Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Allow me to introduce: Lightning McQueen.

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to make a Lightning McQueen themed cake. I really wanted to do something that no one else had done before (according to Google images), but sadly ran out of time to design something extraordinary, so stuck with Lightning McQueen himself (crazy, I know). My local cake shop had two car tins to choose from. One was Lightning McQueen (yay, kinda, but it was a side view of him, and I didn't want a side view), so I went with the other tin - which was a VW bug shaped car. I could work with that, because I had already visualised how the cake would look.

While the chocolate cake was baking, I made some decorations for the cake board including orange traffic cones, green 'grass', and a road...

The chocolate cake was baked, and I had some creative carving to do:

Notice the road on the cake board in the background!?

The carving was done, the cake was as Lightning McQueen shaped as it was going to get, and buttercream icing was spread all over the car, ready to be covered with red fondant... Until I forgot that I needed a layer of chocolate ganache in the middle... Damn. With the help and skills of my beloved husband, though, we halved and separated the car to add the ganache, and then re-attached the top half, and I smoothed the chocolate buttercream over the car again.

Now I could proceed to the next step - fondant!

The red was smoothed all over and trimmed around the bottom. Then (again, with the help and mad skills of my husband), we transferred the car from the board I was using to carve etc, to the actual cake board, where the road was awaiting something to drive on it.

Black circles made pretty simple wheels.

I added McQueen's eyes (copied from the picture I still had loaded), hub caps, a mouth, and headlights. It was midnight by that stage, and I needed to get some sleep so that I could be awake enough to finish him in the morning... I sent this next photo to the mother of the birthday boy, so she could see how it was looking and where I was up to:

I went to bed, dreaming of animated race cars...

The next morning was when the real fun began!

Apart from feeling like I was constantly travelling back and forth from my computer, checking to see which part of Lightning McQueen looked like what, and then forgetting by the time I got back to the cake, repeating the process, until I took pen to paper and drew the silly symbols and shapes... I really enjoyed creating this cake!

The spoiler was made by cutting red fondant, and poking wires through it and into the cake. I added orange numbers to the roof of the car, a brown circle to the hood (which looks a bit out of place until later), and lightning to the sides.

After looking at the cake now, and going back and forth from the computer (yes, still), the lightnings weren't quite right, so I added a couple of extra triangles onto their ends to make them longer...

Yes, that looks better! Also added to the cake board were the traffic cones and grass.

My husband, who so desperately wanted to act like he was helping, got some of the rolled out white and yellow fondant, and took a knife to it. He cleverly managed to cut a few straight lines to make rectangles into the road markings and the rear window.

Wow, I was so proud of him and his creative streak that I had no idea existed beyond music.

The final touch was adding yellow royal icing to the brown circle on the hood and bumper, with the oil brand logo Rust-eze:

I wanted to add more highlights to the car, like outlining McQueen's eyes, and rear window... And even though I knew that once I started that, I'd have to outline everything and I would probably regret even starting, my husband pried the icing tube out of my hand and forced me to stop because "it looks great already; there's no need to add anything else."

I sighed an "okaaay" and the cake was done.

Happy birthday Saarim! Ka-Chow!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Angry, angry birdies!

But wait, just when you thought that I was done with Ben's birthday for another year, there's more!

After his party, it was still a week until his actual birthday, and as per usual, my kids always take cupcakes into school with them on the day of, or closest to their birthday to share with their classmates, friends, and teachers.

Asking Ben what kind of cupcakes he wanted, he said "Monsuno."

Not knowing what the heck that even was, and even Googling it to see if Google knew what it was, I told him that I couldn't do something that tricky on top of what I already had to do this week. He suggested that I just make some more Pokémon cupcakes like I did last year (because "you did a really good job of those, Mum"), but I didn't want to do that either. I suggested Angry Birds, and he was delightfully happy with that choice!

Thank. Goodness. Angry Birds was at least a simple enough platform I could work with, because they were (or would be) all round and a lot easier to repeat 30 times over than Sonic the Hedgehog's head, for example.

I made cupcakes in the same coloured cases as their decorations would be (because sometimes I really like it when things match), and cut out circles from yellow, red, green, and blue fondant.

With white fondant, a round piping tip, and the circle cutter, I made eyes and the bellies of the red and yellow birds. I have no idea what all of these birds do in regards to the Angry Birds game, and I don't know why they are so angry all the time (any child would probably tell me if I asked, though), I just tried to copy what they looked like on Google.

