Thursday, 29 September 2011

Russian Doll Cakes - The Making

The 'How To' guide for the Russian Dolls Cake(s) as promised!

Well, this is probably my most fiddly cake to date and requires some expertise but is definitely worth the effort as I think you'd agree. 

Step 1 - BAKE

Bake a cake. For this one I used a chocolate cake although the recipe in the book is a lemon & vodka sponge which is in keeping with the Russian theme. I chose the chocolate cake because I like chocolate cakes (surprise surprise) and because this one is quite dense and therefore easy to model with. A light and crumbly sponge would not be suitable. You can probably substitute this with a Madeira sponge or just stick to the recipe in the book. Make sure the cake is fully chilled though so that it is easier to cut, leave it in the fridge for an hour or so after it has completely cooled. You will need at least a 10" cake to get 3 dolls out of it, the smallest doll is made out of icing.

Step 2 - COVER

Cut the cake out in to the basic shape of the Russian dolls. I printed off a template from the web. You can draw your own or find one that you like better. Then cover the cake in a thin layer of buttercream , followed by white sugarpaste. Covering the cakes with sugarpaste is the trickiest part I think due to the shape of the dolls. 

My main tips are;

i) Give the cakes two thin layers of sugarpaste - the first one can be pretty rough and the second layer tidies it up. The second layer is also slightly easier put on. 

ii) Cover the dolls as you would a cake with sugarpaste, as in from the top. If you are completely unfamiliar with sugarpaste then check out this YouTube video for the basic principles.

iii) As far as is reasonably possible, try to use the palm of your hand instead of your fingers to avoid leaving dents in the cakes.

Once all three cakes are iced, make the fourth one out of sugarpaste icing and then leave them all overnight before the next step. This is to allow the icing to dry out, otherwise you won't be able to draw on them.


This is the fun bit and you can really go to town with the design. I used a combination of edible pens and edible paint to decorate the dolls. I made the paint from a combination of edible dusting powder and a few drops of alcohol. Do not use food colouring as this is too strong and the colours will run. 

From this...

To this!

A willing helper is always handy to take photos of you whilst you work and generally pass you stuff. Now that my mum has gone, it's over to my son to take the reigns, thank you :).

And lastly quality control from my niece, a budding expert!

Hope it was helpful.

Peace & Love
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Sunday, 25 September 2011

From Russia with Love

Now I know I have been described as 'excitable' by a close friend of mine, but this post has got to be my most exciting yet... Check out these Russian Doll Cakes!!! If this doesn't put a smile on your face, you have a heart of stone!

Among the millions of things that I love like chocolate, music, France, mascarpone cream, baking, art and photography etc etc are books. I am a bookworm. I don't do ebooks, I must have paper and prefer hardback copies whenever possible. I cannot have enough books, let alone too many; in fact when I grow up I want to have a library in my house with books going all around the room & up to the ceiling with a sliding ladder so I can hug them all and maybe have a dedicated librarian to help me look after them... 

Anyways, I often trawl Amazon to see what's out there & on one such occasion, was recommended 'The Birthday Cake Book' by Fiona Cairns, maker of the royal wedding cake. The book has amazing cake ideas & when I saw the Russian dolls I pretty much burst with excitement! 

Now it would be criminal of me not to do a 'how to' post and that will be coming soon. I'm not sure what it looks like from the pictures, but these cakes are pretty fiddly so I need a full post for that one. For now, please enjoy the cuteness and get excited :)

Peace & Love


Update: Here is the link for the 'How To' post :)
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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Art, Light and Cupcakes

Last weekend I went up to the Tate gallery in Liverpool to see the Magritte art exhibition. It was really good with a whole range of his work that I wasn't aware of before. I know his really famous stuff and even did a tribute post on it a couple of months back but I think it was the Surrealist photography that got me inspired.

So out came the tripod & some cakies as I attempted some Surrealist photography of my own. Taking pictures of myself wasn't as easy as I thought it would be but it sure beats housework! I think the life of an artiste is one I could get used to. First I need to find someone willing to buy my stuff.... 

