Category Archives: Weddings

Lapping it up – Honeymooning in Finnish Lapland

More wedding blog posts to come. I’m more than a little busy…

Ricky and I don’t really do holidays. Other than grabbing the odd weekend away here and there, jaunts to Toronto to see my sister, or the now-legendary Sunday Driver trip to India for Joel and Chandy’s wedding six years ago, we have neither the time nor the cash for big holidays abroad. In fact, we worked out that our single week of honeymoon in Lapland was the longest we had spent on our own together since we first met.

Lapland signpost

Brrrrrrr!

Anyway. Enough whingeing. We had an amazing time in Saariselka, a tiny village in northern Finnish Lapland, which we booked through Inghams. Despite the chilly temperatures – though apparently the -15C nip in the air was “warm for this time of year”, according to the locals – our little log cabin was toasty warm, and we were snug outside in our snowsuits and thermal boots. Only having around 4 hours of daylight was a bit weird though, and really messed about with our body-clocks.

We did downhill skiing, dog-sledding and cross-country skiing (which resulted in me getting a rather painful groin strain – not what you want to pick up on honeymoon…) and spent a lot of time just mooching about in the beautiful snowy landscape.

Skiing

Cross-country skiing through the forest - groin strain optional

Lapland Landscape

Beautiful, peaceful, perfect snowscape.

I’ve been a bit busy…

Signing the register

Normal blogging service will be resumed very shortly!

Wedding cakery: Another ginger cake

Another attempt at a ginger cake, as I continue my quest for the top tier of my wedding cake.

Next on the list was the Gingerbread Guinness cake from Tea With Bea. I got a bit nervous as the batter was alarmingly runny, but the cake came out brilliantly and I brushed it with some syrup from a jar of stem ginger to make it extra yummy.

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Unfortunately, it still had an uneven top, but after a quick Twitter chat with Bea herself, I realised that I could just slice the top off to get the perfect cake for my needs.

It tasted even better after a few days, so I reckon this one’s a keeper. I’ll make the proper tier closer to the Big Day. Now just the chocolate middle layer to go…

Wedding cakery – Making the first tier

***DOWNLOAD A PDF OF THE FRUIT CAKE RECIPE INCLUDING 12 INCH ROUND AND SQUARE AND UNUSUAL TINS HERE***

Well, I’ve finally bitten the bullet and started making my wedding cake. On Sunday I set out to make the bottom tier – an epically huge 12 inch square fruit cake, using Delia Smith’s Rich Fruit Cake recipe.(NB this link appears to have gone – try this from the WayBack machine internet archive or use this pdf that I’ve created)

SEE NOTES BELOW ON USING UNUSUAL SHAPED TINS OR A HUGE 12 INCH ROUND CAKE

The helpful “scaling up the fruit cake recipe” guide on her website only goes up to a 10 inch square cake, so I had to do some maths to scale it up to my 12″ square cake tin.  To help all you other bakers out there who suck as badly at maths as I do (although I have a PhD,  numbers are definitely not my forte) here’s the proportions of ingredients I used:

  • Currants 1.35kg
  • Sultanas 525g
  • Raisins 525g
  • (or just use 2.4kg mixed dried fruit)
  • Glacé cherries, finely chopped 165g
  • Mixed peel, finely chopped 165g
  • Brandy 9 tablespoons (well, plus a few sloshes more to be honest…)
  • Plain flour 675g
  • Salt 3/4 level teaspoon
  • Freshly grated nutmeg 3/4 level teaspoon (I used ground)
  • Mixed spice 1.5 level teaspoon
  • Almonds, chopped 165g (I left these out)
  • Soft brown sugar 675g
  • Black treacle 2 ¼ tablespoons
  • Unsalted butter 675g
  • 12 eggs
  • Grated rind of 3 large lemons
  • Grated rind of 3 large oranges

After the sums, the next challenge was working out how to make the damn thing.  Just soaking the dried fruit took up the biggest mixing bowl I own:

2.5kg of dried fruit!

