Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Hooked on Plants

In January with a group of lovely Cam City WI ladies I became part of a crochet project unlike any other. Our aim was to create a series of trailing plants from arid environments which were to be displayed in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden during the Festival of Ideas. We met up every month at the cafe in the gardens, and now after 10 tea and cake fuelled sessions our creations are finally complete. Here they are...

I worked on Epiphyllum anguliger, also known as the fishbone cactus. Here it is with delicate flowers, pot and soil (all crochet!) and embroidered Latin name tag. When we started in January many of the group were complete beginners at crochet and it been fantastic to see how far everyone has progressed since then!

Other members of our WI group got involved by creating crochet lichen.

The project was led by Joanne of Not So Granny who guided and supported us through the process of designing and making patterns to create our chosen plants. She is a fantastic teacher and without her talent and patience it wouldn't have been possible to achieve such amazing results.

I hope you like our creations! The plants will be on display until Sunday 3 November so do pop in to take a peek if you can.

If you'd like to hear more about the project from other participants take a look at blogs from ClaireabellemakesMiss Chaela BooNot So Granny and Knitnrun4sanity. There is also an article by Cambridge News and information on Cam City WI and Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Marshmallow Cake

This is a simple cake to make and perfect for a celebration. I made two of these cakes last month, for a family and friend’s Birthday. It's a simple sponge cake filled with vanilla buttercream and mini marshmallows. Although it looks quite massive and perhaps filled with a little too much buttercream, the light sponge and the fact that the filling is mostly marshmallows results in a cake that isn’t at all heavy. A friend commented that it was like eating a cloud!

This cake is a definite hit with me and I’ve also used the marshmallow buttercream on cupcakes, finishing them off with a chunk of Cadbury Flake. If you’d like to do the same, the buttercream recipe below would be enough to decorate 12 cupcakes.

Marshmallow Cake

200g caster sugar
200g unsalted butter, softened
4 medium eggs
200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g unsalted butter, softened
375g icing sugar
25ml milk
2-3 drops vanilla extract
100g pink and white mini marshmallows

1. Preheat oven to 190°C (170°C fan). Line two 20cm round tins with baking paper and set aside.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and light. In a separate bowl combine the eggs, milk and vanilla extract, and in another bowl combine the flour and baking powder.

3. Beat half of the wet ingredients into the creamed mixture, then mix through half of the flour.

4. Add the other half of wet ingredients and mix until combined. Finally stir in the remaining flour until you have a smooth and light batter.

5. Divide between the two lined tins and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 20-25 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, carefully transfer to a cooling rack.

6. For the vanilla buttercream, beat the butter with half of the icing sugar until smooth. Then add the remaining icing sugar, milk and vanilla and beat once more until smooth and creamy.

7. Set aside about 4 tablespoons of icing – you’ll need this to decorate the top of the cake. Stir the marshmallows into the rest of the icing until fully incorporated.

8. Pop your one of your cakes onto a cake board (I used a silver one from the supermarket and added a doily from a pack I bought from Lakeland) or plate and pile on the marshmallow icing. Use a palette knife or the back of a spoon to spread it evenly and then place the other cake on top.

9. Pop the icing you put aside earlier into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle, and carefully pipe stars onto the top of the cake.

10. Now for the finishing touches. Dust with icing sugar, sprinkle with pink decorating sugar, add candles... Et Voila! A springy, light, marshmallowy cake. Enjoy :-)

Saturday, 8 June 2013

April and May

This here blog of mine has been rather quiet the past couple of months. I've struggled to find time to blog about my makes and bakes. I know, excuses excuses! Well, this month I will be making time to share some cake and crochet action with you. In the meantime, here's what I've been up to in April and May.

Above, from top:  A horse drawn tram and poster art at the London Transport Museum, the magnolia tree in bloom outside our apartment, Mr Makes' brownie Birthday cake, Singin' in the Rain,  marshmallow cupcakes, cheese scones, brownie ingredients, pretty flowers at the Cambridge Botanic Gardens.

