Christmas Cakes

It’s been fun doing the Christmas cakes this year, although I could do with being just a tad more organised about things – a little lot less last minute dashing is the plan for next year.

Working with different media is always refreshing, and it was great to be able to work on the solidity of a fruit cake rather than the more fragile sponge ones.

Devoted though I am to Italian meringue buttercream, it was a nice change to use marzipan again.  That stuff is so easy to handle, mould and form – I wish more people liked it!

I was also reminded that I really must get to grips with royal icing.  The trouble is, it’s about as unpopular as marzipan so I generally only get one request a year for it (on a Christmas cake).  It’s easy to give it low priority.  Nonetheless, I need to make the effort to practice with it; quite apart from anything else, the marzipan button tree cake would have looked SO much better on a smooth topped cake.

Anyway, the last three Christmas cakes of 2015…

Star tree cake

Star Tree Christmas Cake – 6″ traditional fruit cake, covered with marzipan and fondant, finished with fondant stars and silver nonpareils.

I like the design of this but wasn’t happy with my finish on the stars.  I also don’t like the slightly lopsided look of the tree…better star positioning needed!

Snowman Cake

Snowman Christmas Cake –  6″ traditional fruit cake, covered with marzipan and fondant, finished with fondant features and bobble hat.

He’s cute, isn’t he?  I was pleased with him.  I was particularly happy with the fondant bobble on his hat, which was made using a ‘brainwave technique’ (involving scissors) that truly worked 🙂

It’s a shame this picture was taken before Mr. Snowman was beribboned and that I forgot to take one after – with a jaunty red and white spotted ribbon tied around him he looked even more appealing.

Gold star cake

Gold Stars Christmas Cake – 5″ traditional fruit cake, covered with marzipan and fondant, finished with antique gold fondant stars and gold nonpareils.

I really like the pretty simplicity of this cake – the gold board added just enough glitz to lift a fairly plain cake into understated glamour.

Five cakes in total and I really can’t decide which is my favourite.  I think the gingerbread man…but maybe the gold stars…p’haps the snowman…?!

Which one would you go for?

x

 

Gingerbread Man Christmas Cake

Another Christmas cake has been completed and is ready for delivery –  hurrah!  Only another 3 to go.

Gingerbread Man Christmas Cake

This dinky little 4″ brandy infused fruit cake has been covered with marzipan and fondant then finished with hand crafted fondant decorations and a perky gingham ribbon.

Gingerbread man cake in box

I know certain TV shows would have it that BIGGER is always much better, and the big complex numbers are undoubtedly productively challenging to a person’s skills and impressive when well executed.

Nonetheless, I do like doing these smaller cakes; apart from the fact they’re a doddle to cover with icing ( 😀 ) I also think there’s a simple cuteness to them that tends to be missing from grand scale cakes.

I think this little gingerbread man cake is pretty adorable anyway!  What do you think?

x

More Monkey Adventures

Day 22 of Advent and Monkey was getting himself party ready by practising his dancing.

Day 22 Monkey's practicing his sitting down dancing

He only does ‘sitting down dancing’ as his legs are a bit uncoordinated.

Day 22 Check out the moves

He can still bust some fancy moves though.

Day 22 7 in 1 Tool

When he finally stopped boogying and took a proper look at his gift, he discovered that the instructions for his 7-in-1 multi tool were written in Chinese.  Sadly Monkey does not speak or read Chinese.

He’s worked out that there’s a saw at the top, then a can opener on the corner, an extremely sharp blade/knife running down the side, a bottle opener to the left of that, and a screwdriver on the bottom right corner but he’s stumped about the rest.

Do you have any idea what those remaining holey bits do?!

x

Monkey’s Advent Adventures

This is essentially a guest post by Barn as what follows is his creation – an idea he came up with to visually share his advent calendar with family and friends – I thought you might enjoy it too 🙂

On Day 1 there were Minion socks and Day 2 a miniature but very powerful torch (ideal for camping trips).  On Day 3 Monkey was introduced to the scene…

Day 3 – A passing Monkey was drawn to the bright colours on the tree and asked what was going on.  After having the concept explained to him he asked to join in then immediately lay claim to the contents of box no. 3.

