Aqua aerobics class celebrating a 70th birthday

This cake was so much fun to make and it allowed me to use Candy melts again which I love using and they create a fab water effect – perfect for a swimming pool cake.

The cake was a vanilla sponge with vanilla buttercream filling.  Made from an 8″ square cake, shaped into a rectangle.  The brief was Aqua Aerobics and it seems there have not been many Aqua Aerobic themed cakes made and put on the internet so far.

 

The board was covered in white icing, then using a square plunger cutter I marked it to look like tiles and replaced a few white tiles for green tiles.  The sides of the cake were done in a similar way, this time the lines were made using a ruler with a few squares cut out with the plunger cutter and replaced with green.

 

The models were made and left to set over night, then in the morning I melted the candy melts and poured the mixture over the top of the cake and placed the models in before it set.

 

Hey presto an Aqua Aerobics themed cake!!

 

 

Aqua aerobics 70th birthday cake (1) Aqua aerobics 70th birthday cake (2) Aqua aerobics 70th birthday cake (3) Aqua aerobics 70th birthday cake (4) Aqua aerobics 70th birthday cake (5)

Punisher cake for a special Marvel fan turning 40

One of our friends has recently turned 40 (I have officially reached that stage in my live where 40 is the next big birthday for everyone!!).

He is a massive fan of The Punisher and this was to be the theme of the cake.

The main cake was chocolate sponge with chocolate buttercream, baked as a 10″ square cake and cut into a rectangle.  I covered it in black icing and put it to one side whilst I did the cake topper.

The Punisher skull was made from homemade rice crispie marshmellows, covered in 2 layers of white icing with the detail made from black icing.  This was then placed on top of the cake.  I also made letters out of rice crispie marshmellows and covered them in 2 layers of white icing again.  This time the detail was created with red food colouring gel mixed with rejuvenator fluid, painted on to look like blood spilling down each letter.

For the finishing touch I used the red food colour mix to write ‘Happy 40th’ on the cake. I wanted to see if there was anything else that represented The Punisher so I spoke to my husband who is a massive Marvel fan himself.  I had identified a skull, blood and guns.  Apparently that is it and I didn’t see how a gun would fit into the design and be something I could write Happy 40th on!

Happy Birthday Dan, hope you had a super fantastic day 🙂

dans 40th birthday cake punisher (2)

dans 40th birthday cake punisher (1)

5 tier wedding cake with personalised handmade fimo cake toppers

 

This has to be, to date, my favourite cake I have made 🙂  I really enjoyed making it and it turned out to be the tallest cake I have created.

This wedding cake was 5 tiers of different flavours.  The bottom tier was Limoncello sponge cake, next tier up was Chocolate Orange with chunks of Chocolate Orange in the sponge, next was vanilla sponge with salted caramel buttercream, then a traditional victoria sponge with raspberry filling, with the top tier being fruit cake with marzipan.

Each tier was over 10cm tall.

 

Clarkee and Burkeys Wedding April 2014 (3)

The cake toppers were made from Fimo and were personalised with little traits to represent the Bride, Groom and their little girl, I also did a bunch of Fimo flowers so they can all be kept together as a keepsake.  I provided a clear box for them to be displayed in, which will also help keep them dust free.

Clarkee and Burkeys Wedding April 2014 (6)

The flowers were made from flower paste.  They were white ranunculus which were the same flowers the Bride’s bouquet was made up off.  I hadnt made a ranunculus before and they were a little tricky as the first three I made just looked like roses!  I finally realised it was the cutter I was using, so I headed to Centre Attraction in Old Swan and bought a new petal cutter set which solved all my problems and allowed me to create some gorgeous flowers.

Real Ranunculus
Real Ranunculus 
Sugar paste ranunculus
Sugar paste ranunculus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were invited to the Evening Do and it was lovely to see everyone enjoying the cake and discussing the flavours.  Chocolate Orange has since become my new favourite flavour too!

The Bride and Groom have a love of Limoncello which is why they requested a tier of the cake to be this flavour.  The sponge was made using lemon juice and rind, then once baked and cooled the cake was drizzled in a Limoncello syrup before being covered in icing.   I used a Jamie Oliver recipe for this – click here to visit his page.

For this cake I used Massa Ticino ready roll fondant for the first time and WOW!  It was tough to use at first as it was rather hard and difficult to knead, but once I started rolling it out and covering the cake I was hooked.  The fondant is very easy to use, it doesn’t tear or create any elephant skin corners and gives the cake a near perfect finish.   It is more expensive than other brands so maybe not worth using on all cakes, but I will be using it for all future wedding cakes as the finish it provides is priceless.

