Tour: The Icing on the Cake

Occasionally – three times a year, to be precise – I divert away from yarnie crafty-ness to confectionery! (The making of, I mean – the eating of I do all-year-round!). A tradition has grown up in the family, that each kid is allowed to select their theme for their birthday cake; and I endeavour to bring this vision to life – or at least, to mould it in sponge and sugar. 

I’ve blogged previously about some of them. Here and here and here!

Next Monday DD will be eight (I can’t believe it either! Mind you, she’s 8 going on 18, judging from her attitude and self-confidence) Anyway, her party this year will be in Funtasia Waterpark, Drogheda. She’s been hankering after this for at least two years now, but we’ve held off until now. It suited us, this year, to not have a party in our garden; as we’ve done for the past few years. It also meant that I could “get away with” (for want of a better phrase) only inviting the girls from her class – of which there are only 11; versus inviting the whole class of 25! 

The cake she chose this year was very in-keeping with the “theme” of her party: 

The Finished Article

I thought – for today’s blog post – you might enjoy a tour of the process: 

People say to me “how do I manage it” or “it must be very hard”. My answer / secret is investing in the right raw materials. 

The Right Gear

I’ve learned this the hard way. The first cake I tried to ice, I used ready-to-roll icing from my local supermarket. It was a disaster! Now, I invest in sugarpaste and paste colourings from Kitchen Compliments. They have an online shop – for when I’m organised enough to think about it the week before I need it! 

For the rest of this post, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking: 


I baked a basic chocolate-flavoured sponge in Pyrex bowls to give hemispherical shaped “moulds” to work from. I trim the crusts. Then I start dividing up the sugarpaste and kneading it.
To colour the sugarpaste, use a toothpick to add a little bit of the paste colouring at a time. (I think I got a bit carried away with the pink!) Then slowly knead the icing until the colour is consistent throughout. 

Cover the cake in buttercream, mould sugarpaste padding pieces into required shape and stick on. 

Roll out the icing and lift it up using the roller. Cover the cake and smooth it all over. The heat from your hands helps to relax the icing. Add a few finishing touches and you’re done!


F. O. on Friday

So how are you liking the frequency of posts around here these days? Who knew I had so much to say? It’s quite a change from earlier this year when it all went so quiet for months. One thing I was doing back then, instead of blogging, was knitting; and I’ve loads of F.O.s to show for it. I’m going to try to get back into the habit of showing one off every Friday, until I catch up. One of the earliest from this time is this pair of socks:

KPPPM Rib Fantastic Socks

I call them “Averil’s Socks” though they’re most definately made for me!!! I made them using two skeins of KPPPM that Averil sent me for my birthday. They were cast-on in late May 2009 and cast-off on 5th June, 2009 – a speedy knit. The yarn was a joy to knit with and I absolutely love wearing them. In fact, they’ve been worn and washed so often the colour has faded from the original blue-ish purple to a grey-ish blue. Still a beautiful colour, mind you. I’m wearing them right now! Thanks again, Averil. I must get to meet you, one of these days!

I enjoyed the pattern too, which is from “Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn” by Carol J. Sulcoski – she of the beautiful skein of luxury sock yarn for my Victory Socks. This is the only pattern I’ve knit from the book to date; but I’ve lots more in my pipeline.

New Star Shining Bright

So no-one wanted to hazard a guess on what I was making from Wednesday’s post?

It’s another Christmas Decoration. I made it using some KPPPM I had left over – hence “sock yarn, but I’m not making socks”. The colour shown here is more representative of the original socks, before they’d been washed a few times. I took the picture (in last Wednesday’s post) because I thought the view of the inside was so weird looking – I wondered what the rest of you would make of it.

So, it’s a Star – they twinkle don’t they, even if you don’t use beads? The pattern comes from Debbie New’s book “Unexpected Knitting”. That’s why it’s “New Christmas Fiddle-faddle but Easy” i.e. not from EZ’s Almanac. Like all the best Stars at Christmas-time, it’s currently on a journey. Fingers crossed it reaches its destination safely – it’s a gift from afar.

We are all His Creatures

During the summer we took a trip to Glendeer Pet Farm in Drom outside Athlone. It’s near my brother’s house, where we were staying for the weekend. He is vegan, so he only came along under duress.

I was sure I had taken some pictures of their Llamas but I think it must have only been video. You’ll have to make do with cute shots of the sheep, goats and geese.      

And, of course, their emu.

My brother has long been fascinated by my knitting. He’s a mathematician and physicist so the concept of a linear vector being transformed in to a three-dimensional form, by means of two sticks, intrigues him. He claims that either my sister, or I, taught him to crochet many moons ago. I don’t recall; so I’ll give my sister the credit.

