Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Cake 2012 including 3D Christmas Tree tutorial

Well, this is my Christmas Cake for 2012. My boys asked for a snowman cake, so here we have some 3D Christmas Trees made using a snowflake cutter and a little snowman atop a rough iced royal icing covered cake. It has been such a busy few weeks getting everything ready fro Christmas I have not had much chance to hit the blogosphere . I am determined to publish this post before Christmas, so without further ado, here it is

3D Christmas Trees

What you need
Sugar flower paste / gum paste coloured dark green
Snowflake cutter - I used one by PME
Sugarcraft ball tool or a small round cutter. (Or you could use the narrow end of a small icing nozzle)
A few lengths of uncooked spaghetti

The 3D Christmas trees are built out of snowflakes cut out with the PME snowflake cutter you can see below. Start by rolling out the sugar flower paste to about the width of a £1 coin. Don't roll it too thin as you need the branches to have some strength.

Cut out the green sugar flower paste with the snowflake plunger cutter. You don't need to press the plunger down to emboss the pattern, as this won't be seen in the finished trees, but if you do, it makes it easier to find the centre in the next stage Cut two or three each of the three sizes for each tree.

Use a small ball tool, or round cutter or the thin end of a plain round icing nozzle to make a hole in the centre of the snowflake

Leave your snowflakes to dry for about 24 hours, then brush them over with a little lustre. I used Frosted Holly by Sugarflair. (Love the difference this lustre makes)

Now you are ready to start to stack the green snowflakes. Start by making a trunk out of brown sugar paste. (or use more green, it actually might look better if you use green). Push a length of spaghetti into the ball of sugar paste. I have used a toothpick as these trees weren't going to be eaten, but it is safer to use a length of uncooked spaghetti.

Carefully slide over the first and largest lustred snowflake, then slide a small bead of brown or green paste onto the cocktail stick to make a gap between the "leaves"

Build up alternating layers of beads and leaves, biggest at the bottom to smallest at the top. Stagger the branches on each alternate layer. I brushed the ends and edges of my branches with a little edible glue at this stage and sprinkled liberally with green edible glitter

Take a firm grip of the sides of the top of the spaghetti and push into your cake so only 5 mm or so sticks out at the top. Roll a tiny green ball of green and shape this to cover the end spaghetti. Once on the cake you can adjust the branches slightly if you need to. If the tree looks a bit squashed, just carefully raise the toothpick and it will rise up again.

You can make the Christmas tree look more Christmasssy by sticking a star on the top, or if you have loads of spare time on hour hands, stick sugar balls onto the branches for baubles. these trees make lovely cupcake toppers too.

 In the picture below, the tree in the middle is made from three of each size of snowflake with small beads in-between and the two at the side are made from two of each size of snowflake with larger beads in-between

The Snowman

This lovely little snowman is from this one of Karen Davies' moulds.  He has been painted with blue petal dust for the scarf and hat. The eyes, mouth and buttons have been painted with gel food colour, thinned with a little clear alcohol. I used rejuvenator, but you could use vodka. Here is his close-up

And here he is on the cake

Have a very lovely Christmas

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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Blue Bow and Bird Glamorous Brownie

One of the things that I quickly discovered during my time is Sugarland, is that somethings that look easy are really, really hard (piping royal icing and the dreaded Gilding would come to mind here) and some things that look hard are actually easy to do.

I am happy to say that the ruffle technique used for these brownies is much, much easier than it looks and you hardly need any equipment to do it. Given the season, these would make wonderful little gift Christmas cakes if you cut them out of a sheet of fruit cake rather than chocolate brownies.

To make these, you need to start by baking a batch of brownies in a square or rectangular pan. This is the recipe that I use from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. I love this recipe, as all you have to do is melt the butter and the chocolate together and then stir in all the other ingredients.

