Category Archives: Craft

Monster High Cake

Well, here I am again with a step by step guide on how to make a birthday cake (in this case a  Monster High Cake) even if you aren’t a particularly good baker. I make 2 cakes a year (excluding trial runs) and they are for Pickle’s and TM’s birthdays.  Very very occasionally I’ll make a bunch of cupcakes. I seem to be ok making cupcakes, must be the short cooking time and I quite enjoy making coloured buttercream. However, I see each birthday as an opportunity to do some creative, learn something new sometimes and give my children a cake they’ll hopefully remember.

Getting the perfect cake made for you is very costly and whilst the ones in the supermarket seem to look good, you can never find the right kind and my children (and me) don’t really like fondant all over a cake – we just never eat it. So, this year, Pickle decided she wanted a Monster High Party and this is how I made the cake.

Her party was on the Sunday so I did the first stage on the Friday.  I had coloured fondant that was left over from my son’s cake and made a round disc shape.  I had purchased letter cutters from Amazon and used these to cut out my daughter’s name (see below for what I did). I had some edible glue to stick the letters to the disc, but you can used sugar and water.  I left it to dry on my trial cake I’d made a few days earlier. I held it onto the cake using toothpicks and left it moulded around the curve of the cake. I left it there to dry and harden for the 2 days. I made the cake below on the Saturday and once it cooled I wrapped it in clingfilm.

The buttercream was done on the morning of the Sunday as I was unable to wrap or cover the cake due to it’s height and I was paranoid about leaving butter in the elements for too long. By all accounts I don’t think a day is an issue, but as I said, I’m paranoid.

Making the Monster High Cake

Firstly I purchased a Wilton Wonder Mould. I did try to fashion the cake in a trial run with 2 sandwich tins and a pyrex bowl but it didn’t end well. I then opted to not make my own cake mixture from scratch.  I did so for TM’s cake, but due to the fact I was making something so different from what I normally do, I decided to take the pressure off the actual cake by using Betty Crocker’s Devil’s cake mixture.  For this cake mixture I used 2 packets.  I followed the instructions on the packets and mixed the two packets seperately (so as to not overflow the mixing bowl).

DSC_0053I use a very cheap mixer and it’s playing up at the moment so I could only mix on “boost”, but it worked fine. A hand mixer will work fine too.  A standalone mixer gives you hands free though, so it’s been brilliant to have one.

Whilst mixing I then buttered and floured the mould.  For the un-itiated (and I hope some who are, read this) just put a bit of butter on some greaseproof paper / baking parchment to hold it and rub the entire inside of the mould. Take out the rod in the middle and grease that too.  Then flick flour over the butter until the tin is covered in a fine layer of it.  This will prevent your mixture from sticking to the tin.

Make sure you put the rod back. DSC_0050 Once you have greased and floured the tin, pour the mixture in and it went in the over on 180 degrees fan for 1hr 15 min.  I did a trial run of this and checked the mixture after 30 minutes and then every 15 minutes after that by sticking a large knife into the mixture.  It’s ready once you’ve pulled the knife or metal prod out and no cake mixture sticks to it. I left it to cool for 10 minutes and then used a knife to just slice the top of the cake so I had a nice flat surface to put the cake down on.  I then dug out the rod (ha ha) I then turned the cake down onto a cooling rack (I use the metal shelf from the grill on the kitchen counter) and let it cool completely.

Before cooking

Before cooking

DSC_0056

After Cooking

lopping off the top

lopping off the top

Cooling

Cooling

Next I picked one of the Monster High Dolls from her growing collection.  I stripped her down and wrapped her lower half in cling film. DSC_0061 I then pushed the doll into the hole at the top of the cake and kept pushing down until her feet stopped at the bottom.  Her hips were still out of the cake, but that doesn’t matter. You can fill with the space with buttercream. Make your buttercream.

