It’s been some time since I last posted, so I thought I would catch you up on what’s been happening over the last two months.
My mother in law was in hospital for 7 weeks (not Covid related) and we were all very worried for her. She’s home now but needing care. She’s not in our bubble so it’s very frustrating not to be able to help more, but hopefully will continue to recover.
I have seen an increase in my anxiety levels, partly I’m sure from worrying about her, but also in general. As you know, my distraction techniques include learning more about cake decorating in online live classes – Thank you Sugar and Crumbs – and I’ve also been trying some mindfulness exercises.
In a bid to distract myself as much as possible, I’ve been baking for my friends, which is great for my mental health, but does take a toll on my physical issues.
As always, it’s a precarious balancing act between the benefits and the outcome, and I don’t always get it right!
In my online class groups I’m the joker, (amongst others!) who always has a quip ready, and I love the camaraderie in there, it really lifts my mood. But each bake or class also takes a few days to recover from.
My poor husband bears the brunt of this as my carer, and has become used to the transition from ‘Joker’ to ‘Zombie’! He really is the only one who sees this side of me, but is so supportive as he knows it keeps me sane and feeling useful.
But with his Mum being ill, he’s had more than me to worry about obviously, and I’ve been doing my best to support him too. As if the pandemic wasn’t enough to be anxious about eh? 🤦🏻♀️
This past week, I’ve also been filling in my PIP award review. Although not as detailed as the original form 5 years ago, it does ask about any changes. This meant going over the answers from last time in order to ascertain if there had been any. Unfortunately, this brought back everything from my accident, diagnosis, surgeries, counselling and therapies from 2012 to present. All the things I try not to think about, suddenly rushing back to haunt me once again!
I know the review is necessary, but it took me a long time to be able to look forward instead of dwelling on the past, and it was a bit of a shock to the system to realise how close to the surface it still is. But it’s done now, so hopefully I can get back my positivity!
Mother in law home, hubby had his first vaccination (he’s older than me) and I have mine tomorrow. We’re moving in the right direction 😊
So rather than this post being about one cake, I’m going to thank you for letting me ramble on, and just show you some pictures of all the cakes I’ve made since January and end on a positive note!
I hope you are finding your own ways of dealing with this strange situation we’ve been in for the past 12 months. We’re only human and it’s normal to have some anxiety and stress, and not to beat ourselves up about it, so I’m sending positive vibes to each and every one of you.
I have to admit, I don’t get asked for Valentine’s treats so much, which is a shame as there are so many great ideas out there ❤️
I love the idea of these cake filled chocolate geometric hearts ♥️ They could be given as they are in some pretty packaging, or as part of a treat box with other items, like decorated cookies, cupcakes, fudge, marshmallow, brownies, home made truffles etc
A lovely soft Fudge can be made in the microwave, coloured red or pink and cut with a heart shaped cutter. You could even make it more decadent by covering it in chocolate! Make sure you use a chocolate friendly colouring medium though!
Home made marshmallow is nothing like shop bought, and can also be cut into a heart shape! See tutorial below for recipes for home made fudge AND marshmallow 😋
For cookies you can’t go wrong with a delicious shortbread recipe, which you can then decorate with royal icing, sugarpaste, glacé icing and sprinkles! If you’re good at piping you could even write a message!
Or what about melt in the mouth Viennese Whirls? The following tutorial uses moulds but there’s no reason you can’t use a heart shaped cutter ☺️
Macarons can be made in any shape you like and are always a favourite. Pretty them up with some edible lustre dust for extra bling!
Chocolate lollipops are easy to make if you follow the next tutorial from ‘Oli the Choc’
As are meringue lollipops, as shown here
How about delicious, squidgy in the middle chocolate brownies? Rich and decadent and oh so easy to make 😀
And we can’t leave out the humble cupcake can we? So easy to make and decorate with a Valentine’s themed sprinkle mix, or if your piping skills allow, give as a beautiful cupcake bouquet 💐
I learned how to make and put together cupcake bouquets in this class, which is still ongoing so amazing value! The next class starts on 17th February and is the first of this year’s series
A simple ganache truffle is absolutely delicious on its own, but can also be dipped in chocolate and decorated 😋
And did you know you can make boozy ganache? Check out Oli again below for vodka truffles, how to make a chocolate ‘Holy Grail’ bark, and some great tips on tempering your chocolate easily, just using the microwave!
Of course, you can always make your loved one a Valentine’s cake all for themselves. There are some lovely examples below ❤️
And if you have leftover cake, don’t let it go to waste, it can still be made into delicious treats!
So, there’s plenty here to give individually or to make up a delicious treat box. And I think we all need a treat don’t we? The option for a romantic evening out may not be there this year, so bring the romance to you!
I hope I’ve given you plenty to think about and that you’ll try a few of the ideas for yourself. If you do, please tag me on Facebook and Instagram, I’d love to see the results ❤️
Hi! Hope you are all doing well 😊 I have to admit that during these past 10 months ‘Baking for Therapy’ has never been more of a therapeutic tool for me!
In between taking online courses run by Sugar and Crumbs, and the odd cake request, it’s been a lifeline for my mental and physical health. I’m still struggling I have to admit, some days I find it really hard to motivate myself and end up spending the day in pjs. In the online class groups, we’ve nicknamed them ‘baking scrubs’ 😆
I know there’s lots to do round the house, but some of it I can’t physically do, so I just look at it and get frustrated! Other things I could do if I tackle it in bite size chunks but even the slightest exertion at the moment brings me out in a sweat. I think being confined to the house for so long has weakened my already admittedly poor physical health. I find myself in ‘CBA’ (can’t be arsed) mode because I know whatever I do is going to tire me out and, going off past experience, will lead to a couple of ‘recovery days’ when I will mostly sleep!
So I’m very thankful to my friends who have asked me to make cakes, as it means I have to plan my days, and once I start, I do enjoy the process. My lovely hubby makes sure I rest in between each process, to minimise the after effects, and when I hand over the finished cake, I feel a brilliant sense of achievement, which is a great boost to my mental health too ❤️
This pretty Minnie Mouse inspired 1st birthday cake was for my friend’s granddaughter and the last cake before Christmas, Christmas Eve in fact!
It’s a simple Vanilla cake, made using Velvet Vanilla icing sugar instead of caster sugar in the batter. Covered mostly in buttercream with sugarpaste elements like the ears, spots, bow and frill. I added CMC/Tylo powder to the sugarpaste for the ears and bow, so that they would stand up on their own! (See tutorial below) I then set it on a marbled sugarpaste 12” drum board, and used PME fun fonts and Faye Cahill signature gold lustre for the lettering. A pretty cerise pink ribbon finished it off nicely 😁
And this is how it turned out! What do you think? Check out below for the recipe. I’ll also leave links to the products and tools I used.
Tools and Ingredients:
Preheat oven to 150C Fan
Prepare 3×6” round cake pans. I grease mine and use a parchment circle in the base.
You will need:
250g baking margerine
250g Sugar and Crumbs Velvet Vanilla icing sugar
4 large free range eggs
250g sifted Self Raising Flour
Whip the margarine in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment until light, pale and creamy.
Add the Velvet Vanilla icing sugar and chop it in by hand until mostly incorporated, then beat on medium speed until fully mixed. Scrape down the bowl to make sure.
Add the eggs one at a time. If the mixture curdles slightly, add a tablespoon of flour with each egg.
Mix the flour into the batter by hand, then beat for about 20 seconds on med – high speed.
Transfer the batter to the 3 x 6” prepared round cake pans.
Bake at 150 C fan for approximately 30 minutes. Every oven is different so keep an eye on it and check with a skewer in the middle of the cake if you’re unsure. If it comes out clean, it’s ready!
Allow to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool fully
250 g butter, softened
500g Velvet Vanilla icing sugar
Coloursplash pink gel
Warm pre boiled water – optional
Whip the butter in stand mixer with paddle attachment until increased in volume, very pale and creamy – about 6 minutes
Add the icing sugar and mix or ‘chop in’ with spatula before beating until it comes together. Add colouring if using. Scrape down, then beat on med-high speed for 20 seconds. Add water a tablespoon at a time if consistency needs loosening up.
It’s been a strange 2020, and so far 2021 isn’t looking much different!
Despite that, my friend’s daughter Freya decided to get married on New Year’s Eve, and her mum, Elaine asked me for some cupcakes for a very cosy family hen party just before Christmas. It was so lovely to find some joy in the middle of the COVID-19 chaos, and I wish the happy couple a long and happy life together ❤️
At the same time, Freya requested 40 macarons. I’d previously used some as decorations on her birthday cake ‘Pretty in Pink’. I’d used Sugar and Crumbs cherry flavour Whipping it Up to make them, and she liked them so much, she wanted more!
As I said, I used Sugar and Crumbs Whipping it Up to make the macarons. It’s basically flavoured icing sugar with pasteurised egg white powder added, and is a multi use product that makes Swiss Meringue Buttercream, Mousse, Pavlova, Meringue, Shortbread, Macarons, Marshmallow fluff, Roulade and lots of other yummy recipes! It comes in lots of different flavours too! Much easier than separating eggs, then having to find a use for the yolks! Here’s the recipe for the macarons I used half the 500g bag and got about 50 macarons! Coloursplash pink was used to colour them ❤️
This was almost my last request of 2020, almost! There’s just one more cute cake to tell you about in my next post!
After chilling in the fridge for half an hour, I final coated with milk chocolate ganache, made with Callebaut 823 callets, smoothing it as much as I could with a heated tall metal scraper. (To do this I had a tall jug of hot water that I dipped the scraper in, wiping off any excess water on kitchen towel before using)
I made the antlers out of Callebaut milk chocolate callets and free handed piping the shape on baking parchment. I inserted lollipop sticks whilst the chocolate was still wet, attaching them once they were good and set! The rest of the features were made from Renshaw sugarpaste in poppy red, chocolate brown, white and black.
I placed the cake on a 10” round cake drum covered with Renshaw poppy red and Lincoln green sugarpaste, partially kneaded together to create a slightly marbled effect, then finished off with a red ribbon.
The recipient of this cake, my friend Steph from Panto, won a cake from me in a charity prize draw earlier this year, and this is what she chose. I had great fun making it and it smelled amazing!
I used 2 x 8” round 4” deep PME pans and cut each cake in half to make 4 layers (double recipe) While the cakes were cooling, I took the remaining liquid from the cherry pie filling and thinned it out with a little boiling water. I brushed this over each cake layer to add flavour and keep it lovely and moist.
For the filling I made buttercream with more Black Forest icing sugar, but to crumb coat the cake I used Black Cherry icing sugar as this remains white in colour.
Once the crumb coat had set in the fridge for 20 minutes, I added Coloursplash pink to a small amount of the white buttercream and set it aside.
I then covered the cake with the remaining white (Black Cherry) buttercream and smoothed it out with my tall metal bench scraper. I wasn’t too bothered about it being perfect at this stage!
I then added random ‘blobs’ (technical term 😆) all around the cake, and kept going round it with my smoother to achieve a sort of watercolour blended finish. For the final few swipes I heated the metal smoother by dipping it in hot water. I find this really helps get a nicer finish 😃 Check out the video below for an in depth tutorial on getting smooth buttercream!
I lightly blended the rest of the buttercream (pink and white) and transferred it into a piping bag with a Wilton 1M star tip that I bought in this set of three but you can also buy it separately It’s easily my most used piping tip for cupcakes so I have several!
Whipping it up was developed by Sugar and Crumbs as a sister product to its flavoured icing sugars and has pasteurised dried egg white added. It is a multi use product that you can use to make meringue, Swiss Meringue buttercream, pavlova, marshmallow fluff, roulade, macarons, shortbread, mousse and……. oh there’s so much I’ll just leave you a link to all the yummy recipes!
Back to the cake! I made a white chocolate water ganache drip and applied that before popping on my kisses and macarons whilst it was still wet. This helped everything to stick nicely!
I had covered a 12” round drum board with Renshaw Premium Coverpaste white marbled with pink, and after transferring the cake to this, I took the piping bag and made a border at the bottom. Waste not want not, I used the rest of the buttercream to add more detail to the top and sides still using the 1M tip.
To finish it off I made white chocolate number lollipops with Callebaut Belgian chocolate in a 3 and an 0!
I was very pleased with the result, what do you think? It also gave my baking mojo a boost as I’d been feeling a bit down with all this Covid-19 rubbish! Feeling useful is something I’ve been missing lately, and being cooped up doesn’t do much for anyone’s mental health does it? 😞
I hope you are all keeping well….. and reasonably sane!