To Decorate and Assemble


You need a whole stack of equipment to make these little brownies (not) all you need is:

A round cutter a bit like this (Use this to cut out your brownies too)

A bird mould ( I used Wilton's nature mould)
A meter or two of blue ribbon
Cocktails sticks

You will also need

White modelling chocolate, cocoform or fondant
A little edible glue (optional)
Ivory lustre (Sugarflair)

The Ruffles

I found out how to make the ruffles from this tutorial from the lovely Jessica Harris. She can explain it to you much better than I can so pop over and take a look. Looking back at her tutorial now, I realise that I should have rolled my modelling chocolate a little thinner (will do that next time). I also managed to get away without  the resting firming up stage.

The Birds

The bird is made the same way as the one I made for these Pink Peppermint Cupcakes. Once moulded gently twist and wriggle a cocktail stick into the bottom of the mould before leaving to dry. 

The bows

You know how I was saying that some things are easier than they look and others much harder, well, tying a teeny tiny bow is much harder than it looks. It is a good idea to carefully remove your moulded bird from the cocktail stick if you can, then, you need to start with a fairly long length of ribbon to tie your bow. Start by tying a single or double knot on your cocktail stick and then tie your bow, neaten it up and trim the ends off.

If you turn your cocktail stick around, you will probably find the back of the bow looks neater than the front. Place your bird back on to the cocktail stick, dipping the end of the cocktail stick in a little edible glue first if you want. If you don't use edible glue, you will find that gravity will mostly keep the little bird in place anyway.


I decided to stack two brownies on top of each other for this design for a bit of extra height. I sandwiched them together with a cut out fluted circle between the layers, for a bit of stability and interest. Once stacked fold attach and arrange your ruffles and then carefully push the toothpick into the centre.

Always remember to let anyone you give these to know that there is a toothpick underneath the bird that they should remove before eating the brownie, because you know, you can never be too careful about these things.

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Sunday, 18 November 2012

John's Coconut and Chocolate Cake and Leftover Bow Cupcakes

Well, you may be thinking that pink is a funny colour for John's cake. You would think so even more if you met John the builder. John the Builder's favourite cake is coconut cake and this cake was made as a thank you when he (eventually...) finished some work he was doing in our garden for us. I asked my four year old what colour he thought John would like for his cake and his reply was "black", I wasn't doing black on this particular day, so I asked him to chose another colour and he decided that John would like pink. There may also have been an incident involving my car and a certain builder's van ... that contributed to the pinkness.

This is a little 3 tier 6 " cake, made using a four egg recipe. My eggs were so large, I could have got away with using three, as it was, I used four and used the leftover batter for the bow cupcakes below. The traditional way to flavour a coconut cake is to add about 25g or 1 oz of desiccated coconut per egg. I didn't want the cake to be too crunchy, so I added about 10 g 1/2 oz coconut per egg and a teaspoon of coconut flavouring.


4 eggs (Ideally these will weigh about 200g or 8 oz) Weigh these in their shells, then weigh out the same weight of
Butter or margarine
Caster Sugar
Self raising flour
40g / 2 oz desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon coconut flavouring (optional)

Prepare your tins and switch the over on to 350 F, 180 C or 165 C fan. You will get away with making this cake by tipping it all into your mixer and mixing until just mixed. If you prefer, make it the traditional way:

1. Cream the butter and sugar until pale in colour and fluffy looking.
2. Add the coconut flavouring if using
3. Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour and beat until well mixed
4. Add the flour, mixing until just incorporated and then fold in the desiccated coconut

Divide the mixture between your tins. You only want the tins to be about half full, any leftover batter can be spooned into cupcake cases. Bake the cake for about 20 to 25 minutes, about 15 for the cupcakes. The cake is cooked when it springs back when pressed light on the top.

There is a lot of debate about what makes a cupcake have a flat top or a domed top and there are lots of factors that can make a difference. The main one is how much mixture you put in the case. I filled these cases barely half full as I wanted them to be flat and have room to poor some chocolate fudge icing on the top.

The Chocolate Fudge Icing
I used a half quantity of the chocolate fudge icing used to make my Dark Chocolate Rose Cake using milk rather than dark chocolate.

John's cake is filled with the chocolate fudge icing and I used it to pipe the shell border as a hint as to what was inside.