The beaks were just a strip of orange fondant cut into little diagonals. Everything was stuck on with sugar glue, and they were so far looking alright. I got out my chocolate fudge frosting tube and added pupils and eye brows to the ones needing them. Wow, what a difference eye brows make to a character!! They really did look angry at me for some reason. I hope it wasn't because the yellow one was round instead of triangular... Though, it was midnight at this stage, and I really didn't care why they were angry with me. Even the pigs (why are they green?) looked angry at me.

Using (shh, don't tell Ben) glittery tube frosting, (you know, the ones that come in the box with silver, blue, purple & pink?) I added the tuft of hair for the red bird, the tuft for the blue bird, and the sunken eyes of the blue bird. On top of the cupcakes, I piped a big dollop of buttercream icing, and pushed the angry bird/pig topped onto their respective cupcakes. I did this in the morning so that the toppers had time overnight to set a bit - making them easier to push on and stay flat.

When Ben saw them, he was impressed with what I'd made for him. I boxed two separately for Tamara to take for herself and to share, as she didn't want to miss out on a cupcake, and wanted to take one for her teacher as well.

Everyone went to school happy, and it still wasn't quite Ben's actual birthday yet! Yesterday it was, though, and Ben was fine with me not making any more cakes or cupcakes for him...

He was less impressed that on his actual birthday, I got a left-over angry bird cupcake and flung it to his head using a sling shot ;)

... Just kidding. I wouldn't do that, would I?

Saturday, 27 July 2013


Ten years ago, at exactly 6.16pm, we were greeted with the cries of our first baby boy, who finally decided to enter the world 13 days late... For the ladies reading who like stats on newborns, he was 53cm long, and weighed 3.745kg (or- 8 pound, 4 ounces). We named him Reuben Matthew Christopher, and after struggling to remember which Reuben was Reuben (as there were 4 in the family at the time), we soon had to nickname our little boy "Ben."

27 hours of labour pains later (starting at the auction of my father-in-law's house the previous day, followed by Panadine forte & a sleeping tablet that night in hospital, then my waters being broken and a drip being placed in my arm at 10:30 in the morning) we finally became parents!!

And what a ride it has been since.

I can't believe it's been a whole decade since that night... And that I can remember all of those labour/birth details yet I forget conversations that I had yesterday. Hmm.

Well... There's the back story. And here's what we did to celebrate :)

We approved Ben's request to have a Rock Climbing party. As this would be the only time our Ben would be turning 10, my husband didn't want to miss this grand opportunity to photoshop Ben's head on Ben Tennison's body...

With that, we made the invites (the rock climbing details were on the back):

I was told by my husband to strictly let Ben help with the organising of his party... I don't know why he thought that I would become a control freak and take over every single tiny detail with my crazy ideas and get carried away until I have a meltdown because I stress over silly things after staying awake for too many hours at a time making sure all those super fine little details are perfect... That's totally never happened before.

But, I obeyed his wishes, and Ben played a big part in deciding what the invites would look like, what food he wanted to have at the party, and most importantly, what kind of cake he wanted.

Of course, despite me trying to convince him that I would probably be better at making a simpler cake, he wanted a rock climbing cake, and encouraged me with his almost-10-year-old knowledge that I could do anything I put my mind to.

Wow, what a champ. He was totally just saying that to get me to make a cake how he wanted it, though.

Well, here's the things we 'both' made for the party guests to eat in between rock climbing and/or belaying adventures:

Rainbow jellies. Really simple, and only take 2-3 days to make. Because there's not much jelly in each layer, you can easily make 2-3 layers each day. Morning, afternoon, and evening.

Fairy bread, cut into 'big triangles' and shortbread. Ben asked for Pacman themed biscuits. Pacman was easy - a circle with a triangle cut out of it, and a brown M 'n' M for the eye... The 'ghost' things were made from my tulip cutter, upside down, with colours of Ben's choice, and silver cachous for the eyes. Simple, and he loved them!

Notice that I'd decided what food there'd be, but he got to make some decisions still? That's how I got away with not controlling the party, but still controlling it a little bit... Sshhh.

