Cupcakes, Food, London, Presents

Crazy for Cupcakes

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The most selfish Christmas presents I ever made? Vouchers for a cupcake decorating class for the sisters-in-law. Of course, I had to get one for myself, too. After all, it was about spending time together. Decorating culinary delights and stuffing our faces was just the icing on the cake.the make lounge

During one of my daily strolls around Islington, I was walking past The Make Lounge – a little workshop that offers crafty day and evening classes to ‘meet people. make stuff.’ Peeking inside through the huge front windows, I felt like a little girl pressing her nose flat against the sweet shop’s window display.

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The shop is a girl’s dream. Gorgeous printed fabrics, cute-as-button buttons, beautiful trimmings, delicate cake decorating tools, craft kits, embroidery motives, jewellery making tools and much, much more. The best thing about it: If you, like me, have absolutely no idea what to do with the vast majority of these gorgeous items, their workshops will give you just the right amount of guidance and insight to get you going.

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Having a sweet tooth and a weakness for all things pretty and girlie, the cupcake decorating workshop had written ‘Christmas present’ all over it. The sisters-in-law were delighted (in fact, only one is an actual in-law, the other one is living in sin. Shocking, I know!).

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10:30 on a Saturday morning is manageable – even for the childless. Jennifer, who founded The Make Lounge in 2007, greeted us with tea, coffee and biscuits. Coats and bags stowed away and hands washed, 11 ladies and one gentleman gathered around the long table and eagerly listened to Leigh, who happens to be pastry chef at Michelin-starred restaurant Sketch in London.

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We learned how to scoop. How to make a piping bag. How to use food colour. How to use marzipan. How to colour marzipan. Not to lick the stick you used to stir the blue food colouring. Lots of lots of helpful icing tips!

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They just both had a big bite. Cheeky!

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And just look at all the beautiful cupcakes. Needless to say that they were delicious, too.

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This is a recipe Leigh shared with us. Custard icing, mhmm…

French Buttercream

500g cold butter cubes, 120g milk, 93g egg yolks, 120g sugar

Making the custard base:

  1. Place yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk till thick and pale.
  2. Bring milk to boil in a saucepan.
  3. Pour HALF the hot milk into the egg and sugar mixture, whisking mixture as you are pouring the milk to avoid cooking the eggs.
  4. Return the other half of the milk to low heat and pour the egg, milk and sugar mixture into it.
  5. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gently stir the mixture until it is 81 degrees or it becomes thick enough to coat the back of the wooden spoon.
  6. Once the custard is ready, quickly remove from heat and pour the custard into a mixing bowl through a sieve, to remove any cooked bits of egg.
  7. Whip the custard with a paddle attachment and add the cold butter & beat till thick and pale, till you get the consistency of buttercream.

Leigh runs her own little company called Craft Cakes. If you are blessed with two left hands when it comes to baking, consider one of her designs. Or visit her Facebook page and try one of her recipes.

32 Comments

  1. That looks like so much fun! What a great idea for gifts – and delicious, too!

  2. Is it too early to start dropping hints for next years Christmas present?
    Who wouldn’t love a gift like that and the shop looks wonderful.

    Beki x

  3. That just sounds wonderful, I’d love to do something like that. Will have to look and see if we have something similar. What a great idea.

  4. I read about the Make Lounge in Living etc – it sounded such a great idea as crafting, sewing, cooking etc are all in vogue right now. Those cupcakes sure look great. And that buttercream – yummy. Did you get to lick the spoon!

  5. Livin in sin???! I am deeply offended by this remark MM!:) JK, love the post, it truly was a wonderful day and you displayed it very well…My cupcakes got all smushed in my bike ride home:( but they still tasted yummy! thanks so much again! x LZ

  6. There is just something about cupcakes – yours look fab. Have you seen that edible glitter? It looks really cool!

  7. Oh I want to go to that shop I want to make cup cakes that are beautiful…yummy too…
    what a great gift idea…what a great shop idea…we have the painted plate, but I just don’t need more dishes…already have 8 sets from my mum…
    Wow how fun…

  8. What a fantastic present! And custard icing, sounds delicious….and I bet it’s not sickly like normal buttercream. Will definitely be trying that. Thanks for sharing. :0)

  9. these look amazing! I just made carmamel cupcakes this Sunday- and before that I made rose ones. They taste great but they look a bit… er… rustic?! so perhaps I need the course… can you hear me persuading myself!

  10. um, last commenter – SPAMALOT?
    they all look lovely. what a nice idea of things to do. All of my cupcakes are rather…plain. Or covered in small fingerprints.
    I love the idea of that place, I may have to visit next time I am in England

  11. Hello
    Wow those are truly beautiful cupcakes and I like to eat cup cakes very much.This looks so yummy.I think I have never seen such creative and wonderful cupcakes before.Thank you very much for this nice post.

  12. Oh my I SO wish I lived near you and that precious shop! All of the stuff looks marvelous and the cupcakes – heavens they look wonderful – especially to this starving new momma! That is a great gift. I am going to try to find something like this for my sis! So glad you had such a fab time!

  13. *sharp intake of breath* OH WOW! Those look gorgeous and delicious and I want to do it too!!! Thanks for recipe, I shall give it a whirl.

    I think it was here that I found a cupcake recipe (with yogurt), wasnt it? Anyway, if it was, thank you–made them recently and they were a big hit. And so easy! x

  14. Thank you for the comment on my blog.

    I got that quote from http://www.imgfave.com but I don’t know who actually wrote it. I did a search to try to find out but got nothing.

    It was a good quote wasn’t it, perfect for my day too 🙂

  15. Love the Make Lounge! Now I want to try the cupcakes workshop. I’ve done one of the sewing classes before, which was also really fun.

    I love all of the fabrics in the shop and I was hoping to learn enough to be able to make lots of cute things for my daughter but I must say I am really not a natural born sewer and need quite a bit more practice.

  16. Have only just seen this, how lovely!

    That was a loooong time ago…we now run several different Cupcake Decorating classes, Fashion Biscuit decorating, and brand new Cake Pops classes. Join us for one of our more than 35 different workshops, plus lovely bits in the shop. 🙂

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