Princess Castle Cake

After Miss Connie Jean requested a Princess castle cake for her 5th birthday I feared she was starting to over estimate my baking skills, but perhaps she has more confidence in them then I do...

And maybe I cheated a little...

Originally I wanted to bake the turrets but as I lost track of what day it was over the Christmas period, I didn't leave myself enough time. The turrets are actually kitchen roll tubes covered in fondant. Not edible but quick, easy and they get the job done! I read somewhere that cakes can be baked in food tins so if you're making a castle cake and you would like edible turrets, maybe that's something to look in to?

The tops of my turrets are ice cream cones dipped in pink candy melts and covered with sprinkles (a whole pot of sprinkles). South Park shot glasses came in handy when leaving them to dry. I used the same glasses to squash the top of the kitchen roll allowing the cones to sit snugly, secured in place with a little buttercream. I was wise enough to make more cones then needed as two crumbled in the process.

A castle has to be high! This cake is three layers of madeira sponge sandwiched together with pink buttercream icing and jam. This is it with its pink crumb coat. For anyone unfamiliar with cake terms as I once was, the crumb coat is a very thin layer of icing that traps any loose crumbs, and helps to give a smooth surface before the applying the final layer of icing or fondant.

The slices were generous but expertly cut by Nanny Maggie one slice served two people. 

Ideally, I would have liked to add more finishing touches such as flags and a princess but I ran out of time. Nevertheless it got Connie's seal of approval and that's all that matters :)


Lottie, forever in our hearts xx

Charlotte Roses
We think about you always,
we talk about you still,
you have never been forgotten,
and you never will.
We hold you close within our hearts,
and there you will remain,
to walk with us throughout our lives
until we meet again.


Animal Safari Cake

When my friend and colleague, Azra, asked if I could make a birthday cake for her little boys 5th birthday party I was happy to oblige. When she went on to say she would need at least 30 slices from the cake and 30 cupcakes to accompany it, I have to admit I thought I'd bitten off more then I could chew.

Fortunately the cake was a success and probably my best to date!

As most of my cakes are gifts I've never had to worry about portions before, so the first thing I did was find out how many slices my usual 8 inch round cake provides.

Our friend Verity advised they got around 25 slices from Harry's 1st birthday cake, cutting it in to rectangular pieces like a wedding cake. This seemed to fit in with Wilton's serving guide and so I decided to follow that. 

I didn't want one large cake so I thought I'd attempt my first ever tiered cake. Using Wilton's guide I decided to go with a 6 and an 8 inch cake, until I got nervous about portions and the lady in the cake shop suggested I go with a 7 and 10 inch cake. 

It proved to be more then enough as all of the children and their parents got a reasonably sized slice, and they still had half of the bottom tier left at the end.

Stacking the cakes was a nerve racking experience but not as terrifying as I thought. There are numerous tutorials on YouTube, each one varies slightly and different people favour different types of supports. I opted for plastic dowels and pretty much followed this tutorial, placing four in my bottom tier. The cake felt sturdy and was delivered to it's destination with no dramas.

With an animal safari theme for his party, I created lots of little animal friends to match Ben's party invitation. These little critters took some time but were my favourite part of the cake and lots of fun to make.

I must point out the inspiration behind this cake comes from Krazy Kool Cakes in El Paso, Texas. They made an animal safari cake back in 2011. It was exactly what I had in mind for Ben's cake and when I saw it I knew I had to recreate it. If you haven't seen their work check them out on Facebook or YouTube. They're a family run business, their cakes are amazing and they always take time to reply to their fans! They're also very happy to share their expertise and often post helpful tutorials online.

As for the cupcakes, I managed to whip up 12 vanilla cupcakes, 12 chocolate cupcakes and 10 banana cupcakes to accompany the cake.

I created animal faces on the vanilla cupcakes but short on time I cheated with the others and added printed rice paper toppers. Not everyone is keen on fondant so at least it gave a good selection.