To acknowledge his interest in my hobby I wanted to knit him something for his birthday – it’s the standard response of any knitter when you get positive feedback, isn’t it? I also like to be positive about his Veganism, even if it would not be my life-style choice. I had told him before that knitting fibres were not all animal based and he was interested to learn about Bamboo and Seacell. However, I worried that chosing a plant-based fibre would not be enough – what animal-based chemicals might be used in the dying?

Through judicious use of the Internet, I found Ecobutterfly and an organic colour-grown cotton called Pakucho. I ordered a skein each of green and brown. When they arrived, I couldn’t get over the richness of colour that was achieved purely because it grew this way!


I started this by casting-on 8 sts onto two needles (four onto each) using a whirlpool cast-on á là Cat Bordhi. I accidentally added a stitch early on without noticing. Then, using some helical knitting of single-round stripes of each colour, I maintained a jogless-join as I increased 9sts every two rounds. I kept going until the circle was big enough to cover my husband’s crown – I reckoned his was a good stand-in for my brother’s.

So, increases over, I dug into my copy of Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns until I found a pattern in her mosaic knitting section that I felt was suitably representative of His Noodely Goodness, The Flying Spaghetti Monster. 

I’ve wanted to make a FSM hat ever since I first came across the description of Knitting Scout Badges on the Cast On Podcast Blog . [I think we found this on the Web when my husband – jokingly – did a Google search for Knitting & Divorce! Sure enough – they’ve a badge for that.] Their reference to Flying Spaghetti Monster Hats (scroll down to The “I Will Crush You With My Knitting Prowess” badge) was my first introduction to His Noodely Goodness – much to my husband’s amazement. Then, with further judicious use of “d’Intherneh” he happily educated me about Creation – the very creation of FSM Himself.

The Racing Post

Sorry for missing out on posting yesterday – I was busy dealing with an invading horde. There was at least twenty of them, all under the age of seven. It was nerve-wracking, I tell you! How we, or the house survived, I don’t know; but thankfully I dispatched each of them back to their makers  – after two hours of filling them up with sweets and fizzy drinks. Revenge was mine!

And the cake for the occasion:

Star Trek 5: The Hat of Kahn

It’s my son’s birthday today. He’s five. It’s such a lovely age. He’s riding the crest of the wave of childhood innocence and curiosity; he has not yet developed the “world-wary” cynicism of his sister who’s two & 1/2 years his senior. He’s also gaining independence and self-confidence daily; he suffers much less frustration than his pre-verbal brother who’s almost three years his junior. For him, being in the middle is juuuuuuust right!

As is the tradition now in our house I made him a birthday cake of his choice:

My husband said it looked like a hat and came up with film title “Star Trek 5: The Hat of Kahn”. I feigned umbrage for a while before reluctantly admitting that I had thought the same while I was making it. Still, my little Man-in-the-Middle loved it and was excited about showing to his pals in his after-school club at the crèche. And it was in keeping with a theme for many of his other presents. 

All my Birthdays

The other day I got a package in the post. Not a little slip of paper to tell me – frustratingly – that a package is waiting for me in the Post Office. I find it excruciating to have to wait until Saturday morning; excitement brimming over into out-right impatience.

But not this time. This time I got an actual package. Yeay!

I like small parcels – small enough that they can come through my letterbox. As the saying says: Good things come in small parcels. Good things like two skeins of KPPPM in purple from Averil.




Thank you Averil. Thanks for remembering my birthday. These will be the next socks I cast on. And they will be for me.

On the subject of birthdays – I never blogged about the cake I made for my son’s birthday at the end of last November (I did post photos on Irish Knitters Group on Ravelry, if it’s looking a bit familiar). He wanted a garage.







The mechanic had to get a Fair-Isle jumper – naturally!

DS is already 3

Where did the last three years go to? Our cheeky monkey was three last Sunday. It’s just so lovely to see him grow into a little boy.

Anyway, since DD’s birthday in May he’s been obsessing about his Birthday Cake. It had to be the “Knights Castle” from the book of easy party cakes that I made DD’s pony stable out of. So last week, biting off more than I could chew, & working until the wee hours (allowing even my knitting to suffer) I produced this:

It was sooo worth just to see the thrilled look on his face.

He was not so thrilled about his new jumper, however: “too sparkly!” his word for spiky / scratchy. I’m hoping that it will soften up after being washed and tumble dried. But I’m very impressed with it & with myself!

Inspired by Elisabeth Zimmermann I worked out my guage & using her Percentage System re-sizing the original pattern to fit him was easy. I knit it in-the-round, as a yoked sweater with grafting for the underarms – so saved myself at least two nights of sewing seams. Technically, it isn’t really the Chaos sweater from Knitty anymore, it’s so heavily modified, but I still call it that because I like the rolling of the dice for the random cable pattern.

I’m looking forward to adapting more patterns in the future. I’m thinking I could make the Tomato into a nursing top fairly easily… Elizabeth Zimmermann is VERY empowering.