Thursday, 2 October 2014
As I write this post, now 3 months after making these cupcakes (so god knows how long it will be by the time I come to press 'publish'), I'm still not sure I'm 'ready'. Since making them, I have been haunted by the Isle of Man triskelion, so much so that if I never, ever see one of them again in my whole life, it will be too soon! Having never really seen them out and about before, I've since seen it on a narrow boat near my house, an Okell's beer delivery van (TWICE), a bumper sticker... maybe I am actually hallucinating it, it wouldn't surprise me!
So to explain... my Dad is into his amateur dramatics and one of his groups had written their own play, set on the Isle of Man and due to be performed in August. So in April the group held a Manx themed evening to raise awareness of the performance and a bit of money for charity. It was held in an art gallery in Chester and featured poetry readings, traditional Manx music, memorabilia displays and food. I of course jumped at the chance to bake something to support the event and as I wasn't sure of any traditional Manx recipes, decided to go with some themed cupcakes instead.
Which led me to one of my most random purchases to date - a set of Manx themed cookie cutters, containing the triskelion, a Manx cat and the outline of the Isle of Man... not sure I will get much future use out of them, but you never know...
My original plan was to make cookie Triskelions, decorate them and have them sticking out of the top of Mr Whippy style iced cupcakes, but due to timings and volume, this was scaled back to sugarpaste Triskelions balanced on the top of rose swirl cupcakes, which was then scaled back even further to fondant icing for reasons which will become apparent!
The preparation and planning for this had to be meticulous as the event was on a Friday night so I would only have a few work evenings to make the cakes. I started with the Triskelions on the Tuesday, using white sugarpaste to cut them out, and then a tiny star cutter to make yellow stars which would be glued (edibly!) on for the bootspurs. I had bought some black icing pens and wanted to draw on the detail for the Triscalions, but after doing a couple, I wasn't sure that it would look quite right so abandoned that idea.
By the Thursday night I had all cakes baked and decorations made, so all I had to do on the Friday was assemble them. This is where disaster struck with the buttercream - it had completely hardened in the fridge and I just didn't think I had the time or patience to soften it up. So I needed a quick alternative and by sheer luck, I had some red and yellow coloured fondant icing left over and was able to make discs to ice the tops with, and was able to siphon off enough softenable buttercream to get them to stick. I was a bit annoyed that there wasn't enough red to do them all (being the background colour of the flag and all) but the yellow ones didn't look too bad mixed in.
In hindsight, I actually think the fondant looked better and neater than buttercream would have done, and were easier for people to eat while standing up and mingling around at the event. Plus, I had hurriedly learned a new skill in icing with fondant circles - hurrah!
Another 'fun' part was getting the cupcakes into the carrier, I'd made 24, the carrier held 24 and the Triskelions were pretty damn big - it was like a Krypton Factor style challenge trying to get them all pointing in the right direction so they would fit and I was up against the clock needing to leave!
Looking back now, I really enjoyed the challenge of making these. I'm sure they don't look like a challenge to most, but trying to be a bit creative, baking a bigger batch for an occasion and trying something that isn't strictly following a recipe isn't something I've done a lot of - so this was a big challenge for me. I've never been sure whether I would want the pressure of making cakes on a request basis, I would much rather bake for the pleasure of it and as a surprise - not just because it can be difficult to co-ordinate with working, but also I'm completely terrified that I would mess up. With these, it was a good opportunity to be a bit more creative and try to fulfill a brief, without a massive amount of pressure. I'm still not sure whether I'll ever feel confident enough, but these Isle of Man cupcakes, humble as they are, have taken me a little step closer!
Also... guess who won the raffle on the night for some Manx beers adorned with the Triskelion logo.... TRISKELIONS WILL I EVER BE FREE OF YOU?!?!?!
I'm sending these Isle of Man themed cupcakes to the Alphabakes October challenge, hosted by Caroline Makes and The More Than Occasional Baker, with Caroline being this month's host. The letter this month is I.