Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Popular Crafts January Craft swap - Owls!

When I saw the words “Owl craft swap” pop up in my twitter feed I knew I had to be involved with whatever it was!

This was my first ever swap and I had so much fun doing it that I’ve just finished my second one and I’m about to post it off and am now about to start my third!

The swap is run by one of my favourite craft magazines Popular Crafts (which, by the way, you can see me and some other fab blogs in this months sites to be seen section)!

The swap is run monthly and there is a different theme each month. You send your details in and receive your swap partner. You then have to make something and purchase a gift with a £3 value and send off to your swap partner.

My swap partner was the lovely Tracey who tweets over at @summerdaisyUK

So for the swap I made –

A felt, hand stitched and hand embroidered needle case as Tracey’s  bio said she was just starting out with sewing (not that you’d think that from what I received)!

I’ll be blogging soon about how to make the needcase.

For my accompanying gift I bought some cute paperchase owl stickers and an owl candle holder (and I erm, didn’t end up buying myself exactly the same things)!

And this is what I received –

A gorgeous 50’s style pinny apron and cooking utensils wrapped in two lovely ribbons!

I love swaps!

P.s - I have no idea why my body shape looks so wierd in the above pic and please excuse my chip & dale slippers!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Felt cupcake decoration

I made this for my friend over at BeautyU’s birthday the other week. She’s a big fan of baking and pretty things so thought this would be perfect!

You’ll need

·         Felt
·         Stuffing
·         Needle and thread
·         Scissors
·         Beads and trimming

Step 1

Draw a cupcake shape onto a piece of paper to use as a template.

Use 2 bits of paper and fold in half and cut out the template. This gives you four pieces the same size (although I only needed 3 in the end)!

Step 2

Take each paper cupcake template and cut into the “layers”.

So I’ve got…

1 – front and back
2 – bun case and cake
3 – icing and cherry!

Step 3

Use the templates to cut the correct size out of felt. (apologies for my hand shadows...stupid spotlights)!

Step 4

Check all your pieces fit together

Step 5

Using a simple running stitch sew all the pieces together, using the stitch to add the detail.

Step 6

Add extra detail. So I added some of my bargain trimming and beads to look like sprinkles!

Step 7

Use a blanket stitch to sew the front and back together, then add the stuffing and sew up and knot! I also added the hanger at this stage so the loose ends were sewn neatly inside.

Step 8

Hang up and admire!!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Baking with Trex part 2 - Strawberry Fondant Fancies

Following on from my chocolate orange cupcakes I also made Strawberry Fondant Fancies using my new favourite ingredient - Trex.

Well, they were meant to be fancy but I lovingly renamed them messies! Not so much because of the way they turned out, more because of the mess I managed to make in the kitchen whilst icing!

I used the same recipe I used in part one but I added pink colouring to the sponge mixture. I didn’t flavour the mixture as I added the strawberry flavouring in a different way as you’ll see later!

I used a square cake tin as this would make it it easier to get the classic square fondant fancy shape.

I think I should have used a little more colouring as there was a slight “regular sponge” colour coming through too, which mixed with the pink seemed to look a little green!

I cut the cake into 18 smaller squares.

Then I used my Wilton nozel icing kit to fill the centres of each square with a generous squirt of strawberry jam. This is where the mess started!

I also covered the top and sides with strawberry jam to allow the icing to stick.

Then I used fondant icing sugar  (I used Tate and Lyle) to cover the cakes. Just drizzle the icing over (again, more mess)! I then finished with white fondant icing drizzled in lines and little sugar paste flowers.

I just used normal round cupcake cases to put them in and pinched the corners to make into squares.

I took thwm into work the next day and the icing had soaked into the cake a little, although it didn't affect the taste luckily. So I’d recommend either eating on the same day, or, what I’m going to try next time is icing them with buttercream then rolled fondant icing!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Baking with Trex - Part 1, Choc orange cupcakes

I’m sure loads of people have heard about Trex but until last week (during my cupcake course) I’d never heard of the stuff. Well this has now become a must in my baking going forward!

It was my birthday last weekend so I wanted to take cakes into work. I wanted to get Trex to make the frosting I’d learnt in the cupcake workshop.

On the Trex packaging though it said it was perfect for all sorts of baking so instead of buying butter I thought I’d use Trex for EVERYTHING!

At £1.28 for 500g it also works out much cheaper than butter (£1.19 for Sainsburys basic unsalted 250g). This makes me like it even more!

I wanted to make chocolate orange cupcakes and strawberry fondant fancies.

In part 1 of Baking with Trex I’m going to show you how I made my chocolate orange cupcakes.

I used a basic Victoria sponge recipe for the basis of each recipe.

  • 150g Trex
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g Self raising flour

Cream the sugar and Trex together. As you can see, when it came to creaming the Trex and sugar it doesn’t look very appealing! It is softer than butter though so that makes life easier!

Once creamed add the other ingredients (as per my cupcake course post I whisked the eggs first and added a spoonful of flour to stop the curdling which always seems to happen to me)!

I then added the rind of two oranges to add the orangey flavour.

I added my mixture in to these cute cupcake cases that I found in TK Max- £3.99 for 80! They’re really good quality too.

In my cupcake course post I also said about getting to know your oven. Most recipes call for 180degs to bake cupcakes but I did a couple of test cakes and mine baked evenly and flat at 150degs! Quite a difference.

