Red Velvet Cake

I thought Red Velvet Cake was just a victoria sandwich with waaaay too much red colouring in it, so I have avoided it.

However, we have an American guest who I know loves it, and I thought I'd make one as a welcoming gesture, and actually took the trouble to find out more. One thing it isn't, is a standard victoria sandwich cake!

I've adapted a recipe found on the internet (there's loads out there) because I had to use substitutions for some of the ingredients. I am a complete convert to the RVC and have printed my version below. It is very light, very moist, not too rich, soft, and keeps well. Recipe is under photographs.

You will need 3x 8" cake tins, lined and greased. Preheat the oven to 160C for a fan oven, 180C if not. I think that's gas 4.


300 grms of muscovado sugar (you can use other sugars but this soft brown sugar gives a bit of fudginess) 
2 large eggs
240 ml of vegetable oil. You can use sunflower oil but nothing else - definitely not olive oil or nut oils!
Red food colouring. (You have to be a bit brave - use a gel colouring if possible but if not go with what you have. I used half a small bottle and it's not exactly red is it!)
250g plain flour
1 1/4 tsps of bicarbonate of soda
40 grms of good cocoa powder
1/2 tblsp vanilla extract
100 ml of coffee
240ml buttermilk
1/2 tblsp white wine vinegar


Sieve the flour, bicarb and cocoa into a large bowl.

In another bowl add the oil, eggs, and colouring and whisk for a couple of minutes until slightly lighter in colour and thicker.

Sieve in half the flour mix and lightly whisk. Add coffee, vinegar and buttermilk and beat together. Fold in the remaining flour. Pour the mix into the 3 tins and bake for about 25-30 minutes until done. The cakes will spring back to a light touch when done.


175 gms butter at room temperature
400 grms icing sugar
2 x 180 grms of full fat cream cheese (don't use low fat as it's too liquid when mixed)

I'd say this was an essential part of the cake! Whisk the softened butter and add the icing sugar until well mixed and fluffy. Whisk in the cream cheese. I used Philadelphia and all was well, but if your brand makes the icing a bit too runny just pop it back into the fridge to set.

Sandwich together and use any remaining as decoration. I had enough to coat the sides quite thickly.

Feeling Lonely?!

I've decided that if I'm ever feeling a bit lonely or at a loss about what to do next, I shall do what I did unwittingly yesterday and put on my black trousers and wear a black tee shirt; then I'll put my glasses on a string around my neck and go into Marks and Spencer for a bit of shopping.Whether you choose to browse whilst there, idly thumbing through the bras or shoes, or just stand quietly looking around the shop floor, people will come up to you and ask you really interesting things, like, "Where's the men's socks please?", or "Do you have this shirt in a size 12 in white?" or even rather horrifically, could you fit me for a bra please?".  I leave it up to you how involved in the conversations you wish to be. Isn't life a blast?

(Apparently M&S uniform is black trousers, black tee shirt and a thing around the neck).

Chocolate Orange Cake

Needle felting - a first go.

Pin Cushions by me!

I've been out and about during the last week because Warwick Arts Trail is on and there's lots to see. I was chatting to a lady who did needle felting and she had some lovely work on show and was selling kits to get you started, so of course I bought one to have a go!

The tools you need are simple: Wool - which you can buy in lots of lovely colours prepared and in a handy sized skein. I paid £6.50 a pack for mine at Hobbycraft (no affiliation) I also bought some needle felting needles and a multi-needle (below).

The needles come in different sizes and shapes, but for me as a beginner I just bought a multi pack of 3 - large, medium, and fine. Those funny looking beige things at the front are leather finger and thumb protectors which came in my kit. A jolly good idea to wear them at the start of things because those needles are long and very very sharp - ouch! I think you can buy them on line.

The white square and the blue square are the foam bases for the needle felting. You can also buy something that looks like a brush but does the same job.

The process is simple but time consuming. Push the needle through the wool which you've chosen and rolled into a ball, (for animals) and into the foam a few times, and you'll see that the wool begins to felt. You need a bit of patience as it takes a while to build the felt into a firm surface.

Most people seem to make animals - there's lots of how-to's on YouTube if you want to have a go. Basically you roll a lot of wool into a tight ball and stab away at it until it's felted and smooth.  - maybe as much as 30 minutes depending on your speed. Plasters are good to keep at hand. You then attach other shapes such as heads and legs that you've felted in the same way, and you have a creature of sorts. My mouse was simple white wool with pale pink and a spot of black for an eye.

I was making pin cushions for a charitable event which has been cancelled, so have opened a tiny shop to sell them should anyone be interested. The small ones are £6.50 and the larger ones £10. Click here if you want to know more.

2 pin cushions and a dead mouse.

Two more pin cushions which will be for sale when I have made enough!

 It's not a dead mouse of course, just sleeping. My first go at needle felting. Not entirely sure it's for me but an interesting start!

Cup and saucer pin cushion

I bought the above pin cushion some year's ago, and it has featured in one of my quilts. You can guess by that, that I love it quite a bit! So I thought I'd have a go at making one for a friend.

You need a pretty vintage tea cup and saucer, but I guess you could do similar with an egg cup etc.

I chose a piece of cloth to go with the china, and used the saucer to cut out a round from the fabric.

I then did a smallish running stitch around the circle and pulled it slightly into a round. I filled this with scraps of polyester wadding before pulling the thread tightish and finishing it off. I then glued the wadded circle into the cup using a general purpose glue. Put the glue on the cup not on the fabric, it's easier.

Options: The beads shown on the cup above, were a small bracelet which is made to the size of the cup and simply rested on the top at the edge. The middle was filled with glass headed pins.

