c 2012 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Christmas Wish List - Part 2

Following on from my very garden orientated Christmas Wish List Part 1, you will see much more of an indoor theme for my Christmas Wish List - Part 2.  You will spot a few extreme items on the list making this truly a 'wish list'.

Dear Santa

If you have any room on your sleigh would you mind ever so just throwing these few things in...

What baking bonkers person would not want a shiny red Kitchen Aid mixer. 

A First Edition of Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, one of my favourite books and what I would not give for a first edition.

I am really into using chocolate in my baking at the moment and would love a gadget to keep the chocolate at the perfect temperature. Until my fad with chocolate fades I will continue to use the trusted pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water method.

Now this is rather indulgent of me but who would not want their very own dry floatation bed, a truly relaxing experience without having to visit a health spa. I have a feeling Santa will not have room in his sack for this.

A brand spanking new kitchen, with an oven that gets reliably hot. This photo of an unusual round kitchen island caught my eye from bespoke kitchen design company called Smallbone.

Now I could not leave my cat off the Christmas wish list particularly when I spotted this amazing cat bed from design company Vurv Design studio. Yes you guessed it, it costs a small fortune.

Happy Christmas!
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The Christmas cake that won't be eaten

You would think that most people would be only too willing to tuck into a cake. But I'm having real problems getting family to eat my Bauble Christmas Cake. It was intended to be eaten at a family Christmas 'do' at my Aunt and Uncle's, I'd received lots super comments about the cake and must admit it looked rather magnificent out on display. There were gasps of "oh my" and "wow" and "that's amazing" and "we can not possible cut into the cake" and you guessed it that is exactly what happened.  No one would cut into the Christmas Bauble cake! Luckily I had also made some snowflake fairy cakes and a snowflake version of butterfly cakes, which were eaten in the blink of an eye.

Who knows maybe by the New Year the Christmas Bauble Cake will be a mere sprinkling of crumbs. Thanks to my cousin for taking these photographs, a chance for her to try our her new camera and very good photographs they are too.
Royal icing stencil snowflakes

Snowflake fairy cakes
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Vintage Inspired Christmas Bauble Cake

Vintage Inspired Christmas Bauble Cake
At the beginning of December a friend and I attended a cake decorating course, to make the exquisite Vintage Inspired Christmas Bauble  Cake you see above.  It was a full day course run by the very talented Louise Scofield, I've been on a few cake courses in the past and I have to say that this was the most relaxed and enjoyable I have been on.  With five eager learners the course started promptly at 10am, which is good I like prompt. Now when I say eager learners I'm doing the ladies on the course a disservice for they were all accomplished cake decorators.   
Louise sharing her skills
I loved the fact that this course was not your usual square or round shaped cake but a ball. I don't have a ball shape cake tin, so I chose to buy my fruit cake, but two ladies on the course made their own - impressive I can tell you. Now onto decorating that cake, there were many steps from the start to the finish but here here is a visual guide.

Now whilst it was not quite that quick to complete the finished cake I can say that there was no pressure to hurry along and finish. Normally on a course I have one eye on everyone else worrying that I need to stay ahead. I learnt so many new tips and techniques, which hopefully I can remember for future cake decorating. The one thing that you really can not appreciate on the photographs is all the shimmer and sparkle on the cakes, something the camera has not quite captured.
You can see from the cakes above we all made slightly different styles of Christmas Bauble CakesI had a thoroughly enjoyable day thanks to Louise and my fellow cake decorators.  Handy too not having to travel far for the course, Louise offers a choice of locations either lovely Shropshire (yes I know I'm somewhat biased) or Bilston near Wolverhampton. I shall certainly be keeping my eye on Louise's workshop schedule for 2013.
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A Christmas Table Decoration

I'm lucky to have hedges and hedges of Holly in the garden, along with some Yew, Ivy and Laurel. Sadly there are virtual no berries left on the Holly as the birds have been busy keeping themselves fed over the last few weeks. All of these plants are excellent for making either Christmas wreaths or a Christmas table decorations. For the first time in history I thought I would turn my hand at making my very own Christmas Table Decoration. There is just one thing you need to understand - I'm no florist!

