Wonky Veg & Fruit box – cake…

Just a quick post to show (off 😉) the wonky veg & fruit box cake I made for Oddbox’s Supper Club last week.

The cake itself was a chocolate cake and all the decorations were edible 😋


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Books and brains…

Warning … the photos below can cause some squeamishness… but it is a long post and the photos are way way down at the bottom of it 🙂

I can’t remember when I learned to read but as long as I can remember, one of my favourite ways of spending an afternoon is curled up with a book and and a big mug of tea close by.  I don’t think a day goes by without me reading at least a few pages and I usually have several books on the go, dipping in and out of them whenever I get the chance. Or sometimes (ok, quite often) I get so carried away by the story that I don’t want to put it away and I have been known to read through the night to finish it. As a child I used to keep one ear out for any parents coming up the stairs, and quickly put out my bedside light, or hide under the duvet with a torch…

I have also been known to fall asleep whilst still holding the book or worse, being woken painfully by the book (or since moving to kindle the Ipad) falling on my nose, ouch! My OH is used to gently trying to remove a book from my hands (not always easy), and a good friend still laughs when she recalls a holiday together where she found me deep asleep in bed but still with my glasses on and holding the book upright in front of my face and closed eyes.

My interests are quite varied, I like the classics, contemporary/historical fiction, chick-lit, detectives or biographies. I do struggle with some writers though, I have never managed to master Proust’ “In search of lost time”, and I struggle with the Russian classics but that is mainly because I find it so hard to remember (and keep apart!) the names of the characters. I also noticed that I tend to prefer British writers over American, unless translated. Not sure why, and I’m not saying I don’t read any American writers just not so many.

When I’m tired and just want to wind down with a book, I often grab a detective, one of the Queens of Crime, Christie, Sayers, Marsh, Allingham, usually I have at least one of them in the book pile next to my bed. I don’t mind rereading the story, given the quantity of books I read, I often have forgotten the clues or who the murderer is by the time I get around to reading the book again.

But I also think it’s good to try out new books/authors and to add some variety to my reading list. Luckily that’s where my book club comes in. The good thing about a book club is that one gets to read a book that you might never have picked up yourself. Some turn out to be good choices, some great and some are rubbish. For a book club the best books are actually those which divide opinions, this usually leads to a good discussion about why we liked or disliked the book or to insights/realisations you wouldn’t have noticed by reading the book just by yourself.

Not that we are a very serious book club, we all enjoy reading and we do enjoy a bit a chit chat about the book, but it’s also just a good occasion to have a chat, a drink and something to eat with friends.  Usually, the hosting gets circulated and whoever hosts provides the food and drinks, and if possible the food will have some relation to the book. For example, with a novel taking place in Japan, we will eat sushi. A story in France, lots of French cheeses and so on and on.

Well…last week I was hosting and the book we read was about brain surgery! We read “Do no harm“,  stories about life, death and brain surgery written by neurosurgeon Henry Marsh. Not really an obvious choice and definitely not something I would ever pick out myself. Having said that, it was actually quite an interesting read – although I admit skipping over some of the detailed bits …

As a host though, it was difficult to find any food that could relate to the book, There was not much mention of food in the book itself  – I guess it doesn’t help that the patients all had to be nil by mouth prior their operation – only a brief mention of hot cross buns and slightly longer mention of Ukrainian smoked eel which never got eaten and neither of which was readily available to serve during book club night.  I didn’t really fancy serving up black pudding and blood soup so instead I resorted to my other favourite hobby, baking, and made a brain cake!

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Disclaimer: no human was harmed whilst making this cake

So what do you think? Looks pretty cool doesn’t it? I had great fun making it and it was a bit creepy actually how quickly it did start to look like a real brain. Not that I have ever seen one in real life, but I googled some photos and used that as a model. I actually googled some photos of brain models as I was a bit too squeemish to have a photo of an actual brain in front of me whilst yielding my cake carving knife!

How did I make it? It’s quite simple and hopefully the photos below will show the steps, although I forgot to make some of the bit where I turned the “brain” upside down to add the cerebellum-).

