Baking for Therapy, Birthday, Cake decorating, Cake decorating products, Cakes, Bakes, and Me, Celebration, Family, Fundraising, Health, Love, Pantomime, Therapy

Lockdown!

Hello friends

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.

For Carers in all aspects of society

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!

Standing style mould in the foreground and laying down style in the back.
Four legged Creature Feet
Two legged Creature Feet

Molly’s products can be bought at Sugar and Crumbs or directly from her own website, www.mollyscreaturecreator.com😃

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 🥰

Zachary James Ray
Congratulations Amy and Robb on the safe arrival of your beautiful son ❤️

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 💕

Happy Birthday from a safe distance!
My lovely birthday cake 😀😋

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!

Debbie ❤️

Baking for Therapy, Birthday, Cake decorating, Cake decorating products, Cakes, Bakes, and Me, Celebration, Family, Fun, Health, Love, Therapy

Where have I been?

Hi everyone,

Sorry it’s been a while!

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 😀

So pretty!

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!

Check out the whole range of flavours here

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!

Until next time

Stay safe and healthy

Debbie ❤️

Baby Cakes, Baking for Therapy, Cake decorating, Cake decorating products, Cakes, Bakes, and Me, Celebration, Family, Fun, Health, Love, Therapy

Surprise baby shower!

Hi everyone,

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 💕

Gorgeous baby Zac with my lovely niece Amy
Proud Daddy

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 😘

Until next time

Stay safe and healthy

Debbie ❤️

Baking for Therapy, Cake decorating, Cake decorating products, Cakes, Bakes, and Me, Celebration, Friends, Love, Therapy, Wedding Cakes

My first ever Wedding Cake!

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!

The happy couple with their cake

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!

Until next time

Stay safe and healthy

Debbie ❤️

From sugarandcrumbs.co.uk

Lemon drizzle icing sugar

Cream cheese icing sugar

Velvet vanilla icing sugar

Mint chocolate icing sugar

Select Ireland Platinum Sugarpaste White

Renshaw flower and modelling paste

Coloursplash gel colour jade

Wilton leaf green gel colour (set of 8)

Renshaw deep purple ready to roll sugarpaste

Faye Cahill shimmer gold lustre dust

PME round cutter set

Cake cards 9” and 11” round

Cake drum 11” round

From eBay:

20” round cake drum

PME oval cutter set

Baking for Therapy

A Cake with ‘That Friday Feeling’!

Hi everyone,

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

Until then

Stay safe and healthy

Debbie ❤️

Chocolate honeycomb cake recipe:

375g Self Raising Flour

25g Cocoa

375g Baking spread

187g Caster Sugar

6 large free range eggs

187g Sugar and Crumbs Chocolate Honeycomb Icing sugar

60g Greek Yoghurt

10ml Vanilla Extract

1 tsp salt

Method: Preheat oven to 160 Celsius

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.

Buttercream:

250g soft unsalted butter

500g Sugar and Crumbs Chocolate Honeycomb Icing Sugar

Pinch salt

2 – 4 tablespoons milk

Method:

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.

My favourite products:

Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer

Kitchenaid flex edge paddle beater

PME Straight Spatula 6”

PME Offset Spatula 8”

Wilton piping tips 1M, 2D, 2A

Queen of Hearts Disposable Piping Bags THICK Pack of 100

Metal bench Scraper 6”

Pme round cake tin 6×3” , Pme cake tin 8×3” round, Pme cake tin 10×3” round, Pme cake tin 12×3” round

PME baking belt 3” high

Cake Star Push Easy Cutters MINI ALPHABET UPPERCASE

Cake Star Push Easy Cutters MINI NUMBERS Set of 10

PME Tall Scraper Stripes