January 29, 2012 § Leave a comment
Have you ever heard of a picture book called ‘A Near Thing for Captain Najork‘? It was one of my favorites as a kid, and I can still recite the opening lines: “One day Tom was fooling around with his chemistry set, and he invented anti-sticky. Then Tom fooled around with jam, and wheels and connector rods, and he invented a two-seater jam-powered frog. Tom and Aunt Bundlejoy Cosysweet took the frog out for a spin.” (okay, I may be paraphrasing slightly because I’m too lazy to get up and cross the room to check the book, but you get the idea!)
Anyway, this weekend I was in the kitchen fooling around with cake, because I was doing a trial run of a cake I’ll be making for a friend. Then I fooled around with cream cheese and peanut butter and I invented the best peanut butter mousse cake filling ever.
And because I love you, I’m going to share my secrets with you.
The chocolate cake was my standard recipe, straight from the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box, but while I started out making peanut butter mousse from a recipe I abandoned it almost immediately and made it up myself. It’s the perfect chocolate cake filling.
I used extra crunchy peanut butter because it was all we had, but I ended up loving the texture it added to the cake. If you prefer a smooth filling, though, just use creamy peanut butter.
Perfect Peanut Butter Mousse
8 oz of cream cheese
1 1/2 or 2 cups of peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
Let the cream cheese soften and come to room temperature. Whip the heavy cream until it is fluffy and thick enough to form soft peaks, and set it aside. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer) combine the cream cheese, peanut butter, and brown sugar, beating until thoroughly combined and fluffy. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add half of the whipped cream, folding it in gently until well combined, then add the other half of the whipped cream and fold it in as well–be gentle to avoid deflating the whipped cream, just keep folding until everything is combined.
Pile your mousse onto a layer of chocolate cake, top with another layer, cover with chocolate buttercreme, and get yourself a glass of milk, because you’re going to want it!
January 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
Something about the character Kaylee from Firefly gives me the craft bug–last week I posted about the very first doll I made, which was a Kaylee doll, and a few months ago I posted about my friend Angela’s Firefly birthday party and the Kaylee cake that I made.
Well, I’ve been at it again, and here she is:
A new Kaylee doll! This time she’s wearing her party dress from the Firefly episode ‘Shindig’
In the episode her hair is down, but this doll was a Christmas/12th Night present for my friend Angela (yes, the same Angela!), and by special request this doll has her hair in buns.
This Kaylee doll is handsewn from felt, ribbons, sheer ruffled trim, and tiny buttons. I based her on Mimi Kirchner’s pattern for The Purl Bee, but I adapted the instructions as I went.
In the Firefly episode it’s never possible to see Kaylee’s feet, so I have no idea what shoes she might have been wearing under her enormous fluffy dress! I decided that she’s just the kind of girl who would wear her boots, though, so I made boots with pink laces–and left them untied, because how would you tie your shoes while you’re wearing an enormous fluffy dress?
This doll has actually been a long time in the making–Angela asked me to make her a Kaylee doll, in her party dress, with her hair in buns, and that was four years ago. Two years ago I was going to make her this doll, and even cut out most of the pieces for her…and then never got around to it. So this year I was determined to get her finished! I was still two weeks late for 12th Night (which is when my friends and I celebrate Christmas and usually when we exchange gifts), but oh well 😉
Happy Christmas, Angela!
This Kaylee costume actually belongs to my sister, but look! A handy doll carrying strap!
January 16, 2012 § 3 Comments
A craft from the archives! It is, of course, a little plush doll of Kaylee from the TV show Firefly. I made this doll four years ago as a gift for a friend of mine, and it was my very first doll making projects. I used a pattern and a tutorial that I found online, but I’ve long since lost the address and I haven’t been able to find it again.
I made a huge number of mistakes–I chose fabrics that raveled horribly, like flannel instead of felt (what was I thinking?) and a nylon fabric for the shirt that raveled so badly that I had to singe all of the edges in order to sew it together. I made the entire project so much harder than it needed to be! It was really a huge fumble, from beginning to end, but I was so proud of her, and proud of myself for making her.
Sometimes it’s easy to be frustrated with my own skills–nothing is ever perfect enough. My projects are always fundamentally flawed in some way, and it can be hard to feel up to par with an internet full of people who seem to produce perfect projects (which are, of course, photographed beautifully). Maybe it’s just me, but I’m often proud of my projects and embarrassed by them at the same time, which is why I find myself trying to show things off to people while pointing out all of the flaws. “Look what I made! Do you like it? Are you impressed? You are? Yay! Of course, this and this and this were all wrong, and this part was a disaster, and actually the whole thing was terrible I can’t believe I’m showing this to you, I’ll go away and hide now.”
Anyway. I made this doll. I still think that she’s really cute, and I’m still proud of her–but I’m even more proud of the fact that I can look at this project and know that my skills have improved so much in the last four years, and that if I made this doll again it would be a hundred times better. Perfect I am not, but that leaves plenty of growing room.
…now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’d better end this blog post before I start accidentally writing Hallmark cards 😉
January 9, 2012 § 5 Comments
Happy New Year! And happy birthday, Professor Tolkien! J.R.R. Tolkien was born on January 3, a birthday shared by my youngest sister, so of course I often make a Tolkien themed something. Last year I made hobbit hole cupcakes. This year I made a cake! And I’ve had The Hobbit on the brain (who doesn’t, lately?) so it had to be a Smaug cake.
Smaug, curled up on his hoard of stolen dwarvish treasure.
My Smaug is inspired/loosely based on this illustration by Tolkien:
I made Smaug out of fondant, molded mostly with my hands with a little help from a chopstick and a sharp knife. I used an icing tip to press ‘scales’ into the fondant of Smaug’s body, and the handle of my small offset spatula to press indentations for the arm and leg sockets, and made the limbs (legs/arms and wings) separately. I let the fondant dry and harden overnight, then painted the pieces with gel food coloring mixed with vodka, and then brushed it all over with sparkly yellow luster dust.
The cake itself is a chocolate cake, filled and covered with peanut butter mousse. Then I put a wire cooling rack across the sink, set the cake on it (holding it carefully with one hand to make sure that it didn’t slip and dump my cake into the sink!), and covered the cake with sparkly yellow sugar sprinkles for gold, red, green, and blue sugar sprinkles for gems, white nonpareils for pearls, and a sprinkling of gold luster dust for extra sparkle–a delicious hoard that would make any dragon proud!