You can't ever go wrong with fruit kebabs. Cut it all up and thread it onto skewers :)

What's a party without chocolate?? M 'n' Ms in individual portion sizes* (plastic shot cups).
* May not be official dietary portion sizes - just the ones that I made up because it was easier and more hygienic than having a big bowl of them.

... And now for the cake.

At first, I had no idea how I was going to manage a rock climbing cake. I was Googling simpler versions without luck, and YouTubing heaps of tutorials (in my limited spare time) until I found something that I could work with. A tall, tube like cake, with 'rocks' all around it, and a boy. The boy was the hardest part to make (Ben chose what colours he wanted -with my encouragement- the boy to be wearing)...

The cake was as per Ben's request. Vanilla, coloured red (his favourite colour, if you hadn't picked up on that yet)... Later, it occurred to me that I could have made chocolate with red (red velvet), but didn't think of it at the time, and, well, Ben wanted vanilla.

The boy was made, left to set for a bit, and then glued onto the cake, which had to be fairly tall so that the boy looked like he was 'climbing'... I pushed a toothpick underneath his bottom to hold him up while the glue dried.

I had bought a packet of crispy M 'n' Ms (that then became party food in plastic shot cups) that I was going to use for the rocks, but coloured fondant worked much better anyway. With the fondant rolled up into little balls, then squished into the tips on my fingers and pushed down on the bench a bit (that probably doesn't make any sense), they looked more like the rocks on the rock climbing walls anyway, so with different colours, that's what I did!

I used "Ropes" - the stringy fruit lollies in the little packets, for the 'ropes', and draped them over the cake. With left over coloured fondant, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" was written on the cake board:

Ben chose the colours for the big "10" on top:
Dark blue and, yep, you guessed it - RED.

With the help of Ben filling up some party bags (well, boxes really) with various lollies, chocolates, and toys, he decided that he wanted the thank you notes to have an actual rock glued to them, instead of saying "rock" in the phrase "Thanks for coming to my party. You rock." Which I thought was a brilliant idea!

Thank you to everyone who has known and supported us through this rough ride of parenthood over the last 10 years, and who also wished Ben well wishes for his 10th birthday! You ROCK!

If anyone has any tips to share on how to stop kids from growing up so fast, that'd be awesome ;)


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Fearfully and wonderfully royal...

Madison is in a bad mood. Everyone is excited about welcoming a new baby into the family, but she is not so sure. While Mum and Dad go to the hospital, Madison reluctantly stays with her grandparents, with the baby's soft pink gift in tow. In Grandma's garden and at the beach, Madison gets thinking about birds and bees and brand new babies, and asks 'Did God make me as well?'

Join Madison as she discovers that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving God, and a blessing to our families.

Today, I travelled a long way (relative to how far you consider a 'long way' - but it was long for my 3 year old) so that I could be there to support my good friend Penny in the launch of her newest book, Wonderfully Madison.

As I was in the car, news about a new royal baby was all over the radio. Of course everyone would have heard by now - Prince William and Princess Kate have had a baby boy.

The anticipation of the birth of a baby is something that almost can't be described. As a mother, you can spend all the time you want reading books and making rules about what we will and won't do with our children, or be like as parents (a funny link about this here). But the excitement from people who have never even met the parents-to-be, simply because of the status of the one being born - is almost one that also cannot be described. Huge crowds of strangers gather to see just a glimpse of the 8 pound something, completely dependant and helpless little boy (or a glimpse of the person who is about to tell the world the news of).

The radio announcer mentioned that already (at less than a day old) there is a huge burden on these tiny shoulders, as this little baby boy is in line to one day become King and rule over a nation.

It can probably be said that the news of this baby stopped the world.

Well, it made me think about another royal birth, but one that wasn't flashy or as widely and quickly spread as this one (could technology have played a part that Australia found out only minutes after the initial announcement?). The story of this royal birth has made history, and continues to affect people's lives everyday... Yes, I'm talking about Jesus - the King of Kings. No-one cared what he weighed, how tall he was, or what colour his eyes were... The prophesied baby and eternal king had arrived on earth; come to save the world, and the news is still spreading more than 2000 years later.

To many people, both of these royal babies don't really mean much... They're taking up precious time that could be used watching TV or driving to work with music on, or reading about 'real' news... But I wonder if it is because of the recognition of status that makes these births international news, stopping people to stare in wonder? When your country's monarch welcomes a new prince - that is certainly something to celebrate, sure. And when the right status of Jesus is acknowledged and understood (either now or when he returns), people will gather together for a glimpse of the eternal King, who came and died to save us from a life in darkness.