I use a recipe from a Rachel Allen baking book for vanilla buttercream and multiply the quantities.  Doing a test run will help you gauge how much to make. I then used A LOT of Black colour gel .  After my test run I ordered 4 more containers and I used the lot. I’m still sure the icing was a dark grey.  I made another lot of buttercream with violet gel. Then I was ready to start piping.

I have a couple of bags and quite a few nozzles, but I ended up making one bag of black buttercream with interchangeable nozzles and then I did two violet with 2 disposable bags and had different nozzles in each. The top half of the dress was done with a small to medium round nozzle and the dress bit at the bottom was done with a flat ribbon nozzle.  I wouldn’t get too hung up on which nozzle to use.  If you do a trial run, have a play around with them.  Ideally using the smaller nozzle for the body piping and the outline of the triangles and filling in with a bigger nozzle. I however, had a huge nozzle and had to flatten it down.

Doing the body was surprisingly easy (buttercream really does stick to it) and I just did a black boob tube with a V neck tie and then did alternative coloured piping down the bodice. DSC_0062This is the video I used as a guide for the decoration.  I chose it because it was entirely buttercream (which I think is forgiving) and no matter how messy it went, I figured it was still going to look good. I swapped the pink for violet which was the right colour for this particular doll (Clawdeen Wolf) and kind of did my own thing with it.

Before doing the bottom of the dress, I put the fondant name plate on the cake, holding it in place by putting 4 toothpicks into the cake for it to balance on.  I then used the black buttercream to partly hide the black part of the name plate so just the blue name showed prominently. This is what the finished cake looked like. I have obscured Pickle’s name here though.   cake no name 2 I bought the silver 7 from Hobbycraft along with the cake board.  In order to put the candles on I used leftover fondant and pinched them into triangles around the board and put the candles into them. I think overall it looked far more spectacular than it really was.

My daughter was over the moon and I was so pleased I’d managed to make something exactly as she wished.

Before presenting it to the birthday girl I let the doll’s hair down (I’d put it up for all the piping) and you’ve never seen a happier girl as she blew out the candles.

If you have any questions about any aspect of this, just ask below. I’ve researched everything so should be able to point you in the right direction.

Happy baking.

Octonauts Party for Normal Non Crafty Parents

I’m not crafty. I don’t care how many times someone says I am, I’ve just realised that there are varying grades of craftiness.

I’m pretty awful, but what makes me different to the ones that comment on how great something looks is that I attempt to have a vision, I’m skilled at googling, I use twitter for help and I do what I can and accept my limitations.  THAT is why I can bring to you how I made an octonauts party without spending 20 days preparing for it.  All my mistakes are here for you to read. I’ve also given you links to stuff online. I think that helps alot. It’s all fine and well saying what you did, but if you then can’t find anything on google, then it’s a headache.

I have been looking at various things online (if you want a proper crafty guide then check out this post from Knitty Mummy) and had established that I wanted to try a cake and put up some decorations.  I figured that was about all I had time for on the day of the party (a 3pm start. I can’t emphasis enough how critical having a late afternoon party is.  Perfect for a last minute dash if you forget anything).

The cake. 

My foray into cake making hasn’t always been great.  I was pretty terrible if the truth be known.  Not just with the making of an edible cake but also with the decorations. Sculpting, I’ve decided is not my skill in life.  I have tried fondant icing on Pickle’s cake once (with an edible Rapunzel topper I’d ordered online) but it was so bumpy and I was so peeved about it I vowed to never use fondant on a whole cake again.  So I use buttercream. Much easier and my children prefer it.

The successful making of a cake also took time.  I found out (after my 3rd failed attempt) that cake baking is about practice. Knowing your oven, continually checking the cake and making mistakes is part of the learning.  Once I found out this, I stopped giving myself a hard time.  Also, for the last 2 birthdays I had used Betty Crocker packet cake to ensure a perfect cake and to spend more time doing the decoration.  This time however, I found the perfect Chocolate cake from Nigella’s website that was recommended to me.  One practice and a note about the cooking time and I went with it. It turned out ok.  It’s here

Now I didn’t use her icing (but her icing is amazing).  I needed to colour the icing for the Octonauts cake, so I had to use a normal buttercream icing recipe.  To do that, I used my Rachel Allen Bake recipe and did her buttercream but left out the cocoa and substituted the cream for milk.  It’s here. 

