Kim and Matt’s wedding cake

A friend of mine, Angie (whom I’ve known since I returned to Blighty), has a young lass working with her – Kim. When Kim and her chappie Matt decided to get married, the cake was to be a gift. Kim loves butterflies. Angie knows I love butterflies (have I mentioned that before??!!). She also knows I make cakes. You can see where this is going, can’t you? She asked, I agreed and after some texting backwards and forwards, I met with Kim and Matt.

Lovely couple. Even lovelier because they turned up with a piece of paper with several photos and a clear idea of what they wanted: simple, no frills, butterflies “sort of like that one just less fussy” (points to one of the photos on the page). Fabulous. Makes life so much easier when you have a very clear Mission Plan. So: simple, pink butterflies (themed colour), grey ribbon (Matt’s suit). Not Over The Top. We agreed on a floral topper to match her bouquet. Cheerio. I’ll drop it off on the day of the wedding.

We are in the midst of building works here in our house, so a clear surface isn’t readily to be found! I also had to keep anything I made away from dust. And the butterflies needed to be made and hang around for a bit whilst they dried. One Saturday I promised the kids a telly/iPad day if they just Left Me Alone, and started making butterflies. I’d decided to grade the sizes so I could run a waterfall effect down the front of the cake. I also graded the colour from bright pink to palest pink. I made lots of butterflies because I knew flower paste is brittle and they were likely to break. I also didn’t know how many I was going to use but didn’t want to be short. As I was making them, I discovered a new Collective Noun for a whole load of butterflies: a Wedding Cake of butterflies. Or a Traysful of butterflies …

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A week later, once my Traysful of butterflies had dried, I dusted them. I confess…I looked at them as they were and thought they looked a tad drab to be Wedding Cake flutterbyzies. So I got out my favourite glitter dust and blinged them up a bit. I had a combination of glittered and lustred ones for maximum effect.

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As the cake was a sponge cake, it couldn’t be made too far in advance. So, the week before the wedding, I set to. It was one of my busiest weeks at work too (typical) so balancing the 2 was, er, interesting. I was very glad to get to this stage.

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The night before the wedding, I started assembling. I realised very quickly it was going to be finicky and I wasn’t going to be able to do it all before the wedding. I was going to have to go to the Reception venue early and put it together there, otherwise the butterflies would break In Transit. Gah. So, with butterfly casualties mounting

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I left the cake at this stage

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On the Saturday, I very carefully loaded everything into my car and tootled off to the hall. It took about 6 trips to unload everything – every trip up and down stairs, of course! Once I started assembling the whole cake I realised 2 things: 1) it was exceedingly hot in the room and 2) I didn’t know how to open the doors without setting off the fire alarm. That made keeping dry and steady hands a bit tricky. So I was exceedingly glad when it went together a whole bunch faster and easier than I was expecting. And with only a few more casualties along the way. Thank goodness I made Traysful of butterflies!

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Towards the top of the cake, you can see how pale the butterflies have become. I didn’t use very many of the really small ones because I decided to use them as my Signature butterfly. I really do lurve this glitter dust! This is definitely a Wedding-blinged butterfly🙂

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Kim, the bride, posted some photos today on Facebook including the cake. I was thoroughly heartened to see her say “…the cake was Amazing!! It was perfect”.  Exactly like they said: Simple. Pink Butterflies (admittedly blinged). Grey ribbon. Floral topper. I consider that a Job Well Done. Oh, and if anyone wants a butterfly or 12, shout!

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Daughter’s Dozen

Somehow 12 years have dashed past without my being totally aware of them. Tomorrow is my daughter’s 12th birthday. She has watched me making cakes for most of those 12 years and, over the past couple, she’s been taking an active part in her own birthday cakes. So, last evening, she baked her own chocolate cake ready for her party tomorrow. She had a very firm idea of what she wanted and even took me shopping for all the fixings.

ImageAre you following the theme here? Yes…chocolate. She wanted a ‘waterfall’ of chocolate. So that’s what we did. I took her cake, and cut out the waterfall shape. Then I sandwiched it together with the yummy raspberry jam hubby and daughter made in the summer and covered it in chocolate buttercream icing.

