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Sugar Cookie Madness – Simplified

Before someone goes into ‘attack’ mode because you don’t agree with what i’m saying, this is my opinion based on my tastebuds and what I was looking for in a sugar cookie. I am not Law, although sometimes I think I am but I do know that this will benefit a few people out there.

I am sure that many of you are still on the hunt for the perfect sugar cookie and just like me you have tried many recipes and all the tricks to go along with them, especially when you refrigerate the dough before baking the cookies to prevent ‘spreading’ but somehow what entered the oven as a sharp, pointed Christmas tree, emerged as Frosty the Snowman. WHY!!!???!!!!!

I’m not going to lie, my favourite part about sugar cookies is eating them, i’m not a fan of decorating them, i’m pretty sure I have slight ADD and cannot do repetitive work for a long time, I get so bored all of a sudden that I feel like this even if it means checking the mail box:

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So here are my 3 recipes, trialed over and over to make sure it wasn’t a stroke of good luck and they’re all pretty simple and easy to follow.

1. THE ‘FLAVOUR QUEEN’: All Recipes – Sugar Cookies

These cookies taste amazing and it’s the vanilla extract that really gives these their superior flavour. There is a slight crunchy exterior with a soft, faint, chewy interior. My mouth is actually watering just thinking about them. They don’t always hold their shape though, but you can roll them quite thinly and pick them up off your floured surface without it cracking or stretching. These were meant to be sharp, pointed Christmas trees but the flavour is enough for you not to care what they look like.

Here you can see how thin we rolled them.

Here you can see how thin we rolled them.

Here's how much 'spread' they got even after chilling them in the fridge.

Here’s how much ‘spread’ they got even after chilling them in the fridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. THE ‘DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD’: The Party Times – Sugar Cookies (which is actually a recipe from Peggy Porschen)

These cookies will hold their shape no matter what! Even if there’s crazy thunder and lightning during a perfectly sunny day that you think it’s an apocalypse; take these babies out of the oven and they are still in perfect shape. I’m not too fond of the taste and texture of these though, they taste like a plain, sweet biscuit and they’re pretty crunchy. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos before I cut the fondant and stuck it on but you can see how close to exact the fondant and the cookies are. If you’re making Christmas cookie ornaments, i’d say this is a perfect recipe for them.

3. THE ‘BEST OF BOTH WORLDS’: Sweetopia – Sugar Cookies

The title says it all about this one, if you want flavour and shape in one, this is your go to recipe! We recently used this recipe on our Flower Fairy (Images by CICELY MARY BARKER) Cookies.

We needed these cookies to look a bit effortless but if you pay attention to the corners of some of these, they're pretty sharp, also they don't brown as much as other cookies which is always a bonus.

We needed these cookies to look a bit effortless but if you pay attention to the corners of some of these, they’re pretty sharp, also they don’t brown as much as other cookies which is always a bonus.

If you give any of these a go this holiday season, let us know how it went for you or post pictures to the wall on our facebook page. Oh and Christmas is only 8 days away…HOLY FLIP WHERE DID THE YEAR GO!?!

It’s Personal

If you follow us on Facebook, you’ll know I don’t like to get personal on my professional page, actually, I don’t get personal on my own page or in real life because I feel uncomfortable talking about my feelings – I hate the “tell me how you feel” stuff because “I feel” that I need to punch your face, but sometimes there is so much emotion involved in something that you need to get personal or you’ll explode.

It has taken me over 24 hours to write this. I have deleted it and started it so many times I lost count. I have re-read it so many times and thought: “I’m sharing too much” but I think I need to do this and so, I write this with a heavy heart.

There are lessons to be learnt in all situations in life, no matter how big or small. Yesterday I farewelled a great friend’s Father. His death was expected, but even though you prepare you are never ready to say goodbye. You can imagine all the ways it may end, but when the time comes, it is nothing like you imagined, nothing like you thought you had prepared for, nothing can prepare you for the rollercoaster of emotions you just landed on. Your head and your heart work together and they work against each other. You feel sad. You feel happy. You laugh. You cry. You feel empowered. You feel weak. You feel lost, confused, alone…you feel alone yet there are so many people around you, so many people offering support. You still feel alone.