I had acquired some fir cones from my sister's garden, who is overrun with them lucky for me. For colour I added some berries from a Berberis in the garden, although I expect they will not last until Christmas Day. 

I think it's fair to say that I will use this years Christmas table decoration as my benchmark !
from this...

to this!
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Recipe Christmas Tree Cake Fondant Fancies

Christmas Tree Cake Fondant Fancies - these came about by way of a happy baking accident. Remember those lovely mini Snowball cakes I blogged. Well these unusual Christmas Tree Fondant Fancies came about when I'd experimented in baking some of the mini cakes in the baking tins but without their paper cases. They were very pyramid in shape and not at all snowball shape as I'd hoped. So what to do with them? They lent themselves to being stacked, so whilst I was playing building cake bricks that's when the Christmas Tree cake idea popped into my head. 
Recipe Christmas Tree Fondant Fancies Christmas Cake baking ideas
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree how
lovely is your icing
Now to transform them into Christmas Tree Fondant Fancies, which of course needed to be green. I realised that homemade basic icing (icing sugar and water) would not work to cover them and I did not have any royal icing in the house.  However, I did have few packets of white sugar paste in the cupboard, I knew this could be melted back to it's liquid state - although it's not something I had previously done. So through experimenting these cute Christmas Tree Fondant Fancies came about.

What you will need
Recipe Christmas Tree Fondant Fancies Christmas Cake baking ideas
  • I used approximately 70g of sugar paste which I heated in the microwave on high, checking every 20 seconds or so. As it softens add a little water to get the right consistency for coating the cakes. Take care the icing can get very warm.
  • Add a small amount of Christmas green gel food colouring and mix well.
  • Using a fork to hold the cake, dip it into the icing (see photo).
  • You may need to pop the icing back into the microwave for a few seconds, to keep it the right consistency.
  • Leave the iced cakes to set on a cooling rack.
Recipe Christmas Tree Fondant Fancies Christmas Cake baking ideas

Assembling the Christmas Tree Cakes
  • Place a cocktail stick in the bottom cake and carefully spear the next cake on top. Depending on how big your cakes are you will probably need another cocktails stick to add the third cake.
  • Decorate with a sparkly fondant star.
Recipe Christmas Tree Fondant Fancies Christmas Cake baking ideas
Building your Christmas tree

*Warning* remember there are sharp cocktail sticks in these cakes, so please take care when eating them.
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Recipe - Mini Snowball Cakes

Snowball Cakes

These simple but effective miniature Snowball Cakes are a great idea for Christmas, and would look wonderful presented on a Christmas plate. They are really easy to make and perfect for a Christmas treat, with minimum effort.

You need
  • Fairy cakes
  • Butter cream
  • White non pareils (hundreds and thousands)
  • Edible pearl lustre pray
  • Spatula / knife

mini cake and standard fairy cake
To make 14 miniature Snowball cakes I used my Fairy Cake recipe changing the quantities to a one egg mix (2 oz butter, sugar, self raising flour, a touch of baking powder). 

Tip - add sufficient mixture into your cake cases so they rise when baking to give a domed effect to add to the snowball shape.

Butter cream recipe
2 oz butter (not too soft)
4 oz icing sugar (sifted)

  • Mix the butter and icing sugar together using a whisk until smooth and well combined. This will help its appearance of a paler white colour, more snow like.
  • Butter cream the tops of the cakes with a thick layer of butter cream creating a domed effect. Smooth over the butter cream by first dipping the spatula into hot water.
  • Pour the white non pareils into a small bowl then dip the cakes into them so that they cover the butter cream.  
  • Spray with pearlised lustre to give that sparkly snowy effect.
Snowball Cakes

Tip - Remember any extra butter cream can be put into the freezer until you next bake.

I'm entering these cakes into November's Tea Time Treats Birthday  Challenge What Kate Baked and Karen at Lavender and Loveage who is this months host.

