DIY Advent Calendar

 

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Hello my lovelies! It’s finally that time of year! The time when you can start to get Christmassy and nobody can get on your case about it, because it’s practically December, so it’s totally allowed! And we all know what that also means, it’s almost the start of advent!

I actually love the start of advent, it’s the time when I begin to get fully into the Christmas spirit and excited for the big day. And of course, who doesn’t love getting a chocolate every day for 24 days? Side note: Yes, I am 20, and yes, I still get an advent calendar. But besides the chocolate, that’s what I really love about advent. Having a daily countdown reminding me of how close we are to the 25th is something that still excites me now, and I never start to feel quite as festive as when I open that first door!

I’m super excited as I’m writing this because I’ll be travelling home from university on the 1st December to spend the weekend with my family and Jason. We’re going to put the Christmas decorations up, which normally involves lots of cheesy Christmas music. My parents, Hannah and I have always done this together for as long as I can remember; it’s really the start of the festive season in our household. This will also be the fifth time that Jason’s helped out with it- I love having us all together.

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So, with all that talk of advent, you’ve probably already guessed that this post may have something to do with it (or maybe you just read the title). This year I really wanted to make my own advent calendar. At first I’d considered sewing one, but I don’t have room for my sewing machine up at university, so it wouldn’t have been too practical. I’m also not exactly swimming in free time, so I wanted a project that would help me get in the Christmas mood without taking an age to create! I’m also broke, so cheap was a necessity!

Enter my toilet roll tube advent calendar! The definition of frugal. Inspired by my toilet roll tube bats, this advent calendar was completely free to make, seeing as I already had some Christmas craft paper in, and I’ve been saving up my left over loo roll tubes since returning to uni. Side note: For another free craft project, why not check out my previous post? DIY Conker Wreath.

I’m actually pretty happy with the result, I really love the homemade festive vibe it adds to my room. The best thing about this calendar is that you can fill it with whatever you want, be it a festive poem for each day or a small christmas trinket. Or, of course, chocolate. Adding a little christmassy tissue paper inside each of the ‘parcels’ makes it seem a bit more upmarket and less toilet roll-y. 🙂

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There’s not much to say about how to recreate this advent calendar; I’m sure you can suss that out for yourself! But I thought I’d post it more as an inspiration for yourselves if, like me, you’re wishing to create a frugal and alternative Christmas countdown for this festive season. (Or maybe as some inspiration for next year!) I’ll still include some basic instructions though for those of you wanting to recreate this craft project!

So what did I do?

You will need:

  • Toilet roll tubes.
  • Christmas paper.
  • Scissors or pinking shears.
  • Small advent numbers. I had these in my crafting collection, from Hobbycraft, but you can purchase similar from most craft stores at this time of year.
  • Some acrylic paints- optional!

Ok, so lets get started! I’ll forgo my usual numbered instructions here and resort to giving you a basic description of what I did.

Firstly, the more observant of you may have noticed that my advent calendar only actually has 15 days- shock horror! No, I did not get lazy and couldn’t be bothered finishing it- well, maybe a little… 😉 – this is actually because I’m only up at university until the 15th December, so I decided just to make parcels for those days.

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The first thing I did when making my advent calendar was put on my Christmas music and settle down to paint some Christmassy designs on a few of my cardboard tubes. I opted for holly berries and snowflakes. Obviously this step is completely optional, but I really enjoyed this process, and I love how these parcels turned out! They are definitely my favourite.

Now all that’s left for you to do is the super easy and quick part! Cut out strips of Christmas paper, I used pinking shears for this but you could also just use scissors. Glue a strip of paper on the front of each of your tubes. I also chose to cut a small square of paper to go on my painted tubes.

Add your advent numbers, before folding the bottom of your tube in to get the nice, pointed corner, parcel shape that I had. Fill each of your parcels with a little tissue paper and a small gift, before folding in the top of your tube in the same manner as the bottom.

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Ta da! It’s actually that easy. Blu tac your parcels up like me, or pin them to a cork board. Or why not tie some string around and hang them from a ribbon on your wall?

I love how this advent calendar turned out! I think it adds a really sweet, homemade and cozy vibe to my room. And it was super cheap and super easy! You really can’t complain at that!

Are you guys looking forward to the count down to Christmas? Have you been doing any festive crafting recently? You know I would love to see your own seasonal projects, why not link them in the comments?

Wishing you all the very best of days as we head into December,

Maddie xxx

DIY Halloween candles!

