Hurray! My hand has healed sufficiently to have the dressing removed and, though it is still a little sore, this has given me a wonderful sense of liberation. I can wash my hands properly (yippee), unscrew the top of my own hot water bottle (wow) and even walk my dogs again (yeeeessssss)! If you begin to wonder, as you read the post below, why it is listed under 'Handmade', rather than 'Home-made', it's all to do with intention. Mine was to have a jolly good time experimenting with different shades of colour; the fact that we could ultimately eat what we produced is purely incidental!
Just before Easter, you will recall that I made my first batch of cupcakes, using Kate Shirazi's recipe from her book, Cupcake Magic. At the time, I only had Supercook liquid colours to tint the icing with but, on advice from Kate, subsequently invested in several little pots of Sugarflair gel colour in the primary shades. I calculated that from these three I could also create pink (with less red colour), green (blue and yellow), orange (red and yellow) and purple (red and blue). At the same time, I'd also bought a block of sugar paste and it has been quietly occupying cupboard space ever since. My original plan, when I bought it, was to make lots of fancy little shapes to adorn future batches of cupcakes, but as I was busily looking for something in a kitchen drawer, I came across my little set of pastry cutters. I have always been a bit of a sucker for quirky bits of kitchen paraphernalia and these cutters are in the shape of tiny alphabet letters (about £3.99, from Tesco). So Plan A gave way to Plan B as I decided to cut out the paste, with the cutters, to form words. Then I thought that I might as well make another batch of cupcakes, anyway, to display them on.
I broke off small sections of paste and added the coloured gel with a cocktail stick in tiny quantities. Then I kneaded it to transfer the colour evenly throughout. Sometimes I needed to add more gel, for greater depth of colour, or to create a better overall colour when mixing two together. The green and orange mixes came out really well but the purple turned out to be a muddy mauve, so Lucy and Siffy - my artistic directors - 'disposed' of it safely! The paste got quite soft, and even slightly sticky, after it had been handled for a while, so I put it in the fridge for half an hour to harden up. When I ordered the Easter egg mould last month, I also ordered a special sponge pad, about six inches square, designed for rolling sugar paste on without it sticking. The paste did, however, still stick to the little rolling pin, so I had to dust it with cornflour anyway. Once I'd rolled the icing to the required thickness, I dusted the cutters with cornflour, also, so that the resultant letters would be easily released. I did this with a flat, blunt- ended paintbrush and I used the same brush to gently push the paste letters out of the cutters. As I cut them out, I arranged them on a plate to make sure I was cutting the right number of letters and alternating the colours well. Once they were done, Siffy suggested photographing the letters as they were, to begin with. It is entirely a coincidence that some of the colours of the letters match those of the plate in the picture above!
Once the glace icing had dried on the top of the cupcakes, I was able to stick each letter onto an individual cupcake. Then I got my camera out and the fun began. I started off in the south- facing window of the upstairs sitting room, where I take most of my pictures, but the light was starting to fade there so I thought I'd try the garden. On route, throught the kitchen, I stopped to make a cup of tea, and noticed that light was being reflected off the garden wall and bouncing in through the kitchen window.
I had baked the cupcakes in silver foil cases and the relected light appears to give them tentacles, like jelly fish!
The light in the garden was brighter, but flatter, so I went back inside and played around with different coloured backgrounds.
I began with yellow....
then green, and finally....
Having played around for so long, I then found lots of interesting effects you can use on Adobe Photoshop Elements. You will have to wait for another thrilling 'Handmade' installment next week to read about those though, I'm afraid. This Saturday (the 19th) sees the start of International Downshifting Week 2008 and I've promised Country Living readers that I'll be trying out one of the Top Ten Tips for (Downshifting) Success each day next week. Making your own greetings cards is one of the things suggested. And before anyone leaves me a comment to say that there are only seven days in the week, and ten tips, I shall be picking those which are achievable in my circumstances, as I would also encourage you to do. Much as I would love to keep a few hens, my tiny town garden is just not big enough and I can't cut up my credit card, as I no longer have one, and feel all the better for it (see next post). Now that I've finished this post I must turn my attention to today's tea. Given that the Being Creative cupcakes have completed their star turn, I think I can safely say that our pudding is taken care of!