Rock Chic Roses & Vodka Themed Cake

Cake & CupcakesMy darling friend LL, who quite frankly should know better regarding timing ( ūüėČ ), made a last minute request for cakes for her sister’s 30th birthday.

Roses and Vodka Cake with Coordinating CupcakesWith insufficient time to create the desired vodka bottle cake (damn! ¬†I’d have loved to do it), the spec then became¬†very loose: a small cutting cake, with 30 cupcakes, the design somehow involving Absolut vodka.
I have no wish to cast aspersions here, but if at age 30 the ONLY thing people thought of in relation to you was Absolut vodka, would you not have a quick assessment of your lifestyle?! ūüėÄ

Red Roses and Absolut VodkaThe lack of time also explains why there are real miniature bottles of vodka on top of the cutting cake, rather than gumpaste ones.

Rock Chic Roses and Vodka Cakes6″ dense, moist, chocolate fudge cake, filled and frosted with chocolate Italian meringue buttercream, covered with fondant, decorated with hand crafted fondant roses and real (miniature!) bottles of Absolut vodka.

Cupcakes in two flavours: vanilla confetti with strawberry Italian meringue buttercream (silver cases) and chocolate sponge topped with white chocolate Italian meringue buttercream (black & white cases).

I think with under a week’s notice, this cake design worked out rather well ūüôā


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 Рa butterfly cake being crafted by Minions.

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Steampunk Meets Burlesque Top Hat Cake

I was asked to create a cake for my friend LL’s partner and the commission came in my favourite form – vague and mostly up to me. ¬†To be precise, the spec was: “A hat, involving purple, with some kind of burlesque-ish touch.”

I know a little about the lady in question and her tastes, so this is what I came up with:

Steampunk meets Burlesque

I have to be honest with you…I’m incredibly proud of how it turned out ūüôā ¬†I’m also really pleased to know that LL was over the moon and her lady absolutely loved it.

Chequerboard design inside the hat cake

This four layer cake is a heavenly combination of purple velvet cake and caramel sponge cake, baked to form a chequerboard pattern when cut.

Filled with whipped white chocolate ganache, frosted with dark chocolate ganache, covered with caramel flavoured fondant, finished with hand crafted chocolate buttons, gumpaste flowers, fondant detailing and non-edible feathers.

Label in the hatband

A fondant label tucked into the fondant ‘leather’ hat band, with hand crafted, edible ‘antique’ chocolate buttons.

Buttons & Flowers detail

Hand crafted chocolate buttons and gumpaste flower detail.

Purple hat cake with button, flower and feather trim

I think this might be my favourite cake to date, hope you like it too ūüôā


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 p√Ęt√© and topped with crisp pancetta.

Amuse bouche – dried plums soaked in Armagnac, stuffed with duck breast p√Ęt√© 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 ūüėČ

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To Marcus

It probably wouldn’t have been your first choice to spend your 17th birthday with your mum, your Grandma and your Auntie, it’s highly unlikely that flowers would have been top of your¬†gift list, and you may well have preferred pizzas¬†with your mates to a¬†home cooked birthday meal with family. ¬†However, relations, blossoms and chicken cannelloni are¬†how today panned out, and I am glad.

I’m glad we continue to come together, just as we did on the day you refused this world – to hold you, to hold each other, to remember, to grieve and to laugh. ¬†Yes, to laugh.

Because, you see, although there is dreadful sadness within the few memories we have of you, there is also much joy. ¬†Your tiny life was so pure, and bizarrely, so complete. ¬† From the moment we knew of you there was a change in all of us, and when you left, you brought us together in a way that had never been before. Of course we’re not glad or happy to take flowers to your grave, to wonder what might have been, but it would be dishonest and a disservice to your memory if we allowed the ending of your life to negate everything else.

