HotCan Cake

Every now and again I get a commission which I really, really enjoy making. Recently, I was approached by Amber Locke of Derbyshire Life magazine and Bear PR who asked if I could make a replica of a HotCan tin.

HotCan are a locally based company who make self-heating cans. The geek in me absolutely loves how these cans work, and so I was thrilled to be asked to make the cake.

There’s some more great photos on the HotCan Facebook page. I especially love the “Angry Chef” photo with the cake instead of the original can.

Thanks to HotCan and Amber for a really fun commission.


Em’s Party Part 1

This year, inspired by a school topic on the Great Fire of London and Horrible Histories on CBBC, Em has requested a Charles II themed party. Preparations are now well underway, and so I found myself sat at the kitchen table last week, pondering on how to adapt a witches costume pattern to a restoration style dress.

I knew the witch costume was do-able, as I’d made that dress for H some 9 years ago.

Witch Hannah
W Staples 2003

Here she is wearing it, being all mean and witchy.

The bodice design was easy to adapt.  I simply changed the angle of the ribbon detailing and added a triangular lace overlay. Unfortunately, in my haste I forgot to add an allowance for the seam joining the bodice to the skirt, hence the rather cut off triangle shape.

copyright W Staples 2012

The original witches dress design had overlay over all of the skirt, but after a quick look at some google images and my history books I decided to leave a front opening with the overlay as this seemed to be the prevailing style.  After a bit of searching around the house for a suitable circle shaped something with which to adapt the pattern, I settled on our lounge rug!

Full sleeves are, as yet, a bit beyond my abilities, so I decided to keep the original sleeve pattern, but substitute the original full sleeve overlay for a gathering of the overlay material at the end of the sleeves.  This was more in keeping with the style of the period, if not completely authentic as the sleeve shape itself wasn’t quite right.

Then Em suddenly brought out this dress…

image copyright W Staples 2012

I realised that if I did a simple dart then I could get the puffiness I was after in the sleeve like this….

Sleeve Detail
copyright W Staples 2012

After that, it was a simple job of sewing the hems on the skirt and putting it altogether.

Emily wearing her finished dress
Copyright W Staples 2012

Now, sewing is a hobby for me. It’s one which I enjoy, but I’m not very proficient in, especially when comparing myself to such great friends as LoveHector, Housley & Co., HWR Designs and KittyEden. But I had a go.  All in all the dress took me around 8-10 hours to make, and was a fabulous distraction from H’s exams.  Em was very pleased with the finished dress, and really, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Tardis Cake

Another year has passed more quickly than I care to admit, and so last week included the task of baking Hannah’s 15th birthday cake.

I had planned a wonderful surprise for her of a cake complete with electronics and lots of other fun cakey stuff, but all hell broke loose at the beginning of the week, and so there I was on the morning of her birthday with only the base icing done. Best laid plans eh?

Matt Smith was the obvious choice for the Doctor, as he is her favourite incarnation. The assistant is Hannah in typical teenage slouched-against-something-with-her-arms-folded fashion.  One light for the top of the Tardis was all I could manage in the end, but we did at least get that.  The sombrero is a family in-joke from a fabulous storyline idea Hannah had months ago. (She was gutted to be too old to enter the recent script writing competition.) I’m biased of course, but if perchance any Dr Who peeps may read this post (in my dreams!) then seriously, Hannah is bursting to tell someone her idea.

I’m the first to say it’s not the best Tardis cake I’ve ever done: we tried a few different techniques which were less than successful, but given the time I had to make it I was pretty chuffed.  Onwards to Emily’s 7th birthday.  At the moment she wants a street scene from the Great Fire of London.  I’m already thinking about smoke!

Tardis Cake
Photograph Copyright Wendy Staples

Wonderful Wales

I have so many happy memories of holidaying in Wales in the ’70s and ’80s and most of them feature my Nan and Grandpa.  Most of these childhood holidays were spent in the area around Porthmadog and Harlech, but we also holidayed in Pembrokeshire which I instantly fell in love with.  This year, we managed to return to St Bride’s Bay  – a place which I first visited 30 years ago.