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Hi guys! Now that it’s October it feels only right that I should post my first Halloween related blog post! Today’s post is a great spooky DIY for all you Halloween fanatics out there.

Say hello to my Halloween candles. My initial intent when making these candles was just to make pumpkins, but the striped Candycorn-esque candle was actually a great way of using up the excess wax that I had melted.

I love how these candles turned out! I hadn’t tried candle making in a good few years, it’s probably five years since I last tried my hand at the craft, but I loved the process of making these beauties! It was fun and really easy, and produced great results! Let’s be honest, making your own candles sounds a lot more sophisticated than it actually is… and that makes it a winner in my book! Anything that will impress my family and friends while requiring little effort on my part gets a big thumbs up from me.

If you’ve never tried candle making before, you don’t really require too much fancy equipment to get started; although I would definitely recommend purchasing a candle making kit to help get you up and running. This is usually a cheaper option than purchasing the equipment individually, and all kits come with detailed instructions and safety precautions. My first candle making kit was this Creative Candle Making kit from House of Crafts, which provided me with the moulds used in this project. I found it to be really good value for money, as you are given enough supplies to make up to 20 different fragranced and coloured candles! Plus it makes a great Christmas present for craft lovers.

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So let’s get started! 

You will need: 

  • Paraffin wax pellets, approx 500g. You can purchase 1kg of paraffin wax pellets here
  • Wick. I found a really cool article explaining how to make your own candle wick here! Great if you want to save some money.
  • A wick rod. A pencil or lolly pop stick would also work.
  • Red and yellow coloured candle dyes. I used these
  • A fragrance of your choice.
  • A mould sealer. This is just blutac or plasticine.
  • A round candle mould and a pillar mould. This is one of the main reasons I so strongly recommend purchasing a candle making kit, as you will be provided with several moulds to get you started. If however you do wish to purchase your own, I use these moulds for my candles.
  • One large and one smaller saucepan that fits comfortably inside the larger.

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Instructions:

The first thing to do when candle making is to ensure you’re working within close proximity to your cooker. Cover your work top in newspaper in order to protect it from any hot wax that may drip onto it. 

Safety tips:

  • Ensure your water level in your large saucepan is always at least as high as the wax pellets in the small saucepan. Add more water as you melt your wax if you need to.
  • Should you wax catch fire, smother with a damp tea towel. Do not add water.
  1. Prepare your moulds. You need to use a spherical mould for the pumpkin candle and a pillar mould for the Candycorn candle. Pass your wick through the small hole in the top of your mould and out the bottom, leaving around 4cm of wick poking out the top of your candle mould and 12cm of wick at the bottom of the mould to tie around your wick rod. Your wick rod is just something that you can tie your wick to.
  2. With your candle mould upside down (so you will have a large opening facing upwards where you can pour your wax in), balance your wick rod so that it is lying across the candle mould, there will usually be two little grooves on your mould here to help you do this. Tie the end of your wick around the wick rod. Pull your wick tight by the 4cm piece of wick sticking out the top of your candle and seal this end of the wick with a piece of blutac or plasticine, this is just to prevent hot wax dripping out of the mould.
  3. Your mould is now ready for your wax.
  4. Fill your large saucepan about three quarters of the way full with water. Place your small saucepan inside your large saucepan, so that it sits in the water. Begin by making the wax for one of your pumpkin candles. If you want your final pillar candle to look more Candycorn-like than mine, make your yellowy pumpkin first. Place your wax pellets in the small saucepan, you will require around 200g of wax for the mould I used, but don’t worry about melting too much. You will be pouring the excess into your pillar candle anyway.
  5. Heat your wax on a medium heat, stirring occasionally as it melts. Add your dye. You will only require a tiny amount of dye to colour this amount of wax, your dye packaging should give you some sort of guidelines for how much you need.
  6. Once your wax has melted, take it off the heat immediately and add your fragrance. A few drops of this will be sufficient, I’d say 3-5.
  7. Pour your wax into the mould and leave to cool. When you have filled your spherical mould, pour the excess wax into your pillar mould. Place your spherical mould in the fridge overnight to aid you with removing your candle rom the mould.
  8. After leaving your candle overnight in the fridge, you may remove it from the mould. To remove your spherical candle, untie your wick rod and run a blunt knife around the centre join of your mould. You should be able to ease the bottom off, followed by the top.
  9. Now make your orangey/red pumpkin using the same process. Pour your excess wax into the pillar candle on top of your yellow layer.
  10. Now make a white batch of wax by adding no dye this time. You will only need about 50g of wax. Pour this on top of the red layer of the pillar candle before placing this candle in the fridge overnight too.
  11. To remove the pillar candle, remove the wick rod and mould sealer before rapping the mould on a hard work surface firmly. Repeat this until the candle falls out.P1230793.jpg
  12. If you wish to make your candles look extra smooth and shiny like mine, you can carry out a process called glazing. Holding the wick of you candle before you cut it down to size, dip your candle in hot water from the kettle. Once the candle has cooled, polish the candle with an old pair of tights to make it extra shiny!
  13. Once you have done this, add your pumpkin’s face! I used a black permanent marker pen for this, though black acrylic paint would also work.

