PAW Patrol is on a roll!

So, we finally made it! Pickle’s birthday party, take two. Which means; cake, take two.

The cake has spent the last two weeks in the freezer, carefully wrapped in several layers of cling film. I got it out on Wednesday evening and left it in the fridge overnight. On Thursday I left it on the kitchen worktop during the daytime to ensure it was fully defrosted, then back in the fridge overnight to keep it fresh until I needed it on Friday. I was a little concerned that the fondant icing might have gone a little sticky, but I carefully cut the wrapping off once it was at room temperature and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was as smooth and dry to the touch as it had been before freezing.

My next concern was the taste and consistency of the actual cake. Of course there was nothing I could do about that until the cake was cut. Fortunately, it smelt and tasted delicious and the texture was just what it should have been so I needn’t have worried at all. I would certainly freeze a cake again in future. It would help enormously when timings were difficult.

So, on to the decoration. Pickle has recently become a big fan of Paw Patrol, so thats what we went with.

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The mini figurines were bought from a local supermarket. I used a printout of the Paw Patrol logo as a template for cutting out fondant and built it up in sections.

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I used a food colouring pen to do the lettering and fill in details.

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The pups were a big hit once they climbed down off the cake too.

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Treasure Trove

A random comment I noticed on a Facebook group last night sent me off on a treasure hunt this morning. It mentioned a fabric shop I’d never heard of, just a short drive from where I live. I’ve been on the lookout for some cheap knit fabric so I can practise the Renfrew top pattern I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show, before I let myself loose on the spensive fabric I bought with it.

The fabric shop itself was much smaller than I’d hoped and didn’t carry a vast amount of stock. Most of it was printed cottons suitable for quilting, but I did find an end-of-roll offcut of a pink floral-printed jersey. I didn’t measure it, but it was only three quid, so I bought it anyway and hope it might be enough for a first crack at a Renfrew.

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The treasure was to be found in the adjacent barn. It hosts a selection of small businesses, almost like a small indoor market – vintage clothes, art and papercraft supplies, a small haberdashery, a petfood stall, fruit and veg, even a yarn shop, but the crown was the most amazing Aladdins Cave of a cake decorating supplier. They stocked just about everything you could possibly want for cake decorating – tools, toppers, food colourings, fondant icing, edible glitter, boxes, cake boards, stands, and a huge selection of cake tins for hire. I know where I’ll be heading next time I need some serious cake supplies, and it’s much nearer than the place I used to go to!

I think I’ll have to keep looking for a good local fabric shop. I discovered a great one a few weeks ago when I visited a friend and her yarn shop in Essex, but sadly that can hardly be considered local! Still, if you’re in the vicinity of Braintree in Essex, Blake House Craft Centre is definitely worth a mooch. They have a whole range of shops there though I’ve only been in two of them myself. And Sew On stocks a wide variety of fabrics and haberdashery supplies. I could have lost hours in there and left with a considerably lighter purse had I been in the mood for indulging. Just next door is my friend’s shop Sconch, which is just yarn heaven. It carries probably the biggest range of yarn types I’ve ever found in a single yarn shop. They have a great space for running Craft and Cake sessions several days a week. The staff were friendly and helpful. They also run an online shop which I’ve ordered from in the past and they have excellent customer service. I’d definitely recommend stopping by if you can.

I’m resisting buying any yarn at the moment as I have several projects lined up already, but I couldn’t come away completely empty handed, so I bought these cute stitch markers.

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What’s your local yarn or fabric shop like? Have you ever come across a crafty treasure trove?

Brakes On!

Today is Pickle’s birthday party.

We booked a soft play party and invited his friends. From his point of view, it’s that same kind of party his brother has, so he’s happy. From my point of view, it’s easy peasy. Activity is provided, food is included. I just have to do party bags and the cake.

Now, I admit I haven’t been particularly organised about it, but a couple of last minute evening activities this week really threw my timings off. I had an insanely busy day yesterday, but managed to get the cake baked and a chocolate ganache prepared, leaving me about 4 hours to crumb-coat it, fondant cover it and decorate it today.

It took me a while to successfully cover it in fondant. In fact, I wasn’t totally happy with it, but was pressed for time so accepted that was how it was going to be. I was just moving on to the more interesting stages of decorating, when I received a phone call from school saying that Pumpkin had been sick and I needed to collect him immediately. Oh.

Brakes on.

I spent the afternoon calling and texting round all the guests to reschedule the party for two weeks time. And then I crashed out. Shattered!

Now I have a half decorated cake sitting on the side and two weeks before the party. I have googled and I am going to attempt to freeze the cake whole and hope it’s ok to be defrosted and decorated fully in two weeks time.

Just hope none of the rest of us get the bug in the meantime.

All change!

We’ve been in the new house for around a month now, and loving it! Boxes are mostly unpacked, homes still need to be found for various things, but we have so much more space, it’s wonderful!

Pumpkin had his birthday party last week. He’s very into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the moment; he got a Chitty book as a gift from his godmother, and we’d arranged to take him to see the touring stage production too, but having googled for inspiration, I thought a Chitty cake was a step too far, so I left her in the theatre and had a rethink. Fortunately, he’s also very into Minecraft, so I went very meta and made him a Minecraft Cake cake.

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Simple, but effective. Appreciated and totally yummy!

The area we’ve moved to has a lot more trees around us, so the autumn colours have been spectacular, but it also creates a lot more work for us as we have to keep raking the leaves up regularly. It’s a new challenge, but it’s nice to be out in the garden, appreciating the fresh air and extra space.

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These leaves have got me thinking about the grad yarn I bought at Unravel this year, but I’ve got far too many projects under way already that I need to finish.

