Butterfly Birthday Cake, made by Minions

The whole thingFrozen Themed Cake

 

 

 

 

 

When I’ve previously made birthday cakes for Barn’s niece she’s been a little young to grasp the concept of ‘you can have anything you like for your cake’ and there’s been a lot of parental input in terms of theme.

This year she was in full on imagination mode when she asked for, “A butterfly cake…with Minion eyes!”

Despite loving the concept I reckoned the end result might be a little scary looking so we agreed that she would have a butterfly cake with Minions involved somehow.

Butterfly cake from aboveAnd so this three layer vanilla and strawberry sponge cake was created – a butterfly cake being crafted by Minions.

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BBQ Beef & Spit Roast Chickens

The SpitExciting times in the Renegade household this weekend – Petit Man, Mme. E and Medieval came round and we had our first test run of this bad boy, in preparation for Mum and Little M’s upcoming birthday fête.

Three Sunday roastsAlthough on the day we’ll be cooking a suckling pig, for the time being we contented ourselves with a couple of chickens and a slab of beef.

The chicken on the left had truffle pesto under the skin, and the one to the right a BBQ sauce that I’m working on.

Truffle pestoThe truffle pesto idea was an absolute winner – it melted under the skin, basting the chicken as it rotated and cooked, creating a juicy, succulent chicken with salty, crispy skin.  Doing that again!

The BBQ sauce is still not quite right quite right, but a recipe’s slowly emerging from the trials.  The first flavour burst is grand but something’s missing in the depth of the flavours…it doesn’t ‘continue’ in the mouth as it should (does that even make sense to anyone but me?!)  I’ve a few ideas on how to improve this – adding a couple of ingredients, increasing one or two existing ones, preparing some of them differently – when I feel I’ve succeeded, I’ll post 🙂

Crisp and tasty on the outsideMedieval created a rub for the beef, using white and black pepper, chipotle salt and juniper berries.

BBQ beefCooked to absolute perfection – without doubt this beef was the star of the show.

Served straight from the board when we descended like a wake of vultures, crowding around Medieval, gobbling up slice after slice as he carved, moaning with gustatory pleasure as we begged for more.

Beef in a bunAlso served in brioche buns (because that’s what we had in, but something sturdier and less sweet would have been better), with a sprig or two of watercress and the sweetest Sicilian cherry tomatoes on the side.

Dandelion seedClearly we should have tackled some weeding, but who could be bothered after all that meat? 😉
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8 – 12 Course Menu, with paired drinks

I have been a bad blogger.  There have been reasons for this, but I won’t bore you with them.  Instead I shall offer a gourmet feast for your delectation.

Birthday Dinner TableHowever, before I do that I’d like to quickly address a couple of things:

Firstly, number of courses…it helps to know how many you’re creating so you can brag say, “I cooked an X course meal for eight people”.  I promise, I can count up to twenty and beyond, without even using my fingers and toes, but on this I’m a little confused.

When making the count apparently certain parts of a meal don’t qualify as a course.  If you discriminate against certain foodstuffs in this fashion, and don’t include palate cleansers or coffee, then this would be an eight course meal.  I have questions about the validity of this counting method.

Then there’s the order of courses… Soup before salad? Cheese before dessert? Where do palate cleansers fit in? Surely there must be some kind of standard?  But no, apparently not.  I’m telling you, a quick look around the internet and you’ll see what I mean…anything beyond three courses the whole thing’s up for debate.  Right or wrong, this is how we opted to do things (‘we’ being me, of course!).

Centre pieceThis meal was a really fun thing to do for Big Sis’s birthday.  I had an awesome time, from planning to consumption. Hopefully everyone involved enjoyed themselves just as much!

Recipes will follow, as will the update on the now completed Cupboard Challenge, but for now, let me run you through the menu…

Amuse bouche - dried plums soaked in Armagnac, stuffed with duck breast pâté and topped with crisp pancetta.

Amuse bouche – dried plums soaked in Armagnac, stuffed with duck breast pâté and topped with crisp pancetta.
Drink pairing: Prosecco

Now, those eight courses I mentioned – that includes the amuse-bouche…but are you supposed to include them?

Hand made wild mushroom ravioli with white truffle butter sauce

Hand made wild mushroom ravioli with white truffle butter sauce
Drink pairing: Prosecco

Roasted tomato bisque garnished with crumbled feta

Roasted tomato bisque garnished with crumbled feta
Drink pairing: Wheat beer

Twisted Waldorf Salad - savoury profiterole filled with celery mousseline, topped with diced apple and toasted walnuts, served with a maple syrup and mustard dressing

Twisted Waldorf Salad – savoury profiterole filled with celery mousseline, topped with diced apple and toasted walnuts, served with a maple syrup and mustard dressing
Drink pairing: Dry cider

Lemon sorbet (Not home made.  Don't judge.  Time constraints guys, time constraints!)

