Category Archives: Art

Banksy, and the World’s Most Chocolatey Chocolate Cake

I’ve suddenly realised I promised a chocolate cake recipe, and I haven’t quite finished my holiday photos!

Without going on and on any longer, I just wanted to share this photo, taken in St Leonards….

that Banksy gets everywhere doesn’t he?

Although where he found the sand to make those sandcastles from in St Leonards I don’t know…

Now, this chocolate cake…

….and why is it called Clovis cake?

Well, we have to go back a few years, when my son was getting married.  For those of you that don’t know, my son is the children’s writer and illustrator Thomas Taylor… you can find out more on his blog, That Elusive Line.

When the children were small I’d done the usual thing of birthday cakes in the shape of dinosaurs and spaceships, which gave Thomas and Celia the idea that  a cake in the shape of the little tiger which Tom was spending most of his waking moment drawing might be a jolly idea.  Meet Clovis.

Cue, completely panic from me. Making a butter icing and smartie creation for 10 eight year olds was one thing, but a tiger shaped wedding cake for 100 people?  Oh, and it mustn’t be a fruit cake…

However, I do like a challenge, so I set about trying to find a cake recipe for something which would be a solid and forgiving as a fruit cake without being heavy and dry.  I have no name to credit with the eventual choice, it’s provenance is lost in the mists of time, it appeared in a Saturday Telegraph supplement, I’m sure no one will mind if I share it with you.

It’s eventual chocolatey-ness is up to you. Vast quantities are required, and if you go down the 70% cocoa solids all the way it will be a very grown up cake indeed.  I tend to go half milk, half plain, which seems to agree with most palates.

Clovis Cake
Grease and line an 8”/20cm cake tin
6oz/170g butter
6 oz/170g caster sugar
8 oz/225g melted plain or milk chocolate
8 oz/225g roughly chopped milk or plain chocolate
6 oz/170g ground almonds
6 eggs, separated
3 oz/85g fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange
Pinch of salt

Beat the butter and sugar together, then stir in the melted chocolate with the ground almonds, egg yolks, breadcrumbs, cocoa powder and the rind and juice of the orange. Whisk the egg whites with the pinch of salt and fold into the cake mixture with the chopped chocolate.
Pour into the tin and bake at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for about 1hr 40mins.

Cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning out.

Melt 5 oz/140g plain or milk chocolate with a 5 fl oz/125ml carton of double cream in a bowl over warm water. Cool, then chill for 30 mins until lightly thickened then pour over the cake to cover.
Cool and store in an airtight tin.

And that’s it. A great deal of chocolate, with more chocolate on top.  It’s very definitely a celebration cake, not to be entered into lightly!

So Many Things, So Little Time!

Some of us aren’t rushing around in a panic…


But some of us are!

I did manage to fit in an amazing exhibition yesterday however.  It’s funny, an exhibition of basket making didn’t ring any bells at all with me and left to my own devices I wouldn’t have gone.  But Partner-in-Crime, Kit had been told things, and said we had to go, and I’m so glad I didn’t miss it…

It’s ‘Basketry – making human nature’ at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich. I’t’s only on until 22nd May and if you can possible get there – do, it’s amazing…

This was the one and only photograph I was allowed to take and doesn’t do justice to this amazing piece made by Ueno Masao from finely split bamboo which turns this huge window into an eye.

I just loved this piece by Laura Ellen Bacon…

… which she constructed in situ.  The Sainsbury Centre is so industrial in construction, so modern in it’s materials it’s very thought provoking  to see something  natural and organic growing out of its surroundings.

The Sainsbury Centre Shop (which is brilliant, and where I was able to buy a birthday pressie for a VIP!!!) had a signed book of Laura Ellen Bacon’s work which I had to buy (and one day soon I hope to have time to read)

Mary Butcher

Ueno Masao

But that was a happy little interlude in amongst the busy, busy business!

So you must be wondering what’s been going on, and I’m terribly behind in telling you all the exciting news. 

First, do you remember this post about our visit to Hoveton Hall Gardens?  Well, shortly after our visit,  a new gift shop opened there, selling  locally sourced crafts unique to the area.  And there can be found a little flock of Planet Penny creatures, waiting to find new homes.  I’m all set to buy a season ticket, and quickly too, because I hear the Rhodedendrons and Azaleas are amazing right now, (and apart from that, there are plants to buy, and a tea shop…cake…say no more!)

