“A party without cake is just a meeting.” ~ Julia Child

I make A LOT of cake. Always have. I really enjoy it as long as I have the time to plan and organise (cake nerd) so that I can get the cakes how I like them. Mainly for family and … Continue reading

Hanging heart thank you

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Etta and I do a lot of crafting (a.k.a mess making) together.
I love to receive personalised gifts and in turn, love to make them for friends and family. This is where Etta comes in handy (literally).

Alison, Etta’s wonderful childminder is giving up work at the end of this week to concentrate on her other full time job – raising a family.

Alison has not only a fantastic carer for Etta, but a teacher and a friend. I wanted to make a keepsake for her that would remind her of their time together.

I have put together a super simple tutorial if you should like to make one yourself or something similar, this would work well as a card or in a frame too.

You will need:

• Wooden heart shaped ‘blank’ (eBay or hobby craft, but make sure it has a hole so you can hang it).
• Emulsion or acrylic paint
• Paint brush
• Paint for the prints – I used a metallic gold- make sure whatever you use is water based so it’s kind on the skin
• A good pen to write with – a designers drawing pen is ideal
• Clear spray varnish (optional)
• Ribbon / chord to hang the heart with
• A small and willing child to use as your stamp!

 

Let’s get messy!

1. This is your plain ‘blank’. I actually like them like this andthere is not necessarily a need to paint them but for the purpose of this tutorial that’s what I did.

 

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2. Paint your heart in thin layers of unison or acrylic allowing each side to dry between coats. If you like then the first coat can be in a darker contrasting colour to the top coat and when it’s all painted and dry you can rub it gently with a fine grade sandpaper around the edges to give a distressed look. (That’s what I did here but forgot to take pics of the process – sorry).

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3. Fasten small child to something so they are unable to run off – in my case a highchair. Apply paint to one foot at a time. Not too much as you want a clean print. Place each foot onto the heart and ensure all areas have gentle pressure on them – especially the toes.

 

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4. This is what it should look like – heels slightly overlapped to echo the shape of the heart. You can now clean the child!

 

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5. Next, once the paint has dried, take your drawing pen and carefully write your saying, quote or message around the edge of the print. I find if you put little dots on the ends of the letters it makes an aesthetically pleasing font that looks better than plain handwriting.

 

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Once the pen had dried I gave the heart a two light coats of spray varnish each side to seal the paint and pen. It’s important that they are light coats so the ink does not run and to allow the varnish to dry in between . You don’t have to varnish your heart but I find it keeps it looking better and gives a nice glossy finish.

 

6. This is the ribbon I chose for my heart – you can pick this up on eBay or there are tons of people on Facebook who sell ribbon if you search.

 

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7. My finished heart. I added a personal message on the other side before I varnished it – you may wish to do the same or alternatively print hand prints or let your kiddie-wink go wild with paint.
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I hope Alison will like it and that this will inspire you to make keepsakes for all your family and friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small but perfectly formed toddler apron

Toddler Apron

This is a cute little apron design I came up with by playing around with fabric to get the right shape. Perfect size for a toddler and great for us as bibs were no longer cutting it.

Now, you can actually make these from a fat quarter which is ace as then it’s a very cost effective little apron with very little waste. But if like me you are a fabric hoarder then it won’t matter that you can be thrifty in this way!
I have made my aprons with little pockets on the front and for this I have used a contrasting piece of fabric ( so at least 2 FQs needed or at least 1 plus a scrap that’s wide enough for the pockets.)

If you only have 1 FQ you can use the ‘cut offs’ to make patch pockets instead (this is possibly a second stage tutorial at some point).

Sewing patterns always recommend you wash any fabric before you use it due to shrinkage – so that’s probably best especially for these as you will more than likely be washing them a lot.

I like to make my aprons from a heavier cotton, almost an upholstery fabric as I find they serve the purpose better. Clarke and Clarke do a lovely range and Dunelm stock them. Roughly £7 – £10 per meter and they also do vinyl covered too in case you want to make a waterproof / wipe clean one.