Lemon sorbet.  Not home made. Please don’t judge me…time constraints guys, time constraints!

Seriously now, why do palate cleansers not qualify as a course?  In a meal of this type they’re about the same size as other things that pass muster.  Seems a little wrong to me.  It’s like saying, “You’re just here to clean my mouth out…you can’t be a course, you’re not substantial enough.  You’re not even really food.”

Poor bullied sorbet 😉

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Statement of Intent (NOT New Year’s Resolutions!)

I think it’s time to state my intentions and ambitions clearly on these pages:

  • I want to build up a cake making and party planning business.
  • I want to design and make personalised cakes – I don’t want to churn out ‘standard kid cakes’, but to produce one off creations tailored to the individual.
  • I want to be able to give up the day job and to earn my way in life entirely as a self-employed person.
  • I want the business to grow far beyond a home based operation and for it to be successful enough to enable me to employ others.

I decided all this nearly a year ago.  In that year I’ve been chipping away at the practicalities – paving the way, as it were.

The top priority has been to make the changes to my kitchen that will be necessary for me to pass an environmental health inspection and to receive my hygiene certification.  Once I have that certificate I can really start to move things on.  Don’t get me wrong, as it stands the kitchen is not at all unhygienic, but the requirements for a food business operator kitchen are somewhat more stringent than for a domestic one.  We’ve been replacing, adding to and updating all the large kitchen appliances – just need another fridge and a new dishwasher and we’ll be done.  The biggest challenge has been working out how to fit the extra fridge and freezer in!  Actually, I tell a lie, the biggest challenge was walking away from the oven of my dreams, at a cost of several thousand pounds, and settling for a less desirable but eminently more affordable one.  I’ll be back for you later, oh lust worthy bake box.

We’ve worked out how to alter the layout of the kitchen in order to separate business from domestic, so that even within our rather small kitchen there is a clear delineation between the two.  We’ve also very carefully worked out the work space and storage that will be needed, down to the last cup, saucer and modelling tool!  Getting the money together for this may take another year (then again, it may not – who knows what’s around the corner), but we are saving and the fund is steadily growing.

Once the kitchen is done and the certificate gained, I’ll be able to register the business.  After insurances etc. are in place I’ll then, finally, be official and be able to start advertising.

Some time ago, with that end point in mind, I created a Facebook page under the business name I’ve chosen; when the time comes to actually ‘open the doors’ I will have an established portfolio and a ‘history’ of cake baking for others to peruse.  I’m not going to link this blog with that page right now…the time isn’t right…but at some point in the future I probably will.

At times I find it frustrating not to be able to just dive right in, but patience is a virtue I’m trying to nurture – the progress is undoubtedly there and I believe my time will come.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to make cakes and plan parties for my nearest and dearest, enjoying every minute of it and relishing the prospect of the day when I get paid real money for doing something that is so much fun 🙂

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Hog Roast & Hoopla

INVITATION Posted on blogAs chief party planner and celebration organiser within my family I get plenty of opportunities to play with ideas and indulge my creative whims.  As years have gone by a ‘How’re you going to top that?’ mentality has arisen within me.  This can sometimes lead to me getting a bit carried away.  I may have done that with my plan for Mum’s birthday party in June.

See, the thing is, this party isn’t only for Mum, it’s going to be a joint celebration with Little M, who will be visiting from New Zealand with Baby Bro and Lady S.  Much excitement!  There’s only a couple of days between Little M’s and Mum’s birthdays but until this year, physical distance has prevented the presence of either at the other’s celebration.  Of course this means I want to make this an extra special day.

On top of that, assuming Big Bro and Lady J can get down from Scotland (keeping all things crossed as we await their respective employers’ confirmation of authorised holiday time), it will mean that this will be the first time my entire family have been together for several years.  This calls for a extra, extra special party!

So, I’ve decided to throw a village fete themed party in my Mum’s garden.  There will be a suckling pig roast and BBQ, a beer tent, tea and cakes, games like hook-a-duck, hoopla and name the bear…and please, please, please, there will be good weather too.  All plans are being made with wet weather plan Bs in place, but it would be much better not to have to use them, so let’s keep things crossed.  I should probably point out at this stage that my Mum doesn’t live in a place with ‘grounds’ or anything…just your average suburban semi!

Getting this one right will involve a lot of crafting, pre-planning and organising…as well as some assistance from the ever helpful Petit Man and Medieval.

I’ve already designed the invitations (see edited version above) and have started creating lists of things I need to source…and sourcing them!  I’m going to have so much fun with this 🙂

Further posts as things progress.

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Birthday Banquet: 8 Courses and Counting

It’s Big Sis’s birthday in May and I’m delighted to once again be in charge of planning a celebration for her.