Then the rest went into the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Then my favourite part, the icing! I got to use my new icing set which also came from TK Max. This is a Wilton set which had the nozel that creates cute icing roses (Wilton 1M). This set was £9.99 but came with 4 nozels and 8 good quality icing bags so I didn’t think that was too bad.  

I then made the icing with…Trex!
  • 200g Trex
  • 500g Icing sugar
  • 4 table spoons of milk
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 50g Cocoa
To create the rose use the 1M nozel and start in the centre and swirl out to the edge.

I then added little sugar paste flowers to hide where the icing swirl finished!

I personally think that the cakes I've made with Trex tasted nicer than with butter. I think Trex gives a smoother batter and a "softer" spongier cake! Trex is the way forward people!

Part 2 – Strawberry fondant fancies will be on the way soon!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Bargain buys!

I always like to keep an eye out for a bargain. Actually, to be honest, it pains me to pay full price for things these days (why when there are so many bargains to be had)!

I’ve grabbed some great bits and bobs over the last couple of days that I thought I’d share!

I love the store Tiger. They’re a company from Copenhagen but they have a few stores over here now too. They always have loads of quirky (sometimes very random) items at really good prices.

In Tiger I picked up...

3 paper punches - £1 each

Fancy edged scissors - £1

and a set of mini stamps and ink - £2!

My next bargains were from The Works. Always great for good value books and gifts and they also stock loads of craft goodies!

I picked up some really cute trimmings all at 59p! Even better they were buy one get one free…however, I didn’t know this until I got home and checked the receipt so I missed out on one freebie! Still a great deal though!

So now I'm looking forward to using all my bargain buys! Let me know if you've got any tips for a craft bargain!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Team building Cup Cake challenge with Splat Cooking Salisbury

The idea of team building days normally fill me with fear! Don’t get me wrong, luckily I get on very well with everyone I work with, but team building days always seem to be swinging from ropes in trees or racing around go kart tracks. Very manly, grrrr!

Well, this was completely the opposite and it was the best team building day I’ve ever been on!

When you walk into a team building event to be greeted by this, how can it fail to be a bad day!

For our team building event we were joined by Splat Cooking Salisbury and they were going to teach us how to make the perfect cupcake!

Splat Cooking Salisbury is run by sisters Joanna & Jules. They run various workshops and cookery courses such as cupcake making, Italian cooking and Thai cooking to name a few!

I absolutely love baking and decorating so I was so incredibly excited about this (the two guys on the team, not so much)!

After testing the delicious homemade coffee cake Splat had made for us the lesson started off by Joanna talking through what we going to do for the afternoon. She also explained some useful tips and techniques when it came to baking the perfect cupcake, and we were able to ask any questions about our problem areas when it came to baking.

Joanna was extremely knowledgeable and was able to give really useful tips and suggestions to overcome our problems. The most common problem seemed to be too much rise (like a volcano) or too little (like a pancake)! This is to do with oven temperature being too high. Joanna explained the best way to get to know you oven, (hello oven), is to bake a couple of test cupcakes and adjust the temperature so you end up with a nice flat surface perfect for decorating…just like the perfect tray of cupcakes here!

Joanna also spoke about different types of mixtures, icings and the techniques we’d be using during the day.

Then the baking began! We were split into teams and had pre-measured ingredients.

We used a simple victoria sponge recipe which my team decided to flavour chocolate!

We learnt about the best way to hold the spoon (index finger where handle meets spoon to give a good pressure) ,and how to tell when your sugar and butter is the right consistency when you’re creaming the mixture. The mixture should just “plop” off the spoon when you tap it on the side of the bowl.

Another top tip (as this ALWAYS happens to me) is to whisk your eggs with a spoonful of flour before adding to the creamed mixture to stop it curdling. Amazing! It works!

Once we’d filled up our cases they were handed to Jules who was busy in the kitchen and then we moved on to icing.

We made 3 icings (one per team) – chocolate buttercream, raspberry fondant and pure white frosting. 

My team did the pure white frosting as I wanted to use this which was using something I’d never heard of before – Trex.

Trex is a vegetable fat that is just found with the other butters. But it’s dairy free, lower fat than butter and it’s pure white. You couldn’t make a pure white icing with butter cream as it will always have the yellow tinge! I never even knew this stuff existed!

We mixed up the ingredients for the frosting and split it into 3 batches. We kept one as pure white and coloured the other batches pink and blue.

Once all the teams icing was ready we moved on to making decorations for our cakes. I’ve done a couple of mini sugar craft courses so couldn’t wait to get stuck into this part!

We learnt how to make mini sugarpaste roses.

Roll 7 marbles in decreasing size

Pop cling film over each one and smush into petal shapes (the clingfilm makes it so much easier to do this)!

Then take the smaller one first and roll into a bud. Then wrap the other petals around in turn to make the rose shape!

We were then left to our own devices to ice, decorate, sprinkle and glitter to our hearts content!

Now, being the numpty that I am, I took pictures of everyone else’s cupcakes apart from mine! By the time I’d realised this I was already 4 cupcakes down!

But here are the two I had left, unfortunately they weren’t my favourite ones but I’ll be using my new found techniques at the weekend to make some birthday cupcakes! So I’ll upload those pictures!!

We all had a fantastic time with Splat Cooking Salisbury. They were clear at explaining everything, gave really useful tips...and were very patient! We were all given a printed pack that we were able to take away with us which detailed all the recipes we'd learnt on the day.

And I think the biggest achievement of the day was they managed to convert the men of the group into bakers!

If you want to find out more about Splat Cooking Salisbury and the courses they offer you can find their details here!