Yesterday I spent a happy afternoon
dying my fingers blue helping The Make Lounge do a test run on a new vintage style cupcake decorating class (hooray for Twitter!) and by the end I had slightly blue fingers (damn you, Ice Blue paste dye!), six boxed cupcakes (plus one sacrificial cake that was eaten…) and a far better grasp on decorating with butter-cream and fondant icing. Baking is something I enjoy greatly but fancy decorations have always been something I have struggled with and while I am not going to be churning out astoundingly decorated cakes quite yet, I do at least have a few tricks up my sleeve for the future!
The teacher was the lovely Charlotte from Restoration Cake, who was an utter delight – very clear as a teacher (and very giving with her tips and tricks!) and just lovely. We learnt what you need to do to make fondant icing better for decorations, the best butter for butter-cream (Lurpak unsalted!), how to make fondant bows, buttons (must resist buying all the moulds!) and pearls. Plus, playing with paste dyes and edible iridescence paints and glitters.
I’ve done a couple classes at The Make Lounge before and I have always had a fabulous time, so I can certainly recommend poking about their site and taking one of their classes. And I would definitely recommend this one, once it goes live.
T’bf is a massive Doctor Who nerd, so while he was tromping around the Doctor Who exhibition in London, I was busily constructing a surprise birthday cake Dalek. Dalek Cake (exterminate! exterminate!) is made out of swiss rolls, icing and minstrels, with toothpicks, tinfoil and glace cherries standing in for plunger etc. and comes from a 1960s episode of Blue Peter.
I had less than an hour to construct him, so everything was shop bought and he had a tendency to fall over (quite hard to get the bottom even) so I am propping him up for the photo. But should you want to make your own Dalek Cake, you can watch the Blue Peter clip online.
T’bf may have squealed, which, you know, job done! :D
Other baking done this weekend, although sans photo, was my first attempt at a cake made with gluten free flour to take along to a housewarming. I’m using Dove Farm’s gluten free flour and their victoria sponge recipe from the back of the package. It didn’t rise as much as I’d expected it to but it was still substantial, very light crumb and didn’t have the gritty texture you sometimes get with gluten free flour and everyone who ate some enjoyed it. Hooray! Recipe behind the jump…
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Look at that cake. It is a cake that netted me several emails from my coworkers going ‘That looks amazing!’ (and they got several emails back in return going ‘Well, eat it!’ but I had to be the person who made the first slice after lunch in order to lure the hordes.) and then several emails that just went ‘NOM NOM NOM!’.
It is also a cake that is great if you’re avoiding wheat for whatever reason, as it uses almonds. I currently have to avoid wheat and my hivemind is Coeliac, so I am always on the look out for delicious but wheat free baking things and this delivered in spades.
It’s called ‘guilt free chocolate cake’ and is by Annie Bell, from her Gorgeous Cake book — which I borrowed off a coworker and has several wheat-free cakes for me to try, hooray! — and I thoroughly recommend it! Recipe behind the jump.
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Because I’ve been asked for this recipe and I thought I should try to increase my food blogging (yes, yes, because I’m so good about blogging everything else). What this is, is a very robust, hard to screw up, incidentally-gluten-free* chocolate tart. The pastry shell is based on a 17th-century “pye” recipe and uses only nuts, egg white and a little sugar, which I got from Ann Willan’s Look & Cook Perfect Pies and Tarts
*Incidental, because there are no substitutions made– the recipe has no gluten and none of the usual starch substitutes, eg. potato flour, gluten-free flour, gram flour, etc.
The base recipe is this (below the cut):
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Oh, my updating fail; let me show you it.
Close up on the two-stranded necklace made at a class at the Make Lounge. It’s a mix of green and cream with copper fixings. The class was taught by Juju Vail and was fantastic, I learnt a lot and I look forward to taking further classes with Juju – also I can not recommend the Make Lounge enough if you’re in London! They’ve got a shiny new place now and the range of classes has expanded to match and I can see a lot of my spare cash heading their way in the future.
Just off the needles, a pair of Nukins in Fyberspates sock yarn from my stash. I really like this pattern and can see it appearing a lot in the future because it’s ideal for commuting!
I do have to do some repairs on them though as it looks like I didn’t pick up a YO near the end but a wee bit of darning and it’ll be fine!
In the mean time, I’m swatching for Julia Trice’s Honeymoon camisole, in an attempt to make a dent in my stash/knit something other than socks, so hopefully there’ll be posts about that soon.
And as the weather is finally turning sunny, I plan to try my hand at some yarn dying with the kool aid I’ve been stockpiling – I have a balcony that is just waiting to be used as a drying rack!
Look! Socks! Plain and simple: toe up, short row heel and knitted in Rowan 4 ply. I actually started them back when I moved to London but there was a bit of sulking and ignoring (noticing a pattern here?) when I managed to cast off too tightly on one. But my co-blogger (the silent one :pokes her with a knitting needle till she posts: sigh) came round this weekend to help me do some spring cleaning and we ended up sorting out my piles of WIP/almost FO and finishing some of them off.