I'm very proud of this cake and even Laura from Krazy Kool Cakes gave it a big thumbs up. I hear it was a resounding success at the party and Ben had a really great day.


Captain Hog

This little fella was created for our brother-in-law Steve, to celebrate his birthday. 

Why a hedgehog? Well if you know Steve you should know why.

I gave him a moustache because he is a distinguished gentlehog, and he likes to stand out amongst his hedgehog friends (Mr Chris thinks I'm crazy too).

This is the first time I have made the effort to also decorate the cake board. I'm starting to see how those finishing touches help to complete the cake and tie it all together.

Covering the cake board

I'm not sure if there is a correct way to cover a cake board but this is how I achieved it....

1. I rubbed a thin layer of Trex all over the board to give it something to stick to.
2. Rolled the fondant to the size needed, placed a rolling pin in the middle, then folded the fondant in half over the rolling pin.
3. Slid the board in to place up to the rolling pin, then lifted the fondant, placing the rolling pin in to the centre of the board.
4. Unfolded the fondant and smoothed the surface on to the board with a smoothing tool.
5. Carefully cut around the edge of the board with a sharp knife to remove the excess fondant.
I would recommend covering the cake board the night before so the fondant has time to harden and does not mark so easily.

Also, I used to place my cakes on to the final board before icing and decorating them, but when the board is covered it's not possible to do this. The cake will need to be iced and covered separately then transferred to the board. I can recommend the Wilton cake lifter which makes this process a little easier. Again if you cover a cake in fondant, leave it to harden before transferring it to the board to avoid marking it. I never leave myself enough time to do this so I'm just extra careful. If I do make a mark in the fondant I carefully place my decorations to hide it ;)

Carving the hedgehog

In future I'll try to get progress photos to accompany my cakes but for now I'll have to describe how to create Mr Hog as best as I can...

1. Start with an 8 inch round chocolate sandwich cake. The 2 layers help to give the hedgehogs body some height. 

2. Carve opposite sides off of the cake to create more of an oval shape that's fatter at one end. The fatter end will become the hedgehogs body, and the thinner end his head. Cut small pieces at a time to avoid cutting away too much.

3. At the thinner end, on the top of the cake approximately a third of the way in, start carving down to where the layers join to create a gradual slope. This will start to form the hedgehogs head.

4. Use the offcuts of cake from step 2 to shape a nose and attach this with some buttercream to the hedgehogs head. If you look at the picture, the cake past the hedgehogs eyes is created from offcuts. The cake above his eyes was shaped in steps 2 and 3.

Decorating the hedgehog

1. Cover the carved cake with a good layer of chocolate buttercream. 
Use brown or chocolate fondant to cover the head and nose. 

2. Use a sharp knife to cut chocolate flakes and push them in to the buttercream on the body to create spines. Note: This will use a lot of chocolate flakes, hence my spines are quite short. Also some flakes will simply crumble as you chop them so expect left overs. I kept these and used them to sprinkle on cupcakes another day. It may be easier to chill the flakes before attempting to cut them?

3. Use fondant to create your hedgehogs features and moustache if desired :) I used a small piece of spaghetti to help keep his nose attached.

I hope this helps if you want to create your own hedgehog cake and good luck!


    Cookie Date

    Following on from the Cake and Bake show, I met up with my sister and Verity for a cookie date to put our newly acquired knowledge in to practise. Not wanting to miss out on cookies, Mr Chris tagged along and even had a go himself.

    Rachel's recipe produced a huge number of cookies giving us plenty to practise on. 

    I can't take any credit for the baking as Verity was chief baker, but the cookies tasted great. They had a nice buttery flavour with a slight hint of vanilla, a nice crispy edge and a crumbly centre. I have a weakness for biccies so mine didn't last long at all. 

    We used the "flooding" technique to cover our cookies. With this technique you use a slightly firmer icing to pipe a dam around the outline of the cookie, and then a runnier consistency to fill it in.

