Monday, July 26, 2010

A Perfectly Posh Picnic

As the subject was broached with the cake decorating tutorial, I thought I’d share with you the mass bakeoff (and no doubt cause for my bodily and mental exhaustion this week) that preempted Tilly’s Naming Day a few weeks ago.


First, the requirements

According to me: 40 guests to be fed and watered in a (hopefully) hot and sunny grassy park from 11am onwards for a satisfying and ‘homespun’ lunch and tea about 400 metres from our house (ie just too far to lug, just too close to drive)…

According to the Boy: Sausage Rolls and Champagne


We compromised and served a variety of sausage and champagne products…Tilly made a beeline for the porkpies and took about ten minutes to finish off a delicacy about the size of her fist… That’s my girl!

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After much researching, reading, preparing and list-writing, I came up with a menu of the following, chosen for the ability to serve all cold, to be cooked the day before (if not further), to withstand potential heat and sunshine and to appeal to a range of ages, palettes and styles…

  • Quiches – oh so very many (well four large ones, in fact) – Brocolli, Salmon & Parsley, Bacon & Mushroom and Spinach & Goats cheese, cooked and cooled in production line over Friday and Saturday
  • Chicken drumsticks (outsourced to a chum and cooked Saturday evening before)
  • Sausage Rolls (outsourced to a chum and cooked Saturday evening before)
  • Pastry straws (cheese ones and pesto ones) cooked and cooled the Thursday before and kept in tins
  • Vegetable Crudites and dips chopped the Saturday before and kept in tupperwares of cold water in the fridge to be drained and served
  • Potato Salad in a vinegarette dressing (outsourced to a chum and cooked Saturday evening before)
  • Couscous salad (outsourced to a chum and cooked Saturday evening before)
  • Roasted vegetable and feta salad A complete hit – will share recipe shortly – I say ‘recipe’ – more compiling of ingredients…
  • A cheeseboard (outsourced to a Mum!)
  • Bread, bread and more bread

And then for dessert…

  • Fruit Cake Iced a week before…
  • Chocolate chip cookies (cooked on the Friday)
  • Brownies (cooked on the Friday)
  • Flapjacks (outsourced to a chum and cooked on the Friday)


The spread was something of a faff to assemble on the day, not least of all as the intended transportation was discovered to have a flat battery just moments before its intended departure… However, once various forms of manpower were enlisted, it was quite a sight to behold, and quite a fabulously scrumptious day…


Enlisting wonderfully willing assistance from a few carefully chosen chums meant that the workload was shared out amongst the trustworthy and able… Excellent champagne purchased on offer in the supermarket flowed all afternoon and including all that alcohol, plus the food for the day, we think we spent about £6 a head on the catering. Which puts this as a very possible small wedding/celebration option.

Just don’t forget to have a backup plan in case the weather for your day ends up being rather more… English than ours lucked out to be…

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Good taste

In trying to take pictures for Ravelry of pretty yarns, Tilly wanted to get involved in the fun…


King Cole Bamboo yarn all poised in brightly coloured loveliness of something cheery.


Once the stripey ends… Getting there… getting there… 

PS I’m strwberrydelight on Ravelry – come find me if you like.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thought Policing

Right up there with maintaining an existence in the 21st century seems to come attempting to maintain sanity, expectations and the ongoing need to get ‘more’…

A very good friend the other day commented that my notion that ‘Having a baby is quite hard’ is not a new idea, but rather the truth behind the sugar-coated pill that we are sold that ‘Having a baby is lovely and gorgeous and easy and natural and and and and…’ The latter is what we are taught to believe and not what everyone actually thinks. You only find out that it’s HARD AS ALL CRAP once you’ve actually got yourself a baby. Woops.

P1000219I have been haunted over the last few months by the fear that I have invested my whole life’s desires into the end result of ‘having a child’. It feels rather like spending a whole heap of monies on a wedding and forgetting that there is a marriage at the end of it. I spent so very long wanting ‘children’ that I failed to fully absorb the notion that getting pregnant would result in a child. Forever.

This isn’t like getting into your chosen university, or getting your most-wanted job. Christ, this isn’t even about getting married and then regretting it. Heaven forbid, but there are divorces. No such thing exists for a child. Not good ones anyway.

12 week scan 2All the other decisions/happy accidents/dreams involve you and you alone wishing and waiting and hoping and planning and I completely failed to recognise the catastrophically huge implications of bringing a person into the world. It suddenly brings the teenage rant of ‘Well I didn’t ASK to be born’ into a whole new focus.

This isn’t the post of someone on the edge. This is the post of someone who hadn’t even realised where the edge was until she launched herself right off into the middle distance and then saw there was nothing under her feet.

I am treading water day to day playing at domestic godliness in the hope that if I keep at it, I will one day believe the self-created hype and will actually start enjoying my little creation. She is fantastically fabulous, but I can’t quite shake off the feeling that the grown-ups are due back any day now and I will get the most extraordinarily large amount of pocket money for doing a quite good job at minding her.

P1040939This isn’t a cry for help. This isn’t even a murmur. This is the typing of a person who has to believe the little voice that says that if everyone felt this way, each family would stop after one child and would no doubt convince that child not to procreate.

I need to not hear platitudes right now. I know that PND doesn’t last. I know that everyone finds it tough. What I need to believe is that this isn’t me, this isn’t parenthood and I will find joy in my new life.

That will happen in time, and lord only knows, I have plenty of that stretching ahead of me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Making a Building Block Cake for a Baby Party

So anyway, after I created a beautifully smooth white square cake, I took the leftover white icing and coloured it red, using the much adored Gel Colouring recommended by the ol’ faithful, Nigella. Cos I’m lazy and scared, I bought the pink icing pre-mixed, and so just had to come up with a red-ish tone to coordinate.  


