Thick’n’Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Bars

I was skimming through granola bar recipes online and rejecting most for having ingredients I didn’t want (mostly too much sugar) or can’t easily get here in the UK (if you want sugar-free applesauce here you have to make it yourself and I didn’t feel like it today), when I finally found one that was close to what I was looking for: Fannetastic Food’s Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Granola Bars.

But since I still didn’t want everything there and wanted to add other nuts and seeds, plus only had a 9×13 inch pan, I ended up changing a lot of the recipe. I’m going to post what I actually made here so I have it for reference later, because the result is a chewy, oaty bar with a good amount of chocolate, nuts, and seeds. These will do very nicely for busy days out to prevent low blood sugar between meals.

oaty chocolate bars in a stack

As I understand it, we food bloggers are now supposed to stack foods for photos.

Thick'n'Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Bars
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A relatively low-sugar, thick, moist, oaty bar-cookie with chunks of chocolate, nuts, and seeds. Swap out ingredients for what you like or have on hand.
Recipe type: Snack
Serves: 28 bars
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ⅓ cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • about 75 g chopped dark chocolate
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • additional few handfuls of oats for optional topping
  • additional 25 g dark chocolate for optional topping
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F, 190 C (180 Fan).
  2. Prepare a 9x13 pan with parchment non-stick baking paper. Tip: tear off about 18 inches of paper, turn your pan upside down, and fold the edges of the paper against the underside of your pan so it matches that bottom rectangle. Put the pan upright and drop the folded paper in. Unfold the edges of the paper against the edges of the pan, folding the corner triangles against the sides.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, walnuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chopped chocolate, sugar, nutmeg, and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs into the milk. Add the vanilla and mix.
  5. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and combine thoroughly. The milk will look very wet around the oats.
  6. Pour the entire mixture into the prepared pan and smooth out with a spatula, then give a little shake to ensure the liquid is evenly distributed.
  7. Sprinkle on the additional oats, if using.
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until it feels firm with a crusty top in the middle and the outer edges are turning brown. If your oven doesn't cook evenly, be sure to rotate the pan around halfway through cooking.
  9. Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from the pan and place on a large cutting board.
  11. Melt the additional chocolate (if using) in the microwave using very short bursts until it is partially melted with lumps remaining. Mix gently with a silicone spatula for a few minutes until lumps melt. Use the spatula to drizzle the chocolate over the whole thing.
  12. Cool until the chocolate on top solidifies (which might take a long time, so you may need to pop it in the fridge). Cut into bars of desired size.

I plan to freeze most of what I made today for upcoming days out in the lovely English spring weather!

Posted in Bar Cookies, Links, My Recipes, Other People's Recipes | 1 Comment

Mushroom Poutine Grilled Cheese Sandwich


This post is going to involve a lot of unhealthy but delicious food. Think diner food. Yum, but probably lethal.


This post does not include a recipe. It includes mention of ingredients and how I made something, but I didn’t measure anything. Because really, you’re all going to substitute your own preferences anyway. Think of this as an inspirational bit of food bloggery rather than a specific how-to.


This post is using “poutine” in a very loose sense, in that cheese curds are not something I regularly keep in my fridge. I know that proper poutine involves curds. I am Canadian, after all. And it’s not really a grilled cheese sandwich, but more the elements of such a thing arranged in a different way. But we’re all going to pretend that my chunks of cheddar are good enough and that it’s grilled-cheese-ish because pedants get no sandwich.

Right then, is everyone ready to salivate?

Because I made something awesome for lunch a couple of days ago and as proof of how much I love you all and hate your arteries, I want to share it with you. Well, the photos and how-to, not the actual sandwich. THE SANDWICH WAS MINE ALL MINE. In fact as I described what I was going to make, my husband said to our eldest daughter, “Peo, it’s time to leave Mum alone in the kitchen for awhile so she can have some very special private time. Ignore any strange sounds you may hear.” Because we have real family values.


sliced sandwich

Ohhhhhhhh yeahhhhhhh. Whoops, those are the strange sounds everyone’s supposed to ignore….

So here’s what happened…I stumbled across this video by the great Alton Brown about grilled cheese made on an actual outdoor grill. But I didn’t have access to one of those immediately so I went a’Googlin’ to see what else the world had to suggest for varieties of grilled cheese. I found a post about bacon grilled cheese by my good friend Terry McNeil wherein someone mentioned poutine grilled cheese. I Googled for recipes on that and found dozens, but being familiar enough with poutine since I went to university in Ottawa where it is consumed regularly as student fare, I figured I could make my own version from what I had around the house.

I also wanted some mushrooms in it because mushrooms are delicious. And onions because if you have mushrooms you need onions. That’s the law. And I happened to have both in frozen, prepared form in the freezer, so I knew this would be a fast route to Yum Land.

I grabbed a potato (specifically, a Wilja from the farm store down the street because these are the best potatoes I’ve ever had for making fries) and scrubbed it under a cold tap, but didn’t peel it. I then put it on a plate with some water and microwaved it for three minutes, then turned it over and microwaved it for three minutes more.

Meanwhile, I put some frozen onions in a pan lightly spritzed with oil and started browning them.

When the potato was microwaved enough to be slightly softened, I carefully cut it into wedges.

steaming potato

There is a reason for those songs and games about hot potatoes. Be careful!

I put the wedges in a cast iron pan with a thin layer of canola/rapeseed oil and began frying them.

When the onion was brown enough, I added some frozen, pre-sliced mushrooms. Obviously you could use fresh ones if you have some, but I really like having these frozen ones on hand for random and sudden need of mushrooms such as this.

browned onions in pan

When I say I browned the onions, I mean it. I really like the flavour of darkened onions. And the mushrooms will release their water and bring up all of that delicious fond from the pan.

While the mushrooms started cooking and while also keeping an eye on the chips in the other pan, I mixed up some easy beef gravy with about a half cup of boiling water and a couple of scoops of these Tesco beef gravy granules.

Tesco gravy granules

I told you this was like diner food!

And as you can see in the background of that photo, I also chopped up a chunk of sharp cheddar into cubes.

Once the mushrooms were getting tender, I added the gravy to that pan and mixed it all around.

gravy in pan

Onions, mushrooms, and gravy. So much yum, so not photogenic.

While those came together, I flipped the chips over in the cast iron pan.

chips in pan

Mmm, sizzly.

Then I added the cheese chunks to the gravy mixture:

cheese on gravy mixture

This is the part inspired by Alton Brown insofar as making a pre-griddled cheese mixture to put on the sandwich.

This made the cheese gooey in some places and frizzled in others.

melted cheese in pan

Uh oh, here come some more of those noises everyone should ignore…mmmmmm….ohhhhhhh….

Meanwhile I used yet another pan to fry up some bread that had been buttered on both sides. I then set the first slice on a plate.

fried bread

It’s whole wheat bread with seeds in it so there’s your health-washed content for this blog post. Also: delicious.

Then I stacked the chips upon the bread and salted them lightly:

chips on bread

Oh dear deity would you look at those golden, hot, crispy rods of drooltastic deliciousness?!

I put all of the mushroom-gravy-onion-cheese mixture on top, then put a second both-sides-fried slice of bread on top.

hot sandwich

As a writer of romance novels I’m very familiar with steamy scenes, but this is the first one I’ve written that included mushrooms and gravy.

That was about when I realized this wasn’t going to be a pick-up sort of sandwich, and a fork would be required.

fork with gravy and mushrooms

Are you drooling yet?

This whole thing was delicious. I highly recommend it. But there was a slight downside in that putting the chips on the sandwich did sacrifice their crispy edges.

So I made the whole thing again for breakfast today and left the chips on the side:

chips on the side

Ohhhhh another one of those amber-glowing hot chips fresh out of the pan…mmmmmm…ahhhhhhhh…

And then I discovered that not only does this give you the bonus of keeping the chips crispy, but you can use them as utensils to scoop up the mushroom-cheese-onion-gravy spillage from the sides of the sandwich.

scooping with chips

All this yum plus catching up on John Oliver’s show in the background. Happy happy day!

Not a bad Easter Sunday morning! Happy Easter to everyone out there, and enjoy your own tasty treats today. I recommend making adorable and/or killer bunny cookies with your family.

Posted in Breakfast, Links, Lunch, Other Food, Other People's Recipes | Leave a comment

That’s No Ordinary Rabbit Cookie!

Would you like to make some easy, adorable, candy-filled bunny cookies for Easter? Of course you would!

bunny cookie

It’s hiding candy inside itself! Sneaky Easter Bunny!

These basic bunnies are a kid-friendly craft to share with the whole family. Start by making the base cookie pre-filled with candies of your choice as shown here in the Baseball Cap Cookies Tutorial.

Roll out some white fondant, brush the cookie with some water-thinned corn syrup (or golden syrup), and apply the fondant, trimming at the bottom. If you have graduated circle cutters you can cut circles in advance to minimize trimming, just be sure to cut circles large enough to drape down the height of the cookie.

Use a smaller circle cutter (or freehand) to start the legs. Cut a circle in half, then trim out a foot shape with a knife as shown below:

cut an angle out to form a foot

Cut on the opposite side on the other half of the circle for the other leg, and affix them in place with a bit of water as shown on the cookie below:

completed bunny cookie

For the ears, I used some graduated pointy petal cutters I have in a big set, but you could use any long oval cutters or just cut by hand. Cut larger shapes in white and then smaller in pink and put the pink on top of the white. Affix them to the body in any style you choose using a bit of water. Try different positions and see how that affects the mood of your bunny! Here I gave them a bit of a bend as I put them on.

For the front paws, roll a little fat oval of white fondant and cut it in half lengthwise. The flat cut line is the bottom of the paw. Use whatever tool is handy to make two indentations to suggest toes and stick them in place with a bit of water.