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Christmas Wish List - Part 1

For the past few weeks I've been browsing the Internet making a concerted effort to complete my Christmas shopping, and with just a few presents left on my shopping list I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. 

As a result of all this browsing quite a few items that have taken my fancy, and I'm having no trouble seeing them well placed in my garden. Some of which I don't really need such as the garden labels and seed savers as already have something that suffices, just not so pretty. As for some of the other items, well let's just say that's what makes this a rather extreme Christmas wish list.

Dear Santa

Do you have any room on your sleigh for the following...

Burgon and Ball - Seed Savers
my garden needs you

Burgon and Ball - Tyre Pot
Plants recycled

Monty's Vintage Shop  - Blackboard
Garden Labels

Burgon and Ball - Greenhouse Caddy
Plant Theatre - Wood Plant Theatre
oh how my Aricula's would look
lovely in a theatre

Sparrow & Finch - Metropolitan
bird house

The Oak & Rope Company - Rope Swing

Country Greenhouses - Victorian style
greenhouse complete with cold frame

Hot Tub

Walled Garden

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Fairy Cakes Recipe a Baking Essential

A Fairy Cake recipe is a simple but essential cake recipe for every baker. This humble plain cake can be transformed into a perfect masterpiece adorned with butter cream and sculptured sugar paste creations. Or an hour of messy fun for children and adults alike. Below is my favourite basic essential fairy cake recipe.   
Easy Fairy cakes cake recipe
Fairy Cake Recipe

Fairy Cake recipe (makes 24-36 depending on cake case size)

heat the oven to 180 degrees C / Gas 4


    3 eggs (beaten)

    170g / 6oz golden caster sugar
    170g / 6oz butter or baking margarine (softened)
    170g / 6oz self raising flour (sifted)
    1 tsp vanilla extract

    • place the butter and sugar into a bowl, and cream together with a hand whisk until pale and fluffy.
    • add a third of the beaten egg and whisk on high until combined
    • add a spoonful of flour (this will help prevent the mixture from curdling) and mix.
    • add some more of the egg and beat together, add a spoonful of flour and mix.
    • add the remaining egg and mix, then add the remaining flour and gently fold in using a spatula or wooden spoon until combine together.
    • spoon the mixture into your cake cases, filling to half way if you want a level cake or to three quarters full for a larger cake
    • bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes approx, test with a skewer which should come out clean
    • remove from tray and place on a wire rack to cool
    Add decorations of your choice or eat as they are, even better still warm from the oven.

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    Recipe - Chocolate American Pancakes

    I've got a great recipe for American style breakfast pancakes with chocolate chip that I've used for the last five years. Sadly I can't credit the magazine the recipe is from as there is no mention on the cutout, but I can share it with you all.

    Chocolate American Pancakes Recipe

    Makes 8-9 pancakes (serves 4)

    125g plain flour
    3 tbsp caster sugar
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    125ml natural yogurt
    2 tbsp milk
    2 eggs
    25g  butter, plus a little extra
    1 tsp sunflower oil
    75g chocolate chips (milk or dark)

    • Into a bowl sift the flour then add the sugar, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
    • Pour in the yogurt, milk and break in the eggs. Whisk together.
    • Melt 25g butter and add to the bowl together with the chocolate chips and stir.

    • Heat a little butter and sunflower oil in a frying pan or flat griddle pan, over a low/medium flame until hot.
    • Add a ladle/large spoonful of mixture to the pan, repeating with the remaining mixture. After about 2 minutes flip over and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.

    I love serving these Chocolate American Pancakes with warm maple syrup accompanied with a glass of orange juice a fabulous weekend breakfast.

    Tip - replace the chocolate chips with soft fruit such as raspberries, blueberries, chopped strawberries or I also like sultanas.

    I'm posting this breakfast pancake recipe for the Breakfast Club, this months blog hop is being hosted by Chocolate Log Blog  with a chocolate theme.  For more information you can visit The Breakfast Club at Fuss Free Flavours. 