Your parents are there to guide you, help you, fight with you, love you, teach you, and do everything they can to provide the best, for YOU. That moment they are taken away, it all comes and hits you at once. Not only have you lost a great love but you now need to figure out a lot more on your own than with the safety net you had. You see the life drain from them in their final moments in this world but your brain is overpowering your heart thinking that they’ll come back, it was all just a cruel joke…but then the strength of your heart kicks in and overpowers your brain, slowly. As your brain backs down and reality sets in you start thinking of the future. He won’t be there for your Wedding, he won’t be there for your first born or your last born, or their Birthday’s or any more of your Birthday’s and just the thought of these things alone is enough to send a lingering, crushing pain right to your chest.

Staring at a ‘shell’ that was once filled with life is one of the most confusing things I have ever experienced, it looked like my Dad but it was not my Dad, it was a reminder of what WAS before that image is sealed forever. It taught me to appreciate those around me more than I had in the past. It gave me the push I needed to do what I wanted to do and not what I thought I needed to do to make everyone else happy. 

Death is inescapable. It is the part of life that comes unannounced to remind those who are left to appreciate what you have. Death can take you anytime, anywhere – it doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, happy or sad, famous or not. Make sure it takes you from a life that you are happy to leave behind. Don’t be so quick to get mad (I say to myself more than you), don’t be so quick to judge but be quick to forgive. Make patience and understanding a compulsory part of your day. Not everyone is as lucky as some of us who expected the death of a loved one and had the chance to prepare. Happiness is a choice, it is also the most powerful and most weakest emotion – try to choose it more often than you have.

My Dad always said: “mai un male senza un bene” – “Never a bad without a good”. I smile at this quote more than normal now because I started baking when I was 11 for fun. When I was 23 my Dad was suddenly in and out of hospital, I took time off Uni to help look after him and to fill my time I baked everything and anything and then I started to decorate. A day before my 24th Birthday I was told my Dad had a large tumour in his large intestine and had three months to live. Three months later, he was gone – The bad. Two months later, Miss Piggy’s Cakes was officially registered – The Good.

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Parents don’t have to be the people that gave you life, sometimes parents can be anyone that has acted as a Mother or Father to you. They are wise people. Love them, learn from them and appreciate them while you still can.

 

Rich, Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe

For those of you that follow us on Facebook, you’ll know the story of how I came up with this recipe, for those of you that don’t – It all started with some pinning on Pinterest and a mouth watering picture with the words “quick & easy” written in quirky writing above a handsome slice of gooey chocolate cake. I thought – “no way, this is too good to be true, I have, no, I NEED to make this, NOW!”

You know when you’re so excited to eat something, you can taste it, like your mind starts playing games with you, you’re imagining that first mouthful, the flavours, the textures, the awesomeness, so much that your mouth starts to over-salivate it hurts!!! Yeah….and then the cake was done and I took a bite and almost lost a tooth due to the unmentioned texture of ROCK in the recipe. “Gooey” my a$s!!!

So here’s our SIMPLE AND EASY flourless chocolate cake. It has a soft outer crust with such a rich, dense gooeyness inside, she’s dangerous – don’t say I didn’t warn you, oh and before I forget, it’s pretty darn tasty straight out of the fridge too!

As there’s no flour in this cake (duh!) it’s obviously not going to rise much so depending on how large and flat or small and chunky you want it is up to you, however the one in the photo was made with an 8 inch round pie/tart pan. You can use a normal cake tin or springform pan just make sure whatever you’re using is well greased and/or well lined with baking/parchment/wax paper.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

So here’s what you’ll need (We weigh everything so most of this is in grams however if you don’t use kitchen scales i’ll put the estimated ‘cup’ measurments in):

175g (or 1 cup) Good quality chocolate  (I love dark chocolate but not too dark – everything in moderation right? So I used Whittaker’s Dark Chocolate but you can use whatever you love, except white because you’re going to add cocoa…or maybe that’s something new waiting to happen…I don’t know, i’ve never done it)

120g (or 1/2 cup) butter (if it’s salted – skip the salt, if it’s unsalted – add 1/4 teaspoon salt)

150g (or 3/4 cup) granulated white sugar

3 large eggs (we used size 7’s)

100g (or 1/2 cup) cocoa powder (sifted)

1/2 teaspoon instant coffee (powder or granules)

And here’s what you do:

Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius for fan force or 180 for normal.