I first layered the cake (I used 2 x 8″ and 1 x 7″ vanilla sponge) with butter cream and raspberry jam and let this firm up a bit in the fridge. I then started carving the shape, making sure to carve a groove all over to separate the two hemispheres of the brain. Once I was happy with the shape, I covered the cake in more buttercream, firstly to crumb coat it and a second layer to make sure the sugar paste would stick.

 

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I had precoloured some white sugar paste with red and green to make it flesh coloured and started rolling sausages that I stuck to the cake in curly, wonky shapes.

I first covered the bottom part and then turned the cake up side down to make sure the “brains” reached towards to bottom of the cake. I did this to make sure the cake would look nice rounded but unfortunately it doesn’t really show well in the photo. I also made the cerebellum out of some slightly darker coloured sugar paste and placed the cake the right side up again before covering the top half.

The biggest challenge was making sure the “brains sausages” covered the cake well, that the two hemispheres were kept separate and that they wouldn’t look symmetrical.

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The back of the cake with the cerebellum.

After covering the whole cake, I finished it off by brushing some blood (aka as rapsberry coulis) all over the cake and adding some syringes!

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What do you think? Yuk or yum?

 

 

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Happy Easter

Wishing everybody a Happy Easter weekend!
No packed lunch but just sharing this lovely Easter Cake I made last week.

It is a chocolate cake covered in fondant. The nests are made with (chocolate flavoured) fondant and all the little chocolate Easter eggs are attached with melted chocolate.

Obviously I had to do my research beforehand and test out the best mini Easter chocolate eggs to be used on this cake 😘…..

 

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Merry Christmas!

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This year’s decorated Christmas Cakes:

 

 

This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. December is hosted by Rebecca from The Economic Foodie. Theme: Festive Feeds

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CowParade Cake

Surrey Hills is currently hosting a CowParade event and in the last few weekends we have been #followingtheherd! Ie driving around the beautiful Surrey country side and admiring the cows that are being displayed.

Some cows seems to have paraded onto my cake!

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CowParade is a huge public art event in the world, where life size cows are being painted by local artists, “paraded” around a town or area, and afterwards auctioned off for charity. CowParade was born in Switzerland in 1998 and since then has been staged in more than 80 cities and towns worldwide including New York, London, Mexico, Istanbul, Paris and Buenos Aires.

The cow sculptures are made of fiberglass, reinforced with steel and come in three basic positions – standing (head up), grazing (head down) and a reclining postion. From each CowParade event, 8 to 12 cows will be reproduced and become collectible art items (CowParade’s line of figurines).

We have been collecting the cow figurines for some years now, they are fun reminders of places we visited and pretty artworks to display around the house.  The two in the photo are my favourite ones, one is inspired by Klimt and the other by Dutch Delft Blue tiles & flowers.

I thought it would be fun to make a cake inspired by the cows parading around Surrey Hills. 

The cake is a 3 layered vanilla madeira sponge – sandwiched with caramel buttercream, and I first covered it in blue (for the sky) and green fondant (for the Surrey hills). I didn’t have a cow fondant cutter and I wanted to make the cows as identical as possible to the CowParade version, so I printed off some pictures and used that as a template to cut the fondant.

I really enjoyed creating different designs for the cows. In a way I felt like the artists must feel who create the life size ones. Unfortunately it was an extremely humid day when I made this cake, so the fondant was a real pain to work with and I had to keep the designs quite simple but I think they look pretty good!

Which one do you like most?

 

(no real cows were harmed in any way when creating this cake)

Farm cake

FarmcakeThis week I made a farm cake!