This cake was the third in a series of classes with the lovely Georgie Godbold…..online of course, but a live class nevertheless.
Unfortunately, Georgie had an unavoidable family situation so was unable to take the class herself. Rather than cancel, Gerry Chiu from Studio8Cakes very kindly stepped in 😁
Because this was a paid class, I can’t reveal the techniques we were taught, but I can show you the finished cake!
I made this back in September and it was my Mum’s birthday cake. Mum loves sewing so it came just at the right time!
I used my vanilla cake recipe but substituted the caster sugar with Sugar and Crumbs raspberry ripple icing sugar. For the buttercream crumbcoat I used lemon drizzle flavour. I love the raspberry/lemon combination, it’s so refreshing…..like pink lemonade 🥤
All the participants, whether watching to do later or taking part on the day had an absolute blast! These online classes are so much more than just tuition. It’s a chance to ‘get together’ with my online friends from Sugar and Crumbs and share some much needed light hearted banter too.
I’d like to say a big thank you to Carol McFarland from Sugar and Crumbs for setting up these online classes with some extremely talented tutors including Molly Robbins, Gerry Chiu, Georgie Godbold, Oli the Choc, Dawn Butler, Do Griffin, Hannah the ‘Cake Illusionist’ and not forgetting the Cupcake bouquet, Buttercream Flowers, and Nifty Nozzles Classes that Carol herself hosts!
I’m even more thankful for all the free Facebook live sessions that Sugar and Crumbs have been doing throughout the Pandemic 😷 This is in addition to the regular sessions, so there’s barely a day goes by that I don’t look forward to checking in with Karen Griffiths, Carol McFarland or a guest tutor to learn how to make something yummy 😋 With so many people struggling with their mental health at the moment, I can honestly say they’ve been an absolute lifeline, and I know that the rest of the S&C family will concur 🥰
Note to family: There’s plenty of edible Christmas gifts coming your way!
This Fortnite cake is for the same young man I made the last one for, I can’t believe a year flew by so fast!
It seems that as the game evolves, different elements become popular. This time a ‘battle bus’ needed to be incorporated into the design, so off I went to good old google images!
For my cake I just needed a topper as it was to be one of a few elements.
After trying unsuccessfully to use a kinder egg as the balloon (too heavy) I eventually raided my cake stash for a polystyrene egg instead. It was probably a bit small scale wise, but otherwise worked perfectly. Note to self: buy bigger polystyrene eggs!
It’s not an exact copy of the actual bus, more a representation! I think to get all the details right I would need to make an actual ‘Battle Bus’ cake! Maybe next year Josh? 😉
Josh looks really pleased with his cake, and apparently when he saw it he said ‘that’s definitely a Debbie cake’ bless him. Josh is one of the kids from Panto and even though I’d decided when I resigned the chairmanship this year, that I wasn’t going to be involved, I’m really missing the rehearsals and get togethers which usually start in September, and I can imagine the frustration and disappointment that the pandemic has brought to the society, and lots of amateur theatre groups this year. Let’s hope we can all get back to normal soon and live theatre, both amateur and professional will be back in our lives sooner rather than later!🤞
I recently had another request for a ‘chocolate overload’ cake, but this time the recipient was a big fan of ‘kinder bueno’, so most of the chocolate decorations were to be along this theme.
The week before I was due to make the cake, I dutifully added kinder bueno bars (and a selection of other chocolates) to my grocery delivery, but I must have had a twitchy clicky finger, and accidentally ordered 2 packs of 20 bars! Oops! 😋
Now, I could have put them away in my baking cupboard for the next cake, but hubby spotted them first! I wasn’t aware that he even liked Kinder Bueno, but the ones I didn’t use soon disappeared 😝 I may even have had one myself 😉
Of course it also went in the buttercream, along with some melted and cooled Callebaut Belgian Milk Chocolate for extra stability and chocolatiness! I buy this in callet form as my hands can’t handle chopping chocolate anymore, plus the Callebaut is just gorgeous chocolate 😋
This cake was for a 16 year old boy’s birthday so I tried not to make it too ‘girly’ by cutting back on the bling, but couldn’t resist adding a bit to the board to highlight his name 😁
As always, I bake for therapy not profit. It’s a great hobby for me, helping with my mental health, especially now! It also gets me off my backside when it would be so easy to sit around all day. I may have to factor in a rest period afterwards, but It gives me such a great sense of satisfaction whenever I finish a cake for someone, that it’s totally worth it 😁
A month or so ago, I was asked to make a very special 90th birthday cake………in the shape of a cruise ship!
Never one to shy away from a challenge, I found a reasonably simple design that the family was happy with, made myself a template and set sail!
I started by making vanilla Madeira cake using my large rectangular roasting tins, so that I could carve the shapes of the different layers. Once happy with that, I sandwiched them together with buttercream before (very) roughly coating the whole thing with white chocolate ganache
Once that was set, I applied a second coat and smoothed it out ready for the sugarpaste. After applying a base of white, I then started making all the little details that would make what looked a bit like a wonky shoe look more like a ship!
I covered the cake directly on the board as it was so big, and decided to finish it off in situ.
After adding the finishing touches, this is what it looked like 👀
I’m happy to report that the recipient was delighted with it! 😁
Much to my disappointment, I’m rarely asked to make Halloween goodies, and especially not this year!
But it got me wondering…..what’s your go to Halloween theme? Do you prefer ‘Trick’ (scary)
or ‘Treat’ (cute)?
As I haven’t had the opportunity to bake anything this Halloween, I thought I’d give you a few examples from each category 🎃
From the ‘Trick’ section, take a look at these terrifyingly realistic creations from ‘Epic Confections’, ‘How to Cake it’ and ‘The Lovely Baker’
For ‘Treats’ try these from ‘Cakes by Lynz’, ‘The Icing Artist’, and ‘Sugar and Crumbs’
And for a bit of both, how about these clever two sided cakes from Koalipops?
I hope you find something you like in there! There are so many to choose from the talented cake artists I follow 👻 🎃 🧙♀️
Like I said, I haven’t done many, but I dug through my photo archive and found these to show you 😀
I hope you have fun with your boys and ghouls today. I have my pic n mix ready just in case any local kiddies and their parents decide to do some social distanced ‘Trick or Treating’! (If not, I’ll just have sweeties for me 😀)
But this year, she’s into ‘Frozen’, probably prompted by the release of the film sequel earlier this year ❄️
The request was for chocolate cake, and although I was sent some photo suggestions, I was given free rein to interpret them in my own way, which is good because it’s not good form to copy another cake decorators design!
I had a little rummage on Pinterest etc, and ended up going with a fairly simple design ❄️
I used milk chocolate ganache to coat the cake and give it a firm base for the sugarpaste.
Making cake batter and buttercream is fairly easy for me because the Kitchenaid mixer does it for me, but I’ve always made ganache with blocks of chocolate, which I break into small chunks.
Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that because of the pain in my hands, it’s getting really difficult. It hurts to break it up, but also sets off tremors a few hours later! So I’ve decided to swap to Callets which are like little wafers or buttons. They’re more expensive, but if it means avoiding pain it’s a no brainer! It’s Belgian chocolate too, and is absolutely yummy!
I did an online course with ‘Oli The Choc’ a chocolatier based in Manchester recently. He filmed in the Sugar and Crumbs kitchen for the day, and recommended Callebaut brand Belgian chocolate, so that’s what I’ll be using from now on!
Then I applied my favourite Finishing Sparkle from Sugarflair to give the whole thing that frosty glittery finish ❄️ I loved the final look of this cake 🥰 Let me know what you think in the comments, I’d love to hear from you 😀
I can’t finish this post without mentioning that this month has highlighted the importance of Breast Cancer screening, and World Mental Health Day.
Baking for Therapy includes looking after my mental well being, as well as the Chronic pain caused by my OPLL, and I support Breast Cancer Now by fundraising in memory of my late Grandma Molly.
If you would like to donate to this charity, I have a Just Giving page, or you can go directly to their website if you prefer. Amongst many others, I haven’t been able to use my baking skills to host a bake sale this year because of social distancing rules, so any donation would be doubly welcome 🙏
Until next time
Stay safe and healthy
Disclaimer: Sugar and Crumbs is my preferred supplier of all things Cake. I am not sponsored by them and do not receive payment for recommending their products.
As this was a paid class, I can’t divulge the individual processes that went into the making of the cake. What I can tell you is that I did it over 3 days (more if you count the baking which I did the week before and froze!) I followed along for a while on the day, then just watched, finishing off at my own pace over the next two days 😀
I’m really pleased with the result. Gerry is a fabulous tutor, and as always whenever we’re ‘in’ the Sugar and Crumbs kitchen, we have so much fun!
Viki Shaw was the lucky winner! Viki has very special twin girls, Summer Violet and Isabella Rose, for whom I made the rainbow cake to celebrate their first birthday 🌈
As the colours are already perfect, I will be making the cake as it is shown in the picture…..or as close as I can! Gerry Chiu is a brilliant tutor and as always, factoring in my pain coping mechanisms, I intend taking my time with it!
I’ll be back soon with more details and to show you how I got on!
Access to the class is via a private Facebook group, and the best thing is it’s then yours forever. So, if like me you’re unable to tackle it all in one day, you can do some of it, do none of it and watch first or any combination of the two!
Anyhoo, the point of this post is that I’ve decided to offer my version of the cake to one of you! You will have to be local I’m afraid, as it will need to be collected, but apart from that, all you need to do is follow my blog and leave a comment and your name.
I will then use this handy dandy spinny wheel thingamajig from wheelofnames.com to input everyone’s names, give it a whirl and whoever it lands on will win 😀🥳😀🥳
I’m going to run this until Thursday 17th at 6pm to give the winner the option of choosing the colours.
On the day, I will be doing 2-3 hours, then following along from the comfort of my recliner for the rest of the class. I know from experience that it’s better for me to break it down into 3 or 4 sessions, otherwise I won’t be able to function for a week! So, I’m hoping to get some prep done on Thursday and have the cake finished by Sunday 🤞
So, please leave your names/comments as instructed and Good Luck!
Hi, when my friend asked me to make this cake for her Mum’s 80th birthday, I got very excited!
Believe it or not I’ve never made a ‘Chocolate Overload’ cake before, so this was a first for me, but great fun!
I started out with 4 x8” round layers of my Chocolate cake recipe, and filled and crumb coated it with chocolate buttercream. As it was another hot spell, I made ganache for the final coat as it sets firmer, and despite being made from chocolate and cream, it is actually more heat stable than buttercream! I applied the filling and coatings with my trusty palette knife, and smoothed the final coat with my metal bench scraper. *Tip: Dip metal knives and scrapers in hot water before smoothing for a great finish!
After that, it was really just play time! My friend had said her Mum was a serious chocoholic (a woman after my own heart ❤️) so I’d bought a variety of different chocolates and just went to town!
I used a mix of chopped chocolate bars, biscuit bars, truffles, buttons, etc and added them around and on top of the cake somewhat ‘artistically’ 😂 I made the chocolate shards myself to give the cake a bit of extra height and interest. How many different chocolate goodies can you identify?
And then of course, I couldn’t resist adding a bit of bling by dry dusting with Faye Cahill edible gold lustre 🤩
I was really pleased with how it turned out, and, more importantly my friend’s Mum was too!
As you know I’ve been keeping myself sane during the restrictions imposed by the a Coronavirus pandemic by taking lots of online cake ‘classes’
These have been offered by Sugar and Crumbs at really affordable prices, and have been very well received by everyone who has participated.
Carol McFarland, the owner of the company has 3 of her own classes, the Cupcake bouquet class, Nifty Nozzles (Russian piping tips) and the Buttercream flowers class, and there is a whole host of guest tutors including Molly Robbins, Georgie Godbold, Claire Corbett, Hector Rocha, Gerry Chiu, Hannah the Cake Illusionist, and Do Griffin!
In this class, Molly showed us how to make pupcakes 🐶 and oh my word, they were soooo cute!
I was amazed at how quickly they came together, aren’t they adorable? We used Renshaw premium Coverpaste in white, Renshaw precoloured ready to roll sugarpastes, and some Coloursplash gel colours to create the puppers. Like real dogs, they came in all shades of fur!