1. In a large saucepan on low heat, melt the chocolate and butter. When both ingredients are half way through melting, add in the instant coffee and stir until everything is completely melted and smooth. Be patient, you don’t want to burn the chocolate or coffee as this will give you a bitter tasting cake.

2. Add in your sugar and salt and continue to stir. When the sugar has almost completely dissolved, remove the saucepan from the heat.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until each is almost incorporated then after the addition of the last egg, whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy.

4. Add in your sifted cocoa powder and mix until the batter is smooth.

5. Pour your cake batter into your prepared baking pan/dish of choice and bake for 20-25 mins (this depends on your oven so just check it at the 20 minute mark, if you tap the top gently and it wobbles, it still needs a few more minutes but I don’t recommend you go PAST the 25 minute mark or you’ll get more dry brownie than gooey cake.)

6. Cool cake in pan/dish on a wire rack then transfer your cake to your display plate of choice. You can leave it as is and serve it with it’s BFF – Fork, or a side of cream or ice cream, you can top it with berries and a dusting of icing sugar, you can make a runny ganache and drip it over the top or drizzle melted chocolate across the top but whatever you do, START SMALL, this is a rich piece of deliciousness right here I tell ya!

 

 

2 Minute Roses

2 Minute Rose Tutorial

Yes, it really does take 2 minutes! You can add more petals if you want a fuller flower or only add one layer of petals if you want to leave it as a rosebud – either way there are no rules, there is no right or wrong and yes, ‘practice’ really does make ‘perfect’.

You know that saying “all roads lead to Rome”? Well this is my road to Rome and it’s full of roses!

STEP 1:

You’ll need a ball tool, paint brush, 5 petal cutter (whichever size you prefer), small rolling pin, some gumpaste, CelPad or any type of non-stick FIRM foam, non-stick surface to roll out your gumpaste and a small pot of water or egg whites to use as ‘glue’.

STEP 2:

STEP 3:

STEP 4:

STEP 5:

STEP 6:

STEP 7:

STEP 8:

STEP 9:

STEP 10:

STEP 11:

STEP 12:

STEP 13:

STEP 14:

TA-DAAAAHH!!!

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♥ Feature Friday ♥ 05.04.13

The end of another short week has arrived quicker than it started and with the end of Summer nearing (you can tell by the cold mornings we’re starting to get) and what an awesome Summer it was (still is), I thought we’d splash out all the colour that this go-getter, creative beauty produces for customers world wide from right here in our back yard.

 

WHO: ALISHA DAYA

I had to steal this off her facebook page because she’s too shy to slap her face up on her awesome website – she may kill me haha!!

 
WHAT: Owner of Something Epic (Yes, they really are affordable and yes you can get it custom made in ANY colour(s) you want!)

 

WHEN: About the same time as I met Jane Mow, so 8 years ago – WOW!

WHERE: Based in the City of Sails but her products have spread like wildfire across the world.

WHY: You can always count on this girl to brighten up your day with her warming, perfect smile. She’s the first one to put her hand up and help you with whatever you need, even if it means driving across the country after work. In our recent campaign photoshoot, I needed jewellery that could easily work with anything and everything – Something Epic was Something PERFECT! Lish was on board and had a table spread of handmade products for us to use (photo below).

 

 

Photography:Lydia Arnold

Here are some behind the scenes snaps which I took from here.