Ta da! There you have it, your homemade pumpkin candles. I know this post seems incredibly lengthy, but the candle making process really is simple, and great fun. Once you have mastered your basic candle making skills you can try all sorts of new colour and fragrance combinations, and maybe even try adding things like glitter into your hot wax to give your candle some extra sparkle.

That’s all from me today, I hope you’re all enjoying October and getting in the Autumnal mood! If you have any trouble with making your candles or would like to know anything more about the process, please let me know in the comments!

What have you been making for Halloween? Tell me all about it!

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

Note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I will earn small commission if you choose to purchase certain items that I have linked. All items that have been linked in this post have been tried and tested by me and are my favourites, though not all have been bought from the same suppliers! 🙂 

 

 

Fanciful Frocks and French Fountains

Hi guys! So a good few weeks ago I posted that I purchased a dress pattern and some wonderfully fanciful butterfly fabric from work (check out that post here!). I’d purchased the dress pattern (Newlook 6508) with the intention of getting it sewn in time for my trip to Carcassonne with Jason; after a bit of a last minute sewing frenzy the few days before our flight, I can proudly say that I did indeed achieve my goal!

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Here I am trying to look like I am not the most awkward poser ever in front of the fountain in Carcassonne town square. I love the fabric that I made this dress from. It’s a beautiful heavy cotton that sewed like a dream. I had no trouble with it stretching or pulling while I sewed it, and although it was a bit more expensive than I would usually buy, at around £12 per metre, I do feel it was worth it for the overall finish of the dress. I think the skirt falls beautifully. And besides, I only needed two metres.

The bodice is completely lined in a navy polycotton that I purchased for £3.75 per metre. This was great as it meant the dress was thick enough for me to go braless without feeling self-conscious.

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The pattern is actually a two piece, where the bodice and skirt are two separate garments that you attach to each other using the six buttons on the waistband. There are also four buttons that go down the back of the bodice. I adore the back detail on this dress, it’s one of the reasons I decided to purchase the pattern. I’m also a sucker for wooden buttons, so I just had to use these little 1/2″ beauties!

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In short, I’m really rather pleased with how this dress turned out. It was my first time inserting an invisible zip- which was a nightmare without an actual invisible zipper foot!– but I actually don’t think the finished garment looked too messy!

I will definitely be using this patten again to make a few more dresses in different fabrics, and I’m especially excited now that I know the skirt isn’t attached to the top! I look forward to making some more skirts too as I adore the pleats.

Have you sewn anything recently? Have you had a go at sewing your own clothes? Let me know how it went!

Best wishes,

Maddie x

 

Guest post- Decoupage!

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Hi guys! Something a bit different for today: my first guest blogger post! Bringing you today’s post we have the lovely Hannah from over at AverageBlonde.

Hannah is a 21 year old Psychology graduate from York University…and oh yeah, she’s also my big sister 🙂 Hannah had the pleasure of trying out Decoupage for the first time this week, and she has kindly written a blog post all about it for us folks over here at A Little Mad Smith! If you’d like to know about how she got on, carry on reading!

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My position as the less artsy sister means that craft isn’t my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I have an appreciation for all of the cute little things Maddie makes (particularly the food) but myself, I have zero creative talent. Actually, that’s a lie. In year seven I did a life drawing of my school shoe which my art teacher pointed out as being the best in the class and my mum hung on the fridge for a number of weeks.

Since then, my creative abilities have been restricted to organising a coloured coded system to my wardrobe and making scrapbooks for ex-boyfriends which will most definitely end up in the bin a few months later.
A week ago, I couldn’t spell decoupage, let alone did I have the foggiest idea what it was. We were in a little craft store in a garden centre and I found some pretty little paper sheets next to a variety of cardboard shapes and told Maddie they had some cute paper mache stuff. She laughed at me. Apparently there’s a difference.