The face is simply two tiny dots of black fondant (or you could draw them on with an edible ink marker, or use mini chocolate chips, or use candy eyes, or whatever you’ve got!) and a long pink dot for the nose.

The tail is a roughly made ball of white fondant stuck on with a bit of water and then poked a bit to make it look more fluffy. If you’ve got cotton candy on hand you could use that for tails too.

That’s it! Super easy and adorable for your Easter, right?

But I hear you all crying out, “WAIT! It’s NO FAIR baiting us in here with a Python reference unless you have a Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog cookie too!”

You’re right.

So I do.

BUT BEWARE!!! Because as Tim will tell you himself:

Tim the Enchanter

“If you brave knights do doubt your strength or your courage, come no further for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth!”

No, realli!

You must be very, very certain you wish to see this next cookie!

It is not for the faint-hearted or the easily offended!

Oh wait…nobody faint-hearted or easily offended reads this blog. Right. Carry on.




bunny cookies

“Why hello there, neighbour!”
“Erm, yes. Anyway, what say we hide some delicious and exciting treats for the youngsters to find?”
“Right-ho. Perhaps you haven’t had your morning cuppa yet?”
“Yes. Well then. I’ll just be over here celebrating a rather inexplicable merging of Pagan and Christian traditions in the form of leporid trickery upon the young primates, shall I?”

The Killer Rabbit is like the basic bunny above, only with little skinny, angled eyes to suggest anger and of course the nasty, pointed teeth, which are just shaped in white fondant. Make a rough, bloody mouth out of a bit of red and put the teeth on top.

And that’s it!

Because it would, of course, be wholly inappropriate to a spring festival celebrating goodness and rebirth to make a Killer Rabbit cookie filled with something other than candy. Something like, oh, I don’t know…fake chocolate-flavoured blood. Like I did with this eyeball cookie for Halloween.


Yeah I totally filled it with fake choco blood:

fake blood oozing out of cut cookie


Cream-filled eggs, eat your hearts out. Your gory, choco-blood-filled hearts.

OMG I should make an anatomically-correct 3D heart cookie filled with blood. Right after I make the 3D Candy Filled Death Star cookie I promised back here and the Wolverine one I promised/threatened here.

Who wants to come over and babysit so I can get more inappropriate cookies made? I pay in cookies!

Posted in 3D Cookies, Cake Decorating, Cookies, Severe Nerdery, Sick and Twisted, Working With Kids | 2 Comments

Souper Easy Cream of Mushroom

I couldn’t resist the pun, but I’m about to give you a really easy, tasty soup recipe, so that makes up for it, right?



So let’s be honest: I love Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. That is, I love it in Canada and the US. I even love it in Australia, because although it tastes slightly different there, it’s still a pile of salty, comforting, delicious goop.

But here in the UK it tastes really different, to the point of being barely edible. It’s just…not good. It’s flat somehow, like it’s missing something. I don’t want to eat it here despite it being a staple comfort food back in North America.

I have tried to kick the habit before for health reasons because let’s face it, even though it’s tasty it’s a mega-sodium-bomb. I’ve tried a few homemade recipes that were really nice, but each took a lot of work and turned out much differently than the canned stuff (which I’m pretty sure was the point but sometimes you want that familiar taste).

Last fall I found this very useful webpage on how to make various “cream of something” soups, and I highly recommend it, especially if you have dietary desires where you need to swap out ingredients. It features a well-organized chart of how to substitute various items as needed.

I’ve been making the basic mushroom soup but tweaking it to ingredients here in the UK, which isn’t always easy since chicken stock is harder to come by. Folks here must prefer to use the cubes or the condensed stocks – many of which contain a lot of sugar – because that’s what’s most prevalent when searching the grocery stores for ordering.

So we bought a mega-pack of Kirkland chicken stock at Costco (which is non-trivial for us since the closest Costco is a two-hour drive away and we have no car), and I’ve been tailoring the recipe to fit one 500 ml container of that stock.

I’ve also cut a few steps out of the original recipe which I’d like to pretend was done out of a drive for efficiency, but it’s actually because I’ve been so tired that I messed it up once but it turned out just fine.

Thus, here’s how I’ve been making triple batches of cream of mushroom soup which I can then use as a tasty lunch and still store several 280-ml-ish containers of to have in reserve for recipes, since that is more or less the volume of a can.

Note that this recipe makes a lot of fairly thick soup with more of a garlic note than the standard canned stuff. I often add more mushrooms than listed here because I honestly don’t really measure them most of the time so much as dump “about that much” in. If you aren’t keen on the ingredients here, go back to the link above and use that resource to swap out in smaller quantities until you find the version that works for you.

cream of mushroom soup

A tub of delicious soup on its way to chill in the fridge so I can freeze it in can-sized portions.

Cream of Mushroom Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Easy, fast, delicious substitution for the canned stuff. This recipe makes a lot and is designed to be portioned out and frozen for use in recipes later.
Recipe type: soup
Serves: approx 6-8 cans' worth
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups frozen diced onions
  • 3 cups frozen sliced mushrooms
  • 170 g butter (3/4 cup, 1.5 sticks)
  • 2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 500 ml chicken broth
  1. Put garlic, onions, mushrooms, butter, and sea salt in a large pot. Cook until vegetables are thawed and the entire mixture is bubbly.
  2. Add flour and stir to combine thoroughly, being sure to work out any lumps. Cook for one minute.
  3. Add milk one cup at a time, mixing thoroughly each time.
  4. Add broth and mix.
  5. Cook for 10-15 minutes until it reaches desired consistency.
  6. Eat fresh or store as needed.
Posted in General Cooking Tips, Links, Lunch, My Recipes, Other Food, Other People's Recipes | 1 Comment

Easy 3D Candy-Filled Valentine’s Day Cookies

If you do any amount of cake decorating, chances are you have a variety of heart-shaped cutters, molds, impression mats, etc. Heck, I’ve got so many that I don’t even know where they all came from, since some were in event goody bags or somehow just wandered into my kitchen and made themselves at home. The heart shape is probably the single most common shape in the cake and cookie fields.

Make use of your heart-shaped tools for this Valentine’s Day by making a bunch of 3D Candy-Filled cookies topped with whatever design suits what you have on hand.

Start with the base cookie directions on the 3D Baseball Caps post to make as many candy-filled cookies as desired, or if you’re twisted like me (because I’m the sort of mom who brought this to a classroom full of six year olds) make heart cookies filled with chocolate-flavoured, disturbingly realistic fake blood like these eyeball cookies.

Either way once you’ve got your base cookies ready, cover them with white, red, or pink fondant, then add heart-shaped embellishments as desired.

For the cookie below, I used the CelShapes Lattice maker with pink Satin Ice in the heart-shaped portion, draped onto a white background over the cookie. Then I used the smallest of a set of 3 plastic heart plunger cutters to make a bunch of little pink hearts and stuck them around the base.

heart cookie from above

The Lattice Maker lets you pretend you have skills!

If some of your cookies come off the pan slightly dented on one side, simply turn that dent to your advantage by putting it at the top of the heart as I did with this one.

heart cookie from side

But pay no attention to the dent in the fondant that’s showing the dark cookie underneath. I guarantee you that the recipient of this tasty treat paid it no heed!

The lattice maker takes some practice to work without tearing and may not be something everyone has, but you can just as easily use graduated heart cutters to make concentric heart cut outs, or a fancy floral heart mold, or any other tool you have on hand.

heart cookie mini hearts detail

Mini plunger cutters make your decorating life so much easier. They’re worth the price above a non-plunger cutter for mini shapes because you can work super-fast without having to poke out shapes, which can distort them.

Another great use for those plunger cutters – and a fun way to make very personalized candies to go inside your cookie – is to make homemade conversation hearts and use edible ink markers to write whatever suits your needs on them. The plunger cutter lets you stamp out tons of little candies super fast, then just let them dry overnight and write on them the next day. When I’ve done this for my daughter’s school Valentine’s Day parties, they’ve been a huge hit.

I may have also once made some with a Wolverine theme

Wolverine conversation hearts

Mmm, Wolvie angst represented in wee sweetie form.

I should probably make some kind of 3D candy-filled Wolverine cookies. I’ll get right on that as soon as I have time to do the Death Star cookies I promised from the R2D2 cookie post. The problem with making anything Wolverine and edible is keeping it family friendly for this blog. Ahem. Double ahem. * innocent eyes *

Posted in 3D Cookies, Cookies, Head of Not Quite Hugh/Wolverine, Sick and Twisted | 4 Comments

Sugar, Splenda, and Stevia Bakeoff

I get a lot of weird PR requests that I ignore, mostly because even though they all say they love my blog they then offer me spicy or alcoholic stuff – both of which indicate they do not read this blog since I frequently mention being allergic to hot spices and being a teetotaller.

But a PR firm recently asked if I’d be willing to taste test some Pyure Organic Stevia, both in individual 1g packet form and a 454g bag. I said I’d be happy to since I’m diabetic and had never tried Stevia before, though I’d been meaning to, but that I was in the UK for a year. So I was surprised when they replied that they’d be happy to mail me some all the way over here.

Pyure Organic Stevia packs

I received these products free from a PR firm but no other payment or consideration, nor was I obligated to give a positive review. All other ingredients used in this post were fully purchased by me with no other corporate sponsorship or involvement.

I have been using Splenda (the Granulated kind that is puffed up so it measures like sugar) for years. I know that it’s not good in cookies where the hygroscopic nature of sugar is required. Frankly, Splenda cookies are like hockey pucks or dwarf bread, depending on how nerdy you are. But I use it all the time as a complete sugar replacement in my regular oatmeal pancakes, and I routinely sprinkle it on puffed wheat cereal that has no other ingredients. I also use it for hot chocolate by mixing it with cocoa powder and milk and really enjoy that as a warming treat on a cold day.