We started at 10am and did everything in real time, following Molly’s excellent tutoring. Unfortunately, I had a doctors appointment right in the middle of the day, so missed some of it, but when I got back I watched the rest and joined in with the comments and banter! Oh the banter! We have such a giggle in all the groups, and I’ve ‘met’ so many new friends 😀
When you sign up, you’re given access to a private Facebook group where the live sessions are aired, and you can chat with your fellow ‘students’. If you miss any classes for any reason, as I did with my appointment, the class is always there for you to rewatch at your leisure.
This is great for me, as I usually manage to do half the session then watch the rest and finish the next day, or even over 2 days! My body dictates how much I do at any one time nowadays, but this way I don’t feel like I’m missing out!
In Molly’s next class we will be making a standing dog 🐕 This was chosen by a group vote…very democratic…..and we will be using Molly’s Creature Creator mould which she devised to help bakers make novelty cakes with no carving or wasted cake. I’ve used it before and it’s brilliant. I also managed to attend a real class with Molly in the Sugar and Crumbs kitchen just before lockdown, so I feel like I have a bit of a head start 😀 I’m going to try and recreate my own dog this time though….eeeek!
Well, I’m off now to do some baking in readiness for next week when I have 3 classes!
When my old school friend asked me to make a golden wedding anniversary cake for her neighbours, I was very honoured to be entrusted with the task. Especially as all she knew about my cake making skills was the cake I made for our school reunion event in February!
But any opportunity I get for playing with sugar flowers and liberal use of bling is good with me!
So, I sent her a picture of a golden wedding cake I made for another friend, and she sent me an image, and between us we came up with a design 😀
Little did I know that the timing of this cake was going to coincide with one of the hottest days of the year! 🥵
I started by baking the vanilla sponges, two 8” rounds to be layered into 4. Disaster number one – they sank! I don’t know if it was the heat, the fact that I was using a different baking spread, or I just opened the oven door too soon, but there was no saving them, or so I thought, so in the bin they went 😔
They looked something like this:
If I’d seen this article, I might have been able to make use of some of the cake for cake pops or just with custard as a dessert! If you want to know the various causes of a sunken cake, and some ‘fixes’ I recommend having a read.
The next day I tried again, used my usual baking spread and resisted the urge to peek in the oven too soon and voila! Two perfect sponges! Phew 😅
So, a day later than scheduled, I divided the cakes into 4 layers and decided to use white chocolate ganache to fill and coat the cake as it sets firmer than buttercream – or at least it usually does! It was so hot, I had to leave it overnight, losing another half day! This is why I need a dedicated cake fridge!
Thinking I was going to have a (literal) meltdown, I contacted my friend only to be extremely relieved to find that although we’d arranged collection on a Friday, the cake wasn’t actually needed until Saturday evening – another phew 😅
Luckily I had pre-made all the flowers using Renshaw flower and modelling paste, and covered the board already, so early Saturday morning I started covering the cake with sugarpaste and adding the quilted effect. I used Select Ireland platinum sugarpaste which is great quality and behaves very well in hot and humid conditions. Renshaw Extra is also good in similar conditions 😀
I have learned most of the techniques needed to put a cake together using ganache from good old YouTube! Here are a couple that I found very helpful 😀
For the recipes I used for the cake and ganache click here
I used two PME 3” deep 8” round cake tins and doubled the recipe. I greased and floured the tins and put a parchment paper circle in the bottom. I also used my PME baking belts (see My favourite products at the end of the post)
For the ganache I used 900g white chocolate to 300ml double (heavy) cream
And finally! I applied the decorations and lettering, then got busy with my Faye Cahill gold lustre dust! This can be dry brushed on to your embellishments or mixed with food grade alcohol to make a paint. There are lots of lustre dust brands out there, and they’re all good, but I must admit, I really like Faye’s range.
I used Sugarflair rejuvenator spirit to mix my paint. I’ve used vodka in the past, but find this works much better. Don’t worry, all the alcohol evaporates as the ‘paint’ dries!
Right at the end I liberally ‘twinkled’ the cake with Sugarflair finishing sparkle in gold. I love this stuff as a finishing touch ❤️ It comes in silver, gold and rose gold in a pump spray, but there are lots of other sparkly colours available in pots too 🌈
Finished and happy, I messaged my friend with a couple of photos, boxed it up and it was collected – socially distanced of course – in plenty of time for the party 🥳 (or whatever passes for a party at the moment!)
I received some wonderful feedback from my friend Joanne, and her neighbours loved the cake, so all’s well that ends well 😀
The moral of the story? Although I already have to give myself plenty of time to tackle a cake project, you can never account for the weather chucking a spanner in the works!
If that happens, take a breath, walk away for a while and think about what ‘fixes’ you can utilise. Most of all, remember why you do it. For me, it’s therapy, so getting stressed kind of defeats the object! When I contacted my friend to say I was behind schedule, she reminded me of that! Thank you Joanne 🥰
That’s all from me for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post, and that the ‘how to’ links are helpful.
You might be forgiven for thinking this post is all about ABBA’s greatest hits, but you’d be wrong! (Wonderful though they are!)
I’m a bit of a muso though, and I often find songs popping into my head that are related to what I’m doing, in this case a gorgeous beehive cake I recently made on a live online class.
Remember the Teapot cake? Well the Beehive is the 2nd of 3 classes I’ve signed up for with the very talented Georgie Godbold.
Georgie is well known for decorating her cakes with what she calls ‘Sugar Wobblies’. These are cute figures like the bees 🐝 and the little mice on the Teapot. Adorable aren’t they? 🥰
All the classes I’ve been ‘attending’ have been organised by, and run from The Sugar and Crumbs kitchen, which is large enough for social distancing to be observed between the tutors and the camera operator, and have been broadcast live on Facebook on given dates.
Now, I’m lucky enough to be able to join in on the day, but I’ve usually followed along for the morning and watched the rest to finish off over a couple more days. I do it that way because of my pain and mobility issues, but lots of participants do it at a later date because of work or other commitments.
The format works because although every class is filmed live, it’s then yours to keep going back to forever! It came about because of lockdown, but is actually a brilliant way to teach. It means classes can be offered at a very affordable price because more people can actually take part than would physically fit in the Sugar and Crumbs kitchen, big as it is! (Even without the current situation) Plus no travelling arrangements to make as you do it all in your own home 😄
It’s actually become a standing joke that most of us do them in our pjs! I know I do!
Anyway….to the cake! Now the bad news is….I can’t actually tell you how to make it, it is a paid class after all! But the good news is….you can still join in the fun! Yay! 😁 This particular series of 3 full day classes costs just £60…..yes that’s right £20 per full day class! Amazing value!
Click the link to find out more…. and remember, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, because you do it in your own home 🙂 The next ‘live’ class is on the 8th September, but you will also get access to the Teapot and Beehive to do at your leisure ❤️
Hi, I hope everyone is continuing to stay safe as the coronavirus situation rumbles on!
I have been stopping myself going stir crazy by attending online live cake classes organised by my favourite stockists of all things cake related ‘Sugar and Crumbs’ (www.sugarandcrumbs.co.uk)
This one was taught by the lovely Georgie Godbold, who is doing 3 full day classes for just £60! Fantastic value 😮
This is the first of the three, featuring Georgie’s trademark ‘Sugar Wobblies’ made with modelling paste and pipe cleaners! Aren’t they cute?
The next in the series is this cute beehive:
Followed by this beautiful cotton reel:
To make the Teapot cake I used 2 x 6” hemisphere pans filled with a vanilla cake batter. But if you don’t have hemisphere pans, Georgie shows you how to carve it in to shape during the class. If you want to know exactly how to create this pretty cake, you can buy this and the following two classes here:
Now that’s worth £60 of anyone’s money in my opinion!
This is what I achieved and I’m so very pleased with it! I’ve never successfully covered a sphere cake before! And the little mice make a lovely keepsake ❤️
The great thing about this live online format is that you do it in your own home from anywhere in the world! The private group in which it takes place is full of fun, friendly and encouraging people too!
And don’t worry about keeping up! The class is filmed and is yours to keep forever, so if like me, it’s too much to do all in one go, just stop, watch the rest and go back to it the next day. I have to pace myself and took 3 days to finish mine!
I have to say, I’m absolutely loving the classes I’ve joined. They have really helped me get through lockdown by giving me something to do without leaving the house, and I’ve learned lots of new skills along the way 😀
There is a list of all my favourite products here if you’re looking for good quality cakey equipment!
I made this cake a few weeks ago for a friend of my son. It’s the first time I’ve made any kind of footwear out of cake!
I was very apprehensive about this, but I was given a photo and managed to find the brand online and download a template which was very helpful!
I had to use a bit of artistic license as the original was quite a flat running shoe rather than a trainer, and there simply wouldn’t have been enough cake!
As per the request, this was a chocolate cake, and for stability I used a yummy chocolate ganache for the filling and coating. You can find the recipes for both here.
I used the same cake for the box, and googled the ‘tick’ for images to use as a stencil. Before covering the box, I inserted five bubble tea/milkshake straws. This adds stability and makes sure it can hold the weight of the shoe cake. The shoe cake is also on its own cake card which I custom cut from a large square 12” card. It’s always handy to have one of these for odd shaped cakes!
The shoe is covered in my favourite sugarpaste Select Ireland platinum, which has amazing stretch and is really easy to work with when you need a smooth finish.
For novelty cakes that need texture like this one for example
For the the box I used Renshaw Poppy red and Renshaw Jet black. I find for deep colours it’s always better to use a precoloured paste as you would have to use a shed load of colouring to get the right shade! There would also be a heck of a lot of kneading involved, which my poor hands wouldn’t be able to cope with! For small quantities of pastel colours, I mix myself with my preferred brand of gels from Coloursplash. For the writing I used a black Fractal Calligra brush pen. This is by far the easiest edible pen to use in my opinion!
All in all, this cake took me three days to make, but I was really pleased with the result for a first attempt 😀
I hope I’ve inspired you to ‘have a go’ at something that is outside your comfort zone? In these strange times, I’m finding my baking even more therapeutic than usual I must admit. It gives me a reason to get off my backside when it would be so easy to wallow! And if you’re going to try new things, whether it’s being creative with cake or something entirely different, then now is your perfect opportunity! 😀
Whatever you choose to do, I’d be delighted to hear about it, so feel free to drop a message in the comments box 📦
I’d like to begin this post by saying a big thank you to Viki Shaw and her partner for allowing me to share their story today.
I met Viki as she was part of my children’s group of friends, we are a generation apart, but hers is a story that sadly resonates with parents of any age.
I will let Viki tell you in her own words of the journey to becoming Mummy to her two beautiful girls. It’s a narrative of great loss and grief, but also immense joy and happiness, and is testament to the resilience and strength of the human psyche.
I made the rainbow by adding Rainbow dust tylo powder to the sugarpaste and used Coloursplash in purple, pink, blue, pistachio and sunflower yellow to make some pretty pastels. These were rolled into long sausages and attached with PME piping gel to a cake board cut to size.
Hope you are all keeping safe and well in these strange times. What sort of lockdown changes are happening where you are?
I have to admit I’m a little uneasy about some of the lockdown measures being eased so soon, what do you think?
Although we obviously have to take care of ourselves physically, the statistics show that more people are suffering with their mental health whilst coping with the pandemic. As someone who deals with this on a daily basis, I know how important it is to look after this aspect of my life. For me, it’s baking, which I manage to do by carefully planning a schedule that isn’t going to ‘break me’. Sometimes though, you just have to decide which is more important. Doing something you love releases pain relieving endorphins at the time, but you have to be prepared for the ‘crash’ on the following days. Don’t give up doing what you love – whatever it is – but allow yourself time time to rest and recuperate afterwards is the advice I was given 😍
One of the things keeping me sane at the moment is ‘attending’ some online cake classes. The most recent one has been with the lovely Molly Robbins of channel 4’s ‘Extreme Cake Makers’ (UK)
I showed you in my last post what I would be making, and promised to show you the results, so here I am fulfilling that promise!
I made the cakes about 3 days before and froze them. I used Sugar and Crumbs lemon drizzle flavour icing sugar in place of caster sugar and vanilla in my go to vanilla cake recipe. Lemon is one of my favourite flavours! 🍋 I made a traybake while I was at it too 😋
The shortbread for the ‘fries’ was done the day before, so I was as prepared as I possibly could be!