Earlier this summer I was lucky enough to win a photography course with the wonderful Lyndsey James.  A heavy work schedule had left little time to practice what I’d learned, so I was determined to spend time on holiday trying to get better. I know I’ve got a long way to go yet, but here’s some of the photos I was most proud of.  Constructive comments welcome!

I love the way Em is looking at the splashes she is making.

The view across the beach.

Part way through the week I discovered the black and white setting on the camera.

Someone call me Makka Pakka!

This one’s a candidate for framing.

You wouldn’t believe how many shots it took before I got one of the waves that I was happy with.

Using the “sunset” setting for the first time.

This was actually mid-afternoon!

And finally….. really, really special memories.


Maths & Baking – Part One

I’ve been thinking about this blog for a while.  It all started when I did the Geek Calendar cookies last October.  Here’s some of my maths cookies from that night, ably modelled by Matt Parker & Alex Bellos.

above photo courtesy of Ben Thompson and Geek Calendar

By the way, please, please do go and read Alex’s book “Alex’s Adventures In Numberland“. Now.  It’s utterly absorbing.

Now, I want to start by admitting that maths was about as far from my favourite subject as was possible when I was at school.  In fact I always thought that I was pretty rubbish at maths.  Six hours of possible brain injury testing after the accident proved otherwise, but that’s a whole other story.  The point is, I THOUGHT I couldn’t do maths.

It’s only with the passing of time, (well that and listening to Matt Parker talk about the beauty of a Möbius Loop), that I’ve realised that I really like maths.  I’m relatively good at it too: cue competitive “discussion” with Mr Quirky as to who’s best at navigating & packing the freezer (although I have to admit, that time he navigated through London using only the sun was awesome!).

The reality is I use maths all of the time in my work. From simple multiplying and dividing ingredient quantities, through working out percentage profits to the more complicated geometry for some of the sculpted cakes.  Whilst leafing through Hannah’s GCSE Higher Maths book, I even came across an example of using maths to ensure the right number of trays of eggs is ordered, a “Real-Life problem” I calculate every Monday! Although Ed-Excel, I have to point out that a tray of eggs is 30 not 24!

So in honour of this being Pi Approximation Day, here’s  some fun maths cookies and cakes.

Quirky Junior’s fantastic maths teacher Mrs Boyd is leaving us for the USA, and to mark this sad day  Hannah made some fabulous maths based cookies this week.

They reminded me of some I helped her make 3 years ago, before I set up Quirky Cookies & Cakes.

You can see how her piping has improved from age 11 to now.

I’d been thinking about a Möbius loop cookie for quite some time, so Mrs Boyd’s departure seemed the obvious time to have a go.  My normal cookie recipe didn’t stand up to the cooking process so I decided to try a fortune cookie mix.  I’d never made them before but I just about managed to get it to work. Next time I’ll know to make the strips of fortune cookie at least 30cm long, as most of the ones I made simply weren’t long enough to fold back on themselves.

I’ve had some helpful suggestions as to possible improvements from BakeMe.Com and my good friend Jules of  Butcher, Baker I’ll be returning to that one as soon as I’ve got the energy!

I couldn’t let today go by without making at least one pi cake.  Having compared methods with @standupmaths following his pi cupcakes earlier this year I thought it should be possible to use the marbling method to make a cake which, when cut, showed the pi symbol.

Well, it clearly needs more work, and if I hadn’t been spending most of the day finishing these and a plethora of other things, I’d have made another one.

One final thought…we were honoured to welcome Matt Parker to Quirky Towers earlier this week when he was working in Derby.  Whilst we happily chatted about maths and baking, I suddenly had the idea of a Venn Diagram pie.  I’m working on it now…so watch this space for more maths baking fun soon.