When I received the Stevia, I tried sprinkling some from a packet on the puffed wheat cereal and was not keen on it. I found that it had a metallic aftertaste that I did not like. Splenda often has an aftertaste as well, but not so much on the puffed wheat because I use so little of it (the milk in the bottom of the bowl definitely has the aftertaste). With the Stevia, if I used enough to get the same level of mild sweet, the aftertaste was a bit too strong.

I decided I should put Stevia to a baking test, especially since Splenda can be hit-or-miss in baked goods. I had recently made a lemon cake using this recipe from, but as usual with other people’s recipes I’d cut the sugar substantially. In that case I left the sugar amount for the glaze but cut the 1 cup in the cake itself down to 1/2 cup.

It occurred to me that a cake like that would be a good comparison with sugar substitutes for several reasons:

  1. The light colour of the cake would highlight any browning differences really well.
  2. The cake forms a nice crust with sugar, so I’d be able to compare if the substitutes were softer, soggier, etc.
  3. Because the cake itself has sugar in it but then also relies on the glaze, I’d be able to tell if the substitutes had any aftertaste in the glaze compared to what’s more disguised in the rest of the cake.
  4. Baking the cake in a loaf pan would make it easier to tell at a glance if there was any appreciable difference in rise.

Thus I set out to make three cakes today, carefully controlling all other ingredients and factors as much as possible for a true comparison. I used eggs from the same container, butter all from the same source and freshness, all cooked in the same pan in the same oven in sequence, and I was careful to not let any batters sit longer than any others. I even made sure they all had exactly 10 minutes in the pan after coming out of the oven with the glaze on to see if there was any difference in absorption.

Knowing that many recipes fail entirely if all sugar is replaced and that sugar substitute makers often recommend only replacing part of the sugar, I made the first cake with full sugar, the second with half sugar and half Splenda Granulated (including the glaze), and the third with half sugar and half Pyure Organic Stevia (including the glaze). I noted that although the Splenda Granulated is made to measure like sugar, the Pyure Organic Stevia is twice as sweet, so I adjusted the measurements accordingly.

Here are the actual ingredients used for each:

Cake 1 Ingredients

1⁄2 cup butter, melted (113 g)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
225 g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 cup semi-skimmed (1%) milk

1⁄3 cup lemon juice
1⁄4 cup sugar

Cake 2 Ingredients

1⁄2 cup butter, melted (113 g)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Splenda Granulated
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
225 g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 cup semi-skimmed (1%) milk

1⁄3 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup sugar (30 ml)
1/8 cup Splenda Granulated (30 ml)

Cake 3 Ingredients

1⁄2 cup butter, melted (113 g)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup Pyure Organic Stevia (30 ml)
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
225 g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 cup semi-skimmed (1%) milk

1⁄3 cup lemon juice
1⁄8 cup sugar (30 ml)
1/16 cup Pyure Organic Stevia (15 ml)

For each I lined a loaf pan with parchment baking paper and followed this procedure (all by hand with a spatula and glass bowl since I don’t have a mixer here):

1) Preheat oven to 325°F/162°C (although because my UK kitchen only has a fan-forced (aka convection) oven I lowered this to 150°C).

2) Mix the sugar (and sugar substitute if applicable) with the butter until as smooth as possible.

3) Add the eggs and tablespoon of butter, beat together until completely mixed.

4) Add salt, flower, and baking powder. Mix well, breaking up any lumps, until it forms a smooth, thick putty-like dough.

5) Add milk and fold in until combined, then beat lightly until smooth.

6) Bake in parchment-lined pan for 1 hour.

For the Glaze:

1) Mix 1/3 cup lemon juice and sugar (plus substitute if applicable).

2) When the cake comes out of the oven, leave it in the pan and poke holes all over the top with a toothpick. Drizzle the glaze all over and allow to sit for ten minutes in the pan. Then remove using the parchment paper to lift the whole thing out and set it on a plate to cool and continue to absorb the glaze.

You can serve this cake warm, but since it took hours to bake all three, I wanted to ensure they were all at room temperature for the taste test. I took several photos as shown below and then cut interior sticks out of slices for my husband and older daughter to test.

For the record the toddler got some too and demanded more but I didn’t make her evaluate anything since a) she doesn’t comprehensibly talk yet and b) she’d also happily eat dirt, paint off of the radiator, and what I call “baby croutons” (bits of bread I haven’t swept up yet from under her high chair) if I let her. O.o

Anyway, I put those slices on a paper towel on a plate labelled as 1, 2, and 3 in order as above, because they didn’t know what order I’d used for baking. This way it was as close to a blind taste test as possible.

I also taste-tested but since I knew which was which, my results may be skewed by that knowledge.

Here were the results:

As the cakes came out of the oven I took photos of the tops before putting on the glaze. Or at least I meant to, and forgot with 3 until after I’d just put the glaze on. Either way, it’s pretty clear that the sugar and Stevia both produced a nice browned top but the Splenda came out kind of pasty. Splenda’s own website acknowledges this and suggests spritzing the tops of batter with oil to promote browning but I didn’t do that here since I was doing a straight comparison.

cake 1 top

Cake 1 was nicely browned.

splenda cake top

Cake 2, the Splenda cake, had a very pale top.

stevia cake top

Cake 3, the Pyure Organic Stevia cake, was almost as brown as the full sugar cake although the edges weren’t quite as crisp.

In mixing the glaze, I had hoped the sugar substitutes would dissolve more in the lemon juice than the regular sugar since they have less heft to them. No matter how much I mixed the sugar, the end of the glaze came out in a sludgy lump that sat unevenly on the top of the cake. The Splenda foamed (which always happens when you add it to liquid because it’s aerated) and got surprisingly sludgy as well, but then it was absorbed into the cake more evenly. The Pyure Organic Stevia didn’t foam but it also got surprisingly sludgy and lumped onto the top as much as the sugar.

glazed lemon cakes

Cakes 1, 2, and 3 left to right with glaze on.

In terms of lift, the full sugar cake clearly rose higher than the other two:

cake height comparison

Cakes 1, 2, and 3 left to right. Cake 1 – the full sugar cake – is noticeably higher than the two with sugar substitutes.

For the taste test, I cut off the ends – which is when I noticed that the full sugar cake was noticeably crispier on the brown edges than the other two, even including the Stevia’s equally browned edges – and then cut the same size slice off of each.

sliced cakes

The interiors look mostly the same except for a bit of a doughy or wet streak through Cake 1. It’s hard to tell if that’s an underdone bit or if the glaze seeped through a crack more thickly in that spot.

I then cut each of those slices from top to bottom into fifths so I could present two more-or-less equivalent interior slices to my husband and daughter.

Here are their results:

Corran's notes

My husband preferred the Pyure Organic Stevia cake overall because he detected an aftertaste with the Splenda cake and found the full sugar cake to be doughy.

Peo's notes

My nine-year-old preferred the Splenda cake overall because she also detected an aftertaste but liked it. She said she detected one in the Stevia cake too but wasn’t as keen on its texture.

Peo evaluating

Peo evaluating the cakes in her awesome new Storm Trooper jammies. As always, she has a very rough life.

I sampled each as well and at first could not honestly tell the difference, which surprised me since I was expecting an aftertaste from the sugar substitutes. Upon further sampling I could sort of taste a bit of an aftertaste with the Splenda, but nothing overt. I detected no aftertaste at all with the Stevia.

Texture-wise I liked the full sugar cake best because it was moist but had a good crumb, whereas I found the Splenda cake slightly spongey and the Stevia cake very spongey. And as mentioned above, the full sugar had a better overall browning and crispness to that browning, but having made this cake with just sugar before, I know that crispness will be gone tomorrow because of sealing it in a plastic tub, so that really only counts if the cake is going to be served fresh out of the oven.

Thus my overall conclusion is that if you need to reduce sugar intake, both Splenda Granulated and Pyure Organic Stevia work very well to replace half of the sugar in a strongly-flavoured lemon cake such as this. Expect a bit less browning and a slight aftertaste from Splenda, plus slight texture differences from both substitutes, but if you’re only substituting part of the sugar the result should still be pretty good.

The Pyure Stevia is organic so if you prefer to purchase organic products, it has that edge, and it does brown more than the Splenda. Applications in other recipes may vary, so I encourage those seeking to reduce sugar to try both of these and see what works best for you. I’m not in the US right now to be able to price-compare, but if you’re doing so remember that the Pyure is twice as sweet per volume as the Splenda, so it will go twice as far in recipes and you’ll need to calculate price comparisons accordingly.

I know some folks don’t like sugar substitutes in part because of a lot of misinformation online about supposed links to cancer due to the saccharin scare in the 1970s. But as recently posted by the Mayo Clinic – international leaders in cancer research – modern sugar substitutes are not linked to cancer and while they shouldn’t be consumed by the bucket load in a faux healthwashing scheme, they are of benefit to diabetics when they are used to reduce overall actual sugar.

So while you should probably let your recipients know if you use a sugar substitute because it’s always best to make everyone aware of all of your ingredients in a general sense to avoid allergies and other issues, both Splenda Granulated and Pyure Organic Stevia are entirely safe to eat. If your friends decide they don’t want to eat it because they’re misinformed, that’s more lemon cake for you!

And I must say that I’m tempted to do some more recipe experimentation to see how the Stevia does in cookies, where I know Splenda to do poorly. Perhaps I should try some shortbread experiments soon…

Posted in Links, Other People's Recipes, Products | 3 Comments

3D Candy Filled R2D2 Head Cookies

I was trying to think of a cheeky, nerdy joke headline and then I realized I shouldn’t bury the lead on this one:

R2D2 head cookie

Can your appetite for chocolate and sugar handle this much nerdcute?