April included two trips to London. The first of these was a girlie weekend with Mrs Norris while the Misters were away chasing zombies (two words: stag do). Singin' in the Rain is my favourite film of all time, and I finally got to see the musical. It was so much fun singing along and drooling over the amazing costumes. Although there is no picture, I went see the Royal Ballet for the very first time with Mrs N. We saw Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, and I was completely blown away. It was magical. I was mesmerised throughout and loved every last second. I cannot wait to go again!

The second London trip was for Mr Makes' Birthday. We went to the London Transport Museum to see the Poster Art 150 exhibition. If you've never been to the museum it is well worth going if you're in Covent Garden. I made the Birthday Boy a chocolate brownie cake filled with chocolate chunks, pecans, sour cherries and jelly bones. The idea was that the cake would be a dinosaur graveyard and you would find bits of bone and mysterious squidgy things, but it didn't really work out that way as you couldn't really distinguish any of it apart from the sour cherries and occasional pecan. Still, it made for tasty brownie!

Above (from top): mouth watering afternoon tea treats at Bettys, flowers in the park, Tyne Bridge, Me thinking something along the lines of 'if only they made real icecreams this big', delicious treacle tart wedding dessert, Mallard at the National Railway Museum in York, Saltburn pier and some y-arrrr-n bombing on the railings.

In May we took a road trip to the beautiful North East of England. We visited our old stomping ground in Newcastle, had a day out at the seaside in Saltburn and did some sightseeing in York. In between all this was the wedding of our good friends, now Mr and Mrs Devonshire! Massive congratulations to a very happy and lovely couple :-)

Finally, I had to share these fantastic posters I spotted at the National Railway Museum. I think they sum up the trip perfectly!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Cam City WI Craft Swap

Last month I took part in my first ever craft swap. It was arranged by the lovely Michaela of Miss Chaelaboo and was open to members of our WI group.

Our January meeting was all about tea. We had a talk from the ladies at Kandula Tea about the tea business, how it is produced and the different varieties. Then we got to sample lots of different teas. My favourites were Moroccan Mint and Earl Grey. 

Tying in with this meeting, the theme for the craft swap was tea. We were given a list of our swap partner’s likes and dislikes, but it was a tricky topic and I found it difficult to come up with ideas. Knowing that we wouldn't be swapping until March, I spent most of the time thinking about what to do.

Finally, with a week to go, I had a light bulb moment and knew exactly what I was going to make - a brooch. I like brooches because they can be pinned to bags and scarves as well as worn on jackets and other things. I sketched a rough design and got to work with some fabric and felt. Using some embroidery thread and a 1.75mm hook, I crocheted some edging and stitched on to the circular brooch to finish it off.

By the time the March WI meeting rolled around, I’d been so wrapped up in making the teacup brooch that I’d completely forgotten that I would be receiving something in return! Excitement built as I was presented with a cute little a polka dot box. My craft swap partner Katie had made me an adorable cross stitch teacup necklace. Isn’t it wonderful!  

I really enjoyed taking part and seeing how other people had been creative with the tea theme. As you might expect, there were a lot of stunning tea cosies being handed around! The swap made me realise just how many amazingly crafty ladies we have in our WI.

Have you taken part in a craft swap? Are there any you would recommend? I’d love to hear from you.

Monday, 8 April 2013


Well another month has passed, and boy was it a cold one. As you can see, there was plenty of tea and tasty cake to keep me going. 

From top: snowy Cambridge, lime pie, tea and a cupcake, working on my WI craft swap project (more on that coming soon), a Mother's Day Mexican feast, crochet, amazing maple pecan cake and polish doughnut from Afternoon Tease's pop up cake shop - part of Eat Cambridge, my chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate icing, the kitchen at the wonderful Ickworth House.

Of course we had Easter last month too. I made hot cross muffins and Mr Makes baked an absolutely amazing four layer chocolate cake, smothered in mouthwatering ganache and topped with a cheeky Milkybar cow. Who knew Milkybar cows lay eggs? What baking and making did you get up over Easter?