The days running up to the online class (Friday) had been a bit fraught to say the least. On Monday I had one of those horrible headaches behind the eyes and felt a bit nauseous. I had been taking advantage of the beautiful weather, so maybe I’d got too much sun in the garden 🥵 On Tuesday I was fine, and got my baking done, but on Wednesday I was really ill and stayed in bed all day 😔 By Thursday I was ok again (shortbread day) but was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up in the class the following day.
Luckily, once you’re in the private Facebook group where the class is streamed, you have permanent access to it, so I had the option to just watch it and do it later, or try and follow it ‘live’
In the end, I did a bit of both! I managed the morning session and watched in the afternoon. That way I could still ask questions and interact with my fellow class members.
The group has been named ‘Molly’s Cake Club online’ and let me tell you, we have so much fun in there! The banter between us all is hilarious and everyone is so friendly and helpful 😀
I finally finished my project, and here’s the result guys!
From start to finish, including prep it took me four days, but I’m so proud of it! Everything is edible apart from the straw and the box lid!
The only problem I had was what to do with it! It’s far too much for hubby and me, so a quick look at my Facebook friends list and voila! One of my friends has a birthday this weekend and was absolutely delighted when I offered it to her 😀 Happy Birthday Marcia 🥳 and thank you so much for the flowers, they are beautiful 💐
Click the link below to learn how you could achieve this and have access and a sneak peek at the future classes that are planned (next month it’s cute doggy cupcakes)
And remember, it’s online so you can be anywhere in the world and still join in the fun! And you only pay once for multiple projects. That’s my sanity saved, and worth every penny!
Just so you know, I’m not sponsored in any way by Sugar and Crumbs! I just love the ethics of the company and the way they really look after their customers 💕 and if you are looking for a supplier of all things baking related, you won’t go wrong!
Well, I think you’ve probably had enough of my waffling by now, so I’ll sign off
Who doesn’t love receiving a beautiful bouquet? And what if that bouquet was edible?!
Well, as you know I’ve been on an online cupcake bouquet course run by Sugar and Crumbs, and it’s safe to say that I’ve been getting my money’s worth! I’ve just done my 3rd class and I just love the results I’ve been achieving 😍
It’s been a wonderful way to cheer up my family during lockdown too. Delivery has been socially distanced obviously, but everyone has been so happy to receive them 😀 They’ve even been giving back the empty structure for refills 😂
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying making them, and looking forward to the next class on 13th June 😀
Before that though I’ll be doing Molly Robbins course! I’m just a bit excited!
Molly is renowned for her novelty cake creations, and in the first class we are going to be making a platter of burger, fries, chicken nuggets and even a drink in the style of a popular fast food company that sounds a bit Scottish 😂 I’ve had a preview today and it looks amazing!
Whether mine looks anything like that remains to be seen, but having attended one of Molly’s classes pre lockdown, I know she is a great tutor. However it turns out, I will be back to tell you all about it 😀
Meanwhile, if you would like to take either online course yourself, here are the relevant links:
Here in the UK, we’ve now had 2 months of ‘lockdown’, and I must say that for the most part, it has been rigorously observed. Community spirit has never been better, with heartwarming stories everywhere about what people are doing to help others cope with being isolated.
My hobby is being supported brilliantly by frequent Sugar and Crumbs Facebook ‘lives’ broadcast several times a week, either by Carol McFarland or Karen Griffith from S&C itself, or guest tutors filming in their own homes. Each time, we are shown how to achieve a different recipe. These are absolutely free to access, and you can do so via the Facebook page ‘Sugar and Crumbs with Nifty Nozzles’. All you need to do is like the page and you’ll be notified every time there’s a tutorial 😀 You can also find all their past ‘lives’ there or on their YouTube channel, so there’s no excuse to get bored anytime soon!
Carol has also featured on ‘Cakeflix’ another cake community run by Paul Bradford. He and his partner have set up ‘Caking all over the World’ and have got lots of renowned ‘Cakers’ doing guest slots for them.
If Cake isn’t your ‘thing’ try searching for something that is! Crafters TV (Crafters Companion) is also providing ‘lives’ for its followers. This company is owned by Sara Davies of ‘Dragon’s Den’ fame, and they have lots of different activities to join in with. Whatever your hobby, I’m willing to bet there’s something out there to keep you from lockdown fever!
Since my last post, there has been another Cupcake bouquet class too. Sadly I wasn’t able to do it along with Carol and my fellow ‘bouqueteers’ on the day, as I wasn’t feeling too well, but I watched it all and managed to produce my bouquets a few days later. The great thing is that I can rewatch both previous classes anytime I like, and any others going forward 😀 There’s a mini nozzles class already set up for 26th May, and another full class scheduled for June 13th. Although this is a paid class, it’s extremely good value for money, as it’s a one off payment giving you access to every previous and subsequent broadcasts! At £50, it’s an absolute bargain, and as it’s online it can be watched from anywhere in the world! If you’d like to join the merry band of ‘bouqueteers’, click the link here: Cupcake Bouquet Class
Along with my new bouquets, I’ve also made another Pokemon themed cake since I last saw you. This one is ‘Gengar’ and was made for Robb, my niece’s fella who had his birthday last week. You might recall that my niece, Amy, had a beautiful baby boy two months ago. Lockdown has prevented any of the family having a cuddle yet, but we are being kept well provided with daily photos. He’s way too young to appreciate Pokemon cake, but Robb has two girls from a previous relationship, and they waited to cut it until they were there ❤️
Gengar was made from purple velvet cake (red velvet with purple food colour instead of red!) with purple tinted white chocolate buttercream. The whole cake was then covered in sugarpaste* I also got the opportunity to try out a new gadget ‘the lil’ rolly’ by the company ‘Evil Cake Genious’ and I must say, I’m impressed! It is for smoothing out ridges and bumps in buttercream, ganache and Royal Icing, and resembles a tiny paint roller** Evil Cake Genius is an American company but Sugar and Crumbs is their uk supplier, and does currently have stock. There’s a brief video tutorial by Evil Cake Genius on YouTube here: and a more in depth one by Sugar and Crumbs where Carol tries it out for the first time here:
Hi everyone, hope you are all still keeping safe and well as we reach week 6 of lockdown!
It’s been taking its toll on everyone I think. As someone with chronic pain issues I can honestly say that physically it hasn’t made much difference, but mentally and emotionally, I have to admit I’ve had a few ‘moments’
Who knows what triggers them? A few nights of not sleeping well added to the stress of isolation and speaking with my family on ‘Zoom’ as welcome as that was, seemed to do it for me. I was just lying on my bed after a shower and burst into tears! Then immediately felt guilty for doing so, as I know people are in much worse situations than me 😔
However, after my ‘venting session’ I did feel better, so don’t feel guilty, just allow yourselves a bit of the kindness you show to others, and let it out. Your feelings are just as important as anyone else’s, whatever the source, and putting on a brave face in public doesn’t mean you can’t have a damn good cry in private if it eases the stress. None of us have ever faced this kind of situation before, so there are no rules for coping mechanisms! Let that good old British stiff upper lip wobble a bit if it helps 😂
Anyway, moving on! On 29th April I ‘attended’ a class with a difference! For the first time ever, Carol McFarland from Sugar and Crumbs hosted an all day online class using Facebook live. She was teaching us how to make cupcake bouquets from 10am to 7pm! (With breaks)
It was an absolutely fantastic experience with a lovely bunch of people, and in amongst the learning, we had lots of banter and laughs.
I had intended following along as far as I could ‘live’ and then watching it back later if I needed to catch up, but I made it through the whole session! Much to my surprise I might add!
A big thank you to my hubby for keeping me supplied with tea and food throughout, and for coping with my exhaustion the day after, but it was one of those times when the benefits, especially the emotional ones, outweighed the consequences. I had such a great sense of achievement that it was a fantastic boost to my system, and it definitely broke the monotony of lockdown, that’s for sure!
The class cost just £50 and that admitted me into Carol’s Cupcake Bouquet Facebook Group and access to the ‘live’. The great thing is, that once you’re in the group, you also have access to any subsequent bouquet classes and regular updates on new techniques that Carol has promised to add going forward. The first class was such a success that there is already another planned for May 13th, so I get to do it all again, or just watch and learn. Carol has said that she will be showing us how to do something different every time she does a new class so I’m excited to see what is in store! Plus, I’m a little more confident having already done it once!
Above is what I achieved on the day. I decided to split my 24 cupcakes into 3×7 bouquets and 1×3 as I had recipients in mind. My mother and father in law, sister in law and partner, and my son and daughter in law each got a 7 cupcake bouquet and the little one went to my Mum 😍 They were all highly delighted with them, as was I 😀
If you would like to join next weeks class, there’s still time, but there will also be another one running in June! The link is below 😍
So, now on to the ‘strange’ Cake! Well it was a mystery to me! If you are familiar with Pokemon characters, maybe not so strange for you 😂
My son was 34 on May 3rd, and although my daughter in law is an excellent baker, I have more of an interest in novelty cakes, so traditionally I make one for him every year. Lockdown made delivery a slightly different process but we managed!
So this year my daughter in law Abi suggested I make this little fella
He’s a ‘Grookey’ Pokemon and I immediately thought of using Molly Robbins creature creator mould as the base for the shape. I used the standing style mould for this and widened the head with cake pop dough.
Once the ganache had set I covered the cake with sugarpaste. I wasn’t brave enough to do it all in one go, so I did the front and back separately. Molly recommends Renshaw Premium Cover Paste for 3D cakes as it’s softer and easier to blend. I coloured it with Wilton leaf green gel colour. I used a large ball tool to indent two spaces for the eyes to sit in 👀
I then spent a little time smoothing out the icing as best I could before adding the details. I made the ears and the pieces for the top of the head the day before to allow them to harden up a bit!
After covering the board, this was the final result!
So there he is, my first ‘Grookey’ Cake 😀
For the delivery, I rang James, my son, to tell him we were on our way and he let us into the back garden to say happy birthday and hand over the cake. It was a bit strange all sitting in garden chairs 2 metres apart but the weather was fine and Abi had made a pot of tea and home baked croissants for us to have while we chatted.
After returning home, we got ready for James’s birthday party, which took the form of a family ‘Zoom’ quiz! All in all, it was a lovely day considering the restrictions. Thank goodness for technology eh?
Today is VE Day, so I’m going to end this post to go and bake some goodies for my neighbours. There may not be a street party, but there will definitely be cake! 😂
How are you all coping with the restrictions currently placed on our lives?
Here in the uk, we are into our 4th week of the special measures put into place to try and halt this terrible virus. Covid-19 has turned the world into a very strange place hasn’t it?
Because some of my medication lowers my immune system, I am in social isolation. My husband who has asthma also falls into this category. He is also my carer, so we are being very careful.
Food is being delivered to us, either by the supermarket (when we can get a delivery slot!) or by our son and daughter in law. Modern technology has been a boon for keeping in touch with family and friends, especially our daughter and her fiancé who live and work in Romania. They are currently teaching virtual classes to their pupils from their home!
What are you doing to fill your time? Are you working from home? Or are you part of the army of people on the frontline working to keep us all safe?
If you are, then I applaud you. You are all heroes in my eyes. I really hope that when this is all over, the world has a new found and lasting respect for all that you do. And that the community spirit that has arisen stays within us all.
Checking in on our neighbours should be something that we all do, virus or not, and speaking to the older generation, it’s how it used to be. When did we stop? When did most of us become so self absorbed that we forgot the simple actions that make us a community?
If anything positive has come out of this crazy situation, it is that while we have had to become more distant from each other physically, we’ve become much closer emotionally.
At this time of year, I would normally be baking up a storm, as our family has lots of celebrations between March and May. Starting with my daughter in law Abi’s birthday at the beginning of March, there’s also my brother in law, myself, mother in law, husband (60th!) and son. In amongst that there has been Mother’s Day, a 65th wedding anniversary and Easter, all times when we would have been together as a family. A young couple I was making a wedding cake for have had to cancel their plans, as have my brother and his partner.
But these are small sacrifices in order to stay as safe as possible.
My birthday wasn’t a complete wash out though 😃
Back in February, my lovely hubby bought both Abi and I a cake decorating experience at the Sugar and Crumbs kitchen with the wonderful Molly Robbins. It took place on Sunday 15th March, and I did wonder whether to go I must admit. At the time, the government were advising us not to go anywhere there was likely to be a lot of people in close proximity to each other. I had already backed out of attending the Awards Evening for the Pantomime Society after taking advice from my GP, but the cake class was small, and I was reassured by the precautionary measures that were being taken, so off we went.
