Posts Tagged ‘cake’

I do enjoy making the children’s birthday cakes – before they came along I’d never really done cake decoration beyond sticking some flowers or sweets on top, but that doesn’t cut the ice with small people, and after forking out a fortune for my eldest’s first birthday cake, I have gone DIY ever since.

But a seven week old baby who doesn’t like to be put down does cramp the baking style a bit. So for the Little Boy’s birthday I needed something that he’d love, but that I could throw together quickly. He does love his diggers, and can frequently be heard singing the Bob the Builder song around the house. So I made a building site cake. I made a double quantity of Delia’s all-in-one sponge with some cocoa powder added, and used one batch for the cake and one for some cupcakes. Then came a huge bowl of my favourite chocolate fudge buttercream – it’s fantastic stuff. I use dark chocolate for adults and a mix of dark and milk for kids. For this, I used 250g of butter, about 400g of chocolate and I don’t want to think about how much icing sugar – I don’t weigh it, I just tip it in until it looks right. Lots, anyway. So, sandwich the cake together and rough ice it and the cupcakes. Add a dumper truck from the playroom (thoroughly washed) and some Bob the builder figures. I’d made some chocolate crispy cakes, and kept some mix back. I added a bit of black food colouring to make some aggregate. Ice a name, add candles and away we go.

The rapturous reception made me wonder why I bother with elaborate cakes. He was thrilled, and one of his little friends declared it ‘the best cake ever’. I doubt it, but it was easy and tasty, so I count that a double win.

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White Christmas cake

I was so last minute with everything that my Christmas cake was marzipanned and iced in the early hours of Friday morning – two days before Christmas. Oops.

As usual, I used Nigella’s recipe, fed it with brandy, and then marzipanned with golden marzipan. I adore marzipan (Mr S&S doesn’t) so I am winning the children over to marzipan love by feeding them the scraps from the cake. It seems to be working. I didn’t have the energy or the time to faff with royal icing, so it was packet fondant all the way. The white Christmas tree obviously set off something in my creative subconscious, because the cake was similarly minimalist this year:

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I was asked to make a birthday cake for a little boy’s 2nd birthday. He’s a Hallowe’en baby, so I was thinking of something spooky themed. So I was thrown slightly for a loop when Mickey Mouse was requested. I had a slight panic, and then got to planning.

I made three cakes – one biggish one for the face, then two smaller ones for the ears. (They could have done with being a bit smaller but I didn’t have the right tins.) I cut them to butt up against the head, and then iced the lot in black fondant icing. Then I mixed some ‘flesh colour’ (I don’t think anyone except Mickey Mouse actually has flesh that colour) for the face. Then came the features. I was getting a bit panicked about these, and then Mr S&S showed a previously hidden talent for sugar craft. Based on pictures of the dratted mouse online, he painstakingly made some very detailed templates – he has a steadier hand and infinitely more patience than me – and using these we cut out the remaining features.

Result: one cake that is, I think, recognisably Mickey Mouse. Hurrah for the husband and wife cake decorating team!

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My second week taking part in the photo scavenger hunt on Ashley Sisk’s blog and the second week that I’m posting on the last day. I actually had all the photos taken on time but real life got in the way of me posting. Anyway, without further ado, here’s my set for this week:

This is from a dish belonging to some friends of mine – it’s calligraphy on wood, and I covet it, not just because it’s a beautiful thing, but also because it’s from one of my favourite bits of the bible.

(For those unfamiliar with both Latin and the bible, it translates as ‘I am black but comely O ye daughters of Jerusalem. Therefore the king delights in me’, and it’s from the Song of Solomon, which I think is some of the most beautiful love poetry ever.)


Yeah, I wasn’t sure what to do with this one. I was clearing out the living room over the weekend – this is the collection of stuff I hauled out from under the sofa. (The little slippers, by the way, belong to the Little Boy, and were crocheted by my neighbour. We all have a pair – they’re toasty and have leather soles. She takes commissions!)

The presence of an Easter chick possibly indicates I should excavate under there more often…


It had to be the autumn colour for this – the rhus in the garden is ahead of the game when it comes to orange, and it’s looking glorious.

I had an idea for this one but didn’t have the time to do the necessary preparation. Part of the reason for this was the Little Girl’s birthday celebrations. She requested a butterfly cake, so from three cupcakes, a circular sponge, imperial quantities of cream cheese buttercream and glitter and sweeties aplenty, I fashioned this:

The only flying it did was into the tummies of small children (and their parents) but butterflies are flying insects, right?

Always look on the bright side

Te tum, te-tum-te-tum-te-tum… Does everyone think of Life of Brian, or is it just me?

Well, with the garden in upheaval and the wet and cold of autumn upon us, our garden is looking pretty sad apart from the orange rhus (above). But nestled by the back door in their pots are the last of the fuchsias, bravely providing a splash of colour and brightness:

Pop along to Ashley’s to see the other participants!

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Warning, not for arachnophobes!

I was asked to make a cake for a friend’s son’s first birthday – which is today. So they wanted something Hallowe’eny. So I rather recklessly decided on a spider web cake.

The cake itself is a sponge, half dyed red, half black (the black half is chocolate flavoured) marbled together. The middle is sandwiched with red buttercream (left over from the ladybird cake and stashed in the freezer). I iced it with fondant icing which I coloured black (grey palms ahoy!) and then piped on the web with white icing and a writing nozzle. This is much easier said than done, which is why I described this as ‘reckless’, considering this is my fourth decorated cake.

