Monday, 29 September 2014

Heart shaped Congratulations card

Just before Christmas last year one of my cousins got married - it was actually a surprise wedding as we had all been invited to their engagement party, which turned into their wedding.

This is the card I made for the happy couple. As I was making the card earlier in the day, I suspected that the party may be more than just an engagement party, so I made the card as a generic "Congratulations" card that would cover engagement and wedding.



I started by cutting a heart shaped card from white cardstock and then added strips of patterned paper from the Kaisercraft After Five Collection paper pad. I trimmed the end of each after I stuck them down so they matched the heart outline perfectly.

The Congratulations stamp is from The Kaisercraft "Baby" stamp set, and I embossed it with silver embossing powder.

A very crafty Christmas

Last Christmas, my kids and I spent a bit of time being crafty. Here are some of the things we made:
 
Bauble tree decorations
 
 
 
For these ones, we traced some circles onto the back of some dark red card and cut around the circle, leaving the square section at the top, and then punched a hole at the top for the string. Then I made added some glitter glue swirls.

Santa hat tree decorations


This was an easy one for my 3 year old to do - we just glued some cotton balls onto triangles of red cardboard and attached some gold string to hang on the tree.
 
Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer ornaments
 
 
 
For these ones, we cut circles out of brown cardboard and drew the eyes and mouth with black marker, and added a red pom pom for Rudolf's red nose. We also added some short lengths of black pipe cleaner (folded in half in a V shape) for the antlers (you can't see them very well in the pic though).
 
Santa's belly ornaments
 
 
 
I loved this one - very easy but I thought it looked very effective. Its a circle of red cardboard with a wide strip of black paper glued on to the middle. Then I cut out a square of yellow paper, a bit wider than the black belt, and glued that on to the middle of the belt. I took another square of black paper, the same width as the belt, and glued that on top of the yellow square. You could also use silver or gold paper for the buckle. I added a hole at the top with string threaded through to hang on the tree.
 
Now for some fancy ones!
 
Snowflake decorations
 
 
My mum, Lesley Jendra, is a Stampin Up demonstrator and she had a workshop just before Christmas where we made these very pretty snowflake decorations. Her blog has some more examples of these using other colours. My 6 year old helped me make both of these.

 
 
 
We also made some ornaments using Stampin Up stamps, framelits and embossing powder. These took a lot longer and aren't really a kids craft but look beautiful.

 

It's less than 3 months until Christmas is here again!

 


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Puppy party

The final party of birthday season in our family is for our little boy who turned 2 in June. 

My little boy's favourite animal is puppy dogs. He has one that he takes to bed, and he has recently taken a liking to my middle daughter's Scooby Doo toys. So it was pretty easy to decide on a puppy dog theme for his second birthday.

I had found some pictures of puppy cakes online last year (this one, this one and my favourite - this one) when I was desperately searching for a plush puppy dog the same as, or similar to, his bedtime puppy. He had been given a plush puppy as a gift from my mum when he was born, but being his favourite one, I wanted to find a backup one just in case the original one went missing or needed a wash. This wasn't an easy task though because he had sucked on the tag so much that we couldn't read the writing to find a brand, and my mum couldn't remember where she had bought it. After searching Google, ebay, and heaps of other websites for weeks on end without finding anything remotely the same, I just happened to see an identical puppy (although with pink ears rather than blue) at a friends house and fortunately the writing on the tag was still clear. So I contacted the supplier and within a few days they had sent me two extra puppies - one to use in rotation with the original one, and a spare just in case one of the others went missing. When I gave one of the puppies to my little boy the day it arrived, he cuddled it briefly and then looked at it as if thinking "well it looks like my puppy but it doesn't smell or feel like my puppy". After a spin in the washing machine, the new puppy was readily accepted.

So, getting back to my original cake story, I already had an idea of what sort of puppy cake I wanted to make from pictures I had found during the great puppy quest. The pictures I had found mostly used white fondant to cover the whole cake, and brown or blue fondant for the ears, tail, eyes, spots and nose, plus white fondant for the paws. I love making cake decorations out of fondant but I'm not really a fan of eating fondant as a cake icing. So instead, I decided to cover the head and body in vanilla buttercream. After I had spread the icing over the head and body (which I had baked in two small round pudding bowls of different sizes), I used the tip of my palette knife to create the fur effect. I used some chocolate buttercream for the spots, again using the palette knife to make it look furry, and I used fondant to make the other body parts. I put a toothpick into the base of the tail so it had something to hold onto the cake with but the other fondant pieces were just stuck to the buttercream. 