Peace & Love

"My painting is visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, 'What does that mean?'. It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable." Rene Magritte
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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Can't keep running away....

'There comes a time in every man's life when he's got to handle 'things' up on his own" The Pharcyde, Can't Keep Running Away.

So I've taken this bold step of leaving my 9-5 in order to bring harmony to my life and attain happyness, but I'm still running around like a headless chicken & I'm not feeling any more harmonious? 

Enter this week's lesson; I can't run away from myself. 

After yet another crazy week, I'm having to check myself & accept that I am the one filling up my time and creating more stress for myself. Seems like a no-brainer really, but sometimes you get so caught up in looking at your circumstances & issues, that you fail to recognise your own contribution to where you are. It's all good and well changing your environment, but if the problem is with you then you just carry it to the next destination..... My plan next week is to do as little as is reasonably practicable.

This tasty looking dessert is my take on the french millefeuille and is hereby named 'Puff Pastry Niceness'. I have three layers of puff pastry filled with white chocolate flavoured cream and raspberries, all topped with a heavy sprinkling of icing sugar. I think it looks quite impressive & is really easy to throw together. I made it because it reminds me of my life at the moment; slightly off balance, piled up high and spilling out at the sides but looking good at the same time! You know how we do :)

Have a great weekend.

Peace & Love


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Monday, 12 September 2011

The pursuit of happyness

A fool dreams of wealth; a wise man of happiness. Turkish Proverb.

Recently I keep getting asked whether or not I am happy. I find the question a bit confusing, as I don't really understand what is meant by happiness. In my mind you are happy because of something specific as opposed to a state of being.

I decided to look up the dictionary definition and found that it is both of those things; a state of well-being and contentment, and a pleasurable or satisfying experience. I also found this quote;

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.Mahatma Gandhi

Being happy is better than being a king. African Proverb

I had a moment of clarity this summer as I sat on the beach listening to the waves crashing against the sand (it'll do that to you). I realised that my life did not reflect my true priorities and I made a decision there and then to stop and do something about it.

Last week I took the first and perhaps most important step: I turned my back on the rat race and left my 9-5. I didn't have time to think, let alone harmonise my thoughts, words and actions with everything I had going on! That said, unless I find a wealthy benefactor or come up with a wildly successful money making scheme it will only be for a time. But, I plan to use this time wisely. I will also be trying out tasty new combinations like Red Velvet Cake & White Chocolate Frosting - delicious.

Here's to the pursuit of happiness.


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Saturday, 3 September 2011

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there. ~George Bernard Shaw, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God, 1932.

I love gardens and I love gardening, but at the moment, my garden is a disgrace. In my defence, my life is filled with a number of meaningful and time consuming activities. Examples of which include; Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (I'm being flippant, I am genuinely busy :).

I think, therefore I Yam.
There was a time however when I loved and cared for my garden and found it to be one of the most rewarding and spiritual learning experiences.

Here are my top five gardening insights that translate perfectly into life;

#1 In the garden, you gain respect for God and for Nature as ultimately you don't make anything grow.

#2 In order for new life to come something has to die, be buried or be pruned.

#3 A weed is a plant that is growing where you want something else to be growing, sucking all the nutrients and just generally getting in the way. Weed your mind as you weed your garden.

#4 You can forget a lot of your own troubles in your garden (i.e. focusing on someone/something else)

#5 Your garden won't look amazing just because you want it to. You won't have any flowers or plants if you don't plant any. You have to sow before you can reap anything.

My intention is to get back into the garden in the immediate future (how promising did that sound?) In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed these pictures from a Vegetable Garden Cake that I made last week. I will leave you with two quotes that I think sum up life quite nicely...

Just living is not enough.  One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.  ~Hans Christian Anderson
People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle.  But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.  Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize:  a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child - our own two eyes.  All is a miracle.  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Peace and Love
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