Plundering Pirates – Part 3: Gymkhana

Wow it has been two weeks since I last posted on my blog. Thank you for a couple of amazing friends who have been asking for new blog posts! I love that my blog is being read and missed when I am “slack” :)

On Thursday the 15th November we had Granddad’s funeral. It was a harrowing day. My Dad did a wonderful, beautiful job on the eulogy and one of my Aunties wrote a lovely poem that my Uncle read out. It is sad that it seems you only see extended family members at weddings and funerals, and always large periods of time in between. It was lovely seeing all my cousins and their children, but I was in no state to socialise.

Even though we were celebrating the Michelle's Labyrinthlife of my Granddad, I knew at home that my baby Makita wasn’t going to last very long. My 13 year 5 month old Rottweiler was shrinking (hidden by bloating) and shaking all the time because of the pain she was in. Makita passed away on Friday 16th November, and this is the main reason why I haven’t posted to my blog. I have started writing a post about Makita because she was a huge part of my life and I loved her very much, but you will have to wait for me to gather (and scan) the photos I want to share before I publish that one.

During the past couple of weeks I have spent some time with family and also busied myself in making cakes for the Wanneroo Show – which I will write about in more detail in another post. I also may have done some investigation into a new family member – of the furry kind. So watch this space on news about that! Now as promised in my last post, this one was to be about cakes! But in this case, it is about why I made a pirate cake for the Gidgegannup Show :)

I am curious how many of you knew what gymkhana means when you saw the title of my blog post? According to http://dictionary.reference.com/ (one of my favourite websites as I know lots of words, just not how to spell them!) a gymkhana is a field day held for equestrians, consisting of exhibitions of horsemanship and much pageantry.

My Mum’s next door neighbour has ponies and Shetlands and is a Carriage (Harness) Driving enthusiast, who also competes. For the past few years she has held a “Fun Day”, a gymkhana, on her property around the end of October. This is the 3rd year, and my parents and myself have volunteered each year. I am now the official score keeper.

Michelle's Labyrinth

Each year there is a new theme and Michelle's Labyrintheveryone dresses up to that theme (humans and ponies!) and this year’s theme was ‘Pirates’! This is why I made the pirates cake, since the gymkhana was held a week after the Gidgegannup Show. I also made a fruit cake so it would last and of course ensured there were ponies on the cake.

 

Michelle's Labyrinth    Michelle's Labyrinth

On the day they hold various events such as barrel racing, a precision course (where the pony has two minutes do a number of actions to earn points, such as a timed halt), a race (2 ponies race, but they also have to drop balls in buckets at certain points) and a timed obstacle course through cones with tennis balls on them (you get penalised if the tennis balls fall off the cone). So it isn’t necessarily the fastest or biggest pony/horse that wins. It is the most precise, well behaved pony. You’d laugh at how afraid they are to go over some carpet!

Michelle's Labyrinth   Michelle's Labyrinth

This year it was a stormy weekend. I thought it may be called off for safety reasons (yes the mining industry drilled that into me!), but everyone loves the day so much that most of them turned up. So Mum, Dad and I ended up getting soaked and hailed on! At one point we were timing a race, keeping our backs Michelle's Labyrinthto the west because the rain was coming in so hard and we noticed all the other competitors under the verandah with cups of coffee! Cheeky bleeps :) I had my Lumix camera (as opposed to Canon SLR) so I risked capturing the weather coming in, and also a few of us stuck under a tree during a heavy shower!

Michelle's Labyrinth

But we got through the day and still had fun (including a pony that was being trained to wear a harness – see picture below!). We didn’t do one event and did them all before lunch (we usually do the obstacle course after lunch) because we knew no one would want to go back out into the wet once they were semi dried.

Michelle's Labyrinth

Everyone was super impressed with my pirate cake. Mum told most people that it came third at the Gidgegannup Show. I cut a good chunk off the cake for Dad to take home and most of the jetty part of the cake was demolished! So I was pretty happy with that.

