Sunday, 26 January 2014

Commission me a . . . Carrot Cake!

Wahoo my blog is a year old!!  This is the first post in Sew Lah Tea Dough's second year... Here's to hoping I'm still here writing every week this time in 2015!

This year has seen some of my greatest bakes and makes... but it has also had it's fair share of frustration, late nights and mistakes too!  All in all, I am SUPER happy with how everything has gone, that I'm here still writing every week about something I have made or crafted, I'm learning to take better photos, I'm trying to always think of something I can make better, improve on next time or do a different way.  I love love LOVE to try new recipes, and love a challenge.

This past year, actually the past few months I have had some amazing opportunities to bake for other people.  Being a music teacher, I love the term 'commission'... I know usually it isn't a term used in baking, more so for art or musical compositions but I'm a muso so I'm thinking "Commission me a Cake"!?  What do you think?  A new line for Sew Lah Tea Dough?!

So this past week I was commissioned to make a cake and cupcakes for a 60th birthday party.. (you'll see that soon I promise!)... but then I got a message asking me if I could whip up a Carrot Cake for an office birthday celebration.  Was I just starting my new job?!  Was I working 13 hour days?!  Was I busy enough!?  Well.... yes... But am I crazy?!  YES!  Of course I said yes!  I had a few hours spare, and what better way to spend them than baking.  So, birthday carrot cake baking here I came!

I used a Martha Stewart recipe for my inspiration with this, and also went with a traditional cream cheese frosting.  I'm personally not a huge fan of cream cheese frosting, but I was surprised with how delicious this recipe was!  I'd definitely use it again.

My favourite part of the cake was definitely the marzipan carrots!  I love marzipan, and had a lot of fun creating these little guys!  I left them overnight to dry but then, before frosting the cake (just before delivery!) I also painted them with food colouring.  A mix of food colouring and a splash of vodka (which does evaporate when it dries!) and a paintbrush and there I had orange carrots with green leaves. 

Another recipe for the box, I loved the taste of the carrot cake - using pecans instead of walnuts, and also not too spicy.  It made a perfect amount for a 9-inch sandwich cake, just what I needed for this.  I also got a couple of cupcakes out of it as well - good to be able to taste-test when you can't actually cut a slice of the actual cake!

Ingredients (for the cake):

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
12oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
1 pound carrots, peeled and grated (about 2 3/4 cups of the grated carrots)
1 cup finely chopped pecans.


1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease two 9-inch round sandwich cake pans.  Line the bottoms with parchment paper, and grease the parchment again. 

2.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.

3.  Beat the butter and sugar together in a mixer, until pale and fluffy. 

4.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

5.  Add the vanilla, water and carrots, and beat well until combined. 


 6.  Reduce the speed of the mixer to low, and add flour mixture, then finely chopped pecans.

7.  Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, and bake until golden brown, and when a toothpick comes out clean ~ around 30 minutes.

8.  Remove the cakes from the oven, and leave to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. 

Once my cakes were cooled, I actually left them overnight, stacked with a piece of parchment paper in between them, and in an airtight cake container.  The following evening would be for frosting and decorating!
However, to save time the next day (which is when I would be frosting, decorating and also delivering the cake) I pre-made the frosting and left in the fridge overnight, as well as making the marzipan carrots!
Here I am mid-everything... Carrots sculpted, planning out the sizing...

And then the following evening... I got to painting them!  I had tried colouring the marzipan the previous evening, but didn't really like the colour I got with the colourings, so decided to paint them instead!  It gave a vibrant colour, and I love how it showed up the etching I did on the carrots.


Ingredients (for the cream cheese frosting - it made MORE than enough to fill and cover the 9 inch cake!):

16oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter
32oz icing sugar


1.  Beat together cream cheese, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.

2.  Gradually add butter, beating well.

3.  With the mixer speed on low, gradually add the icing sugar, beating well until incorporated.

Like I mentioned, I left the cream cheese in the fridge overnight.  So when I got home from work the next evening, I took the frosting out of the fridge right away... it was still a little cold, but after some beating with a wooden spoon it softened up and was able to be spread - filling the cake first!

... and then covering the top and sides with more frosting!

The birthday girl's colleagues asked for a birthday message to be written on the cake, so after writing this, I changed my mind about the placement of the carrots - instead of all around the edge, I bunched three together in a little cluster. 

