Friday, June 19, 2015

Lvl up in Cake Baking

My husband´s birthday was coming up and normally he would give me some hints as to what cake I should bake for him. This time he was not sure and said he had to think about it. So I asked my best friend Kathinkka if she had an idea,  because she is an awesome baker herself and creates elaborate cakes with fondant and cake-pops on a near daily basis for her family.

Knowing my husband and his love for cool games, she suggested that I could make him a "Minecraft Cake". Watching the video I thought "hey it doesnt´look that complicated, it is possible". Fueled by the encouragement of Kathi (she promised to help me of course, because she is just the best) I was already thinking about the timeline and when to do what.

I decided to do the cake in three phases, all the while anxious that my husband wouldn´t discover what I was baking.

My challenge was to bake cake, get it into the shape I wanted, color the fondant in seven different colors, cut it into squares, make an axe or sword and assemble everything in time until Thursday (my husbands birthday).

First phase - the cake
I love baking sponge cake. Its always very satisfying and it never gets dry (I hate dry cake). I decided that I would stick the pieces together with marmelade rather than ganache (too heavy) so I settled on a great recipe for a "Sachertorte", over a hundred years old - perfected by my mother, cake as well as a normal sponge cake to create a kind of pattern within the cake as well.

Double amount for the Sachertorte and one whole normal sponge cake should be enough, I thought.
But there was still the problem to solve with the axe/sword. Kathi suggested short pastry.

So on Sunday afternoon, while my husband was at his Hackerspace, I was standing in the kitchen, mixing three different doughs and thinking about how to make the axe.
I cut out the square for the cake first and then went to work on the templates for the axe and sword (to have a choice). It turned out pretty well. And frankly, once the templates were done the cutting and baking was a breeze.

I cleaned up and hid all my cakes (my mother suggested that I should let the sponge cake cool of for one night and then wrap it in plastic, which I did) and pretended nothing happened. Because I had left over and to explain the baking smell (I thought of everything), I baked another cake. ^^ It was just a plain pie with curd and blueberries.

Second phase - the assembly
I already had plans for Monday so on Tuesday I planned for the assembly to let the cake rest for one night. I even managed to get my husband out of the house and he didn´t suspect a thing (he claims ^^). The fondant was a bit of a problem time wise (and I never worked with it before), so Kathi came to my rescue.

While I was cutting pieces of cake and glueing them together with marmelade, Kathi bought the fondant and colored it at her home.

I realized I had not a big enough plate,
so I made one out of card board.

Doesn´t it look pretty?

O_O what am I doing?

Covering it with Ganache (which is surprisingly easy to make).

It took me nearly four hours to do this (and clean up afterwards). Then I put it in the fridge to let it settle and cool down. Putting a note on the fridge door to open it on one´s own peril.

Third phase - the decoration
On Wednesday I was feeling the aftermath of those past baking marathons. But alas there was no going back now. Kathi joined me at my home and while she cut the squares out of the multiple fondant colors, and I arranged them on the cake.

Putting on another layer of Ganache first,
to smooth the surfaces. 
Sadly the sword and the axe broke - still it looks cool.

It is coming along ...
And it´s done!!!
I covered the cake in plastic again and put it outside for the night (fondant doesn´t agree with the fridge). On Thursday morning I got up early arranged the cake with some candles and waited for my husband to wake up. He was totally speechless when he saw the cake and was very touched (I guess). It was a great success and even with nearly 25 people eating cake, it was not gone. He took some with him to the office the next day.

So overall it was a great success, not only made it my husband extremely happy, I lost my fear of fondant and "elaborate" cake making. I might do it again, but maybe not this time consuming for a little while. ^^

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Looking back on the MeMadeMay Challenge

So I kind of "owe" you a retrospect on my MeMadeMay Challenge, I guess. What was that again? Oh yeah:

- Wear at least once a week one of you´re "self-made" projects out in public, document with foto.
- Wear one complete outfit! (pyjamas count, because it´s my challenge :)).

My favorite jumper! I love the colors.
It´s based on the Driftwood pattern
I did it! I wore a lot of my outfits in public and I sewed a complete outfit and wore it. So here are a few pictures. First the "old" stuff:
Everyday Cardigan for Summer.
Pattern: Featherweight
Beanie and Cowl
Hamburger Liebe

And this little beauty was a TestKnit
for AdriPrints - Columbina Camisole

And here are some new things -->

And of course the big finish, the outfit:
Linden Sweatshirt and Yoga Pants
I totally lost my fear of cutting and sewing together fabric, especially with jersey. I had to, because otherwise the fabric would not have been enough. ^^ Thrifty and comfy. 