    When piping the outline Rachel taught us to lift the icing bag away from the cookie and let the icing just fall on to it. This really helps but still requires some practise. We used a #1 tip for the outline but it was very fine. I'd probably try a #2 tip next time.

    After piping the outline wait at least 15 minutes for it to dry before "flooding" the cookie. For this we used a #4 tip. Fill the inside of the cookie, then give it a gentle shake to help smooth the surface. You can use a cocktail stick to help fill any gaps. 

    At this point you can add more colours if you want them to sit together, or wait for the surface to dry and then pipe on top.

    Can you spot Mr Chris' cookie? :)
    Rachel's cookie recipe:
    400g Flour
    200g Butter
    200g Sugar
    1 Egg
    1 tsp Vanilla Essence

    Beat together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla essence and combine, then gradually add the flour. Chill the dough for 15 minutes before rolling it out and cutting shapes. Cook at 170 degrees for 10 minutes until lightly golden.

    Royal Icing recipe:
    250g Icing Sugar
    1 Egg White
    1 tsp lemon juice

    Whisk the egg white until it begins to froth, gradually add the icing sugar followed by the lemon juice.

    In the past I have struggled to get the right consistency with Royal Icing, switching back and forth between adding more water, then adding more icing sugar. Rachel gave us a few tips to help us get it right:

    • It is harder to thicken icing by adding more icing sugar then it is to thin it. It is also very easy to add too much water so add a light misting of water at a time by using a spray bottle.
    • The 10 second rule - To check the consistency of your icing, dip a spoon in to it and then lift it out allowing ribbons of icing to fall back in to the bowl. If the icing is the right consistency the surface of the icing should become smooth again in 5-10 seconds.
    • If the icing is too thick it will curl back over the icing tip when trying to pipe it.

    Take a look at this tutorial on Sweetopia for some excellent step by step instructions and techniques for decorating cookies. I love these beautiful butterfly cookies, I think I'll have to try them myself some time.


    Key Lime Pie

    If you've been enjoying "The Great British Bake Off" on BBC2 as much as me, you'll probably recall Ryan Chong's amazing key lime pie. This pie was so great Ryan won "Star Baker" for that episode and the judges, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, described it as one of the best things they'd tasted in all three series of the Bake Off.

    Watching it we had one of those moments when Mr Chris and I share the exact same thought... We must make Key Lime Pie!

    And so we did...

    Putting Mr Chris' gift to good use, I found a recipe in "Mary Berry's Baking Bible". This was really easy to make and actually required no baking so you can't really go wrong.

    It's a very tasty, light and refreshing dessert. We shared it with a few friends and it went down well. As nice as it was, I still need to give Ryan's recipe a go but at least now we have something to compare it too. I think Mr Chris is particularly keen as he went out and bought me the Bake Off recipe book containing Ryan's recipe: "The Great British Bake Off: How to turn everyday bakes into showstoppers". I think Ryan's version will have to wait until I have some more free time but if you want to give it a go you can find the recipe on the BBC Website. Enjoy!


    The Cake and Bake Show

    The Cake and Bake show was a two day event held at London's Earls Court. Apparently over 21,000 people attended during the two days and I can certainly believe that. I went along with my sister and our friend Verity and it was jam packed!

    The first thing we stumbled across was the "Edible Beach" competition.

    These were some of my favourite entries.
    My poor photography doesn't do them justice but the attention to detail is incredible, I can't imagine how many hours must have been spent perfecting them.

    I'm afraid my cakes would look pitiful in comparison but watch this space as I'm still learning.

    Taking the opportunity to learn some new skills at the show, we joined a couple of the classrooms on offer. There were so many it was difficult to choose between them but as each class was an additional £5, we had to be selective

    On a side note, I was gutted to find out Lindy had joined the show after I'd already booked my tickets :(

    Rachel Hill from Rachelles
    The first classroom we joined was "Hand Decorated Cookies" with Rachel Hill of Rachelles

    Rachel shared her recipe for perfect cookies and demonstrated how to pipe and "flood" with royal icing. She gave us some great tips such as the 10 second rule for checking your icing consistency, and using a spray bottle to thin the icing. She also showed us several techniques to decorate cookies including icing lace and embroidery patterns.