For the paws, I made the first one to the size I wanted it, and then I weighed it on my digital scales so I could make the other three paws the same size using the same weight of fondant. I used the back of a butter knife to score the paws to look like toes. 

The nose and eyes were just rolled by hand, and for the ears I cut one freehand out of a rolled out sheet of chocolate fondant, using a knife, and checked to see that it was a good size for the cake, and then I used that as a template to cut out the second ear. 

The cake itself was a gluten free caramel mud cake. I used a recipe from the Nestle Baker's Corner website, but wanted to make it a little bit special inside like the strawberry ombrĂ© cake and rainbow white choc mud cake I had made for my daughters' birthdays, so I in half of the mixture I substituted some of the flour for cocoa to make a darker brown, and used the same technique as the rainbow cake to create a striped effect inside the cake. Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of the inside of the cake though.

I thought that this little guy turned out pretty cute:




For the party food, I made jelly cups using blue lemonade jelly and added some small and large white choc buttons to make paw prints in the top of each one (these were added when the jelly was almost set so that they sat on top rather than dropping to the bottom, but stuck to the jelly a little bit so they didn't move around during transport):


I also had some Scooby Snack biscuits that I bought from the supermarket:

 
As the party was the day after my little boy's actual birthday I also made cupcakes for morning tea on the actual birthday using choc melts and choc bits to make paw prints like in the jelly cups:


And for daycare that week I made some mini cupcakes with chocolate paw prints on top. These ones used a choc bit for the centre of the paw, and 4 mini choc bits for the toes:


Birthday season is over for anther year! But my girls have already started talking about their birthdays next year ...

Rainbow birthday party

The second birthday party in our family's party season is for our younger daughter who turned 4 in May. For months she had been talking about what theme she would like for her birthday, and she alternated between Scooby Doo, Sully from Monsters Inc, and Raspberry Torte (from Strawberry Shortcake). As her birthday approached, I was racking my brain to figure out a way to incorporate three very different characters into a single party theme. Then I remembered that last year I had wanted to do a rainbow party for her but she wanted Tad the Leap Frog frog. Don't you love it when you have one of those light bulb moments when everything just falls into place - I had one of those with the rainbow party idea. I took some of the characters that she likes and matched them to the colours of the rainbow and came up with Elmo for red, Scooby Doo for orange, Lemon Meringue (another of Strawberry Shortcake's friends) for yellow, Tinkerbell for green, Sully for blue, and Raspberry Torte for purple.

I remembered seeing some amazing rainbow layer cakes on Pinterest and Google searches but as we had recently been to a birthday party for a friend's little girl and she had a fantastic rainbow layer cake, I wanted to do something a little different. I did some more searching and found a blog post on a cake that had a rainbow with an arch shape inside the cake. I had found my target cake! This is what it is meant to look like:


From Omnomicon - my rainbow cake inspiration

The next step was to find a cake recipe that my little girl would actually eat. She's a big fan of icing but not so much a fan of cake - except chocolate cake. But a brown chocolate cake wouldn't work for the rainbow effect, so I experimented with white choc mud cake. A friend gave me her favourite recipe and I made a test batch with rainbow colours. This is what the cake looked like before it went into the oven:
     

However when I took the cake out of the oven and cut it in half to see how it turned out, I was a bit disappointed - instead of a neat arch, the colours had swirled around the tin in a convection current. So I tried again, making the cake batter thicker with extra flour (almost a whole cup extra) before adding the colour. Again, it turned out with a convection current pattern, although slightly better than the first one. Again I was disappointed but being the day before the party, I didn't want to keep making cakes so I decided to use both the cakes, one on top of the other. My little girl didn't know what I was originally planning the inside of the cake to look like, so she didn't have any expectations of the cake.  
About a week before the party I made the fondant rainbow for the top of the cake. I found a great tutorial on CakesDecor.com on how to make the rainbow. I followed it exactly, except that I made the rainbow much higher so that I could cut it down later to suit the height of the cake. 
 