God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11

I've been reminded today that every single person is unique and not like any other... Even identical twins aren't the same. We all have different strengths, weaknesses, passions, hobbies, limitations, hair colour, eye colour, and no two fingerprints are the same! Does it make you wonder how incredible our God and Creator is? Yes, science tells us that cells join and multiply and then a baby is produced, but each and every person is specifically created with different characteristics and personalities into His plan... His eternal and perfect plan.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:13-14a

Saturday, 20 July 2013

It's a purple-y kind of month!

Lately it seems that everyone likes purple? In just 3 weeks, I'd make a purple cake, a giant cupcake with purple (and pink) icing, and another purple cake! (it was actually the request for this one that made me choose circles on the first purple cake).

It certainly is the season for purple birthdays!

This cake was made for a friend's 30th birthday party. When I asked her to send me a photo of what she'd like, I received this     ->

(Yes, that's as big as the photo gets).

It looked like something I could manage,* so I collected my ingredients and planned out how I would make and attach everything. With making a cake, there's only so many things you can do in advance... Buying ingredients and making fondant cut outs (that need to set) are about the only things that I do before the day before the cake needs to be ready by.

Knowing that some of the balls and stars needed to be silver, I made twice as many white as black shapes, by rolling up fondant. Also prepared were the stars with wire stuck into them:

Once the two cakes (bottom layer, and top layer) were made and covered in purple fondant (which wasn't quite the colour as the photo, but the darkest I could manage at the time), I rolled out some white fondant and sliced it into strips to glue around the cake.

I poured some of my edible silver liquid into a bottle top so that I could use a bigger brush to hopefully speed up this process... Best. Decision. Ever. It was so much faster than using the brush it comes with (it's the size of a nail polish brush, attached to the lid). I painted every second white strip silver - to match the photo that I was given.

... It was about this time that I overheard my husband tell our daughter that "we will have to have a talk soon about what's going to happen to your body in a couple of years.... But mum will explain more about that to you at another time."

It was 9:30pm at that time.

"Gee... Thanks for the heads up!" :/

I continued to paint the white strips silver, and he must have assumed that my response meant that I wanted him to tell her about 'changes' right now? He said "fine, I'll do it", and proceeded back into our daughter's bedroom for another 'chat.' I was focussed on the cake, but overheard words of chickens, eggs, boys, hair, being punched in the tummy, and having to wear nappies in your undies...

Hmm. Maybe I should have done it.

I finished the silver strips, and moved on to paint half of the white balls and stars silver as well. My aim was to get that done, and then finish the rest the following morning (I also didn't want the top tier to sit on the cake overnight and collapse into it).

In the morning, I glued the silver, black, and white balls around the base of the cake. One by one, in their black, white, and silver pattern.

Once that was done, I placed the top tier onto the cake (with some buttercream in the middle), and did the same thing with the fondant balls around the base of the top tier as well.

Time to re-check the photo to see what I needed to do for the top tier. There were circles on top, with a giant 30,** as well as writing around. I had asked if she wanted her name, which she did.

... You know when you look at a word long enough, it looks like it's spelled wrong? Well, that's what happened with Debbie's name. I shamefully had to check Facebook to make sure it did in fact have two B's in the middle. Which it did. Of course it did. I knew that already, but wanted to make sure :)

As I took another close look at the cake, I realised that the spots could go all around the top tier of the cake, and some of my blemishes would be covered up! The cracks, tears, and uneven patches of the cake could potentially not be seen (I always see the areas I need improvement on).

The name was glued on, the stars were placed in the side, and the cake was finally ready to take with us to the party!

And here's one from the party with the "30" candles on top,
looking more of the purple colour it should be:

Happy birthday Debbie!

* I'm becoming more aware that I need (or want) to complete a cake decorating course soon, to learn how to be able to:
- not make fondant crack and rip when placed over a cake
- make the sides straight and smooth
- attach multiple tiers without the top tier sinking into the bottom

** As I was just about to prepare and cut out a big 3 and 0 in fondant, I had a call from the birthday girl telling me that they were meant to be candles. As I didn't realise that, I hadn't bought those with the other ingredients, and so she organised that, and I told her I'd leave a space for them.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

You can't eat the G string!