Last year I created my very first ever dessert table for her, which was great fun to do and went down a storm with the family.  This year, determined to do something completely different, I’ve committed myself to creating and cooking an 8 course meal, with paired drinks.  When I told Chef J what I was planning, he started laughing and asked if I was drunk when I’d decided to do this.  The answer to this is no.  But I might have got myself into one of those slightly showy-off moods that certain company can trigger 😉

It’ll be fine.  It’s not like I’ll be doing it completely single handed – Petit Man and Medieval will be assisting with cooking, and Baby Bro, who knows about such things, will be putting together the drinks list for us.  I’m telling you, it’s gonna be totally do-able.  No, better than that – it’s going to be carried off with style, flair and aplomb.  And the kitchen will not devolve into a scene of devastation.  I’m far more excited than I am nervous.

In planning the menu I have, however, been careful to not go too overboard in the Estimation of Personal Ability department; dishes have been chosen and planned so that they can, on the whole, be prepared in advance and will  only need to be ‘finished off’ (assembled/heated/final stage cooked) on the day.

The menu is not completely fixed, and accompaniments, garnishes, finishing touches etc. are still being contemplated.  However, as things stands, this is what is being planned:

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Frozen Party

One year on from the cake that got me hooked on fondant and  I was thrilled, once again, to  be asked to help make a special birthday for Barn’s niece.

Birthday girlThis time I not only made a cake, but also planned, designed and styled a whole dessert table, and several other elements of the party.  It was such delight to do!

Frozen Lunch BoxesSnow White has lunchSavoury food was provided in individual lunch boxes containing:

Freshly baked mini rolls filled with ham and cheese,
Olaf Noses and Blizzard Dip (carrots with cheese dip),
Sven Antlers (Twiglets),
Cherry tomatoes,
Crisps.

Definitely no poisoned apples involved!

DrinksDrinks were served in mini bottles with paper straws.

Left to right:

Melted Snow (water)
Princess Potion (apple & strawberry juice)
Winter Frost (blueberry & blackberry juice)

Icicle treeFrozen Table Decorations - Anna and ElsaThe centrepiece to the dessert table: Anna and Elsa stand in snow at the foot of tree laden with rock candy icicles (bubblegum and pink raspberry flavours).

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Ageing Boxes

Aging BoxesAs the cost of actual vintage boxes was prohibitive, when I was preparing for Mum’s Vintage Sunflower birthday party I tried my hand at ageing some new ones.

I bought a set of raw wood, cheap pine crates online…the type intended for decoupage and other crafting.

To make ‘wear and tear’ scars, the crates were gouged with a screwdriver, bashed with a hammer and thumped with a bag of screws.

They were then painted with several coats of potassium permanganate solution (1 part potassium permanganate crystals to 50 parts water – it’s bright purple and seems unlikely to be what you want to put on wood…but it’s ok, no purple staining occurs!).  The stain gathers in the ‘damaged’ bits, helping to create a well-used appearance.

Once dried I stencilled on some lettering.

Things I would do differently next time:

  • Before doing anything else, lightly sand boxes and wipe with white spirit to remove any grease and dirt.
  • Stencil before staining and lightly sand lettering to give it a more aged look.
  • Find a way to soften the edges and corners of the crates.

That said, I think these turned out really well for a first attempt…I was certainly happy with how much money it saved and I think they looked great on the table.

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Vintage Sunflowers

When it came to styling and organising Mum’s 2014 birthday party I decided to go rustic with a yellow and brown colour scheme, using a sunflower motif throughout.Edited welcome signBirthday flowers in ceramic bootsBirthday flowers in a pair of ceramic yellow welly boots.  I spotted the boots lurking in the far recesses of a charity shop and gave the poor, elderly volunteer quite a shock as I let out a whoop of glee at their perfectness!
Birthday garden: water dish, centre front, beloved of small birdThe girl with the 500 other party plans still in her head!Birthday gardenThe weather was kind and people were able to sit out in the sunshine, enjoying the beautiful garden, whilst eating with friends.

_DSC7407Pack your own picnicThe savouries table was set up in a farmers’ market style – guests were provided with brown paper carrier bags and invited to create their own picnic.

market tableFreshly baked bread, crisp and juicy apples, a basket of speckled brown boiled eggs, cheeses wrapped in brown paper, pickles, miniature jars of chutneys, tiny tomatoes that burst in your mouth when you bit into them, and bunches of lively spring onions.

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Party Bags

Party bags collageWhen looking for party bags for Big Sis’s birthday I found myself faced with a familiar problem…the ones I liked were too expensive and the ones I could afford weren’t pretty enough.

In the end I got plain white mini carrier bags and tarted them up using printed labels, stamps, ribbon and pearls.  I wish I managed to find a more closely matched shade of green for the bird ink stamp, but apart from that I was happy with them.

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