Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas pudding cake pops

My first attempt at making cake pops - and it isn't as easy as it looks!

Cake pops are the latest trend - little balls of cake on a stick, that can be dipped in sprinkles, coated in chocolate or decorated to look like little animals, easter eggs, or anything really.

They are pretty quick and effortless to make, but as I discovered, not foolproof! To start with you need cake - any cake will do. Once it is baked and cooled, you break up the cake into cake crumbs. I used some Oreo cupcakes I hadn't frosted yet.

Mix the cake crumbs with either cream cheese or frosting - I used some of Betty Crocker's ready made chocolate fudge frosting. I don't know the exact ratio - just use enough so the mixture can be shaped into balls, but isn't too sticky, as you can see below.

I put them in the freezer for about ten minutes to firm up. Then insert cake pop sticks - I bought these from Hobbycraft but you can also use lollipop sticks. Apparently the cake balls stay on the sticks better if you dip them in a little melted chocolate or icing first, but I didn't do this.
I wanted to coat mine in chocolate so I used a small amount of Wilton chocolate candy melts.
Melt in the microwave
Then dip each cake pop in the melted chocolate. This is where I had difficuties - my chocolate wasn't runny enough and was actually quite thick, so I couldn't dip the cake and get a smooth coating. I ended up half dipping, then using a spoon to spoon some of the chocolate over, then deciding it was easier to use a sillicon pastry brush to brush on the melted chocolate! It worked OK in the end but doesn't give a particularly smooth finish.
I stood the cake pops in a piece of polystyrene so they could harden.
They even fit nicely in my fridge!
I wanted to make the cake pops look like Christmas puddings (which is why it didn't matter too much that they didn't have a smooth finish). I moulded a small piece of roll-out icing and used a little buttercream to stick it to the cake pop, then stuck a ready-made holly shape made out of icing on top. I bought these over the internet to go on some other Christmassy cakes I was making, and had some leftover.
So despite the problems I had with the candy melts, I don't think my first attempt at cake pops looks too bad!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Seashell cards

I bought a small card making kit that included five blank square cards and a set of seashell and beach-related embellishments. Below are two of the cards I made from this kit:

Any occasion cards

It's always useful to have some cards that can be used for any occasion so I have made quite a few without any sort of greeting or message. Above is one such example, that uses a ready-made card topper I bought in a mixed pack from Ebay, and a piece of sticky tape that I bought in Accessorize! Just goes to show you can buy card making supplies from anywhere. Craft shops (and websites) are great and have an amazing amount of choice, but they can be expensive. Often I will be in a 'normal' shop and something will catch my eye- Poundland is quite good for basic craft supplies or packets of stickers and as I said, even Accessorize sells cute stickers. I find it quite hard to resist buying this sort of thing!

Thank you cards

I like to have a stash of cards for different occasions and I think it's nice to send thank you cards when appropriate... so here are a few I've made in different styles.


This is a quick example of one of the first cards I made. It didn't have an intended design, I just decided to overlay some papers in contrasting textures in the same shade. The top piece is actually a gauzy fabric that is also purple, but quite transparent. I like the way it turned out and I hope the recipient did too.


No, not Messrs Pitt and Walsh.... brads are little fasteners also known as split pins, that can be used to attach pieces of paper and card together. They are often used in card making as you can buy brads with decorative tops - either colours or patterns or even letters.

For the cards below, I used outline stickers of oriental dresses, on tall thin card blanks. I covered the card blanks with purple paper so used a purple pen to colour in a little of the outline stickers, as you can particularly see in the card on the left.

For the card in the middle, I covered the card blank with purple patterned paper, and cut out a piece of plain purple paper to overlay in the middle. I used four purple brads in the corners to fix on the paper - obviously I could have glued it on, but I like the way the brads stand out.

This card on the left also uses brads, with alphabet letters on. Rather than use them to fix on another piece of paper or card, I just used them as a decorative feature to spell out my friend's name.

These are a couple of other cards I made at the same time.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Royal Wedding party

My birthday this year happened to fall on the same day as Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton, so I decided to have a royal wedding-themed birthday party! I put up bunting around the garden and several people wore red, white and blue. We even had little flags to wave while we were watching the wedding on TV!