Oh but wait a second…it’s almost Christmas and I don’t want the food blogger police (which totally exist) to come thwap me with a sticky candy cane for failing to holiday-up this post. So here, I added some fondant and sugar pearls:

R2D2 cookie with holly

Me: It’s as valid as the Star Wars Holiday Special.

Corran: No, it’s sadly even more valid than the Star Wars Holiday Special. Everything is more valid than the Star Wars Holiday Special.

Peo: What’s the Star Wars Holiday Special?

Me: Proof that pain exists in an unjust world. And remember dear, there are only three movies. And triple lightsabers will cut your knuckles off.

Peo: WHAT?!

Me: Exactly.

It’s important to have meaningful conversations as a family.


Want to make one? Of course you do. Here’s how: start with the Base Cookie instructions back here on the 3D Candy Filled Baseball Cap Cookies post. Then roll out some white or light grey fondant thinly to cover the base cookie completely (tips for doing that are also given in the Baseball Cap Cookies post). Use water-thinned corn syrup/golden syrup to stick the fondant in place, and then use any excess any time further down when instructed to affix pieces on.

Next you’ll need some dark blue fondant. I didn’t have any on hand when Peo came up with this idea of doing R2D2 head cookies (and full credit goes to her for the idea), and without a car here in the UK it’s non-trivial to just go get some fondant. Plus I don’t have my usual array of Americolor gels and the Dr. Oetker colours I do have are very weak. So I had to mix some light blue pre-coloured fondant with some purple.

Roll out some of your blue fondant fairly thinly and cut a rectangle with the sides angled outwards. Use the end of a paintbrush to make an indentation in the middle but slightly to your left, and then flare it out (removing any excess that balls up) until you have a shape like the one below. Affix it wherever you want the front of your cookie to be.

putting first piece on

Okay now it looks like an R2D2 Minion mallowmar. I should totally use this pan to make some Minion cookies in my copious free time. You know, all that time where I haven’t even gotten around to seeing those movies yet…

Roll out some of your blue fondant and cut a small rectangle. Affix it just below the eye piece and trim the sides so it matches the length. Then make a cut to one side as shown below. Indent the longer piece with the end of a paintbrush or a small ball tool and glue a red sugar pearl/dragee in place.

building R2D2 cookie

Don’t have a red sugar pearl/dragee? Use a bit of red fondant. It’s all good!

Next cut the top circular motif. If I’d had my nice Ateco graduated circle cutter set on hand, I’d have been easily able to find the right size. But since that’s in the storage unit in Austin and since my cheap set of circle cutters here in the UK didn’t go small enough, I looked around my kitchen for what would be about the right size. Voila, the rings from Robin’s bottles are about right. They don’t do a great job of cutting but I was able to mark a circle and then cut it from there.

cutting top circle

It’s important that you stock your kitchen with all of the fanciest, most expensive tools from the most posh stores so that you can impress the sorts of friends who will only like you if your kitchen is thusly stocked. OR…use whatever you’ve got.

Then cut a smaller circle. Again, go with what you’ve got on hand. In this case the wide end of a piping tip (which I’ve learned are called piping tubes here in the UK) worked perfectly.

using a tip as a cutter

You did know that you can do awesome polka dot cakes like this, right? Or balloons. Or eyeballs (use one of the larger round tips like a #6 or #8, cut the colour with the tip end and then cut the white with the back end). Or rounded scales for a dragon. Or so many other things.

Save that inner circle bit to the side. Then cut the ring into six even-ish pieces. Do this by making one cut straight across so you’ve got halves. Then for the second cut, line up your knife as if you’re going to do a perpendicular cut to make quarters, but then turn your knife a bit to one side or the other so your quarters will come out wonky. Then cut those big sections in half. You’ll roughly get thirds that way, especially if you practice.

Moisten the entire top of the head and place as shown in the photo below. If your gaps are coming out too big and the last pieces are coming too close together, trim as you go. I did. I promise, nobody will scream, “YOU FIEND, HOW DARE YOU GIVE ME A DELICIOUS DROID COOKIE WITH INEXPERTLY CUT TOP SIXTH THINGIES?!” And if they did, don’t give them a cookie ever again. Problem solved!

top of R2's head

Start by lining up a gap with the red sugar pearl, and then work your way around.

Next make another blue rectangle and put it at the side of the “face” as shown below, and then make two grey squares and put them on top. Make a little blue disc, affix it to the other side as shown, indent it, and add a tiny grey sausage sticking out.

adding more face detail

Once you’ve got this bit on, everything else can vary from the actual R2D2 design and folks will still know what the cookie is supposed to be.

Make more blue rectangles of varying width (but all the same height) and place them in a line continuing around that side clockwise until you’re almost at the back.

blue blocks around side

Make some large and some small to add visual interest. Or because it’s faster to slap bigger ones on. Whichever motivation works for you.

For the back, make a little round disc in grey and affix it, then indent it with the end of a paintbrush or small ball tool. Make another large blue rectangle and indent the left side. Also indent the top sixth segment just above that, as shown in the photo below.

Then make an itty bitty sausage with blue and affix it into the hole in the grey disc. Put a gold dragee (or tiny yellow ball of fondant) into the back panel.

back of R2D2 head

I’m sure the various sensors and such have all been argued and defined out on many a nerd bulletin board over the years. But as Peo pointed out, this R2 unit’s head is full of Smarties, not robotic parts, so do what works best for you.

Make a little grey cylinder and indent it with the paintbrush/ball tool, then add another itty bitty blue sausage to it. Affix this into the indentation on the top sixth part. You might need to push it in and down to get it to stand upright, and check it frequently as it dries in place.

Make another series of blue rectangles to wrap around this side, continuing all the way along until you meet up with the “face” you already had in place.

Next go around and fill in the gaps between the top sixth pieces and the blue rectangles with an assortment of grey strips with the sides cut on angles as shown so they nest up against each other. Cut them to fit as needed. I even added another grey circle above that back sensor thing because that looked right for that spot.

filling in with grey

You don’t have to fill every gap. Just do what looks right to give the overall look.

Finish the “face” by adding a small disc of black into the eyepiece, giving it a gentle push so it fills in the frame. Add a white sprinkle/hundred and thousand or a super teeny tiny white ball of fondant. Push it in/affix it on securely.

R2D2's face

I C U R2!

Add some Christmas details if that suits your needs and timing, or some hearts for Valentine’s Day, or fill it with jelly beans for Easter, or candy corn for Halloween. OMG how cute would it be to make these with little masks on them for Halloween?!

Remember: your R2 cookie doesn’t have to be perfect. Have fun making these with the kids any time of the year. Peo made one based on mine and while it’s not as neat as mine because she’s only nine years old, you can still totally tell it’s R2D2 and she had a blaster making it:

another R2D2 cookie

Peo’s R2 cookie.

Then she had an even better time eating the evidence:

tipping candies out of cookie

It’s like biting into your own little edible pinata when the candies come out!

Peo with cookie

The kind of joy that only comes with sucking the candy brains out of an iconic movie robot.

And later she got to eat mine too:

partially eaten cookie

This one reminds me of the blown-up Death Star. OMG I NEED TO MAKE 3D CANDY FILLED DEATH STAR COOKIES NEXT!!!

Happy holidays and may the chocoforce be with you!

R2D2 sounds from SoundCloud.

Posted in 3D Cookies, Cake Decorating, Cookies, Severe Nerdery, Working With Kids | Leave a comment

Let’s Go Somewhere Where There’s CHOCOLATE!

Wallace and Gromit's Big Bake logo

Last Friday I did a small bake sale at my husband’s workplace for the Wallace and Gromit’s Big Bake to benefit Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Charity. They’re a UK group raising funds to improve the lives of sick children in hospitals and hospices by providing medical equipment, family care, art/music/play therapy, and more.

Peo and I found out about the Big Bake at the Cake and Bake show in London and saw promos again at the Birmingham Cake International show, and we thought we’d give it a go even though we’re not set up to do anything large-scale here.

As it was, I ran out of time to do as many goodies as I wanted, but I at least made enough to fill small boxes and bags, as shown below.

In keeping with many of my recent posts, I made a bunch of 3D mini-Smarties filled ornaments:

3D ornament cookies

These can be very basic or very detailed depending on your time, tools, and skill level.

I was going to do a separate post on how to make these, but given that I’ve covered the basics elsewhere I’ll do a quick how-to here as a recap. First, start with the Base Cookie instructions back here on the 3D Candy Filled Baseball Cap Cookies post. Then simply roll out some fondant in whatever colour you wish, using a texture mat or pin if you like, and affix the fondant over the cookie with a bit of corn syrup/golden syrup thinned with some water. Add a little lump with a hole in the middle on one side to serve as the hanger and voila! You can then leave it plain or add more elements, paint on some colours or dust, or whatever suits your fancy.