As for those of you thinking they’re affordable because the quality isn’t that great – TOTALLY THE OPPOSITE! Although at the moment they only come in gold (which is fine because I love gold! HA!) it is a heavy duty chain, I wear mine nearly every day and it still looks new, and to make it even better, each bracelet now comes with a signature pink silk tie-off and a 14K gold plated tag – how’s that for style and class!?! They make pretty meaningful gifts too, I recently went to a friends baby shower, she already has one boy and just had another boy, I got her a bracelet made with 2 different shades of blue to represent her 2 sons. Those of you getting married can even get a set customised for your bridesmaids to match their outfits and even better, they can use it for any occasion after the wedding. Colours have meaning so work this product to your advantage especially because it’s so easily customised to anything you want.

Check out SOMETHING EPIC even if it’s not for you because it is an awesome website and I guarantee something will catch your eye and make you think of someone it would be perfect for!

♥ Feature Friday ♥ 15.03.2013

And just like that, it’s Friday again! What a crazy week it has been, so much to do, so much done and so much more still to do!!! So I thought with such a hectic week, I would end it with someone that always seems so calm, collected and poised. Someone that always makes you feel at ease. Someone that I could never imagine getting angry. Someone that  works magic behind a lens.

 

WHO: LYDIA ARNOLD

                    This beauty right here is the one behind the lens capturing just as much beauty!

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WHAT: Design & Visual Arts Degree in Photography/ Photographer/ Most genuine person I’ve met.

WHEN: Last year on a photoshoot for A La Robe (Lydia shot all the photos in our home page slider).

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See, that’s our cupcake up there^

WHERE: Auckland, NZ & Soon to explode across the world. She’s teamed up with her older sister (super talented family!) Kate, so make sure to check out http://katerobinsonphotography.com/ to follow these two sisters on an epic journey of amazing beauty.

WHY: After the first time of meeting Lydia and working with her last year, she decided that she would devote her time and services to me to do a ‘Miss Piggy’s Cakes’ shoot (you can read about it here). I didn’t know what to do or what to say, “thank you” seemed so trivial especially considering her talents, but that is all I could do at the time. She sees the world in a way you wouldn’t until she shows you with her work. Perhaps that is why I could never imagine her angry – she sees beauty in everything and sometimes a single photo can take your breath away – I mean literally, just look at this shot:

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The timing to get the drops of water, that feather about to hit the water, the reflection of that oar, the still water and the ripples – that’s not luck people, that’s talent! I don’t know much about photography, but I love collecting photos especially when they come with a ‘feeling’ like this one.

Tell me how many people you meet for the first time, that would offer you something like Lydia offered me that day? “Not many, if any” – Thank you Scribe (Try get that song unstuck from your head!)

So here’s a quick look at some of her work which I stole from http://lydiaarnold.blogspot.co.nz/

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That’s just a tiny little ‘dot’ of her work, check out more of Lydia and her sister Kate

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That’s a wrap!

The planning for this day was a lot of work, the day itself was even more and the weeks of work put into  this photo shoot was insane, but to see the individual talents of each and every person on this set shine through, to turn a back yard in Mt Eden into a Vogue-esque setting was surreal and just the beginning of  all the magic that happened on set yesterday.

Of course no great photo shoot is ever done without a handful of drama, so here’s what really happened:

I brought everything, I mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G over to my boyfriend’s house as he lives around the corner from ‘Landscape Mansion’. I stayed up to finish off a few things and when the sun started to rise I dropped him off in the City for Round the Bays, by the time I got back to his house it was locked…No one was home – a slight panic/Insert”French”WordsHere ran through my head. I needed to be on location in one hour and ALL my stuff is locked in a house that I am standing outside of, breaking and entering was not an option – for the first time everything was locked – WHYYYYYY!!!!???!!!!! I’m a good person! Why is this happening to me!?! Ok, breeeeeeeathe. His cousin arrived at the scene and we sat there trying to come up with a plan but just then one of the flatmates arrived and I was free at last! #LessonLearnt.

On top of a few smaller cake/humidity related disasters the frosting on the cupcakes turned into soup – delayed yet again! It’s ok; I tell myself, just breathe and add more icing sugar it will be fine. So I quickly mix up a new batch of frosting, not caring what it tastes like anymore but just caring enough that it will hold it’s shape long enough for the photos – 2 bags later (whaaaaaaaaaaat!?!) and we have some pretty average looking cupcakes but it’s good enough to make the feature cupcakes shine through. At this stage I am now in a panic, a slight sweat and it’s been about 38 hours since I’ve slept but somehow I manage to pull off this shot (kind of…).

