Sunday, 28 April 2013

John and Fiona - The Happiest Bride and Groom Ever

You remember a little while ago, I showed you my Wedding Cupcake Preview? Well, this is the cupcake tower that this lovely Bride decided upon. Seven tiers of vanilla cupcakes decorated in shell pink and a soft minty green with hundreds of little pink sugar petunias and the whole tower decorated with fresh flowers. A soft country feel for a beautiful Country Wedding and a lovely opportunity for me to put this together for John and Fiona, friends who live in our village.

Fiona chose a combination of three different cupcakes, one piped with ruffles and covered all over with sugar petunias

This lovely palest pink one, with a soft fondant dome and a butter cream swirl, all to be displayed in these laser cut cupcake wrappers.

And finally topped off with a 5 inch cutting cake. A cutting cake is important to many couples as traditionally cutting the cake is the first thing that the newlyweds do together as man and wife.

And, here it is, the seven tiers of cupcakes in all their glory.

It was an honour and a privilege to create this cupcake tower for such a lovely couple and I wish them many, many more happy decades together. Oh, that's right I haven't mentioned, this lovely couple have already spent three decades together before tying the knot, there were many, many jokes at the reception about the oldest stag in the Forest and the longest engagement in history. Incidentally, the longest engagement in history is usually credited to Octavio Guillen and Adriana Martinez who got engaged at 15 years old in 1902 and eventually married when they were both 82 in 1967.

That's all for today
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Saturday, 20 April 2013

Lemon and Lace Cookies with Butterflies

These little lace cookies, decorated with a sugar butterfly are some more lemon and polenta cookies. You can find my recipe for the lemon and polenta cookies here or see them decorated with a rose and lily of the valley springerle mould here.

Sometimes a simple design can be very beautiful and a number of people have already said that these are their favourite of all the things that I have made. I am rather fond of their simple prettiness too.

I see some sugar crafters who make lovely sets of slightly different and co-ordinating cookies, sometimes I try to do this, but I find it hard as I always like one of the designs a lot more than the others and one of them a lot less. These cookies, for me then are a departure from my norm, because although similar, they are not quite completely identical.

When I set out to do these, I was originally intending to make something like the cookie below, lovely fondant lace with spring time daisies. When I put the combination together though, it just wasn't quite what I wanted.

This is my box of pretty little left over things. I don't know whether you have one of these at home, a little box where you store left over sugar flowers, bits and pieces, experiments, little practice pieces or things that you haven't quite had time to finish yet?  I delved into mine for inspiration of just what should decorate my cookie. In it I found some little white butterflies, tried them and found that they were just the look I wanted.

Much happier with the butterfly.

How to Decorate

The Fondant Lace

I came across this technique from the very amazing and lovely Carina Bentley. This is the first time I have put it into practice. Its actually easier than it looks. 

You must have come across the amazing Carina Bentley by now? If not go over to her Facebook page and also you'll find her picture tutorial on how to achieve what she refers to as The Magic White Lace effect.

It makes such a difference to the look of the fondant lace, plain is lovely

The silicone mat I have used here for embossing the fondant, is Bianca by Crystal Candy.

A little whiter and quite a lot lovelier

The Butterfly

The butterflies are made using a cut and press set from Blossom Sugarart. I made mine using gum paste / sugar florist paste which means that they will dry hard and keep their shape when applied to the cookie.

Start by greasing your work surface with a little vegetable fat (Trex / Criso).  The vegetable fat helps the paste stick to your work surface, making it easier to roll and then helps it not stick when you need to lift it off. Roll your gum paste or sugar florist paste out quite thinly. Not too thin otherwise the butterfly wings will be prone to breaking off. Cut out the butterfly shapes then gently lift the cut-outs on to the press. 
Press the two halves of the butterfly press together to emboss the lovely pattern of the butterfly. 

Lift the butterflies off the butterfly press and place them into a flower former or a piece of cardboard folded into a "V" shape to shape the butterflies. Allow them to dry and harden up. About 24 hours is usually long enough.

Sometimes white gum paste can look a little grey, especially when compared to the super white lace effect, so I took the opportunity to paint them with the left over white paint from the lace effect and then brushed them over with snowflake lustre for that lovely shimmery sparkle.

All that is left to do, is to place the Butterfly on to the cookie using a little edible glue to hold it in place.

That's all for today
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Sunday, 7 April 2013

Ombre Ruffles and Stylised Orchids

This post is all about how li'l old me's cake came to be featured in the fabulous Cake Central magazine.

Back in February, I received a very exciting email from Cake Central Magazine, asking if I would like to decorate a cake to appear in their magazine. If you use Cake Central too, you can find me here.

I has been an ambition since childhood, to have my work published in paper form, but, I never expected that my first printed work, would be a picture of one of my cakes..

Once I had agreed to the cake decorating task, I was sent the inspiration for my cake. You can see the inspiration picture on page 48 of the magazine. This is a hard part of the process for me, as I am  used to having free reign when making a cake, or just some outlines for what is required. Even harder, was that the inspiration picture I was given was mainly white!  I am not keen on working with white, mainly because I find it really difficult to photograph well and I was going to have to photograph the finished cake to send to the magazine. A little artistic licence and creativity was going to be required here.

