Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Way back in July last year I got a super exciting cake commission from stylist and bestselling author Selina Lake! Selina wanted some gorgeous, rustic looking vanilla sponge cakes with vanilla buttercream frosting for a photoshoot for her new book 'Outdoor Living'. At last the wait is over and I'm so excited to share some pictures! The cakes feature in the Lavender Field Party section and I love how Selina has styled them with sprigs of rosemary and lavender flowers - don't they look pretty?
A rich fruit cake is perfect for a big cake like this as you can save one or more of the layers - wrapped tightly in foil and kept in an airtight tin a good fruit cake will keep for years!
Here the cake is served up alongside a plate of vanilla cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream and fresh edible flowers - perfect for children or to box up and give as party favours!
You can read an interview with Selina (and have another peek at my cakes) over on Flowerona blog!
Selina Lake Outdoor Living is out now and you can find it at all good book shops and is also available to order online!
Thursday, April 24, 2014
You guys, Ciaran and I are having a baby! She's due at the beginning of August and we're so excited! :)
The last six months have been an amazing journey - I can't believe we're nearly on the home stretch already!
I'm really looking forward to sharing some thoughts from the last six months (and maybe a photo or two of my rapidly expanding belly!) in a longer post soon - for now I'll just leave you with these adorable little bunny feet. Ciaran and I bought this sweet soft toy right after our 20 week scan when we found out we were having a girl!
Here's to an exciting new chapter!
Saturday, April 19, 2014
A muffin tray + 8 paper muffin cases.
200g milk chocolate (I like Green & Blacks)
1 tbsp Golden Syrup
4 x regular sized Shredded Wheats
A bag of mini eggs
Step 1: Break the chocolate up into cubes and place it in a bowl over a pan of very gently simmering water. Lave it to melt then remove from the heat.
Step 2: Add the Golden Syrup and butter and stir gently while the butter melts.
Step 3: In a large mixing bowl crumble up the Shredded Wheat with your fingers. Pour over the chocolate mixture and stir thoroughly to combine.
Step 4: Using two teaspoons carefully spoon the mixture into your prepared muffin cases and press into a nest shape. You want to press it all down fairly firmly to make sure the nests will hold their shape!
Step 5: Finish with three little mini eggs per nest and leave to set for a couple of hours (you can pop them in the fridge to speed the process up!).
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
It's that time of year again! There are little green buds on the trees, flowers in the garden and the mornings are light and bright. The shops are full of chocolate eggs of every shape and size, covered in colourful foil - waiting to be hidden in the back garden and hunted down by eager children! Looking at Easter eggs these days makes me feel wonderfully nostalgic - I loved coming down to breakfast on Easter Sunday and seeing my Easter eggs all laid out on the table. The smell of milk chocolate takes me right back to those lovely mornings!
I can't imagine eating a great big slab of milk chocolate now though - can you imagine the headache? These days I like my chocolate dark, bitter and preferably organic!
One of my favourite moments from our trip to Paris a couple of weeks ago was walking along the Rue des Martyrs early on the Saturday and Sunday mornings, looking in the windows of all the sweet little boulangeries. As well as freshly bakes croissants, pain au chocolat and baguettes, nearly all of the shops we passed had beautiful displays of dark chocolate Easter eggs! In fact they didn't just have Easter eggs but hens, ducks, sheep and even a lobster - all made out of beautiful dark chocolate!
The Easter goodies looked absolutely mouthwatering and tres chic, wrapped up in clear cellophane and tied with ribbon! The prices were eye watering though so I decided to have a go myself and you can too!
I cheated slightly and tempered my chocolate for the first layer only - for the second layer and for the white chocolate I just set it over a pan of simmering water and let it rip. You would never notice though because the outside looks as shiny as can be!
- Chocolate mould (I ordered my Easter bunny mould from Squires Kitchen but you could also try ebay)
- Thermometer (I used a home brew thermometer but you can buy fancy chocolate thermometers at Lakeland!)
