Today I had quite a busy day. I started off with a half day food photography course. While I learned how to use my camera in manual (these photos were taken on automatic and as you can see, are a bit dark), and a bit about lighting, I didn't learn how to style food with more balance than I have been (hence is why I generally avoid props - I make them look ludicrous and out of proportion to the food).
As I was in town, I then went to see The Artist at the cinema, which is tipped to do well at the Oscars. It is such a beautiful movie - it is a modern film made as a silent movie in black and white, set in the late 20's to early 30's, and has a simple and gentle storyline. The characters are all very elegantly dressed in the style of the time, and I was amazed at how well a story can be told with only a few words flashed up on cards every now and again. The film was worth seeing just for the gorgeous dog (with the unlikely real life moniker of Uggie - who calls their dog an Ugg boot?) Someone fell asleep up the back of the cinema about 20 minutes in and started snoring very loudly, but either a disgruntled patron or an embarrassed friend must have woken them up, because after about two minutes, the snoring ceased (thank goodness!).
Yesterday, Karen left after 15 years at our work. She is moving to a related company with her current boss. Again, I thought it was a fabulous occasion for a cake. For Karen, I chose a couple of different components from Fiona Cairns' The Birthday Cake Book and an unrelated frosting recipe to serve up a Lemon, Lavender and Blackberry Cake, piped with "Good Luck Karen".
The base cake recipe is Fiona's All In One Lemon Cake recipe, which is very similar to her Very Lemony Crunch Cake (which you can find online here). To get the All In One Lemon Cake, just up the butter, flour and sugar to 250g, use 4 eggs instead of two, the zest of two lemons (but the juice of just one) and add one teaspoon of baking powder. The cake batter makes two 9" layer cakes. The syrup recipe is exactly the same as for the Very Lemony Crunch Cake. Here is the cake base after adding the syrup:
I then spread the base with a Blackberry and Lavender jam made from 200g blackberries, 200g sugar, juice of one lemon and a tablespoon of dried lavender wrapped in a muslin cloth (so you don't end up with gritty bits in your jam - you can just discard the cloth and lavender), boiled gently until the jam reaches setting point:
The jam was inspired by Fiona Cairns' blackberry and lavender compote from her White Chocolate, Lavender and Rose Cake, also in The Birthday Cake Book.
I then put the second cake layer on top of the jam:
I frosted the cake with this easy butter icing, dyed pale yellow, with a bit reserved for white and green piping.
I received good feedback on this cake, so unless everyone was just being very kind, I understand the cake was a hit.
Good luck to Karen and her boss at their new posting - I am sure they will both do well.