So I pack up the car and shoot down the road just in time to catch my breath and then I am told we are down from 4 models to 1… *Breath in, breathe out*

At this point I remember that I am working with an extremely talented and amazing bunch of people and that no matter what, they can make it work, I don’t care that we are down to one model but I am grateful that I have her and this team. Within 15 minutes a plain white washed wooden table is transformed into a scene of girliness and fairytales – *cue Mariah Te Whana* and suddenly it is taken to a level of captivity, not only the whole set itself but the way that Lydia (photographer) and Mariah worked off each other, the way that Jane (stylist) and her assistant Brooke Hollows could almost read each others minds, the way that Gabrielle (make up & hair) transformed Mariah for each set in a matter of minutes and the way that Alisha from Something Epic not only made the AH-MAZ-ING arm candy but also took some epic shots with her camera in the background (which is where all these photos are from!). As I sat there completely dazed by how everyone was working and the ‘flow’ of everything from each set I couldn’t believe that this was for me – man am I one heck of a lucky girl, to have such talented friends that are willing to give up a weekend for me. I must have done something right, or at least I hope I have.

So for now, i’ll leave you all with some fun shots from yesterday (courtesy of Alisha):

Here’s a shot of Mariah stacked up with Something Epic bracelets in their new “Splash” range…

Here’s me wishing I looked like a model…                                                                                                                 But then I eat too many cupcakes…

And this is a shot of me and a couple of the magicians: Jane Mow and Gabrielle Houghton

And this…

Sail on Sailors!! And stay tuned for the upcoming photos…

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♥ FEATURE FRIDAY ♥ 08.03.2013

I believe in Karma.

I believe that what goes around, comes back around – cue JT!

I believe that cake makes the world go round – literally, but that’s why man invented exercise: This guy makes it look cool, fun and even included New Zealand in the video 😉 Yeeeaaah Buddy!

So here’s my idea, justified by the ^above but these people are so awesome that it really doesn’t need justification.

I have had so many friends step up and help me out with anything and everything, especially because I suck at asking for help and they’ve just offered to help out. Each Friday (or at least most Friday’s) i’m going to feature one of these amazing people that I am so lucky to have in my life. Whether they’re here for the long run, here for the moment or just here for today, they’ve all played a part in shaping me and/or my business, so this is how i’ve decided to thank them:

The FIRST Feature Friday EVER:

WHO:  JANE MOW

Here’s a quick look at some of her recent work!

“Just Casually” Styling Mr Stephen McIvor for the ASB Tennis Classics.

   

But Jane’s not all work and no play, here she is with a hand-full of balls! Haha!!!

WHAT: Designer/Stylist/Make up Artist/Most honest, straight up friend

WHEN: About 8 years ago is when I first met Jane (OMG Jane do you know how long ago that sounds – it’s like it was yesterday that this little 17 year old walked in and handed you her CV…HAHAHAHA!!!)

WHERE: Auckland, NZ & Europe

WHY: Jane’s had photo shoots in the past which I’ve helped out with (on the sweet side of things obviously, photo below), in return she’s devoted so much time and effort into doing a ‘Miss Piggy’s Cakes Campaign Shoot’ (stay tuned…)  that is going to blow your socks off and I can’t wait to show you all the photos. She has come so far in such a short time and constantly amazes me. If it wasn’t for her, I would never even have thought of doing a campaign shoot.

 

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Cupid is a Genius!

Happy Valentines Day!!!

Love it or hate it, it’s that time of year again where a single rose goes from $5 to $15 (at least), where chocolate hearts and teddy bears fill every shelf in every store and love is in the air. Where some single people celebrate being single on this ‘couples’ day and where other’s feel sorry for themselves. Where kids at school are most likely more cruel than the grown up world and find a weak spot in their victims or where chivalry still exists and a true gentleman comes shining through. Love it or hate it – this commercialised day has become a bigger thing as the years go by in New Zealand.

