Housewarming Cake

My brother and his lovely girlfriend moved in together at the beginning of December. Having been busy over the holidays, they were finally able to throw a housewarming party on Saturday to show off their new digs. Although I was asked to bring an appetizer (I made my favourite Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip), I couldn’t let the occasion pass without baking something special!

I decided to experiment with adjusting a vanilla cake recipe that I love to make a chocolate cake. The results were pretty good – it was described by one party-goer as “kind of half brownie but fully delicious” – but I would really like to experiment a bit more to get it a touch more fluffy. I will post my recipe and results as soon as I hit the jackpot, promise!

I baked my cake into two 8 inch square pans. After letting them cool, I cut one of them in half diagonally to make two triangles. I placed one of the triangles at the top to make the roof and fashioned a chimney out of part of the other one (the remainder of which I have been snacking on all week…oops).

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Their house literally looks nothing like this…but this is cuter than a replica would have been.

As I made the cake the evening before the party, I decided to add a quick crumb coat to keep the moisture in and because I had the time. I made a batch of my favourite Wilton buttercream icing (it is to die for) and used it as “glue” to keep my pieces together. Additionally, I added a very thin layer to the top of the cake.

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For those who haven’t used/heard of a crumb coat before, the application of a thin layer of icing acts as a primer to ensure that your final, decorative icing remains free of crumbs. The coat also allows you to smooth out any dips or valleys in the top of the cake that may occur when transferring out of the baking dish or for any mishaps that may happen on the way to the final decoration. Once you have added a thin layer, allow it to dry completely. Once it is dry, continue decorating as normal and you will likely notice a difference! 

The next day, I decided that I wanted to make the house brown and the easiest way to do so was to make the icing chocolate. I added about 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder to the icing that I had made the night before and found it was a delicate chocolate flavour and the perfect colour. I also separated some out and added some black icing dye to use as a roof.  I finished by adding some details such as a door and windows. As you can tell, I need to work on my lettering skills, but that is an issue for another day.

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Overall, I was very pleased with the result and I can’t wait until someone else I know buys a house!

Maybe Martha’s notes

Because you lose 1/4 of the cake in cutting the roof, I was worried that the cake wouldn’t feed everyone there. As there was a lot of food and a few other desserts, it ended up being more than enough, but if you are concerned about portions I would recommend making 1 1/2 times the recipe you are choosing to use. You can then create a double decker cake in the same fashion with no leftover (keep in mind you wouldn’t be able to make the “chimney”). Alternatively, make a double recipe and make a few cupcakes to use as bushes for the front of the house!

Happy baking!

DIY Baby Mobile

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my sister recently had a little boy – the first grandchild/niece/nephew in the family! It has been an exciting year and a bit watching her pregnancy and getting to meet my favourite person in the whole world. Nephew J is 7 months old now and absolutely the light of everyone’s lives.

My sister and her husband didn’t find out the gender of the baby before birth, so when it came time to make something personal for her baby shower, I had a hard time choosing what to do. I settled on making a baby mobile with bright colours which could be swapped out if necessary/desired.

In my many hours looking on Pinterest and Google for ideas, I stumbled on a picture of felt balls, which I felt could suit my needs. They look like this:

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They are extremely simple to make (about 2 hours for the whole mobile craft) and look gorgeous!

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You’ll need:

– 10 sheets of felt (2 each of five colours), 9 x 12 inches
– Two objects which can trace a circle onto your felt
– Twine
– Needle and thread
– Embroidery hoop – I used one that was 14 inches

How to:

1) Trace and cut nine circles per size for each colour – I used cups which were 2.5 inches and 3 1/8 inches in diameter and found that this fit perfectly on the felt I purchased. If you would like to increase the size of the felt balls, you will likely need to purchase more felt.

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2) Thread and knot your needle

3) Fold two circles in half, and then in half again

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4) Place one folded “petal” on each side of another one of your felt circles and put a few stitches in the corner of the petal/middle of the circle

5) Repeat until all 8 petals have been placed on the ninth circle

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6) Fluff the felt outwards in order to form the desired shape

7) Repeat with all ten felt balls

8) Cut 5 pieces of the desired length of twine for your mobile

9) Tie knots at the bottom of the twine and in the spot where you would like your second ball to be placed

10) Place the knots in the centre of each ball and stitch around it to secure

11) Tie four of the five strands of twine evenly to the embroidery circle – ensure that it balances!

12) Cut two more pieces of twine and tie them so that they form a perfect cross – hang the final set of felt balls where they intersect in the middle

13) Cut one more piece of twine and tie it overhead as a “hanger”. Use your discretion for the length of this piece and ensure it balances prior to knotting them to the embroidery circle.

14) Voila! You’re done!

Maybe Martha’s notes

– If you would like to make these felt balls for other purposes (I’m making a garland for an upcoming party!), you can speed up the process by using hot glue to attach the petals. I am quicker with a needle and thread, so have a feeling I will stick with that but I know there are a number of hot glue gun whizzes!

– In addition to preferring needle and thread, I felt it was important to sew the ones that I made as they are going over baby’s crib. I have a lot more faith in  numerous stitches than I do in the glue (though I’m sure both would be fine).

– My sister loved the mobile, but once they had the boy and had decorated the nursery, she asked if I could change the colours of the felt balls and also the embroidery circle. They have all mahogany in the baby’s room, so I lightly sanded the embroidery circle and stained it over two days. This was very easy to do and makes the craft even more versatile as it can really go into any room!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and have a very happy week 🙂