I started by getting everything ready. There was a *lot* of butter:

That's a lot of butter

I put my trusy Kenwood Chef Titanium to work, creaming the butter and sugar, then blending in the eggs and flour. In the end, it was starting to curdle just with the eggs, so I alternated eggs and flour until I’d managed to squeeze everything in. Luckily it did look like proper cake batter at this point, which was reassuring.

Wedding cake batter

Then I had a problem – how to mix in the fruit. I ended up using my huge old stockpot as an improvised mixing bowl. I’m pretty glad that it escaped the last kitchen clearout now, as it’s no good for cooking because the enamel is cracked.

Serious mixing

I’m only little, so to get enough power to mix everything in I had to put it on the floor and use a peculiar rowing motion with the spoon, more like mixing cement than cake.

Then it was time to scoop it all into the tin (not an easy task either) and bung it in the oven. I tied some newspaper round the tin and covered the top with greaseproof paper, to help prevent it from cooking too fast. {Edited to add – as Saint Delia recommends, I cooked it at 140C. Actually I set the oven a bit lower than that as I have an over-enthusiastic fan oven. The sensible thing to do would be to use an oven thermometer to check yours, unless you know it well}

Wedding cake ready for the oven

Four and a half hours later, I tested it with a skewer and declared it done:

Baked wedding cake

I sprinkled a bit more brandy over it, left it to cool and then wrapped it up in greaseproof paper, cling film and tinfoil and put it where the mice can’t get it. Phew!

Edited to add: In response to comments, I’ve worked out the proportions for a 12 inch ROUND Delia fruit cake. These haven’t been checked or tested! This is based on the volume of a 12 inch round cake being approximately 1.25 times the volume of an 11 inch round fruit cake (the largest on the Delia website). Bear in mind this is a bit of an over-calculation. The correct proportions would come out a bit smaller but I’ve done it like this to end up with a whole number of eggs. So you may have batter left over.

  • Currants 1.125kg
  • Sultanas 440g
  • Raisins 440g
  • Glace cherries 140g
  • Mixed peel 140g
  • Brandy 7.5
  • Plain flour 560g
  • Salt ½ level teaspoon
  • Grated Nutmeg 2/3 tsp
  • Mixed spice 1 and ¼ tsp
  • Chopped almonds 140g
  • Soft brown sugar 560g
  • Black treacle 2 tablespoons
  • Unsalted butter 560g
  • 10 eggs
  • Grated rind of 2 large lemons
  • Grated rind of 2 large oranges

Someone also asked about using a heart-shaped tin. Because it’s all done on volume you’ll need to measure the volume of your tin using water. Fill your cake tin with water, to the same level that you’d fill it with cake mixture, then measure how much water you’ve got (in millilitres). One ml of water is one cubic centimetre, if I remember correctly. NB Do this over the sink, unless you want your kitchen to be as wet as mine now is.

I just tested and my 8inch x 8 inch square cake contains roughly 2,000 ml, by way of comparison. So then you need to work out proportionally how much bigger or smaller your heart-shaped tin is, and scale up or down the recipe accordingly.
Based on the number of eggs in the recipe, I’d suggest the following:
Tin volume 2,000ml (2 litres) – use the 9 inch round/ inch square recipe (5 eggs)
Tin volume 1,600 ml (1.6 litres) – use the 8 inch round/7 inch square recipe (4 eggs)
Tin volume 800ml (0.8 litre) – use the 6 inch round/5 inch square recipe (2 eggs)gs)

Wedding cakery – in search of the perfect ginger cake

I’mplanning to make three different flavour tiers for my wedding cake – a classic rich fruit cake on the bottom, a chocolate cake in the middle, and a ginger cake on top.

In search of a tasty ginger cake recipe, I did a test bake of a 7 inch square version of Dan Lepard’s Malt Whisky and Ginger cake, which I’ve had pinned on the fridge for ages but never baked.

I doubled the recipe in order to fit the larger tin, and was a bit alarmed to see how sloppy the batter was, so I chucked in a little bit of extra flour. It also took about 1 and a half hours to bake, due to the larger size.