I’m not really a Valentines Day sort of person, but I appreciate it. My Dad wasn’t a V-Day person either, he always used to tell us it’s such a commercial day and that you shouldn’t need one day to show someone that you love them – he was however a very romantic person. Mum was a bit more into Valentines Day, so he did this for her. Every Valentines day Dad would buy Mum a single red rose, sometimes a huge bunch of red roses, as he got older it was me that was sent out with the money to buy the roses for her, from him – looking back now, I think he was training me up for what was yet to come. He passed away almost two years ago but my Mother still gets her Valentines day flower(s), each year I know she thinks the flowers won’t come, or there’s nothing planned but I still get the money in my account and it still says “flowers”: “True Love Never Dies”.

My Dad used to be a Civil Engineer and worked for the EU as a Diplomat for the German Embassy. My Brother and I were raised in a way with set rules, manners and behaviours, we were taught how to treat people and how people should be treated and both parents led by great examples. Having grown up knowing certain things, I love watching couples (and people in general – but not in a creepy, stalker-ish sort of way…) as they enter/exit a building, enter/exit a car, walk down the street. I love that middle aged- elderly couples still have the man opening the door for his lady and even better opening her car door for her to get in, such a simple gesture with such powerful meaning (no boys, this doesn’t mean you’re a “p*ssy” if you do this, this doesn’t mean you’re “uncool”, this doesn’t mean you’re “whipped”). On the other hand ladies, as much as you may think you are a Queen, it is still nice to be polite so thank him (and while you’re all warm in the car after he closes the door, you could lean over and open his door)!! I do see more and more of the younger generation holding doors open for their girls so maybe there is hope for the future, the car door thing though is not as popular and I can understand why, but once in a while – try it.

I’ll leave you with this. Ahhh, the beginnings of love hahahaha!

Gay, Straight, Single, Bi-, whatever it may be, just make sure you at least love yourself today. 

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DIY Table Numbers

 

It’s Wedding Season and I know a lot of people tying the knot this year or getting engaged this year. This is usually a time for bridezilla’s to be unleashed upon the world and probably a quick look into the future of ‘pregnancy hormones’ for the husband to be. This isn’t the case for anyone I know, but I have heard stories about such creatures and it is SCARY!

There are people that have planned their weddings since they were a child and know exactly what they want, where they want it, how they want it and when they want it and on the other side of the spectrum you have people that just go with the flow or don’t even have a ceremony. Has anyone ever really taken some time out to look into the history of weddings? Did you know that the first wedding dresses were actually BLUE!?!  This colour was connected to purity, faithfulness and the Virgin Mary. It wasn’t until the 19th Century when Queen Victoria married Albert and insisted on wearing a white dress so she could incorporate a prized piece of lace she owned into the dress, that the Wedding fashion became white. Queen Victoria wasn’t the first to Wed in a white dress though, but you can read more here if you’re interested.

Engagement rings were the result of a marketing campaign by Diamond comapny De Beers, the tossing of the bouquet is also a fairly new tradition and the legal side of Marriage was only reserved for royals.

You can see why traditions slowly die out or change, new ones introduced, and the fact that each year, such a beautiful ceremony that celebrates the love of two people, tends to have a bigger and bigger price tag slapped on it. My previous post showed a whole lot of DIY/Free decoration ideas, not just for Weddings but for any occasion. Well here’s another: Table Numbers and because it’s so simple and easy to do you can match these exactly to your decor. Below are the 6 simple steps to making your table numbers (for any thing, not necessarily numbers but food labels, candy buffet labels, name tags, gift tags, thank you cards, A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G!)

 

Get your creative juice box out and I’ll leave you with this: Apparently the first wedding cakes ever made were made of meat and a glass ring was hidden in the meat cake, the first to find the glass ring was the next to be married. Hmm…I think I like the new tradition of sweet cakes more than the idea of a meat cake, although I would be pretty happy with a cheese cake – like actual wheels of cheese stacked on top of each other…Mmm……Cheese….

 

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