Hello and welcome to my Little Willow blog, well welcome to those who might stumble across it anyway as I have yet to give this address to anyone :) I thought I might try and see how I get along with just writing in it first. It's all a lot of random stuff, but hey, hopefully there'll be something interesting for people

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Wow thank you to for this wonderful blogging award. You should all read her blog, it's really great with some wonderful recipes on there!

There are four rules to taking part - thank and link to the blogger who nominated you; share seven things about yourself; award 15 new bloggers, and tell them you have done it (sorry but I'm doing 16, I like too many!). I will be passing the baton to:

Ok, the hardest part of getting this award is to think of seven things to say about myself lol, but I'll give it a try!

1. I have been baking for less than a year but I'm really enjoying it and I'm currently going to a cake decorating to improve my skills.

2. I have just moved out of home and into a houseshare with strangers! An odd experience but hopefully it'll be a positive one - I've only been here 6 days, but I loved being able to have my friends over and have fun with them in my "own" place :)

3. I am part of the science fiction and fantasy book club at Waterstones in Liverpool 1 which is a lot of fun and I'm reading a lot of books I wouldn't have even picked up - sometimes this is good but sometimes there's a very good reason I wouldn't have picked them up!

4. I'm doing a creative writing course at the moment which I have been enjoying, despite being very naughty and not writing much for a couple of months! Oops

5. One of my favourite places to just be in are coffee shops - especially Caffe Nero with their yummy soup! I find they are such laid back places with a great, relaxing atmosphere. It's a good place to write actually :-)

6. I love films and TV and even have a Cineworld monthly pass so I can go as often as I like for only one monthly fee. This works well for me as I like pretty much every film I see and I like most genres too. I'm most looking forward to the last Harry Potter film :(, scream 4, X Men First Class, the new Pirates of the Caribbean and Breaking Dawn part 1.

7. Wow this is hard! I have a second blog which is all about spelling or grammar mistakes I come across in either printed or online publications including articles, adverts, emails etc. I'm always looking for mistakes now and can't stop looking for them!

Thanks again for the award and I hope I can live up to it

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Birthday Cake

Last weekend my friends and I who live in Liverpool visited our friend Laura who is living in Rugby, as a surprise for her birthday. We managed to keep the whole thing a secret for over a month with the help of her husband Chris. Laura is always travelling up to Liverpool for our birthdays (well except mine :p lol) and our Christmas meals so we thought it was about time we organised ourselves to go and visit her instead.
Hannah and Andy went up the night before and stayed with Hannah's nan in Leicester and Becky made her way to Leicester also, from Bath the night before.

Me, Becca and Carol congregated at Sian's house and left in Sian's car at 8:30am so we could get there for about 11am. After a slight detour we eventually arrived and sprung on Laura and showered her with presents galore! And then headed into Leicester to meet the others

I had taken the previous day off work to bake a birthday cake and some marshmallow cupcakes. I had wanted to make a birthday cake that looked like ones you could buy in a shop and also use my new decorating skills (well skills is a bit of a strong word lol). So I baked the cake itself with no problems at all and even managed to cut it in half relatively evenly :) I put all the buttercream and jam in the middle and then covered the top and sides with buttercream like we had done in class the previous week and covered the cake with a large sheet of sugarpaste I had rolled out. Apart from a couple of little iffy bits and a couple of holes I had to disguise, it didn't go too badly.

I know Laura really likes marzipan so I decided to make the teddy bear again. It's amazing how things never quite work out how you want when you're not following a teacher and being given step by step instructions, but it wasn't too bad, though he looked a little drunk and he wouldn't sit up straight lol and I'd put it near the back of the cake so I could decorate in front of it and write Happy Birthday but it looked like he would just lean all the way back off the cake! So I did edge him closer to the middle which unfortunately created a bit of a mess on the sugarpaste. I used my cunning and cookie cutters and created some stars which nicely covered it all. I ended up doing 3 star creations dotted around the cake and I also did a butterfly. Again using the skills learned in class I did a sugarpaste rose which came out fine, I was happy with that bit! Haha.