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The outer edge of the cake was lined with Kit Kat fingers…which we ran out of 6 fingers from the end and had to pop to the shop to get some more! (An 8-inch cake needs more than 32 fingers!!) The ‘water’ was made from M&Ms and Smarties but given that I wasn’t sure how many I would need, I did the waterfall bit first. It was a little fiddly making sure the sweets stuck in all the right places and I didn’t get icing all over my fingers in the process, but we got there.

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After we’d placed all the necessary waterfally bits, I let her loose on the top, which she filled and filled and filled🙂 I used some of the leftover buttercream to pipe her name on one side of the board and she piped the 12 on the other. My signature butterfly this time is an old hairclip. I’m packing up our house ready to move in a fortnight and found these butterfly clips that she’s never used and no longer wants. Waste not want not… Then we added her dozen candles and boxed it ready to take to dinner with us and 4 of her friends tomorrow evening. This is the fastest cake I’ve ever made as it probably only took a couple of hours to throw together. Which isn’t bad when you think about how it turned out. She loves it especially since she had more of a hand in this one than any of her others.  I’m quite chuffed with it too.

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Stitching Beatrix

Some time ago, my friend Vijay posted a picture of a frog on Facebook. It immediately reminded me of Beatrix Potter’s Jeremy Fisher, so I commented thus. He didn’t know that story, so downloaded it. I told him that despite growing up in South Africa, I’d grown up on the English Beatrix Potter stories and loved them. This reminded me of something I’d stitched, so I went off to photograph it so I could show him.

This evening, whilst working through my Facebook Inbox, I came across the old message and was reminded that I hadn’t sent him the photos. So I did. Which then prompted me to thinking about a new post here. And here they are…

Back in the days of Before Children, I had lots of time to do counted cross-stitch. In 1996, I discovered a kit for a Beatrix Potter character (Jemima Puddleduck) which I completed, then kind of put away. In 2001, having whelped the first of my litter, (okay, 2 isn’t exactly a litter!), I found and stitched some more Beatrix Potter characters. I ended up with 8 of them which I decided to share between my son and my daughter.

I had them framed in 4s. My son got the All Male cast of Tom Kitten, Jeremy Fisher, Tailor of Gloucester and Peter Rabbit.

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whilst my daughter gets a couple of Girlies in Jemima Puddleduck and Mrs Rabbit, together with Samuel Whiskers and Benjamin Bunny.

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I also stitched her Mrs Tiggywinkle for her birth sampler, but that can be another post😉

One day, when I am not running around ragged after this pair of ‘Erberts, I may just get back to Cross-Stitch. Who knows what I’ll sew then!

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Rescuing a forgotten strawberry dress

A few months back, I finished work early enough to pop into my friend Louise’s house on my way home. I had made a scarf for her and thought I’d drop it in. As we sat drinking coffee and shootin’ the breeze, I cannot now even remember how we got onto the subject of this dress. Anyhoooo, seems that some time back, her mom had cut out the dress for Louise’s daughter and never got around to actually sewing it up. So I said I would do it for her, otherwise her daughter would outgrow the size it had been cut to and that would be a tragic waste of the very gorgeous fabric. I took it away with me.

It sat for a couple of months in my sewing pile until I was tidying things up a bit in my sewing room on Monday and rediscovered it. I decided to tackle the project seeing as how my son was at sport’s camp over the next few days, and my daughter is away at Guide’s camp.

The first thing I discovered was that the dress had been cut a size smaller than we originally thought – an age 3, not 4!! – meaning there was already a good chance it was too small… However, I decided to continue. The bodice was pretty easy to put together and soon looked like this.

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I battled a bit with gathering the skirt, got it all sewed onto the bodice, then decided I didn’t like the way it had gone together so unpicked it and resewed it. Of course, then I decided I liked it better the first way, but wasn’t going to unpick it a second time! I basted in the zip and took it round for a fitting. It was a beautiful fit. Huzzah!

Over another cup of lovely coffee, we chatted a bit about what to do with the neckline. The pattern called for little fabric flowers which I could have made (fiddly, but hey ho). I’d hit upon the idea of buttons though. There is a great store near us that sells gorgeous buttons which could easily be used to pick up the colours in this fabric. We agreed to go for strawberry buttons if I could get them. Sadly they’d sold out of their strawberries, but they did have these which I then brought home and played about with different layouts, before settling on this one with Louise.