    Icing cookies is a first for me, so I'm looking forward to a future baking date with my sister and Verity to put our newly acquired knowledge in to practise.

    Laura Edwards from Mamma Jamma Cakes

    The other classroom we opted for was "Cake Sculpture" with Laura Edwards of Mamma Jamma Cakes.

    Starting with a 10" (or possibly a 12") round Madeira cake, I was amazed at what she turned it in to.

    Laura demonstrated how to make this Koi Carp fish, sculpting, covering, decorating, and air brushing it all within half an hour!

    In this picture, the cake on the left is the one from the show, the one on the right is the one above, the "and here's one I made earlier" one.

    I actually got to try the Dinkydoodle airbrush at the show. I did really like it but I don't think it's for me at this moment as my cakes are mostly one block colour. I imagine it'd need some practise to be able to get an even coat with the airbrush, also I'm too impatient to let it dry and I don't really have a space I can airbrush in. It could be a purchase for the future if my cakes become a little more elaborate :)

    My favourite part of the show without a doubt was star speaker Mary Berry. I'm a huge Mary Berry fan. I love her recipes and I love The Great British Bake Off.

    When I discovered she would be doing book signings, Mr Chris very kindly bought me "Mary Berry's Baking Bible" to get signed. Unfortunately I missed out as we were in one of our classes at the time she was signing, but I can't wait to try some more Mary Berry recipes. Expect to see some on here shortly :)

    Whilst sharing funny stories and tales from GBBO, Mary whipped up a Hazelnut Meringue Roulade and the hugest Chocolate sponge cake. Both looked delicious, I was only sad I couldn't get anywhere near the front to pinch a bit.

    Mary Berry in action

    The Cake and Bake Show returns again next year but I'm not sure if I'll go back yet. Whilst I really enjoyed the classrooms and demos I felt the event was far too crowded. Most of the items on sale were overly priced, or at least I know I can get them cheaper on line, and there was a distinct lack of freebies. Whatever happened to the freebie? I remember when one of the perks of going to a show was all the freebies you would collect on your way round. So come on the Cake and Bake Show, when you return next year... more freebies :D


    Ba-da ba-da ba-da-da-boo

    Today is the last hair cut I'll have for a while as my hairdresser is off to start her maternity leave. No one else can tame my hair like she can and so I have to wait until she comes back. 

    I knew this day was coming and although I had all morning, I, in classic Cheryl style, opted to sleep in and leave myself less then 60 minutes to make these. 

    With the countdown tune stuck on repeat in my head, 60 minutes later and one messy kitchen, ta daaa....

    Not my best work but not too shabby either. Mr Chris managed to snap this photo literally as I was running out the door.

    Usually I like to make everything myself but sometimes you just can't beat some of the cake toppers available. I spotted these little baby grows on ebay. They are printed on edible wafer card and I think they're pretty cute. 

    Wishing Lisa all the best as she heads off to become a Mum. I hope she enjoys these and takes it easy before the sleepless nights begin.


    BBQ Cheesecake

    No I haven't gone crazy and baked barbecue sauce into a cheesecake. 

    Today is probably the last barbecue we'll have this year and so to commiserate, I decided to make a tasty dessert to follow the meat feast.

    This is another recipe from the "The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days" book, Butterscotch Pecan Cheesecake. Another first for me as I've never made a cheesecake but I'm happy with how it turned out. 

    Although tasty, perhaps a little too heavy following so much meat. Fortunately Mr Chris' family was on hand to help us struggle through it.


    Happy Heads Only

    These cupcakes are inspired by Tankerton and made in memory of a truly amazing person, my Mum. Today it will be seven years since she died but I won't be dwelling on that. Instead I will celebrate her life with my family and remember all the silly things we got up to.

