Who remembers last week’s cake? The spectacular beauty that was the Spider Spunk Cake? It turns out I made double the amount of low sugar buttercream for that one, and I hate waste. I was faced with two options: I could eat buttercream icing from a piping bag till I vomited or I could bake something else to use it for. As I’ve not yet had a heart attack brought on from consuming a brick’s worth of butter, it’s fair to assume I baked more cakes. And I had the perfect occasion for it. Here they are, my red velvet cupcakes.
My sister-in-law had organised a couple of her bridesmaids a hair trial (myself included), which was to be hosted at my house. So with the help of my son Dara, who loves weddings and baking, we made cupcakes for the occasion. I gave decorative icing a good old try and for the most part, they looked okay.
This cake was named by husband Alex. After letting my three-year-old decorate it, Alex remarked it looked like Spider-man had bust a nut over it… Beautiful.
For todays’s cake I finally made the perfect buttercream: it didn’t take me ages and was perfectly white. I fudged the recipe and I whipped the butter for a full ten minutes. Delicious! And I’ve enough of it left over to make cupcakes! You’ll be seeing those next week no doubt.
At my brother’s request, ’twas his birthday, it is a chocolate cake with peanut butter filling. I wanted to put Reese’s Pieces in it, but couldn’t find any in my local Sainsbury’s. Huh. So never mind.
I used icing left over from the Marble Whale Cake. It had gone a bit hard in the fridge, but I microwaved it and chopped off the bad bits. I wouldn’t do that normally, but I don’t like waste and thought my brother would appreciate how grim it looked. And he did. Before three-year-old Dara piped icing over it, it looked like some sort of weird alien tomb.
And then Dara decorated it and it looked like the aftermath of a good night in for Spider-man. And we all enjoyed eating it!!!
So who’s excited for another Saturday Cake Day? My tastebuds a salivating at the thought.
Today’s one is a special cake, but one that comes with all my usual whoopsies and kerfuffles. So to begin, I’ll set the scene.
Way way waaaay back in 2011, I married Alex. And being the economical skinflints that we are, we had a team of friends help throughout the day with tasks such as photography and the band. Enter Alex’s friend Gary on the drums. And Alex’s sister (also my bridesmaid) Gabby had a falling out with her plus one a day or two before the wedding, so instead she brought best friend Claire. After a touch of meddling from Gabby and I, a relationship began and in December 2018 the pair were married! They’re now expecting their first baby in November.
Following the new trend of a Baby Gender Reveal (I’m sure this wasn’t a thing when I was pregnant–last year!) Claire asked me to make them a cake that would either be pink or blue when they cut it open, revealing the sex of their baby. Is this a thing to everyone’s tastes? I don’t know, I suppose I was sceptical when I saw hints of this trend appearing on the internet, but actually it was lovely. The perfect excuse to gather all your family together and celebrate the coming of a new baby. With delicious cake!
So here’s my fun journey…
If you read my previous cake blog–the Practice Cake–you’ll have seen that my first venture into cake dying wasn’t the best. This time I bought super powerful dye, the kind so strong I can confirm it will change the colour of your poop. Had my baby, who’d had a few cake offcuts to much that morning, decided to soil himself mid party, guests would probably have had a fairly good indication as to the mystery colour inside the cake. So, yeah, this dye worked.
This cake was to be two layers, the biggest I’ve made yet. To give some indication of the size, I used 1kg of flour and 16 eggs. And it turns out this may have been too much, as I had a little mishap in the oven…
So I wanged a baking tray under it and snacked on what spilled out! Oh and that little cake tin is what I scraped off the spoon after Alex told me he was hungry!
As a topper for the cake I decided to try dying four white roses (two pink and two blue). How hard could that be? I’d watched loads of youtube tutorials… Well, after ordering the flowers, apparently rain and a bank holiday in Holland meant my roses didn’t arrive. But luckily the florists were really helpful. Advised me on nice white flowers for a cake topper and I came home and put them in coloured water for 24 hours.
(Side note, last time I used this florist when making the bouquet for Gabby’s wedding, the woman I dealt with there was really unhelpful. Quite grumpy and did not even act sympathetic when I explained the reasons for a last minute wedding. Maybe she was cheesed I’d decided to make the bouquet myself? Either way, I’m glad I gave them a second chance. The different woman this time was so nice.)
But they remained white. Worse things have happened.
Icing this cake I went back to the Culpitt brand icing I used on the Pink Marble Cake. I figured it had creased because I was inexperienced, and as my second cake–the Marble Whale–had been a success I decided to revert to the cheap stuff. Mistake. It really creased. Luckily the design I used was forgiving and I was able to hide the cock ups.
And so here’s the cake…
Inside, the cake was Victoria sponge with my less sweet buttercream and white oreo cookies (because cakes aren’t cakes without biscuits stuffed inside them!). I keep modifying tough cookies buttercream recipe to see if I can get it working for me. Still not completely successful. I decided to do it as accurate to the recipe as possible… well that 12 minute recipe took me two hours… something’s not working. And to top it off, even using the exact same amounts as the Marble Whale Cake, which resulted in me throwing away half the mix, I almost didn’t have enough. No idea what happened there.
