Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Cupcake Bouquet

My friend (I would refer to her as the cupcake fiend but I got told off for that) had a nice birthday barbecue party at the weekend, and so I thought it was about time I made her the present I had been planning (since her actual birthday a month ago). I spotted cupcake bouquets on the Internet, they looked like the perfect present but at £35 and the uncertainty of my friend being in for delivery, I thought there must be a better way. I googled "how to make a cupcake bouquet" and found this site.

It seemed simple enough so I popped along to hobbycraft, picked up a plant pot and a ball of oasis that you would normally use for flower arranging. I also purchased 1000 lollysticks, but didn't actually use any!

The instructions said to hot glue the ball to the pot but for some reason I was keen on being able to use the plant pot for plants afterwards. Instead, I attached a kebab skewer to the bottom of the pot with blu tak. I unwrapped the oasis, realised how crumbly it was, and immediately rewrapped it with cling film. I poked it onto the skewer and admired my handiwork.

I baked 24 cupcakes, and iced half with one icing tip and half with another and used slightly different shades of pink (I wanted it to look like it had variety).

When it came to attaching the cupcakes I realised that the lolly sticks were too long for the ball I'd chosen (I think the one in the instructions must be bigger) so Ian and I decided a three cocktail stick prongs would work better.

The prongs really need to go into the oasis first, because otherwise when you try to push the cake on, the sticks will come out the top of the cake. Thankfully Ian thought of this so I didn't ruin any cupcakes.

The cupcake bouquet ended up with 15 cupcakes on it, and although there were a few small gaps, it didn't look bad. It certainly got a lot of comments from the guests at the barbecue, and my friend liked it so it's all good!

Rainbow Cake

During my recent swap on swapbot, I discovered the following blog - I've linked to it as part of my swap over here but I wanted to point out how cool this rainbow cake is - I'm inspired, watch this space - it's on my to do list.

Recent SwapBot Swap

My latest swap on SwapBot was called "I'm a Blogger, Follow Me" and as part of that, I've read 10 really interesting blogs.

For great illustrations and thrifty finds, go here.

For a great owl ball puzzle tutorial go here and check out her other great posts too.

Carly has the right approach to blogging - outlined in her post here - I think I can learn a lot from her.

I'll mention this blog here too - but it fits much better on my food blog so I'll add it on over there too!

For great card designs, go here.

If you can read dutch, or appreciate pretty pictures, go here - not all posts in dutch.

For art, poetry, and some great tutorials, go here.

If you're in need of a vacation and want to be made jealous, go here.

For postcards of places around the world, go here.

For craft, and some life lessons, go here.

Friday, 23 July 2010

World Cup Cooking

At work, we decided to have a sweepstakes with a difference -  no money involved - the winner got to choose the cake recipe that we'd celebrate the end of the World Cup with.

I did a weekly round up of who played who, and comments on each match, and it definitely made me more interested in the whole thing.

The winner chose a white chocolate and wasabi cheesecake, but as waitrose was all out of wasabi, and the team seemed a bit worried about the choice, I replaced the wasabi with raspberries.

I've never made cheesecake before and generally avoid eating it as it makes me feel a little ill. I decided that I'd make two, one baked and one not. I found two recipes on the internet although I did use slightly less cheese in one because I didn't want to buy another 200g tub just for 25g.

I accidentally bought double the white chocolate, as I assumed they were 100g bars, but they were in fact 200g. The leftover chocolate went into a wedding wednesday fondue, so it didn't get wasted.

It was hard work making the cheesecake, I decided to make the baked one as it would need time to cool. If I did it again, I'd buy a second tin because the first one definitely needed more time in the support of the tin before being moved, hence the cracks you can see in the picture. I'd also utilise my food processor more next time (I thought it would be fun to smash the biscuits with a rolling pin - it probably would have been if I hadn't tried to bash quite so many all at once.)

The non-baked cheesecake did seem to melt when out of the fridge for longer than half an hour, but the taste was still good.  The general consensus was that the non baked cheesecake had more of a white chocolate taste, but the baked cheesecake won because baked cheesecakes are awesome!

Here is a picture of my fridge post cheesecake making,  I think this is how all fridges should look.

And this is how you can tell that the baking you did for work was a success (the coloured plates are my cake plates).