Yup, that was three very similar photos in a row!  ... I just couldn't decide which one to use! 
Hopefully they had a great lunchtime office birthday party, and once again - thanks for commissioning me a cake :)  It was a lot of fun to make, and I'm happy to have this recipe for another time!

Monday, 20 January 2014

1 Year Celebration!

I cannot believe it!  This week marks my blog's 1st birthday... 1st anniversary... Whatever the real term for my blog being public for 1 year now.  I have written a post every week for 52 weeks, occasionally a couple per week!  I have gotten better at taking photos specifically for tutorials on the blog, or for showcasing some of my favourite bakes and makes.  I have built up my Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram followers, and love to share what I've been up to with you all!  I have been lucky enough to be featured on some amazing blogs, and am so happy you have enjoyed the things I have created!

So this week, to say thank you to you my readers and supporters, just for now this is a little post to let you all know I'M HAVING MY FIRST CUPCAKE COMPETITION!  ... I'm excited y'know!

In celebration of my year of blogging, I am doing a 'Cupcakes By The Dozen' giveaway through my Facebook page.  Click here and take a look at how to win.  Like the page, share the photo and tell me your favourite cupcake flavour is all you need to do.  ... Because really, who doesn't like cupcakes?! 

I truly love to bake cake.. did you know?!  The collage shows 12 of my favourite cupcakes I have created over the past year.  You could win a dozen cupcakes in your favourite flavour, if you're a local... Or if not - I'll mail out some fondant cupcake toppers! 

Help me celebrate with this small, but fun giveaway!

And for a true Sew Lah Tea Dough blog post, check back later this week for something delicious I can't disclose just yet! 

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Snow + Ice = Cookies?!

If only all this snow and ice actually was only pretty and not cold or dangerous!  I can't really complain however... This is perhaps the first truly Canadian winter I have ever experienced.  It certainly will be the longest winter if it continues with these cold temperatures right through to March based on how early it started!  And so far I think it is the most snow, and most definitely the most ice I have seen in the 4 1/2 years I have lived here now!
The thing is, I love the winter... I love the snow and actually when the ice storm hit - we got some of the best icy/winter weather photos of all!  So apart from the big bruise I'm sporting on my knee from not one but two slips in the same spot of ice this morning I am enjoying the weather, no matter how cold!
So a few weeks ago, after creating the Cookie Wreaths for Rethink Breast Cancer I made these church shaped cookies, originally planned to have at our church Christmas concert.  I used the same sugar cookie recipe... because really, what was 36 more cookies when I had already made 145!!!!
I bought this church cookie cutter in the summer from Degrees, one of my favourite shops to go in Toronto - especially for their cookie cutter selection that changes with the season :)  I had never had the chance to use it, but wanting to take these treats to our concert at church before the holidays I thought it was the perfect opportunity!
I used my go-to sugar cookie recipe - click here to see it used in the wreath and to find all the details!

With the weather already turned into a full blown winter before we even saw the Christmas holidays I was inspired by snow and ice to decorate these cookies.
Using royal icing (recipe also here) I simply piped the top part of the church roof with 'snow'...or actually with the pure white royal icing!  I piped at random the 'icicles' without really worrying too much about how long or short they were hanging!


Then, using the coarse sugar I have been LOVING this winter season I sprinkled it across the top edge, and filling in the church spire for some bonus sparkle and frosted icy look!


I really liked how simple the cookies looked, the contrast of the white against just the plain colour of the cookie - it not only meant for not a huge decorating task but also a simple design giving the snowy icing the full glory on the slightly 'different' cookie in the shape of a church.


Originally these were going to be church concert cookies, but with the power outage meaning we had to wait until Christmas Eve to sing and play these cookies ended up being 'Church at Christmas' cookies instead, taking them along to eat for our 2nd dessert on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as a sneaky few shared a little earlier in the week!

It was definitely the most cookie crazy pre-Christmas I've ever had... But I love it!  There were many many stacks of cookies like this all around our condo - either waiting to cool, to be iced, waiting to dry or just ready to eat for a good couple of weeks!

But it's back to normal now, and it's been a little crazy getting back to school/work and also getting ready for my new job that starts on Monday!  I've been doing a LOT of prep for it so I haven't had much time for crafting/baking but don't worry - I'll be back on it soon enough - there are exciting birthdays and Valentine's Day coming up so no excuse not to be creative!