If you are making leftover cupcakes as well, you will need to spoon the chocolate icing into the cupcake cases whilst it is still runny.

Coconut Buttercream

I wasn't in the mood for making a 7 minute or marshmallow style icing as would traditionally be prepared to ice a coconut take, so I cheated by adding some marshmallow fluff to some regular buttercream. This is in no way similar to a marshmallow icing, but it does give the buttercream a little something extra. I started with equal quantities of butter and icing sugar and when they were well mixed, mixed in about half a jar of marshmallow fluff. Add a teaspoon of coconut flavouring as well, if you have it.

250g / 8oz softened unsalted butter
250g / 80z icing / confectioners sugar
Half a jar of marshmallow fluff
1 teaspoon coconut flavouring (Beau)
Gel past colour a little violet and pink (Claret) (Sugarflair)

Beat the butter till really soft. I like to add my colouring at this stage. Pale pink is a difficult colour to achieve when your butter is yellow, so you need to cancel out the yellow in the butter. You can do this by adding a little violet food colour. When the butter turns an unpleasant shade of sludge you are ready to add the pink a little at a time until you achieve the colour you want. Add the teaspoon of coconut flavouring and then add the icing sugar one third at a time, beating well after each addition. Level and assemble the cakes and brush away any crumbs before smoothing on the icing with a palette knife. I never bother with a crumb coat unless the cake is for a very special occasion.

I sprinkled the top with a little desiccated coconut to give a hint as to what was inside the cake Pipe the shell borders with a Wilton 32 nozzle.

Cupcake Decoration

These little ribbons are made with a ribbon cutter from the JEM small ribbon set. I used a size 2 and dusted them with a little lustre dust to give them that ribbony shine. Leave them to dry and harden a bit before adding to the cupcakes once the chocolate dude icing has set.

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Sunday, 4 November 2012

Butterfly Brownie - A new glamorous brownie design

You know, I had no intention of making these, they weren't some long thought out and planned design that I'd had in my head for ages and agonised over getting just right, these just sort of happened on their own, when I was practising making some butterflies and just happened to have a tray of brownies nearby.

After making these butterflies, I decided that they were too small and made some bigger ones and then decided that the bigger ones were too big and reverted to using these ickle bitty ones. The butterflies need to have a day to harden so that their wings can set and it is a good idea to bake the brownies a day before you stamp them out, so that they cut better.

Making and Cutting the Brownies
I always use this recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook for making any brownies that I want to stamp out shapes from. It make a deliciously dark, fudge dense brownie that cuts out easily without too many crumbs. It is best if you leave it for about 24 hours before cutting out the shapes and if you the weather is warm, you may want to put it in the fridge for 30 minutes or so before cutting.

I find i get better result if I turn the slab of brownies brownies upside down before cutting them out. Remember as well, before cutting, to check that the cutter you are going to use is a good size for whatever mould you are using for the fondant. (see below for the equipment I used)

Making the Butterflies

What you need
Butterfly Cutter / Embosser (Patchwork cutters)
Pink petal or gum paste
Sugarcraft cutter or cutting wheel
A little vegetable fat (trex)
Piece of stiff cardboard and greaseproof paper
A little edible glue or piping gel to attach it later

The butterflies are cut out using a butterfly cutter from the Patchwork Cutters Butterflies, Ladubirds and Bees set. When I bought these the man in the shop said to me that these are not cutters - they are embossers and this is partly true. If you roll out your gum paste really thin, the patchwork cutter will cut through the paste, in practice I find my paste is usually part cut, the cutters are good value for money and I like the effect they give, so I think they are worth a little extra effort.