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Fondant Fancie Hat

Since learning how to knit last year I've knitted several scarves. So I've been feeling ready to take on a more advanced knitting project. As I receive so many lovely comments about my pink 'fondant fancie' hat (see it here) I thought it would be a nice challenge to see if I could make my own.

I set about searching Ravelry for a pattern and lots of lovely projects popped up. I decided on this 'Snappy Hat' pattern. I used Sirdar Big Softie yarn in a striking shade of purple. The pattern suggests 6.5mm needles but as I was using super chunky yarn I used 5 double pointed 8mm needles and a 6mm cable needle.

I made the medium size and I found the pattern was really easy to follow. I’d say it took me about 5 maybe 6 hours to complete, but I am still a rather slow knitter.

Of course, I couldn't consider it finished until I’d added a giant pom pom to the top!

Monday, 4 March 2013


I can't believe another month has flashed by! Although its been a little quiet here on the blog, I got up to a fair bit of making and baking during February.

Bake-wise there were mini red velvet cupcakes, american pancakes, heart shaped meringues, and some delicious vanilla macarons made using a fab recipe by Claireabellemakes. I dived in and purchased a set of double pointed needles and cable needle to attempt to recreate my 'fondant fancie' hat (more details soon). My mum and I had a very creative craft session making some of the flowers in 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet - my mum is now hooked and has since bought herself a copy of the book!

I climbed to the top of the tower of Great St. Mary's Church for a pretty awesome view of Market Square, and Mr Makes surprised me with tickets to see Everything Everything at Cambridge Junction. In summary, a pretty good month! What have you been up to lately?

From top: mini red velvet cupcakes, crochet lichen for the Botanic Gardens crochet project, pancakes, Everything Everything ticket, Cambridge market from above, knitting myself a new hat, Valentine's Day meringues, flowers, vanilla macarons.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Glitzy Coffee Cupcakes

I’ve discovered edible glitter (how the heck did it take me so long?) and I want to sprinkle it on everything, but perhaps putting it on my chilli con carne was a step too far… Anyhoo, these sparkly beauties provide the perfect hit of coffee and glitz. So why not give them a whirl?

Glitzy Coffee Cupcakes (makes 24 - 28 mini cupcakes)

75g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
3 tbsp soured cream
2 tsp instant coffee, dissolved in a teeny tiny amount of boiling water and cooled
110g self raising flour 
For the icing:
100g unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp instant coffee, dissolved in a teeny tiny amount of boiling water and cooled
225g icing sugar
To decorate:
100g walnuts, chopped
50g dark chocolate, grated
Gold edible glitter

1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan).    
2. Mix the butter and sugar until creamy and light. Beat in the egg, followed by half of the flour.
3. Stir in the soured cream and coffee, then the remaining flour.
4. Distribute the mixture into mini cupcake cases, filling each two thirds full, and bake for 12-15 minutes in the middle of the oven.
5. To make the icing, mix half of the icing sugar with the butter until fully incorporated. Stir in the coffee, then add the remaining icing sugar and beat until smooth. If it is a little stiff, add a little splash of milk to loosen it slightly and it will become easier to work with.

6. Pipe or spread onto the cooled cupcakes (I prefer to pipe with a plain nozzle so that the icing is distributed evenly on top).
7. Put the walnuts and grated chocolate in separate bowls. Dip half of the cupcakes in each, making sure the icing is well coated with either chocolate or walnuts.
8. Now for the fairy dust moment – sprinkle with glitter and Ta Da! Glitzy Coffee Cupcakes!

Sunday, 3 February 2013


Well January seemed rather long, didn't it? My month involved a lot of coffee cake, but I'm finally happy with the recipe, so watch out for it in the not to distant future. January was when the snow came. I'm afraid I don't have any pretty photos to share as my interaction with the snow was limited to shuffling to and from the bus stop everyday. 

In other news, I made my very first dress! It's not perfect, and I have definitely learned lots for next time, but I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. January also saw the start of the University of Cambridge Botanic Gardens crochet project. A lovely Saturday morning was spent practising leaves and drinking tea with fellow Cam City WI members.

