Hours of Fun Craft Countdown to Christmas – Christmas edible figures. 10 Days to go!!

Hours of Fun are counting down the days until Christmas by sharing a different Christmas activity each day.  Starting on the 13th December with the last post being published on Christmas Eve.

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me………A homemade edible Christmas gift!

Make your own edible Christmas characters

During my time at college doing the cake decorating course we learnt how to make lots of different Christmas cakes and models.  We spent a couple of classes making Christmas gifts and it was a lot of fun.

We made Santa, Christmas trees, Angels, Penguins, Choir boys and Snowmen out of ready to roll fondant, decorated and all edible.  We then placed them in clear bags, tied them with ribbon and gave them out as presents and people loved them.

To make them you need small boards to place each one on, some ready to roll fondant, colours (or coloured fondant), icing sugar, rolling pin, knife and cutters.  Then you need to get some mars bars and cream eggs – or anything of a similar shape.

The Choir boy, Christmas tree and Angel are made with a cream egg placed in the middle of the board.  You then need to roll out your coloured icing, cut out circles and place them over the top of the chocolate egg, one on top of the other.  Use a little water or edible glue to help it stick in place.  Arms are made from fondant rolled into shape, then make the head with fondant and let it set a little before putting it in place.

The Santa, Snowman and Penguin are made from a mars bar cut in half and stood in the middle of the board.   Roll out your coloured fondant and wrap it round the chocolate bar, fixing it in place with a little water or edible glue.  Again with the head, make it then leave it to set a little, especially to ensure the penguin and snowmen noses stay in place!

Some of the pictures above were taken at my cake class of models the tutor had made.  The following Christmas we made loads and loads of them for Kev’s work colleagues and they loved them.  Even those who are not keen on eating fondant can enjoy the decoration and then eat the chocolate!

Few hints and tips

  • To make the angel wings, roll out the fondant and cut it to shape then leave to dry flat.  Once it has gone hard you can then fix it in place using a little fondant mixed with water.  If you have any tylo powder or petal paste this works fantastically.
  • To make a head, roll a piece of fondant into a ball the right size for your model.  Roll tiny pieces of fondant for eyes and the nose, and use a knife or smiley cake tool to make the mouth – the Snowman’s mouth is made by sticking on super tiny balls of black fondant.
  • Hats and scarfs are easy to make.  Roll out some fondant.  For the scarf cut out a strip of fondant and trim it at the ends to create a tassel effect.  For the hat cut out a circle matching the size to the head, then roll a piece of fondant into a circle about 5mm thick and stick it on to top of the circle for the top of the hat.
  • Try mixing some fondant with a tiny bit of water and mixing it into a paste.  You can then pipe this using a small piping bag and create a fantastic hair effect for the Choir boy, Angel and Father Christmas for his hair and beard too!

A “really useful engine” yet challenging and takes forever as a cake!

Sue and I were talking through ideas for her dad’s 70th cake and about him loving trains and that his name is Thomas – what else could the cake be than Thomas the tank engine!

I have been thinking quite a bit recently that I need to tackle shaped cakes as I chose against doing a Hagrid shaped cake for Kev’s birthday this year and a 3D kermit for him last year.  The main fact being I just didn’t have the time but I was also a little scared!  This meant that Thomas had to be a 3D cake and I had to embrace the challenge.  First job was to head round to my brother in laws to borrow a Thomas the tank engine toy from my nephew Oliver!

The cake did take a long time, this proved I made the right decision for Kevs cake!  I started building and carving the cake as step 1, using a diagram drawn up using the Thomas toy stating the length, width and height of each section.  I chose to add the buttercream and jam filling after I had carved it, it meant I had to take it apart but it went back together ok.  I felt it would slip about if I tried to carve it with the filling already in place and I didn’t have enough cake to layer it up as one big one and the cut it out like they do on Ace of Cakes!

The shaped cake was then covered with white icing with any additional shaping being done before it was then covered with Blue icing.  Then it was time to add the detail.

Thomas’ face – I made this using a mixture of fondant, petal paste and tylo powder to ensure it stayed strong and in place.

The coal  – I made this by covering sugar in black liquid  food colouring

The Red outline – I piped this on using a piping bag and fondant mixed with a little water

Wheels – Made from swiss roll and covered in fondant

The underneath of the train was a block of cake covered in icing with the wheels stuck to the side of the block.  I then placed a board on top of this covered in grey icing, then the main section of the train was placed on top of the board.  The board provided  support to the  main section of the train as it was rather heavy and I added some dowels to provide additional support to the whole cake.

