Papercut name and hearts

I had to post something to make this less Christmassy! So how about one of my papercuts? It’s very loosley stuck to the wall with Remount repositionable adhesive spray and isn’t fully flat on the wall. Obviously, it is shown to its best mounted in a frame.

I only gave it a light spritz as the picture is more about the hearts from Carraig Donn that were in the sales. They’re stuck up with Command Strips which have proved to be very useful. The hearts are so pretty! btw – the papercut is available on Etsy as an SVG and I will customise to a name of your choice if you should want one – to check out my Etsy shop, click on the Etsy icon at the top-right of the blog.

Finally

It is done. It’s very late considering I made the cake back in August. Still, it will be beautifully mature and rich. The icing was slathered on this morning and the panels arranged around the cake. There should have been more if only the gingerbread hadn’t been so nicey.

The house on top is too big and next year I’ll scale it down a bit. The icing doesn’t look professional and considering I had a square-bottomed freezer bag with the corner cut off as my ‘nozzle’ it’s hardly surprising.

I cut far too many corners trying to do it quickly but does it matter? Bettys won’t be running from the competition any time soon, lol. It is cute and it is GOOD. Full of gorgeous fruits and brandy-rich ingredients.

Once again, Happy New Year!

Gingerbread pieces lessons learned!

The various panels of gingerbread have been piped with icing with some  bits and pieces to have a little flood filling but there’s really not much of that to do. The large panels and trees will go around the cake. Next year I’ll make a square cake and that will make life easier… until then, however…

There are some smaller pieces that will comprise a house to sit on top of the cake – you’ll see in the diagram from the last post which pieces they are. That will get done tomorrow when I finally ice the bloody cake. You can see it in the top right of the picture – it’s marzipanned and sitting on a silver cake board just waiting…

Never mind. It will get done and am sure it will have a charm of its own and be pleasing to the eye. There were several lessons learned in the making of this gingerbread, namely:

  1. Do not use molasses sugar in the gingerbread mix – it doesn’t dissolve in molten butter and leaves lumps like bloody cowpats in the mix.
  2. Do not use molasses sugar in the mix because it spoils the colour and makes the gingerbread too dark.
  3. Do not bake the gingerbread on foil fused with parchment – it curls up and ruckles the edges of the gingerbread.
  4. Use a piping nozzle – No 2 – in a piping bag and don’t be persuaded to snick the end off a freezer bag to make do because you can’t be arsed to dig out the tub of icing equipment.
  5. Check the consistency of the icing by test piping on anything before you start on the gingerbread.
  6. I know I said to mark out the design by pricking through paper, etc, but really, actually make the effort to do it. I didn’t and made it all up as I went along. Would have been so much easier if I’d made myself some guidelines.
  7. There is absolutely NOTHING to stop you from taking a sharp knife and trimming the gingerbread to sharpen the definition of the shapes. I wish I had, especially to trim off some slightly burned edges.

All said, though, it wasn’t hard to do but will cut the templates out from quilting plastic for next year and have a sturdier template to cut around.

Some bits of gingerbread did, sadly, get harmed in the making of these panels and pieces. The collateral damage was actually very delicious.

So, a very happy new year to you all from the ghost of Christmas Cake Past! May you all have health, wealth, love and perfect self-expression.

x

Gingerbread panels for the cake

I’ve been doing a bit of baking and thought you might like to try these cookies. They’re tasty and sweet and go down well with a good coffee. They’re not so much dunkers but are moist and chewy – try them for yourself.

Every year I buy a few tree decorations. Do you find that no matter how carefully you put yours away there’s always some damage to them? This year I bought a little robin on a bell. Robins are special to me. They remind me of my mother. We didn’t have the greatest relationship and now she’s gone. Her childhood was very sad. Her own mother had died on a Christmas Eve and she had ended up in care. Her life wasn’t easy and she didn’t get a lot of love.

She always tried to make Christmas happy, though. And she loved birds, especially robins, so decorating my tree with them is one way I honour her memory and wish her a Happy Christmas to let her know she will never be forgotten and is in my heart.