The biggest challenge though, being a busy working mum and all that, was finding the time to make this cake. Fortunately, my lovely, kind and considerate husband took our son to his mothers one Saturday afternoon and this was my cake decorating window.

I had a few ideas of what I thought I would make and also flicked through some back issues of Cake Central, to remind myself of the sort of cakes that were usually featured. Flicking through the previous issues made me feel rather anxious and a little unworthy of this challenge. I knew I couldn't make a cake as formal and grand as those featured, even if I might have the skills, I simply didn't have the time.

As well as being inspired by the photo, I was also told, the cake had to feature an ombre or colour graduation effect. I settled on the cake design you see here, piped ruffles in royal icing, graduating in colour in spring time hues of zesty lemon and lime and set off with a little dark violet to make the other colours pop, hoping that this would be reasonably quick to decorate and eye-catching enough for the magazine.

I made up a big batch of royal icing and then played a little colouring roulette as I had to guess how much of each colour icing I was going to need to pipe on to each tier.

One of my aims for this year is to learn how to make sugar flowers and I started this design by crafting a large zesty green cymbidium orchid like those shown in the inspiration photo, intending to perch the orchid, at a jaunty angle, on the top of the cake. Having finished my ruffle piping, I gently set the orchid in place and it just didn't look right. Somehow looking too formal and out of place on this whimsically styled cake. I then set around making a dozen or so of more stylised mini orchids, which I think suit this cake a lot better.

The next day, I took my photos and sent them into the magazine. And then, sometime later, another lovely email arrives, telling me that my cake had been featured in the magazine and including a badge, which you can now see proudly displayed at the side of this page.

So, if you see this magazine, open it up and you'll see my cake! I have only seen it in electronic format, as I have not found the paper version of this magazine here in England, but I still feel rather proud.

That's all for today
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Monday, 1 April 2013

Lemon and Polenta Spring Cookies

These lemon and polenta sugar cookies, decorated with fondant using a springerle mould are to herald the arrival of spring.

Springerle moulds are a german tradition and intended to be used to bake biscuits with an embossed design, usually at Christmas time. I sometimes use them for embossed biscuits, but, usually prefer to use them like this.

Spring has been so long coming, this year and whilst we have had welcome sunshine today, temperatures are still hovering just above freezing, just the day before yesterday, returning from a spring break in Cumbria, we were driving through the Lake District, along the Kirkstone Pass between Ullswater and Windermere on a road cut through snow higher than the car. Back in January, when I booked the break, little did I imagine that during said break, snow would fall gently every day and the temperature would still be similar to January.

These cookies are simple to bake and decorate, requiring very few tools in addition to a springerle mould. The cookies themselves, are baked using the same recipe as these cookies. You can also use this recipe to mould the cookies with the springerle mould, have a look at this post to see how.

The cookie below is decorated with plain (unpainted) fondant. I think it looks really beautiful, like this, I was really in two minds whether to paint them or not, though now, I am glad that I did. I think?

Here is the painted version for a little comparing and contrasting.

Here's How

Springerle Mould I used Lily of the Valley with Rose from House on the Hill
Small rolling pin
Marzipan spacers
Cookie Cutter that works with the cookie mould

Batch of Lemon and Polenta Cookies cut out with cutter that matches the mould you are using
Sugarpaste / fondant coloured pale yellow. I used Bitter Lemon Lime gel colour from Sugarflair
A little vegetable fat or cornflour

As the rose part of the cookie mould is quite deep, you need to start by putting a pea-sized piece of fondant into the rose. Without this, I found that the fondant did not fill the rose part of the mould properly.

Don't you love the way that this mould has all the little indentations and knocks that you would expect to find on a really old cookie mould. These House on The Hill moulds are replicas made using resin, the original moulds were carved out of wood.

Prepare you work surface by smearing a little vegetable fat over to stop the fondant from sticking. (You can also use cornflour, but, I have heard that this can sometimes cause mould to grow if you are keeping the cookies for a while)

Roll out the yellow sugar paste, using marzipan spacers, until it is about half a centimetre thick

The spacers are not essential, they just help to get the fondant a nice even thickness.

Place the cookie mould face down onto the fondant.

Press firmly down.

I put one hand on top of the other and use a circular pressing movement to press down really well

If you have problems with the fondant sticking either rub a little vegetable fat on top before moulding, or leave the fondant in the open air to dry out a little. On a hot day, you may want to pop it in the fridge fro 20 minutes or so first.

Lift the cookie mould off by pushing upwards on the metal ring on the top of the mould C A R E F U L L Y!

Check that the mould has come out well and that you are happy with it

Carefully position the cookie cutter over the moulded fondant, looking directly over it, to see what you are cutting and cut out the design.

Paint one of your baked cookies with edible glue, piping gel or a small amount of water and carefully lift the fondant on top. Press the fondant gently into place, being careful not to squash the embossed design

The finished cookies.

I painted the one on the left as follows (All dusts are Sugarflair)

Lily of the Valley flowers
White petal dust mixed to a thick paint with a little alcohol and then brushed over with snowflake lustre.

Lily of the Valley leaves
Moss colour petal dust mixed to a paint with a little alcohol and then brushed over with a thin layer of confectioners glaze.

Rose Leaves
Dusted with dry spring green petal dust

Yellow rose flower and buds
Dusted with lemon ice petal dust

That's all for today
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