Friday, 24 February 2012

The Gift of Cake

I never like to arrive at someones house empty handed and I love to bake.  Solution?  Give cake!  Twelve cakes to be exact.  A dozen cupcakes.  I find a box of cupcakes makes people smile.  A whole box of pick-up-and-go sweet snacks, in pretty colours & yummy flavours; what’s not to smile about?  It also means I get to indulge my need to bake by making three different lots of cupcakes.

Friends of ours recently had their first baby (a beautiful baby girl) and, as I had already attended a baby shower where gifts had been given cupcakes was the ideal gift to give.  A selection of sugar-hits was just right to get the new parents through the first few days of being up at all hours with baby!  I had a little fun with a new flavour too; Chocolate Rose.  A rich chocolate cupcake flavoured with rosewater, topped with a dark chocolate buttercream piped rose.  For fans of Turkish Delight it is a must!  Along with some Mint Chocolate & some pink frosted Vanilla there was something for everyone & I didn’t have to turn up empty handed; win-win!

We are visiting with a group of friends this weekend too & they got their requests for cupcakes in a few days ago so today I baked up a storm & we will be taking Lemon Meringue, Chocolate Peanutbutter& Fizzy Cola cupcakes with us.  The smell in the kitchen this afternoon was lovely & I am looking forward to giving the gift of cake tomorrow.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Sharing Is Caring

I love to make things & love the idea of giving things I have made to people.  I say I love the idea of giving things I have made rather than just giving because I am always nervous that people will wonder what on earth they have done to deserve it, and not in a good way, and give it The Look!  You know The Look; the one where a child brings home a, well a something, no one is quite sure what it is that they have made at school in a pottery lesson, filled with glee & pride, the parent looks at it with confusion (and a teeny bit of revulsion) on their face whilst saying “Wow, it’s lovely, thank you so much!”  Yea, well I don’t want that look so I tend to shy away from actually giving the things I have made. 

I have always found that when I am in a crafty mood (one where I want to craft something rather than one where I want to plan devilish plots, just to clarify!) I tend to want to try whatever it is that has inspired me, even if I don’t have a need for whatever it is.  I have made a LOT of fabric flowers, of different styles with different fabrics for no reason other than “Ooo, they’re pretty!”  I have made some paper roses.  I have chalkboard sprayed some bottles.  I have made some mini canvases, with buttons, with pretty paper, with paints.  I have wrapped two wreath forms with wool.  I have even had a go at making baby clothes.  I don’t have a baby.  

I came over all brave at Christmas, filled with the thought that it is a time of good will to all so hopefully those on the receiving end would be OK with some homemade stuff.  Everyone got something I had made myself, even if it was just small.  I made mint marshmallow hot chocolate stirrers, oreo bites, chocolate truffles, rosewater snaps, birdseed hearts, yoyo pins, felt tree decorations & I painted a canvas for my gran.  Woah, written like that it appears I made a heck of a lot of stuff for Christmas.  I’m actually quite impressed with myself!

Canvas for Grandma
Merry Christmas!
Mint marshmallow stirrers, Oreo bites &
Felt decorations

I have given a few more of my creations recently, including my husbands Valentines gift.  I have crafted with the specific intention to give.  So far, so good.  I haven’t noticed anyone giving The Look so I believe people have been genuinely pleased to receive my handy work, at least I hope they have been.

I have over 1000 pins on Pinterest. This need to craft is only going to get worse so I really need to get over my giving fear so look out, nearest & dearest – stuff made by me is on its way to you!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Love, always

Tuesday was Valentines Day and my husband made every effort to make sure our first February 14th as Mr & Mrs was lovely.  A dozen red roses.  A bottle of bubbles.  I was banned from the kitchen while he prepared an amazing three course dinner, the highlight being a very impressive Flaming Pecorino – a hollowed out pecorino cheese “bowl” with a brandy & gin flame that melts some of the cheese to make a very tasty coating for the pasta that gets piled into it!  It looked amazing & tasted yum!  The time & effort he put into planning the perfect evening means so much – thank you Mike.