And so I spotted  this sweet little robin and soon had it perched in my tree:

Remember the Fat Face robot santa – here he is!

I bought a couple of other Christmassy bits  – I have to confess I bought the snowman for the tin and not the shortbread. He is so cute and will come out again next year – he’d make a great jellybean tub!

I got some linen pieces out to practice embroidery stitches and found some nice little things I’d been working on a while ago. I want to work on some new stuff and am inspired by a book I got for Christmas, ‘Zacca Embroidery’ by Yumiko Higuchi. Watch this space!

The Christmas cake finally got marzipanned so good progress there. And now for the ambitious bit. I want to make some gingerbread panels in the shapes of houses and trees to go around the sides and a mini gingerbread house on top.

First step was to measure the circumference of the cake to find out how many and how big each panel should be. I then measured the depth. I don’t mind the houses and trees standing a little proud of the cake but not too much.

Next step was to sit down with Illustrator and design the panels to the size of the cake. Here are mine:

 

 

 

I’m going to make up the gingerbread dough and cut around the outer shapes and bake them. The houses will be stuck to the cake with Royal Icing. The trees will stand slightly in front in ‘snowfalls’ of icing.

When it comes to decorating the panels those mavens of the internet recommend that the gingerbread be left for two to three days to soften slightly. Then comes the genius bit – prick the design through the paper  and either dust over the top of the paper with sifted icing sugar to leave an outline or remove the paper and join the dots of the patterns by scratching them together with a pin. Then you have your guide lines for piping icing. Brilliant.

To decorate the top of the cake, I want to make a miniature gingerbread house. Here is my template:

I’m going to say right here and now that the lacy-edged roof panels won’t happen! I got a bit carried away on the frilly detail there. They will be rounded off for sure! The panels will be cut from gingerbread and ‘glued’ together with royal icing.

What’s left to say?

Would you like the recipe?

GINGERBREAD
275g / 9.75 oz Plain Flour
100g / 3.5oz butter
90g / 3.25 oz Golden Syrup
75g / 2.5 oz sugar
40g / 1.5 oz Treacle
1 Egg Yolk
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1.5 tsp Ground Cinnamon
0.5 tsp Ground Ginger
0.5 tsp Ground Cloves

Mix the butter, syrup and treacle into a large saucepan over a low heat until melted and blended together. Stir in the spices. Take the mixture off the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes then stie in the egg yolk. Add the flour and bicarbonate of soda into the mixture and blend well.

Take the mixture out of the bowl and wrap it in clingfilm. Put it in the fridge to firm up.

When the mixture is ready, roll out as evenly as you can and cut out your biscuit shapes. Place them on a baking tray with more space than you’d usually give for other types of biscuits (this mixture tends to spread) and then put the tray into the fridge for ten minutes or so.

Finally, bake at 180 fan oven or gas mark 5 for 10 to 15 minutes.

Leave them to cool thoroughly before icing. If you want to prick your design, leave them for two to three days, by which time they will have softened to make this a relatively easy task.

ROYAL ICING FOR PIPING AND FLOODING
2lbs / 900g Icing Sugar
4 Egg Whites
2 fl oz  / 60 ml Water

Whisk the ingredients together in a large bowl. For piping thin lines, see how many seconds it takes for the surface of your icing to smooth over. Between 9 – 10 seconds is a good consistency for piping. You’ll need a fine piping nozzle for this.

For flood icing, to fill in between the piped lines, the icing will smooth over in approximately 6 seconds. You don’t want it to be watery and runny but gently flowing and pourable. I use a coffee stirrer – those wooden lollipop sticks you get in Starbucks to spread the flood icing.

Obviously, you will make more or less depending on the quantity of biscuits you make.

I will make more to cover the cake and will add some gelatine to it to stop it from setting like concrete. The consistency for that will not smooth over and will stand in round peaks if slapped with a spatula. I want it to look rough and snowy. It will coat the cake and will constitute the adhesive for sticking the panels on with.