I also made some clouds for the base of the rainbow using some white fondant which I hand rolled into separate flat balls and joined together using some edible glue made from tylose powder mixed with a bit of water.
 
The clouds for the side of the cake were made with a snowman shaped cutter as I don't have a cloud shaped cutter - first I cut out the full snowman shape and then turned the cutter around to cut the 'head' shape into the larger end.
 
I also cut a large number 4 out of some more white fondant, and then I made the rainbow coloured pieces of fondant to sit on the cake board to show the colours that each character represented.
 
I used buttercream icing to cover the cake (tinted with light blue gel colouring) and then added the decorations. I was really happy with how it looked when it was finished, and I was glad I had left the rainbow with the longer 'feet' as I think it really needed the extra height with the double cake underneath it.
 
Here's the finished result:
  
 
And some close ups:

 

This is what the cake looked like on the inside:

 
Not quite the rainbow pattern inside that I had planned on, but very colourful and my little birthday girl loved it.
I also carried the rainbow theme into the food and decorations. We had rainbow fruit platter using cherries, strawberries, rockmelon, pineapple, green grapes, kiwi fruit and purple grapes:


I also made the strawberry jelly slice that I made for my eldest daughter's Strawberry Shortcake party (recipe here) as it was such a hit:


I also made some pots of gold from the end of the rainbow - these were rice bubble crackles in mini yellow cupcake cases with rainbow coloured sprinkles on top (see below for recipe).

 

And some rainbow marshmallow slice (see below for recipe):


The party printables are from inviteme.com.au

I also bought some rainbow face paint to paint the kids faces at the party - I used a split cake to create these great effects with just one brush stroke:



I also made some cupcakes for day care with Mini M&M rainbows on top that looked a bit like this (I can't find the photo I took so this is the one I used as inspiration - mine didn't have the white clouds though):




Rainbow marshmallow slice

125g dried apricots, chopped
125g plain biscuits, crushed
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
desiccated coconut, for rolling

Mix all ingredients, except coconut, and form into two long rolls (use wet hands to stop it sticking). Roll in coconut. Chill and slice.

 
 

Pots of gold rice bubble crackles
 
2 cups rice bubbles
60g butter, chopped
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup condensed milk
125g dates, pitted and chopped
Rainbow sprinkles, to decorate
 
Line mini muffin pan with mini cupcakes cases. Put rice bubbles in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
 
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add caster sugar, condensed milk and dates. Stir for 10-12 minutes until dates are soft and fall apart. Remove pan from heat and add to rice bubbles. Stir until well combined.
 
Use two teaspoons to spoon small mounds of rice bubble mixture into each cupcake case, using back of spoon to press the rice bubbles gently.  
 
While mixture is still moist, add sprinkles to the top of each one and refrigerate to set.
 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Strawberry shortcake birthday party

Well, birthday season in our house has come and gone for another year and although it all happened a few months ago I am only just getting around to blogging about the celebrations.

I will start with the first birthday, my eldest daughter's 6th birthday back in March. There are more birthdays in March in my family than I can count on one hand and in the space of under 3 months we celebrate the birthdays of all three of my children. So its a very busy time in our house.

This year my eldest daughter decided on a Strawberry Shortcake theme for her birthday. It's not one of her favourite characters but one she enjoys occasionally. I was happy to embrace it as I already had lots of ideas for cakes, food and decorations from my web browsing last year (before she decided on a Little Mermaid theme for her 5th birthday).

For the invitations, I found a lovely strawberry-theme template online and customised it for our party. It was predominantly red with white dots, which worked well for a party where we invited both girls and boys from school, but was still girly enough for my daughter's liking.

For the cake, I wanted to make a strawberry flavoured cake, so I hunted for recipes online. I tested out a few different types in the month leading up to the party, until I found the perfect one. The first one that I made used strawberry puree and it was nice enough but lacked a bit of punch in terms of flavour and colour. The next one I tried was amazing - it used both strawberry puree and strawberry flavoured jelly crystals, giving it a good strawberry flavour and colour. Plus it was moist and fluffy, not heavy or dense, and very easy to make.