I didn’t use her cake recipe as it was my go to chocolate cake but was increasingly going wrong all the time.  I personally think you have to shop around for a cake that works for you. This one was always too hard for me, no matter what I did.

On the Friday before the party (2 days before) I started to make the fondant Octonauts for the cake. It’s good to give it a couple of days for the icing to harden. I had found various version on Pinterest and opted for a 1D version of all of them.  I then downloaded a pic from the Cbeebies website.  I had done this for the Iggle Piggle cake last year and it worked really well.  I had underestimated how many fiddly pieces were in an Octonaut though and didn’t finish it.  If you want to do it, then go for it.  I took my picture and blu tacked it to the dining table then sticky taped some parchment/greaseproof paper over it to hold it in place.  I then traced the outline and all the major sections onto the parchment.  Then I rolled out the fondant (ordered from most cake suppliers and if you send the pic to them they’ll match your colours for you) put the parchment over the top and using a knife I slowly marked through the parchment and through to the fondant. I do it like a dotted line, remove the parchment and then finish by cutting it all out with the knife.

I got this far and realised I was in too deep for my skill level.  I could have done it, but it would have taken me about 6 hours (it was an hour at this point) and I wouldn’t have been happy with the way it looked at all.  I threw in the towel and rethought my cake plans.

quasi mistakeSo I then decided to sit with my 5 year old and together we did some sea creatures. I used no templates and when it went pear shaped, I just rolled the ball of fondant up again and had another go.  It’s like play doh only stickier, so make sure you use icing sugar a bit to counteract the stickiness.

Between us we made about 4 orange fishes (complete with gills cut in and a little black eye), she made a pink puffer fish and I did a very bad shark.  Then we did a few little seaweeds.

I then took the magnetic letters from their board and pressed my son’s name into some dark blue fondant and then cut around them, so he had his name on the cake.  I have tried to use regal icing and do writing on a cake, but I’m really rubbish at it. It is quite stressful to do as I feel I can’t make a mistake.  This is an example of knowing what you can and can’t do.  Fondant letters it is.  If I make a mistake, I can make a new one.

The day before the party I baked the cake (as per recipe above) and left it to cool before putting it in a cake container. I bought this one last year and it is a great thing to have. I store it above my cupboards when not in use.  It’s really roomy, so can store a cake with decoration on it.

On the day of the party I made the buttercream (recipe above) and I tripled the quantity.  I also used milk instead of the cream.  I added about 4 TBSP of milk and then added more at the end to give it consistency that would be easier to spread.  I then used a blue colouring in the last few whisks to make it blueish.

Next is to dollop it on the cake.  The top could be as messy as I liked as it represented the sea, but I used one of these to tidy up the sides. I used the non spiky side.  I find buttercream so much easier to use.  I didn’t make it too thick on top that anything would sink in it with no trace, but thick enough to hold everything.  I then popped 3 octonauts figurines that had come with various Christmas presents (one had arrived that morning).  One of them toppled over fairly quickly so had to be cleaned up and the buttercream fixed, then I repositioned it so I got the centre of gravity right.  Then I popped on my son’s name and the rest of the seaweed and fishes and voila.  The cake was done. (I have pixellated the name out, sorry. Just an anonymous thing).

cake front cake top

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hadn’t planned on sticking the shark at the front. I created it using black and white fondant. Just kept kneading it together. In the end I needed to put something there, so I chose that.

Now for the decorations.  I had already purchased these so had the party tea decorations under control (cups, plates etc) and I had ordered the octonauts party bags too. However I wanted to create a bit of an “under the sea” effect in the main room without going over the top too.  Again, Pinterest was great, but I was ill on the Saturday night and had limited stuff available to me.