So, what you will need:

Materials

Fabric, 1FQ minimum but it’s nice to have 2 so you can make pockets. (approx 20 inches square)
( I know sizes can differ so do check your measurements against the ones below in the tutorial steps).

Bias binding approx 3 meters (if you hate bias binding you can hem instead but you will need something for the ties.)

Equipment

An iron
Something to iron on
Scissors
Something to measure with
A pencil
A flat surface
A sewing machine or needle and thread
Pins

Cutting out

1. Iron your pre-washed fabric
2. It’s important if you are working with a patterned fabric ( like mine) to note the direction of the pattern.
3. Fold your FQ in half and cut the width down to 10 inches.
If you are not using a FQ then your fabric needs to be 20 inches wide (10inches folded).
4. Cut length down by approx 5 inches so length is 16 inches long.
5. Measure and pin 9 inches from bottom (please note the ‘bottom’ of my apron is at the top).
6. On the top edge measure and pin 4.5 inches in from the fold.
7. Now draw freehand or round a dinner plate, a curve between these points.
8. Cut out the curve.
9. Open out and check the shape looks even.
10. Find your other FQ that you are using for the pockets. You need it the same width as the apron piece and 5 inches deep. So measure, pin and cut.
11. Check pocket piece looks in proportion then iron pieces again.

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Sewing the pockets

12. First we are going to trim the top edge of the pocket piece with bias binding. I never pin mine because I’m a rebel and also I can’t be bothered, but you feel free to go ahead. Always sew on wrong side first in the crease.
13. Flip over and sew along right side then iron.
14. Pin your pocket piece to the apron piece ensuring that the edges match up.
15. Measure and pin 4 inches in from each side or roughly in thirds so you end up with three pockets.
16. Sew the pocket patch on at each side and where you have marked the sections. No need to see the bottom as we are adding more bias.
17. Iron the whole thing to set the stitches.

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Adding the rest of the bias

18. Next we will add binding to the top edge of the apron, do this in the same way as before with the pocket patch and then iron.
19. Next we will attach the bias round the bottom section of the apron. You will find it easier to pin (at least to start with).
20. When you get to the corners, you have to fold it back on itself to get perfect (or as near as damn it) mitres, am hoping the pics help!!
21. Now iron it again to set the stitches.
22. We are on the home straight now. Cut two lengths of bias to 45 inches each attach the first one leaving 18 inches dangling as one of the ties.
23. Sew then turn then sew, tucking in the ends carefully to make sure there are no cut edges.
24. Repeat on the other side, remember if you are starting at the neck tie rather than the back tie then measure what you have dangling so it’s even.
25. Guess what?! Iron again
26. Find small child to model your handiwork!!

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I have made tons of these, you can adapt them in all sorts if different ways – as you’ll see above there are tons of variations.

Let me know how you get on.

Easy peasy salted caramel and vanilla cupcakes

Salted caramel cupcakes

 

What better way to pop my proverbial tutorial cherry than with a baking post!

So I know that cupcakes are a little passé, but no one ever turns them down when offered. They are a regular crowd pleaser and so darn easy to throw together.

To keep things simple I am going to divulge my very own vanilla sponge and vanilla buttercream recipes which have never failed me and can be adapted with flavours and different toppings, you name it, you can tart this basic sponge up! Then we will turn them into salted caramel and vanilla cupcakes with a bit of cheating.

We are going to make a dozen* so you will need the following ingredients:

For the sponge:

190g unsalted butter at room temperature
190g caster sugar
3 large eggs
190g self-raising flour
1tsp vanilla essence

For the icing:

100g unsalted butter at room temperature
250g icing sugar
1-2tsp vanilla essence

Salted caramel desert sauce (Tesco do an amazing one in their finest range – picture 13 if you scroll down)

Malteasers to decorate (picture 14 if you are unsure!)