I actually pre-made some basic ornaments back in Austin with the intention of posting a tutorial on them, but since I’ve now made these new ones I’ll discuss some of those individually and put further details in the captions on how they were made.

red, green, and blue ornament cookies

These were the ones I made in the summer. The red and the green were made with a texture mat I got in a cake event goody bag somewhere along the line, and the blue was made with the texture mat that comes with the Autumn Carpenter snowflake set. Then the raised bits of each design was painted with edible gold and silver. For these ones, I also made the hanger part solid and painted to match the other details.

basketweave ornament

I found a bargain-bin basketweave rolling pin at the NEC show for £2 and used that for the first time to make this cookie. I also dusted it with Disco Dust because sparkles are awesome.

star ornament cookie

For this one I covered the cookie in plain green, then rolled out of some yellow, used the same texture mat from the Austin samples above on the yellow, cut that with a little star cutter, and put the star on the cookie with a bit of thinned golden syrup. Then I brushed around the edge with more of the golden syrup and plonked on some gold pearls I found cheap at Sainsbury’s, and stuck another in the centre.

scrollwork ornament cookie

This one also uses the same texture mat as the Austin examples, except I realized I forgot to bring silver or gold edible paint. So I used my new sugarpaste extruder gun to make thin ropes of yellow and stuck those on the design instead. This was very tedious and while it looks pretty good, it was hard to keep it neat (you can see the flaws I didn’t bother to fix) so I’d only recommend this method if you are very patient, have lots of time, and possibly are imprisoned.

bow ornament cookie

Here I used a hexagon texture mat from a Makin’ Clay set (and you can see in the one below and to the right that I used the same mat there the other way around). Then I extruded some ribbons and made a simple fake bow.

sparkly blue ornament cookie

This was super simple: I put on a plain covering of smooth fondant, brushed the whole thing with the water-thinned golden syrup, and then dumped some blue sugar crystals over it.

I also made some basic shortbread cookies using a recipe from the Renshaw blog. I cut most of these out using the cutters from the Autumn Carpenter snowflake set and then covered them with fondant. The round ones were cut with a set of graduated two-sided cutters I found at Poundland.

Christmas cookies

Look how much variety you can get with just a few cutters!

deer cookies

These have green fondant cut with the same cutter as the cookie (the round one is indented with the next size down in the set). Then I added deer cut with a little PME deer cutter I found in a bargain bin at my local cake shop here in Cambridge, plus a red PME sugar pearl for the nose.

brown deer cookie

Here I used the PME deer cutter and red sugar pearl again, this time with a white fondant background and a chocolate fondant deer.

Same as above, but reversed, and frankly adding more chocolate to the shortbread is really, really tasty.  I've posted about putting chocolate fondant on cookies before because it is an easy way to get a smooth, delicious covering on cookies.

Same as above, but reversed, and frankly adding more chocolate to the shortbread is really, really tasty. I’ve posted about putting chocolate fondant on cookies before because it is an easy way to get a smooth, delicious chocolate covering on cookies without having to temper or spread actual chocolate.

holly cookie

If you don’t want too much fondant on a cookie, you can go with just a tiny decoration like this. I used a small PME holly leaf plunger cutter and three of the red sugar pearls. Fast, easy, and lovely without overpowering the cookie.

snowflake mini cookie

Simple flat blue fondant background with the smallest PME plunger snowflake cutter in white on top.

I also used the Autumn Carpenter snowflake set to make these large, fondant-covered cookies. In the past I’ve done fancier things with that set but since I was pressed for time and didn’t have all of my tools, I just went for a basic texture mat finish dusted with Disco Dust.

big snowflake cookies

The Disco Dust didn’t show up in the photo but these sparkled beautifully.

I also had a go at making some candies for the sale. First I used Oh Nuts’ Homemade Peppermint Patties Recipe to make some mints. I had trouble making the log roll as per the directions because my mix was too crumbly, so I added about a tablespoon of milk and that helped. The recipe doesn’t specify what kind of cream and I had Double Cream on hand (which is like Heavy Whipping Cream in the US), so it could be that they meant to list a thinner cream.

I also cut mine a lot smaller so they would be pop-in-the-mouth size, so I used more chocolate to coat. I melted some of my new favourite baking chocolate (which I think is not actually baking chocolate and that might be why it’s so delicious), the Tesco’s Finest 72% Swiss Dark Chocolate bar. I’m not sure how much I melted because I softened some and then added more as seeding to try and keep it tempered, and I also knew leftovers could be used to glue together the 3D cookies above.

Since I recently graduated to Proper Cake Decorator status by actually making sugar flowers that aren’t Audrey II, I tried making some mini poinsettias using a set of three graduated five-pointy-petal cutters (they are probably calyx cutters but they were unlabeled) I found in a bargain bin at the NEC show. These are really easy: you just cut out a green and red in the largest size, then a red in each of the smaller sizes, stack them with the petals offset, and put three yellow dots, sprinkles, sugar pearls, or whatever in the middle.

poinsettia mint candies

I wasn’t sure how many candies there’d be when I made the flowers so some were left plain.

The only downside was I bought plain white flower paste with the intention of colouring it as needed, and the only gel colours I had on hand were the Dr. Oetker ones which I must say are terrible. Ugh, those gels are barely above the watery, cheap, grocery store sets of four colours. Despite adding tons of the red to my flower paste, the best I could get was pink. How I miss my Americolor Super Red!

candy detail

Detail of a cut mint candy and the poinsettias behind. This picture isn’t washy…the colours really are that weak.

I also made some easy dark chocolate truffles using this recipe. Once again I used the 72% Swiss bars mentioned above. These are delicious.

sprinkle covered dark chocolate truffles

I bought some cheap holiday sprinkles at Poundland, used the whole thing, and then used a whole jar of multicoloured sprinkles from Sainsbury.

dark chocolate truffles

A close up because yum reasons.

I totally just got sprinkles all over my keyboard nomming one of the spare ones while working on this post. Food blogging is very perilous. Yes. Hang on, I should roll a saving throw against Sugarification…

D20 cookie

Whew, I made my roll thanks to this cutter from Warpzone! I put royal icing on this cookie with the swirly leftovers of the “black” (aka grey since I also miss my Americolor Super Black) and the blue from other cookies.

Anyway, next came the Doctor Who cookies, all in my standard Dark Chocolate Rolled Cookie recipe. Because every Christmas cookie package should have an Angel cookie in it, right? And Adipose cookies are like fat little snowmen, d’awwww. And Dalek cookies are festive because…because…um…BECAUSE DECORATE! COOKIE-ATE! CHOCO-LATE! OM-NOM-NOM-INATE!

Or maybe I just knew the nerds at my husband’s workplace would fork over more charity cash if I geekified the boxes, booyeah!

weeping angel cookies

Don’t blink or someone will eat these out from under you!

adipose cookies

I can’t think of a sweeter way to build your own adipose storage. Well okay I can but that’s a whole different, bigger project.

dalek cookies

Dalek cookies ONNAPLATE! And if these terrible EXTERMINATE jokes are getting to you, perhaps you should just relax.

The Angels are fondant cut with the same cutter as the cookie. These cutters (which all came from Warpzone) are fairly deep which meant I had to roll the fondant much thicker than I usually would in order to get the interior imprint.

The Adipose are covered in royal icing, which turned out to be quite a pain to mix when one is living without a mixer. I had to whip it with a flimsy electric whisk, so that’s why the Angels have fondant: I just didn’t have the energy to mix more royal!

The Daleks are also covered in royal icing. I did the body circles first and put on the gold balls while it was wet. Oh, but let me tell you about the balls! Both the Fourth and Tenth Doctor were right to call standard dragees/sugar pearls “edible ball bearings” because they’re pretty to look at but rather nasty and hard to actually eat. But the gold balls on these Dalek cookies are Gold Crisp Pearls I found at Tesco (they also come in silver) and they’re actually quite lovely! The bottle says they are “milk chocolate covered cereal crispies coated in a gold coloured sugar coating.” So they’re like teensey weensy Nestle Crunch morsels in shiny gold. This means when you eat the cookie and get to them, you don’t have to brace yourself for a tooth-shattering impact, because they pretty much melt in your mouth with the slightest crisp texture and blend in perfectly with the rest of the cookie.

Anyway, once the dots had set I flooded around them with red royal icing and then immediately sprinkled some Red Sugar Shimmer crystals over that. I put some Baby Blue Glimmer crystals over the eye piece and for kicks put a snowflake sprinkle on the suction cup arm.

Dalek cookie detail

I for one bow to our new robocookie overlords.

There was also a Tardis cookie but I seem to have forgotten to take a photo of it. Which might be just as well since I didn’t do a great job of icing it. I’m going to go ahead and blame wibbly wobbly timey wimey reasons.

In the end I prepared nine boxes stuffed full of cookies and candies and took them to my husband’s office, which is more boxes than employees there. I asked for a suggested donation of £10 per box and some folks gave more, so we raised £70 with three boxes left over.

box contents

Each box contained two Doctor Who cookies, a bag of mints and truffles, one other big special cookie, three smaller holiday cookies, and one of the 3D candy filled ornament cookies.

I offered the spare boxes online to anyone who could come pick them up, but unfortunately all of my friends who were keen to donate and get the goodies were too far away. So I gave the spares to neighbours with the Wallace and Gromit stickers on the box so hopefully they’ll learn about the charity and donate separately.

All in all I think £70 (which is about US$109 on today’s exchange rate) isn’t bad for a one-person bake sale at a small office.

Thanks to everyone to donated and to the Wallace and Gromit charity for doing such important work for those who need it most!

Posted in 3D Cookies, Cake Decorating, Cookies, Donated Items, Links, My Recipes, Other People's Recipes, Products, Severe Nerdery | 1 Comment

3D Candy Filled Turkey Cookie

As I’ve mentioned, we’re in the UK for a year, and before we packed up our Austin house to come out here I made a bunch of holiday-themed cookies with my new Nordicware Cookie Cup pan (which I bought of my own accord and have not received any incentives or compensation for) so I’d have things to blog without having to bring all of my cake tools over.

I was pretty rushed during that time so at the last minute I banged out a quick turkey version of the 3D candy filled cookies I’ve been posting about lately. If I’d had more time I would have tried a cookie version of my popular turkey cakes, but I figured it might also be fun to show how you can put together something really basic and fast using cutters.