I’m so glad we did! It turned out to be the last time I went anywhere other than the doctors!
Abi and I had a brilliant day decorating 3D cake doggies under the expert guidance of Molly. It was our first time in the Sugar and Crumbs kitchen, and a fantastic experience. Carol McFarland and her husband John made everyone feel very welcome in what is essentially their home, and the other ladies in the class were all really friendly. It’s definitely an experience I would like to repeat once things get back to ‘normal’
We decorated cakes baked in Molly’s amazing Creature Creator mould, with the addition of her new product, the ‘standing legs’
I have previously used the mould to make a laying down Unicorn cake (see below) so was already a fan, and was very excited to try something new.
What we all achieved on the day is testament to Molly’s expert tuition! The innovative design of her Creature Creator moulds and now the Creature Feet, are truly a game changer for making 3D cakes. Look what I made! Isn’t he adorable?
Here’s Molly to explain what we got up to!
Molly’s moulds come either as ‘laying down’ style, which you can then add the four leg Creature Feet to, or the ‘standing’ style with two legs!
However, mine and Abi’s cakey creations pale into insignificance compared to what my eldest niece produced just before that on March 8th! My first great nephew 🥰
Unfortunately, because of the lockdown, I haven’t been able to go for a cuddle yet, but Amy is sending daily photos to our family chat group, so I’m building up quite an album! And as a bonus, I can tease my brother Mark about being a Grandad!
On my actual birthday, I was going to bake myself a cake, but was persuaded not to by my hubby. He had a good reason though, as that evening my son and daughter in law arrived and sang happy birthday to me from the end of our drive, complete with a gorgeous cake baked by Abi 💕
I also set up a fundraiser on Facebook for my birthday, and thanks to my generous friends and family, raised £150 for the NHS in my area 😀
Well, I think that’s all for now
I know I always say it, but more than ever, please stay safe and healthy!
It all started when a couple of old school friends came to my Breast Cancer fundraiser (bake sale naturally!)
We were chatting away and decided it might be nice to have a reunion as it was 40 years since we sat our what were then ‘O levels‘
So I said I’d put out some feelers and see if anyone was interested. I was absolutely amazed and delighted with the response! And so the planning began, I booked a small private function room at a local venue, and in February this year, around 40 of us met up!
We were missing a few people because the weekend we chose just happened to be when ‘Storm Dennis’ struck, and a couple of ladies were ill, but it was a brilliant evening chatting, laughing and catching up with everyone. Speaking of laughing, this is my old class photo from the year I left aged 16!
We enjoyed it so much, we decided to do it again in 3 years, which is when we all turn 60! Oh my word! Where did all the time go?
In the above photo, I’m with Marcia, who was my partner in crime at the back of the class! And Tracy who I’ve known since primary school! In fact there were quite a few there that I’ve known since primary school! Maybe that can be my next project 😂
As you can see, a great time was had by all…and I don’t think we look 56/7 do we? Anyway, I know what you’re all thinking 🤔 This is Baking For Therapy…where’s the cake? Truth is, organising this event was amazing therapy for me, and the feedback from everyone who attended has been wonderful. And those of us who still live locally are going to meet up for regular catch ups which is fantastic 😀
Oh…..ok then…..here’s the cake 🎂
Until next time
Stay safe and healthy
Sugar and Crumbs lemon drizzle flavour icing sugar and prosecco flavoured icing sugar
Oh my, where to start? At its conception I suppose!
So, last year, I was asked to make a wedding cake for Rebecca and Danny. I’ve known Rebecca and her parents for a long time as they are all part of the Pantomime Society I am currently Chair of. Her Dad, Edward was our Director until recently, as well as designing and helping to build the set, writing the scripts, choreographing and performing, and Mum Bev was our props lady, as well as being Edward’s right hand woman! Rebecca has been performing in the Pantomime since she was young, recently helping with choreography as well, and when she met Danny, he became part of the backstage team.
I was pleased to be asked to make their engagement cake, a very ‘sweet’ affair, a few years ago.
So when they asked me to make their wedding cake I was very excited! Especially when I learned that they wanted a peacock theme!
I arranged a cake testing session for them, and provided four flavours as per their request. Lemon, red velvet, vanilla, and mint chocolate. On the day they liked them all! Whilst discussing the design, I realised that because they wanted peacock ‘feathers’ trailing down the side of the cake from the topper, and cupcakes carrying on the theme around the bottom of the cake, there was no reason that they couldn’t have them all!
So, this is what we went with. A 10” round bottom tier in lemon, an 8” round top tier in red velvet, and a mix of vanilla and mint chocolate cupcakes to finish. I used Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugars in lemon drizzle, cream cheese, velvet vanilla and mint chocolate for filling the layers/topping the cupcakes.
The topper was made using Renshaw flower and modelling paste coloured with Coloursplash Jade gel colour, then I added some Wilton leaf green to make a brighter shade, and precoloured Renshaw deep purple to layer the feathers. Gold accents were added using Faye Cahill shimmer gold lustre dust, which doesn’t show up much on the pictures, but had a lovely effect in real life!
I was so relieved when this cake came out well, I definitely started to feel the weight of responsibility the nearer it got to the wedding!
As usual, I made all the elements in stages. The two large cakes were baked and frozen 2 weeks before, and the feathers I tackled by just doing a few a day over a couple of weeks. I covered the 20” round cake drum a week in advance, crumb coated with white chocolate ganache 3 days before, covered with Select Ireland Platinum sugarpaste 2 days before, when I also baked and frosted the cupcakes. After dowelling and using royal icing to put the two cakes together, I added the ribbons, attached the topper and the feathers down the side with royal icing and boxed it up the day before, but I took the round ‘feathers’ with me on the day, and placed them on the cupcakes in situ.
All in all, it was a great, if a little scary experience but I’m now more confident in my abilities and looking forward to the next time!
I’m ashamed to say that it’s been a month since I last posted!
I’m guessing that, like me, you were all busy busy busy with the run up to Christmas?
Personally, I had other issues to deal with as well, with my husband, who is also my carer, being put ‘out of action’ with a suspected slipped disc 😣
Glen helps me with my personal care, keeps the house clean and tidy, does the laundry, is my ‘chauffeur’, and our little dog’s playmate.
I bake cakes and Chair a Panto Society only because he enables me to do so. Actually that’s not fair, close family and friends also have to take some credit for that! But my husband is there 24/7. He sees both sides. He sees my pure elation when I’ve successfully finished a cakey creation, or come back from a particularly good Panto rehearsal, but he also sees how long it takes for me to recover, and is there to wait on me hand and foot whilst I do! (Or just let me sleep 💤 )
Thank goodness for those aforementioned friends and family! They’ve been amazingly supportive, whilst Glen was frustrated by the slow recovery process. He’s ok now, but unlike me, he’s wasn’t used to limitations on his mobility, so it was hard on both of us. But you have to manage don’t you?
Anyway, back to just before Christmas, and actually even further back to September when at my Macmillan coffee morning, I offered a custom cake as a raffle prize. One of my elderly neighbours won and wanted to give it back because ‘they didn’t have anyone to gift a birthday cake to’. Glen, who had gone round to let her know she’d won, suggested a Christmas Cake, which I was more than happy to do.
Here’s what I came up with, a mix of traditional and contemporary, all liberally ‘twinkled’ with glitter dust!
On top of that the general busy-ness of Christmas and New Year has been partly responsible for my neglect, and Panto rehearsals became more intense too, the nearer we got to opening night, (Oh! and I had a couple of cake requests in there too! )
As you know, because of my condition, I have to factor in rest and recovery times from all of the above. Much as I love my therapeutic hobbies, they do incur ‘repercussions’. It’s my responsibility before I undertake any ‘activities’ to decide whether the benefits to my emotional health outweigh the physical after effects. If I think they do, I make sure I’ve allotted a few days to just rest.
Of course, that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t just affect me. I’m well aware that without the support of my wonderful family and friends, I couldn’t do it, for which I’m extremely thankful and blessed.
At home, where I do my baking, it’s usually hubby cleaning up after me then waiting on me hand and foot for a few days, (when he’s not out of action) and at rehearsals I have my Panto family making sure I’m not overdoing anything. I’m a very lucky lady!
Shortly before Christmas we had our annual Panto Christmas party. This was held at Northern Relish, a local venue, and they really did us proud. I go there every week with my Mum to have lunch with my son James who works nearby, so I knew the food was good, but they really exceeded all my expectations. We had a fabulous night, and to say thank you, I took them a cake, Rudolph, pictured below was a rich chocolate cake, with solid chocolate antlers. In fact I used almost a kilo of chocolate altogether!
Christmas brought my daughter and her boyfriend home from Bucharest for 5 days. As if that wasn’t enough of a treat, they also insisted on cooking on Christmas Day, and a brilliant job they did too. They actually ended up cooking on Boxing Day too which was an added bonus, but it was just a really lovely family time – minus my son and daughter in law who were in New Zealand and Australia! But that’s ok because we had an early Christmas celebration with them before they went, and spoke to them on the day. We hosted my Mum, Glen’s parents, and my niece and her boyfriend too, so it was still a houseful!
It all flew past in no time at all and then there was Panto! We’ve just had our last night, after a very successful run, and it was a very emotional finale, as our very talented Director, script writer, set designer, performer and my Vice Chairman, not to mention a very dear friend, Edward Munday resigned. His involvement over the past years has seen the Society grow enormously and he will be very sadly missed. I will still see him, his lovely wife Bev and family socially, but Greenbrook Pantomime Society will not be the same without him. There were tears from everyone on Saturday night 😔 showing just how highly he is thought of by those who matter, the adult cast, the children, the parents and everyone who has helped out in any of his fantastic productions 💕
So – the other cakes I’ve made recently included this Golden Wedding Cake for a friend’s parents. I sparkled it up with gold cake lace, flowers and lettering and was really pleased with the result.
And more recently a lady my hubby used to work with asked me to make this pretty white chocolate and raspberry confection for her daughter’s 21st. I do love a bit of glam!
My next cake is a wedding cake…eek! My friends Edward and Bev, who I mentioned earlier, have a lovely daughter Rebecca who is trusting me with her design. I’m definitely feeling the responsibility of delivering something she and her fiancé Danny will love 💓 but that will be a whole separate post I think!
Well, I think I’ve caught you up with everything now, so I’ll stop waffling!
In my last post I mentioned that I’d been involved in testing a new flavour for Sugar and Crumbs fantastic flavoured icing sugar range.
Before I tell you more about that, here’s some background about the Sugar and Crumbs company.
I can’t explain it any better than Carol McFarland, the company’s founder, who says:
“It all started back in 2013 with a chat around the kitchen table. I had recently got back into baking and cake decorating after getting a new kitchen to play in. I was frustrated to find that adding different natural flavours to my bakes wasn’t as simple as it ought to be. Out of the desire to find a simple way of bringing a natural boost to my bakes the recipe for Sugar and Crumbs Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar was born. Sugar and Crumbs has now grown into a fantastic company and community with over 20 employees selling 4000+ cake decorating and baking related products all over the world. Our social community is a fantastic place to learn about all things “cake” and we have over 100,000 followers across our social platforms”
As a member of the Facebook group ‘Sugar and Crumbs All About Cake’ community, I can wholeheartedly agree that it’s a brilliantly supportive and friendly group to be part of.
I can’t remember how I first came across Sugar and Crumbs icing sugars, but once I tried them I was amazed. Weirdly, I’d tried adding milkshake powder to plain icing sugar to flavour it myself, but it just wasn’t fine enough!
So, back to the testing. Carol explained that for some time they had been trying to develop a cream cheese flavoured icing sugar, and that they had narrowed it down to 2 recipes, which they wanted bloggers to ‘test’.
The parameters (after using it to make a buttercream) were:
Taste from the bowl
Taste with your choice of cake (Red Velvet in my case)
Taste after 4 hours
Taste after 6 hours
Taste after 8 hours
Taste the following day, from the bowl and on the cake
Provide results from both samples!
I have to say I would (and did!) eat either one, so whichever one ‘wins’ I’ll be a happy bunny! If I had to choose I would go for sample B as it was a little less sweet. But both complimented the red velvet cupcakes I put them on. Interestingly, my hubby preferred sample A, but also said he’d happily eat either one!