Of course, there was another thing that really brightened up the month and that was the return of the Great British Bake Off for Comic Relief - how funny was Claudia Winkleman and her lemon meringue antics!? 

From top: King's College Chapel on a chilly New Year's Day walk around Cambridge, coffee and walnut cupcakes, view from the office window - snow covered bicycle, more coffee and walnut cake, wearing my homemade dress, crochet leaves, cowl knitting, apple and current scones, and yet more coffee cupcakes!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Super Scary Crochet

My mum got me Super Scary Crochet by Nicki Trench for my Birthday last year. It is awesome! I really enjoyed making the ones I've done so far! The book has patterns for so many hilarious characters, from 'Walter the Werewolf' and 'Bernard Bigfoot', to 'Dr Death' and 'Natty the Batty'.

Above you can see Baby Jane and Blanche from the film 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane'. I made these for a colleague of mine to give to someone for Christmas (I hope they liked them!). I made the characters before I'd seen the film, and now that I have seen it I understand why they both look quite deranged and why Baby Jane is holding a rat!

Next up is 'Colin the Cannibal Cockerel'. Apparently, Colin is a lovely cockerel... until there's a full moon. Finally we have Mr Pumpkin Head, a great guy to have around at Halloween.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Owl Mug Cozy

This owl mug cozy was a Christmas gift for my good friend Amy of Movie Writing. I knitted the owls and ribbed edging, then used double crochet to lengthen the sides for a snug fit around the mug. I finished with some pearlescent buttons to fasten and some black sequins for owl eyes.

I'm afraid I'm unable to share a pattern as I didn't make a note of what I did. I just went with the flow and made it up as I went along! I occasionally do the same thing when baking. I get so wrapped up in the creative moment that I forget to make a note of ingredients, quantities and methods. Since starting this blog I've definitely been better at recording what I do when I bake. I'll endeavor to do the same when I next go on a freestyle knitting and crochet adventure!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


I thought it would be nice to share some highlights from December. As you'd expect, a fair bit of baking went on! I also finished off my hot water bottle cover. I made it following this loose pattern by Coco Rose and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Most of the Christmas break was spent up in the North East where we had a great time seeing family and friends. We had a lovely trip to Whitby for some tasty fish and chips. It was bloomin' cold though and Mr Makes said my head looked like a giant fondant fancie with my pink woolly hat on.

From top: sherry, mince pies, sour cherry chocolate brownies, cherry and vanilla cupcakes with more mince pies, me in Whitby, snowmen meringues, more meringues, my finished hot water bottle cover, key lime pie (or lime lime pie as we called it, because I have no idea where to find key limes).

Monday, 7 January 2013

Christmas Cake

Happy New Year :-) I hope you all had a lovely Christmas break.

I started writing this post before Christmas, but there was so much going on that I just couldn't get it finished. In the run up to December 25th I was in a bit of a knitting/crochet/cake decorating/present finishing/packing frenzy! So I had to keep the designs for my Christmas cakes as simple (and quick) as I possibly could.

I was really pleased with how they looked. I went for pale blue with a snowflake for the big cake. It doesn't show up in the photo, but I used some pearlescent edible lustre dust on the snowflake for a shimmer effect. The cake was a gift for our office Secret Santa (turned out to be not so secret really!).

The two smaller 11cm cakes were decorated with simple blue fondant stars and a Christmas tree, finished with lovely ribbon. These were also gifts, but unfortunately in all the Christmas chaos I forgot to give one of them to the intended recipient, and discovered it, all boxed up, on my craft desk (which needless to say was abandoned throughout the festivities) a couple of days ago! Oops.

As for my own Christmas cake, well it’s sitting in the bottom of my wardrobe, all wrapped up since the last time I fed it with sherry in mid-December! I thought about making it into a Happy New Year cake, but my heart just isn't in it. Perhaps it will become a Valentine Fruitcake! I think I’ll mull it over.