So overall the challenge made me more conscious and appreciative of my "memade" stuff and how to incorporate it in my everyday wardrobe. I really liked it a lot. 

Next up: Sewing a wearable outfit for the public and a new technique in the cake baking section (it´s a surprise so I won´t tell you just yet). And as my favorite YouTube Guy John Green always says "Don´t forget to be awesome".

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Stash busting or what to do with those left overs?

It´s interesting that for knitting and sewing you face the same challenge with those left overs from other projects. You bought the wool/fabric with allowance (because you learned the hard way that running out of yarn at last minute just sucks ^^). Now you have all those left over yarns or left over fabric scraps. What to do with them?

There are whole books, articles, what not, addressing these issues. In the end you have to make the decision to either make a new project (and sometimes by new yarn/fabric to complete it) or just give it to some kindergarden that will love those scraps. So I searched a bit and here is what I came up with:

Fun fact, I didn´t buy any yarn this year so far. Which means I was knitting completely from my stash. It´s a little scary because while I´ve completed a lot of projects this year (12 to be precise, compared to last year at the time where I had finished 5) still my stash is nowhere near to be exhausted or anything. ^^

Without further blather, tada:
It´s a Color Affection (giving in on the soothingness of garter stitch) in DK. All of the blue and purple yarn is gone now. 
It´s squishy and awesome and as summer has not arrived so far I can really wear it and snuggle in it. ^^

Finished this in exaclty one week, cast-on on a Friday, cast-off and seam in the ends on the next Friday. I guess I´m getting faster? Or knitting DK with needle 4 is just going like a breeze.


This nice hair band from the lady from Hamburgerliebe (check out her tutorials she really has quiet nice ideas).

And some small baskets to either store stuff in or give away (sorry don´t have the link anymore)

In the end I decided to do both. Finish more projects with my left overs but also give away some scraps that are really just to small to do anything with them to a kindergarden. 

I still have a few more ideas and the stash to realize them, so stay tuned. Also MeMadeMay-Challenge is in full swing and I´m confident to achieve my goals in time.

Monday, May 4, 2015

How it´s supposed to look like ...

You remember the mini-KAL I was planning with my friends for this nice little shawl "Cameo"? First I picked the wrong yarn for the shawl, but the second time I was much more careful and went with the two color option. It went like a breeze. Just finished casting off. :D

I´m quiet pleased with it. Once I showed it to my BH he quickly grapped it, wrapped it around his neck, said something like "it´s nice, I like it" and continued playing his video game. So I think we will share this like the other unisex shawls in my closet. Ah well .... ^^ What more praise can you have?

Now comes the hard part. What to knit now? A finished project is awesome but I learned that I should quickly cast on another to keep my flow going. 
I did love the simplicity of the garter stitch so I might make another shawl. I´m thinking about "Color Affection" in DK weight yarn. I do have three matching colors ... and it would help the stash busting. Let´s see. It´s not like I don´t have other projects to finish, like the crazy night sky shawl or my two grandpa cardigans. But the knitter (me) is fickle and wants pretty new things to knit, or has a phase of garter stitch ... Let´s see. I did knit one row on my night shawl to keep the flow going, but I just might cast on the "Color Affection" to have something for tomorrow while riding the U-Bahn on my way to work. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The MeMadeMay Challenge

I first encountered the "MeMadeMay" on Adri´s Blog and was immediately intrigued. What is it, you ask? Well as far as I understood it, it´s a time when bloggers, who sew, knit, crochet or make clothes, are challenging themselves to actually wear their projects and of course share them with others.

At that time  I thought I couldn´t participate, because I hadn´t had enough wearable projects (apart from shawls of course). This was a couple of years ago. Today I surfed the internet and thought about it ... why shouldn´t I participate? I had a rummage in my closet and there are a few cardigans or tops I´ve knitted, so why not wear them? I´m not as restricted as I used to be to Business clothes in the office these days, so let´s do this.

So here´s my challenge for MeMadeMay:
- Wear at least once a week one of you´re "self-made" projects out in public, document with foto.
- Wear one complete outfit! (ok, this is the tricky part, I haven´t sewed or knitted trousers or skirts so far, but I guess it´s duable, if pyjamas count, and as it´s my challenge, they count. :)).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Some thoughts about variated yarn

I´m knitting for quiet a while now and my least favourite yarn is variated yarn. Not because I don´t like it, but because it´s so hard to choose a good pattern for the yarn.