- Large heatproof bowl set over a pan of water (make sure the bowl is spotlessly clean and doesn't come into contact with the water)
- Pastry brush
- Organic dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids (around 250g - 300g depending on how decadent you're feeling)
- Organic white chocolate (to add some contrasting white chocolate accents if you fancy)
Step 1: Break your white chocolate into cubes and place it in a clean bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, use a pastry brush to brush it onto any parts of the bunny that you want to be white. You can spread it on thickly for an opaque finish or more thinly for a feathery effect!
Step 2: While the white chocolate sets, it's time to temper your dark chocolate! After much Googling I found this awesome tutorial by David Lebovitz to be the most clear and concise method:
1) Break your chocolate into cubes and place two thirds of it in a heat proof bowl set over a pan containing a couple of inches of water (I found it easier to control the temperature by starting with a pan of cold water and heating it up super slowly on the lowest setting). Slowly heat the pan of water - as your chocolate begins to melt you'll need to watch your thermometer like a hawk. You want to bring it up to 46-49C / 115-120F.
2) Once your chocolate has reached the optimum temperature and has all melted, remove the bowl from the heat and allow it to cool for a minute or so. Drop the rest of your dark chocolate (this is known as the 'seed chocolate') into the bowl and stir it gently whilst it continues to cool (this helps those magic beta crystals form!). You want it to cool down to around 27C / 80F.
3) By the time mine was sufficiently cool all my seed chocolate had melted but if yours hasn't, just fish it out with a clean teaspoon
4) Be zen as you place the bowl back over your pan of water and gently re-heat it to between 31-32C / 88-91F exactly. Watch that thermometer carefully and remember it might carry on rising for a few seconds after you whip the bowl of the heat so try to judge accordingly. If your chocolate goes over 32C or 91F then you'll have to start the whole process again, except you now have no seed chocolate left so...
Your chocolate is now fully tempered and ready to roll!
Step 3: Take your freshly tempered chocolate and brush a thin layer over the inside of your two moulds. It will start to harden quite quickly so work fast! Once you're finished make a cup of tea and put your feet up for 30 mins or so while it sets completely.
Step 4: Re-heat your chocolate ready for the second layer! If you watch it carefully and don't let it get above 32C or 91F then it will still be tempered but don't worry too much if you blow it - no one will see this layer until they're eating the chocolate bunny and by that stage they definitely won't care. Pop the two halves of your bunny mould into the fridge for 5 minutes and then spread a second layer of chocolate on, nice and thickly. I found it helpful to spread some extra chocolate round the rim of the moulds to make it easier when you come to join the two halves together. Don't worry if it gets messy and you have chocolate spilling over the edge - we'll get rid of that in the next step. Leave to harden completely - this will take 2 - 3 hours.
Step 5: Take a big sharp knife and cut away any excess chocolate that's spilled over the edges of the mould. Chocolate shrinks slightly as it cools and if you turn your moulds over you might see that the chocolate has already started to come away from the plastic in places. Give it a gentle helping hand by pressing it slightly from the outside and your two bunny halves should plop right out onto the work surface.
Step 6: Heat your dark chocolate one last time and spread a nice thick layer around the rim on one half of your bunny. Carefully bring the two halves to meet each other and make sure the bunny is aligned right the way round. Leave it to cool on it's side for an hour or so and you're all done!
I love that you can make a chocolate Easter bunny (or any fun shape of your choosing) at home! You could have fun dreaming up your own fillings - what about edible confetti and a little hand written note, or perhaps an engagement ring if you're thinking of popping the question? You could blow someones mind with a totally unexpected filling or just make their day with more chocolates!
If you give it a try do let me know how you get on! I'm going to do my best to make my bunny last until Easter Sunday but I'm not making any promises...
Friday, April 11, 2014
This was one of my favourite ever trips and do you know what? I hardly took any photographs! My camera is usually glued to my eye but this time I decided to relax and be in the moment a bit more. It must have worked because we managed to cram so much in to our two days!
