An engagement shoot

A few weeks ago, me and Jim spent a morning in Erddig, Wrexham’s beautiful National Trust property, with our wedding photographer – and lovely friend – Llinos. And we shot an engagement photo session! We didn’t originally intend to do one of these, as I’m aware that sometimes they can be a bit, erm, cheesy, but we thought it was a good chance to get used to being photographed ahead of our wedding day.

As photoshoots go, we wanted something informal and outdoorsy. We’re extremely lucky to live so close to the beautiful house and grounds at Erddig, and knew it would be the perfect place for a pretty outdoor shoot, with all the lovely Autumnal colours. We had a great morning wandering through the woods, climbing across tree trunks and strolling through the crunchy leaves. Llinos is a lovely pal, but also a really fun, relaxed photographer, and she put us at ease all the way through.

I love Llinos’ photos and am now all the more excited for that bit of our wedding day (five months and counting!). Here are some shots from the shoot. Enjoy!

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A Very Special Cake

An exciting post today! My lovely friend Vickie got married just over a month ago and I was honoured to make her wedding cake. I’ve been itching to share photos of this very special baking project but wanted to wait until Vickie and her new husband Bryn got back from gallivanting around America on their honeymoon. Now they’re back, here we go!


It was about a year ago when I (half-jokingly) offered to bake Vickie and Bryn’s wedding cake, but when Vickie took me seriously, I thought, why not! This was my first proper wedding cake commission and paid job, so obviously there was a bit of pressure involved. But the wedding seemed eons away (an illusion which I now know to be false, with my own wedding rushing towards me) so we set about discussing flavours and style. Being in October, Vickie and Bryn’s wedding had an Autumn theme, so the couple wanted cake flavours that echoed the season. In the end we went for a top tier of fruit cake, middle tier of carrot cake and the huge 14-inch bottom tier was chocolate. After doing some research, I used Mary Berry’s carrot cake recipe and the delicious chocolate buttermilk cake recipe from the Bea’s of Bloomsbury cookbook. The fruit cake ended up being made by Jim, who is a pro in that area and makes ours for Christmas every year.


Originally I was going to ice the carrot cake with a traditional cream cheese frosting, but after realising that the cake would be sitting out for hours, I had to re-think that plan. After some digging around online, I eventually found a cream cheese flavouring oil on ebay. I added a few drops of this to a normal buttercream mixture and it worked really well. The chocolate cake was iced with the same buttercream, minus the flavouring, and the fruit cake had the usual royal icing topping, but with a few drops of yellow colouring added to make it a cream-colour, fitting in with the other two tiers.


My other issue, having never before actually baking a “commerical” type wedding cake before, was sizing. The internet helped enormously with advising on how big the tiers needed to be to feed the number of guests present at the wedding. I was also hugely helped by the lovely staff at Sugar and Spice, my local baking shop, who were tremendously knowledgeable, sold me cake boards and dowelling rods, and rented me the larger cake tins for £1 a day. Absolute bargain!

Once these details were worked out, it was time to actually bake the suckers. It was frightening how quickly October came around (although I’m sure even more so for Vickie and Bryn!) and suddenly the week before the wedding was looming. At this point I had to stop and be thankful for a few things:
1. That fruit cake has to be baked weeks before the event, so was already done and out of the way
2. That I have a great fiancé who was willing to bake this for me
3. That said fiancé was also on hand at all times to help
4. That Vickie wanted a “rustic” wedding cake, not too polished, with swirled icing (just my cup of tea)
5. That I work part-time

Although I love baking, I am now and again partial to a small meltdown when tasked with something challenging. I was determined to avoid meltdowns of any kind with this project, and told myself that I would not be staying up until 2am the night before the wedding, icing like a mad woman. Happily, I worked out my timings well, and was able to set aside time between shifts at work to bake both the chocolate and carrot cakes, and ice them all, without rushing. I finished at 11pm the night before, with time to spare to sit down with a celebratory glass of wine. Hooray!


When the day of the wedding came, I still had a few jobs to do. With Jim’s help, I put the cake dowels into the bottom and middle tiers – crucial for stopping the cakes from collapsing into each other. We then carefully carried the cakes to our car – two in the boot and one on my knee – and Jim drove us to Eccleston village hall at about 30mph. With all the cakes at the venue intact, it was time to stack them.


I had put together a kit for this part of the process, containing a couple of palette knives and extra amounts of each kind of icing in their own little bags. This all came in very useful when stacking the cakes, as inevitably they didn’t sit flush on top of each other due to the dowling rods. The entire cake sat on a large circular piece of wood, which we took with us – a cross-section of a tree trunk. It really fitted in with the Autumn theme of the village hall, which was decorated beautifully with all manner of Autumn foliage, berries and pine cones. There were hops hanging from the ceiling and hessian bows on all the chairs. So pretty! We set to work creating a rustic masterpiece using the foliage and adorable bunting cake topper Vickie had left for us, along with some blackberries we had brought.


This was probably my favourite part of the whole process, as I love faffing about and arranging things. The excitement of the day, and being at the reception venue knowing that just a few miles away Vickie and Bryn were about to get hitched, also made me rather giddy. We worked for about an hour setting up, until Jim persuaded me to stop fussing with everything. I was really proud of our creation and reluctantly left it at the hall to head home for a nap.


That evening, we headed back for the evening reception. It was a wonderful feeling seeing our cake sitting proudly in the hall, amidst all the chatting guests and music and happiness, part of Vickie and Bryn’s day. I was slightly dismayed to find a rogue trickle of blackberry juice running down the back of the cake, but no-one seemed to mind. Note to self: dry blackberries properly before putting on cake! The evening was great fun, but I kept one eye on the cake at all times. A few worries: the cakes wouldn’t be cooked all the way through. The cakes would be burnt. The cakes would taste horrible. There wouldn’t be enough cake for everyone.The cakes would fall over when cut. Thankfully, none of these things happened, and as I watched the guests going backwards and forwards to the cake table, I relaxed a bit. The two little girls sitting at my table didn’t even seem to mind me staring at them while they ate their pieces of chocolate cake (sorry, girls).

So all in all, a success! Vickie told me that there was plenty of chocolate cake left the next day, and they are keeping the fruit cake for Christmas. How lovely! I feel rather proud of mine and Jim’s creation, and am thrilled we were able to contribute to Vickie and Bryn’s gorgeous wedding. I’ll leave you with a couple of photographs of the newlyweds (taken by their awesome photographer Jade Langton-Evans), because really, what a handsome pair. Congratulations Mr and Mrs Jones!