Note that you should totally customize this to the tools you have on hand, and if you don’t have shaped cutters you can just use a knife to cut the shapes you need. Also, there’s a lot of fondant on this, so if you don’t have a cookie cup or similar sphere pan, wing it (heh) with a cupcake pan. This would be a fun activity to keep the kids busy over Thanksgiving weekend, and they’ll put even more fondant on so you might want to treat it as one of those situations where the fondant really is meant as decoration and not to be fully eaten.

Start with the base cookie directions on the 3D Baseball Caps post and use any candy you like for the filling. Or if you’re sick and twisted like me, you could use the directions on the 3D Choco-Blood Filled Eyeball Cookies post to fill your turkeys with fake blood and then make them scream as you bite them. Muahahahaha.


Anyway, once you’ve got your shaped and sealed cookies ready, brush some diluted corn syrup over the cookie to make it slightly sticky and proceed as follows:

red feathers on cookie

Roll out some red fondant. Using a small leaf cutter (especially if you have one that’s plunger-style with embossing, like this PME rose leaf cutter) or teardrop shape, cut a bunch of “feathers” and arrange them from the bottom sides up as shown in the photo, finishing with a centered one on top. The feathers should overlap enough to hide the cookie, but leave the very bottom of the curve uncovered.

feathers on cookie

Roll out orange fondant and use the same cutter to make more “feathers”. Arrange them as shown, more or less with the points in between the points of the red feathers, and covering a bit more of that bottom curve. Repeat with yellow, but this time place the first one so it covers up any remaining cookie on the bottom edge, then fan out the rest from the centre. No more cookie should be visible after this point.

chocolate head note

Roll out some brown or chocolate fondant for the head and body. A small music note cutter upside down makes an excellent head shape, or else cut a similar shape by hand.

body on cookie

Use an oval or circle cutter with the brown/chocolate fondant for the body.


Roll two elongated teardrop shapes in the brown/chocolate fondant. Bend the tips back as shown to make wings.


Roll two more elongated tear drops, this time in orange. Use a knife to cut two toes, then use the back of the knife to make little indentations up the leg as shown.

turkey cookie

Affix the legs and wings on as shown (or however you want, play around and make your turkeys have different poses!). Cut or shape a small yellow oval and cut one side of it as a beak and put it in place. Put a little red snood over the beak. Make or cut a white circle for the eye with a smaller black circle on top (or use a mini chocolate chip). Cut or shape a red comb for the top of the head. Mine kind of looks like a freaky beret. Oo la la, it’s turkey time!

There you have it: super easy and once you’ve got the base cookies made, it’s super fast with cutters.

Of course if you’re looking to make something fancier, check out my ebook on Cute and Easy Turkey Cakes. Those are great for school/church bake sales, or as a family activity.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in 3D Cookies, Cake Decorating, Cookies, Sick and Twisted | Leave a comment

Vermicelli Hair at Birmingham Cake Show

Okay, going to a cake show where you’re not a volunteer or part of the core management team is a whole different experience than I’m used to! At the Cake International show at the Birmingham NEC – one of the most prestigious and largest cake shows in the world – I got to hang out with friends, see all the competition entries, play with hands-on stuff, and watch demonstrations all without having to worry about catering to anyone else’s schedule! I even had Peo with me, and we had three great, fun-filled days of cake and chocolate delight.

We also both entered the competition. That was tricky given that most of my tools are still back in Austin, not to mention the whole thing where Robin is 17 months old, we have a tiny kitchen, and I had to rent a car to drive a bit over two hours to Birmingham. On the wrong side of the road for the first time. In the rain. In the dark. Yeah.

This meant I had to do something fairly quick, small, and very stable for maximum portability. Luckily this show has a category called “Small Decorative Exhibit” which is akin to the Austin show’s “Special Techniques Not on a Cake”, only removing the “special” part which I’ve wanted gone for some time since the Austin judges tend to pick flowers to win and flowers – while lovely and indicative of high skill – are about the most standard thing you can do in cake decorating.

So I was happy to enter a “Small Decorative Exhibit” of an Ice Queen, not at all like Elsa, nor like the oversexualized images you’ll find if you Google image search that moniker, but instead someone who is commanding the powers of winter and looks like she might hurt you if you get in her way.

Thus I made this:


She wasn’t perfect and some of my intended experiments failed early, but overall I’m pretty happy with her. The judges were as well, enough to get me a Bronze Medal:

Bronze Medal Certificate

I got a lot of wowed congratulations for this…apparently it’s not common to get a medal at all on your first Birmingham competition!

In talking to one of the judges, I agreed with every assessment that lost me points and pretty much every one boils down to me not having enough time or my full array of tools: the whole board should have been covered, there should have been more to the scene, her feet are a bit clunky, her face is weirdly pudgy and a bit bug-eyed, and pretty much you can tell by looking at it that I know what I’m doing but I didn’t put enough time into it.

The base construction was white fondant rolled over the board and hand sculpted to give it a windblown flow. I made a wire armature using the same techniques described in my Dynamic Figure Modelling ebook, except without a cake or structure to anchor them I fed the bottoms down through the board and affixed them firmly there with packing tape and a glue gun.

Then I made indentations by the wires to make it appear that the snow had moved under her feet, and to echo this I made little footprints at the right pace behind her as if she’d been walking but now has lunged forward with the effort of conjuring her snow and ice swirl.


I made a swirling wire and similarly anchored it down through the board and then again tightly through her forward hand. I covered the wire in twists of very wet fondant and let it dry.

Then I built up her body just like I do in the dynamic figures book, this time fashioning a bodice out of layered snowflakes cut with the smallest in the PME set of snowflake plunger cutters.

figure in progress

I put a rough white covering over her midsection first and then built up layer after layer of the snowflakes.

When I got to her face, I used very wet white fondant to sculpt the tiniest little white eyelashes and lipstick. I’m pretty happy with how those turned out.

detail of figure's head

Her face came out chunkier than I intended, but I’m still happy with the eyelashes and lips.

The icy parts of the whipped up snow swirl as well as the clear parts of her dress are all thin gelatin cast on various texture mats, including a hexagonal one (and then cut into strips), a floral lace one (spread so thin that it left airy gaps in the lace), and ones that came with the Autumn Carpenter snowflake cookie set. I made some thicker than others, some tinted slightly blue (which goes slightly green with yellowish gelatin), some with rainbow disco dust and some plain. To shape the various cutouts as needed, I warmed them with a stick lighter and affixed them with piping gel, giving at least 24 hours of drying time between layers. I also painted on drips of piping gel as icicles in various places.

For the bits blowing out of her hand, I cut ragged triangles out of the thinnest cutoff bits from other elements and stuck them on with piping gel, flaring them as necessary to create a blown spread.

gelatin shapes

Closeup of the stuff being blown out of her hand. It has disco dust in it which sparkles very nicely under the right sort of lights, but is hard to photograph.

As for my intended experiments, part of why I wanted to do this figure was because I wanted to try new methodologies with hair for figures. Experienced modellers know that you should never, ever do the knife-hack-job method for hair that beginners inevitably gravitate towards. On a small scale, you can’t ever get it fine enough and it never looks good. What you want to do is suggest locks with intentional, designed waves, sculpted gently with a narrow but blunt tool.

But I wanted to try something closer to the fine texture of actual hair while sticking within the realm of edible sculpture. My first thought – as is often the case with me – was to try gelatin, especially since it’s pretty much the same stuff as actual hair (gross, I know, but that’s the truth of it). I wondered if I could do “spun gelatin” in the same way that one spins sugar, which is where you take a whisk or fork and dip it into boiled sugar and then whip it back and forth to create long, thin strings.

So I tried…and nope.

gelatin globs

The gelatin doesn’t have the stretch of sugar, so while you can get a few strings, mostly you get globs.

I mean sure, you can get some strings that way, but to get enough for a full head of hair – even for a small figure – would take ridiculous amounts of time. It is nice in that it stays flexible for a long time so if you did take the time, you could have an actually fuzzy, edible head of hair that flutters in a breeze, but the tedium isn’t worth it.

Then I wondered about doing like I’d done for raindrops for the Singin’ in the Rain piece (which I only just realized I still haven’t posted, whoops…I’ll get to it soon!) and tried dribbling the gelatin on my little rolling pin taped into place over a tub. I don’t have my long nylon pin here, and it became apparent quickly that this would also take forever:

gelatin dribbled over rolling pin

This does make strings that you can snip off, but only a few per go, so it’s really tedious.

Clearly gelatin alone wasn’t working. I pondered about adding some stretchy sugar into the mix, and then realized that gelatin plus sugar equals marshmallows. I’ve been meaning to make my own marshmallows ever since I saw Alton Brown do it on Good Eats years ago, but when I looked up his recipe I realized I couldn’t do it for this project on account of having no stand mixer (or even a hand mixer) here in the Cambridge kitchen. So then I found this video and went with its linked recipe (adjusted for UK ingredients). Once I had the marshmallow goo, I tried spinning it like sugar.


spun marshmallow

I got more threads, but they all squooshed out thick and flat.

broken marshmallow string

Also, very fragile and self-sticking, making it a very bad choice for hair strands on a figure.

marshmallow strings

This was the thinnest I got it, spun out on corn starch on a nonstick mat. But these were sticky and super fragile. Peo ended up eating a lot of them and declared them tasty, but they didn’t suit my project.

I even tried pulling the marshmallow goop between two forks, hoping that’d produce strings, but it pretty much just made a mess.

Then I started Googling around for variations on edible hair, and came along this video and recipe for how to make Dragon’s Beard Candy. It was actually fun to make and while it took a lot of upper arm strength to pull, was otherwise relatively easy. It produced a really nice result:

thin candy strands

Some of the Dragon’s Beard Candy held in a wine glass for testing. This is minutes after it was made. It looks awesome!

If you wanted candy hair for a figure that was being served immediately, this stuff would totally work. It looks great, Peo said she loved the taste, you can add colour in the early stages of the recipe to tint it as required, and it doesn’t require any special ingredients or tools.