Day 4 – Curious Monkey discovered a Man Flu treatment in his box…and immediately felt a headache coming on.

Day 5 – Monkey got so excited he was biting his nails, and actually got a trifle over giddy.  When he finally got the wrapper off he was very pleased with his new chocolate friend.

Day 6 – Barn went for a bike ride and came home to find Monkey anxiously watching out for him at the window.  Monkey gave a great big cheer when he came in, then rushed off to get in the shower with his new shower gel.

Day 7 – Monkey was sent to climb up and collect the box from the tree.   He was quite out of breath when he got back but felt it was worth it for a chocolate snowman.

Day 8 – After having his breakfast Monkey was in such a rush to get to his present that he got his hand stuck in the box.  After freeing himself and opening the gift he decided to laze around and do nothing but dream and eat the chocolate bars he’d received.

Day 9 – Monkey upped the festive spirit by popping on his new reindeer antlers for the box opening.  He was gobsmacked by the Santa socks he got.

Continue reading

Christmas Cupcakes

PHEW!

There! That’s the huge sigh of relief promised in the previous post.

Now here come the pictures…

Blurred boxed up

I’m delighted to say the cupcake order (also mentioned in the previous post – c’mon, keep up now! 😉 ) is now complete.

Santas, snowmen, robins and elves – a total of 72 cupcakes, all boxed up and ready to go.

Christmas Cupcakes
A selection of vanilla sponge and chocolate sponge cupcakes, topped with vanilla Italian meringue buttercream and decorated with fondant.

These cakes are notable for two reasons:

  1. It was the largest single order for cupcakes received to date, and
  2. It was the first time I paid someone to help me complete an order (see above!).

And so, with baby steps, I continue to make the dream a reality.

x

Traditional Christmas Cake with Marzipan Button Tree Decoration

Marzipan button Xmas tree cake

Rich fruit cake covered with marzipan and royal icing, topped with a hand crafted marzipan button design and finished with a smart red ribbon.IMG_2886[1]

Five traditional Christmas fruit cakes are being made this year…they’re a little drunk now as I’ve been steadily feeding them Cognac for weeks.Button tree Xmas cake This one was finished today and has now left the building.

I’m currently working on a rather large order for Christmas cupcakes…due Monday.  I’ll be back with pictures, and a massive sigh of relief, once they’re done.

Until then, I hope the festive spirit has come your way and has filled you with good cheer.  If not, I recommend vodka – it helps 😉

x

Oh Christmas, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

It’s the 1st of December, which means only one thing – we can start opening our advent calendars!  Hooray, hooray, hooray!

I’ve been very excited about advent this year. Like, really, really excited…the fit to burst kind.  You see, earlier in the year I decided to save up and surprise Big Sis with the Selfridges beauty Advent calendar.

Big Sis's Calendar

To say I was thrilled that I managed to get one, despite them being limited availability and selling faster than the proverbial hot cakes, would be something of an understatement.

That has been exciting enough in itself, but then I’ve also put together personalised calendars for…

DIY Advent No. 1: Baby socks filled with gifts pegged on a string washing line - pre-printed numbers cut from an 'in the January sales' bargain price calendar and glued to ordinary laundry pegs
DIY Advent No. 1: Socks on a Line – Pre-printed numbers cut from an ‘in the January sales’ bargain price calendar and glued to ordinary laundry pegs. Baby socks were filled with gifts then pegged onto the string washing line.

…Mum…

DIY Advent No. 2: More 'bought in the January sales' bargains - this time little self assembly gift boxes which have been filled with little gifts and hung from a white tree branch. This is an artificial one with a stand which I already had, but you could spray paint an actual branch and wedge it in a pot.
DIY Advent No. 2: More ‘bought in the January sales’ bargains – this time little self assembly gift boxes which have been filled with small gifts and hung from a white tree branch. This is an artificial one branch with a stand which I already had, but you could spray paint an actual branch and wedge it in a pot.

