions.  Plus the ingredients, of course.


Chocolate Chip Cookies

Uses a one litre preserving jar.

165g (6 oz) dark brown sugar
100g (3.5 oz) granulated white sugar
20g (0.5 oz) cocoa powder
60g (2.25 oz) pecan nuts, chopped
170g (8 oz) plain flour
half teaspoon baking powder
half teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt

Layer the first four ingredients into the jar in the order listed, pressing each layer  down firmly before adding the next (I used the end of a rolling pin).  Mix together the remaining ingredients then add them to the jar.  It might be a tight squeeze.

Make a label with the following instructions:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Just add: 125g softened butter, 1 egg and 1tsp vanilla

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
  • Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
  • Empty the contents of the jar into a large bowl and mix together with your hands.
  • Mix in the butter, egg (beaten slightly) and vanilla essence.
  • Shape the mixture into walnut-sized balls and place on the baking sheet 5cm apart.  Bake for 18-20 mins.
  • Cool for 5 mins on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool before tucking in!

Then all you need to do is to attach the label to the jar using the ribbon.  I told you it was easy!

cookie jar
Chocolate Chip Cookie Jar

(Unfortunately I neglected to take a photo of the finished item.  I only remembered after I had given it to someone, so this picture was taken in their rather dark living room.)


And for the smaller, 500ml jar we have:

Chocolate Brownies

225g (8 oz) light muscovado sugar
75g (2.75 oz) self-raising flour
25g (1 oz) cocoa powder
100g (3.5 oz) pecan nuts, chopped


Chocolate Brownies

Just add:  3 large beaten eggs, 200g unsalted butter and 400g milk chocolate.

  • Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas 2.
  • Melt the butter and chocolate in a large bowl in the microwave.
  • When it is cool, mix in the eggs and contents of the jar.
  • Pour into a 20cm square cake tin and bake for 1hr 5mins.
  • Remove from the oven and cool in the tin before slicing.


And if all this talk of baking has made you hungry, there’s nothing to stop you cutting out the middle man and using the recipes without the jar!