Claire and Gary did an amazing job of decorating the party. My boys were pretty wild with the amount of sugar they got at, especially the three-year-old who was at prime height to reach up to the counter and steal cakes and biscuits!
And for those who want to see, here’s a video of the happy couple cutting a slice!
Today’s book cover reveal is The Pole that Threads by Crispina Kemp. I always find my eyes drawn to this cover, perhaps because I love star gazing. And coincidence of coincidences, whilst working on this cover who should fly past my window and land on the neighbour’s roof? A huge heron! Probably ensuring I’d captured her in right light. Read the book and you’ll understand the pressure that put me under!
Kerrid, a shamanic wise-woman, has discovered the Asars are banished divines. Now to gain their divine world, she seeks the Pole that Threads the Worlds, for in that high place resides the demon Neka, which the Spinner has tasked her to eradicate.
No longer with her wed-man in this third book of The Spinner’s Game, Kerrid ventures alone on this quest, a journey that takes her to the western shore of the Boundless Sea and into the frozen wastes of the north. Along the way, she encounters those who want to waylay her,hinder her, and kill her. She has much to learn, including how to be open to love.
The Spinner’s Game
Set in the between-time, when hunter-gatherers turned to settled agriculture, when spirits and demons morphed to gods, the five books of The Spinner’s Game takes Kerrid’s story across continents and weaves through ages fraught with floods and droughts to become the prototype of our most ancient myths.
Here’s a little bit of fun today, as I post my response to Crispina Kemp‘s Creative Challenge.
I’m always wowed by Crispina’s photos, and at seeing the one she posted in this challenge, all I wanted to do was add a little robin. And as I decided to mess around in vectors, here’s what I ended up with.
And to show off Crispina’s photography, here’s the original photo.
Exciting news, I’m making a baby gender reveal cake. Two friends who actually met at my wedding, got married in December 2018 and are expecting their first baby in November 2019 (which coincidentally is about a week after sister-in-law Gabby’s wedding, which this friend will hopefully be a bridesmaid for. Unless she pops on the day).
Last time I dyed icing was the fateful third birthday cake that looked bloody awful. So best I practice. And… well it’s a good job I did.
I bought the bog standard food colour dye from Asda. Mistake. The blue sponge and icing were green. The pink sponge didn’t change colour. The only successful part was the pink icing, and that still wasn’t a strong colour. Lesson learned, I’ve purchased top quality dye for the actual cake!
The icing is the less sweet buttercream I’ve mentioned before. As it took so bloody long to make before, I tried to improve on the recipe by boiling the milk before hand. Another mistake, the flour burned instantly. Brown bits everywhere. Solution? I mixed in some rainbow sprinkles and you couldn’t tell.
My three-year-old Dara helped decorate this one. And we squirted the leftover buttercream into each others mouths, because… parenting. It was delicious. Next Saturday I’ll show off the actual baby gender reveal cake, and it looks so so sooo much better than this!
For any interested, sister-in-law Gabby and I have started up an Instagram featuring these cakes, along with all our other favourites treats and drinks.
Welcome to another Friday book cover blog! This week the book in question is The Sarah Project by Tyler Savage.
Tyler had a clear idea of what he wanted for his cover, with concept sketches that immediately caught my imagination. I absolutely loved the idea behind it and couldn’t wait to see where it took us. And I rather like the outcome. No, I love it!
Taylor Marshal is a 21-year-old genius who had almost completed his dream to get an engineering degree, before developing schizophrenia and dropping out.
Condemning himself to an abandoned, modified power station, with no one but an overly-sarcastic robot for company, he develops the project of a lifetime: to create life.
Taylor must hide his illegally-created subject, Sarah, from the law, criminals, and the general public, at all costs, in order to prevent Sarah from getting killed, experimented on, or worse: missing.
As Sarah learns what it means to be alive, Taylor will have to determine whether Sarah is just a subject of his mad experiment, or something more.
How exciting does this sound? I’m getting modern day Frankenstein vibes. With the complex issues creating life is sure to raise, this sounds like an intriguing book indeed!
And here’s Tyler’s thoughts on the cover making process:
Working with Lauren has been an absolute treat! She asks the right questions to fit the intended cover you’re looking for. She listens well to every concern and suggestion, and she’ll do any necessary tweaking. When she created my cover, it turned out better than I imagined. So yeah, props to Lauren for a job well done!
Don’t forget to check back next week for my next cover blog featuring The Pole That Threads, by Crispina Kemp.
So if you’ve spotted a theme, yes I like marbling icing. I’m making my sister-in-law’s wedding cake (she’s put a lot of faith in me, this is all my practising), and she wants grey marble.