Wishing Clarkee and Burkey a long and happy marriage together and enjoy your fruit cake at Christmas 🙂

 

 

 

Decorating mission – new curtains

Decorating part 4

Our new colour scheme meant that most of the walls were painted with white, with teal on one wall in each room. As we had reduced the colour on the walls I was keen to get some lovely curtains to make a feature of them and to bring more colour to the rooms. As I mentioned in the last post we have unusually sized windows, so ready-made curtains always need altering to fit. I headed to the local material shops and priced up some fabric I liked, I made a note of the name of it too and when I got home I did a search on the internet to see if I could find it anywhere else for cheaper. It worked out around £10 a metre and we needed a lot! It was quickly adding up to well over £100 and this was before I even started making them and buying lining material.

Whilst I was out and about I kept an eye out for curtains and spotted some on sale in Tasker. I checked the measurements and the largest curtains would fit, they would just need taking up as they would be too long and cover the radiator. I couldn’t believe our luck as they were reduced to £20 a pair and matched our colour scheme.

Curtains before being taken up
Curtains before being taken up

 

They needed taking up about 15-20cm on both sets of windows, I even hand stitched the new hem using an invisible stitch whereas normally I would use the machine – I was feeling like I should for the best finish and I had plenty of time as I didn’t have to make them from scratch, plus my mum always says I should!

When picking out curtains it is worth checking both ready-made and material prices. Depending on what colour and material type you want, if you can find some ready-made it is always worth comparing prices.

We also needed a new pair of curtains for the middle of our rooms, as we have the option of closing the curtains in between our lounge and dining room, which then makes the lounge cosier. We needed new curtains in the right colour as I had taken the old ones down as they were red. This time it worked out cheaper to buy the material and make them as I picked up material that was perfect and was only £3 per metre and they didn’t need a lining.

Middle curtains

I did do some research into dying curtains, however with the original curtains being quite a deep red, to get them to dye teal or grey we would need to colour strip them first and then dye them. Even after that there were still warnings about colour matching and the difficulty of dying something that is already a dark colour.

 

 

Decorating mission – transforming blinds

So after an amazing Holiday and being away for a whole month, its time to pick up where we left off with –

Decorating part 3

When we moved into our house, all the front windows had matching wooden slat blinds. We need them as our house opens up straight onto the pavement, and without the blinds people would be able to see straight into our lounge and dining room. We have the same blinds upstairs and downstairs, so across all of the seven front windows the blinds give a neat and matching finish. One of the reasons for decorating downstairs was to try and make the rooms lighter, as with the blinds in place it restricts the amount of natural light we get. I explored a few different options, most of them involved the cost of new blinds in different styles which wasn’t part of our budget. The decision was made to paint them and I set to researching how to do this on the internet. All the sites I came across presented similar steps – take the blinds down, take them apart, clean them up, give them a light sand, paint them and then put them back together.

And so mission paint the blinds commenced and it nearly finished me off!!decoration mission 2015 (8)

Each blind had over 100 slats and both sides of the slats needed painting. We used white wood paint for the job and set up an area in the lounge using a pasting table and any other surface that was free. I painted one side of the slat, along with one edge and left it to dry. I then returned and painted the other side and edge. Each slat needed two coats. I am guessing you can already see what a lengthy process this became!!

painting slats

 

We had four blinds to do, two from the lounge and two from the dining room, which meant nearly 500 slats needed painting on both sides and with two coats. What seemed like such a good idea became a massive mission!! We also needed to replace the cord in the blinds used to raise them and open and close them. I bought cord from Dunelm Mill as they had a fab selection of colours and thicknesses.

decoration mission 2015 (5)

When the slats were all finally painted, we put the blinds back together using the new white cord we had bought and then put the blinds back up in the windows. I am glad to report that we were really happy with the finished look and it definitely helped make the room lighter.   It had been worth all the effort and had cost around £30.00 for the paint and the cord.

Finished blinds from brown to white

Would I recommend this process to anyone?…… yes I would but please be fully aware of the mission you are taking on! Helpful tips if you are venturing into the world of painting blinds.

  1. – When taking the blinds apart ensure you know exactly how they come apart and therefore how they will go back together.
  2. – Set up a good drying area when you have started painting. Ideally you need a large flat surface with a couple of raised platforms to rest the slats on.
  3. – When buying the new cord, buy extra as it can be difficult to tell how much cord you will need.
  4. – When taking the cord out, again remember how it was thread through the blind as you will need to replicate this with the new cord.
  5. – If working with more than one blind, keep the slats for each blind separate.
  6. – Allow plenty of time for this task.

