Christmas Cards

A couple of years ago around Christmas time I got terribly creative and decided that instead of buying a box of manufactured Christmas cards I would make my own. I'm a half decent photographer and I'd decorated the house up a bit with christmas stuff, so a couple of cute pictures of Christmas gnomes and lights on a card would be much more personal than a packet of cards from Tesco right?

Well it was, but it was also a lot more work. Because I just couldn't get the photo I wanted the way I wanted it, which of course meant spending an evening shooting a string of red Christmas lights in bokeh with various Christmassy type decorations in the foreground. Using my macro lens I got the shots I wanted, nice bokeh with
a cute gnome to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Then it was a matter of going through the photos, editing and printing. I trimmed the edges with the 'fancy' setting on the guillotine and stick them onto the cards.

I think they turned out pretty, but half the people who got them didn't realise they were 'handmade' by me. *sigh*
The following year I didn't bother sending any cards.


Daisy Cupcakes

I got bored a couple of weeks ago, there was no one around and nothing to do and it was a crappy horrible rainy day out so I decided to do some baking. Nothing too exciting after all it was only me going to be eating whatever I produced and unless I want to turn into a telly tubby I didn't want to be eating a dozen buttercream topped cakes all by myself. So I went for these simple little cuties. I tried a different (easier) vanilla sponge recipe, still with the gluten-free flour blend which mixed and baked faster than previous attempts and topped it off with a lemon icing glaze and some daisies cut from leftover navy and yellow fondant.


Red Velvet Halloween

The sister offered to make dinner for the halloween\bank holiday \ it's not your birthday weekend. I wasn't planning on making any cakes because you know, birthday girl bringing her own cake smacks of patheticness. But once again I got bored and I had some spare fondant in the cupboard AND I'd been messing around on Pinterest and saw a couple of people had pinned wee little halloween models that would be fun to try and make my own versions of that. Well it was either that or drink myself into a depressive anti-birthday stupor. So I got out my food colouring and made up some wee pumpkins (with tiny green stems!) and then using my navy food colouring I kneaded up some more for tiny little witches hats. Then since I was still bored I made up some tiny ghosts, it took me a couple of goes to get good faces, but a toothpick dipped in navy food colouring sorted that out.
Of course all these cute little halloweenies demanded to be put on top of some cakes and since it was halloween I thought I'd try a recipe with blood red sponge, and what is better than a red velvet cake? Since I knew mum was going to be eating the cakes I made them with gluten-free flour and dyed the buttercream frosting orange. The models looked cute on top of the buttercream but I'm not sure the orange buttercream went well with the lovely deep colour of the red velvet. Oh, and also I forgot to take any photos of the final product, so you'll just have to imagine what it looked like.


Chocolate Robots

Ahh chocolate how I love you. But first to make some fondant. I looked up recipes online and they all seemed pretty simple, water, sugar and corn syrup brought to a rolling boil of about 125 degrees. But when I looked at comments under these 'simple' recipes it seemed to be all doom and gloom. 'I ruined my pot' said one. 'The sugar syrup destroyed my pans' cried another. So when I did it I made sure to follow the recipe to the letter. I also dumped the pot in boiling hot soapy water once I'd poured it onto the metal tray to cool to ensure I didn't 'destroy my pans!'.

As it turned out the fondant was really dead easy. I let the syrup cool on a cookie sheet and then started the slow folding movement that turned the syrup from sticky and clear to stiff bright white. Then I dumped it onto a table with some icing sugar and kneaded it until it was smooth although it
was still hot, so I had to stop every couple of minutes to be sure not to burn my hands. Once I had it shaped I wrapped it in wax paper, stuck it in a ziploc and left it to 'ripen' for a couple of days.

I wasn't sure how long the chocolates would last and as I wanted them for a party on Saturday I made them up on Thursday evening. Using a makeshift bain marie out of my 'does everything' pot and a ceramic bowl I melted half the chocolate and half filled the molds. Then I melted a lump of fondant down adding some lemon juice for flavour and stirring constantly. The fondant melted down to a smooth cream which I spooned into the molds and then filled the rest of the way with the chocolate.

I've read a lot about tempering chocolate and it all says that you shouldn't refrigerate it to save it from 'blooming' but I wasn't thinking straight (high on chocolate fumes) and I only had one mold and enough chocolate for 2 dozen so I put it into the fridge for about 20 minutes before I could make the next batch. The chocolates turned out lovely and shiny, thanks be to the silicone molds which are dead handy for popping out chocolates. The lemon juice took a bit of the sweetness from the fondant which meant they weren't too cloying and the robots went down a treat at the party.


HandmAidCraft Day

Back in September I helped out at HandmAidCraft day - well ok I say 'helped out' but in reality I wandered around with my camera taking pictures of all the really creative stuff and people that showed up on the day. Because seriously there are some very talented knitters and crafters in Dublin these days. Anyone who knows me knows my wojus attempts at crocheting and knitting, I'm really good at making long, long, long scarves, so ye know.

But the crafters of Dublin were out in force that Saturday and showing off their talents and produce. It was a really brilliant day with lots of classes, crafts, cakes (of course!) and cups and cups of coffee. At the end of it all over 5,000 euro had been raised for Oxfam Ireland to go towards helping the victims of the famine in Somalia.

All of the photos from the day can be found over at the main HandmAid Craft website.


Blue Stars

My friends and I all love cake - it's like crack to us. So when I and D announced they were having a welcome party for their new baby it was a perfect opportunity for some baking and messing around with buttercreams. I didn't have time to get down to the shops so really the only food colour I had in the house was a couple of bottles of Squires Kitchen, one navy and one yellow. Which was handy as I had some navy and yellow cupcake papers.
I made up a batch of vanilla sponge - although I was a bit apprehensive about the recipe because I was using a gluten-free flour blend that I hadn't used before. But beginners luck or whatever it was the cupcakes baked beautifully soft and light. I'd made up the buttercream a couple of days previous and let it sit in the fridge to amalgamate or whatever - buttercream always seems to work better when it's been in the fridge overnight or for a couple of days. Piped onto the cakes it actually worked well, previous to this I'd used a syringe for piping and that always just results in the frosting spilling over the top of the syringe and all over my clothes. This time I tried a piping bag which was stiff and a pain in the arse to clean but it was easier to control. I dyed some fondant navy, cut out some stars from and waalaa some lovely cupcakes fit for a welcoming party for a little boy.