Mum told me a story a few days after the gymkhana. Her next door neighbour’s husband threw a wobbly about the cake. She was going to take the ship part of the cake to a club meeting the next day and he said he didn’t want her to take the whole ship. He wanted some. He mentioned how my Dad got to keep some, so he wanted a portion! So she had to leave half the ship for her husband to eat! I will take that as a big compliment that my fruit cake was yummy! :)

Oh, before I forget… Captain Jack Sparrow made an appearance at the gymkhana! He was put to work, although I am unsure if he was used to it!

Michelle's Labyrinth              Michelle's Labyrinth

Michelle's Labyrinth

 

 

 

 

Plundering Pirates – Part 2: Gidgegannup Show

It has been a big build up to the Gidgegannup Show and it arrived a little too quickly for my liking. I didn’t anticipate how much time our guests from the U.K. would take up, especially when play dates were cancelled etc. But I loved getting to know my little niece more and really enjoyed the time I spent with her.

I was up late finishing my pirate cake and was pretty happy with how it turned out. I do think my Halloween cake was better though. I had also planned to do a ‘Article From Moulded Fondant’, but I just didn’t have the time. So I am going to use that idea for the Wanneroo show :)

It was lucky I only made one cake, because the space allocation for the decorated cakes wasn’t very big at all. Only enough space for just a regular cake! Luckily my cake was first to arrive, and I paid for two entries, so first come first served (for space)!

I wasn’t able to attend the Gidgegannup Show as we were having an Australian birthday party for my niece, but my Dad was lovely and went to the show and took pictures of the winning cakes for me.

Michelle's Labyrinth

Michelle's Labyrinth

Michelle's Labyrinth

I was just hoping not to embarrass myself after seeing the amazing cakes at the Perth Royal Show. So I was very excited to get third place at the Gidgegannup Show! Especially since it was the first time I have entered something into a show (besides when I was around 11 and showed my pony at the Wanneroo Show!) and I have never had any cake decorating lessons/workshops etc!

I also dabble a bit in photography and my Dad encouraged me to enter a photo of a swan I took in Boston. So I also decided to enter a photo I took of Makita’s paws and also a photo of a beautiful sunset in Langkawi.

Here are the photos my Dad took of the winning animal photographs.

Michelle's Labyrinth

Michelle's LabyrinthMichelle's Labyrinth

Can you believe I got a second place for the animal category?!! When I arrived to drop my photos off there weren’t many photos up, but the ones I saw were amazing, so I didn’t think I had any chance at all. But my Dad must have a good eye since he really liked my swan photo (from Swan Lake in the Boston Public Gardens).

When I dropped my photos off the ladies loved the one of Makita’s paws (below on the left hand side) – they thought it was clever and had never thought of taking a photo of paws. As Dad walked around looking at the photos he said that a few people commented on the paws photo. So I might enter that one into the Wanneroo Show too.

Michelle's Labyrinth

These are the winning seascape photos:

Michelle's Labyrinth

Michelle's Labyrinth

Michelle's Labyrinth

They are beautiful photos. Great effects and such clarity (especially with the boat one!). Below is the photo I entered, as I said I just loved the colours in it and also the way the waves are captured.

Michelle's Labyrinth

 

 

 

Plundering Pirates – Part 1: The Making Of

I am often asked where I get my ideas for cakes from and how I make them, so I thought I would walk you through the making of my cake for the Gidgegannup show. This is also the first cake that I have had an audience and also a helper – my almost 4 year old niece!

I have acquired a number of cake decorating and cupcake books over the past few years and often rummage through them to get ideas. Or if it is for a specific person I sometimes ask for suggestions or work out what they like, then I use Google to get even more ideas!

Once I have the theme for the cake I then work out how big I want to make it and get out the best cake board so I know what I am aiming for. If it is for a big cake, or a cake with lots of sections, I sometimes draw it so I know how big to make the sections or figures. And no I do not colour the drawing in (which my niece asked me last week), but I do sometimes write notes of things to add to the cake or colours I need etc.

Michelle's Labyrinth

Most of the time I use White Wings or Green’s cake packet mixes, as I am more interested in decorating the cake, although I am a pretty good cook and can make a cake from scratch if I want to.

