Standing tall

The wedding was perfectly imperfectly beautiful.

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The cake stood tall and beautiful, was cut by a beaming bride and groom and was shared with the guests; friends and family from far and wide – until it was all gone.

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The shrug was seamed in the morning and finished and worn very briefly at the end of the day as the weather was so perfect it wasn’t even required!

I can’t quite believe I managed such an ambitious project in just two weeks, but it was a lovely extra contribution to a fabulous day celebrating two very special people.

Tall cake

Today I am baking. Tins have been hired, boards, drum and dowels have been purchased, the fridge and worktop have disappeared under a mountain of bags of flour and sugar, blocks of butter and I think I bought around 30 eggs.

Today I am baking (part of) my sister’s wedding cake. What an honour!

It’s going to be four tiers, each a different flavour, and each made up of three layers of cake. Something like this one that I found on Pinterest…

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I am baking the most mahoosive chocolate mud cake for the bottom tier, and a coffee sponge for the third tier. Someone else is providing a Victoria sponge for the second tier and another friend is doing the lemon cake for the top. My brother commented that it’s going to be a very big cake. I think he’s right!

 

In other tall news, I am onto the second sleeve of my shrug. I should have a couple hours knitting time once the kids are in bed in our rented apartment this evening, which will hopefully be just enough time to get it finished. I’d like to block it before sewing up the sleeves, but we’ll see how things go.

Pokemon cake

Yesterday was cake day again. Pickle had his birthday in the Easter holidays, but had to wait til now for his party, and his fancy cake. This year he wanted Pokemon. We trawled Pinterest together for some ideas, and then I got to work and came up with this.

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It’s my usual Chocolate mud cake recipe, filled and covered in chocolate ganache. I would normally cover the whole thing with rolled fondant icing, but it’s a job I hate, and get stressed about on cake day, and am rarely pleased with the outcome. One of my inspiration cake images used buttercream instead of fondant, so i went with that. Apart from not quite getting the colour I wanted, I find buttercream so much easier to work with. I use a scraper to get it really smooth and with nice sharp edges. The fondant motifs stick really well to the buttercream too, although it is a lot more messy when it come to cutting it and wrapping in paper serviettes for the party bags!

For once, I finished the cake with plenty of time to spare before the party. Birthday boy loved it – especially that he got a new Pikachu toy out of it!

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Tulips

My wonderful grandmother recently turned 90, so she threw a big party to celebrate with family and friends. I offered to provide a celebration cake for the occasion, and drew inspiration from the tulips she included on the invitations.

I intended to model life-like tulips from flowerpaste, but struggling to get them right and pressed for time I resorted to a more stylised approach, which worked well when combined with the small vase of real tulips. My grandmother liked it, and it fed everyone about twice over!

Eat dirt!

Pickle has just turned five and just like that we’re out of that ‘early years’ stage of parenting. What!?

He’s been very much set on a chocolate birthday cake for quite some time but the decorative details have been harder to pin down, but with Minecraft as the general theme. When I started the baking process a few days ago, I had in mind a vague plan of some sort of Minecraft landscape with different levels and features, maybe a few trees and a waterfall. Once I had a large square slab of chocolate cake ready, and I invited Pickle to scroll through a few images on Pinterest with me, I had little inclination to do anything too complicated and he picked out a pretty straightforward simple block of dirt with grass.

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Looks straightforward enough, but cutting out small squares of fondant is more time consuming than one might imagine! Nonetheless, it turned out ok, Pickle was happy and it tasted good and impressed the other parents. I felt it needed something a little more on the top, but I ran out of time, materials and inspiration so left it plain. The candles were enough to add a little detail.

 

 

Good times!

I do enjoy Christmas. The run up is always a little crazy with school nativities and activities, parties, planning and shopping, decorating, preparing and wrapping. I’ve had rehearsals for two different shows as well as taking part in my church carol service – learning the harmonies for various carols has been a particular highlight!

I also ended up with various creative projects on the go too. Along with the apron for my nephew which I showed you last time…

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There was a fair isle hearts hat for my niece. I used the TinCanKnits Clayoquot Toque pattern as the starting point, but changed it up with a folded brim and my own design for the hearts.

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And a wheat bag for my sister in law, which I made from a little corduroy skirt I found in a charity shop. I used my mum’s sewing machine to sew it – she’s got an all singing, all dancing Janome machine that took a little getting used to, but sewing machine aspirations right there! – and filled it with wheat and homegrown lavender.

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There’s also been a fair amount of baking. Vanilla shortbread and slightly experimental apple and cinnamon cupcakes with caramel buttercream (I’ll be making those again!). My first ever meringue kisses made in a hurry to use up some egg whites before we went away for a few days, and my first ever Christmas pudding which fed the family on Christmas Day.

Fortunately, Christmas itself is a time to chill out and spend time relaxing with family and generally not doing too much except eat and wash up and eat some more and keep the kids entertained!

When we travel up to spend time with my family, Mr Jack and I like to spend time on the journey reflecting on the year past. It’s been a good one, with lots of things falling into place following the last couple of years of upheaval with house hunting, moving, school uncertainties etc. The boys are well settled at their new school, and we feel better rooted in our new house and town. I’ve surprisingly become a runner over the last year. I’m loving parkrun, and though I didn’t quite officially meet my target of a sub-30 minute 5k parkrun by Christmas, I have done sub-30 training runs and I’m not far off that at parkrun. I’ve also shed nearly 2 and a half stone thanks to Slimming World. I aimed to be at target by Christmas and was just a couple of pounds away. Technically that’s within the target range anyway, so I’ll call it a win! I feel very boring going on about food and pounds but ultimately I feel so much better for having done it and just for me!

I’ve been involved in some great theatre this year too and am so excited for what’s lined up for next year already. My first turn in ¬†Shakespeare in February followed by a fun musical in March and then I’m booked to see both Harry Potter and Hamilton in London during April.

Then of course there’s also Unravel in Feb and the Knitting and Stitching show in March too. Plenty to be looking forward to.

For now though, I’m going to enjoy a few more days of food and family and a chance to not do much. Maybe I’ll manage to get this second crazy sleeve done before the year is out. Now that would be an achievement!

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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.