I finished sewing my fairytale Cleo dress just in time for my thirtieth birthday, which was yesterday. Hence a finished object being presented on a day other than a Friday. Gasp! Behold my now-haggard form.
There’s so much discussion when you’re a woman turning 30, and plenty to think about. When is it time to worry about settling down and having kids? Do I want to settle down and have kids? Am I happy in the life I have created for myself over the past three decades? Am I too old to wear a mini-dress with little mushrooms on it?
I have few comments on the Cleo dress pattern. Overall, I think it’s cute though I’m still not sure whether the style actually suits me. The dress was a quick make- two evenings in total, including plenty of mistakes and unpicking. I think the most time-consuming part was sewing all the patch pockets. I found Tilly’s tips on working with corduroy very helpful.
I made the size 2, but I probably should have just gone for the 3. I let the side seams out a bit as the dress looks nicer on me with a bit more room around the hip area. I made the dress quite short, the hem was over two inches.
I can see no reason not to add in-seam pockets to this dress. I may add afterthought pockets to this mushroom dress if I feel it’s going to get a lot of wear.
Pattern: Cleo by Tilly and the Buttons
Fabric: 2m needlecord in print, plus 0.5m in plain. I had leftovers of both
I’m still plugging away with my craft knife and most recently made a small piece for a friend’s thirtieth birthday. The more I hear about turning thirty, the more I like the sound of it. I decided to emphasise the sunny aspect of growing older and wiser in the cut.
I wonder if this also represents an unconscious response to the feedback that my thesis celebration card was ‘too dark’. Ain’t nothin’ dark about a lovely sun, right? Right?
Here’s what the card looks like finished and backed.
The heart is totally there just for cuteness, and not to cover up a mistake I made right near the end.
I may have responded overly aggressively to a couple of people who asked whether this was a Valentine’s Day cake. Maybe I was asking for it by daring to make something red in February, but people need to know that I don’t do VD. It is the reason that I have had to call about ten restaurants to get a reservation on my birthday. I still don’t have the reservation, and the core of bitterness buried deep within my heart only grows bitterer. Or something.
Here’s the cake money shot.
I’m not going to post the recipe today. I will say that the cake was extremely well received and I was the most popular person in the office for a day. People are so fickle when they’re hungry. I really liked the combination of flavours and the cheesecake in the middle gave the cake a delicious velvety texture.
Although the cake looked and tasted pretty good, I wasn’t entirely happy with the actual cake part. It was a bit dry and not as red as I would have hoped. The layers also didn’t stick together well, so it was difficult to cut and take nice pictures.
I’ve got a hypothesis about this matter. I think it’s the European Union. No, I haven’t turned into a frenzied Daily Mail reader in my age and decrepitude. I think that you’re not allowed the same crazy food colourings in the EU as you get in the States. Even though I put in the suggested 1/4 cup (1.5 bottles!) of red colouring, the cake just wasn’t red enough. I added additional quarter teaspoons of red paste colouring until it began to look redder, but I do think it left the cake with a more chemical taste than it ought to have had. I tried making red velvet cupcakes for my birthday four years ago and I had the same problem. At the time, I thought it was the recipe, but now I’m not sure. Have any English bakers had the same problem?
I’m also having a minor ongoing issue with my cream cheese frosting. I realised that part of the problem was that I use 300g tubs of cream cheese rather than the standard 250g, which was part of the reason it was coming out too soft. I’m now wondering if the generic soft cheese I use is part of the difficulty. Next time Philadelphia is on sale, I may experiment.
There are recipes for red velvet that use beetroot and raspberry juice to colour the cake rather than chemicals, and I think I’ll try one of these next time. Here are some process shots of the cake if you’re interested.
Here is the middle layer of baked cheesecake. This was my first attempt at baked cheesecake and I really liked it. I was quite lucky though as I was a bit cavalier with the foil and only narrowly avoided having loads of water leak into it from the bain marie.
Even though I made the cake and cheesecake in pans of the same size, I had to trim down the cheesecake. While the cake layers shrink a little after baking, the cheesecake layer spread. It’s very easy and quick to do, though.
This is the crumb coat. I refrigerated the cake for about an hour at this stage, before putting the final layer of frosting on.
These cupcakes were for one of my oldest friends whose dearest wish on her 27th birthday was a cake mountain. I’m pleased with my contribution. These were like the foothills. I know she loves white chocolate, hence the frosting. The crazy sweetness of the frosting is tempered by the rich darkness of the cakes. And glitter. Shiny shiny green glitter to remind us of the time we visited the Leprechaun Museum in Dublin.
Pots of delicious gold.
I used my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe, which I halved because I knew there was a strong likelihood that there would be way too much cake at the party. I’ll give the full recipe, which makes 20 cupcakes. I also halved the frosting recipe, and ended up with enough frosting for 8 cupcakes. Again, I’ll give the full recipe. There aren’t many process pictures today because I was baking at night. Check out this earlier post for more pics. Frosting recipe adapted from here.
For the cupcakes
1/4 cup (2 oz) butter, at room temperature
1 cup (7 oz) sugar 2oz (60g) of your favourite chocolate
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 fl oz) oil. I used walnut.
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup (3oz) full-fat sour cream*
1 cup (5 oz) plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (2 oz) cocoa powder
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) room temperature coffee, water or a mixture
*I substituted Greek yoghurt as I didn’t have sour cream. It was okay, but I think the sour cream gives a more moist result, probably due to its higher fat content
For the frosting
6oz (170g) white chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup (230g) butter, at room temperature
2 cups (240g) icing sugar
¼ cup (60ml) double cream. I substituted milk, but cream gives a better frosting.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt (to taste, be careful if you use salted butter)
- Line a muffin tin with paper liners and preheat your oven to 180C (170 fan)
- Melt the chocolate. A minute in the microwave should do.
- Mix the butter and sugar in a large bowl until well combined. The mixture should resemble wet sand.
- Once the chocolate is cool enough to touch, add to the butter and sugar and mix until combined.
- Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating between each addition.
- Add the oil, vanilla and sour cream and mix until combined.
- Sift the dry ingredients together into a separate bowl. Add to the wet ingredients in three batches, mixing between each addition.
- Add the water or coffee and mix until smooth.
- Divide the batter among your paper liners, filling each 2/3 of the way up. 1/3 cup of batter is about right.
- Bake for 14-20 minutes, until they pass the toothpick test
- Remove from pan immediately to cool on a wire rack. Leave to cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting
- Melt the white chocolate and leave to cool.
- In a medium bowl, beat the butter for 1 minute until smooth. I made this frosting by hand with a wooden spoon and it came out really well. However, a hand or stand mixer may have given a slightly smoother result.
- Add the icing sugar about 1/2 a cup at a time and mix until smooth after each addition.
- Stir in the cooled white chocolate and then beat until creamy.
- Add the vanilla extract and salt, to taste.
- Add in the cream. If using milk, add slowly and stop when the frosting reaches the consistency you want.
- Beat until smooth.
- Spoon or pipe onto your cooled cupcakes. My trusty Wilton 1M tip has got a bit bent so the piping wasn’t as gorgeous as normal. Treat your piping tips with gentle loving care, peeps!