- Pretend for a moment that it's Saturday, because that's when I wrote this -

One week ago, I had zero plans for making any cakes (which pleased my husband). No one had yet booked me in for their special loved one's birthday cake, and it was a somewhat nice feeling having a free diary (though it did look a bit boring)!

Well, within a couple of days of that thought, I received the request for a train cake, and then late Thursday afternoon, my husband says to me: "Hey, it's Tristan's birthday next week, and this Saturday will be the last Redwoods practice before it... Do you think you can quickly come up with a guitar cake or something? I've already told the guys I'd bring cake."

Pfft. Do I think I can come up with a guitar cake?? Baby, I know I can. Consider it done.

And this is how I did it.

With 8" and 6" chocolate cakes (and a knife), I made the shape of a guitar. I'd made a rectangle from the part cut out of the bigger circle cake for the neck, but didn't end up using it:

I bought some 'caramel brown' colouring paste from my local cake shop, hoping that I could add a little bit (to white fondant) to make the body colour, and a lot to make the neck colour.

N.B. When you're covering a guitar cake with fondant, it doesn't matter if all the colour doesn't mix through evenly - it actually gives it a really nice look if it doesn't! :)

For the neck, pretty much because it's really tricky to cover little bits of cake with fondant (discovered when covering the head of the lady beetle cake), I used a Tim Tam. With a skewer, a small hole was made in the delightfully delicious little chocolate biscuit, and then pushed through until almost the other side (of the biscuit), and poked into the side of the cake!

I cheated a little with the next bit. With small white fondant circles, and wire, I made the strings for the guitar. I stuck them onto a strip of darker caramel brown fondant, which I also used to add some decoration onto the guitar later.

The final touches were black dots on the string plug things, and the tuning pegs (which were white circles painted silver, and stuck into the Tim Tam with wire). I'd cut the wire to match up to where the tuning pegs were, and it was about that time when I looked across at the guitar I'd been referring to the whole time, to notice that the neck should actually come all the way down to the sound hole... Oops!

My oldest son exclaimed that it looked really awesome (when I showed him in the morning), but that next time I should make the guitar bit smaller so that I could make a whole guitar... Thanks mate.

Nevertheless, my husband was impressed... And so was the band :)

Here's the birthday boy playing his (disproportionate) guitar cake:

Happy birthday Tristan! Rock on!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

I choo choo choose you!

Is it strange that when we (because surely I'm not the only one) think of drawing trains, we naturally lean towards the cartoon version? And when we're asked "what noise does a train make?" the answers tend to be "toot toot" or "chugga chugga" (or both); then we make motions with our arms, and pretend to pull on the cord that somehow makes the tooting sound?

If you have kids and watch Play School, then you'd certainly do that!

I was asked this week to make a train cake for a little boy's birthday. I wasn't sure where to start with this cake, but I knew it was going to be cartoon-style... So, I started with a cartoon setting: Blue sky, and green hills. I knew that I was going to make steam 'clouds' getting bigger and bigger, come out from the train (a lot easier to draw cartoon-style as well), so made those out of flower cutters, and then just with a knife for the biggest steam cloud:

With red, yellow, and orange fondant, I had the colours of the train ready. With a rectangle cookie cutter, I cut them out, and lined them up on the cake, on top of Cadbury Milk Chocolate Melts that I used for the train's wheels :)

Using left over fondant rectangles, the front driver's carriage and smoke stack were added, and the cake was looking so bright and colourful! I had an idea that the train could be coming out of a tunnel, so I added a black arch around the cake to represent this (which I'm not sure actually worked all that well)...

The final touches were painting birthday wishes into the 'steam' and adding some birds (yes, that's what they're meant to be) randomly into the 'sky'. After that, I glued some purple flowers in between the front of the train and the 'tunnel', just to fill in the big gap that was there.

And the train cake was finished!
(though it took a lot longer than it appears)

If I was to do this again, I would take out the tunnel, and add a couple more carriages to the train instead. I may even attempt to make a train track out of Kit Kats or licorice or something around the cake board... Nevertheless, I loved the brightness of this cake, as well as the cartoon style of it, and I really, really enjoyed making it and seeing it develop, even as the wee hours of the morning ticked on!

Happy birthday Slade! Toot tooooot!