It’s impossible to explain the depth of the changes you wrought – you were a catalyst for so many remarkable things, and for so many members of your family. ¬†What I can tell you¬†is that I write this today as a far more complete, confident, secure and loving person than I would have been had you never existed.

I’ve always baulked when people talk about you with words like ‘tragedy’ – your existence was not a tragedy, it was a gift. ¬†I know that for some people (a lot of people) our ability to¬†recall humorous incidents and moments from that time is incongruous with their own expectations of grief. ¬† C’mon though, it’s funny that your Auntie suddenly realised the item slapped into her hand by a nurse, and with which she had mopped my face throughout my labour with you, was in fact a wet sanitary towel. ¬†Needs must in an urgent situation I guess!

It’s not like we all fell about laughing there and then, but her recollection caused a twinkle of a smile in later days and was a welcome lightness in the dark. ¬†People¬†find it odd that we can talk of you with joy and without crumbling, but there was a perfectness to you that would be diminished if we only dwelt upon the pain.

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Nancy and the Scarlet Slipper

Hot on the heels (sorry) of the dragon slaying shoe, I was asked to do another shoe cake – this time a friend of mine¬†wanted to surprise one of his friend’s on her 50th birthday. ¬†He said she likes shoes and her favourite colour is red…apart from that, the design was left to me. Shoe cakeTaking a huge amount of inspiration from the extremely talented Iris Rezoagli of Cake Dreams by Iris, I created this high heeled shoe cake.

The shoe box cake is a four layer vanilla Madeira cake, filled with strawberry jam and vanilla Italian meringue buttercream.High heeled shoeThe gumpaste shoe was made using the heel mould and sole cutter from the kit I used last time.  However, because I decided to go with a platform sole, it was necessary to create my own toe and heel strap templates.  There was some cursing involved.  And maybe a little bit of pencil throwing.  Got there in the end though.

The upper of the shoe was created using two layers of gumpaste; I made the lacy detail with a heart shaped cutter and two broderie anglaise cutters. ¬†I was initially planing to use Cake Lace¬†but the lace mat I’d purchased wasn’t big enough, and patching bits together wasn’t going to work. ¬†Not to worry, Plan B came out just fine.

(As it happens, I have a future cake planned that will utilise the cake lace, and allows me time to buy a larger lace mat! ¬†That’s assuming I can make it work. ¬†General consensus is that it’s a doddle to use, but I reserve judgement¬†until actual usage has occurred ūüėČ )

The bow on the shoe and the black flowers (of undetermined species) are both embellished with non-edible diamanté.

PoppyHand modelled gumpaste poppy(ish) flower set against black satin ribbon.

ImprovementsThere are a few key areas for improvement, as detailed above, plus the top of the cake was still sloping at the edges Рdammit I will get a straight finish!

That said, I’m really, really pleased with how the shoe came together¬†and the over all¬†look of the¬†cake. ¬†I had fun making it.

The recipient was reported to be delighted and amazed and so all is well in my little corner of the universe.


Never mind Valentine’s Day, it’s Medieval’s Birthday!

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, Barn and I tend towards an attitude of:¬†“We will not be forced by commercialism into a faux display of demonstrating our love for each other,¬†on a specific day, through the purchasing of unimaginative items such as flowers, chocolates and cards .”

The things he does for me unprompted, day to day, throughout the year, mean far, far more to me than any calendar decreed gesture. ¬†Putting¬†my clean PJs to warm¬†on the radiator ready for when I get home from a late shift, looking in charity shops for books by my favourite authors, quietly changing the bed linen while I’m in the bath, and slipping a hot water bottle between the sheets on my side of the bed – this sort of gesture whispers sweet nothings to me in a way¬†that¬†a bunch of roses never could.

However, we’re fully aware that not everyone feels as we do, particularly when they are younger and fairly¬†recently ‘coupled up’. ¬†Medieval’s birthday falls on Valentine’s Day so, based on the assumption that¬†he’d prefer his celebration to be¬†√† deux¬†with¬†Mme. H, I’ve never really considered organising anything for him. ¬†While having a planning meeting for the upcoming celebrations for Big Sis and Mum, I discovered that this base assumption was erroneous.