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In this view, you can see the different shapes: there is a red flower, a yellow heart and a green circle. I particularly liked the fact that they were a bit shiny too – a little bit of bling🙂

To finish off the dress, I made the sash and then a good run over with an iron. I can’t wait to see Harriett in it. She was so excited about it yesterday and I’m really rather pleased with the way it finished up.

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Hearts and strawberries for Justine’s 40th

A girlfriend of mine is 40 today and I’d been struggling with an idea of what to give her. Having just finished the wonky wedding cake, I was still in a cake-making mood creative splurge.  So last Sunday, as we sat at lunch, I asked hubby to text her partner and ask what her favourite colour or flower were so I could formulate some ideas. The answer came back: “Um, don’t know.” Okay, not such a great place to start. However, I was fairly confident one of our other friends WOULD know so texted her. This time the answer was much more helpful: “She loves hearts and anything to do with strawberries so I guess she likes red.” Ah ha! Now THAT I could work with.

I have a heart-shaped cake tin from some or other Valentine’s Day about a million years ago when hubby and I could be bothered with such things. I covered a board with some Phoenix Trading wrapping paper I had in my stash and made 2 layers of madeira which I sandwiched together with buttercream icing and some more of the jam made by hubs and daughter 2 weeks ago.

The cake was covered in pale pink sugarpaste, a frill added to the bottom and just above that, this fantastic ribbon I found at the cake shop, which was just perfect. 

Then we started with the strawberries. Cutting the red bit and the green calyx was easy. The seeds, however, that wasn’t so much fun. I decided there are entirely too many of the critters on strawberries.

It took AGES to finish all the strawberries I had; perhaps 11 was a few too many! But they did look pretty once finished and I dusted them with sparkly powder just to make them shiny – like they are in real life.

The cake shop didn’t have a 40 candle, or even a 40 of any description. So I piped the 40 and fashioned a ‘something zhuzhy’ out of sparkly green florist’s wire, a left over Valentine’s craft pack I found in my magic box of All Sorts and my totally awesome glue gun.

The last little detail was to sign it off with my butterfly. I had to make this one in sugarpaste which meant it was liable to be very brittle once dried. And yes, when I went to put it on the cake, it broke. So it had to go on the back where I could prop it up it the dip of the heart. And I couldn’t help but use more hologram dust to sparkle it!

I finished the cake in the wee small hours of this morning when everyone else was – sensibly – asleep. Hubby saw it completed before he went to work and said “Cake looks lovely”. That’s high praise…indeed Effusive praise from him! I hope Justine likes it just as much.

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The Cole’s wonky wedding cake

When my cousin got engaged last year, she asked me to make her wedding cake. I’d already made 2 cakes at her request, this one for her dad and this one for her mom. Ali is a very unconventional, Rock-boot-wearing chick so I knew for sure her wedding wasn’t going to be a yards-of-tulle-pink-roses-and-diamante-tiaras kinda do! It was going to be…different.  Then in March, she and hubby-to-be came around for a chat about cake. She brought with her a picture she’d found on the Cakeadelic website. She handed me a printed copy of it which looked like this by the time we’d finished chatting and opened the bottle of something.

I don’t think they could see the whites of my eyes as I wrote all the notes around the picture. I told you it wasn’t going to be conventional and this was going to be a challenge! Nevertheless, I was quite excited by the prospect of it. I’ve done swirly piped icing before, but never a wonky cake. After they’d gone, I immediately stuck the page on my magnet wall so that I knew where it was when I came to start it.

I was vaguely aware time was passing and that the wedding was “at the end of June”. Last Saturday as I was preparing for the week to come, I turned over the page in my diary and spotted I had a week til W-Day!! Ah. Fortunately, even though the bottom tier was going to be fruit cake – it being denser and therefore better for bearing the weight of the other 2 tiers – I don’t make mine months in advance and then leave it to improve. I’ve mentioned before I drown the fruit for 2 days in a bottle of liquor – Bourbon this time (Loz’s tipple of choice ) – and then make the cake.

In the end, this was actually quite simple to put together. Of course, it would have been easier if I’d known before I made the cakes that you can actually get pans in the wonky shape; I didn’t have to cut them to shape! But if I’d known that, there’d have been no cake scraps for my kids and husband, so… However, I know for the next one, which is apparently daughter’s 11th birthday cake – yes, she’s already ordered it!