Scarily, too, Open Studios is THIS MONTH!!! Kit and I will be opening the studio doors for three weekends at the end of the month and the beginning of June.  We’ve never done it before, and don’t know what to expect, but if you are near enough to visit please come, it would be so nice to meet you, (and if you want more details you can email me through the tab at the top of the blog.)

And of course the icing on the cake is the Pick n’Mix Market which takes place the weekend after Open Studios is over. Can you see why I haven’t been around much?!

The felting needle is smoking!

I’ll be back soon to show you what I’ve been doing but in the meantime, I will leave you with Violet the Sheep…

… and I’ll dash off to work on her brothers and sisters!

See you soon x

Unearthing Henry Moore


Hooray for the Sainsbury Centre and their excellent exhibitions.  I really didn’t know that Henry Moore the sculptor was also a textile designer until the brochure popped through the door.   Yesterday was a day for abandoning the weeds and the studio and setting off with friends for a morning of culture.  (I even vacuumed the car, how about that?!)

It was a fascinating exhibition and really opened my eyes as to the possibilities of making patterns and designs out completely unrelated ideas.  Flowers and barbed wire, zigzags and safety pins, horses heads and boomerangs.

 Some of the colour combinations were subtle and lovely, some were harsh and unapealing, scarlet and green with grey and black together do nasty things inside my head. 

We hadn’t even known about the second exhibition, ‘Unearthed’. When we bough our tickets we were each given a small clay figure, each very individual.  

 We could keep them, but there would  be an occasion to break them at some point.  All the items on display were little figurines, not from any one particular time frame or even area, but brought together to highlight the way humans through the ages have felt the need, alongside the the daily effort of living, to make these tiny treasures. 

We reached the point where we were invited to break our little figures and drop them into a perspex case as a representation of the way these things destroyed by time and then lay forgotten but we were quite unable to part with them.  In fact I was tempted to reach into the case and see if I could rescue any!  This brought up some interesting thoughts as to and how protective and possessive we felt about something we had only been given a short while ago. 

Definitely a thought provoking exhibition and I would recommend a visit.

Off to the Fair…

…the Norwich Bead and Textile Fair that is. A lovely Sunday morning treat. Having said that, I ALWAYS get a headache when I go to these things, I get so overwhelmed with colour, and texture, and wanting to try new things and talking myself out of it … Anyway, we did our usual circuit to check out what was on offer, a coffee to calm down and then spent some money.
I couldn’t resist this fabric…

I seem to have a ‘tea’ thing in my head at the moment,because there was also this button…


(which is much much smaller than that!)

I’ve been wanting to try printing some fabric for a project for ages so I was very happy to find Crafty Notions stand, a range of textile paints called Colourful Thoughts and a nice lady demonstrating exactly how they work so I bought these…

And then, to keep myself occupied in odd moments with a ball of wool, I HAD to have this…

Natural Dye Studio ‘Angel’ baby Alpaca, Cashmere and Silk lace weight.  It is SO soft, and came with a free scarf pattern…

It was nice to meet up with old friends, and make new ones.  Fellow students from courses at Broadland Art Centre, a bloggy friend, Teena of Kitschen Pink, and Bridget of with her lovely felty, woolly stall.  Bridget even went home and started her own blog!

Outside in the fresh and rather damp air, were some lovely pieces of floral inspiration.  Don’t you just love the colour of these pansies?

I feel a patchwork quilt coming on…

…and in the strange rather stormy overcast light, the euphorbia was almost Dayglo green…

And we found a little bed where the planting was straight off a nineteen thirties printed cotton frock…

And now it’s time to get some work done.  I’m still working my way through sorting stuff out of boxes, but I now have a work surface and lots of things to get on with…

Back soon!

P.S. My 100th post is coming up very soon, watch out for another giveaway…!

Reasons to be cheerful…

Funny how just a little thing can change how you view the day…Getting out in the garden in dressing gown and slippers with the puppy BEFORE the rain starts is always a good start. Higgins hasn’t got the hang of the fact that the more times you make a run for the door without doing what you came out for just prolongs the agony.  He is struggling with country life really, too much weather, he should have gone to live with Paris Hilton.

Todays mail was very exciting… firstly, red polka dot cake tins…

So good, I had to do styling…

…and my Spoonflower fabric…

When I first discovered Spoonflower I was too intrigued to go away and come up with a new design, I went for the nearest jpg file, my faithful pink sheep, and like it so much I ordered a fat quarter as a test run. My pink sheep started life on an invitation designed by my son Thomas Taylor for my Graduation party four years ago and was originally wearing  a mortar board. I loved her too much to send her off to oblivion, so with the help of Photoshop she hung up her mortar board and joined me here on Planet Penny. I’ve offered to make Thomas a pink sheep bow tie, but strangely, he’s declined…

I was so excited by all this I initially overlooked the fact that my latest copy of ‘Selvedge’ had arrived…Oh. Joy!..