1. Grease your board with a little vegetable fat to  prevent the paste form sticking (Or use cornflour if you prefer)

2. Roll out your petal or gum paste really thin. I use the 9" rolling pin from Wilton with the pink guides attached.

3. Use the patchwork cutter to emboss / cut the sugar paste. This is one of the medium sized butterflies from the kit

4. If the cutter hasn't cut all the way through the sugar paste, use a cutter or cutting wheel to cut out the shape.

5. Gently lift each side of the butterflies wing from the outside inwards to release from board

6. Fold the cardboard into a V shape and line with greaseproof paper.

7. Carefully lift the butterflies and gently lay them onto the V shape. Make a few more that you need, as the chances are, one will break somewhere along the way

Moulding the Fondant

What you need
Purple sugarpaste or fondant (Amethyst Regalice by Renshaws)
Piped roses mould (Karen Davies)
A little trex
A cookie cutter that works with the mould you are using

Moulding is one of those things, where some days your luck is in and other days, not so much. Today was a good day for me and even using plain fondant (rather than modelling or gum paste) these just popped right out of the moulds for me. It was rather cool in my kitchen, so that probably helped. If you are not having such a good day, then check out Karen's moulding video here for some tips. If all else fails and you don't have, or want to use lustre or modelling paste, just pop the mould with the fondant in it into the freezer for about 15 minutes. It is then guaranteed to pop right out, you will though need to leave it for about a day to thaw and dry out a bit afterwards.

1. Make a ball of fondant a bit bigger than a walnut and need it a little till smooth

2. Rub a little vegetable fat between your palms

3. Roll the fondant ball between your palms so that it is lightly coated in the vegetable fat to stop it sticking

4. Turn the mould over and flex the mould to pop the moulded fondant out

5. Use the same cookie cutter you used to cut out the brownies to cut the moulded fondant to the shape.

Finally assemble all your bits together. Start with the brownie bottom side up, spread with a little edible glue or piping gel and gently press the moulded fondant on top. Finally attach the butterfly. You kind of need to push his or her little bottom into the fondant to get then to sit at a nice angle.

Happy Baking and Decorating!

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Sunday, 14 October 2012

Button Bow Cookies

I was in the mood for making something pretty and deliciously pink, I had just baked a batch of heart shaped vanilla sugar cookies and this decoration just fitted my mood.

The Cookies

To bake the cookies use my basic sugar cookie recipe, but, add a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste, good quality vanilla extract or the seeds from a vanilla pod to the butter and sugar when you cream them together. Alternately you can make vanilla sugar by putting some caster or superfine sugar in a jar with a vanilla pod, leaving the flavour to infuse and giving the jar a good shake every now and then. A week or so should be long enough and when you use some of the sugar, you can replace it with fresh sugar. I cut these out using a heart cutter from the Wilton "From the Heart" set to cut these out.
I love cakes and cupcakes that have been decorated with bows, when I read the instructions about how to make the bows, I feel like I don't quite have the time (or maybe the patience) to be measuring out strips of fondant or making a template to make them. I came across a JEM bow cutter set in my local sugar craft shop and thought that this might be just the time saving ticket.


Equipment and materials for decoration

Shell pink sugar paste or fondant (I used a ready coloured one by Regalice)
Pink petal or sugar flower paste. (This one is the Squires Kitchen in Pale Pink)
Small rolling pin with spacers (This one is from Wilton)
Bow Cutter (From JEM Large Set, sized 4 to 6)
Lustre Dust (This is Pearl white form Sugarflair)
Lace embossing mat (I used this Original Sugarveil mat as an embossing mat).
A little confectioners glaze (optional)

By the way, never buy confectioners glaze without also buying some cleaning solution or dipping solution to clean your brush with.

How to Decorate
Start by making the fondant lace.

Roll out a small amount of the shell pink sugar paste until fairly thin, then place on top of your embossing mat and roll with the spacers on the mat, a little more, until an even thickness

Carefully flip the sugar paste over and then cut out the fondant using the same cutters that you used for cutting your cookies.
Look down the centre of the cookie cutter before you cut to make sure you get a nice even look to your lace.
Carefully lift the cut out fondant and place on top of the cookies. You can use a little edible glue or icing gel to help it stick if necessary. (You can usually get away with nothing or a bit of water if you don't have any)

Next make the bows (Sorry I forgot to take any pictures of this bit)