The last photo is a small glimpse into my personality.  I have some OCD tendencies - can you tell?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Gaining readers

It's nice to have a record of all the things I've created, but it's even nicer having people to chat to about works in progress, or future ideas, or just getting feedback on what I've created.  I've been worrying recently about how to get more people reading my blog, and I spotted the perfect opportunity on SwapBot - a swap of blog URLs and a promise to read the other persons blog.  Not only does this get some people looking at my blog, but I get to take a look at all the interesting things on their blogs. 

So, if you've wandered along here as a result of this swap, I welcome you, and thank you for taking the time to visit me.  And if you're not here because of that, I still welcome you - every visitor means a lot to me, please leave a message and say hi!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


My cupcake fiend friend also ordered me to make her a pavlova for her birthday. OK, I'm not sure it was an order but it was definitely a strong hint.  At the moment I'm planning my wedding, and so we get together every Wednesday for "wedding wednesdays".  Somehow, a tradition has started where we have dessert.  As her birthday was on a Wednesday, I allowed her to choose.

We followed a Delia recipe because I'd misplaced my Mary Berry book. The recipe did not call for cornflour and vinegar as some meringue recipes so it was nice and simple to make. We started a little production line, I'd whisk and she'd add the sugar. Most of the sugar ended up in the bowl (there was a small collision between the whisk and the spoon), and we made a nice pavlova shape on a baking tray and whacked it in the oven to cook while we discussed ideas for wedding stationery.

Here it is all naked!

And here all dressed up ready to eat!

The pavlova was yummy, and did not last long!


I have a cupcake fiend as a friend, and last month it was her birthday. As I'm quite lovely, I decided to make cupcakes and take them into work for her. Now, many times I've thought about making cupcakes, with beautiful swirly icing but then I've chickened out last minute and just made my standard fairy cakes. Fairy cakes, however, would not cut it this time - they had to be cupcakes (I wanted the "Cupcakes!!!" reaction). So, I started the same as I normally would, making small sponge cakes, and then I prepared some butter icing, got out my shiny new piping set and set about icing them. Things I've learnt now are - material piping bags are notgreat for butter icing (it all just melts through); piping icing is harder than you'd expect; my strength gives out just when I need it (I'd be squeezing the icing and get to the last bit and then become all weak and feeble).

I experimented with different nozzles, and different flavours (I put some strawberry flavouring in both the icing and sponge mix of the second batch) and I definitely improved as I went (the pink ones were my second attempt).

I'd very much like to get more practice, so there'll definitely be a cupcake round 2, maybe this time with chocolate flavouring, or carrot cake with cream cheese frosting - the possibilities are endless!

Geeky Chocolatey Cake

Towards the end of last year, I went on a course at work, and there was an exam that I could sit afterwards that would give me a nice qualification. I finally sat that exam at the start of June and passed!

As my team at work had allowed me time off to revise for it, I thought I'd thank them in the way they like best - cake! The exam I passed was all about mainframes, so I asked a few people what they thought the cake should be like with this is mind. The general consensus was a dense chocolatey thing, so I settled on a chocolate fudge cake.

I found a nice traybake recipe in my good food magazine, and set to work.  This is the finished cake. Apologies for the terrible photo - I always feel a bit rushed when I bake in the mornings before work!

I received lots of comments about how chocolatey the cake was - it really was chocolatey! I'm not a fan of dark chocolate but still enjoyed this cake, but not as much as the dark chocolate fans. It was perfect for sharing with my team, because you could only manage one slice, so more people could try it.

Friday, 16 July 2010


Recently stuffie making hasn't been top of my to do list but I do have some pictures to share from a swap I did a little while back. For Christmas I received a sewing calendar, which outlines a crafty task to do every 3 days or so. In this, I spotted a cute owl egg cozy and decided to adapt the pattern to make a stuffie. The swap requirements were to make two stuffies, one big and one little, similar to my panda swap previously. Here are my finished owls, I really struggled giving them away so I definitely need to make my own ones at some point. Notice the sparkly felt round the eyes, which I found in hobbycraft - I think it adds a little twinkle to the eyes!

In return, I received my best package to date, it was wrapped using cute Sellotape and contained several small bits along with a set of purple penguins which I absolutely love. The stitching is so neat,.  The sender was worried about them looking more like parrots, but she really captured the penguin look.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Royal Institute, London

Now, this may be a little strange, but recently I attended a wedding here, and the food was so good, that I felt I had to write about it.  It was a late afternoon wedding so there was the ceremony, then drinks and canapes and then the meal, with no extra guests turning up later or an evening buffet.  Unconventional, but worked really well.  

