Monday, 28 January 2013

Winter Scene Christmas Cakes

Merry Christmas everybody! ... At least, it was!  All the decorations are down, and the cake is (almost!) all eaten but the post about my Christmas Cake still remains to be written, and read!

This was my second year of Christmas Cakes after the debut in 2011 using my Mum's recipe.  This year I added a little ingredient of my own so now I can say I have my own spin on her yummy fruit cake :-)  

This year I began the fruit cake process on November 1st, soaking the fruit in sherry for a couple of days first before baking.  Last year I did 2 large round cakes and 2 small round ones (you can find last year's cakes and designs here) but this year was going to be a little different.  We were heading over the Atlantic to England to spend Christmas with my family for 2 weeks and I knew I DEFINITELY wanted to treat my family to cakes now I have tried to make them myself!  So I made 1 large round cake (for us!), 1 large traybake that I would split into 4 small rectangles, and then the remaining cake mixture into a loaf pan that would make 2 smaller square cakes.

That was a lot of cake for one day!  And then, 7 weeks later after the occasional tipple of sherry (for the cakes, not me!) it was time to marzipan and ice and of course decorate!

My issue this time was how could I decorate the cakes in a way that could travel 3422 miles without getting squashed, broken or completely destroyed in transit.  I thought that perhaps it was time to try some piping and maybe some white on white winter scenes would look good.  I am MORE than pleased with how they turned out and glad the designs (mostly) worked the way I had planned them.

My Grandparents and Aunts & Uncles that we spent Christmas with all got personalised designs that I knew (or at least, hoped) they would love!  Here they are...  

A snowy tree scene for my Granny!
For my bird-loving Grandma, a truly Canadian Cardinal!
For Lara and my Grandad!  Lara was getting married over the
Christmas season so although she did not have a wedding ceremony
amidst trees and snow I used a little artistic license here!
For my Aunt and Uncle who live out in a little cottage in the
hills with the sheep just like this one!
Some carol singers for my musical Auntie Jo and family :-D
And there's a little story behind this one that was for my
parents and siblings! ...

So the photo above shows some classic Muskoka chairs sat in the snow and overlooking a small lake.  I actually based this design on our Christmas card photo that we took and used to send out to our friends and family this year!  We took the photo in March 2012 up in Port Carling, Muskoka when we were on the hunt for some snow as Toronto was definitely lacking last year!

Here's the photo to compare my cake to the real photo!

I had a LOT of fun doing all of this piping, and after making sure I got my family's done with no stress or tears I made a start on our own cake as we were not prepared to give away all of my hard work - there had to be something yummy in it for ourselves as well!!

I tried drop icing for the first time ever (so please any tips/ feedback are welcome!) and combined a little of my favourite parts of the other designs and here's how it ended up...

Although the time for Christmas style fruit cake might be over for most of you (I know Jonathan could eat it all year round however!)... the Winter scenes I designed and piped might still be seasonally appropriate!?  I'd love to hear your comments and here's a belated Merry Christmas for 2012!!!!

Oh and in case anybody is wondering... the cakes ALL made it safely across to the U.K!  They survived a 50 person plane from Toronto - Philadelphia, a 6 hour wait in Philadelphia airport and then a long 8 hour night flight to Manchester.  Thank you to multiple tins, a holdall in carry on luggage and my amazing husband for carrying 6kg of Christmas Cake perfectly level and safely across to England for what could be (once they had arrived safely) a wonderful Christmas!!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Hockey's Back!

After 4 months of the NHL Lockout HOCKEY IS FINALLY BACK!!!!  And last night we saw the first game of the season that should have begun back in September.  Of course we needed to celebrate and I had a cake I wanted to try out!

A few months ago I decided I wanted to try working more with buttercream frosting.  I have already played around with fondant a lot but to keep things simpler why not try just using buttercream that I would be making for a filling anyway, so this was what I tried!


A simple Victoria Sponge cake subbing out some flour for cocoa powder made it a chocolate cake and then white buttercream for frosting.  Colouring a little of the remaining buttercream red and blue and consulting my rules expert husband for details on the lines and proportions I was ready to go!

We headed over to over friend's place for wings and LEAFS!  Annnddd they won!  I guess we have to eat wings and bake this cake EVERY Leafs game of the season now!  With 47 games to go we'll see how that pans out!


Friday, 18 January 2013

RCM Piano Exam Preparation ♫

I am SUPER excited this year to have some students taking piano exams.  So far this year I will have 5 students (4 little ones and 1 adult!) taking their Preparatory B exam and 1 student taking their Grade 1.

Having grown up with the ABRSM exam board in England I needed to learn about the Royal Conservatory system here in Canada.  I found some information on the internet but I wanted something FUN to help my students prepare.

I searched and searched but in the end decided I may as well just make my own packs!  My students know I love 'packs'.  Maybe you've seen my Olympic packs and the Winter packs still need to be posted up, oops!

I like to include a little colouring, some fun and easy stuff to fill in and of course some parts they will learn from that won't just be a boring checklist!

Front page and 1 inside preview from the Preparatory Pack.  Get your PDF version of the Preparatory B Pack here.

2 inside preview pages for the Grade 1 pack.  Get your PDF for the Grade 1 pack here.

So far the kids have loved these!  They have just been filling in the front pages right now but as we go along in this semester they'll be able to test what they know by writing what notes to play around the edge of each shape or in the blocks.  Let me know if you want further explanation of how I'll be using these in my lessons :-)