…Barn…

This is Petit Man's childhood Advent calendar, now hanging on the fireplace of his first own home :-) Some left over pieces of green satin and cream damask pattern fabric were sewn into little pouches and numbers written on the fronts using a gold pen. They were then filled with gifts and tied onto a gold cord using contrasting ribbons.
DIY Advent No. 3: This is Petit Man’s childhood Advent calendar, now hanging on the fireplace of his first own home 🙂
Some left over pieces of green satin and cream damask pattern fabric were sewn into little pouches and numbers written on the fronts using a gold pen. They were then filled with gifts and tied onto a gold cord using contrasting ribbons.

…and a joint one for Petit Man and Mme. E (he’s green, she’s cream, and they both get something on the 24th).

So you see, since January I’ve been building not only calendars, but also a huge level of gleeful anticipation about handing them over 🙂

Gorgeous advent calendar containing handmade scented wax melts - from Busy Bee Candles
Gorgeous advent calendar containing handmade scented wax melts – from Busy Bee Candles

Then, when I went yesterday to deliver the goodies to Mum and Big Sis, they surprised me with an advent calendar of my own.  This tipped me over the edge of reasonable adult behaviour, such that I could barely sleep last night through sheer excited anticipation.

Owl burner

My calendar has a little scented wax melt for each day, and came with this pretty ceramic owl burner.  Today’s scent is called ‘Crazy’, which to me smells of pine and pepper – which is surprisingly nice.  A certain someone commented on the appropriateness of it for me.  I think that sort of remark’s just not necessary.

Mum, Big Sis and Barn loved their first gifts and sent pictures, which made my day extra fun too.  Petit Man will doubtless call me tomorrow morning about today’s gift, because he’s hopelessly disorganised like that 😉

1970s advent calendar

As Big Sis and I observed, advent calendars have come a long way since the days when we took turns to open little paper doors to find, if you were lucky, a picture of the Star of Bethlehem (if you were unlucky it was a drawing of a tree bauble).

Come to think of it, I think I’d actually still rather like one of those.  And now I wouldn’t resent it being Big Sis and Bro’s turn to open a door.  Probably.

Oh, and by the way, in case you hadn’t guessed it yet, I REALLY LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!  May the joys of the festive season be upon you too because more Christmas themed post are inevitably going to follow.  Only 24 sleeps to go… 😉

x

Ghosts of Christmas past

Merry Christmas!

Like a small child I’ve woken unnecessarily early and am sitting here, in the peaceful hush of a sleeping house, taking a wee meander through Christmases past, having some moments of appreciation for Christmas present, and vaguely flirting with a few ideas for Christmases yet to come (yes, tis true…I’m already germinating plans for next year!)

As you know, this year the Renegade household has been in the wonderful and very fortunate position of being able to afford to purchase special Christmas gift items for our loved ones.  However, as discussed in an earlier post, this has not always been the case and over recent years we’ve made a lot of our Christmas gifts in the form of food hampers, so I thought I’d show you a few…

Christmas Gifts 2009These were from several years ago, when we had a real white Christmas and even a city suburb like mine managed to look magical.  I particularly liked the edible gingerbread gift tags on the hampers, but am less keen on the hand written labels for the jars.  The labels really should be printed, unless I learn calligraphy, or at least seriously improve my handwriting.

Continue reading

Deck the cake

Holly wreath cakeA simple but effective marzipan holly wreath on top of a royal iced, brandy soaked, fruit cake.

I don’t normally bother baking a fruit cake for us as Barn and Petit Man always say they don’t like it.  This year I was asked to make one for a friend of Mum’s so I made this for her and also a mini version for me, as a pre-Christmas treat .  It was delicious.

Sadly, I didn’t get to taste enough of its deliciousness…turns out Barn and Petit Man do like fruit cake after all…when I bake it 🙂

x