I had done some seaweed designs for my daughter’s Mermaid party last year. I had used crepe paper and twisted it on the wall and sticky taped it into place.  However, I threw it all away and only had tissue paper available to me.  I don’t officially have a craft box but I bought a load of tissue paper for an Easter hat competition last year and I hadn’t used any of the shades of green.  So I googled, asked on Twitter and decided to have a bash at it.  This is what I ended up with.

Octonauts under the seaThe dark green seaweed was cut out by going a fifth up the tissue paper and literally cutting a wiggly seaweed shape up and down. I took out each 2nd piece to have a gap between them.  I then took the other green paper and cut lots of long wiggly strips out. I used sticky tape to put to the wall (3 year olds don’t care) and then added the extra strips in between letting in fall behind the original dark green seaweed.  The waves were cut out in the shape you see, although I had one sheet x 4 thick so it took 3 seconds to make all the panels.

I then mucked about making some fish shapes and a funny pink starfish.  I then cut out a few Octonaut pictures from one of The Monster’s magazines and stuck them on to.

You can just see in the forefront of this photo some seaweed hanging down.  We cut out and hung some of the strips from the door frame (it’s the old french door leading to the extension, so it’s very wide).  Effective but very easy to do.

That was it.  Not mind blowingly amazing, but fully appreciated by the 3 year olds (and a few adults alike).  It dressed up the room a bit, said “Octonauts Party” without saying “Look at me, I’m trying really really hard to impress everyone”.  I actually enjoy these smaller touches at my parties, I enjoy trying to figure out how to do something, getting a teeny bit stressy and then compromising on something I thought might work.

I hope it is of some use to anyone who thinks they aren’t very crafty but want to do a few things.

This is my only party at home this year.  My soon to be 6 year old is having a big entertainer/hired venue party for 31 children this year.  I’m planning on remortgaging the house to pay for it!

 

Making a Child’s Dalmatian Costume & Makeup

Firstly, as a bit of a caveat, I AM NOT one of those mums. I’m fairly useless at most things mums are supposed to be good at and I’m not very “crafty” at all, however, I am a big believer that with practice and exposure to what other people do, you can do a half decent job making things for your children.

A case in point is birthday cake making. I am not very good, but I’m a darn sight better than I was 4 years ago, because I kept doing it, googling it, reading other people’s stuff, emailing cake suppliers on how to do things and they aren’t massive disasters anymore. I’m definitely not going to start baking for other people, but I can get by.

Making costumes is just about practice and imagination and most importantly, you have to feel a sense of achievement when you do it. These things get worn for a few hours and inevitably discarded, so if you are one of those people that think “Why did I bother”, then it makes sense to buy something.  I still buy stuff on the internet, sometimes whole costumes, because, you know, life is short and I don’t want to kill myself doing it all the time.  That all said, I do get a weird sense of achievement sometimes when I envisage how I could cobble together something and it all comes off.  So here it is.

My tutorial for creating a Dalmation costume.

Pickle was heading off to an “animal party” for her best friend and a Dalmation was her first choice. So we chatted about what we could do and this is what I did.

What you need:

  • Pair of  white leggings or tights (I bought white leggings from H&M)
  • 1 long sleeved white t-shirt (Again from H&M. It came in a 2 pack with a pink one, which will get used)
  • 2 sheets of black felt from a craft shop, art shop or stationery shop
  • Needle and black thread (you can used black stickers here instead of felt, no sewing option)
  • Ears and tail bought from Ebay (you can make your own)
  • Snazaroo face paints with white and black

I always look at these lists of items and heave a sigh of annoyance because they are often things that aren’t to hand. However, if it gives you one idea for one part of your costume, then it’s worth blogging about.  You may find something else works.

How to make your Dalmation costume.

Instructions.

Cut out some black shapes on the felt.  I did a few circles, few bean shapes etc. Pickle did a few as well. We did a few varying sizes and didn’t use all of them.