Last week some friends and I decided to do a small KAL (knit-along, which means you choose a pattern and all knit this pattern so you can discuss and share progress). We choose "Cameo" a nice enough, easy scarf pattern. I went to my stash and had a look around. What I found was my variated yarn I dyed myself, from last year with easter color. One half was green and one half was red with golden thread (which creates short color repeats - I didn´t realize that at the time). So I choose this yarn.

As I was going to Bremen last week by train this was just perfect (in my mind anyway) so I took the yarn and the pattern with me and started knitting. It went well enough, the pattern was pleasant, the yarn a bit scratchy for my taste, but hey it can always be a present for someone else. But something kept nagging at my mind, whispering that this looked not right and the yarn was not a good choice for the pattern. I ignored these thoughts, because I desperately wanted to knit something again to get my knitting mojo back. And at first the color repeats looked nice. Next day I was travelling back and after one hour I send a picture of the scarf to my friends, because i couldn´t decide what to make of it, the color repeats looked awful now.

Too short to make any sense and it ruined the pattern. My friends confirmed my doubts and I decided to leave the beginning as it was. But I had five more hours to go on the train. So what to do? Sure I could always read, but it bugged me, and I wanted to see if the wool can be used at all. So I choose the only option that really sprang to my mind. Socks! Of course. Socks are perfect for short color repeats. So here they are. Plain old socks. Looking good.

So lesson learned (again I hope), choose a pattern that has a fixed number of stitches (preferably socks, or mitts or maybe a hat) for yarn that has short color repeats. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Late Retrospect for February

Ok as my apparently biggest fan pleaded with me to write a long due blog post, here it goes:
Weeelll ... :) February was a very productive month crafting vise. It was like a marathon and I couldn´t stop making things. It felt really weird but I had a lot of fun.

These were my goals for February:
- Finish the Grandpa Cardigan (only one arm and the collar left to knit)
--> No progress here, couldn´t bring myself to knit on it. I guess it has to hibernate for a bit longer now. Some projects need the hibernation to be finished, I do have experienced this with some projects, but eventually I finish them.
- Reknit the green hat, one size bigger (already started)
--> Yep done. :)
- Continue with the "Himmelsschal"
--> I´m at row 92. I guess I´ll make a separate post for that one.
- Maybe start with some other project ^^ (thinking about socks ...)
--> February is the month where both my parents birthdays are. So for my Dad I knitted a hat and a cowl. My Dad doesn´t like scarfs and keeps "forgetting" them at home. So I thought he might like it. He actually loves it and my Mom claims he has not put it off when he went home on his birthday. ^^ I don´t know why I haven´t thought about it earlier. I guess I´ll make a lighter version of this for spring. Cowls on guys is a bit tricky imo ... We´ll see.

Oh and I started yet another cardigan *ahem*
The pattern is called "Funky Grandpa" and I´m knitting it in the round to try a new technique - steeking. I´ll tell you later about that once it gets relevant.

So what happened in this area? Remember my goal was relatively modest compared to knitting. Just finish the bag.

Yep I did finish the bag.
I installed the zipper on the wrong side, but as the fabric with the owls is really delicate and it would have ripped everything I decided to leave it like that. And I realized for knitting socks it´s not a practical bag either. But now it holds all my various knitting supplies and I´m very happy with it.

I was so hooked that I thought, "hey why don´t sew more bags". So I made this "Wendy" bag for my Mum´s birthday.

The straps are from an old Jeans I recycled. Overall pretty straight forward sew. I guess I´ll make more of those bags.

And because I read so much about it, I really wanted to try Jersey. So I bought the fabric as a treat for myself after a stressful day at the office and sewed a small bandana without any pattern. It´s a bit wonky but I love it. Great for jogging when you need something for you´re neck.

I did try out a new receipt together with my husband and LeaderBrat. Yam Burger with cucumber-yoghurt sauce.

Very yummy. I feel like I´m cheating here a little bit, because I did make potato paddies in the past. But never out of Yam and never as a burger, so I think it does qualify. My cooking/baking mojo is not strong at the moment ...

No goals for March because March is nearly over and I feel like I was sucked into my work so much I didn´t really make anything at all. Let´s see, looking through the pics I still have a few things to show you for March. But I did like the concept of goals, it seemed to inspire and push me to no end. Maybe I´ll try it out for April. 

Oh hey what I nearly forgot, I made an embossed card for a friends birthday. It didn´t turn out so great as my previous tries, but it´s not bad either I think.