Although the finished cake tastes absolutely delicious and has a fabulous depth of flavour, I don’t think it’s going to be the top tier I’m looking for. Because it’s a loaf cake, the top rises and cracks quite impressively, making for an appealing teatime treat but not a neat flat top for icing:

Dan Lepard whisky ginger cake

Still, it’s been going down very well with my colleagues at work. Next I’m going to try the Gingerbread Guinness cake in my Tea with Bea cookbook, which will hopefully be a bit more well-behaved.

Wedding cakery – learning to make sugar roses

I can’t believe it was back in March 2010 that I first started thinking about designing and making my wedding cake. Now the big day is just over 2 months away, so I’d better get off my arse and actually do something about it. Balls.

I’ve got a fairly good plan of what I want to do now, incorporating some of the Rennie Mackintosh-style elements I was first inspired by. To this end, I’m going to have to learn how to do royal icing stencilling, which I’m hoping isn’t as tricky as it looks.

But I also really liked the cake at the last wedding I played at – a three tier job with roses trailing up it (from M&S, apparently). Not only has that inspired me to go for three tiers rather than the one I was planning, but I also want to make sugar roses to put on it.

Luckily, my lovely colleague Sam Squires is a bit of a whizz in the cake department, and she gave me a quick tutorial after work one day.  I don’t have detailed step-by-step pics but I think this video on Youtube is basically the same technique we used.

I took a couple of pics to remind myself what we got up to, and now all I have to do is perfect my technique, work out how many I need to make, and make them. Overambitious, moi?

Sam

My tutor Sam shows off her rose

 

cut out petals

It all starts here

 

Making a rose

I like to think of this as the Mickey Mouse stage

 

half a rose

Nearly there

 

Finished sugar rose

Et voila! My finished creation

 

Congratulations Paul and Katie!

Off to sunny Croydon last weekend (well, the very posh Selsdon Park Hotel, more accurately) for the last wedding of the season.  Wedding bookings have been a  bit thin on the ground this year, as I’ve been keeping my weekends free for gigs with the bands.

Anyway, this time I was playing during the wedding breakfast rather than during the ceremony or drinks reception, and the smell of delicious food was quite distracting! It was a chance to bust out a few of my more modern numbers, including Sweet Child O’Mine and Enter Sandman, and a specially-requested version of You’ve Got the Love, as covered by Florence and the Machine. I’m still not entirely sure it works on solo harp but it was fun trying. I can’t believe I forgot to play Billie Jean, though surely I be forgiven after playing for 2 and a half hours solid…

It was a wonderful, happy occasion, and I wish the very best to Paul and Katie for their future together.

IMG_2149

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Congratulations Oli and Kate!

It’s always an honour to play at a friend’s wedding so it was a fun day for Sunday Driver to head to Narborough Hall, just outside King’s Lynn, for the nuptials of Kate and Oli (who’s in the band Thirteen with Chemise from Sunday Driver).

It was an absolutely beautiful day in a perfect setting, and we wish the happy couple all the very best. Here are a few snaps I took along the way:

Wedding sign

Narborough Hall pool

The pool was unheated but made for a refreshing paddle on a hot day

IMG_1783

Sunday Driver soundchecking

Soundchecking. Always bloody soundchecking

Wigwam

We ate dinner in a wigwam. There was a whole pig! It was very good.

Oli and Kate

The happy couple. Awwwww 🙂

Wedding party

The crowd goes wild - the blur at the front is the obligatory Little Girls Dancing Like Loonies

A tale of two wedding dresses

Contrary to what you might have heard, the Wedding of the Year ((c) every bloody news outlet in the entire world) is not that fancy-pants royal shindig next week. It’s mine.

Of course Wills, Kate, and the assembled throng of artistocrats and commoners alike may feel differently, but I have no interest whatsoever in the noble nuptials.  And although my wedding isn’t until December, I’m getting prepared – regular readers may remember that I’ve already blogged about potential cake designs.

Today, it’s all about the dress. Or rather, it’s all about two dresses, prompted by this tale in the New York Times. Briefly, a bride-to-be buys her dream dress, and when she goes to pick it up from the store it’s covered in black fluff – the result of a cleaning mishap.