For the cake I made for the Gidgegannup show I made a fruit cake. I had a plan for where the cake was going to end up (who it was going to be eaten by!), so I made a fruit cake since they last. You’ll have to wait for Part 3 to see who got to enjoy my Gidgegannup show cake!

I need to get a bit better at planning my cakes. Each time I go to make a fruit cake and read the recipe, I only then remember it recommends soaking the fruit in brandy for a week!!! Sometimes I am lucky to remember the night before… sometimes I let it soak for an hour or so! (And I forgot to take a picture of the fruit! My niece helped me pour all the fruit into the bowl and then tip the brandy in. She got brandy all over her little hands – don’t tell her Mum!!).

Michelle's Labyrinth    Michelle's Labyrinth

In the past I wasn’t a big sifter, I think I got that habit from my Mum. My cooking has never really failed because I haven’t sifted the flour etc! But since I was making 3 fruit cakes I thought I better do it properly in this instance.

I love using dark brown sugar. It smells like treacle and I love the way fresh brown sugar moves with you pour it out of the packet. It seems to settle slowly in the measuring cup. Like it is gradually seeping into the corners, getting comfortable.

Michelle's Labyrinth   Michelle's Labyrinth

The Christmas in July Cake (http://michelleslabyrinth.com.au/wordpress/cakes-for-all-occassions/xmas_3/) was the first fruit cake I have ever made (section of the cake shown above on the right). And boy it was yummy if I do say so myself. I had a Lions Fruit Cake last year, the first one in a number of years, and it just didn’t taste as good as I remembered. My Mum is going to give me her Christmas Cake recipe, which was passed down to her from her Mum, this year and I cannot wait to make it! But if you ever want to make an easy yummy fruit cake, use this recipe:  http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/15039/christmas+fruit+cake

Michelle's Labyrinth

While the cakes are cooking, which is usually 40-50 minutes (or 3.5 hours for fruit cakes!) I start to colour my fondant icing. I buy my fondant (Bakels White Icing Pettinice Ready to Roll Fondant 750g) from Balcatta’s Cake Tinz and Thingz (http://www.caketinznthingz.com.au/) and over the last few years I have also gathered a nice collection of colours!

I use the fondant to cover the cake and also to make my figures. My niece kept calling it Play-Doh, and sometimes I do think that it is like I am playing with Play-Doh! This is the first cake that I have covered the cake board with fondant. I noticed on Cake Boss and the cakes at the Perth Royal Show had their boards covered. I thought I did a pretty good job, but by the time the cake got to the show and put in its place there were cracks around the edges of the board.

Michelle's LabyrinthMichelle's Labyrinth

So as you make have guessed from the title of this blog post, the theme I chose for this cake was pirates! And as you can see I made 3 fruit cakes! And the next step is to cut the cake to shape, if required.

Here is the finished product of my pirate cake!

Michelle's Labyrinth

Michelle's Labyrinth

Michelle's Labyrinth    Michelle's Labyrinth

My niece knows all about pirates from Walt Disney’s Peter Pan and as she was playing with some fondant I gave her, she was chatting away and mentioned a parrot and an anchor! Brilliant ideas!

Michelle's Labyrinth Michelle's Labyrinth

I also remembered to include a figurehead at the prow of the ship – a mermaid of course!

Michelle's Labyrinth        Michelle's Labyrinth

Johnny Depp is one of my favourite actors if you haven’t guessed that already :)  So of course the captain had to be Captain Jack Sparrow. While making this cake I watched the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films. I did have to put the second one on hold when my niece was around. Her Dad told her it was just make believe, but I thought I would pause it after a while. I had to re-do Captain Jack’s legs, as he was almost a centimeter shorter than the other pirates, and that just would not do!

Michelle's Labyrinth     Michelle's Labyrinth

You’ll have to wait until Part 3 to see why it was important I included ponies on the jetty part of my cake.

Michelle's Labyrinth

The treasure chest is on of my favourite parts of this cake. I was pretty happy how it turned out and the gold and silver paints came out quite well.

I’ll let you know in Part 2 how I went at the Gidgegannup show.

 

 

 

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