Here are a few snaps and a few little highlights from our weekend...
On Saturday morning I discovered my absolute favourite street in Paris! The Rue des Martyrs is a pretty little street populated by boulangeries, chocolatiers, fruit stalls and shops selling fresh oysters, clams and other succulent shellfish! My good friend Rachel (who I went to visit in Paris with my girlfriends last Summer) told us about The Rose Bakery - a cute little cafe run by British born Rose and her French husband Jean-Charles so we woke up bright and early and made our way there for breakfast! The cafe itself is gorgeous and reminds me of the little bakeries you get down in Cornwall - it has little curved windows, a low ceiling, whitewashed walls and a nice, relaxed vibe. We were in the mood for coffee and eggs (which were both absolutely delicious) but I'll definitely be back one day in the afternoon to try some of the beautiful looking cakes!
We loved the Rue des Martyrs so much that we went back on Sunday morning too! This time we bought takeaway coffees and pain au chocolat from one of the little boulangeries and walked up and down the street in the sunshine. It was lovely to see the good people of Paris patiently queueing out the door for freshly made baguettes and pastries! Some of them had lovely wicker market bags - I would love to know where they buy them!
We walked all over Paris on Saturday - over 11 miles in the end! Here we are enjoying the sun outside the Louvre! It was a treat to walk in the shady Jardin des Tuileries afterwards - we also went to the Musee de L'Orangerie to look at Monet's tranquil waterlilies.
Spring has most definitely sprung in Paris and the flower stalls were piled high with colourful blooms - I love these pink and purple tulips not to mention the yellow ranunculus!
So many of the shops had pretty little Easter displays in the windows! They reminded me of those eggs you used to get, made out of cardboard with pictures on that you could put things inside, do you remember them?
Of course we had to stop off at Pierre Herme! We bought four colourful little macarons and took them to the Jardin du Luxemborg to eat in the sunshine. By this point it was early afternoon and the park was full of people reading in the afternoon sun! I love the way they have chairs scattered about that you can just drag over to whatever spot you fancy. We walked around the whole park and saw people playing a rather civilised looking game of boules as well as sailing boats in a sweet little pond.
We walked along the Seine and over the Pont des Arts and even squeezed in a visit to the Canal Saint Martin! Such a dreamy weekend.
Goodbye Paris! I miss you already!
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
White freesias that smell like heaven, a new rug for the living room, charity shop owl rescue, strawberry and vanilla cupcakes, an Anthropologie necklace, more Spring blooms, coloured pencils on my newly painted sewing box, coffee and sailing, fruit tart, Spring blossom, Toby Cat and my favourite pastry of all time (Pastis de Nata!)
P.S Don't forget to follow me on Instagram!
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Last month I was invited to attend a special evening at Liberty hosted by the Liberty Art Fabrics Design Studio and lovely ladies over at The New Craft Society! The event was to celebrate The New Craft Society’s first blog Birthday - congratulations girls! A group of fellow craft bloggers and I enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon tea of finger sandwiches, scones, macarons and dainty little cakes whilst the Liberty design team treated us to a fascinating presentation all about the inspiration behind the new seasons collection of prints as well as a sneak peek at what’s in store for Autumn / Winter 2014!
As the starting point for Spring / Summer 2014, forty design briefs were tucked into Liberty print envelopes and handed out at random to Liberty’s in-house designers as well as guest artists and collaborators. Inspired by a 1970’s map of the store, each of the design briefs related to a particular department within Liberty. The colour pallets for the collection were all drawn from artists materials – Winsor & Newton pigments, Faber Castell coloured pencils, Sennelier oil pastels , Pro Arte brushes and Stabilo pens. I loved hearing how each of the designers had interpreted these starting points in different ways and the diverse processes they used when developing a design!