I’m wearing them right now and they’re lovely and warm.
I’ve also recast on for the cardigan with the correct maths and look forward to a more successful attempt this time. I’ve also managed to locate a pencil in the depths of my pens and have plans to sketch out some possible patterns for the accidental yarn purchases I made recently (once my fingers defrost, brrrr!). :rubs hands:
And, my online shopping was delivered this evening. There’s an awful lot of things in there for baking, so hopefully there’ll be some more posts on that front coming up soon. I’m even investigating the interesting world of vegan baking, so stay tuned for that one.
Woe, I had to frog what I’d done on the top down cardi because I’d screwed up the maths on the conversion from Aran weight to DK and not even the magic of top down raglan could save me. After sulking for a few days, I frogged it and rewound the skein.
I plan to recast on with the new maths once I get my Denise Interchangeables to co-operate and let me clip an extra length onto the needles I want to use, so it’s definitely not the last we’ll be seeing of that cardi, dangit.
What I did do while sulking was take advantage of my always growing collection of beads and make some earrings for my flatmates’ birthdays (conveniently both in the same week). I’m very pleased with both sets.
I also endeared myself to many people at work by making these Green Tea and Almond Biscuits and bringing them in for the library and the education department. I was rather pleased with the way they came out and look forward to trying my hand at a few more green tea powder related recipes. Mmm!
It all went silent on my end due to packing (the great move to London is in t-minus 20 days and I am but halfway through the packing, urgh) and a sudden (although temporary) return to the world of Barwenching. Oh local pub, with your very very very old regulars that spend their lives drinking and hitting on the barstaff.
I have been busy outside of these things though. I’ve had two commissions for stitch markers recently which has kept me occupied, the WIPs on needles seem to be multiplying when I turn around and I’ve been dabbling in the art of preserving!
I’m particularly proud of the preserving as it’s been something I’ve wanted to try for ages but previous thought was too complicated. But, after a bumper harvest of blackberries from the local woods, I followed the really simple recipe in How to be a Domestic Goddess and ended up with four jars of Blackberry jam.
Only three remain as the fourth jar was opened as soon as they’d cooled down sufficiently so we could taste them. I’m very pleased with the way it came out, tart but still sweet and with bits of fruit still remaining.
I’ve also made four other preserving/bottling related items but they’ve all been ermarked as presents and at least two of the people read this blog! :seals lips:
I can show what’s on the needles though!
First up is yet another baby cardi. I’ve become far too fond of knitting baby garments. It’s all the fun of a whole item but with only half the knitting! This one is the French Fancy from July’s Simply Knitting and is actually a bit more advanced than the picture is. I’m halfway through the collar and then all that’s left is sewing it up and adding the buttons. This one is also going to my smallest cousin in New Zeland.
And also on the needles is the camisole from August’s Simply Knitting. I’m knitting it in the pattern yarn, which is Elle’s Cotton Fields and it’s the first time I’ve knitted with cotton. I must say, I love the drape and feel of the yarn.
I’ve been knitting this one while watching TV because once you get into the pattern, it’s pretty mindless. I’ve already started the decreases so it’s downhill from here on until I hit the crochet needed to join it up. Er.
Plus, the sock that continues to mock me is still around (Cursed heel!) as is the prototype for my knitted puddlejumper, which is waiting for me to finish the baby cardi so it can snaffle some of that yarn.
And the temperature changes have meant that I’ve been churning out Banana Bread like it’s going out of fashion, so all in all the crafty side of life is still going strong.
Cooking, with baking in particular, is my kryptonite. Leave me to my own devices and I will bake until the cows come home because as much as I enjoy cooking in general, there’s just something about baking that really scratches an itch.
This weekend I managed to get my sticky paws onto a copy of How to be a Domestic Goddess in my local cut-price bookstore. I then spent the rest of the weekend salivating quietly and making lists of things to try but by yesterday, it was clear that the first thing was going to have to be Flora’s Famous Courgette Cake, in a desperate attempt to use up some of the never ending courgettes that are taking over the allotment. (At the moment, dinner around here is all courgette, all the time.)
I will admit that I was slightly peturbed by the idea but in the end, it turned out beautifully. It’s moist, sweet and the lemon cream cheese icing just gives it enough sharpness. The rest of the family have declined to even try it, which is fine as that’s more for myself and my mother.
And then the internet demonstrated its hive mind capabilities: I was not alone in making this cake this weekend. After I’d grated my courgettes and left them to drain a bit, I wandered upstairs and checked my rss feeds and found that not only had Katie made it that day, she’d typed up the recipe as well! :hums twilight zone theme music:
I love how the internet is full of these little pleasures.