So, you have my ambitious plan and the templates and the recipes! Maybe you have a go – I’d love to see the results and yours will probably be a lot better than mine!  Wish me luck and on that note, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas.
x

Merry Christmas 2016

Life has been hectic enough without Christmas coming along so suddenly! Just a few weeks ago we had visitors and had a lovely week out and about. We popped off to Belfast to see the Titanic exhibition. It’s really awesome and well worth going to. Here’s a shot of the famous yellow cranes of Belfast shipyard:

The building itself is really cool and you can see the shape of the ship cleverly incorporated into the design.

Fast Forward. It’s Christmas Eve.

By now, everything should be done. Amazon shelves totally bare and the shops emptied out, though, probably not, it just feels as though they should be judging from the piles of presents and the debits mounting ever-higher on the bank account statements… The house spick and span…

Or not… My house still looks as though the builders are in. Today I really (* I really must*) tidy round and clean the loos  and get the place looking less ‘lived in’. As I type, I can hear the washing machine getting through a wash load. The cake is sitting in its Lock ‘n’ Lock admonishing me for not giving it a coat of golden marzipan. I am definitely doing that today. The cake won’t be ready tomorrow but that’s not a bother. There’s plenty to eat and we won’t starve for the want of a slice of fruit cake. But. Bleh. Cleaning up on Christmas Eve.

I can report that the presents are bought, wrapped, delivered or under the tree. That is an amazeballs achievement for me who leaves wrapping to the last minute usually.

This time last week, I was in Manchester visiting family and naturally had to have a wander around the spectacular Christmas market! Apologies for the blurred picture – it was packed and there were were no little niches or spaces to stand still for a photo. It was a constant jostle.

The market is H-U-G-E – absolutely GINAGEROUS and sprawls for several blocks between the big stores there. The DJ on radio Nova said it ranked as one of the top five Christmas markets in the world. It would take some doing to get around them all in one evening. I didn’t but enjoyed three or so happy hours there. The squares were lit up and the atmosphere was vibrant and festive. The air had wonderful smells of bratwurst sausages cooking (bought a pack, uncooked, obviously, for Mr Tree)  and the log cabins selling steins of German lager were plentiful. I bought the heaven of headwear – a sheepskin hat, fluffed up like a Russian Cossack. (The Aer Lingus check-in guy asked me if I was going to Russia when I came back to Ireland). It’s flamboyant, champagne coloured and gorgeous. Fifty English squids but it made me feel like a million dollars.

Despite my love of robots, I didn’t succumb to these vintage temptations. I really wanted to but only had hand luggage and knew that I’d probably not have the room….(turned out I was right, groan).

The following day we went to Skipton.  A very celebrated pork pie shop indeed – Mr Tree was delighted when I brought back a huge pork pie (I went over to England by myself). This fine establishment should be a national treasure. The pie was superb.

We drove on to Ilkley and stopped for a mooch around the lovely little shops there. Loads of charity shops! I popped into each and every one of them – glorious! In one, I picked up a bag with 8 or so full square yards of cotton fabrics – gorgeous designs, four Amy Butler designs – and a brand new ball of knitting/crochet cotton for a fiver (one of the UK’s new plastic ones)! I would have paid in the region of €70, or more, for it all over here. Brilliant find.

There was a small Betty’s Teashop there. Betty’s is a quintessentially English tea room and has a flagship store in York that I’ve been to a couple of times. I didn’t know they had a little one in Ilkley. There were some lovely decorated Lebkuchen on display:

Think this is pretty?

The alpine village scene, made up from panels of Lebkuchen houses and trees was a real show stopper. Isn’t it gorgeous? This was taken outside the shop:

And this shot is of the back of the ‘cake’ from inside the shop. It is actually comprised of three tiered ‘boxes’ of Lebkuchen, each coated with a rough snow of royal icing.

It had a price tag of £500. I didn’t buy it!

Anyway, my fruit cake won’t marzipan itself so I’d better get a wiggle on.

Wherever you are, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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