The canapes were plentiful and good quality, there was many of them so I hope I remember them all.  There were miniature beef wellingtons (crispy pastry, juicy meat, yummy yummy yummy), individual baskets of fish and chips (so cute!), mozzarella and cherry tomato and basil kebabs (refreshing), tempura vegetables (great batter, and tasty dip), mushroom tartlets (didn't like these, not sure what was in them (apart from mushroom obviously)), some sort of meat (I think lamb) covered in some sort of green stuff (I think pea) (way more delicious than it sounds), smoked salmon rolly things (I'm not a smoked salmon fan).  I think that's all of them, my favourites were the wellingtons and the fish and chips.  

As there were so many canapes, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to fit dinner in, but luckily they'd gone for speeches before dinner, so I had time to regain my appetite.  And I'm glad I did! The starter was goose liver on cherry mash with a truffle jus.  We had two empty seats at our table, but we told the waiter so they didn't put the starters down and that was a big mistake, I could have easily eaten three of these, the liver was melt in your mouth good, and the mash and jus went with it perfectly.  

The main was beef fillet steak on a bed of artichokes.  I'd never had artichokes before, and I think they went well and provided a good potato substitute for the dish.  The quality of the beef was excellent and I enjoyed every bite.  

The dessert was a mandarin and mango jelly, with some small doughnuts and Earl Grey ice cream (there were posher names for all of these things, but the menu is at home so I can't share them).  I don't drink tea so I offloaded my ice cream on someone else (after trying it of course) and took their jelly in return.  The doughnuts were great, and the jelly was properly wobbly as good jellies should be (I spent ages just wobbling my plate - oh the fun!).  I really enjoyed the taste of the jelly, and thought there was a good amount of fruit in it.

By this time I was thoroughly stuffed! Such great food, lovely company, and a wonderful wedding - I hope their marriage is as good as their food was!

Folly Inn, Whippingham, IOW

A couple of weeks ago I took my mum to the Isle of Wight for her birthday (we love the Isle of Wight, and it's surprisingly easy just to hop across for the day from where I live). Whilst there we went for a meal at The Folly Inn as it was quite close to the ferry port and we didn't want to miss our ferry (it was Sunday so the evening ones were an hour and a half apart). We'd eaten quite well during the day (ploughmans, ice cream, cake) so we opted for just a main - I went for the duck, which came with dauphinoise potato, wilted spinach and a blueberry and balsamic sauce. My mum ordered the scampi. The food came quite quickly and was decent portions, and mine was very tasty, lovely potatoes, great spinach and the sauce went really well with the duck (which wasn't overcooked but nice and juicy as it should be). Mum's scampi was nice and moist, yet the breadcrumbs crisp and the chips were good. As the mains were so good, and we still had time before our ferry, we ordered two helpings of the sticky toffee pudding - and it was really gooey and rich and the sauce perfectly toffeeey! I think we probably should have shared though as it was too much to eat comfortably (we still both finished them though!).

The pub was a good size, and had free stickerbooks and colouring for children, and was right on the waterfront so you could watch boats go by. They were also featured in the RedFunnel magazine because they have table dancing on Saturday nights which definitely sounds interesting. The only thing I'd watch out for is the terrible number of pot holes (really crators) on the road down to the pub (but I spotted a petition at the bar about them so sounds like they're working on getting them fixed).

It was a good end to a great day and I heartily recommend the Isle of Wight for a day out or a week long holiday and this is one of the many great places to eat whilst there.

Blogging More

I'd really like to get into blogging more often, but sometimes I fall behind and then just don't come back because I know I have a back log. So, I'm here, promising to put together one big post of all the things I've done that are crafty since the last time I posted to get it all out of the way and feel better. That way, I can post little and often from then on and I hope to finish some of my many works in progress. And now that I've promised that, I'll be more likely to do it!

Friday, 2 July 2010

The Red Rose, Basingstoke

Yesterday we ventured out to an Indian restaurant with our Basingstoke friends. They'd been before and it seems they'd had a major revamp inside, the decor very modern and nice, although they could do with removing a few tables to give a bit more space. I had the prawn purée to start, Ian the tandoori king prawns, both very tasty. For mains, Ian chose a creamy mangoy chicken curry, and I went for my usual lamb tikka massalla. Both very nice and decent portions. The other two mains our friends ordered were also good but no idea what they were (think one was a korai)! The bombay aloo was very good too, nice soft potatoes, good sauce. Ian and I went for the standard frozen desserts, both good although I didn't manage to finish mine cos I was a bit full!