    We have a bench at Tankerton sea front for my Mum. It was a place she loved to go, to walk the dogs, take us for fish and chips, or to get away from us when we would drive her crazy. This evening we all headed to the bench and kept our promise... "Happy Heads Only". 

    My Mum didn't want anyone to be miserable. She told us any time we had sad thoughts, we were to remember something silly that made us both laugh, and to hold on to it. It's not always that easy. There have been times when she has been very much needed and she is missed every day, but she taught us to be strong and left us with many happy memories.
    Beach huts, ice-creams and wind turbines
    Funky coloured wind turbines :)
    I'm sure this evening would have made her smile. My family and I, dogs included, sat on the bench and had a good giggle. We laughed at my Dad who showed his age as he got cold and wrapped himself up in the dogs towel, and we stuffed our faces with chips and cakes whilst a fitness instructor shouted commands to a tired looking group of people just metres away. I'm sure the smell of our chips only helped to motivate them :)

    So here's to my Mum, Christine Thorn. I'm sending a huge hug to you today, and to Nan and to Lottie. Thank you for everything you did and still do for us. See you again one day, love you always xxxx

    Tankerton Beach Huts - photo by Mr Chris


    Gingerbread Cupcakes

    I've been looking for an excuse to make these and at last I have one... Lou's birthday... and these were on time (unlike her present which still sits on my dining room table).

    This is another recipe from "The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days: Recipes to make every day special". 

    If you like Gingerbread you should like these, I think they could be one of my favourites. Although I have an urge to try one without the icing swimming in a big bowl of custard...mmmmm.


    A freebie for the boss

    I've worked with Grahame for a number of years and at various companies. He may have dropped me in it on occasion but overall he is a good person to work for, hence if he has a job going that's right for me I'll apply for it.

    Anyway, after bragging about my newly found cake skills I managed to foolishly volunteer myself to make a cake for his step sons birthday. I say foolishly because I only had a few days in which to do it and I already had a hectic week. Nevertheless, I did the best I could with the time I had.

    Can you tell what it is yet?

    Yes I think some parts could have been better but you can tell what it is right?

    I was so short on time Mr Chris actually carved and decorated the controller for me. I had to redo some bits but I think he did an amazing job and the cake wouldn't look complete without it. He is a life saver :)

    As the title suggests, I didn't charge for this cake but not because Grahame is one of my managers. In the time I've worked for him he has helped me through some pretty tough times and given me some sound advice, this was the least I could do to show my appreciation.


    1st Birthday Stripes

    Verity is a very good friend to my sister and a follower of my blog, so I was really pleased when I was asked to make the cake for her son's first birthday party.

    I had complete free reign on the design of this one. My sister told me little Harry has lots of animal stickers in his room, and he especially likes the zebra, so a zebra theme it was.

    Animals are my favourite things to model. This little zebra took me two hours to make but I honestly didn't notice the time go by. (I'm sure it wouldn't take anyone else that long but I think I move in slow motion.)

    To achieve the stripy fondant I used the StreetWise Mat. I know I've mentioned it before but I cannot plug this enough. It is brilliant and now they have a new and improved version for sale.

    Lessons Learnt:
    If you are going to attempt a wire spray make sure the decoration is not so heavy that it refuses to stay upright. These are the little holes you can see in Harry's name, as originally the letters were on wire and should have been standing out of the cake, in the same way as the stars are.

    Inside is three layers of vanilla sponge, sandwiched together with one filling of vanilla butter cream, and one of strawberry jam. I'm told there was just enough for everyone to have a slice and Harry very much liked the zebra.

    Many thanks to Al and Verity for sending me pictures of Harry enjoying his cake. I'm glad he had a great first birthday:

    A quick note on wire sprays... 
    Never stick wire directly in to your cakes as it is not food safe! Wire should be inserted in to a flower posey pick, or as I have done, in to a big blob of fondant that your customer knows is not for consumption. Don't worry, I did inform Verity the letters and stars must be removed before eating the cake :)


    I want to... EAT DRUMS!

