The last month has been a bit bleurgh health wise, and before you ask, no it’s not about the dreaded Coronavirus!
No, I’ve just been trying to shake off an infection, that refused to go away! I ended up taking two courses of antibiotics over 3 weeks before I felt human again 😞 The culprit was a urinary tract infection and if you’ve ever suffered from this, you’ll know how painful and unpleasant it can be! It really knocked me off my feet for a while but after the first course of antibiotics, I did manage to make a little birthday cake for my sister in law before the darn thing came back again!
It was quite a simple little cake, lemon flavoured with Sugar and Crumbs icing sugar, but I was so pleased with the water colour effect buttercream I achieved. It was soooo pretty! I used purple, lemon and pink, but the effect can be achieved using any colours you like 😀
Here’s how you do it.
First bake your cakes and let them cool. I use PME cake strips for an even bake. You need to bake a little lower and slower, but the end result is a light, moist and fluffy sponge. I used my vanilla cake recipe, but swapped out the caster sugar for Sugar and Crumbs lemon drizzle flavour icing sugar. Anywhere you would use sugar, you can swap for a flavoured icing sugar, it’s so versatile and very yummy!
I also used it in my buttercream, lots of lemony goodness!
Stack your cakes using filling of your choice, I used buttercream and lemon curd, then use your buttercream to apply a thin coat all over the cake. This traps in any crumbs, and is called a crumbcoat (funny dat 😆) Let that firm up in the fridge for around 15 minutes, then apply a more generous coat of the buttercream, smoothing it out as best as you can using either a metal spatula or bench scraper. There’s a YouTube tutorial on how to do that here by Cupcake Jemma
Divide the remaining buttercream by however many colours you want to use for your watercolour effect. I used three, and I’ll leave the links to the colours I used below.
Then, using your spatula, swipe small amounts on to the sides of your cake at random intervals. Using a bench scraper or spatula, lightly blend the colours using the same technique you use for smoothing your buttercream (see above YouTube link)
To see a more in-depth description on how to achieve the water colour effect, click on the following link, also by Cupcake Jemma, where she shows a non baker ( Tom Daley) how to do it!
You can either smooth it all out completely, or leave it with a textured look. Both look beautiful in my opinion.
Finish off by piping some swirls on top, and adding sprinkles and a pretty border around the bottom of your cake. Et Voila!
I can’t tell you how delighted I was to be making this cake! It was for my niece, Amy and her partner Robb (who was in on the surprise) and it wasn’t a cake I expected to be making as Amy wasn’t supposed to be able to conceive! Needless to say she was absolutely gobsmacked at first, but fully embraced this miraculous chance to become a Mummy 👶
We knew the baby was a boy, and even his name, which gave me a head start on design. Then all the disposable tableware arrived and was elephant themed! So I decided to make a fault line cake with elephants, textured buttercream, and a large initial ‘Z’ for Zachary 😀
I’m delighted to say that baby Zachary James Ray arrived safe and sound on Sunday 8th March 2020 😍
Here he is with his beautiful Mummy 💕
And you know what that means? I’m a Great-Aunty! Correction, I’m going to be an Awesome Great-Aunty! 😆 Can’t wait for cuddles 😘
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!
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!
For the next two weeks or so, I’m going to be micro managing my time as I prepare some of my goodies for a craft fair. Learning from my first experience last year, I am starting early, and have roped in my Mum to help.
Last year, I did way too much and made myself ill and exhausted. It was my first time at an event that ran over 9 – 10 days and basically, I had no idea what to take! This year, I’ve cut down my ‘menu’, concentrating on just a few items that are easy to prepare in advance. And of course I have the advantage of knowing what was popular last time too!
Using my usual ‘Pros and Cons’ list to decide whether the ‘consequences’ are worth the effort, I decided way back in May when I was invited back, that yes, it is.
One of the biggest things in its favour, is that it is manned by the organisers, who take a percentage, which in my case is completely worth it, as there’s no way I could do it otherwise! You take your stock, set up your area, and leave them to it! I’ll have my hubby to help with this, and collecting any remaining stock afterwards. During the week, the staff may contact you if anything needs restocking, but other than that, you leave them to it. Perfect for me 😀
So that just leaves the preparation beforehand. I’m taking lots of Christmas cakes, which were baked over the last few weeks and will be finished off over the next two weeks.
As for my other stuff, as a general rule, we start after lunch, and as Mum has osteo arthritis, it suits us both to ‘do a bit, rest a bit’……otherwise known as stop for a cuppa every 5 minutes! We do like our tea ☕️ I set everything up so that we can sit at the table, and if either of us needs to change position or get up and stretch, we just do it! Using my hands for more than a few minutes at a time is painful for me, and I don’t do well with anything ‘fiddly’, so we swap tasks out accordingly. Mum helped me package up my reindeer poop and snowman poop! (Kids find anything remotely poo related absolutely hilarious 😂) Chocolate raisins and mint imperials if you’re wondering 🤔
Today we’ve had a production line of ‘Cookies in a jar’ mix on the go
Tomorrow, we’re going to make a start on some Rudolph hot chocolate cones! And the day after, (if we’ve finished the cones!) Gifts in a Christmas mug! (Tea, Coffee, Hot Chocolate, Pud in a Mug!)
Wish me luck!
Stay safe and healthy
Update: I forgot to post this last week, it was still sitting in my drafts! Oops! Anyway, as is apt to happen, a spanner hit the works ☹️ My poor Mum has been ill with a cold, so we actually got nothing done last week! (Apart from me designing and printing some labels)
You see? This is why I start early 😂 Hopefully, we’ll have better luck this week, 🤞