As mentioned earlier, Sugar and Crumbs has grown into a company that supplies not just natural flavoured icing sugars, but somewhere you can get all your cake decorating supplies from. In my opinion, at very competitive prices too. More than that, Carol refuses to stock copies of original products (such as you might find on cheap online websites, such as Wish for example)
Original creators spend a lot of time and money making sure their products are good quality, conform to all necessary food standards, paying for product licensing and patents etc, and their businesses and reputation can be seriously affected by this. Imagine getting a negative review or complaint from a customer who thinks they have bought your carefully researched product. These reviews are readily available for anyone to read on the internet. The consumer suffers too, as they don’t always know that they are buying an inferior copy.
A good example are the original Russian piping tips. Carol worked exclusively with the inventor of these marvellously innovative tips, and if they’re not called ‘Nifty Nozzles’, they’re not the original Russian piping tips! How do I know? Because I was taken in myself!
So when you visit the Sugar and Crumbs website (which I strongly encourage you to do!) you can be assured that you will be buying quality products, and that you are supporting original creators, inventors and producers.
In addition to this, if you follow the Sugar and Crumbs Facebook page ‘Sugar and Crumbs with Nifty Nozzles’, every Monday and most Thursday evenings at 8pm, there is a 2 hour Facebook live tutorial session with guest tutors on every aspect of cake decorating you can think of! You can ask questions in real time, and the ‘banter’ is hilarious 😂
Phew! Well that’s my test results (and a bit of a Sugar and Crumbs love in 😂)
Disclaimer: This post isn’t sponsored by, nor have I received payment from Sugar and Crumbs. I just genuinely have the utmost respect for the company and its ethics.
But don’t take my word for it, have a look and make up your own mind 😀
I can’t believe that it’s been a month since I posted!
Preparations for the Christmas Fair went much slower than I anticipated, as my helper (Mum) ended up being ill for 2 weeks, so I just had to soldier on as best as I could.
Up to the week before, I concentrated on things that could be prepared in advance, and just took it slowly which was fine.
Of the things I had planned to make fresh…fudge, gingerbread, shortbread etc…..only the fudge got made and packaged. As I also had a Children in need cake to make, I just couldn’t find time for the others without making myself physically ill!
I had Mum to help package and label from a few days before when she had recovered, and Glen (hubby) to do the delivery and set up with me.
However, 2 days afterwards I received a call from the organiser asking for more fudge and Christmas cakes! This meant buying more supplies, making the fudge, allowing it to set, and packaging up another 6 batches to take over! And decorating another half dozen Christmas cakes!
In the end, I brought very little back home with me, which was a great result. However, it did mean making yet more fudge and reindeer hot chocolate cones for my local church Christmas fair last Saturday!
In amongst all this I also ‘tested’ 2 versions of a new Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing (cream cheese, mmmm yummy, more on that next time) made 2 birthday cakes, and cupcakes and scones for the Ladies fellowship Christmas lunch! And had an early ‘Christmas’ celebration with my son and daughter in law as they are away in New Zealand and Australia for most of December. Add Panto rehearsals into the mix, and my time management almost went out of the window!….almost.
I managed by scaling back and doing only what was essential. As mentioned earlier, that meant not taking some of the things I’d planned to take, but it was the only way I could make it work.
All was going to the ‘new’ plan, when more spanners were thrown into the works last week, with my poor hubby copping for it. Firstly by having a cluster of three migraines, and then by seriously hurting his back. Luckily family and friends rallied round to help, God bless them, but he is still in a lot of pain ☹️
My son and Mum helped set up and clear away at the Church Christmas Fair, and friends have been giving me lifts as hubby can’t even get into the car let alone drive it! My son also came to take the dog out for a proper walk, and picked up what was left of my Christmas fair stock to take to work.
I’m really hoping that Glen is well enough to attend the Panto Christmas meal on Friday evening, but will have to play that one by ear. At the moment it’s looking unlikely ☹️
Anyway, here are a few pictures of what I managed to do over the last few weeks. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of the Christmas fair goodies, as the priority was just getting stuff done!
This cake is the second of three cake requests from my friend Sue, who seems to have an unlimited supply of grandchildren with birthdays close together!
The first one was this ‘Dirt Bike’ Cake
And the second one, which was for yesterday is this Jurassic World Cake
The cake itself is 4 layers of my go to chocolate cake, sandwiched together with fudge frosting, and crumb coated with ganache. Once that was set, I applied a second coat of ganache, and smoothed it out as best as I could, ready for applying the sugarpaste.
I started off with white sugarpaste and added some black to make it a sort of marbled grey, then took a smaller piece and made it slightly darker. I added some Tylo powder to this smaller piece so that it would be firm enough to ‘stand’ on its own. I took some Renshaw brown and mixed some white into that to make it lighter, then made the gates and the triangular-ish stones at the side. I used this diagram from a google image search as my guide.
I used a wood grain impression mat and my dresden tool to mark the gates. I also covered a 12” cake drum with green sugarpaste.
The bulk of the grey sugarpaste was then rolled out and used to cover the whole cake. I was a bit concerned about doing this, as I prefer either Renshaw Extra, The Sugarpaste or Select Ireland for covering deeper cakes. I’d almost run out, and ended up mixing what was left with some Renshaw Premium which is a little softer. It actually worked really well 😀 And wasn’t too hard on my hands for kneading!
For the logo, I took the remaining darker grey, and attached an icing image, before cutting around it. I left it draped over the tin I baked in, so it would have the right ‘curve’
I only paid £1.79 for two images, so it was well worth it to get the perfect look, which would have been difficult to achieve in sugarpaste! I’ll leave a link below for where I got it. The seller does lots of different images, not just Jurassic World!
I added the covered cake to the board, and while I was waiting for the sugarpaste elements to dry a little, the airbrush came out to play 😀
I started with the board and gave it a light spray of green, just to add some shading, then did the same with the cake but using black this time. Finally, I airbrushed the top in blue.
Going back to my now dry-ish sugarpaste gate etc, I applied them to the cake with some edible glue. As a finishing touch I used my nifty nozzles large grass tip to make a semi circle at the front of the cake. This gave me something to put the lettering on 😀
I also piped some ‘grass’ on top for something to keep the three toy dinosaurs in place. Et Voila!
I’m really pleased with how this one turned out, and as an added bonus, Sue and Mick stopped for a cuppa and a catch up when they came to collect it 😀
This time, I’ve been baking for a friend’s grandson, who absolutely loves dirt bikes! And chocolate cake 😋
Happily, the bike ‘topper’ was provided, saving me trying to make it out of modelling paste!
The cake is four delicious layers of my go to chocolate cake recipe, sandwiched together with an easy chocolate fudge frosting. The whole thing was then crumb coated and final coated with ganache to give a firm base for the sugarpaste.
The board was covered in Renshaw’s Premium Coverpaste White, which I coloured with Wilton leaf green gel colour. It was then imprinted using Sweet Stamps ‘Vanilla’ letter set. Instead of painting the letters, I decided to try airbrushing them to see if it made the message stand out. It worked pretty well, but I think I could have been a bit more heavy handed with it! I still get a bit scared I’ll overdo it…more practice needed 😂
I find it hard to get a good orange colour by adding colour gel, so I used a ready made one from Renshaw for the logo. The badges and logo were cut out by hand, and a ganached top and drip added to the muddy effect I wanted. Whilst the ganache was still wet I added some crushed up chocolate biscuit to the top to represent soil. A simple green buttercream border covered where the cake met the board 😀
And there it is guys! My first ever ‘Dirt Bike Cake’
Many thanks to my friend Susan Tighe for asking me to make this, I had a lot of fun!
As always, until next time,
Stay safe and healthy
Products used in the making of this cake: Note, some links may be affiliate links, which means I may get a small commission if you buy via that link
In this post, I thought I would give you an insight into how I manage my baking with my particular mobility and pain issues.
Before I begin, here’s a reminder of my condition, OPLL
As you can see, it’s a debilitating chronic condition, with a whole host of possible symptoms. Mine is the mixed type, and was picked up after a fall in 2012 pushed the ossification into my spinal cord causing severe multilevel compression from C2-C7. Up to that point, I was blissfully unaware of it, although I now know that it would have caught up with me eventually. The difference being that the symptoms would have manifested gradually, possibly giving me more options for treatment. Because of my injury, my options were limited. It didn’t help that even after my fall, it was a good five months before I was given the mri scan that eventually provided the diagnosis. By that time my options were surgery, or be in a wheelchair within 12 months. Not much of a choice huh? Needless to say, I had the surgery (cervical laminoplasty) to create space around my spinal cord. Unfortunately, there was some atrophy and irreversible damage. My current symptoms are chronic pain in my legs, buttocks, hands and feet resembling a burning sensation (think sunburn!) weakness in my arms, hands and neck, myelopathy, numbness and tingling, muscle spasms, difficulty with balance, problems with grip, difficulty urinating, anxiety and depression. In 2014, I had further surgery to implant a spinal cord stimulator. Along with my array of medications, this helps with the pain in my lower body.
So now you have the background! As you can imagine, it took me a good few years to come to terms with the lifestyle changes this necessitated, but that’s a whole different post! For now, I’m just going to concentrate on the physical limitations, except to say that it was during counselling that I was advised to find a hobby that was (a) doable, and (b) something I actually enjoyed!
Which brings us to the baking! (At last, I hear you cry!)
Baking was something I had always enjoyed from when my kids were small and started having birthday parties. I would try to create their favourite toys or cartoon characters out of cake, with varying degrees of success! For more adult family birthdays, I had a go to chocolate fudge cake, but that was the extent of my repertoire really. I made everything by hand with just a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon. The availability of ready to roll icing in every colour under the sun in the 1980s was a game changer for children’s cakes though! I think that was when I started experimenting with character cakes for the kids birthdays! Nowadays, I take photos of every cake I make, but mobile phones didn’t have cameras then. I’m sure we must have taken photos at birthday parties, but they’ll be in a box in the attic somewhere….and maybe that’s a good thing!
Here’s a few more recent ones:
It was after my second surgery in 2014, that I finally felt able to revisit the advice I’d been given about focusing on a hobby. Up until then, I hadn’t really accepted my new ‘reality’, and wasn’t ready to listen. That’s the thing about advice. It doesn’t matter how good it is if you’re not in the right place on your journey to accept it. But I was reminded of it during a later counselling session, and this time, it was the right time, if that makes sense?
So, how did I go about it? Well, I discovered this magical place called YouTube, where experienced Cake Artists were miraculously willing to share their skills! You can find a list of recommended channels on my homepage if you want to take a look yourself 😀 I became obsessed with watching tutorials and trying them out. But it was difficult, because I could no longer rely on my wooden spoon and mixing bowl. My hands just didn’t work like that anymore. I couldn’t stand for long either, or sit for long periods without supporting my neck for that matter.
However, my lovely husband could see that my interest was piqued, and that it was having a positive effect on my mental health. I knew there were appliances that could help me, but financially, we weren’t in a position to go on a spending spree! But he did buy me a stand mixer for my birthday. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen 😀 It was a Morphy Richards Stand Mixer similar to this one, in a gorgeous ruby red colour, and it was wonderful!
I could mix up a cake batter in no time, and without hurting my hands. The house that we lived in at the time had a very long kitchen which also had a small dining table in there, so rather than stand at the worktop, I set up a baking station there so I could sit down.
The actual decorating part was a bit more tricky, but I found that if I took things at my own pace, and kept it reasonably simple, I managed. There is a ‘cost’ involved of course. Even having a timetable of 3 days didn’t leave me totally unscathed. Day 1, I would bake, Day 2, fill and first coat of buttercream, Day 3, final buttercream or fondant covering, and add any decorations. Day 4, sleep or rest all day! (Sometimes Day 5 too) Part of the advice I was given was to weigh up the benefits and the consequences. And of course, plan for those consequences. The pleasure I get from completing a cake, whether it’s a family birthday, a friend’s grandchild or just a treat, also releases pain relieving endorphins, which means I often don’t feel as uncomfortable whilst I’m ‘in the moment’, but I’ve learned to factor in my ‘rest days’ afterwards, by making sure I have no other plans for at least 2 days. Hubby knows that he’ll be practically babysitting me during that time too. But, you can’t beat the satisfaction of a job well done, the happiness on the face of the recipient, and the joy of doing something you love. There’s also the feeling that you are ‘contributing’ in some way too, which is something I struggled with when I had to give up work.
So basically, you weigh up the pros and cons, and if you think the former outweighs the latter, go for it! And of course, every day is different. Anyone who suffers from chronic pain from whatever cause, knows that there are ‘bad days’. At those times, you have to be sensible and honest with yourself, which is sometimes harder than it sounds.
