Friday, June 29, 2012

My Stars and Stripes submission to Spoonflower

I entered another design contest at Spoonflower this last Tuesday - the project was to "Create a fabric design using stars and stripes as design motifs." I planned on using the design motifs above, (which I posted on Facebook - it helps me commit to entering the competition if I dedicate to do it in a Facebook post!! - a self imposed deadline I suppose :) ) to create an homage to the Star Spangled Banner in honour of that most American of holidays July 4th Independence Day! The repeat size is only 8 x 8 inches so that was somewhat restricting but still it's always fun to have parameters to work with - makes you more creative - sometimes! I did instantly have an Americana/quilt concept rolling around in the old brain and off I went to the drawing board.

I started with motifs I already had painted in watercolour on paper and were previously scanned  into the computer and cleaned up in Photoshop. They were: a red gingham, a blue gingham, a decorative star and a red plaid - it was nice to have everything at hand ready to play with that 8" square. When I first started doing the design I tried a non-symmetrical layout but whatever you do at an 8 inch repeat turns out to look very symmetrical when joined up with its self into an allover repeat. I also played with a traditional Rolling Star motif - but I didn't think they played well with the other motifs:
Then I started to make some stripes out of the ginghams and a star from a red wash I had done for another project:
I ended up with the central motif you see above here - the decorative star surrounded by checked stripes. That became the dominate motif of the finished layout:
Here are four of the above tiles made into the allover pattern: American Folkloric - the design I have entered into this weeks Spoonflower competition
Here are three trial repeats with the same allover feel but with a couple of different motifs and a slightly different look - isn't it amazing how distinct each repeat looks?
 What do you think of the different designs?

I've also made the design into a pattern for a melamine plate at my new Zazzle shop - I love the idea of designing for the melamine plates - I have been hoping for a long time that someone would start doing them as print on demand and last week I discovered that Zazzle does them - my only disappointment is I think they are over priced, I do hope they consider bringing the price down in the future - by quite a lot!! Although I can custom design plates for anyone who wants such and then you could have a lovely special plate for a classy picnic or birthday party - just drop me a line if you are interested in that new service from yours truly!!

I'm also excited about the Zazzle shop as they have different products to my CafePress shop - they have iPad 3 skins, MacAir Book sleeves, envelopes and postage stamps, pillows and kitchen cotton items which supprot a company that employs single Mums - and oh so much more - I'll be rolling the new items out in the next few weeks - stay tuned!!

PLEASE VOTE FOR MY AMERICANA FOLKLORIC DESIGN HERE - AND MANY THANKS IN ADVANCE FOR DOING SO! I cannot tell you which page my design will be on as the images are shuffled for each and every voter and you do have to go through all 21 pages to get to place your vote but it goes pretty sharpish - thanks!!!

 I am working on a delicious and really easy recipe for July 4th - it should be up in the next couple of days - 'til then have fun and enjoy the weekend!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Merry Cherry Bakewell Fairy Cakes!

Bakewell Tarts are delicious and I have made them here on the blog before but then recently I saw this recipe on Pinterest and thought to myself – I do need to make those don’t I? They look like the iconic British Fairy Cake – a small simple cake much like an American cupcake but lighter in texture and without the great walloping swirls of frosting/buttercream – of which I am greatly fond so alas on that score!!

Anyhow I took the recipe from a Butcher Baker Blog pin on Pinterest – lots of good British pudding recipes there, do check it out!! - and I added some marzipan to it and here you have my version of the Cherry Bakewell Fairy Cake – a bit of a bogus title really as the only cherry part is on the top – they should really be called marzipan fairy cakes – but they’re not and there you have it!! Here's a link to a standard British Cherry Bakewell.

First make the MARZIPAN – if you decided to use it or buy a package of marzipan and roll into 8 even balls.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

INGREDIENTS for the marzipan if you chose to make it yourself:

2oz toasted almonds ground fine in a coffee grinder – usually you wait until warm things are cool to grind them because they get oily or damp but in this case you want to make the grind a bit soggy so I did them while they were still warm.

2oz icing/confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract/essence

1 egg yolk – from a reliable source so you have no risk of salmonella – if you are worried about using raw egg yolks them maybe just buy your marzipan or almond paste – whichever you prefer.