The needle tips I was using for my Stripes Gone Crazy were pilfered back to their former project  – a pair of fingerless gloves for the hubby. His hands suffer in the cold, so he’s in desperate need of them, since he lost his last pair on a train at the end of last winter. Unfortunately, my hands also suffer in the cold, so knitting hasn’t always been possible, despite having it tucked in my handbag ready for any opportunity! Still, slow progress is better than no progress, right!?

Meet Toothless

Work on the Clanger has stalled, and it’s currently looking like a rather strange pink penguin.

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Instead, I have been working on the annual cake-creation for the Pumpkin’s birthday. He’s been very into ‘Dragons: Riders of Berk’ on CBBC recently, which is part of the same franchise as the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ films, so he decided a couple of months ago that he wanted his party to be themed along those lines, including and especially, his cake.

I thought I could get away with the easy option of just stacking a couple of cakes to make the Island of Berk, and buying a couple of figurines or toys of Hiccup and Toothless to stick on the top, which he could then keep to play with afterward, but I scoured the shops for something suitable and couldn’t find what I wanted. So that left me with the not-so-easy option of attempting to make an actual Toothless Cake! For those of you not familiar with him, this is Toothless:

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A quick scan of google images and Pinterest showed me many rather impressive creations, and some less successful ones! Fortunately, some kind person has made an excellent Youtube tutorial, demonstrating exactly how to go about making Toothless in cake form.

I started with two large chocolate mud cakes (recipe here) and glued them together with chocolate ganache (recipe here). I’ve never carved a cake before, but once I got started, and with the tutorial for reference, it was actually alot easier than I expected it to be, and really quite satisfying seeing the dragon shape emerge.

IMG_3731 IMG_3733 IMG_3737Once the basic shape was there he was covered in ganache and left to chill out in the fridge overnight.

Covering him in fondant was more of a challenge. I started out trying to cover him using as few pieces of fondant as possible, but it was really hard to roll out a 2D shape that was the right size and shape to cover a 3D cake. I tried to cover the whole tail in one piece a couple of times, but ended up doing it in 2 pieces. Once I realised that actually it was possible to blend the two pieces so you couldn’t even see where the join was, the whole thing became much easier  and far less daunting to do. I think I used 3 pieces to cover the body in the end, and did most of the legs separately. The head was all done in one go though, including his ears and horns at the back of his head. Once the black icing was on, he only needed a few small extra details – eyes, claws, spines, tail fins and wings, and he was all done!

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I would have liked him to have a bit more texture to his skin, but there was no easy way to do it, so he stayed smooth-skinned. I also made some cupcakes with printed toppers of other characters from the show, which complemented the cake nicely.

IMAG2857 IMAG2860I received some lovely compliments from the grown-ups at the party, including a near-commission. The cupcakes went down well with kids and adults alike, and the kids mostly knew who the cake was meant to be! But the best moment was seeing the look on Pumpkin’s face when I held his hand and brought him to see the cake laid out on the table. He happily went round telling everyone that ‘Mummy said she couldn’t make a cake like that, but she did it!’  If that’s not the best kind of encouragement for trying something new and challenging, I don’t know what is!?

Distractions again

Normal services appear not to be resuming.

I’ve not picked up a crochet hook or knitting needles for a good couple of weeks now. The mega-cold has at least subsided at long last, though Pickle did indeed come down with chicken pox at about the predicted time, so illness accounts for the break to a certain degree. We’ve also been away, spending time with family and celebrating various family birthdays.

I had grand ideas for a birthday cake for Pickle. He’s very into diggers at the moment, so I thought something along those lines would go down a treat. Unfortunately, given he was poxy and I was still under the weather, we had no guests to help us celebrate and eat a huge cake, so I went for something much simpler and baked some simple cupcakes with the boys in the afternoon. I dug out some fun cupcake cases and toppers, and they enjoyed helping with the weighing and stirring, and sticking the toppers in at the end.

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I also made a cake for our family gathering and my mum’s birthday celebration, but utterly failed to take any pictures of it, so you’ll just have to imagine it – think ‘death by chocolate’ and you might be close!

I’ve definitely hit a road-block in my knitting. I’m determined to get my cardigan finished before I start any new projects. I only have the button-hole band left to do. I know it will be pretty straightforward once I actually get going on it, but somehow, somehow I just can’t bring myself to pick it up and work on it. The pattern doesn’t give any instructions on how to make the buttonholes, or how to space them, so I think I’m stuck on that. I’ve looked up various tutorials online, but am still unsure how to go about it. Any suggestions gratefully received. I really want it done so I can start a new project!

IMG_3409I’ve also been a little distracted by other things – the nice weather has drawn me outside much more recently. Pickle loves to be outside, so we go out in the garden, or off to the park as often as we can. Just look at my beautiful tulips! they make me happy.

I am also going through a reading phase at the moment. I absolutely love to read, but don’t find the time to do it so much these days. Grown up responsibilities and other hobbies have a habit of getting in the way! So I tend to go through phases where I’ll read several books in quick succession, and then nothing for several months. Recently I’ve read Stardust by Neil Gaiman, and I’m working my way through the Nikki Heat series by Richard Castle, which are a tie-in to the TV series ‘Castle’ that my husband and I are watching. I’m not much good at writing reviews, suffice to say we love the series and the characters, and the books work really well alongside the TV show. I’d recommend checking it out if you don’t know it.

I’m up to book 6 in the series, which I think is the last one that’s available at the moment, so I’ll probably reach the end of my reading phase with the end of this book, and then go back to knitting so I actually have something to show you again.

What other hobbies do you have that distract you from your knitting?