    More belated birthday treats. One day I'll get them there on time :/

    These Animal cupcakes were for our friend Darren. No, he is not a Muppet but a drummer.

    This little chap may look time consuming, but once his features were done a grass tip made light work of his fur.

    What pleases me most, is these were spotted by Cupcakes take the Cake and featured on their blog. That's pretty cool :)


    Biscuits are my Kryptonite

    I can get through a pack of biscuits like a bag of crisps, once opened they are gone in seconds. For this reason I resist the temptation to buy them. I can resist placing them in my shopping trolley, I just can't ignore them once they are in my cupboard.

    There is however, a flaw in my plan. When the cupboards are bare of biscuits I make them instead.

    This weekend I was looking through my collection of recipe books and stumbled upon "The Ultimate Cookie Book" by "Catherine Atkinson". I must have inherited this one as I don't recall ever baking anything from it. Today will be that day!

    With a growing craving for biscuits I flicked through the recipes for a quick and easy treat, settling on choc-tipped cookies. I used to pick these from the bakery as a child, although then they were sandwiched together with a generous portion of cream. I left out the cream as I'm on a mission to eat healthy ;)

    These should keep me going for now...

    But if not, I always have more :D


    Cake in exchange for monies

    Word of my baking has spread as one of Mr Chris' colleagues asked if I wouldn't mind making a couple of cakes if she paid me for my efforts. It sounded like a good deal to me so I got baking.

    The first cake was for her husband, a keen diver.

    I love how this turned out but I must give credit for other peoples ideas! 

    Originally I was going to create the diver as if he was swimming, with his face in the water and feet sticking out the top. Then I stumbled across a cake on flicker and it looked so good I decided to create a mini version of it. 

    I added my own little touch as I tie-dyed white and blue fondant to create the affect of waves. It worked quite well but sadly it doesn't show so much in the photo. 

    Check out this 
    video if you want to tie-dye fondant. It gives a great demonstration on the method (although I must admit I'm not overly keen on the end result in this one). It also features the Steetwise Mat which I've mentioned before and love!

    I would have liked to have added some more sea creatures but don't forget, I had a second cake to be getting on with...

    The second cake was for their friend and needed to include Jacko, his little pug dog.

    Sorry Jacko, I might have added a little too much fondant to your belly.

    Jacko the Pug

    The cakes were on display at a joint birthday party and went down well. I didn't charge much for them, just enough to cover ingredients as I'm still building my confidence. I also had some transportation issues which led to a little bit of damage. It was nothing that couldn't be repaired but I think a cake should be flawless when you're charging for it. Nobody wants a one eared pug on their cake or a diver with a flat head. (Note to self - must invest in larger cake boxes).

    I'm not sure if I'll sell many more cakes. Firstly it's tricky to bake during the week around work, but mostly it's much more stressful to produce a cake when someone is paying for it. Anyway, we'll see :)


    Mini break

    Photo by Chrissphotos
    This weekend Mr Chris whisked me away for my birthday surprise. 

    We took a trip to the not so sunny Weymouth and tied in a visit with Mr Chris' flicker buddy Chrissphotos.

    Not wanting to visit empty handed we took some Coffee and Walnut cupcakes for Chris and his family but we didn't get a picture of them. We decided to leave that to the photo pro and he did not disappoint ->

    A huge thanks to Chris and his family for their hospitality and guided tours, we had a great time! We took in some sights, visited the sea life centre, played pirate mini golf... arrr, walked on the beach in the rain, failed to make friends with the seagulls, won lots of tat on the 2p machines, befriended some fat kid envious of our winnings, oh and Mr Chris climbed a rock...

    I was responsible for holding the very expensive cameras :/

    I'm very much looking forward to my next birthday trip away ;)


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