I scored a big plus when I went to the cake shop and found they had ready-coloured icing in exactly the shades I needed! What a pleasure; I hate colouring large quantities of sugarpaste. And I’m very grateful to hubby and daughter who had made a batch of mixed berry jam so I could use it to glue the madeira cakes together. I mixed it with plain buttercream, so we had pink glue. Quite fun🙂  Black icing is a pain though – it stains your fingers so you can’t go from that onto a lighter coloured icing. Fortunately you don’t need fingertips for colouring up butterflies or dragonflies.

Once again I used some of that fantastic hologram dust I love and which they had in the perfect shade to match the wedding colours. Yay me. I had a mild panic when I snapped the wing off as I attached the antennae. Thank goodness you can glue flowerpaste back together with water and leave it overnight!

I was taking this cake with me so I couldn’t assemble the whole cake. I was afraid it wouldn’t survive the 10 mile trip on twisty roads and roundabouts with only my kids to look after it! So I put the bottom 2 tiers together and left the top one for finishing off at the Hall.

There was another near disaster when we arrived. The third dragonfly had snapped and I didn’t have time to leave it to glue overnight. I did, however, have some royal icing with me  to finish off the cake once fully assembled. I bet you had no idea you could perform minor surgery with teal icing😉

The top tier was a straightforward ‘plop it on top’. My cousin’s friend had made her a wired bouquet – I told you, not a conventional wedding!! – and as Ali loves dragonflies, we asked her to make a cake topper. Isn’t it a beauty!

I was done. The cake was much admired by all and on Sunday, I spotted a comment on Facebook from one of the guests: “The most beautiful wedding cake ever made”. I know Pride is a sin and all, but … bite me! I am a little chuffed with this one. More importantly, it was great fun!

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Baby Bunting…or rather, bunting for my baby!

For the longest time now, I’ve really liked bunting. It’s like a string of jolly-ness. In several of the catalogues that plop through my postbox onto my doormat, I’ve often seen bunting in various forms: country flags, Easter bunting with gambolling bunnies and eggs, Summer bunting with butterflies, bees and flowers, Christmas bunting…you name it, there’s a bunting for it.  I’ve always fancied making some; in fact, last year I purchased a whole pack of Christmas fabric and was set on making some for us. I never completed the task before my myriad family arrived from South Africa and stole away all my sewing time!  This year, however, I decided I was going to make some. I wasn’t sure when, I just was!

One of the things about children’s parties that I loathe (no, really, loathe is not too strong a word!) is party bags.  My children have been to enough parties now where they return with swag bags of crap. Cheap and nasty toot.  I used to do that same thing for a couple of years until I got so fed up with the rubbishness of it that I switched to books. I found excellent low-cost, good quality books at The Book People website. Each child got a book and a piece of cake to take home. Lovely jubbly.  So this year, as my daughter’s birthday approached, I thought about party bags. I toyed with the idea of not doing any at all but then figured that since this was her last party, I’d do them once more. Whilst I was thinking about them, I had a side idea about making party bunting to string up in the room where the girls were having their tea party.  Daughter and I have recently discovered the delight that is Cath Kidston stuff.  CK has some awesome fabrics and I decided to get some of that.  Here’s a couple of examples:

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and my favourite, strawberries

Not content with making one lot of bunting, I then hit upon the fabulous idea of making bunting for EACH of the girls to take home instead of some trashy bag of cheap and nasty stuff.  At some point, I went from this fabulous idea to the monumentally insane one of naming each bunting!  Each letter was going to have to be individually cut out and sewn in place like this:

I had to make 12 of these.  So I set about practising on my daughter’s first.  To be fair, it was very fiddly, with moments of irritation and, yes, the odd colourful word… but on the whole, it came together quite well.  I cut pennants of patterned fabric, sewed the letter in place, backed them with a heavier weight natural calico and then attached them all onto bias binding.

My daughter watched avidly as I was putting it together. I’d so nearly finished before it was her bedtime and she wasn’t thrilled when I told her she couldn’t wait up to see the finished product!  So, when I was done, I pinned it to her curtains so it would be the first thing she saw when she woke up.  I was a little dazed and bewildered when she appeared at my bedside at 2.35am and announced to me “Mummy, you are the best. Thank you. I totally LOVE my bunting.”  Awwww, I think I can let her off the usually unacceptable rude awakening!

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