I managed to find my steady hand and wrote happy birthday Laura on the cake - not perfectly but I was happy with it for a first attempt. I think it was mostly the bear I wasn't happy with - I just wanted him to sit up properly! Plus I'd somehow managed to make him super sized - a few too many McDonalds methinks! But despite all the issues I was happy with the overall look of the cake especially considering it was the first time I had made one properly, I'm sure I'll improve with practice. Speaking of which, a colleague of mine has asked me to make her a birthday cake which is brilliant! Looking forward to it already, I just need to think of a design!

I also made the marshmallow cupcakes which I have previously blogged about - see here.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Moving Out


I'm now all moved out of home and into my houseshare that I'm currently sharing with two other girls with a new guy due to move in in a couple of weeks.

When new year came I made the decision to move out and move on and it didn't take me very long to find a place. The house I'm in now is really big and can hold up to 6 tenants at any one time. I am occupying the only en suite bedroom which is nice :) no fighting for bathroom time! My room is nice and large and has amazingly fit all of my stuff in, with ease in fact. The house also has a huge kitchen, 2 living rooms, a utility room and a downstairs toilet.

Moving day happened to coincide with Valentine's Day. As I started to move all of my stuff downstairs into the living room at home, I did begin to worry that it wouldn't all fit in the new place and I was convinced we'd be spending the day making trips backwards and forwards, filling the cars up each time. However with help from my parents and my friend Sian, we managed to put everything into the 3 cars in just one trip so I was very pleased!

I have now spent two nights in the house and so far it's all good. My housemates are nice and sociable but I can also escape to my room for a little while with no guilt whatsoever which is fab :)

Anyway I think I will be happy here and hope this is the start of something new and exciting!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Cake Decorating Class - Week 5

Tuesday gone was the latest cake decorating class. There was a lot more prep for this class than for any of the previous ones. We were making a Valentine's cake which was to look like a bouquet of roses. In preparation for the class we had to make a rectangular sponge cake and 12 red roses and on top of that we had to make some buttercream and bring along jam, white sugarpaste and green sugarpaste as well as our usual bits and bobs.

So on Sunday I made my rectangular cake using a roasting tin which was 23x33cm and I used the victoria sponge recipe provided by our teacher. Now I made the cake and it turned out fine but I was worried all day that it was too thin, bearing in mind it needed to be cut in half to put jam in it. But I decided to leave it, sure it would, probably, be ok. I then made 1 and a half the amount of buttercream (as I love buttercream). I then sat there for the next hour or so sculpting roses out of red sugarpaste (which I had painstakingly turned from white to red the previous day). I got better as I went along so decided to make 15 so i could pick the best 12 on the day.

The following day, Monday, I got a bit more panicky about the depth of the cake so I decided that I would make a second one that evening and put one on top of the other - however Monday was my book club night and we'd run out of eggs and margarine and then I remembered I needed more white sugarpaste so when I eventually got home, about 8:15pm, after a detour to the shops, I set straight to work and had it all done and dusted and cooling by 9pm - just in time for Glee.

I had a ton of stuff to take with me to the class - luckily it was able to stay in my car all day! The class started pretty much on time this week which was great and we set about transforming our pieces of sponge into something lovely. We firstly had to cut two of the corners off so that one end of the came almost came to a point - to give the shape of a bouquet. Then we had to put jam in the middle of the cakes (I hadn't realised that we wouldn't be using the buttercream for the middle of the cake - if I had, I'd have made more!) and we covered the whole top and sides of the cake in buttercream so that the sugarpaste would stick to the cake.

