I learn a new skill

Meeting this cutie was definitely research. Who knew calves came with such pink noses?

It’s amazing where book research can lead you… and what new skills you can develop along the way.

On my recent trip to Australia, I was in the beautiful Hunter Valley, checking locations, taking photographs and talking to the locals about the lovely place where they live.

And somehow that led to coloured icing, roses and records.

I was staying at the lovely BelleBrook B &B, happily writing like mad to the sound of kookaburras and the early morning conversations of the nearby horses.

The B&B is owned by Scone’s Cupcake & Cookie Lady. While I was there, she took delivery of a pack of… wait for it.. more than 60 (that’s SIXTY ) Russian icing tips for piped icing. I don’t know why ‘Russian’ – unless perhaps that’s where they were invented.

Aren’t they just fascinating? I still have no idea what most of them do – but they look fabulous.

I’d always wanted to have a go with piped icing, and so we spent an entire afternoon playing with icing. I always thought it looked hard – and I have to say it’s even harder than it looks!

I got to practice on baking paper. No-one was going to let me near an actual cake.

My first efforts were pretty bad. My next efforts were still bad – but slightly better than before.

The secret is the texture of the icing. Not too hard. Not too soft. And there are tricks to doing multi-coloured icing that mostly involves wrapping icing in cling film/glad wrap (depending on which country you are from).

Looking at the tip, it’s hard to see what you’ll get.

As well as icing flowers, the Cupcake and Cookie lady let me play with fondant icing. This was much easier. The icing almost did what I wanted it to do.

These toppers are supposed to look like old vinyl records. Not too bad, I guess, for a first try.

Of course, there is no eating as you go along. Oh no. Absolutely not!

I stood back and watched someone who knows what they are doing get to work.

Next day we had this magnificent cake to share. Not that any of it was my work you understand – I was a mere bystander watching in awe as the creation took shape. Getting to taste it was an added bonus.

It tasted just as good as it looked. I sadly accept that I will never be able to do anything this pretty!

So now I am home, and the book is nearly finished. No, it’s not a book about a cupcake shop. Nor does anyone in the book ice anything (other than perhaps a drink). But you never know… should I ever decide to have a character so inclined, I think I can write them now.