The bottom edges were decorated with icing twisted ropes, that we created by rolling two long snakes of each colour and then gently easing together in a twist. I had hoped to do it in one long rope, and I’m sure more experienced folk could. Ours kept snapping, so some splendorous ingenuity turned the gaps into spaces for building blocks and the ‘issue’ was rectified!


For the building blocks, I did some hunting and discovered the most simple looking technique would be to mould some icing blobs into cubes and ice the letters on later.


Thanks to the warm weather, the blocks ended up being quite sticky. Once we’d modelled them and lightly placed them on the cake, I made up some water icing to stick them down with, but this turned out redundant. The stickiness of block to cake was just fine and the little suckers aren’t going anywhere!


Writing icing in the form of tub with associated nozzles formed the ‘icing on the cake’ as it were, and I piped her name onto the blocks with a steady and smooth pressure (and not a little anxiety!)


The corner blocks, hiding the gaps in rope, are decorated with simple hearts and my work was done!


I’m delighted with the result, and hopefully this will enable you to have a go at doing the same, either to your own wedding cake, or to a newly-made delight. 


And here it is… in situ…

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Making a Christening Cake from a Wedding Cake Tier

After searching the internet high and low and not really coming up with anything useful, I thought I would let the greater world know how I went about turning the reserved fruit cake tier of our wedding cake into the cake for Tilly’s Naming Day/Blessing/Celebration (we really ought to come up with a good name for the day soon… it already having taken place an’ all…)

Because I’m a pillock, I didn’t take a picture of our rather lame attempts at preserving the cake. It’s been 19 months since the wedding and the cake has merely been wrapped in a tight layer of shrink wrap/cling film and then covered with tin foil. That was it. It was sitting on a rather fabulous tray that I’m now delighted to have back in action, but other than that, there was no freezing, no lacing with alcohol… nothing.


So the first step was to work out what to do with the icing layers (which had gone rather offcolour and dented in the housemove it had endured…), and then try to se if the cake was edible, without ruining it. I poked a knife into the icing, and it came off, relatively easily, leaving behind the gorgeously sticky marzipan intact. Result! Quest 1, complete!


We decided the safest place to test the cake would be from the middle which was at greatest risk of drying out or going rancid. Cutting it straight down the centre, we then cut a very slim slice alongside it to be the test piece. Hard times… The taste test proved EXTRAORDINARILY positive, and we were a GO on the cake transformation. Quest 2, complete!


First half was transferred to the ‘cake board’ (read-chopping board covered in tin foil as the shop was out of the size we needed when I’d gone hunting, and I’m a bear of VERY little patience…), followed swiftly by the second…


A little bit of ‘squodging’ (technical term) of marzipan and the seam was nigh on invisible. Result!


Then came the scary bit: rolling the white sugarpaste layer, without cracks, dents, lumps, air bubbles, bits of crud stuck in it, etc etc. After oodles of surfing, I took away the most repeated advice: WARM UP THE ICING. This involved excessively kneading three packets of white icing, helped by the fact that it was an INCREDIBLY warm summer day that day. Rather than use icing sugar, which has a reputation for drying out the icing too much, we stuck a taught layer of cling film to the table and rolled on that. Not only did it stop the icing sticking, it also became an extra support when the time came to lay it on the cake using the old roll onto rolling pin, heave onto cake technique…


From the centre, we eased the sheet over the cake and round the edges using small circular rubbing movements to ease any air pockets out. I used a butter knife to push the icing under the cake, cutting and edging it in one. Warm, dusted hands smoothed the top. Scary quest 3, complete!


Speaking of scary – check out my icing colouring technique. Looks like someone’s murdered a ghost… If that’s possible…

Check into the next post here for how to turn this lovely plain white cake into a confection suitable for a very special little lady…

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Lucy in the Sky with Crochet Hooks

Just an update on my hookie hookie times…


The staggering statistic I have worked out is that each row is taking about 15 minutes, so each colour stripe is 30 minutes… I haven’t yet counted the colours… I think I might cry.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Teddy Bear’s Picnic

With Tilly’s 6 months birthday been and gone I have been thinking about what to do with the top tier of our wedding cake and how best to adorn it for her upcoming naming day and celebration.

Having found out that simply having the cake iced and decorated will cost over £80, I am going to work some sugarpaste magic, hopefully, and create something that she won’t be mortified by in the future.

There are some delightful little ideas out there and I have rather taken to the idea of spelling out her name in building blocks…

Girlie fabulous 

Blocks with tutorial here 

Beautiful range of ideas here

I feel a trip to the local cake decorating shop coming on for some Sugarflair gels and a very large cakeboard. Tutorial for the cake crafting session to follow…

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A Fair bit better…

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Rather more success second time around, at the in-law’s local village fete. Great weather, quiet turnout (hampered no doubt by the pitiful excuse that was England v Germany that afternoon) but more punters, more enthusiasm, and most importantly… more takings! Onwards and upwards…


Weekend activities also included some gardening, some assistance on the Elderflower Cordial production line and some winning of prizes for brownies. Nigella Lawson – I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Kent June 2010

I have a theory…

In order to open up a smart little lifestyle boutique, you must simply come up with the fabulous name.

Find a lovely garden herb or plant.

Follow it with the corresponding colour of that plant.

Squash the two together as if they were one word and hey presto!

I give you…




All full of smashing, marvellous, delectable wares to create your little-bit-like-Cath-Kidston-Kirstie-Alsop-Country-Living-Boden-Toast-home.

Yum yum and woe to my wallet.

I predict such future delights as:




RosePink (woops this one is already taken…!)

If you would like to set up your very own lifestyle boutique using my tried and tested formula, I have given you the recipe for success for free. Go forth and make your millions.