I got Pickle to put the leggings and top on and then picked the places to put the felt.  This was a good idea, because I didn’t want to put a spot somewhere that gets hidden (ie, too high on the leggings underneath the long length of the t-shirt). It’s also not good to put them somewhere like the knees  or elbows where it may be restrictive.

Once we found a good place, I CAREFULLY, did a few quick stitches right in the middle of the felt. Untidy. I didn’t care. This was just to hold them in place until she took the outfit off and I could add a few more stitches.  You could use safety pins if you have enough. I wouldn’t recommend normal pins, I made that mistake with some ballet shoes and she got stabbed in the foot despite us taking a lot of care.

This job took about 15 minutes whilst Pickle stood and watched telly.

Once all the spots were put in place, she took the leggings and t-shirt off and I sewed a few extra stiches on the periphery of the spots, just to hold them in place better.  How much you stitch depends on how long the costume will be worn or whether you want to keep it.  I ran a very long stitch on the underside all around it (it was as easy as doing a few smaller separate ones).  An alternative to stitching is to buy some black spots (or white and colour them in) and stick them on. This is a short term option, but perfect if you don’t think your Dalmation costume will be used again.  My daughter is obsessed with Dalmatians and it’s a unisex costume and my son could definitely wear it to a party or Halloween trick or treating. I have it on good authority they can be washed with felt on. Worth hand washing initially, but some felt can go through the machine.

I bought the ears and tail from Ebay as it just seemed easier. They cost £9 but were the more expensive option I saw. I saw  some for £5.  Alternatively you can attach two triangles of cardboard to a hair band and colour them in or stick white fur from a craft shop to them and add spots with a marker pen. You can also buy white felt and cut out four ear shapes, sew each pair together with an opening and then fill it with cotton wall and colour some spots on it with a marker pen. A tail can be made with a one leg of a pair of white tights, drawing spots on or using the black felt spots again. These were all options I found online, but to be honest, I went with the buying option as it felt less stressful.

Pickle finished off the outfit with a pair of white school socks and her black school shoes. Perfect!

Now for the face painting. 

Not as scary as you think. You get better with practice so if you are up for it, do a couple of practice runs. If there is a part of the face painting you can’t get right, then change it to something you can do, or skip it.  I used a template from the Snazaroo book, but adapted it. Pickle wanted black spots and didn’t want me to draw in a tongue.

Firstly, using a sponge if you have one or a brush if you haven’t, cover the entire face with white paint.

White facepaint

Then do some spots with your brush.  I made a couple of round ones and a few like the one on her forehead.  Put one on her right cheek high, one on left cheek low. One top right on forehead, one low on the chin on her right hand side and then a little one along her nose.

Dalmatian spots

Dalmatian spot

I then coloured her lower nose in a half heart shape and ran the line down to the top of her lip.

I then ran the black across her top lip like a moustache and with a flourish at the end. Adding extra flourishes.  I filled it in and then did a bit on the lower part of her lip. I also put some whisker dots each side.

Dalmatian Mouth

Next bit was doing the eyes.  I ran the brush from the inner eye, up and over the eyebrows with a flourish. I kept doing that, moving a little bit across each time and then filled in the spaces so the entire eyelid was black.  I then ran a line under her eye and out.  Do the same for both sides.

Dalmatian Eye

The makeup is done!

Dalmatian Face

At the time of buying the leggings and top at H&M I also saw a spotted cape with a cat hood on it.  I bought it and Pickle wanted to wear it with her costume, so we tucked the hood with the cat face on it,inside the cape.  You don’t really need it, but it did help finish things off nicely.

The finished product.

Child's Dalmatian Costume & makeup

I thought that as the makeup was so stark (the black and white) she looked a little bit scary, so this would be perfect for a Halloween costume I think.  I could have skipped the big black eyes, perhaps just doing a single stroke above and below, but I stuck to the instructions. If you have a younger child, you could definitely soften the look by skipping the eyes altogether.

So that’s it. You’ve made a Dalmatian costume. Not too difficult was it. If I can do it, anyone can!