1. Put all ingredients in a bowl and mush/knead together until the mixture holds – break and roll into 8 even balls and put aside until later.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE FAIRY CAKES – they should all be at room temperature: This recipe makes 8 - an odd amount I know – it is supposed to make 12 but I didn’t see how you stretched the batter that far – you could go to 10 maybe and then they’d be bit more even with the top of the cupcake liner.

4 oz butter softened

4 oz sugar

4 oz flour plain/all purpose flour sifted together with 1 scant teaspoon baking powder or 4oz self raising flour

2 eggs whisked well

1 teaspoon almond extract/essence

8 scant teaspoons raspberry jam

8 glace cherries – the traditional ones and they’re nice because they’re not wet like the ones I chose which are maraschino cherries – I chose them because I found a brand which has no red dye or artificial preservatives which I like but they are wetter and should be drained for a while before using. 

If you would like to use cups instead of weights HERE'S a great place to covert:

METHOD FOR CAKES: Firstly put your cupcake liners into muffin pans to help the cakes stand up whilst baking.

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light in texture and colour.

2. Slowly add eggs bit by bit and beat well in between additions.

3. Beat in the almond extract/essence.

4. Fold in the sifted flour and baking powder with a metal spoon – apparently this stops air escaping – a wooden spoon lets the air escape - until evenly mixed!

5. Separate your mixture in two even parts – just to each side of the bowl – and then spoon a good big teaspoon dollop of batter into each cupcake case.

6. Add a good teaspoon of jam to each and then bob the ball of marzipan on top of each blob of jam thus:
7. Top with more batter and try to smooth the batter to seal the jam and marzipan in nice and cozily:
 8. Bob into the 350F oven and bake for about 20 minutes until risen and golden and the tops spring back to slight pressure.

9. Because of the addition of the marzipan the middles dip a bit but no worries – you‘ll be filling them with icing and a merry cherry!!
10. Remove from oven and move onto a cooling rack – allow to cool completely

In the meantime make the icing – 2oz icing/confectioner’s sugar and I scant tablespoon boiling water – or a bit less – my icing was a tad runny – mix the two together and allow to thicken a bit before you use – just keep stirring if it starts to dry out on top.

When the cakes are cooled completely put a small teaspoon of icing on the top and smooth into a circle – as I said mine was a bit runny and I put a bit too much on so it ran down the edge of the cakes but you want to keep the icing in a nice neat circle on the top that stays about a good ¼" from the edge of the cakes – you can see how I TRIED to do that.
Allow icing to dry a little before adding your cherries maraschino or glace or......
...the juices will flow as above...and mess up your nice white icing :((

These are the maraschino cherries I used - no red dye and preservative free and delicious MERRY MARASCHINO CHERRIES!!
Look at that lovely nugget of marzipan - I love marzipan!! - I didn't add enough jam to mine as you can see so I adjusted the recipe above to give yours more and be more like the original Bakewell Tart.
Ta Dah you’ve made Fairy Cakes!!
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Strawberries and Cream times two - Victoria Sponge Cake and a new fabric design!!

Strawberries and Cream two ways: a classic Victoria Sponge filled with whipped cream and macerated strawberries and: the newest textile design for my Spoonflower shop.

To the cake first - always cake first!!
A Victoria Sponge or Sandwich is a classic British cake named in honour of - you guessed it - Queen Victoria who relished the new fangled craze for tea parties in mid to late 1800's England.
In 1855 the invention of baking powder meant the cake could rise without the need for hours (literally) of egg whisking with a FORK!!! - I have seen old recipes that call for 3 hours of egg beating with a FORK as the whisk hadn't yet been invented in the US - roll on that invention, my arms would fall off beating for that long!! PHEW!! Technically speaking a sponge cake is fatless and demands much whisking and beating and frothing of egg yolks and whites separately and sounds too much like a genoise with which I have had very little luck in the past, but a sandwich has added butter resulting in a more substantial cake that can last for a day or two - not in our house but maybe in that of others!!

Now my oven was on the fritz so I ended up making my miniature sponge cakes in a countertop electric one with more than passable results but I did have to bake them in a ceramic dish instead of metal tins so I will give times and temps for both in case you decide to go the mini route too.