Happy Sunday everybody! 
Whether or not you were at a church that looked like this today, I hope you're enjoying the winter season and it's not TOO cold for you where you are!!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

DIY Shoe Clips

Happy New Year!!
I love this post Christmas blogging chance to write about the gifts I made and couldn't share with you all before I actually gave them away.  To have something in the works for a couple of months, to have photos on the hard drive just waiting, and then to actually send them across the pond to England way before Christmas before eventually seeing them be opened on Christmas Day!!
I made 3 sets of these bow shoe clips, after originally thinking I would make some cute felt hearts (like last year's Valentine's heart pocket sneakers) to attach onto shoe clips.  But on thinking about the gift recipients, and versatility of wearing the clips on any shoe, or with any outfit I went with these, still cute but maybe also 'prettier' shoe clips that hopefully my sister, Mum and sister-in-law would love!
Back in September I bought these great shoe clips from Buckle Boutique, ordered online from the Couture Embellishment shop on Etsy.  I did some research, and it generally seemed like everybody was recommending these clips.  I should have taken a photo of them but I guess you can see them on the link above.  The clips are metal and very sturdy, and then attached to a circle of black leather (I believe you can also get them in white).  This made for a really great way to attach my bows to with hot glue.  I'd definitely buy these again!
So between September and November when I actually made the clips, I did lots of thinking and research on the kind of clips I'd love to make.
A great inspiration was this post from 'Green Wedding Shoes' who gave me an idea of what dimensions I would be using.  Check out her post for the amazing tutorial (she has actual photos of the process unlike me! :-S ), and also another kind of clip - the flowers. 
For my Mummy dearest I made a cream coloured satin ribbon. 
Per shoe I had one long length ribbon and one medium length ribbon, glued the ends together to make loops.  Then, with a little glue on the inside of each loop (in the middle) press it down so it makes more of an sideways 8 shape.  Do this for each of the long and medium length ribbons.  Then, with a smaller length ribbon cut the ends to make a small indented triangle on each end of the ribbon. This will be the bottom piece.  Glue each of the layers together - the triangle cut ends on the bottom, then the longest loop piece, then the medium one and then, finally an even smaller ribbon piece to wrap around the middle and make the bow.

I actually had to cut down the leather circle of the shoe clip to fit it to the same size of the ribbon but that worked out fine, and you couldn't see the clip at all once attached to the ribbon.

I can't wait to try these bow clips with other ribbons as well, maybe some sturdier ribbons, or with different textures.  I went with a safe bet with these first ones, in a neutral but pretty colour that I think will go with shoes of my Mums.  Hope so anyway!


So for my sister and sister-in-law I wanted something to go with black flat shoes, nothing too crazy but still with a little pizzazz.  I went with some stiff black glitter felt I had.  It would show up on other black shoes, but still had a Christmassy/more glam feel than just plain black.  And the sturdy felt was SO easy to work with!!


Choosing to do a thicker width for these ones, I loved how chunky the bow looked when it was finished.

I did slightly shorter dimensions, and also finished the bottom felt piece edges with pinking shears instead of a indented cut triangle, and then for the wrap around top piece I also gave it the pinking sheared edge just because I thought it looked better than a plain straight cut! 


I REALLY want to make one of these pairs for myself!  Luckily my sister lives in England, and my sister-in-law is here in Canada so they will never wear them at the same time in the same place... But if I make and wear them too... Uh oh I guess then it could happen!!

An early DIY gift made, as we had to ship our English package by the beginning of December.  They each had their own adventures... my Mum's was opened as planned on Christmas Day, then for my sister (as she had to work on Christmas Day) - I actually got to watch her open them on Skype on Boxing Day... and then, even later on the 28th December my in-laws got to have their official "Christmas morning" with gifts after their power finally came back on after the ice storm in Toronto left them without for 5 days!


I loosely taped the shoe clips to these perfect scrapbook pieces of card from a pack I had already, they were perfect for this with the design at the bottom and room on the top to write a message!  Wrapped in tissue wrap they made it safely to England yey!
I'm totally going to make many more of these clips and definitely recommend them as an easy DIY project... maybe for some special people in your life on Valentine's Day!?
They can honestly be made into any kind of bows, other fun clips... Small versions for little girls, novelty felt designs maybe, or what about adding beading or more glitzy jewels... Other ideas I had were also using buttons...  Okay yeah, the possibilities are endless and I'm sure you have your own ideas too!  I'd love to see your clips if you make some :)  Shoot me an email with some pics!
Thanks for reading my first post of 2014!  Have a great year!