I bought some union jack cake picks (i.e. tooth picks or cocktail sticks with a little flag on the end) and some edible rice paper circles with pictures of William and Kate. I made various cakes and think these ones below were caramel.

I also made a union jack cake. The blue colour looks a little wrong as I didn't have any blue roll-out icing so coloured some white icing myself with food colouring.

We played pin the tail on the corgi!

And I couldn't resist buying a couple of cardboard masks... this is me and my boyfriend as Kate and William!

Valentine's cupcakes

Yes, I know... once I'm done uploading pictures from the past 12 months I will be back on track with seasonal baking at the right time of year!

My boyfriend's mum gave me a silicon cupcake/muffin baking tray with heart shaped holes, so I couldn't resist using them to make some Valentine's cupcakes. The cakes themselves are red velvet, but I added some Silver Spoon strawberry flavouring. I didn't particularly like the way they tasted in the end, but I wasn't sure if that was because it tasted a bit artificial, or if I used too much, as I wasn't following a recipe.

I used the pink icing in a can from America that I mentioned in a previous post, and some really cute heart-shaped sprinkles and a few chewy sweets shaped like lips.

You'll have to forgive me for not posting recipes at this stage; while I'm uploading old pictures I'm struggling to even remember what kind of cake it was, let alone which recipe I used!

Project Namibia 2011 - football cakes

This year I did possibly the most amazing thing in my life ever. I went to Namibia with 40 volunteers and helped renovate a primary school that was in a really bad state. We spent ten days camping with no running water and worked every day on the school. I also raised over £4,500 which was split between the Bobby Moore Fund (a bowel cancer research charity) and the project costs. I'm massively grateful to everyone who supported me and helped with the fund raising.

So what has this got to do with baking? I did several small bake sales at work to raise money, and started in June 2011 when the World Cup was on, and due to the Bobby Moore Fund's link with football decided to make some football themed cakes.

So here is a selection of what I made... I wish I could say I'd made these footballers but I bought them! They are actually made of marshmallow and I found them in Poundland of all places!

I also made an 'England' cake using red roll-out icing and a little chocolate football

These were chocolate cupcakes with a chocolate football on top

You can never go wrong with chocolate brownies! My fail-safe recipe is from Nigella's "How to be a domestic goddess" which was one of my first cookery books - my friends at university clubbed together to get it in my second year.

I also had a stall at a local primary school fete.

And while we're on the subject of things I made....

... this is the school bathroom in Namibia. It was in a pretty terrible state, and I was lucky enough to be working on the girls' bathroom - the boys' was even worse.

I learned how to tile...

... and how to cut tiles to go around taps, which I was particularly proud of, as it wasn't something many people could get the hang of.

So like I said, under the heading of things I made.... along with Roger, Debbie, Claire and David, I give you the girls' bathroom in the Tubusis Primary School, Namibia!

It's actually pretty amazing to think that while we all made a massive difference to the school and to the children, something I did - little old me who had barely changed a lightbulb before - will have such a massive impact on the children's hygiene and therefore their health and I guess therefore their lives. Puts everything else in perspective really, doesn't it?!

June 2012 update: Laura from Laura Loves Cakes and Dolly Bakes are co-hosting a new baking challenge, Calendar Cakes,  with a topical or seasonal twist every month. For their inaugural challenge they've chosen... Euro 2012! The rules state that you can enter old posts as long as you update them with the Calendar Cakes logo and link back to the challenge. So that's just what I'm going to do - it's great timing too as it was exactly a year ago this month that I went out to Namibia to help renovate the school. It's nice - and quite humbling - to reflect for a while on what our group achieved, the difference we hopefully made, and the wonderful children and adults that we met.

Cupcake werewolf

When I did my Halloween baking last year, I also made some werewolf cupcakes from the Hello, Cupcake! book. They were actually the first thing I tried from the book and not as fiddly as the penguins or ducks and I thought they looked really cool. I only have one photo though.

