Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dalek cake sort-of tutorial!

Exterminate!!! No fancy way to beat this Dalek, just eat it. I started out with the idea of making a Dalek cake because -- well, because it's a Dalek and I love Doctor Who! A fellow geek's birthday was the perfect excuse.
First, chocolate cake layers: 2 each 4 inches, 5 inches, 6 inches and 7 inches, and 1 8 inch layer. In retrospect, the 4 inch layers rose so much that I could have gotten away with less in each pan, but the dome provided a good enough base for the round top that I trimmed the corners and was done. The second 4 inch layer was trimmed flat.  
For stability and flavor variation, I divided the cakes into sets of three (each set on its own cardboard base) -- with the top three being filled with peanut butter frosting, the middle three with coffee frosting, and the bottom three with chocolate frosting. When stacking, instead of centering, I kept the back edges close (but not quite flush) to maintain a backward slope that was flatter than the forward one. 
Four lollipop-stick dowels went into the bottom set, to support the weight of the top two cakes. (if I do this again, maybe three in the middle set as well.) After chilling, I put them all together as a stack and staked the entire thing with a sharpened 3/8 inch wooden dowel to go right through to the drum. 
I carved the bottom 5 inch, 6 inch and 7 inch cakes into the required slope and tapered the front of the 8 inch to a point.

Manipulator arm, gunstick, and eyestalk on lollipop sticks. I added tylose to the black so the plunger shape would dry unsupported. (The light receptors were on half-sticks for support as well.)

Crumb- coating the whole thing with vanilla frosting, then a sojourn in the freezer. It was hot that Saturday!
I covered the 4 inch top part with a small piece of purple fondant to get the dome perfect, then the majority of the "skirt" with a separate piece, like a cape, overlapping at the 5 inch "shoulder", with the seam running up the back. The gray strips for the base and shoulder were rolled out thicker. The ropes for the neck could have been more angular, now that I look at it objectively.

I made 36 of the "buttons" out of gray fondant and sprayed them silver. In retrospect, chocolate pistoles or candy melts sprayed silver are the perfect size. Not sure how 56 would fit, Tardis Data Core... 14 sections do not look right, even 9 was a pinch. Granted, I put a black control panel in the back to hide the ugly seam. 10 would look good if the back seam was perfect.









Wednesday, March 12, 2014


What have we here? (Mother's on the scale)
Ingredients for the preferment: part of the flour, milk, part of the yeast, raw sugar.

Whisked well together... not too liquid but smooth.

In goes Mother, whisk that in well.

Measuring out the rest of the ingredients for the "blanket": the remaining flour, salt, sugar, the remaining yeast.

Pour it on top but don't mix in. Cover and let it rise (meanwhile, go to the store for raisins and stuff to make a salad lunch) 

All risen! see how it's poked up through the blanket. Stir the blanket in with a spatula.

Add the rest of the ingredients: raisins, cinnamon and coconut oil. Mix with the hook until it's picked itself up off the sides and makes a satisfactory slap-slap sound. 

Knead a bit on the counter if you like, until it's nice and smooth. Put a bit more oil into the mixer bowl.

Drop the dough back in, cover and let it rise.

Oooooh, it's gotten big! See how much nearer it is to the rim of the bowl.

Knock it down, then divide in two equal pieces.

 Make a rectangle as wide as the pan and about twice as long.

Roll down a third, pinching at the fold.

Roll up to the end, pinching the seam closed.

Push the side of your hand in at an angle, making flaps.

Pinch up and seal the flaps -- this makes a nice firm short end that is not too skimpy for sandwiches.

Put each into the oiled pans. It should touch the short ends but don't worry if it doesn't touch the long sides. Let them rise until they come up above the pan side. When they are level with the top, start to preheat the oven.

Ready to bake!

The final product -- how yummy! Between the three of us we finished half a loaf while it was still warm.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread!! I decided to rope K into making some replenishments for her lunchbox. While I'm reconciled to making croissants, I was pleasantly surprised to have her agree to cinnamon raisin bread, that was safe for P as well.
Jumping-off point was The Bread Bible, with a few changes: soy milk, or whatever milk they drink, and coconut oil instead of the dairy originals; raw sugar instead of honey; a starring role for Mother, my sourdough; a little whole wheat, and more raisins.
As pretty as swirl bread is, I really don't like when there is a huge gap in the slice -- known as shelling. So instead of sprinkling on the raisins and cinnamon when rolling up, we added them directly to the dough.
Nom nom nom.

Friday, February 14, 2014

long-overdue dance dress redo!

There was this beautiful tulle with gold flower spangles. Is it washable, I asked Spandex House. "For $3 a 60" yd?", he shrugged. Point. On the way to the cashier I picked up exactly-matching spandex, how often does that happen in such an off-beat color?
Not proud to say that I relied on squinted-at pix of patterns to make the first one, and it came out a good bit too small. K gamely squeezed into it anyway for her birthday ballet class last year, but you can tell that it's poorly fitted. (with bonus big brother photobomb, and crazed faces from both.)