Then I made a spider with black fondant and a bit of strawberry lace – they aren’t nearly as red as they used to be – something about artificial colours being bad, or something. I finished it off with fangs, which are minute and getting them to stay in place involved a very long time on my knees with a cocktail stick. But the cake is done and the parents are pleased with it, and so am I.

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With a small person’s birthday comes a demand for cake. The Little Girl is extremely fond of cake and when asked what she wanted for her birthday would invariably answer, ‘Cake!’. Ladybirds are one of her favourite things so I somewhat rashly decided to make her a ladybird cake.

I am quite experienced at making cakes but have decorated precisely two (2) cakes up to now: a Christmas cake and a birthday cake shaped like a drum. So, this was an ambitious undertaking. I discovered online that it is possible to bake cakes in Pyrex bowls, so that gave me an idea.

My sponge cakes are never high-rise affairs, so if you make light, fluffy sponge you may need less cake mix (or end up with a fatter ladybird. Or more off-cuts). I made up a 4 egg sponge, and divided it between two Pyrex bowls (one large, one small) lined with greaseproof paper, so that each was about a third full. I baked them for about 40 mins for the large and 25 for the small (your mileage may vary, of course, depending on the size of your bowls). I baked another 4 egg sponge in a rectangular tin – mine was 11×8 inches.

So much for the easy part – now for the engineering. The rectangular cake was covered with fondant icing dyed green (I love my colouring pastes, by the way – I’ll never go back to liquid colouring). Then I cut a semi-circle out of the the small cake so it butted up to the big cake. The big dome cake was iced with red buttercream and went on top of the green cake. The small dome was iced with fondant icing dyed black (which took a lot of dye, a lot of kneading and gave me grey palms) and put in place. I then used the lid of a smoothie bottle to cut out the spots and the eyes, again from fondant icing. The antenna were fashioned from fondant and reinforced with cocktail sticks. Then I added a name in white icing and three candles. I was very pleased with how it turned out – in fact, I did a victory dance round the kitchen – and the Little Girl’s face lit up when the cake was brought in. I made Mr Sow and Sew cut the cake, though. The eyes which I had thought were cute suddenly looked rather pleading and I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

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Yesterday, I decided that the time had come for me to embark on my first serious attempt at cake decorating. Up to now, I had flirted with the idea – a sift of icing sugar, the odd sprinkle, some fruit, or perhaps a flower or two. But nothing involving proper icing, food colouring or special equipment. I mentioned here that I had a plan.

Well, first step was to glaze with the apricot jam which I was sure I had – but which I couldn’t find. So my home made gooseberry jam stepped into the breach. Then the marzipan, then the icing. I was going to do royal icing but then decided, for my first attempt, to take it a bit easy, so used ready roll stuff. It went on quite smoothly – there are lumps but I’m pretty sure they’re actually cake.

Then it was time for the actual decorating part, for which I used some of my new food colouring gels and some special ivy-leaf cutters, both from here. Getting the right shade of dark green took a long time, as I carefully added colour to the icing. And then added more, somewhat less carefully. As the colour got deeper without getting darker, I realised that there was no alternative. I was going to have to darken it – with black. I very gingerly dotted three dots of black gel into the icing, and a bit of kneading later, I had my ivy green. Then it was roll, stamp and stick, until I had almost the desired effect. It isn’t exactly as I planned, but it’s pretty close, and for a first attempt, I’m pleased.

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I usually refuse to allow Christmas into the house before advent, but given that I found Mr Sowandsew eating mince pies, and feeding them to our two-year-old, I gave up the fight. My attempts to ignore the rapid approach of Christmas thus became increasingly faltering, and yesterday I made my Christmas cake.

I made a Christmas cake last year, which despite me not managing to ice it, being too busy, tired and pregnant, went down very well, even with the members of my family who ‘don’t like Christmas cake’. This year, I shall ice it. I shall even decorate it. I have a plan, and, moreover, I have some special sugarcraft thingies from Lakeland.

Anyway, I had a happy half hour stirring up my cake:

There are lots of things about this that made me happy.

The lovely oval mixing bowls were a wedding present from a very dear friend, and I think of her when I bake. The oval shape is brilliant for tucking under your arm, and for pouring mixture into tins.

The eggs came from our lovely (if slightly bolshy) hens – and finding them was an effort. They have got bored with the nest boxes and are now laying in all sorts of unlikely places. Unfortunately, their stealth is somewhat undermined by their habit of calling loudly to show off when they’ve laid an egg. So we track them and find out where they’ve been.

And the final stage is adding almond essence. I adore almonds and all things almondy, so essence of almond has an almost narcotic effect on me. I confess, I did try some on my wrist to see if it would work as perfume. Sadly, it doesn’t.

And then, it takes three hours to cook, and as it does so, it fills the kitchen with fruity almondy spicey loveliness. Which made my husband crave cake. But no! The cake is wrapped up in greaseproof paper and can’t be eaten for another five weeks! The twice-weekly ‘feeding’ ritual will whet our appetite further (and possibly render the cake unsuitable for drivers).

I can’t wait. So yes, Christmas is coming. And that’s OK.

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