First you must macerate your strawberries, start this a couple of hours before you are ready to bake your cake. I use local when they are available but they're not ready yet - Maine lags behind in the growing season - so I chose Driscolls Organic Strawberries which have a good and consistent flavour - and I used a pound punnet. I sliced the strawberries and sprinkled three tablespoons of sugar on them and then tossed occasionally - leave for about 2 hours at room temperature and let the juices run - aren't they pretty - they look like lots of little hearts - awww!!

Now that the strawberry juices have flowed you are ready to bake your cake - my recipe is from
"Ritz Afternoon Tea" by Helen Simpson

This amount gave me two 4" diameter cakes - it is supposed to be for two 7" cake pans but I have a hard time believing you would get enough batter for two 7" pans so if you are going for a regular sized cake I would double this recipe for a decent sized cake!! 

For metal pans put your oven at 350F for ceramic as I did mine put your oven at 325F 

For either pan you choose butter lightly and line with greaseproof paper and butter again - makes it so much easier to get this cake out after baking.

For filling:
1lb strawberries macerated as above
1/2 pint whipped double/heavy cream with a couple of tablespoons of sugar added and some almond extract/essence of you like
Toasted almond slices if you so desire

For cake:
(I always weigh my ingredients for a more consistent result and have them all at room temperature which makes for  easier creaming and amalgamation of the eggs into the butter and sugar mix)
4oz butter - I always use Kate's from Maine - it has such a deep flavour
4oz plain flour sifted with 1 teaspoon baking powder - or 4oz self raising flour
4oz sugar - caster if you have it otherwise just regular white sugar

2 eggs beaten well

I added one teaspoon of almond essence/extract to the eggs as I like a light almond flavour with my strawberries.

1. Cream butter and sugar together until light in colour and texture.
2. Slowly add the beaten eggs and beat until well mixed between additions.
3. Fold flour and baking powder into the creamed mix with a metal spoon - I just looked up why a metal spoon for this as I was wondering and here is the answer I found - "Once the butter and sugar is creamed, change to a big metal spoon to mix in the eggs and fold in the flour. This keeps the air from escaping through the wood grain." - I did not know this - you learn something new everyday don't you?
 4. Turn the cake batter into your preferred pans - smooth the top and bob into the oven - bake for about 20 minutes - test to check for doneness  - cake will be springy in the middle if you press lightly and will spring back - they should also have pulled away from the sides of the pan too.
5. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes or so and then remove from pans and out on cooling rack - cool completely!

While the cake is cooling whip your heavy/double cream to soft peaks - when the beaters are removed, soft peaks curl over and droop rather than stand straight up which is the definition of stiff peaks.

My cakes browned too much - because of the silly oven I was using - yours in a regular oven should be OK but if they're not you can just turn them upside down and put the brown on the bottom as I did!! My cakes were tall enough that I cut them in half laterally - if you do yours in 2 7" tins then place one on a plate and strew strawberries hither and yon across the surface and then pour the juices over as well - can you see someone lurking quietly in the background here hoping desperately for just a little taste, hopeful Eleanor!!
Now add the whipped cream - I did mine with a piping bag because I like the way it looks but you can just spoon and mound yours as you like - this is somewhat rustic because as soon as you cut it everything squishes out anyways!! For the finished cake as at the top I also strew - strewed?? - toasted almond slices around willy nilly - just for a bit of a crunch and that lovely nutty flavour too.
Yum I say YUM!!! If you can stand to wait an hour or so before you have your cake and eat it too - then the flavours will have married some, the juices will have soaked into the sponge and the cake tastes even better. 

Many people in the UK make the cake and then just sandwich it together with strawberry jam - which is really good too but with strawberries and cream - how can you go wrong?

And now for my latest fabric design - I had mentioned on my Facebook page earlier this week that I was working on a new design for my Spoonflower shop - based on the design I had created in the round which was used as a dinnerware pattern by PTS America a few years ago:
 In my head I had imagined this as an allover print with no direction - but this is how it ended up as a stripe with two directions:
  - honestly you just never know where your designs will lead you! The print isn't available yet from Spoonflower as I haven't received my sample to approve but I'll let you know when it is!

...and please let me know if you make the cake. Here's to a happy and delicious summer for us all full of strawberries and cream - Patricia