Essentially it's a cupcake that is slightly peaked (rather than flat). Take a piece of marshmallow and stick it on using buttercream to make a raised part that will become the wolf's muzzle. You have to cut a piece out of the marshmallow so it looks like the open jaw of the wolf. Then take a piece of a flat fruit chew - I found a Refresher bar worked really well. Use a pink or red one as it is going to be your wolf's tongue - fold it and place it inside the marshmallow, using a little buttercream to stick on. Then take the smallest piping nozzle you possess - or better still, cheat and use a tube of writing icing. Make sure it's white though - this is what you use to pipe tiny little teeth inside the wolf's mouth!

The final stages are to cover the whole thing in chocolate buttercream - my piping skills weren't good enough at this point to make it look like fur. Finally, place two smarties (ideally yellow) on top for the eyes, and using black writing icing put a dot on each to make the pupil.

I'm updating this for October 2012 to send to Calendar Cakes, hosted by Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cakes, as their theme this month is Halloween

As it's a cupcake I am also sharing it with Cupcake Tuesday at Hoosier Homemade

 And finally I'm sending it to Mom's Crazy Cooking "This Week's Cravings" linkup, as my werewolf is pretty crazy!

Cupcake Ducks

For some reason I really like making novelty cupcakes. After the success of the penguins, I decided to try something from the second Hello Cupcake book, called What's New, Cupcake - specifically the cute little ducks on the front cover!

I invited two friends, Ros and David, over to my house, and made a batch of cupcakes before they arrived. And yes, I am wearing a William McKinley High t-shirt..... we had a Glee marathon while we were baking!

I took photos of every part of the process but have made some changes to this post to remove some of them, to not give too much away otherwise you won't buy the book :-)  I did adapt it quite heavily anyway, as I couldn't get the exact ingredients required and I always make tweaks as I go along as well.

The basis for the duck is a cupcake- I used plain vanilla- and I made the head out of a mini chocolate-filled doughtnut from Asda (they come in a box of about 16 for £1 so there are plenty left over to eat!). Use buttercream to stick the doughtnut on as a head, and cut a marshmallow in half and stick that on to be the tail.

I've got all my ducks in a row! (sorry....)

As with the penguins, you need to coat the cupcakes in liquid icing. I used some Betty Crocker's ready-made buttercream and warmed it in the microwave until it was runny, and added some yellow food colouring. Take the duck and dip in the liquid icing - and watch out for any drips!


Take a fruit chew - I used Fruitella - and use it to make the beak. This wasn't in the instructions but as I found the sweets a little hard, I put them in the microwave for a few seconds so they softened a little. I found one Fruitella was too large so I cut a sweet in half, and by folding it in half and moulding a little, I made a beak.

It's also worth mentioning here that a packet of Fruitella contains several different flavour (and colour) sweets so I went through about three packets before I found enough yellow ones. I also used yellow cake cases.

Using a tube of white piping icing and black writing icing, add some eyes to the duck.

I went a bit overboard with this one and got a chewy sweet shaped like a pair of lips for the mouth and used the writing icing to make some giant eyelashes. I call this one Jordan!


I made this one a little hat from another Fruitella (and painted it with black food colouring) and gave it fangs with the white piping icing. I called him Count Duckula :-)

My cat Tilly doesn't seem too impressed!

This one has a little hat made from another Fruitella, and some slightly evil eyebrows.

I made this one a little bow to wear in her hair... I think she looks sweet.

David made this one - it's a computer geek duck with an iPad in front of him!

A whole pond full of little ducks!

These were definitely easier to make than the penguins and looked really cute!

I'm sending these to Tea Time Treats, hosted by Kate of What Kate Baked and Karen of Lavender and Lovage, as their theme this month is cupcakes and muffins.

Even nearly two years later I'm still really pleased with these cupcakes so I'm revisiting this post to add it to Treat Petite, a new blogging challenge run by Stuart at Cakeyboi and Kat at The Baking Explorer. They will have a different theme every month but to kick off the challenge they are welcoming anything small and bite-sized including cupcakes.
And cupcakes are the theme for this month's Calendar Cakes, as it is National Cupcake Week in September. The challenge is hosted by Laura of Laura Loves Cakes and Rachel of DollyBakes.