Unfortunately, this is how it looked a mere four and a half hours later (and it wasn’t rainy or particularly humid):

melting candy

It’s already melting less than five hours later. There’s no way this would last for a three-day competition.

And here it is at two days:

completely melted hair candy

Heh. Yeah. That’s not going to work.

I began to despair. I really wanted my figure to have hair blowing in the wind, and I needed it to be stronger than I knew I could get with fondant, gumpaste, or royal icing.

Then I remembered that I’d seen vermicelli (aka angel hair pasta which ought to be a real giveaway to its potential) used to make itty bitty antennae for ladybugs on cakes before, so I threw some Sun Shun Fuk Amoy Flour Vermicelli into my next Tesco delivery order (we don’t have a car while we’re here so it’s non-trivial for me to acquire ingredients or even do basic shopping). I chose it because most of the vermicellis listed were more yellow and in tight little nests, and to save time I was hoping to not have to boil the noodles.

Happily, this particular brand came in wide waves that I was able to break off as flowing, curving locks without having to boil at all.


It’s breakable but does bend a bit before breaking, making it reasonably resilient for travel.

I tinted some fondant with the tiniest amount of yellow colouring until it matched the natural colour of the pasta, and put that on her head in very softened, wet lumps. Then I pressed the curved waves of raw pasta in, flaring out to one side, building them a bit at a time until I got the look I wanted. Between each batch, I used a damp, small brush to literally paint the fondant up and around the pasta, securing it into place without making it look lumpy, sometimes adding tiny amounts where needed.

figure from above

Figure from above where you can see how the waves of pasta are embedded into fondant on her head.

I used tweezers to stick smaller pieces on the more windblown side of her head (keeping in mind that she’s partly creating the wind and blowing the snow forward and to her left).

In the end it all came together fairly well, if not how I originally envisioned. And I’ve demonstrated that vermicelli totally works as edible hair!



ice swirl

Detail of the swirl, built up with many layers of fondant, gelatin shapes, and piping gel.

footprints in snow

Detail of the footprints. I dusted the entire snow area with pearl dust to help highlight indentations.

gelatin ice dress

Detail of the skirt and cape, all of which are gelatin cast in the same way as one makes gelatin bows, but then softened with heat to shape into place and glued on with piping gel. This took about a week to get all of the layers on, since each layer was heavy on the previous, so if the piping gel hadn’t hardened the whole thing would slide off. Even taking days, I had to set the whole thing with a heavy pot nearby so its handle pushed the dress against her body while the final drying took place.

figure placed on show table

At the show.

gelatin in light

Closeup of the faux ice sparkling in the show lights.

Peo’s entry was in the category for kids under 12 years old. They had to make a birthday cake with an inscription, so Peo chose to make a chocolate-fondant covered cake (using a dummy, which was allowed for this competition) with Pokemon characters and inscribe it to her friend George. I showed her how to roll out the fondant and get it on the cake, but she did the actual work.

When she hit on the idea of doing Pokemon balls as a border, I said that was a great way to hide the bottom edge. She figured out all on her own to cut red and white balls in half with a black bit in between. I told her she’d be sick of making them by the end but that doing that kind of repetition happens a lot in art, so she’d better get used to it if she wants to go forward in creative spaces.

Pokemon cake

Peo’s Pokemon cake for her friend George back in Austin, whom she misses very much!

For the figures, I printed off sheets showing the various characters she wanted to do and we talked about how to break each down into parts for sculpting.

pokemon cake

Peo’s cake at the show, showing the various characters she modelled.

This was by far her best cake, the one she put the most thought and – most importantly – follow-through into. Her conversation with a judge was very encouraging and she got some tips on how to improve her figure modelling going forward. But she did get a Certificate of Merit, and she herself acknowledged that the medal-winning cakes in her category had cleaner lines and looked even more planned out than hers.

certificate of merit

Peo was happy with this award and is inspired to try even harder for bigger awards in the future.

Once we got our cakes placed, we were able to relax and enjoy three whole days of a cake show! Here are our favourite highlights from all that we saw and did.


On Friday, we walked around to look at some of the non-competition displays since the competition displays were roped off for judging. We also made some fun stuff and watched some demos, learning about chocolate and lettering.

When some of the competition tables opened for viewing we had a look and took some photos, but I didn’t realize name cards would be out the next day, so I don’t know the baker name for all of the photos. As I see them appear on social media or on the official photo list, I’ll update to give credit where I can.

Avatar cake front

This lifesize Na’vi Princess Neytiri by Emma Jayne Cakes was a centrepiece for the show.

Avatar cake side

According to this article it’s mostly sculpted from crisp rice treats.

rainbow cupcake dress

Rainbow Cupcake Dress by Cake Masters Magazine

blue edible lace

Molded edible lace on the bodice of the Rainbow Cupcake Dress.

Peo at dress

Peo held up by our good friend Chip Myers to pose behind the Rainbow Cupcake Dress.

Peo making cupcake.

Peo making her contribution to the second Rainbow Cupcake Dress at the Cake Masters Magazine booth.

Peo pointing

Peo pointing to her cupcake. This was early in the show so the stand filled in later.

Peo's cupcake

Peo’s cupcake. She chose red for her flowers and butterfly. Of course she chose red and if you know anything about her (ahemcoughgryffindor) you’ll know why.


I finally graduated Cake Decorating 101 and made an actual flower (as opposed to a man eating plant, which is as close as I ever got before). I did this at one of the hands-on tables.

Peo's vampire stuff

While I was making my flower, Peo made some stuff with the University College Birmingham folks at the next table. I think they were supposed to be making ducks but somehow Peo started making vampire animals instead, and then they showed her how to make vampire teeth.

Christmas cupcakes

Easy Christmas cupcakes demo by Cake Angels. The trees are ice cream cones with the wide round brims cut off. The pink and yellow flower is made from mini marshmallows snipped on the diagonal and the sticky exposed inside dipped in sanding sugar. The rest is basic buttercream piping and dragees/candies.

Creation of Adam in sprinkles

Also by Cake Angels, this huge version of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” rendered in sugar and sprinkles.

Sprinkles for painting

Detail of the above to show the sprinkles and sugar used.

sprinkles for painting

Another detail shot.


Bunnies hiding in tree stumps, by Peo (left) and me (right) at the Northwest Sugarcrafters hands-on demo table. Peo actually followed the instructions, but I made my trunk more trunk-like.

Peo with Danielle Gotheridge

Peo on stage at the Author’s Kitchen with Danielle Gotheridge after her demo on lettering techniques. Peo says she learned a lot and if she’d known some of those tips before making her entry piece, she’d have tried Danielle’s trick of using a thin fondant rope to write in script for George’s cake above. She’s keen to work on lettering design on future cakes.

sugarpaste snowman

The Birmingham British Sugarcraft Guild had this hands-on demo table to make snowmen. When the nice lady doing the demo suggested putting mustaches on, I said you could even make them curly-ended. She said the sugarpaste wouldn’t go that thin. So I did it, because if there’s one way to get me to do something in my creative arts spaces, it’s to tell me it can’t be done. Then I stuck a beret on him and called him Monsieur French Snowman. Ho ho ho.

Peo's snowman

Peo’s snowman wore all three demonstrated hats and had legs with socks. Seems legit.

Then we started working our way through the first competition cakes.

Brave witch's cottage

The witch’s cottage from Brave. I took this before the names were out so I don’t know who made it. I bet it won an award so I’ll check the official listings once photos are up. Update: the baker is Lynsey Wilton-Eddleston.

Mama bear

Mama Bear from the above Brave cake.

Brother bear cub from the Brave cake above.

Brother bear cub from the Brave cake above.

Witch detail from the Brave cake above.

Witch detail from the Brave cake above.

Operation cake

This Operation cake had fabulous detail but may not have done well since it was in the sculpted category and other than the little holes for the pieces, it’s not very sculpted. Baker unknown, but if it does appear on the awards page I’ll cite it. The washy colours are my camera’s fault; the real-life version was very well done.

dog cake

There were several dog cakes, and Peo liked this one after I pointed out that the dog was making himself sick eating candy. I think Peo could relate. Also: decorative drool is funny. Also also: I’d be sick on licorice allsorts as well since they’re nasty candies old ladies keep around to punish their grandchildren with, based on my experience! Baker unknown.

river boat cake

Peo and I both liked this since we so many of these boats on the Cam here in Cambridge. Baker unknown.

hedgehog cake

Hedgehog sculpted cake by Zahir Rathod whom I met because he was staying with his family in the same hotel as Peo and I. Fabulous detail on this one, and it was one of our favourites even before we met Zahir!

owl cake

Here is Zahir’s owl cake. It’s amazing.

Wreck it Ralph cake

A Wreck it Ralph cake in the sculpted category. Baker unknown, will update if it comes up on the winner list.

back of Wreck it Ralph cake

The back of the Wreck it Ralph cake. I love it when folks pay proper attention to the back!

tiger cub cake

This stunningly detailed tiger cub cake won first place in the sculpted category. It is by Vicki Smith.

goblin baker cake

One of Peo’s favourite cakes at the show. Baker unknown.

faux food cake

This is a pretty good faux food cake in general, but what I really loved about it is in the next detail shot. Baker unknown.

faux egg

Check out the faux raw egg! I’m not sure how they did this…possibly with liquid glucose (aka glucose syrup), possibly with gelatin or really good piping gel. If I find the baker on social media I intend to ask!

mini kitchen

This delightful miniature kitchen was right beside my piece. Baker unknown but I’m pretty sure it placed so I’ll check the photo listings when they’re up. Check out the insane level of mini details!

mini cake scene

Another great miniature scene in my category, which required the entire thing to fit in a 12″ box, so that gives you an idea of the teeny tiny scale on this. Will list a baker as soon as I can find out.

mini patio scene

Another great mini scene, this one with so many details that a photo doesn’t really capture it! Baker unknown.