We got to see original sketches for the ‘Anisha’ design which was built up with layer upon layer of wax crayons and represents the furniture department as well as glass tiles painted with the beautiful flowers that would go on to form the print ‘Jennie and Steve’, inspired by the old decor in the Liberty cafe. I found it fascinating to see how the designers worked with different media in different ways and how these elements were then brought together, worked into repeat and printed flat onto fabric. It’s incredible to think of a Liberty prints journey from the initial inspiration to being drawn, painted, sketched our cut out of paper, then being worked up into a final design and printed. And that’s just to make a bolt of fabric – the prints then get bought by the likes of me and made into all kinds of things that go on to have a life of their own!
As well as designing new prints from scratch each season, the Liberty Design Studio also frequently re-vist their extensive archive and these archive prints are often re-coloured or re-worked into a new collection. We were so lucky to hear Liberty’s head of archiving Anna Buruma talk about the great wealth of history that Liberty have stored in their warehouse in Bermondsey – they have a record of almost every print ever created since the 1880’s! Although often (especially with the older prints) the individual designers have only left their initials against each design so we have no way of knowing the artist behind each print! Anna showed us the most enormous book from the Liberty print archive – it was massive and full of original drawings and fabric samples. I think Anna might just have the best job in the world – you can read a really interesting article all about the Liberty print archive over on the Liberty blog here.
As we looked at each of the prints in turn there was so much to take in! It was fantastic to get a guided tour of the store afterwards and see the departments that inspired each of the designs. Here's a little peek at some of my favourites from the new collection!
|Forget-Me-Nots A / Handbag from Liberty's handbag department.|
Forget-Me-Nots - This is one of my favourite prints from the new collection and is based on all the little bits and pieces we ladies carry about in our handbags! I learned that this type of design is called a ‘conversational print’ – basically a print that portrays recognisable every day objects. The name seems apt as this print really does speak to me – It was named Forget-me-nots by the designer because these are the things that you wouldn't want to loose from your handbag. I treated myself to some of this fabric and am planning on making one of my DIY Liberty print quilted zipper pouches. I think the name 'Forget-me-nots' is perfect because although some of these items are really current (like the iphone, oyster card and little tin of Vaseline!) in 20 years time I might not have an oyster card or an iphone but I'll still have the little pouch I'm going to make so the print will feel lovely and nostalgic.
|Daniel DJ C / Fornasetti plates from the Liberty gift department.|
Daniel DJ - I absolutely love this design! Inspired by two 1950’s sun prints this design is was also heavily inspired by the iconic Fornasetti plates found in the Liberty gift department. This print was hand drawn in Rotring ink and Stabilo felt tips. I love the sketchy, 1950's line drawings and the way you can just make out the serene faces of the suns!
|Queue For The Zoo B / Clothes from the Liberty childrenswear department|
Queue For The Zoo by OK David - It was so lovely to meet David, the children's author and illustrator behind this fun and clever print (which has actually gone on to be Liberty's best selling print of all time and represents the childrenswear department). David spoke about the way that he approaches his children's illustrations by giving his animals and characters props to help express their personality. I love the detail in this design - the giraffe is wearing miniature Nike X Liberty wedge trainers and the elephant has just thrown a paper plane!
|Alexandra C / Gem stones from the Liberty Jewelrey Department|
Alexandra – Representing the jewelry department, this print feels so modern and fresh! I love the way the gemstones have been layered up – it looks so opulent and rich! This print was created digitally and is a nice contrast to some of the more traditional, floral prints. This print is available printed onto 100% silk as well as classic Tana Lawn – wouldn’t it look beautiful as a simple tank top in the Summer?
As for what Liberty have in store for us next season, let's just say if you're a fan of beautiful floral designs you won't be disappointed!
As for what Liberty have in store for us next season, let's just say if you're a fan of beautiful floral designs you won't be disappointed!
Thank you Liberty for such a lovely evening and a big thank you to The New Craft Society for organising the event! It was so lovely to meet some of my favourite craft bloggers and we each took home the most marvelous goody bag crammed with beautiful, crafty bits and pieces. I'm looking forward to sharing more soon!