I was really happy with the end result.  It was bigger than I had planned but stayed in one piece and I felt the Thomas face was the best I had made to date, as we had done a model of Thomas in cake class and I have made one since for my brother and my nephew.

A Harry Potter Birthday Cake for the best Husband in the world!

When Kev’s birthday comes around it is time to get my thinking hat on for a fab theme for this birthday cake.  He puts up with a lot of kitchen stress and trials and tribulations and has become the best cake assistance ever so I like to make him a super special cake to say thank you and Happy Birthday!

This year we were off to Harry Potter Studios as part of the birthday week fun so a Harry Potter themed cake seemed perfect.   I had to be rather clever when organising and planning the cake as we were away for the week, landing home on the Friday which left me with Friday night to ice and decorate it, which was not loads of time.  I therefore did all my modelling and colouring of icing and baked the cakes ready, to ensure Friday night would run as smooth as possible.

I had ordered some printing onto fondant from Baby Cakes and Roses cake shop which we were picking up on the way home from London, which I had to sneakily get in the car without Kev seeing!

The cake was a large open book with the gryffindor emblem on one page and text from the books and films which I had picked out.  I had modeled Harry’s wand, the golden snitch and a pair of glasses.  I had also asked Lou Lou if she would be able to make some Bertie Botts every flavour beans as Lou has an ever growing selection of food flavours which I felt made her the perfect candidate for the job!  Her son Ben joined in on the mission and they turned up with a bag full of beans, all different colours and flavours – thanks lots and lots guys.

I was really happy with how the cake turned out and I am officially won over by the edible printing as it looked fantastic and to do that by hand would have taken forever and been rather stressful.

We had a fantastic week of birthday adventures, Harry Potter Studios was amazing, click here to visit their website and plan you own trip!  We spent a day in London doing all the sites we could squeeze in, had a cocktail with my cousin who lives down there and went to see Jesus Christ SuperStar which was also brilliant.

fun with shaped cakes

Baking shaped cakes is a lot of fun, especially when using a silicone tin, you bake it, pop it out and hey presto you have a cake in the shape of a donut or star and no carving required – magic!

Lou Lou is my main influence with shaped tins as she has purchased a donut silicone tin, a giant cookie silicone tin and she is the master of giant cupcakes from a silicone giant cup cake tin.  Lou Lou was also the one to buy me my star-shaped tin which is made from aluminium and has 5 points and produces the perfect star.  Without Lou I wouldn’t be having all this fun with shaped tins and I would be spending hours carving cake away, feeling the pain at all the wasted cake!

The gallery shows lots of baking by either myself or Lou Lou, with others involved as Ben did the amazing cookie cake (it’s the best one out of the cookie cakes!), one was made at Lorraine and Jon’s house, Dewey has been involved – group cake baking yeay!!  It just adds to the fun!

I have done most of these cakes just for fun.  Some were to eat ourselves yeay, others were gifts to people to say thanks or goodbye and the donut cakes are mainly due to me acquiring a donut cake baking addiction!  I have borrowed the tin from Lou and I need to get it back to her and out the house.  I currently have one in the kitchen waiting to be decorated – this one will be coated in chocolate genache with chocolate filling.  I also really want to make one with jam in the middle and sugar-coated – the mission, if anyone is willing to accept, is to eat the whole donut cake without licking your lips!!

I have seen other shaped tins that would be fab – a butterfly, a flower, a giant rose,  a castle and a beehive to name only a few!

Chanel bag birthday cake with the classic black and gold strap – it was a challenge!

My friend Lou was off on holiday and asked me if I could do a cake for her as she would be up in the Lakes for when the birthday party was.  I had seen the picture of the cake when I agreed and didn’t think too much about it.  I try to go into shaped cakes with a positive attitude that I can do them, however with this cake I may have been a bit too relaxed about it!

I had two cakes to do, one for Thursday and one for Friday.  Neither too simple so I knew I had to be organised as my Hours of Fun shop was going live on the Friday too – time for a to do list laid out like a calendar.