You will also need 12 paper muffin cases

Now a quick note about your ingredients.
Please don’t use margarine. It’s not big, and it’s not clever and what’s more, the baking fairies will ensure your cakes never rise again. The only exception to this is if you are making dairy free cakes and then butter can be substituted – I would cautiously recommend ‘pure’ sunflower spread as the lesser of the evils.
Invest in your eggs – free range please preferably organic. Happy hens = happy eggs = happy cake.
Buy the best vanilla essence you can afford. A little goes a long way – I particularly like the paste versions, but remember to check the label to see if you need to increase or decrease your quantity based on strength.

Equipment you will need:
You definitely need a cupcake/muffin tin or you will really struggle to bake these little beauties.
You need the bare minimum of: scales to weigh ingredients, a couple of bowls, a fork, a teaspoon and a wooden spoon. Anything extra is a bonus!

Now, let’s get on with it.

1. Preheat your oven to 180 / 170 fan, approx gas mark 4.
2. Put butter and sugar in a bowl and cream the living daylights out of it. I recommend a mixer or any other device that can do this without expanding man power! You will know when to stop as the mixture will turn a pale yellow, the graininess of the sugar will go and it will be smooth with no lumps. (picture 2 – not beaten enough, picture 3 – just right)

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3. Break your eggs into a separate jug / bowl (my mum always made me do them one by one but I will let you judge the risk of a bad egg yourself)! Beat your eggs please with a fork. One egg beaten is worth more than two unbeaten! (picture 4)
4. Add eggs and flour to the butter/sugar mixture and gently combine.
5. Add the vanilla essence and mix
6. Now the consistency you are trying to get to is a ‘soft dropping’ one. So you will need to add some milk. I have never measured how much, I’ve always just added a little and mixed then repeated till I got a nice mix. Hopefully the picture will help you. (picture 6 is of ingredients combined but no milk added picture 7 is milk added to correct consistency)

 

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7. Carefully spoon into the cases in the tin. Try not to spill down the sides. Try to get an even amount in each case – a heaped dessert spoon is usually about right. (picture 8 & 9)
8. Time to bake! Put your cakes in the oven on a rack at the lowest level possible in the oven. This will mean they will bake evenly and not spring up like little volcanoes. (picture 10)

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You need to bake them for 18-26 minutes depending on your oven.
They will be springy to the touch and golden when done. You can even stick a skewer in and check it comes out clean!
9. Once baked leave to cool, preferably on a wire rack.

 

Now let’s make the best vanilla buttercream in known existence.

1. Put butter, sugar and vanilla into a bowl/ mixer.
2. Add a splash, and I mean a splash of boiled cooled water ( basically whatever’s in the kettle).
3. Carefully begin to cream the ingredients together. Once they have pulled together you can beat, beat, beat the mixture hard!
4. When you think you have creamed the ingredients together – you need to beat them some more! (picture 12 – it should look like this! Smooth and pale)
There is nothing worse than grainy buttercream. Like the first steps of the sponge method, the mixture will go pale and creamy. Stick your finger in and try it. If you can taste the grain of the sugar then you need to add more elbow grease!!

 

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Once you are satisfied with your icing and your cakes are cool you can begin to assemble them.
For ease there are no piping bags in sight, all you need is a spoon.

1. Take a blob of icing and add to the top of the cupcake. Smear it round with the top of the spoon whilst rotating the cake. Should look a bit like this:

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2. Then add a small blob of salted caramel sauce and do a similar action with the back of the spoon. The effect you are trying to achieve is that of a caramel streak. Imperfect is good as long as they all look roughly the same.

 

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3. Strategically place a Malteaser (or two).

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Now stand back and admire your creation – you made those, they look amazing, smell divine and taste flippin’ awesome.

Go on – dig in.

 

*when I made these for this tutorial I made two dozen which is why my mixtures and quantities look bigger.