Take a small handful of the petal paste and knead until it feels pliable and stretchy. If it feels a little dry or powdery, add a pea sized mount of vegetable fat (Trex) and knead this in.
Roll out the pink sugar flower or petal paste thinly. The pink spacers on my Wilton rolling pin gave just about the right thickness for this.
Place the bow cutter over the top (i used the size 4 from the large bow cutter set) and press down to cut. Give the cutter a little wiggle whilst pressing to neaten up the cut edges.
Lift the cutter,  if necessary tidy up the edges with your fingers or a sugar craft ball tool, peel away the excess petal paste and make the cut pieces into a bow shape.
I was lucky and my bow loops stayed nicely rounded and in place. If they look like they want to collapse, then you can support them, whilst they dry, with some scrunched up kitchen towel
Brush the bows with lustre dust to give them a shiny ribbony look.

Finally the buttons

Take a very small amount of the pale pink paste and knead as above. Press firmly into your button mould and rub your finger around the top to get a nice smooth finish.

I painted my buttons with confectioners glaze to get nice shiny button like finish.

What would I do differently next time?

I would probably use a different colour lustre dust as the white looked a bit white in places, I find it hard to find a pale pink luster dust that I like. Most pink luster dusts, that I try are a darker pink than i want.

I might also make try the button a different colour, I wanted more of a contrast in the textures between the button and the bow really.

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Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Swirly Champagne Sugar Cookie Cups

When I was making my Champagne Celebration Cookies I wanted to make something else that was small and stylish, a bit like a sweet canapĂ© and came up with these little cookie cups. 

To make the Cookie Cups

I used the same champagne flavoured cookie dough I had made for the Vintage Brooch Cookies. One quantity of dough makes about 48 mini muffin sized cookie cups

1. Spray or coat a mini muffin pan with some non stick baking spray.
2. Roll the cookie dough out about 1cm or a scant half an inch thick.
3. Use a fluted round cutter and gently push the cut out cookie dough into the mini muffin pan.
4. Bake at 180 C / 350 F for about 8 to 12 minutes

The best way I found to push the dough in was using the knuckle of my finger. You might have to experiment a bit to get the right sized cutter for your tin.

Royal Icing Swirls

Mix up a batch of your favourite royal icing, I like to use the Wilton Meringue Powder and simply follow the recipe that comes with the can. There is just something very luscious about the smell of this meringue powder, I can't quite decide what it is reminiscent of.

This simple swirl is piped using a medium sized star nozzle / tip. I used a Wilton 22. Hold the piping bag at 90 degrees to your work surface and pipe the swirl from the outside in, when you reach to top, stop squeezing and pull the bag up to get the point. Piping with royal icing is an absolute dream, especially when you are more used to buttercream.

Royal icing will dry hard over a few days, so making a swirl of this size might not be terribly pleasant to eat. If you are going to serve these within a day or so of piping, they will be fine, otherwise, stir in a teaspoon or so of glycerin to keep the icing soft. The glycerin will also give the icing an extra hit of silky smoothness.

Teeny Tiny Glittery Blossoms


You will need:

Small amount of petal or gum paste
Lace embossing mat*
Peach lustre dust (I used sugarflair shimmering peach)
Edible Glitter (This is Edable Art Baby PInk**
Small blossom cutter (Mine from a Wilton Rose cutter set)
A little edible glue
A couple of small clean paintbrushes

*I used the sugarveil mantilla mat, just because that was what I happened to have handy. Sugarveil mats are quite expensive (though good value for their size). You can buy small pieces of mat from some suppliers now, or you can sometimes find squares on ebay.

** this is the latest advise from the Food Standards Agency in the UK re edible glitter. These blossoms can easily be removed before eating if you are concerned.


1. Roll out the petal or gum paste really thin, just a couple of millimetres.
2. Roll it a little more on top of your embossing mat, carefully peel it off and turn it over
3. Cut out enough little blossoms for your cookies cups and a couple more for luck
4. Brush the blossoms with the lustre dust
5. Gently dab the blossoms with the edible glue being careful not to disturb the lustre and immediately dip another paintbrush into the edible glitter and carefully touch it on top

Thats is - you're done! Pop the blossoms on the swirls.

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