One criticism myself and others had of the last cake was that the buttercream icing was too sweet. My child self would be appealed at me for saying that. But it’s true. So I scoured the internet and found a recipe for a less sweet buttercream. And it is soon much more involved than regular old buttercream. It says prep time 10 mins, make time 12. I have no idea what wizard achieved that feat. You have to cook milk, sugar, and flour at such a precise temperature for so bloody long to thicken it. And don’t get impatient like I did and turn up the heat, or the flour burns and you end up with brown lumps. So it’s an absolute pain in the arse to make, but wow does it taste good. A lot of that icing did not make it to the cake!
I’ve discovered that a cake is not a cake if it’s not filled with biscuits. So I blended up a few packs of oreos and mixed this with the buttercream, and because that wasn’t enough I then layered whole oreos in there, softened by milk. Delicious!!!
This time I decided to try Renshaw icing. It went on the cake so much better, no tearing, no creases. But it really stuck to the rolling pin and mat. I was dusting down constantly with icing sugar, and it still stuck. Nightmare.
Practicing for a layered wedding cake, I went for two layers. The cake tins were different sizes, God knows how a managed to make two layers practically the same. Whoops.
This cake was made for my son Walt’s first birthday. I doubt he appreciated the design, but he certainly loved eating it! And there was approval all round. I expected to be eating this cake for days (it had two layers after all). But nope, the whole thing was gone!
With everything going on at home, it’s taken me a looong time to get round to blogging about all the book covers I’ve done. I shall be rectifying that, posting a new cover/illustration every Friday in order to play catch up.
In Search of Enchantments was designed for S. Aneel Hotz (Stephanie). I was lucky enough to meet her whilst in search of beta readers for my book Made of Earth. And she was fab. After informing me it could take a while, my questionnaire was returned two weeks later, and was super helpful. I completed work on a book cover for her, and will soon be working on a map to go with it.
During a discussion about what she would want for her cover, Stephanie spoke of the significance of mountains, mist, and a stag within her book. And so I ran wth an idea, and this was the outcome. I’m pretty pleased with it!
Mira is student at Avlans Institute, one of the many schools in Simora that trains mages to fight for their Kingdom. However, after years of failure Mira’s lack of improvement in spell-casting forces her to question how she could possibly help her Kingdom endure the upcoming war.
In an effort to maintain peace and equality within the Kingdom, the Simoran Council has placed regulations on magic education by outlawing the use of unpredictable physical and innate-based magic in favor of spell-casting, a more reliable form of magic known as Enchantments. As a consequence, Mira’s infatuation with strength and combat-based skills soon makes her the Queen’s target, whose regulations permit all forms of untamed violence.
Caught between a desire to contribute to the welfare of the Kingdom, and her increasing distrust of the Council’s rulings, Mira sets out in search of the Queen’s true motives in hopes of understanding why she has issued a warrant for her arrest. Departing from the South to explore the Distant Lands, Mira meets a group of rebel mages hoping to expose the Queen’s oppressive rule to the Kingdom’s citizens. Thrown into a world of political and social unrest, Mira is forced to confront her inability to Enchant while determined to find another way to aid the good citizens of Simora.
Well, I’m a sucker for a bit of political intrigue and magic. Hopefully I’ll get to beta read this one once it’s complete!
And here’s Stephanie’s comments:
Lauren did a fantastic job of listening to my requests for this cover. She took my ideas seriously, and combined it well with her own creativity, allowing for a well-thought out cover. This cover fits perfectly for a YA Fantasy story. As someone who was not quite sure what I wanted for my cover, and with only a vague idea of what I was looking for, her suggestions and artistic vision made the cover-making process very quick and smooth!
Recently I’ve been throwing myself into a new hobby. And that hobby is cake making.
I’ve always been able to make a tasty cake. But one that looks good? Never. And this has always felt like quite a failure, given that I’ve worked in design however many years. After a truly atrocious birthday cake made for my oldest son’s third birthday, I decided to rectify the situation. Both Dara and I have become a bit addicted to Man About Cake, and we’ve been baking nonstop. Disclaimer, I decorate it by myself, save from sticky fingers eating all the icing before it makes it to the cake!
One thing I’ve really taken from Man About Cake is to have fun with the filling of the cake, so for this one, we have a red velvet cake with a cheesecake filling. Yup. Cheesecake filling. Because I’m too lazy to read a recipe, I bought a cheesecake, scraped off the yummy topping, whipped it up, and banged it in the cake. And ate the bottom of the cheesecake, ‘cos you know… I get hungry.
I nipped to Hobbycraft and bought Culprit icing. It was on offer and pretty cheap. I found it didn’t stick much to the rolling pin or mat, but was impossible to get onto the cake without creasing it. Perhaps someone better than me could manage, but I found it ripped and creased, so not too great. I spent quite a while making some icing flowers to cover up the creases, up till bloody midnight!!!
This cake was made for Mother’s Day, a gift for my mother-in-law, who wanted to host the day. Those who’ve read my blog about her will know that this came not long before we found out she had but weeks to live, and I’m so glad she brought us all together to celebrate.