Monday, 13 June 2011

Creative Cartography

Cartography... it's the sort of word you know if you're a Geography teacher, or if you've had the question in a pub quiz. Cartography = maps, and I wasn't surprised when my sister (who is a Geography teacher) was asked by the Art teacher at her school if she had old maps that her kids could cut up for a project. Maps are pretty, they're also personal with locations holding memories, and I'm noticing them being used more and more for cards etc.
So, where am I going with this... I wanted to make Kellie a wedding card that was a bit different and I thought I'd bring in this map idea. The idea would mean acquiring a map of where she's from and where her now husband hails from. This, I quickly discovered would mean £18 if purchasing Ordnance Surveys; that's one expensive card! Instead, I had to compromise by using google images to find the appropriate map sections and then printed them off my computer.
Then, I nicked an idea I saw in a Clifton village gallery and found a silhouette for a man and woman by having a search around the net. I printed the silhouette outline onto the samples of maps and cut them out. The first silhouette I started cutting out was really fiddly and it had too much detail, which took away from the
detail from the map. I kept it simple and chose "toilet door style" icons.
Then I stuck them onto card and triple mounted them with some of the different cards and papers that I had leftover from making Karen's wedding invites a few years ago. The result was this:-

The Bristol man worked the best I think, with 'Mark' having a 'Mangostfiled leg', 'Oldbury Court head' 'Cleeve Hill' torso and 'Frenchay and Staplehill' arms... 'Kellie' is just a kind of indecipherable Caerleon, but a very pretty one I think, with a bit of a pink and blue leg.

I've seen a similar idea with pictures and cards from 'Not on the High Street'...

 These are £8 and £12 and 150 people have reviewed them on there so I can't imagine how many people have bought them.. a heart is so easy to cut out too!

And some other nice cartography... when I was in Seville all the ladies were walking around with traditional little hand fans and in the window of one of the cutest shops I have ever seen was this one made out of a map of Seville...

I would've gone inside and got a better picture but the shop was shut for the 2 days after we noticed it - Annabel and I nearly cried looking at all the amazing things inside that we couldn't go look at! I might just have to book another city break so I can go back and visit it...

And then I thought, well, I might as well print off another page of a map for the location that Mark and Kellie will be living at now (to wrap their wedding gift in...) It's a small gift, but then, I did make them a lot of cupcakes for their big day:-

 In the end I actually wrapped the gift in bubble wrap and white tissue paper,
then printed the map onto tracing paper and tied with black curling ribbon.

And they lived happily ever after... ( just off the M32).

J :)

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Hummingbird Flavour Cupcakes Learning Curve.

I can't get enough of these at the moment...
Hummingbird flavour cakes are a kind of delicious, sweet, "carrot cake meets banana loaf" kind of fusion made with bananas, pineapple, and oil which keeps them really moist. Some recipes I've found use coconut and varying degrees of oil and they all include roughly chopped pecans.
Hummingbird cake seems to have cropped up first in baking journals in the American deep south, and there are several ideas about the origin of it's name:-

►This cake is so yummy that it makes you HUM with delight, or happiness when you anticipate having a slice

►Hummingbirds drink nectar from flowers and this cake is just a sweet as a flower's nectar

►Hummingbirds themselves are associated with the lighthearted and sweet side of life, hence the name of this cake

►When the cake is served, people hover around it the way hummingbirds hover around nectar bearing flowers

►Although a cake made for people, it is a cake sweet enough to attract even hummingbirds

►Bananas and pineapples come from the tropics, and the national bird of Jamaica is a hummingbird...could this be how it got its name?

The most complimentary topping has to be cream cheese frosting and for the wow factor you could use a slow-dried pineapple slice or plonk on a pecan if you've got a bit less time:-

The sliced pineapple really does end up looking like a flower!

So, having tried a few, I believe I have found the ultimate Hummingbird cupcake recipe. The measurements are in cups as pretty much all Hummingbird recipes on the net are from the U.S. I have taken the basis of the recipe from Choccylit (a baking hero of mine) who is a software quality engineer by day, cupcake maker extraordinaire by night, she's great, check her out here:-

My usual dilemma arose when I saw the words "baking soda" and I wasn't about to go combining ratios of cream of tartar, baking powder etc to get as close to this, only available overseas, baking agent. I plunged in and used baking powder - DON'T! 48 cakes-in-the-bin later, I took a deep breath and repeated the recipe with exactly the same ingredients, except I used bicarbonate of soda - PERFECT! (and they were a completely different colour). 

Recipe (Makes 24)


3 cups flour
2 cups caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 eggs
3/4 cup veg oil (I used groundnut, and the time before walnut oil)
1 8oz can of crushed pineapple, with liquid
2 large mashed, very ripe bananas
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans


1. Mix flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, salt with a balloon whisk in a good sized bowl.
2. Beat eggs.
3. Add oil and vanilla to beaten eggs and mix until somewhat combined.
4. Add egg/oil/vanilla mixture to flour/sugar/bicarb/cinnamon/salt mixture.
5. Mix together pineapple, bananas, pecans until combined.
6. Add to the rest of ingredients and stir to combine.

7. Bake at 350 (180) degrees for about 25 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Check also that the sponge bounces back when you touch it slightly. Do not check until 2/3 of the cooking time has elapsed... (tip for all cakes!)

Then to top them with cream cheese frosting...

Hummingbird bakery recipe that I've talked about before is perfect for this:-

And if you want to top with a pecan...

And an extra little dusting of ground cinnamon...

Another valuable lesson when making these was to use greaseproof-lined i.e. more expensive cupcake cases, as the cases go a horrid dark colour otherwise. Culpitt red or blue gingham ones were perfect.

Or, if you're feeling more adventurous and want to make some pineapple flowers (a few days in advance...)

You need to:

Take a ripe pineapple.
Chop off the top and bottom.
Carve off the outside without wasting too much.
Remove every single "eye" with a small knife or melon baller.
Finely slice circles of pineapple and set them out on lined baking sheets.
Bake in a low oven (110 degrees) for 30 mins, turn, bake again, repeat until tops are dried out and edges are changing colour.
Remove from tray and leave to completely dry out in the air by resting them on top of egg boxes.

Do not put them away to store in a Tupperware until they are near enough completely dried out - the result was mould! I may not have seen this through, had I not been making them for a wedding. Lots more deep breaths were needed to calmly start the flower making process again (so happy I did though...)

They look terrible like this.. but don't panic, in hours, or even days,
on top of your cakes they will look like this...

I'm not sure that something that looks this natural should then have edible glitter sprinkled over them, but I've a compulsive need to bling up my cakes that I can't shake off. In any case, even a wonky flower can be salvaged and cut down to make one that resembles a primrose, (use sharp scissors!) - and just a little glitter....??

After making and taking about 40 of these to Kellie's wedding last Saturday, I've got 12 of them left in my freezer ready to decorate this weekend; form an orderly queue...!

J  :)