The bag turned out well and was pretty straight forward, although if I were to do it again I would stack the cake in four layers, rather than stand the cake on its side.  This gives it a good bag shape but it is not as sturdy compared to if it were stacked.  The strap for the bag was somewhat more tricky though…

I had researched it on the internet and prepared gold rings and left them to dry, then attempted to put them together with black icing cut into small strips.  The idea was to make the strap in pieces with the rings hiding the joins.  The problem I encountered ruined it all though!  The rings kept falling apart and breaking and in the end I had to step away.

I returned for another attempt, it failed and I stepped away again!

I did some other jobs, tidied up after cake work and prepared a clean surface for a fresh start.  I ended up making the gold rings out of coloured icing with some tylo powder in to toughen them up a little and used them straight away for they didn’t dry.  I made the strap in pieces and the new gold rings stayed together and hid the joins of the black icing perfectly.

Another tip I got for this cake that worked amazingly was to go over the black icing with a sponge with a small amount of shortening on.  This creates a more leathery look and was really effective – I love learning new tricks!

Happy Birthday Hannah, hope you had a fantastic celebration.

 

 

 

Bride and Groom figures and flowers – handmade wedding decorations

My last 2 posts have been about my brother in laws wedding cake and I promise this is the last one as I am spreading out all the delights of this cake into 3 posts as I feel it deserves the attention.

For this third and last post I want to give you a closer look at the bride and groom figures that were on the Trotter’s reliant van and the flowers which were on 3 tier wedding cake.

The bride and groom were made by my very talented friend Chris Mason.  He made them out of fimo and they are now the third set of bride and groom figures he has made.  They look fantastic displayed on a cake and are a keep sake after the cake has been eaten up!

 

The flowers were made by myself from petal paste, edible however not recommended!  As you probably know by now, flower making is my favourite to model out of icing.  I find it very relaxing and as long as plenty of time is allowed it is fun and you can be really creative with detail and colouring.

These red roses with dusty purple calla lilies and white calla lilies.

 

Chris has made more fimo bride and grooms and bottle stoppers too, check out the gallery below for more pictures.

With fruit cake back on the menu there is no stopping me!!

I have recently had to bake a fruit cake, which was the first since my disaster before christmas with every cake going wrong.  Luckily it all went well and now I am expanding the menu to include Jamaica Fruit cake.  I have a wedding cake due at the end of July that includes a tier of Jamaica Fruit cake, so I had a new recipe to try out.

The ingredients are mostly the same as the fruit cakes I have been making.  The main difference is to use Rum and Red Wine to soak the fruit in, rather than Brandy.  Prunes are also included in the recipe and switch lemon for lime flavouring.    The recipe I used was for 2 shallow 9″ round cake tins, however I wanted to do bake a 6″ round so I adjusted the measurements and left the fruit to soak.

When I first checked on the cake in the oven it was bubbling away, showing it was extremely moist.  My first thought was – was it going to be too moist?  However, when we let it cool and cut in to it to try it, it was delicious yeay!  It was lovely and moist and definitely all cooked through.

I took some into work and got people to try it and provide feedback.  The guys at work are fab for providing honest feedback and love taste testing cakes – surprisingly!  Everyone reported back they liked it, with one comment suggesting the rum could be stronger to taste.  With this cake I only soaked the fruit for 24 hours before baking, and cut into the cake without feeding it more rum.  With the wedding cake I will aim to soak the fruit for at least 4 days and feed it once a week to help it mature nicely for the big day.

 

Yeay back on the fruit cake. It was scary returning after the dissater stricken christmas cakes!

I have the honour of making one of my best friend’s brother’s wedding cake in June.  The cake includes a fruit layer which made me realise – I had not made a fruit cake since I had a run of fruit cake failures in the build up to Christmas.

I needed to get “back on the horse” and decided to make the fruit cake in advance, to allow it time to mature with brandy and ease up the cake baking during the days leading up to the big day.  It didn’t start the best when I realised I had measured the wrong amount of mixture out for the tin I was using.  This however was recoverable as it was too much mixture, so I was given the opportunity to try my new 4″ round tin still awaiting its first cake.

My husband is a big fan of fruit cake, marzipan and icing with extra cherries in.   After pouring in the mixture in the 6″ tin, I then added more cherries and poured the remaining mixture into the mini tin – 2 fruits cakes, perfect.  We could now taste test the cake to make sure it has cooked through and is delicious.

I decorated it in hearts for Kev, after putting on a layer of marzipan and then icing.  I also used my star crimper to emboss hearts onto the cake.  The fruit cake was a success yeay!