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    A Great Day at Cake International 2012

    Wow, what a fabulous day I had at the Cake International - The Sugarcraft, Cake Decorating and Baking Show 2012, held at Birmingham this week. 

    Here's what ended up buying during the day.

    4 Edible ink pens
    10" board and box
    Pearl lustre dust
    5 sheets of chocolate transfer sheets
    3 packs of chocolate
    Heart shaped piping nozzle
    Snowflake cutters
    Simple Things magazine

    There were a few items I had planned to buy at the show but once I had seen them I realised they were not what I was expecting, something you can not always tell before purchasing online. Next year I hope to do less shopping and participate in more of the demonstrations at the show.

    I'm looking forward to trying out the chocolate transfer sheets I picked up from The Cake Decorating Company stand. They had an amazing selection and it was difficult to choose just five. Can you see those big bags of chocolate drops, well one of those is peanut butter flavoured and I've got something special planned for Christmas.

    As always there were an amazing collection of very skilled cake decorators exhibiting at the show, here are just a few that caught my eye.

    one for all you crafters

    Thanks to Cake International for
    the use of this photo

    Madagascar - thanks to Cake International
    for the use of this photo

    Not a gingerbread house but
    a chocolate house

    These little cupcakes were part of a display at one of the stands. I was particularly taken with the Tulips, which are simple but very effective. 

    Next time I go to the show I will try to remember to check that I don't have my camera setting on 'food' for all the photographs! 

    I would like to thank Lizzie at Cake International for providing me free entry to the show and the use of the Madagascar and Harry Potter photographs.
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    Poppy Cake Toppers for Remembrance Day

    Last year I made Remembrance Day cakes to raise money for The Royal British Legion to mark Remembrance Day. I've made more Remembrance Day cakes this year, again using the poppy design. I sell the cakes to family and friends, on average I received £1 for each little cake, thanks to everyone's generosity.  
    How make poppy cake topper remembrance day cakes

    I made a batch of cakes using my easy fairy cake recipe. Then I made the toppers using a stencil and template I had created. 

    I made 2 different types of poppy toppers, one a stencilled poppy using luste dust and another a sugar paste cut out.

    Before you start you will need to create a simple stencil from card, as you can see from my photo.
    How make poppy cake topper remembrance day cakes

    How to create the stencil poppy cake topper

    You will need: white sugar paste, black sugar paste, red lustre dust, small brush, piece of card.

    • Roll out white sugar paste, place the card with the shape of the poppy cut out on top of the sugar paste. 
    • Using the brush pick up some of the red lustre dust and gently brush it onto the sugar paste.
    • Carefully lift off the stencil.
    • Cut out your cake topper using a round pastry cutter.
    • Roll out black sugar paste and cut out a circle, using a small round cutter or create a stencil.
    • Use a little icing sugar and water mix to fix the black circle to your poppy.
    • Fix the poppies to your cakes using a little simple icing sugar and water mixture.
    How to create a Sugar Paste Poppy Cake Topper

    You will need: red sugar paste, black sugar paste, piece of card, sharp knife.

    • Roll out white sugar paste, place the poppy shaped piece of card  on top of the sugar paste.
    • Using a sharp knife carefully cut around the poppy shape.
    • Roll out black sugar paste and cut out a circle, using a small round cutter or create a stencil.
    • Use a little icing sugar and water mix to fix the black circle to your poppy.
    I had some spare Union Jack cake toppers you could cut them down in size to create a patriotic alternative to the poppy centre.

    Fix the poppies to your cakes using a little simple icing sugar and water mixture.
    How make poppy cake topper remembrance day cakes
    Remembrance Day Cakes
    HMS Vanguard
    I continue to research the maternal side of my family tree. This remembrance day post is dedicated to Frank Gaines born 16 Sept 1893 who died aged 23. A Stoker in the Royal Navy on board the HMS Vanguard Dreadnought battleship, when on the 9 July 1917 the battleship was destroyed by an internal explosion whilst at Scarpa Flow, Orkneys. Over 800 men lost their lives.

    How make poppy cake topper remembrance day

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