It's taken 8 months for me to redo this; at first I thought to just add material at the seams of the wrap-style bodice, but eventually I figured out that I had enough of the spandex to make a whole new leotard with three-quarter sleeves (because she says she's cold in class sometimes), and a much fuller skirt with the rest of the spangly tulle.  I actually had to work a bit to pick off some of the flowers to put on the neckline, so I'm confident they'll stay on in the wash... 



It's only when they're put together that you can see how long it's taken me to do this!! It was a great success, and she wore it proudly to dance class the next day.

Friday, February 7, 2014

belated Halloween costume post 2

Cinderella dress made from flannel-backed satin with a sheer overlay. This was overdue from the year of Katrina! Made ahead for her best friend's costume party in early October. I had the most fun with the long gloves!
Ninja outfit in super-comfy black cotton knit. I made the pants from an old pair of mine about a year ago, but the top part is actually a hack of a crossover top pattern for girls; I didn't want to make an actual wrap because these are intended to double as pajamas afterward. 
I winged the mask and it totally didn't work the first time; after he tried it on I sewed the part on the forehead and that actually made it functional. It needed to be longer, but since this was literally the morning of the parade, that didn't happen. But yes, doesn't it look funny to have that much skin between the top and the mask! By peer consensus he won for most ninja-looking of four in his grade. :D 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Winter sewing also!


Their school had a Father-daughter dance planned -- H got very excited that it was on his birthday, and made reservation in record time, requested the day off, and rented a suit. So of course I must pull out all the stops for K's dress. This is another beautiful velour knit, but thinner than the raspberry one... it looks like crushed velvet and is very very soft, almost liquid in texture.
Drafted from the sloper for knits, with 3/4 sleeves with a slight puff shoulder (my/K's preferred style really, why don't they make prettier dresses with sleeves?) and a full 42" circle skirt. This twirls amazingly, a very very important thing for a dance.
It needed something extra, so I made a little flower from white satin and silver trimmings from a few sewing projects for the dance studio for her waist, and another for her hair. 
They both felt and looked super-special!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Winter sewing.... Christmas outfits!

yes, I know I've been a terrible blogger. for all 2 of you out there. 


I had long wanted to make P a suit, and finally got around to it for their Christmas pageant... washable brown wool, Burda pattern. I didn't have enough time to make a new shirt for the pageant, so he wore the one I made for Friday masses. He has a bowtie made from plaid taffeta. (The dark orange shirt got made the week after, so he wore it to school on dress-down day.)
Franny's dress is a beautiful raspberry velour knit, with an organza underskirt, drafted freely from her bodice block. It has long puff-shoulder sleeves and a petal collar from the same taffeta, and silver snaps down the front. (I'm a dork because I bought these great grey tights from Hanna Andersson and silver shoes even before I made the dress.)
I'm so happy that I planned these outfits for them, because pageant day dawned 13 degrees F. All the other kids were cold (especially the girls) but P and K were toasty, even when we walked to the train.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Halloween Costume post 1! Other people's costumes...

So I'm a baker, right? As well as teaching, I work at a bakeshop. But there, I'm known as a sewist, because duh, everyone bakes. Thus, costume-making for a co-worker was bound to come up. 
It seems like yesterday we casually talked about my friend Vicki being the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland and a friend being the Cheshire cat. Her brother's fiance throws a costume birthday party every year, so they do it up. (I love it when people go hard on costumes, she made the crown, bunny-ears and tophat accessories herself...!)We hashed it through on a night out with her friends, and it ended with me doing a tunic for White Rabbit, and a bowtie for the Mad Hatter as well.
I had so much fun and I'm really proud of how they turned out! 


I made a sketch of the costume inspired by the one in the Tim Burton movie: 

and drafted it according to a peplum top she lent me; I find that this is a great way to shortcut a ton of fittings or pattern drafts, especially because she wanted a jacket-like top to wear over a tank and leggings. 
The way I broke it down, there were several fabrics: a black costume satin for the main (back bodice, sleeves and top and sides of the bodice) and white broadcloth (collar) from Joann.com, broadcloth in red (skirt and arm bands) from a brick-and-mortar Joann left over from those red hoods, black (lining the bodice) from Westchester Fabrics, and a gold tissue lame (center bodice and skirt) from Hartsdale Fabrics

Basically you take a princess-seam pattern and piece it out, with the various colors and fabrics corresponding to the drafted parts... the seam becomes the guideline for the gold triangular bodice pieces, and an additional seam goes across the top to make the black upper bodice separate from the gold. I continued the princess seams down to a point instead of ending them at the waist. To line the front (since the lame is pretty sheer), one whole pattern piece equivalent to the two black satin and one gold piece from black broadcloth. 

The skirt pieces are rectangles, in two layers -- gold on top, and slightly longer red that lays a little flatter. Lastly, ruffle-edged ribbon for the vertical stripes down the center bodice, and gift ribbon for the stripes on the puff sleeves (since she assured me she wouldn't be putting it through the washer's hot cycle anytime!). Wouldn't you know it, after the fact I found some beaded trim at the home-dec section of Hartsdale Fabrics that would have been perfect for the top of the gold bodice. Ah, well...

Closures are heart-shaped red snaps -- I know right, perfect!