A little thank you gift to Kev for being super cake assistant  xx

Experimenting with dry cake mixture. Can a bag of dry mixture really make a delicious cake?

My friend Lou Lou has recently found a new local cake shop called Babycakes and Roses Cakecraft based in Warrington in Clarenden court.  Carol the owner seems to be so lovely and helpful, I have not met her myself but Lou talks very highly of her and she seems to be keen to help and advise in any way she can.

Check out her facebook page here

Lou Lou was chatting with Carol about cake mixture and they got talking about dry cake mixture as being an option for cake baking, as it would reduce the cost to make a cake and may be an option for certain types of cakes.  It is thought that some of the cake shops that offer cakes at a price that seems rather cheap, may use dry mixture.  Although this is not confirmed!!

 

I went to visit Lou the other weekend and we got on a mission to test the dry mixture by making some cupcakes.  When we opened the bag it smelt lovely and we were hopeful for the outcome.   It all seemed rather strange baking a cake in this way – adding water, eggs and vanilla, mixing, then putting in the oven.  As the cake baked we watched the cupcakes rise nicely and look the part.  Although we did slightly over fill the cases so they overflowed a little!

 

The end result looked the part.  The mixture produced a lovely, evenly baked cupcake that looked like the perfect sponge, however when we tasted them they just didn’t taste right.  They didn’t quite smell and taste like a home-baked cupcake and although they looked better than home-baked cupcakes turn out, we were not convinced.  I had brought some gluten-free cake with me for Lou to try, so we did a taste test across the 2 and the home-baked cake tasted and smelt nicer, even though it was a day old.

We may re-visit this area at some point and Lou Lou was going to speak to Carol about it and report in with her on our findings.  It is a nice idea but we are not willing to go with it at the moment just to save some money.  The taste of the cake has to be fantastic so when people bite into it they realise not only does it look fab, but it tastes amazing too!

Exploring gluten free sponge cake recipes then we get to eat them too yeay!

I am doing a wedding cake in a few weeks which includes a gluten-free sponge layer as part of the tiered cake.  I have made a couple of gluten-free cakes before but I had not made one for a while and hadn’t really explored recipes.  I also wanted to learn a bit more about a gluten-free diet and coeliac disease to understand more about the symptoms and causes.  This would help me take every step necessary to ensure my gluten-free cakes are actually gluten-free!

This also meant that I needed to bake cakes that we could then eat yeay!  This doesn’t happen very often as the cakes I make are often for others so getting some all depends on being in the right place at the right time!!  So off I ventured on a gluten-free exploration.

I found a number of recipes – most of which were very similar using plain flour or self-raising flour, all gluten-free.  One of the recipes included rice flour and tapioca flour, along with xanthan gum and mayonnaise – this was something totally new.  unfortunately I have been unable to source any tapioca flour in Liverpool – if anyone knows where I can pick some up please let me know.  I don’t really want to order it online and so I have added it to the ‘things to get list’ and will keep my ears and eyes open for some.

I didn’t take pictures of all the cakes and also didn’t decorate them other than maybe a sprinkle of icing sugar.

The first cake tasted delicious but the bottom feel apart when i took it out the tin.  This occurred for 2 reasons – I didn’t use a layer of grease proof paper to line the bottom of the tin and I tried to take it out the tin before it had cooled a little.

The rest of the gluten-free baking went fab.  The cakes turned out the tin nicely, tasted lovely and I picked out my favourite recipe.  It produced a light cake with a slight crumble to its texture when pieces were cut from it.  This gluten-free recipe does produce a different type of sponge cake to my normal recipe, but it is just a delicious and easy to make.  When using it as part of a tiered cake it is definitely worth baring in mind that a gluten-free sponge like this does not hold the same strength as a sponge containing gluten, so make sure you are not putting too much weight on top of it.

Gluten free sponge cake recipe

225g Caster sugar

225g Margarine

3 drops of vanilla extract

3 eggs

225g Self raising flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder – ensure it is gluten-free and made with maize starch.

4 tbsp milk

Cream the sugar and margarine, then beat in the egg and vanilla.  Next fold in the flour and baking powder and beat.  Finally beat in the milk.  Cook in an oven heated to 170 degrees C for about 15 mins if splitting across 2 shallow 8″ tins, or about 40 mins at 160 degrees C if all in one deep 6″ tin.