This is an amazing money saving task as new blinds are not cheap, especially if like us you have unusual window sizes so any blind has to be specially made.

 

If I were to do this again I would explore the option of spray paint to see if that would give them a good coat without having to take them apart – you never know!!

Decorating mission – sprucing up a dining table and chairs

Decorating part 2

When we moved into our house we needed a dining room table and chairs. We headed to Ikea and picked up wooden table with black metals legs and four chairs to match. Our dining table is used much more for crafting on than eating on, and over the years it was been scratched, marked and faded in places. The chairs also showed signs of wear and tear. The chair seat design was made up of four pieces of wood, placed to form the seat, with gaps in between each piece. This design had often puzzled me as it was really difficult to clean in between the pieces, which meant the gaps were hoarding all sorts of dirt and crumbs.  I was keen to change this if I could.

Dining room table before photos (1) Dining room table before photos (2)

I cleaned the table top and legs with sugarsoap, rinsed them well and left it to dry. For each of the chairs, I unscrewed the four pieces that made up the seat, gave them a really good clean, rinsed them and then left them to dry. When I put the four pieces of wood back to create the seat I pushed them together and screwed them into new holes. This meant no more silly gaps between each piece and they looked really good like that too. I gave the wooden sections a light sand, and used wood filler on a few of the bigger dints on the chairs and table top. Once the wood filler was dry, I lightly sanded them again. When you have finished sanding always give them a wipe with a slightly damp cloth to remove any dust before painting or staining.

I gave the wooden table top and the wooden seats a coat of Teak Oil, applying it with a varnish brush and then buffing it a little with the lint free cloth. I left it to dry as per the instructions on the Teak Oil tin, then gave it another two coats. The difference it made was amazing. The wood had a lovely shine to it, a much smoother finish and looked like new again. I had used the same Teak Oil on the welsh dresser and on a mirror so they all matched perfectly.

dining table after (2) Dining table chairs after (1) Dining table chairs after (3)

I used Colron refined Teak Oil, for 500ml it is around £9 and one tin did our welsh dresser, table, chairs and mirror with a little left over. You don’t need much oil and you need to spread it out as evenly as you can, which is why it’s good to use a brush to spread the varnish out, then the cloth to ensure there is no excess and to give it a good buff.

I have also made a table protector out of fleece and non-slip mat. When I am crafting at the table I can put my table protector down to make sure I don’t mark our new lovely, shiny table!   I had some cushions in my craft room which matched the colour scheme so they were perfect for the chairs.  It cost us less than £20 and the table and chairs look like new.

Decorating our house – jazzing up a fireplace

Towards the back end of last year we finished decorating our lounge, dining room, stairs and landing and it had been a chore!! It is such a big space with a lot of woodwork that there was no quick way of painting it.   I was keen to do the project on a budget, making and upcycling as much as we could to accessorise. This month I am going to take you through some of the things we made for the lounge and dining room, showing you hints and tips and some fab upcycling techniques you can use to spruce things up on a budget.

Decorating part 1

First up is our fireplace. We had a large, fake stone fire surround which I had officially fallen out of love with, and a small gas fire which we never used. We had the gas people round checking our fire and I chatted with them about the fire surround and that I didn’t like it and I would like to rip it out. They told me that to buy a fire surround like that would be somewhere up to £1000 which shocked me as I had no idea! I then spoke about the idea of removing it and selling it and they advised again that it was very tricky to remove fire surrounds in one piece, depending on how they have been put into place. This left me thinking maybe we needed to keep the fire surround but change the appearance of it.

fireplace before Fireplace before2

Sorry about the pictures, it seems I didn’t take a proper before photo!!

 

The gas people checked our gas supply to the fire and then capped it off as we had decided to remove the gas fire as part of our decorating mission. You need to get a professional in to do this for you, the great thing is they leave the pipe there, so if you change your mind later down the line or if you are selling your house, you can let people know there is a gas pipe to connect to if they want.

Fireplace being cleaned out

I left Kev to clean it out once we had removed the fire!

 

We then cut a piece of plaster board to fit the hole, glued it in place and then sealed the edge with decorators caulk, giving it a little sand down ready for painting

I headed down to The Painted Chair in Liverpool where they sell Annie Sloan paint and had a chat with the lady who runs the shop. I came away with a 1 litre pot of Paris Grey chalk paint and was super excited to get started.

I washed down the fire surround using sugarsoap and a cloth, then rinsed it well with clean water. I then left it to dry overnight. The following day I gave it one coat of paint using the new chalk paint I had bought. The tin of paint has full instructions on the side for getting the best from the paint and it is a pleasure to use. I ended up giving the fire surround three coats of paint over three days.