The Inventive Invitations

This month Quirky Tower has been in quarantine with the pox….chicken pox actually as our youngest has been infected! Once the worst was over however we used the time to plan her 6th birthday party.  Em loves to share what she’s been doing with you, so this is her blog about making the invitations.  As usual, the words are hers…I just help a bit with the typing.

How to Make An Invitation

Hello everybody.  Today I’m making my own invitations for my birthday party in July.  We thought you might like to make some too, so just follow the instructions and then you will know.

First you need to cut some card.   I am having an under the sea party so we used blue card.  Measure the envelope first so then you know how big to put it in.

The next thing you need is some double sided tape if you have some.  If not then use some glue.  You need to put the tape on the card like this.

Then we used a guillotine and some deckle edged scissors to make the sand from some sandpaper.  You can use any sandpaper.  The deckle scissors make the sandpaper look really like the sand at the bottom of the sea.

Then you need to draw the seaweed and the archway on the invitations.  You can colour it in if you want to.  I used different colours of glitter pens and mummy helped.

The next day we woke up and we cut out grey rocks from grey felt.  You could use any colour.   Next you put some double-sided tape on them, then you peel the tape off and stick it on the card.

You can do any animal but I am having a jellyfish.  If you are not good at drawing them then go to google and find jellyfish images.  Then pictures of jellyfish will come up.

Then you can use the arrows to go up or down until you get to the bottom of the page.  When you find a picture you like then click on it.   If you just wanted some colour ideas then don’t click on it.  You  can use  any colour.

We used holographic card for the head and ribbon for the tentacles.  Draw some circles on the card then cut the circles out and cut them into semi-circles.  Use double sided sticky tape and stick it on the back at the bottom of the semi-circle.  Then stick the ribbon on the sticky bit to make the tentacles.  When you have finished doing that then put an extra layer of double-sided sticky tape on top of the ribbon.  Then peel the backing paper off – don’t worry if you miss a bit – then stick the animal onto the card.  If the tentacles are too long then cut them.  If you want to draw some fish on the invitations.

You need some googly eyes and stick them on the card.  Then leave the glue to dry.  Then if your animal is saying a speech bubble and you have printed it out then cut them out and stick them on.  Do the smile on the jellyfish with a 3-D glitter pen and then leave them to dry.

Next you have to do the information on the back.  If the smiles are not dry then just wait and print the information out.  We used a background paper which was blue.  Then we did the information.  It is where, what number your house is, where you live and when your birthday is.  Then you tell your friends or the people that you have invited what time the party is.  Make sure you include an RSVP.  Stick this on the back of your invitations.

The you have finished your invitations.

ER Hospital Cake

Although I’ve always baked traditional cakes, it wasn’t until I became a mum that I started making the carved novelty type cakes that are now my favourite to create.   So far Hannah has had everything from the Teletubbies, the Tweenies, and Groovy Chick in her early childhood, through lots of Harry Potter cakes to last year’s Twilight cake.

Twilight Cake

This year she wanted a medical theme.  ER has long been a favourite of hers; we just had to decide which bit of the set to recreate.  Hannah eventually decided on the green trauma room with her as the patient and, after several hours of watching DVDs, we found some clips which showed the whole room.

I had originally thought that in order to make the cake as detailed as we wanted to that I would have to take a whole week to make it.  However, the best laid plans etc… and after two poorly girls at the beginning of the week, and an order for Brown & Green, I found myself starting to decorate the cake on Thursday afternoon for the party straight after school on Friday. Not ideal to say the least.

Hannah was really keen to make the cake with me, but a heavy homework schedule meant that she only managed to make herself.  She did a great job for her first sugar figure don’t you think?

One of my favourite elements was the X-ray screen.  Hannah has had problems with her joints since being very young, and regularly ends up in A&E herself, so it was an obvious choice to depict her most frequently x-rayed limbs etc on the cake.

The walls were made of gum paste.  I was really nervous about these.  Normally I would allow at least 3 or 4 days for them to dry before attaching to the cake but this time they had less than 24 hours.