…with this beautiful image on a card inside.

After a wet morning, a band of blue started to spread from the west, and the wind became a breeze, just right for a spot of exercise.  I’ve tried to get round the short dog = cold wet tummy problem with a rather smart fleece jumper for Higgins.  Apart from the fact that I could have bought myself two fleeces for the cost of a tailor-made miniature dachshund one,  getting it on is a bit like putting  skin on a sausage. Then you have the problem of persuading him to get out of bed…

We got out there eventually though…

Even the sugar beet looks good in the sunshine, and you can just see home across the field…

All that was left was to make a cake to justify the fact I had bought not just one, but three tins to put cake in.  I had some windfall apples, so a quick flip around Google and…Easy Apple Cake? …yes, we like easy.   Well, it was easy enough to put together, but who has a 20cm x 30cm tin to hand?  And how would the capacity of a tin you haven’t got compare with the one you have got?  So, a round cake instead.  Fine.  But…how does that affect the cooking time?  Answer – a lot.  After the allotted 40 minutes a gorgeous crispy crust trembled above a completely liquid interior,  another twenty minutes, then ten and then another twenty five minutes before the ‘sod it’ moment when I got it out and decided that was IT.

And it was.


All Booked Up

I’ve just spent the weekend sheltering from the wild wet November weather with a lovely group of ladies making books. Outside the wind raged and the rain lashed down, but inside the atmosphere vibrated with concentration as everyone wielded rulers and scalpels and flexed their mathematical brain cells with varying degrees of success. It’s painful for textile practioners to get to grips with the unforgiving nature of paper and card. There’s no scope for cunning little stretches, or a few discreet gathers, and while there is no point trying to make a handmade book look as if it’s been machine made, a degree of accuracy is essential if the finished piece is going to work.

I go through agonies of self doubt in the run up to teaching a course. Even my years as a mature student haven’t erased the self doubt left by my schooldays.  Miss Marshall has a lot to answer for!  Although I’ve been doing it for a while, I’m suddenly struck by the fact I may have a degree to say I can do things, I don’t have a piece of paper to say I can teach those things to other people! As I draw up the lesson plan I have visions of everyone saying ‘Well, I knew that already’, of having exhausted all my ideas by midday of the first day or of everybody falling asleep with boredom! I’m pleased to say, that hasn’t happened yet!

Once we’d worked our way through the accuracy thing, which happened remarkably quickly, the atmosphere soon lightened into enthusiasm, and that feeling we had all escaped from the daily round to do something just for ourselves. Having mastered the basics of accordion folds and simple pamphlet stitching we moved on to a ‘wrap’ book,which needs very little glueing, and  even makes a good cover for a little purchased notebook. 

What is lovely at this point is to see all the different directions in which the same  basic instructions will take people.  Once all the’ bits and pieces’ bags had been upended everyone had a amazing variation of materials to realise their individual little books, and as they chatted and compared notes all sorts of new ideas came into being.

By the end of the day, even a visit from Higgins hadn’t distracted the students too much, although Joy inexplicably thought he was gorgeous and adorable and wanted to take him home…if only she knew!  As I left for home Alison, who was staying over at the centre, was still at her desk, and was there the following morning when I arrived.  I was assured she had gone to bed at some point!

After the second day, when we had covered stitching signatures into a codex, different types of hard and soft spine covers and  Origami books and folded pages, the room was a frenzy of activity.  Despite a brief hiatus when the torrential rain, coupled with a howling wind came in through the Victorian windows of the old school and had to be stemmed with an entire drawer of teatowels, by the end of the second day I counted well over 30 completed books, and a pile of stitched pages ready for working on at home.

Usually when a course is over I, and my trusty sidekick Kit, have so overdosed on the course subject we want to go home and do something completely different – bunjee jumping anyone?   This time we are both full of even more ideas, and as we saw everyone off it felt more like the end of a party with friends than a working weekend.

Next year we are taking the whole thing further, with coptic binding , Japanese stitching, slip covers and book boxes.  I will take a copy of the positive things written in the visitors book home to look at when I get my wobbly moments and the spectre of Miss Marshall hovers threateningly…

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