“Hang on a minute,” he said, with a big old grin on his face, “I know of at least¬†one¬†birthday that comes before either of these two…”

“Ach, you mean yours?”, sayeth I with an airy wave of my hand. ¬†“Don’t be daft, that’s not going to happen. ¬†You know we don’t bother with yours. ¬†It’s tradition.”

“Hahaha!” said everyone in the room, including Medieval, and we pressed on with our planning session.

Of course, the minute everyone left I phoned Big Sis, Mum and Mme. H, and together we hatched a plan to surprise him.

For a variety of reasons going for a ‘proper’ night out was not a viable option so it was decided I would cook a meal, which would be hosted at Mum’s house. ¬†I find cooking in a kitchen other than my own to be a ridiculously difficult thing to do and rarely achieve the results I would at home, so I figured I’d make most of it in advance in my own kitchen, then ferry everything over for finishing off at Mum’s. ¬†Logistics be damned!

If you’ve read the VIPs info page of this blog, you’ll already be aware that Medieval has something of a penchant for meat and chillies, which made Tex-Mex the obvious route to go. ¬†However, when it comes to home cooking Tex-Mex , my experience to that point¬†had been limited the occasional chilli con carne or tacos, fajitas and enchiladas made using those everything-included kits you can buy from the supermarket.

After wading around the internet amongst some fairly horrid sounding recipes (lots and lots of pre-processed ingredients), a superb tip-off from Baby Bro led¬†me to¬†The Homesick Texan. ¬†What a flipping great site it is! ¬†Most of the dishes I eventually made were inspired by recipes found on there. ¬†I say ‘inspired by’ as quite a few ingredients were¬†not readily available to me in the UK, thus forcing an English twist on things…Tex-Mex-En, if you will.

In the course of researching recipes for this meal I discovered two things:

Firstly, the paucity of my chilli knowledge – I need to learn about the heats, flavours and nuances of different types so that I can make better substitutions where necessary.

Secondly –¬†I have no desire whatsoever to try this thing called Velveeta. ¬†I do not feel the slightest bit deprived that it’s not available here. ¬†Surely it’s not really cheese? ¬†Does it actually qualify as a dairy product? ¬†I believe that unopened it can sit on a shelf, unrefrigerated, for months. ¬†Dear gods people…why would you eat that when real cheese exists? ūüėČ


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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 ūüôā

Further posts as things progress.


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 ūüėČ

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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Slaying a dragon with a high-heeled shoe

A whole lot of learning has been accomplished, a mass of experience gained and just¬†over one year elapsed since the failed first attempt at a high heeled shoe cake. ¬†Just look at the difference a year can make…High heeled shoe cake…well, a year plus having cutters and moulds plus using the appropriate medium!

This three tier stacked cake was for a friend’s 30th birthday. ¬†From bottom to top the flavours are: vanilla Madeira with strawberry jam and vanilla buttercream; chocolate fudge cake with chocolate buttercream; firm carrot cake with fresh orange buttercream.

I’m generally pleased with the finished cake but there’s still a ton of room for improvement…not least, remembering to check that the top cake is big enough for the shoe! ¬†I think I got away with this but it wasn’t the finished look I had in mind.

High heeled shoe cake - back viewForward planning, or lack thereof, is to blame for almost all the elements of this cake with which I’m unhappy. ¬†Forward planning is not really to blame for the sightly barrelled shape of the top cake…that’s just down to needing to take a little more time. ¬†However, the crooked ’30’, the marbling effect of the purple glitter (I intended to have it more solid), the off centre positioning of the cake on the board, the purple ribbon on the top cake instead of the intended diamant√©…all of this was down to me not checking, measuring and thinking ahead.

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