The recipe I used was this one: Sweetapolita's Strawberry Layer Cake. I made the cake batter according to the recipe, but I used 4 x 9inch tins instead of 3 (to get slightly shorter layers) and I used red gel food colouring to make each layer slightly darker than previous one to get an ombre effect once the cake was assembled (see pics below). I wanted to make the layers fairly equal in height without needing to do any trimming so I worked out the weight of the batter - to do this I weighed my mixing bowl before I started, and then weighed it again once the batter was complete. I subtracted the bowl weight from the total weight to give the weight of the batter, and then divided that amount by 4 to give the amount of batter for each of the 4 cake tins. I added a small amount of the red colour to the whole bowl of batter and mixed it in, then poured the calculated amount (ie 1/4) of batter into the first cake tin. Then I added a bit more red colour to the remaining 3/4 of batter to make it darker, and poured the same amount (ie 1/4 of the original weight) into the second tin. Repeat twice more for the remaining batter and cake tins. I also shortened the baking time as the layers were smaller than in the recipe. This is how it looked before the icing went on:




My daughter helped to choose the decorations for the cake - we found two different cakes that she liked (this one was the main inspiration but this one helped too) and then I used elements of each one to give the end result. Unfortunately being March in Brisbane, the weather was very humid on the night before the party when I was trying to assemble the cake. The fondant strips kept stretching out of shape and overall while I was happy with how it looked, it didn't look as professional as I was hoping it would be. But my little girl loved it, and that's the main reason why I spend my time creating something special.


I'm not a big fan of covering cakes completely in fondant (as I don't like eating it), so I used vanilla buttercream icing to cover the cake and added the fondant decorations. The lettering for the name was made using the FMM Tappits cutters with white fondant. I cut the red plaque freehand using a template I printed off my computer, and the green scallop border and the scallops on the top of the pink strips were both cut with the FMM Straight Frill cutter. The flowers and leaves were cut using some small metal flower and leaf cutters (with a hand rolled ball for the yellow centre), and the large pink flower on top of the cake was cut with a large plastic cutter I got from a discount shop. I cut the number 6 with a large metal cutter and then used the point of a toothpick to make the stitching effect around the edge. The green tendrils were rolled out using a fondant smoother and then curled around a pencil while they dried. The strawberries were made by hand using a toothpick to make the seed marks, and a flower cutter was used to make the green leaves at the top of the strawberry. The Strawberry Shortcake figurine was one that we've had at home for a while, and the Pupcake and Custard Cat figurines came from a Strawberry Shortcake book that I found at Big W about a week or so before the party.  



Here's the inside of the cake with the ombre strawberry flavoured layers:




I continued the strawberry theme through some of the other party food too - I made a yummy Strawberry Jelly Slice (recipe here) which turned out much better than I expected - the recipe uses low-joule jelly for both the yogurt-based filling and the jelly layer on top. I haven't used low-joule jelly before but I thought I would follow the recipe and see how it turned out, and it was a brilliant result. I think the low-joule jelly gives the slice a firmer result (even when left out of the fridge during the party) than normal jelly which I think would melt a bit more when left out of the fridge.





I also made some chocolate strawberry pots using chocolate instant pudding for the choc layer, topped with fresh strawberries and mini meringues on top. I actually wanted to use a paleo chocolate mousse (the same as I used in my Healthy Chocolate Tarts) for these little choc pots but I put too much cacao in the mixture and when she tasted it on the morning of the party, my daughter screwed up her face and said "Mummy, I do not want you to bring that to my party." I kinda agreed with her on the strong taste and remembered I had a packet of instant pudding in the cupboard so I pulled that out for a last-minute rescue.



I also did some strawberry-themed decorations for the party. I had bought a red heart garland and added some green leaf-shaped paper to the top to create a strawberry garland:




I also made some giant strawberries using some red hot-air balloon shaped lanterns by removing the bottom "basket" section and adding some green leaf-shaped paper:



By the end of the day we were all strawberried out with a very happy little 6 year old. But I had one last strawberry-themed task left: cupcakes for school the next day. This is how they turned out (with some help from my little girl):