A few years later, and I’ve moved on from ‘Ruby’ my first mixer. She served me well, but I wanted something a little more powerful. So when the chance to buy a Kitchenaid stand mixer cropped up, along came ‘Luther’ Kitchenaid Artisan Stand Mixer. Isn’t he handsome?
The Kitchenaid is a joy to work with, and mine came with a flex edge beater, which scrapes the bowl down as it mixes. Three years ago, we had to sell our family home of nearly 20 years, and move to a bungalow, so Luther now takes pride of place in my new ‘designed for me’ kitchen. I’ve picked up lots of cake decorating tools and gadgets over the past few years, all making my hobby a lot easier to enjoy. Another really useful appliance is a food processor, especially one with attachments for slicing and grating as well as chopping. I can even make pastry again! I have this one
I do appreciate that some of these items are not in everyone’s budget. They wouldn’t have been in mine if we hadn’t have had to move house! But I know I’m going to use them a lot because of this passion I have found for baking, and the therapeutic value of this hobby of mine has been nothing short of miraculous!
If you’re not sure it’s for you, but you’d like to give it a try, ALDI Special Buys do their own range of appliances called ‘Ambiano’ to start you off, which are very reasonably priced. If you don’t have problems with your hands, you can also pick up an electric hand mixer in most supermarkets. These are quite capable of mixing up a simple cake batter and buttercream too.
Whatever you decide to do, and I do recommend giving baking a try 😀 finding something to focus on, that you enjoy, definitely has therapeutic value, both physically (remember those endorphins?) and mentally. It’s called distraction technique and really does work! And if you do try baking, you get cake 🍰 as a bonus!
Please do let me know how you get on, or tell me what hobbies you have found therapeutic for you 😀 I have another one to share too! But that’s a whole other story!
Before I start, I have a confession to make. I had no clue who DJ Marshmello was until I got this cake request! Up to a few months ago when ‘Fortnite’ cake tutorials appeared on YouTube, I’d never heard of that either!
My first ‘Fortnite’ cake was inspired by a tutorial by Sweetie Darling, a lovely lady I follow on YouTube and Instagram.
Sweetie Darling’s tutorial
So when I was asked to make a feature of DJ Marshmello, I turned to Google images, found one I thought I could replicate easily and set to work!
I panelled the side of the cake in white sugarpaste, leaving the top roughly frosted with green buttercream to represent a grass effect. I then rolled out another piece of white sugarpaste with a little added tylose, and left it uncovered whilst I traced the image onto baking parchment. I cut that out and rubbed a bit of Trex (shortening) on it before placing it on the sugarpaste. I went over the details with the pointy end of a Dresden tool, to give me some guidelines, and then cut round the outline with a scalpel. I then rolled out some black sugarpaste, cut out the eye and mouth shapes from my image, and used those on the black sugarpaste. The other details and the outline, I did with an edible food marker. It was then easy enough to apply the whole thing to the cake 😀
I really struggled with the loot llama. I don’t know if my tylose has gone off (can it do that?) but it didn’t seem to be hardening at all! And the colours seem a bit ‘wishy washy’ on the photo, although they did look a bit brighter in real life. All in all, I prefer the llama I made in the first version, but the birthday boy loved it, and that’s all that matters! I also made some bandages and a treasure chest to keep the llama company, and I thought the bottom of the cake looked a bit bare so I used some green sugarpaste rolled quite thinly, to make a long grass effect border.
The cake itself was chocolate fudge, filled with a fudgy frosting, and crumb coated with milk chocolate ganache. You can find the recipes on the recipe page, if you want to try them 😋
So, here’s the final result!
After I’d taken these photos, I decided that I didn’t like the positioning of the Fortnite logo ( I had thought the jaunty angle was a good idea) and moved it so that it was more central. I also noticed that there was some cornflour ‘dust’ on the board…Doh! So I brushed that off too. Unfortunately, by that time it was evening so the photo has shadows. Nevertheless, here it is. The birthday boy’s Mum sent me a photo the following day when he saw it, and gave me permission to include it in my post 😀
NB: I went over the lettering again before the cake was collected too!
Ok, so I know that some of you won’t recognise the title, which was the theme tune for an old British sit com ‘Dad’s Army’
The premise of the show was based on a group of volunteers for what was known as ‘The Home Guard’ during the 2nd World War.
Here’s what google says about it:
“In World War II, with a German invasion looming, the defence of Walmington-on-Sea rests in the hands of the local bank manager and a motley collection of volunteers in the Home Guard unit. Despite being woefully ill-equipped, the rag-tag crew is ready to take on invading troops from across the Channel.”
Here’s a clip from the original show and a picture of the original cast
I remember watching it in the 1970’s and it was a firm family favourite, despite the subject matter. Perhaps because it was so long after the war had ended, but I’m sure it was still a bit of a risk by the creators of the show. There has recently been a remake of some lost episodes, and there is a stage play.
Anyway, that was a very long way of telling you how I ended up making a cake!
One of my friends recently played the main character ‘Captain Mainwaring’ in the play, and asked me to make a small cake for the Director to celebrate their final performance. For once, YouTube failed me! Not a Dad’s Army cake tutorial in sight 😕 A quick look on google images was much better for inspiration though. There were lots of suggestions for large cakes, but looking through the images (non cake related) I saw exactly what I needed 💡
I took the helmet as my inspiration, and set to work 😊 I started by baking a vanilla cake (see recipe page) in a 6” hemisphere pan. Once it was baked and cooled, I gave it a crumbcoat of vanilla buttercream. After chilling it in the fridge for half an hour, I rolled out some sugarpaste that I had coloured with Wilton gel colour ‘Leaf green’ and a bit of black to dull down the green a bit, and covered the cake. The Wilton colours were part of this set. I used some shelf liner (thoroughly washed and dried!) to create a mesh like texture on the sugarpaste. The remaining sugarpaste I added tylose powder to, then rolled out a strip to form the brim of the helmet and textured that too! Tylose powder turns sugarpaste into gumpaste which dries harder, which was perfect for the brim. I also used it to make the foliage, and left it to dry over a foam flower former so that they would dry with a little shape instead of flat.
The Dad’s Army script is full of what have become iconic phrases, so the finishing touch was adding the little flags, with some of the most recognisable ones written on. And this was the final result guys!
My friend also asked for 36 cupcakes for the cast. I don’t have a picture of them, but I mixed up some buttercream in camouflage colours, and put stripes of each colour in the piping bag. I then used the Wilton 1M tip to create a swirl on top. As this request was a bit short notice, I found some edible cupcake toppers on eBay, that my friend added to them after he collected everything. He also gave me a donation to my Macmillan total whilst he was here. Thank you so much Darren Brierley 😍
The feedback from Darren was that the last night of the play went brilliantly and everyone enjoyed the cakes 😀
The first thing I did when I got home, and I mean literally the same afternoon 😂 was make a unicorn with the laying down style mould. One of my sons work colleagues saw a picture of it and asked me to make one for her granddaughters 3rd birthday. The original one I made was white….
But apparently little Reys favourite colours are pastel pink and lilac, so this time I changed it up a bit 🦄 She also wanted chocolate cake (see recipe page)
After baking, I made up some milk chocolate ganache and gave the cake a couple of coats which gave me a lovely firm base for the sugarpaste. I coloured some white ‘The Sugarpaste’ with Wilton pink gel colour for the main body of the cake, and then did the same in smaller amounts with Wilton lemon yellow, purple, blue and leaf green from a set of 8 that I’ve had for a while, but it’s still available from Sugar and Crumbs. I’ve linked it at the end of the post.
I took some of the lemon yellow and added tylose to it to make the horn. Tylose makes the sugarpaste harden like gum paste. I tried making a paint with Sugarflair gold lustre dust and vodka, but it wasn’t going on very well. It kept streaking, so I left it to dry then dry dusted it instead, which worked much better 😀
I shaped the legs as per Molly’s instruction leaflet, but instead of adding the snout after covering the cake, I put it on underneath, attaching it with cocktail sticks and edible glue and leaving it to dry for a while before covering with the pastel pink.
After that, it was playtime! I tried a different ‘hairstyle’ this time around. Added some ears and the horn,
I’d marbled some of the pastel colours together to cover the cake drum, which I was really pleased with, it looked so pretty 😍 Then I impressed ‘Happy Birthday Rey’ with my Sweet stamps, and painted inside the impressions with gold. I’m so impressed (pun intended) with this set. I don’t have a steady hand due to my nerve damage, so having those beautiful guidelines was perfect. Mine is the ‘Vanilla’ set but they do quite a few different ones and they all look gorgeous ❤️
After adding a pink ribbon to the drum, I gave everything a quick spritz with PME pearl lustre spray, which finished it off with a beautiful sheen.
And here she is!
Little Rey absolutely loved it, and feedback on the cake itself was that it was delicious 😋
I’m so pleased that I got to make another Unicorn, and can’t wait to see Molly’s new ideas for the moulds at November’s Sugar and Crumbs Social Morning. Christmas themed so should be amazing 🎅🏼
Hi everyone, before any panic sets in, this is not about my brother who had a heart attack last month! He is still recovering, but doing well 😀
No, the latest instalment started in the same way…a telephone call…but from my son. Tuesday morning on the 10th September quite early, he called for some advice. Bear in mind that he never takes time off work, so it was very unusual. Anyway, he was suffering from stomach pain, which he had assumed was indigestion, but it wasn’t going away. After asking him what sort of pain, where it was etc, I thought it could be appendicitis, but he had no fever or nausea. He wasn’t eating though, said he didn’t have an appetite. Anyone who knows my son, knows that is a big deal! The boy likes his food!
I told him to call 111 (urgent care, not emergency) for more advice and they told him to call his GP. He was triaged over the phone by the practice nurse, who told him to call again if it hadn’t gone away or got worse in a couple of days.
So on Thursday 12th (my Mum’s birthday) he got an appointment with the GP at 9.30am. After a physical examination, appendicitis was diagnosed, and an ambulance duly took him into hospital, where the offending article was removed later that day. If you’ve read my post re my brother, you’ll notice that his heart attack took place on my daughter’s birthday! There’s a rather troubling theme emerging!
He had a laparoscopic procedure, and out of one incision was a drain with a bag attached, but where the drain emerged, he was bleeding profusely 😲 By the time we visited in the evening, he’d had three gown and bed linen changes! Two days later they restitched it and put him on coagulants. Luckily that worked, or he was due for another surgery to see if they’d nicked a blood vessel!
So, it’s been a rather fraught few weeks as you can imagine. We’ve got another family birthday coming up next week, so if anybody mentions indigestion!……..
On to more pleasant subjects, Panto rehearsals have started 😀 We’ve had the Principal read through and rehearsal, and the children have had their registration evening and rehearsal, so it’s full steam ahead for ‘Treasure Island – A Modern Panto’, written by our director Edward Munday. Very exciting!
In amongst all this, I held My Macmillan Coffee Morning at home last weekend. I was worried that I wouldn’t raise much this year as Macmillan Coffee Mornings have become so popular that a lot of my friends and acquaintances hold their own events. However, my amazing family, friends and neighbours helped me raise a fantastic £180, which I’m really pleased with 😀
My Mum made a chocolate orange cake and fruit scones to complete our offerings and we got it just right. Not too many leftovers, and they went to Panto rehearsal with me 😋
Well, that’s it from me for now, check out the links below. One is for a fantastic giveaway from ‘Mancake’ which is well worth a look!
The 2nd one is an adorable tutorial from ‘Thalia’s Cakes’ celebrating the arrival of autumn 🍂 (or ‘fall’ in other parts of the world) with a cute Pumpkin cake.
The third one is a ‘Lazy Unicorn Cake’ tutorial from ‘Rachel’s Enchanting Cakes’ using Molly Robbins Creature Creator mould. Ingenious 😀 The link above will take you to Sugar and Crumbs website, but you can also get it direct from Molly here.
As promised in my last post, I have recreated the chocolate honeycomb cake I made to say thank you to the Cardiac Unit at Torbay hospital, for the excellent care of my brother after his recent heart attack. Before I continue, a quick update. Mark is continuing to make slow but steady improvement. The ‘slow’ part is driving him crackers with frustration mind you! But he’s following all the rehabilitation advice and trying to be a patient patient 😀
So, on to the cake! It’s based on the Cadbury Crunchie Bar, which was famously advertised (in the UK at least) as giving you ‘that Friday Feeling’, and also by the chocolate honeycomb flavoured icing sugar from the Sugar and Crumbs range. I used it in place of some of the caster sugar in the cake batter as well as the buttercream, and oh my! It was delicious!
