Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Purple Heart Wedding Cake that Nightmares are made of!

First attempt at sugar flowers
 As tasty journeys go... this one had a happy ending but lots of sleepless nights in between! I have made a celebration cake before and iced it with rudimentary peach coloured sugar roses for my Dad's wedding. It was a nice way to feel part of the day and a gift I felt showed a level of support for my Dad's happiness on that day.

It was quite a different sense of pressure however, to put myself out there and commit to making a three tier wedding cake for 150 people at a wedding where Tom would be joint best man and at the center of proceedings. We had both agreed that wedding cakes were exceptionally expensive when having a conversation about how the plans were going for our friends, and so Tom had suggested to Rob and Zoe that I made a cake. After all... I had done it before.

I couldn't even find a closeup picture of the cake I made all that time before, and so I thought I had better get some practice in. I created a mood board with Zoe and spent a couple of afternoons messing around with some fondant icing. The results were cute, but no where near what I needed them to be!

So I sought professional help with extra classes at college. With the cake decoration tutor 's assistance, I managed to ice a wooden lump with a level of precision that would rival an elephant. But nonetheless, not a bad attempt. I decided against this technique though as it was not the nicest icing to work with.

First attempt at royal icing
 Then came further help with books and advice from another friend from work, Jenny. We spent a few hours chatting and making individual rose petals in tinted sugar paste which led to some much better results. Confidence was building, I had also settled on the layers of cake. A fruit cake base, a lemon sponge with lemon curd, a chocolate and passion fruit top, but I had promised Zoe a purple heart laid on it's side. Hmm, that should be fine...I'm sure.

Sugar flowers and leaves for wedding cake

Well it was not fine! I took the advice of the lady in the cake shop and wrapped a polystyrene heart in clingfilm, before icing with purple fondant. Disaster and a sleepless night followed! But never fear, there is always a friendly hand and Hannah and her cake whizz mum, Pauline came to rescue me and offer some technique advice to get me back on track. We also made a little dog figure to represent Charlie dog, the farm yard lassie who chases alongside Rob's land-rover on the farm. A firm character and part of the family! This cheered me up and put me back on track!

Purple polystyrene heart, covered with a little help from Pauline and Hannah!

 Then came the icing and doweling which was the least challenging part of the whole thing. Piping tiny dots was relaxing and satisfying.

Piping and icing in full swing

Transporting the cake in sections was the next challenge. Tom's speech recounted a horrendous experience on the farm with Rob, in which a cow had scaled a 6ft wall onto a busy main road, causing a lady to emergency stop and forcing her carefully crafted wedding cake into her footwell! I did not want this to happen to us. With this in mind, each groomsman had a layer safely in their clutches the whole drive to Bolton Abbey. At one point the Groom's button had made an impression on the icing and there were a few dots to be glued back on, but disaster was avoided. Phew!

Smoothing is not as easy as it looks
I dusted the flowers with shimmer and under Pauline's advice, I steamed them to set a sheen on the powder which really brought them to life.

Finished and dusted flowers. Thanks Jenny for the hints and tips.

I swear I was more nervous than the groom when I came to assemble the cake on an insufficiently stable table. Despite Mini-Zoe making a dive from the top, I positioned the perfectly resembled figures she had given me on the top with Charlie dog and arranged the flowers strategically between the layers.

Finished three tier wedding cake with leaning purple heart

Dusted sugar flowers
 All in all, despite the fact I was an utter nervous wreck most of the week, I was really pleased Tom and I could offer Rob and Zoe a piece of cake made with love to celebrate their fabulous wedding day. It was never going to be perfect in my eyes, but it really was a pleasure and despite my fuss, tasted a treat too! Not long until I have it all to come again for Tom's mum's big day. Those cakes are already being fed a hot toddy or two in preparation!

Happy wedding party at Barden Tower, Skipton on the wonderful sunny day!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Gloucester Services and Farm Shop

Airy and light, farm shop services- Gloucester
You may think I have reached a new low. Certainly, spending ten minutes describing an English motorway service station is not something I ever thought would be a great past time. But I was so blown away by the simplicity of the values at this site on the M5 Northbound. I am surprised no one has thought of this before now. The recently opened Gloucester Services are an inspirational change to the overpriced desperation shopping you usually do on a long journey and more like somewhere you might actually drive to, just to do a spot of shopping. The place was a real treat on the journey from Bath to Harrogate. I am always partial to a farm shop and interesting regional delights and clearly this has been noted as a popular trend for a large enough portion of motorway users. Instead of a soggy prepacked sandwich and a cup of rubbish tea in a paper cup, we nibbled on some pork jerky, fresh asparagus spears and a delicious aubergine and lentil salad. It was easy to make healthier choices amongst the delicious produce.
Gloucester Services, (and the cute piggy on the sign) offer the motorway haven we have all been waiting for. On investigation, it seems Gloucester is the younger sibling of the Tebay Services; the grounded and inventive Westmorland family's original venture in Cumbria. The community values of the offering and the feel of a local market make a huge difference to the enjoyment of a long journey home.

Local produce found on the map

Cakes and bakery offerings - Gloucester farm shop services.
As we hadn't taken a picnic of regional delights in the car with us, we could not have dreamed of a better spread of genuine produce right when we needed it most. Fresh vegetables, blissfully baked bread, locally grown fruit preserves and handmade sushi are just a sample of the delights on offer in the shop.

Freshly baked artisan breads - Gloucester services

fresh salad bar - Gloucester services

Summer delights, tasty treats- Gloucester services

 You can browse a market style display of cheese and meander past the busy butchers, complete with a hanging meat fridge display.

Grab a butty made with local baked bread.

Deli style crusty bread butties and wholesome homemade dinners can be enjoyed on an outside terrace overlooking a relaxing pool of moving water. Local designs are found on gift ware and an array of kitchenalia ensure you are not tapping your feet impatiently while waiting for your travel pal to return from the loo. I highly recommend stopping to stretch your legs at this amazing and unusual rest spot! I only wish I had thought of it first.