As you know, aside from making lunches, I love to bake! I learned baking from my mum, I can recall standing next to her (on a stool) in the kitchen rolling out pastry for an apple pie or mixing cake batter (and licking the beaters). She used to bake every Friday, and I can still visualise how the baked goods were stored on a plate in the china cabinet under a cover of foil and pinching thin slices of cake when she wasn’t looking (and of course acting very surprised when it got discovered there was much less cake than there should have been) >*<

The bakes were all quite straight forward, marble sponges and lemon cakes, butter cake or apple pie and in the summer we would make no-bake cheesecakes. We didn’t use buttercream or icing/fondant, although sometimes we would have sweetened whipped cream. These were also the kind of cakes that I made during my student and later years, and it wasn’t until I moved to the UK that I really discovered the world of cake decorating 🙂

I think it was a Christmas 4 years ago, or better said, the months before that Christmas, that I made my first Christmas cake, using a pre-measured baking kit from the supermarket. The kit came with marzipan/fondant included and also simple tips on how to decorate it. I can’t actually remember what decoration I made, I think something with stars, but anyway, since that moment I have been totally hooked on cake decorating!

There are lots of tutorials on YouTube or blogs and websites, and I have learned a lot from watching and just doing, but recently I have enrolled on a cake decoration course to learn the tips & tricks of the trade. During the 10 week course we will be learning about the different types of icing, using modelling tools, colouring fondant, creating flowers and of course decorating cakes. We didn’t have to bring in an actual cake until this week, as up to now we had been practising on (fondant covered) cake boards but this week our mission was to create a novelty themed cake using the skills learned so far.

We had to prepare the cake before class, and also make the buttercream and any decorations used, but during class we learned how to level and layer a cake (aka torting), to fill and re stack evenly, to crumb coat the cake and how to cover in fondant.

After some deliberation (and input from friends) I decided to make a farm cake and chose green fondant to cover my Madeira cake. A Madeira cake is denser and firmer than a Victoria Sponge so therefore more suitable for covering with heavy fondant. I had never made a Madeira cake before, but mine turned out pretty good with only a slight dome. After slicing that dome off,  I turned the cake up side down so that the flat bottom became the top. Because the cake had risen very well and was quite high, I decided to cut it in three layers which I re stacked after filling with green – to match the outside – buttercream and some strawberry jam.

After crumb coating and chilling, I applied a second thin layer of buttercream before attempting to cover the whole cake in fondant. This was rather challenging! The green fondant that I had chosen was very soft and sticky and a nightmare to roll out. It didn’t help that the class room was quite warm so the fondant kept sticking to the counter and I had to use quite a bit of icing sugar. Also, my rolling pin was too short and I had to borrow the one from the tutor, but eventually I managed to cover the cake without too many ripples, bubbles or other fondant disasters.

To turn my very green cake into a farm cake I used brown fondant to make a fence around the cake, with a few flowers and grass tucked in. The fence was made by cutting small strips of thinly rolled paste and attaching these to the cake with some edible glue. I added the wood grain texture and nails with a modeling tool and deliberately made it all a bit wonky looking (in case you’re wondering…). The mud pool for my piggy was also made from brown fondant  and I coloured some more paste to create the pool, rocks and a tiny duck. I also attached some flowers to make a field of flowers for the sheep to eat.

I had made the piggies and sheep in the weekend before, using modelling paste as this is firmer and dries up harder.  The piggies were a bit of a nightmare as the legs and heads kept falling off and various bits broke off during transport so I had to make some emergency repairs with royal icing.

Unfortunately I didn’t make any photos during any of this because I was way too busy kneading and rolling plus had hands covered in icing sugar, but I will try to write a blog post one day on how I created the pigs and sheep. I especially love the sheep and he has been a big hit with everyone that has seen (and eaten) the cake. And don’t worry, he and his friends did not get eaten!

Below are some photos that I did manage to make before and after, and also some tips on how to cut a cake in slices instead of wedges (although as you can see from the photo this method was only partly used)

 

 

Roses for the weekend

It is May Bank Holiday this weekend here in the UK, Orthodox Easter in some countries and I am sure there are other holidays or special days all over the world. Thought it would be nice to “give” you some flowers for whatever occasion you might celebrate/enjoy this weekend!rose-smiley

(I learned this week how to create these sugarpaste (fondant) roses.)

Am away for the weekend so there won’t be a lunch blog post on Monday, but am planning one for Tuesday.