Snow White scene

An exquisitely rendered scene from Snow White. I’m pretty sure this won a medal so I’ll list the baker once the official photos are up.

Snow White witch

The lighting wasn’t good for my camera but trust me, this figure was amazing!

steampunk dragon and samurai

This was Peo’s favourite in my category and with good reason: it has amazing detail on a steampunk dragon, it has well-captured motion in the screaming Samurai, and the whole thing is an excellent presentation scene. By Dirk Luchtmeijer and it won Gold plus 1st Place in the division.

steampunk dragon

Detail from piece above.

fairy tale Christmas

A very nicely done Christmas scene incorporating fairy tale characters. Baker unknown.

A steampunk skull and map, very nicely done.  Baker unknown.

A steampunk skull and map, very nicely done. Baker unknown.

figure of a lady

A lovely figure from Brazil in the International category. Baker unknown.

stringwork cake

This cake is impressive enough at first glance with its upwards stringwork and bridges out to the points of the trees. But then check out that cross stitch piece…

cross stitch royal icing

See how intricate this is? But wait it gets better…

floating stringwork

That cross stitch rendered in royal icing is floating on top of strings of royal icing. This super-delicate work is made by first making the top piece and letting it dry, then putting it into place on supports (often tiny bits of foam) while the support strings are mostly piped into place and also allowed to dry. Then the foam supports are removed and the last few strings are put into place. It’s amazing, fragile, and indicative of high skill. Baker unknown but I’m sure this got an award so I’ll list when I can.

Christmas church cake

I liked this one primarily for the church which reminded me of half of Cambridge. Baker unknown.

Christmas stringwork

This is a very nice cake overall, but I took its photo mainly for its insanely advanced stringwork.

Christmas stringwork

If your jaw isn’t on the floor then you’re not a decorator, because this is amazing stuff. And remember, they had to transport it to the venue! Baker unknown.

Christmas table cake

Table cakes are fairly common because the tablecloth effect is relatively easy and very effective, but this one is particularly well done. It’s clean, detailed, and lovely. Baker unknown.

Christmas elves

Excellent figure work here with a lot of motion and characterizations going on in a small amount of space. By Valentina Terzieva.

sledding cake

Another superb example of dynamic figures, all doing things even in a small space. Baker unknown.

Mary Poppins cupcakes

Mary Poppins cupcakes with tons of detail and a wonderful display. Baker unknown.

5th of November cupcakes

Bonfire Night cupcakes. Not particularly fancy, but very effective in their design. Peo and I both really liked these and Peo is keen to try some if we stay in the UK and get to have another Bonfire Night ourselves.

cloisonne cupcake

A gorgeous effect here with some cloisonne cupcakes. Baker unknown.

zombie bear cupcakes

Awww, look, teddy bear cupcakes! Except…wait a minute…THOSE ARE ZOMBIE TEDDY BEARS. OMG Peo and I loved this display to death. Note the cut cupcake: that was the judges checking that there were no wires in the cake and that it was real cake. A lot of cakes at NEC are cut like this after judging. A lot also get disqualified. Baker unknown.

zombie bears

Detail from the cupcakes display above. So much wrong. So much win.

zombie bears

And then there was this one non-zombified bear in the corner, terrified. A detail element like that sells the whole story. Bravo! Also: heh heh heh…

Christmas cupcakes

Wonderful figure work on these cupcakes, especially the ones that take most of the design off of the cupcake in a clever way by making the cupcake tops pulled sacks. Baker unknown.

Swedish Chef

Peo and I both really liked this Swedish Chef cake. It won a prize so I’ll be able to get the baker name from the photos once they’re up.


On Saturday we took the time to go through more of the big displays outside of the competition.


In the Grotto by Shugarush. This abacus is teeny weeny!

I remember this toy!

In the Grotto by Shugarush. I remember this toy!


In the Grotto by Shugarush.

reindeer pops

In the Grotto by Shugarush. Teeny weeny cakepops!


Peo’s first entry in the Grotto’s cookie contest for kids.


Peo’s second entry in the Grotto’s cookie contest for kids.


My cookie, but obviously not in the kids’ contest. I was just playing around while waiting for Peo. It was a great show in terms of being able to play hands-on all over the place.

This large wall was covered with animatronic Fraggle Rock characters by Cake Frame, at least some parts of which are rendered in edible media. Of course Peo had her own Fraggle Rock cake, which is actually what indirectly got me involved in cake shows in the first place since I joined Capital Confectioners in 2008 hoping someone could help me make Doozer sticks for that cake, and then I found out they had a cake show and the rest is history!






On Sunday morning we went to the one paid demo I’d signed us up for, and then we looked at the rest of the competition cakes.

guitar cake

I saw this coming in on Friday morning and was impressed. So were the judges: this won Gold and 1st place in its class. The details are amazing and it looks like real leather. By Katerina Schneider.

wedding cake

Peo was very annoyed that this huge cake by Adela Joann Calvo only got a Bronze. She loved it.


split wedding cake

A fun take on the split wedding cake idea, by Emma Roberts.

tile wedding cake

A really nice pastel rainbow tile effect. I know it won Gold but I can’t read the name on my photo so I’ll have to wait for the official photos to name the baker.

wedgewood cake

I love love love this style. This is by Elizabeth Fearnley and won Silver.

knitting wedding cake

This was one of my favourite cakes at the show. It is a knitting wedding cake. How adorable is that? And it looks knitted all over. It’s by Emma Matthews and won a well-deserved Gold.

knit wedding cake detail

Look at this topper! Look at how the knit stitches wrap around the cake! This is gorgeous and adorable!

mini dragon

This was my favourite entry in my category. It’s a teeny tiny dragon with insane levels of detail, down to the itty bitty scales. It’s by Helen Atkins who won Gold for it.


Nemo cake

This wonderful Nemo cake by Beata Khoo was one of Peo’s favourites from the show. It has wonderful design and superb details. It won a Gold and 3rd Place in its category.


mini mice wedding

A sweet little mouse wedding scene by Marie-Claire Harper. It won Gold.


Wallace and Gromit garden cake

Peo and I spent a good long time looking at all of the Wallace and Gromit details on this wonderful piece. Unfortunately I seem to have not taken a photo with the baker’s name so I’ll try to find out later.




An amazing and audio-featured Maleficent cake by Vicki Smith.

Joker cake

Peo was a bit spooked by the amazing detail of this Joker cake by Laura Miller.


Excellent Aladdin cake by Sofia Raposo.

lifesize Katniss

A lifesize Katniss from the Hunger Games by Lara Clarke. It won Gold, of course!


The photo with the cake, showing that it is real cake inside.

The photo with the cake, showing that it is real cake inside.


Lifesize Tyrion Lannister cake by Lara Clarke.

inside Tyrion

A Lannister always proves he’s made of real cake.


A glorious Phoenix by Jennifer Whitby. It won Silver.

swing cake

This isn’t just a cake display of a girl on a swing. It also has fabulous, amazing detail all over, and more importantly the swing is angled in mid-swing. I explained to Peo how much harder that is from a technical standpoint, and how much more motion it gives to the whole piece. Amazing work by Rhu Strand.


Amazing swordsman by Denise Robbins, and it won a Silver.

older ladies

Also by Denise Robbins, some wonderfully sassy older ladies.

I got to meet lots of really great folks at the show, including some of my idols like Carol Deacon! My first ever fondant work was done out of one of Carol’s books, so it was an honour to tell her how much she’d changed the course of my life.


People kept giving stuff to Peo all through the show. On Saturday when Peo had to miss part of one of the British Sugarcraft Guild demos because we had to queue so long for the washroom, she told the lady she’d missed part so the lady let her come back at the end of the day to take the demo piece home. On Sunday when we were near their booth again for another demo, a different lady said they all remembered her high interest and wanted her to have yet another display. They were all super nice!

Also on Saturday, Michelle Galpern – mom and support staff to the mega-talented Sidney Galpern – gave Peo an isomalt owl with a little LED inside. Peo played with it for hours until it broke and she still has the pieces on our dining room table right now.

At various booths, people gave her extra samples of fondant, chocolate, and other stuff. I’m telling you, this kid leads a charmed life!

And back to Sunday, check out the huge chocolate sculpture Peo won:

chocolate structure with Alistair Birt

Peo on the Chocolate Experience Stage with Alistair Birt. Birt demonstrated how to make the chocolate flower on the 100% chocolate tower shown here. Peo won the whole assembly by asking the most interesting question. She asked were we could get some cocoa butter to try what we’d seen Birt do, and also if a beginner could do this technique. Birt said everyone has to start somewhere!

On Sunday they opened up the tables for the National Cupcake Week Finalists. None of these were marked with names so I can’t post credit. But Peo and I loved them!










We also found time to do some shopping, mostly on Sunday. Here’s most of what we bought (with a few things not shown because they’re secret Christmas gifts!)


Some mini pans so I can play at cake while I’m here without committing to large projects, a rolling mat because mine is back in Austin and we don’t have good surfaces in this kitchen, some basic tools I’m missing, some new tools to try, Lorraine McKay’s new book, and some cocoa butter plus dust colours so I can play with making my own chocolate transfer sheets.

All in all, it was a blast and I’m seriously considering going to the Manchester show. I’ve inevitably left things out of this post, but I’ve been culling photos and writing things up for two days straight so please forgive any omissions or typos. Remember: I have a 17 month old.

But if you’ve got any suggestions or requests for experimental techniques you think I should try for Manchester, let me know in the comments!

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