I was so so happy with the results. It transformed the fire surround and I fell in love with it straight away. I couldn’t get over what a different a coat of paint did to it. I had gone from wanting to rip it out, to being proud to have it as a feature in our living room. It now also fit the colour scheme we were planning for the rooms.

It is advised when using chalk paint to varnish it, as over time the paint may start to peel/fade. Giving it a coat or two of varnish makes it much more durable and it also makes dusting the fire surround easier as the varnish provides a smooth finish. I gave the fire surround two coats of varnish, using a shaped varnish brush. I didn’t use Annie Sloan varnish as I couldn’t get back down to the shop in the time I had. I ended up using DecoArt – Americana Décor Varnish – Soft Touch. I found it easy to use and gave the fire surround a lovely protective coat.

In total, including the varnish brush, I spent £28.45 and the results were amazing. The fire surround had been transformed and I loved it.  We decided not to put a fire there at this time as it’s not something we use and it was a cost we didn’t need to spend at the time. Instead I picked up some flowers from Wilkinson’s in shades of black, white and teal and popped them in a vase, which was then placed in the centre of the fire surround.

fireplace Fireplace after 1 Fireplace after 2

Any type of fire surround can be painted, sanded, varnished etc. so before you rip anything out see what you could do to your fire surround to jazz it up, freshen it up or transform it.   If you don’t have a fire surround and are looking for one as part of your decorating, try local free/cheap sites such as Gumtree and Freecycle, or head down to a local reclamation yard or second hand furniture shop and see what they have, as you can often pick up one for a fab price.  Just make sure you measure the minimum/maximum size of the space to ensure it will fit!

Don’t forget to keep any paint you have left over too. It comes in handy for a quick touch up if needed and also can be used on other items to colour match. I used the Annie Sloan paint on a photo frame and plant pot.

 

Bing Bunny birthday cake for a special 2 year old’s birthday

I was asked to make a Bing Bunny cake which meant it was time to tune in the telly and watch an episode or two – with us not having children I’m not always up to date with the current favourite programmes and love it when a cake theme comes along which I need to research!

This cake was made from a 10″ square vanilla sponge cake with a jam and buttercream filling.  The cake was carved into a shape of bunny, with pieces of icing rolled out and cut to size to create Bing.  I used a piece of netting I have in my cake kit to give texture to Bing’s dungarees.  I love making cakes like this, it would be my preference to shape the cake rather than model something for the top of the cake.

Bing Bunny
Bing Bunny

 

Happy Retirement cake

I was asked to make a retirement cake for a very special person retiring from a working life of helping others, completing her final day at Marie Curie Hospice.  It was an honour to make the cake, and knowing Ana as I do I know she loves cake so would appreicate it on all levels!

I have made a few cakes on a doctor/nurse theme and always enjoy making them.  The cake was shaped as a scrubs top in the colours Ana had to wear at work.  All nursing tops need a nurses watch too, with a pen in the pocket.

The cake was a chocolate sponge with salted caramel buttercream.

Nurses top

1 cake for 4 people – family 4 birthday whammy!

We have 1 month of the year that is a super busy birthday time in our family with 4 birthdays in the space of 3 days.  We always try and get together for the birthdays and I always like to bring cake!

Doing 4 cakes can be a little much and I also don’t think we need that much cake between us, so I decided to do a cake with 4 sides, each one decorated for each of the birthday girls.

The first side was for Eleanor turning 18.  The theme we went for was a labrador as she has recently become the proud owner of a gorgeous black labrador.

4 birthday whammy cake 2015 (1)

A fab idea when making cakes and cards is to match them up, so for Eleanor I used the same labrador template and made a card to match.

handmade card black labrador

The next side was for my sister in law who likes her wine so this is the theme we went with!

4 birthday whammy cake 2015 (2) handmade card wine bottle

 

The next side was for my neice who was getting a mini party box from us for her birthday so we went with this theme and added a party box to the side of the cake.

4 birthday whammy cake 2015 (4)  handmade card party in a box

The final side was for my mum, the theme was to be a miniature schnauzer as it was the first time my mum had her birthday since they had got their gorgeous, super cute dog Teddy.

4 birthday whammy cake 2015 (3)  handmade card miniature schnauzer

 

We took a cake turntable with us so when we displayed the cake on the table it could be spun round to see each side.  It wasn’t the fanciest and perfect cake I have ever made but it was lots of fun and all the birthday girls loved having their own side that matched their card.