I started by making 3 x 6” round cakes (recipe below) Once cooled, I levelled the tops and split them all in two, making 6 layers in all
I then added a layer of buttercream, and sprinkled on some chopped ‘Crunchie’ for extra….well….crunch!
I continued stacking and layering, and by the time I’d used 5 cake layers, it was pretty tall, so I didn’t use the 6th one in the end. I gave it a light layer of buttercream on the sides and top, and stuck more pieces of Crunchie randomly all round the cake.
To finish, I used a piping bag with a Wilton 1M tip to add a border round the top, and more Crunchie bits in the middle.
I used some cake offcuts, buttercream and leftover Crunchie bits to make cake pop balls too! Waste not, want not!
And the finished product came with me on Sunday evening to the first read through of ‘Treasure Island’, my Panto Society’s January 2020 production! Reading the script for the first time is always exciting, but when I found out my character name is ‘Mad Dog Maghee’ (in pirate guise at least) I knew it was going to be a hoot!
The rest of my week is also quite exciting. Tomorrow, my niece, her fiancé and dog Ellie are coming to stay until Sunday. It’s my Mums birthday on Thursday, so we’re going for lunch, then I’ll be baking in the afternoon, and down to Panto again in the evening for the chorus registration. Friday will be spent cake decorating, then Saturday morning I have a baby cake being collected, and in the afternoon a family get together to officially celebrate Mums birthday. After that I shall sleep through the next 3 days! (You think I’m joking. I’m not, that’s how long it will take me to recover!)
However, I will have had a lovely few days with my family, and the ‘payback’ is the other side of the balance sheet. The enjoyment is worth the consequences!
More on birthday cake, baby cake and Panto next time
Mix the baking spread and sugars together in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until pale and creamy.
Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together in a separate bowl
Add the eggs to the creamed mixture, one at a time whilst the mixer is running, making sure each one is incorporated before adding the next. Add a tablespoon of the dry mix with eggs after the 2nd one has been added to prevent curdling. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl, then add vanilla and half the remaining dry mix, just until incorporated. Add yoghurt and rest of the dry mix, then scrape down the bowl a final time.
Using a spatula, finish mixing by hand to ensure everything is well incorporated.
Divide batter between the 3 tins, which should be greased and have a circle of parchment paper in the bottom.
Optional step: Add baking strips to ensure even baking. I use PME
Bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto cake rack to cool completely. Level and split each cake into two layers.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment and beat until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar in small amounts while the mixer is running. Add the salt during this stage too. Add enough milk to achieve the texture desired. Use to fill and cover the cake as described or anyway you please 😀 Add Crunchie bits if desired.
Here in the UK, we’re a bit unfamiliar with the concept of ‘Summer’. Oh, we know it’s a season that follows spring and precedes autumn, but more often than not the lines between are somewhat ‘blurry’. But not at the moment. At the moment it’s 32 Celsius 🌞 and because we’re not used to it, we’re not very well prepared. Trains have been cancelled because the overhead lines are overheating for goodness sake 🥵
For me, it’s both a bonus and a burden. Because I have nerve damage from my spinal cord injury, my skin is hypersensitive. This means that any extremes in temperature cause pain. So although I love the sunshine, I don’t cope well unless I can cool down.
Hence my hubby buying an inflatable paddling pool and blowing it up in the back garden this afternoon bless him. It’s funny but if I can keep my feet cool it helps the rest of me feel cool too!
Anyway, I haven’t felt like being in a warm kitchen this week, so no baking! Fortunately I haven’t had anyone to bake for, so I could allow myself a break 😀
This Sunday though, I am making a cake for a baby shower, which I will be starting tomorrow (thankfully, it is forecast to be a bit cooler 🙏 ) and I have a portable electric fan I can take into the kitchen just in case too…..I just had an image pop into my head involving a fan, flour and icing sugar 😂 …..better be careful where I situate it!
So, seeing as I haven’t any cake to show you for a few days, I’ve spent some of my spare time putting together a couple of ‘movies’ to showcase some of my past cakey creations.
Hope you like them 😍 I’ll be back in a few days with a ‘real’ cake 🍰
If you’ve ever watched Extreme Cake Makers on channel 4, you’ll know exactly who Molly Robbins is, but for the less cake obsessed of you I’ll explain.
The series showcases lots of very talented cake makers, creating stunning and challenging cakes. One of these is Molly. She has a background in special effects and worked in the film industry before getting the baking bug. If you’ve ever seen her cakes, there’s no doubt that she’s brought the skills she learned in her previous career.
Last Saturday I had the chance to meet her in person when me, my Mum and my daughter in law Abigail went along to a Sugar and Crumbs Social morning. Molly was there as a guest host and demonstrated her new product ‘The Creature Creator’
There are two very well made, sturdy silicone moulds that enable you to bake a basic shape, then use it to create any cake you want without carving a thing! It means less wasted cake, needs no internal support, and saves hours of painstakingly shaving off bits of cake trying to get the perfect base. It’s a definite game changer for hobbyists and professionals alike. As a bonus, it’s dishwasher safe too 😀
There are two moulds. One is for a laying down figure, and one a sitting up figure. Amazingly, Molly demonstrated how to decorate them both in under an hour! All whilst chatting to her audience, and the whole thing being filmed and going out on Facebook live!
It was my first time at one of the Sugar and Crumbs Social Mornings, but it certainly won’t be my last. We had such a fun time 😀 On arrival, we were all given a free raffle ticket and the opportunity to buy more. The prizes included both cakes that Molly had just decorated, more beautiful cakes that had been made by Carol, the founder of Sugar and Crumbs, and her team (including a very on trend fault line cake)
There was also a raffle for ten bags of the innovative S&C flavoured icing sugars, which my daughter in law was lucky enough to win, and generously shared with me and Mum. It was all very informal, and the S&C team were so friendly and welcoming that it would be rude not to go back to be honest 😂
After the demo, we were treated to cake (of course) and a cuppa, got time to chat, and then let loose in the S&C warehouse to do some shopping! I bought a mould (I already had one 😍) and some other bits and pieces (they have a fantastic range of products!) and when we were leaving, we all got a free bag of chocolate honeycomb flavoured icing sugar. Then because I’d spent over £20, I got another free bag! Rose and Mint flavour which sounds very interesting. Sugar and Crumbs is an online shop and this offer is still on by the way 😉
When I got home, I couldn’t wait to try out one of my moulds, and we just happened to be having a family get together on Sunday, which was excuse enough for me (like I need an excuse 😂)
I decided to use the laying down style, and make a unicorn 🦄 You get a recipe and full instructions for a couple of designs in the box. Neither of these was a unicorn however, but Molly was selling the instruction booklet for it at the demo, so we bought one. Unfortunately it was in Abi’s handbag, but undeterred, I remembered that Molly had demonstrated it on a previous S&C Facebook live. So with the help of my very good friend Youtube, I was all set!
In the instructions, Molly recommended greasing and flouring the mould. I’d definitely stick to that. I used cake release, and had a bit of bother getting it out, but a bit of gentle persuasion, and it thankfully came out without any damage. I baked it on Saturday afternoon, crumb coated and covered with a white sugarpaste base (I used Renshaw Premium) then did all the fun stuff, adding all the details, on Sunday morning.
I used Molly’s lemon madeira recipe, and S&C lemon drizzle icing sugar in the buttercream. On a side note, I also got 12 cupcakes out of the remaining batter! I must admit, I’m quite pleased with my first attempt 😀 Can’t wait to try the sitting up one next!
I’ll keep you posted when I try it, but until next time
You may remember that back when I made the ‘Zelda Cake’, I promised to document it photographically and produce a pictorial. Here’s a reminder of the finished cake……
And I shall now attempt to get all the pictures in the right order! Here goes…
I made 2 cakes separately as I only have one 9″ Cake pan! So you’ll need to double the ingredients if you want a taller cake 🍰
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 3-5 minutes until smooth and pale in colour. Add the sifted icing sugar in 3 or 4 additions, scraping the bowl down frequently. Add the vanilla and beat for a further 5 minutes on low to medium setting.I found a template for the emblem on google images and used it to cut it out of yellow fondant, rolled to about 3mm. I also found pictures of various items associated with Zelda, and just copied them the best that I could. I made the sword, stone, chest and winged ball thingy (it has a name but I’ve forgotten it 🙁) by adding some tylose powder to coloured fondant. This makes it dry harder and quicker. I added guide holes with cocktail sticks where needed while it was still soft. Once the main pieces of the sword and chest were dry, I added the extra decorations to them with normal fondant. I rolled out green fondant to cover the 12″ drum, and top of the cake, and used a marbled grey round the sides. I rolled this a bit thicker, about 5mm, so that I could use a PME cobblestone impression mat to create the ‘wall’ effect. I used Renshaw’s premium Coverpaste coloured with Wilton gel colours throughout.
A large ‘Z’ on the front, and a few more additions, and the requested ‘Dungeon Master’ reference, and the cake was finished!
I also made a little video. Now go easy on me, I’m not the most technology minded person in the world!
I hope you liked this tutorial, if you did, let me know and I’ll do some more😀 I mean, I can only get better at it, right?
Until next time
Stay safe and healthy
See below for more in-depth tips on preparing and covering a cake 😀
Hi, Well, only I could choose the hottest day of the year to hold an afternoon tea/bake sale! Oh for the gift of clairvoyance! 🌞 🌞 🌞
So there I am, with most of my cakes containing buttercream or ganache, desperately trying to keep them cool (I ended up putting them in the garage) red faced and swapping out tea cups for tumblers of soft drinks! I don’t cope well with heat at the best of times, but thankfully all went well. We opened all the windows and the door in the conservatory, dug out the fan, and spilled out into the garden.
I was so busy that I totally forgot to take pictures of the cakes before we started, so you’ll just have to imagine what they looked like before they were cut into 😋
All in all, we raised £150! I am so pleased to support this charity. My grandma had breast cancer, and recently someone very close to me had a bit of a ‘scare’, a lump which was thankfully benign, and has now been removed. It just highlights how much has improved in the intervening years. Early detection and treatment is so much better now, and our support of charities like Breast Cancer Care plays an important part of that.
My heartfelt thanks to everyone who donated on the day.
If you’re unsure how to check your breasts, please follow the link below for more information
A few weeks ago I managed to have 2 cakes due on the same day. Not a big deal for all you professional cakers out there, but for me it required careful planning, so that I didn’t overdo it and tire myself out too much!
I’ve already posted about the ‘Pirate’ themed cake, so this is the other ‘Farmyard’ themed cake for my friend Elaine’s grandson Oliver.
The cake itself is my go to Vanilla Sponge, with jam and buttercream. A tractor was a must, so I shaped it out of Rice Krispie treats, covered it in ganache, then sugarpaste in various colours. The cake was coated in buttercream then covered with green sugarpaste, and the fencing was made by blending Renshaw’s chocolate flavour brown sugarpaste with Renshaw’s White Belgian chocolate modelling paste (see below for details) The ‘mud’ is a pool of ganache, and all the animals were made from modelling paste with sugarpaste details.
I had lots of fun making both cakes, even though I slept most of the day after! But for me, the pleasure I get is worth the consequences, in fact I allow for it, and I’m lucky enough to have a supportive husband, who understands that. He is so thoughtful and predicting my need to rest afterwards, will often line up a film or two for me to watch while I’m having my ‘pyjama days’ 🥰
In other news, my cataract operation went well, and my distance vision is now pretty much perfect. I just need a new prescription for my reading glasses now 😂
Last Sunday, we had a belated Father’s Day Meal (eldest was visiting youngest in Bucharest on the actual day!) So James, my son, and my daughter in law Abi, made us a gorgeous roast lamb dinner, inviting us, her parents, and grandparents too. They really did us proud. I contributed a cake, (see below) and a cheesecake (sorry no pic) and Abi also made a beautiful pavlova filled with whipped cream and lovely summer berries….we really were spoilt!
On Monday, I had Rebecca and Danny round for a cake tasting and planning session. They’re getting married in January and I’m so excited that they have asked me to make their cake 🍰 I know Rebecca from Panto, as her parents are our good friends Edward and Bev. Edward writes, directs and takes part in our productions (who says men can’t multitask?) and B