Free Stuff

Linda and Laura Kemshall (Design Matters TV) are in the sidebar as an inspirational place to visit. They occasionally have new FREE videos on their website and here's a link to the latest for you It's all about felted and stitched landscapes. If like me, you don't have experience of needle felting let alone a machine, there are loads of other free videos that may inspire you, including how to make one of those Infinity Scarves, which is on my to-do list.

Here's the needle felted and stitched landscape.

Gardening is creative too!

No, not an excuse for lack of postings! When the weather turns to glorious sunshine at this time of year, it's good to be outdoors in the fresh air despite the enormous amount of pile-driving that seems to be going on around the hermitage.

Here's some garden photos - can't wait for the roses and perennials to burst forth.

Boiled pages?? I give it a go.

Thanks for this idea goes to Laura and Linda Kemshall and is from their video how-to website, DMTV. They called it plant printing.  I had a go using all sorts of plant material from the garden.

My results were mixed and I wonder if it's because I didn't have the requisite lump of rusty iron and used a natural iron oxide (artists' pigment dry ground - raw sienna) instead. It worked but I only used 1/2 teaspoon and may have needed more to deepen the colour. Iron Oxide pigments do come in other colours too including a chocolatey dark umber, so a bit of experimenting is called for I think, if only to justify buying an £8 wok for the boiling process from Wilko. (I didn't want to use my food prep pans, and none of the charity shops had any saucepans)

It was a fun way to spend an afternoon. When I get something better to show you, I'll post again. Below is heuchera and abutilon.

V Neck Dress by The Assembly Line

I liked the look of this pattern on the model, who was, to be fair, not shaped a bit like me.

The pattern comes up quite long and I had to chop about 8 inches off to get a sympathetic length on me - the full length made me look frumpy.

It is one of those patterns on paper not tissue so easy to alter and robust enough to take fiddling. The instructions were good apart from at the V neck, where it took me a long time to understand and get right - but I managed it. Yay me!

The fabric was 100% cotton from a quilt making shop, but I think something drapier would have given a better look - perhaps a double gauze or even wool for the winter.

The pockets sit very well indeed - you'd hardly know they were there unless they were stuffed with paper tissues. I added some stitching at the sleeves, hem and neck line, to lift and add definition. 

And here it is on a real life person!  I've just signed up for a pattern drafting course in the summer so that should help with fit etc.  The stitching below is done in quilting thread by Gutermann.

Monoprint using oils and I buy a little treat!

Here's the little treat! It's a monprint in oils by Dan Tirels  I've watched his videos on YouTube for a couple of years and have even been inspired to try out his methods and they work really well. I will be doing more of monoprint using oils in the coming months.

The original posting of my experiments are copied below to save you ferreting through the blog! 

  Monoprint experiment in oils - inspiration Dan Tirels.

The above monoprint (blue/black)was made with oil paints and the orange with Caligo printing inks. They were very quick and easy to do, and a pictorial how-to follows.

You need a very little amount of oil colour. Squeeze a little (I've used indigo and prussian blue) onto a small sheet of polythene. I have large sheets of this to cover my table, but an old bag or some packaging would work. Spread the paint using a spatula, scraper or a piece of card. It doesn't need to be smooth!

Here's my sheet of polythene covered with a thin layer of oil paint.

Next, tape a piece of printing paper or whatever you wish to the table to stop it from moving. Put a frame over the top to give a crisp edge. I've used an old card mount.

Tear up some light cardboard into shapes and put them over the paper. Small pieces work better than large.

Lift the polythene and carefully begin to press it over the card (which will probably move a bit). The idea wasn't to get a complete covering but just to press some paint into the background.

Here you can see how much paint was pressed into the paper and the shapes left behind by the torn card pieces.

Gently, with a sponge or piece of cloth etc., blur the edges of the shapes.

I used the end of a paintbrush over the painted polythene to give some movement with lines.

A final bit of blurring of the lines.

Below: the finished piece.

Gelli plate printing - using Vaseline as a resist

I watch the Gelli Plate company's videos on YouTube. They did one recently using Vaseline as a resist. Now, I've used lots of resist techniques before but never Vaseline, so thought it was worth a try.

The plus point for me was the "noise" you get on the print - if you look at the leaf above you'll see that it's got traces of darker paint from the top layer of print, overlying the orangey paint I printed first.  If I had used paper as a resist, I would have got a clean and clear print of a leaf with that underlying colour coming through completely - no noise. I like this!

It might be easier to explain if I post photos of the process.

The equipment: Gelli plate of a size that suits your paper, brayer, paint (I've used Open Acrylics), stencils, Vaseline, sketchbooks, baby wipes, scrap paper to roll your brayer on to get rid of excess paint.

Put a few spots of your chosen colours onto the gelli plate and use the brayer to roller the colour over the surface. Blend the colour as much as you wish. If you want to keep the colours more separate, then roller the brayer on your scrap paper to clean it.

Print the paint onto paper, labels, or your sketchbook.

Leave to dry.

Choose a stencil that you like - it can be anything, and be quite detailed.

Use your finger to gently rub the vaseline into the shapes on the stencil. Take care that the stencil doesn't move and you get a good covering. The vaseline shouldn't be thick.

Use a paper towel to gently wipe the excess Vaseline from the stencil.

Vaseline doesn't dry so you can start the next bit straight away! Roller more colour onto your gelli plate. I've gone darker with my colours so that it makes a good contrast.

Print the plate on top of your stenciled paper, and leave the paint to dry. This is important or the next step won't work properly.

When the paint is dry, use a baby wipe to gently rub the print and remove the excess paint and Vaseline. This bit is great fun as the print comes to life as the colours shine through.