For my gift to Mike I wanted to do something to remind him that even in the little minutes I am thinking of him & that I love him.  Inspired by a friends Pinterest pin I found my way to Moorea Seal’s blog & a lovely post that had the perfect gift idea.  On Tuesday I gave Mike his first heart & a jar to keep them in. Over the coming days, weeks, months even, I will put hearts out for him to find.  Tucked under the pillow. His trouser pocket as he gets ready for work.  In a kitchen cupboard.  Where else...His desk?  His bag?  His car?  Where ever & whenever he finds them I know that it will make him smile & he will be reminded that he has my heart forever.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Cake Update

Let me just get straight to the point – The Cake was a success!

I tackled the decorating armed with pink fondant, black fondant, edible glitter & a star cutter.  I was excited about decorating; I felt I had faced my biggest fears with stacking & covering the cake so now it was time to have fun & make pretty. And fun I had!

I had cut some stars out a week ago, set some on wires & left them to harden so yesterday I went crazy with the glitter – no such thing as too much sparkle! The final result was a cake covered with stars; pink stars, black stars, big stars, small stars. Even star sparklers!

I made cupcakes too; 21 vanilla cupcakes with pink vanilla butter cream (and more glitter!)

When they were all together on the table at the party I felt really proud of my handy work. It’s a new feeling for me; to be able to look at something I have done & think “Well done mrs, you did good!” I might do it more often, I think I quite like it!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

A Day of Cake

Sunday baking is one of my favourite weekend activities. For no reason other than the mood takes me. Often it's cupcakes to take into work on Monday. I have a cupcake obsession and thankfully work peoples are always happy to indulge! I also find baking very relaxing; it makes me happy. Today I have baked but it has not been as relaxing as I would like. Today I baked for a REASON. And I didn't even make cupcakes.

Tomorrow is my younger sisters 21st birthday. Twenty-one. This makes me feel old. Urgh. Besides making me feel old it also means that my mum has decided to throw a party and has asked me to a cake. "Really we want a 'proper' cake, like we could get from the shop." This is my mums idea of encouragement. I do not feel encouraged, I feel daunted! Still I am not one to shy away from a challenge!

Well used, as you can see from the cake smudges!

I have opted for a three layer chocolate cake with caramel sauce & vanilla buttercream between the layers. I turned to my current favourite cake book for a recipe – The Hummingbird Bakery’s ‘Cake Days’ – and used a recipe for Sweet & Salty Chocolate Cake which ticked off two of my requirements; a three layer rich chocolate cake AND a caramel recipe (yup; I have never made caramel before so of course I would plan to use it in a cake that is going to be served to up my family and my sisters friends!) I followed the recipe for the sponge but I omitted the salt from the caramel recipe as I know my sister is not keen on salted caramel. I ignored the frosting in the book entirely as, as I say, I am using vanilla buttercream & then the cake is going to be covered with rolled fondant icing (which I have also never used before. Hey, if I’m going to be challenged I am going to be REALLY challenged!) Oh and it’s going to be black. Yeah.

I will say that although I have thrown myself into this with additional pressures of baking way outside my comfort zone I did do a test run a couple weeks ago rather than just wing it today! I was pleasantly surprised with the test run. There were a few issues with getting it level and with the fondant tearing (and me nearly crying) but it taught me a lot, showed me where I was going wrong, made sure I liked the design idea and gave me some confidence for the real thing.

Today, I took all my lessons from the test run and tackled The Cake. Things started well; caramel came out better than test run (I might have, maybe, possibly burnt the test caramel a teeny tiny bit) and I managed to fight the urge to just get a bowl of ice-cream & poor the caramel straight over the top. All three layers came out of the oven looking & smelling yummy. I was happy. I was relaxed. It was good.

Then I dropped a layer. On the floor. I was not happy. I was not relaxed. It was bad. It was a Cake Disaster.

Cake down! Badtimes.
I recovered though. I made an additional single layer. I did not drop it. It was good, again. I managed to level them, fill it, crumb coat it and before I knew it, I covered it with black fondant – yay me is all I can say! Tomorrow it will be decorated. Oh, and I will also be making some cupcakes!