Instead of throwing their hands up in apology and compensating the bride outright, the store owners drag her to the small claims court.  Although it works out OK in the end, it’s a stressful and distressing tale, and not entirely dissimilar to what I went through a couple of months ago – albeit with a swifter resolution, and significantly less legal action.

More than five years ago I had a near miss at getting married. Long story, ask me about it some other time, but I ended up with an absolutely beautiful, fairly expensive, and sadly unworn wedding dress. It looked like this, but all in gold. I wanted all red, but my mother vetoed it on the grounds that it would make me look like a whore in church. Thanks a bunch, mum.

Red and gold wedding dress

This is from the wonderful Stevies Gowns. They were brilliant..

The wedding never happened and the dress ended up in a wardrobe at my parents’ house, patiently waiting for my next Big Day.  Happily, I got engaged again, and  – having established that I could still just about squeeze into it – I put a big tick against “Dress” on my wedding to-do list, and thought no more about it (apart from trying to stay off the pies).

Then comes the twist. My parents suffered a horrific house fire last Autumn.  Fortunately they were OK, the dogs were OK, and they didn’t lose everything.  But my wedding dress got smoke damaged, and was sent off to the insurance company-approved cleaners for a spruce-up.

The dress never came back. Not because it was smoke-ravaged beyond saving, but because someone stood on it and tore it. 

At first I was relatively sanguine. It’s just a dress, I thought. After all, it was bought for a wedding that didn’t happen. But as the days passed I felt more and more unhappy. Not just because it was My Wedding Dress – it was also My Rather Expensive Wedding Dress, and I’m currently pretty damn skint.

Unlike the poor NYT bride, in my case the cleaning company coughed up pretty quickly  – presumably to reduce the chances of me going all Bridezilla on their ass. And instead of buying a Rather Expensive replacement dress, I bought a Very Cheap dress, and a Rather Expensive new bed. I figured that having a decent place to sleep was more conducive to a long and happy marriage than a fancy dress I’m only going to wear for one day…

What do you reckon? Have you ever had to buy a replacement dress for any occasion? And just how good does a new bed feel?

Two weddings and a knees-up

Another busy weekend, but rather than gigging I was playing my last wedding bookings of the season.

First was Angel and Giles, whose wedding was in the very plush setting of Ashdown Park Hotel in Sussex:

Ashdown Park Sussex wedding

Ashdown Park. Dead posh.

There was even a helicopter! (though I don’t think it belonged to any of the wedding guests):

Ashdown park helicopter

Beats getting a taxi home any day.

They were really lucky with the weather, and although the Autumnal chill did get to my fingers by the end of the outdoor service (resulting in a  bit of a fluff during their exit music), the sun shone and I managed to nab a glass of champagne while I played during the reception drinks. This was also the first wedding I’ve been at with its own Twitter hashtag. Very modern.

Then the next day I drove across London to play for Lisa and Daniel at their wedding at the Carlton Mitre near Hampton Court:

Carlton Mitre wedding

Nice Muriel, as my mother would say.

Again, the weather was lovely, although I learnt my lesson from the previous day and kept my fingerless mitts on while I played during the drinks on the terrace:

Lisa Daniel Carlton Mitre

The happy couple - awwwww!

Then instead of having a quiet night in like a sensible person, I headed out to the Big Chill Bar off Brick Lane to provide moral support for my housemate Duck (half of Bam Bam Sound) while he played records. This extended to little more than hoovering up free drinks and shouting requests for him to play Justin Bieber (don’t ask):

Duck Bam Bam big chill bar

Duck doing his thing. The blur behind him is Ricky, headbanging.

It was the Brick Lane festival, and the whole area looked like the apocalypse had hit it – broken glass and piss everywhere, people wandering about in the streets moaning and drooling…

Anyway, we had a brilliant time – though clearly not as brilliant a time as this girl.  She was awesome:

Girl at Big Chill Bar

Who is this woman? She's ace.