Our next step was to roll out enough sugarpaste to cover the cake. It was now I realised in fact how big my cake was. I have to say my skills do not lie in rolling out a rectangular piece of sugarpaste - it just turned into a blob - but not a big enough blob lol. I eventually got there after 3 attempts and had done just enough to cover it all. For this cake we didn't have to make all the edges smooth and perfect as this time we just tucked the icing underneath itself to create little folds, to make it look a bit like the cellophane surrounding a bouquet. At the front where the (almost) point was, we gathered the sugarpaste together to make it look like the bit of a bouquet you would be holding onto (if that makes sense).

The next step was to make the stems. We had to roll out quite thin sausages using green sugarpaste and then we used a knife to cut into the sausage to make it look like the thorns on a real rose stem. These were strategically placed on the main body of the cake and were stuck down using a small amount of water, and the stems all trailed off to the point of the cake. I had 10 stems on mine at varing lengths and I then added a few leaves at random points across the stems. The final step was to add the roses to the top of the stems, making it al look so very pretty :)

I added my own mini last step in which was to add a bit of edible glitter to the cake to make it sparkle!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Cake Decorating Class update

I can't believe I've been to three classes since week 1 and not had a chance to update on what we've learned. Where does the time go?

Anyway, in Week 2 we learned brush embriodery, which was quite interesting to learn though I can't imagine wanting to devote that much time to completing one whole cake using this technique. I think most of the class didn't find it the most interesting class and at the admission of the teacher the following week that she thinks it was too early to do it and that it was a bit of a disaster, then it's not really surprising.
To do this technique we firstly covered a cake board in sugarpaste. We then used shaped cutters to emboss a pattern onto the icing. You have to be careful that you don't cut through the icing, just press lightly so the pattern is clear. We had had to take some made up royal icing with us, which we then coloured at the class - I coloured mine pink and green - and proceeded to put into a piping bag with a fine writing nozzle on the end. We then traced part of the design with the coloured royal icing and using a fine paintbrush brush the icing towards the centre of the design to make it look as though the design has been embroidered on.

I gave it a good go but it didn't come out brilliantly.

 Week 3 was much better in my eyes. We made a 'Forever Friends' teddy bear out of marzipan. I am just claiming mine is a teddy bear though as it doesn't particularly look like a Forever Friends, there are a few changes I would make -like a bit of a flatter head and smaller ears. I really enjoyed making this and I'm now hoping to make a teddy bear's picnic cake for Ella for her birthday. I didn't realise until this class that marzipan colours just as easily as sugarpaste so all the extra bits on the bear like the pads of the feet and inside the ears and the nose are all marzipan also. I found it amazing that by just breaking it all down it was quite easy to follow and make and the mystery and wonder of seeing cute little modelling figures on cakes became less mysterious - but in a good way. The bear is just a series of marzipan balls and sausages :) I know that sounds weird but it really is, with maybe a little shaping here and there. It's just obtaining this knowledge and being able to apply it that is the hard part! I was actually quite proud of my bear :)

In last night's class we made some small decorative items for a Christening cake. We didn't do as much in this class as we started late and we spent some time looking through magazines at baby stuff to see what we could make. We made a bib and some baby feet and I made a small building block on the side :)
The teacher also showed us how to model a baby but we didn't have time to make our own in the class so I'll have to give it a try this weekend, or very soon anyway.
When I got home I wrote Isabelle on one of the bibs I made as it's most likely it'll be for Isabelle's christening that I'll be doing baby things on a cake and I was quite impressed with how straight my writing looked! I wrote it on with one of the glitter writing tubes from Lakeland which was very easy to use, but it does take a very long time for it to go hard. I've used it previously on cookies before but when wrapping them up to transport them the glitter writing comes off easily - usually still in shape though :)

Anyway next week will probably be quite involved as we have to bake a rectangular cake to take in and also make a dozen sugarpaste red roses and take lots of bits and bobs in - hope there's enough time to make it all and I hope I manage to make it look ok so I won't be too embarrassed to take it into work.