Thursday, March 29, 2012

Carousel Cake (Happy 4th Birthday, Lilah!)

My baby turned 4 yesterday. Four years old. I feel like I blinked and the time went by so fast. It's funny how well I can still remember the early morning that she was born. It's also funny how I can remember things like that so vividly and not remember a thing that happened yesterday.

Must be the children.

We went a few rounds about what kind of cake she would have this year. I love to do fun cakes that make my kids go "wow, you're the best mom EVER!" (Hey, a mom will take her compliments how ever they come!) Plus, I like a challenge. So this year she waffled back and forth between Strawberry Shortcake and a Pony cake. Finally, on March 1st, I had her choose one, no changing her mind. We compromised on a carousel cake, pink with ponies, chocolate (of course) and "BIG, mommy!" Okay, princess....

And then I took a few liberties, but then, I am the designer, right?  I knew I was going to make 3 layers of cake, so I thought it would be fun to make them "neapolitan" as in the ice cream; with a white, chocolate, and strawberry layer.  So I made the 2 largest layers on the bottom chocolate, the center pieces strawberry, and the "tent" on top white.  I like to bake all the cake a day in advance and refrigerate it so it's easier to frost.

Ah, the frosting....yes, I had some issues with the frosting. I tried a different recipe than I usually use and it simply did not thicken the way I expected.  (Needless to say, I will be trying a different one for my son's birthday in September and if anyone has a great recipe, I'd love it if you'd share it with me!)  But at 10 o'clock at night, you must be willing to either start from scratch, or improvise.

I chose to improvise.

So, I thickened it up as best I could and went for it.  First, I frosted the 2 chocolate layers on the bottom.

Next, I took 9" tall plastic pillars and wrapped strips of fruit roll-ups around them to give them a candy stripe look.

Now, it was my intention to attach them to a base plate and put the plate on top of the bottom layers of the cake, but the 12" plate was too big and the 9" plate was too small. 

But that's okay, we are improvising, right? 

So instead I took the pillars and sunk them directly into the cake.

Which actually made everything sturdier.  Next, I added the strawberry cakes to the center.

And using some dowel in the center and some bamboo skewers on the sides, I anchored it to the lower layers. (It's really easy to see the frosting issue in this photo, make sure you use better frosting than I did so it doesn't sag.) 

I decided to do the top as a totally separate piece, so I took my 2 layers of white cake, put them on their own cake board and frosted them.

Then (to help cover up the unfortunate frosting) I decorated the top with some Twizzlers (in Easter colors) and some candy dots. On the top I added some decorative balloons.

Then I added the horses, which are baked sugar cookies and decorated separately using icing pens. I added some light purple icing and embellished with tiny M&M's on the lower layers, then I put the top on the cake.

Now I wasn't very confident that if I tried attaching the top to the base (especially with this frosting) that I would be able to carry it out to the porch when the time came, so I left them in two pieces and set the top on the pillars when it was time to sing "Happy Birthday".  

But the birthday girl didn't care, she was just so happy to have a pink birthday cake with horsies.

Check out that crazy smile!

Thanks to all the friends and family (near and far) that helped make Lilah's 4th birthday so special!

We love you all!!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Knitting Needle Roll Up

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine told me about a great sale on knitting supplies. I have been knitting quite a bit lately and even though I have a good amount of needles already, can you ever really have enough of anything when it comes to craft supplies? And I'd never been to this particular store, so off I went. And it was the sale to end all sales on knitting needles! I kid you not. Now, I really only knit with circular and double pointed needles, and there were a ton of straight needles, but I managed to come home with 7 sets of circular needles and 4 sets of DPN's and a 4 pack of various size yarn needles all for under $9!


So, I took my needles home, spread them all out on my ironing board and drooled for a day or so envisioning all the wonderful things I would be able to knit with my new needles. I was giddy. But after a few days, I wanted to use the ironing board and it hits me, I have no place to put these needles. Come to think of it, almost all of my loose needles are just floating around in my various knitting bags. Well, that's no good. There's only one thing to do in a case like this, make some kind of holder for them.

Now, I knew I wanted a wrap style holder that had pockets for the needles to slip into that could be rolled up and put in any knitting bag. And I had some very funky and fun fabric in mind for the project. I didn't have a lot of the fabric, so I just trimmed off the uneven edges and used most of the full length. And since it was a fairly lightweight cotton, I added some light fusible interfacing to the back side.

Then I made a mistake. I wanted to fold up the lower half of the fabric to make the pocket, but for some reason I cut off the lower 6 inches. I know, what was I thinking?? And no sooner did the scissors make their final "snip" than I realized what I'd done. ARRGGGGHHH! Then I realized, of course I can always sew it back together. But, I wanted to make it look good (not like the accident it really was) so I sandwiched a strip of pink bias between the 2 pieces of cut fabric and sewed it all back together. And now, it's a lovely detail instead of an "oops".

(Now, when you all see this, you have to pretend that you don't know about the mistake.)

Next, I took some plain green cotton fabric and flat lined it to the other side. And then I had this, one side patterned, the other plain.

Then I sewed some blue fabric cut on the bias all the way around the outside to finish off the edge.

Next, I folded the bottom edge about 2/3 of the way up, so that I had a pocket. Then after pressing that fold in lightly, I pinched the fabric together along the folded edge to make a the pocket a little deeper. Like so:

Then I pressed that seam into place really well and pinned the edges. Then I measured out the widths of my pockets and stitched through all the layers of fabric to create them. I also stitched up the sides at this point.

Then, I added an elastic loop to one outside edge.

And then put all my needles into their pockets, rolled it up and marked a spot for a large button. Isn't that a really cool button? I took the needles back out and sewed the button in place.

Once that was done, I put all my needles back into the pockets and admired my work.

This project took about an hour from beginning to end and cost me nothing since the only fabric I used was from my stash. I love this crazy fabric! I'm glad to have found a great use for it. And now I will be able to find my knitting needles when I want to use them. And with the extra little fold in the pockets, there will be room to add more!

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