This wall had a blind on it, and this was made by overlapping rice paper strips,  and dusting with silver food colouring powder.

The cupboards were made by drawing onto rice paper with food colouring pens.  The rice paper simply adheres to the damp gum paste.

The coloured rice paper then had a further layer added, to make the cupboard doors and to give an overall impression of opaque glass.  At Emily’s suggestion, one of the cupboard doors was left open.

ER Hospital Cake

Given all the time constraints, I was really pleased with the finished cake.  Hannah and her friends were certainly impressed.

I really enjoyed making this cake for Hannah.  Happy Birthday to you! x

Love is in the Kitchen!

It’s been a fun Valentines Day here at Quirky Towers.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been baking lots of these.

So this morning, I had a lovely surprise when I came downstairs to the kitchen to see that Mr Quirky (WID to our twitter friends) had been there before me.

Now, much as hubs loves my cookies, I decided that this year I wanted to make something different for him, so this afternoon, I’ve been relaxing in the kitchen making chocolate bars and hearts with Emily. 


It was lovely to get a break from baking cookies for everyone else and to make something fabulous for my hubs, and as Emily says, because “I love you Daddy”.

Whatever you get from your special person today, I hope you have a lovely time.

The Recipe of Pirate’s Gold – Emily’s Blog

As I’ve often said, many of my happiest childhood memories are of cooking with my Nan and my Mum, so I’m thrilled that my youngest daughter Emily appears to be following in my footsteps by cooking with me.  Here is her story about making Pirate’s Gold.

This morning, we decided to make the recipe of Pirate’s Gold.  I couldn’t find the recipe in my Big Cook Little Cook book but luckily we found it on my DVD.  Here’s how you make it.

Pirate’s Gold

serves 4 people

about 100g cheese

2 eggs

one baguette

two small tins of sweetcorn

2tbs plain flour

for the filling – lettuce  and tomatoes

Turn the oven on to 180 degrees.  Cut the baguette into 4 pieces and then slice lengthways, almost all the way through. Scoop out the soft bread and put it into the food processor.

Whizz up the bread until it is crumbled in pieces.  Put the breadcrumbs into a bowl. I used my new cookery bowl from Santa.

Add the sweetcorn and add two eggs.  Grate some cheese.  It doesn’t matter what cheese you use.  I used cheddar cheese. Put the cheese in the bowl. 

Mix it all together. 

Roll spoonfuls of mixture in your hands to make balls.  I didn’t like this because it was too sticky so I decided I was going to do it with spoons instead.  Put the mixture onto the baking trays.  

Put them in the oven for about 12  minutes.  Check to see if they are golden brown.

Whilst the nuggets are cooking do the dressing.  Tear some lettuce like paper and put it into the baguette.  Chop the tomatoes and put them in the baguette. Don’t put them in the nuggets or in your shoes!

When the nuggets are cooked put 3 or whatever number you would like in the baguettes with the dressing.  Don’t do anything else because they are ready.

 We have worked hard to make this recipe. We had fun making this recipe.  See if you could make the recipe too.

Christmas at Quirky Towers

Here at Quirky Cookies & Cakes  the last few days before Christmas are a really busy time.  We’ve been busy baking Christmas goodies, and now there’s just a couple of days left to get your last minute orders in.  We’ve had a lot of fun designing the cookies and developing some new recipes to tempt you all during the holiday season.  Here’s just a selection of some of the things on offer.

Large Cookie Christmas Tree Table Centrepiece


Christmas Design Cookies
Copyright Wendy Staples


Christmas Design Cookies
Copyright Wendy Staples

Some more Christmas Designs

Placename Cookies
Copyright Wendy Staples


If you’re tempted, you can get an electronic order form by e-mailing us.   We can post UK wide, but hurry as our last order date is 12 noon on the 20th December.

If you can’t see what you’re looking for here, then why not get in touch, we’d love to help!