After 10 minutes spent convincing me I would be capable of ripping bits of paper up and gluing them on a pre-made cardboard bird house, I bought some. I bought two different shaped bird houses and two different papers. I used the shiney decoupage glue because you literally just paint it over the entire thing at the end and it leaves it with a nice sheen.
I assume this is the part of the post where Maddie would explain the technique to the craft she is blogging about.

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I’m going to cut this short:

Rip the paper into random pieces and glue them on at random angles. When all of the card is covered, whap a load of glue over the whole thing to secure down any bits of sticky up paper. And voila!
So easy, I could do it. You could probably also manage it if you didn’t have opposable thumbs. Or are 3 years old. Or a dog.

Decoupage – So Easy, Your Dog Could Do It!

Would you like to write a guest post for my blog? If you’ve recently tried a new craft, come up with a tasty recipe or been on some exciting travels, why not let me know! I’d love to start sharing other bloggers posts! 

Thanks for reading guys, I hope you’re all having blessed days,

Maddie x

Chocolate and Peanut butter celebration cake- It’s my birthday!

This celebration cake is perfect for the peanut butter lovers in your life!

IT’S MY BIRTHDAY GUYS! 😀 As some of you may know I turned 20 today, so naturally that meant that I spent the entirety of yesterday in the kitchen, baking till I could bake no more! No, seriously, I spent seven hours in there- I was exhausted by the end of it! 

I’d been toying over what type of cake to make for my birthday for a while. My birthday cake is my one big bake of the year; the one when I don’t feel guilty about going completely over the top with the edible glitter and food colouring! I’d originally been considering a rainbow cake, but after a bit more thinking I decided on a peanut butter and chocolate cake creation! 🙂

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I lurrrvvvee chocolate cake. I’m not a big chocolate eater on its own, but somehow in cake form I become obsessed with the stuff. Chocolate cake, chocolate buttercream, chocolate ganache, I love it all.

Unlike my inherent love for chocolate cake, my liking for peanut butter was something that I hadn’t discovered until recently. Like my obsession with old school Taylor Swift, my discovery of peanut butter flavoured confectionary is something that I owe to Jason. (That boy is a hell of a Swiftie, I’ll tell you that much).

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So that was it, I decided to go all out on a chocolate and peanut butter cake. This over the top bake was complete with alternating layers of peanut butter and chocolate buttercream, sandwiched between THREE moist chocolatey sponges; all slathered in a thick layer of homemade peanut butter icing and coated with a milk chocolate ganache. Not to mention topped off with homemade toffee, edible golf stars and Reese’s peanut butter cups. You only turn 20 once, after all.

If you fancy making your own peanut butter and chocolate cake, I’ve written my recipe below!

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Ingredients (makes three 8″ diameter chocolate sponges):

For the cake:

  • 12oz unsalted butter or Stork margarine
  • 12oz caster sugar
  • 10.5 oz self raising flour
  • 1.5 oz cocoa powder
  • 6 medium eggs

For the icing:

  • 14oz icing sugar
  • 7oz Stork margarine or similar
  • 1/2tbs cocoa powder (sifted)
  • 2tbs peanut butter
  • A splash of milk

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/356F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line three 8″ cake tins. (I only own two and so have to do this in two steps, no worries if this is the case! Simply bake two of your sponges and when they are cooling pop your third in).
  2. Cream your butter and sugar together. Beat in your eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour with each. Sieve in your remaining flour and cocoa powder and combine.
  3. Once your mixture is thoroughly mixed together, distribute it evenly between the three cake tins and bake for 20-25 minutes. When your cake is fully cooked you should be able to stick a knife in the centre and pull it out clean, that is to say, without any cake mix on it.
  4. Leave your cakes to cool in the tins for five minutes before turning out onto a cake rack and letting cool completely.

Now you can make your icing!

  1. Cream your margarine and icing sugar together carefully until you have a smooth buttercream consistency. Add in the milk and combine.
  2. Spoon about 4tbs of your buttercream into a separate bowl. Add in your cocoa powder. This is your chocolate buttercream.
  3. Add the peanut butter to the remaining buttercream.
  4. Begin to construct your cake! Cover the bottom layer of sponge in your chocolate buttercream before sandwiching with another layer of sponge and then a layer of peanut buttercream. Place your final layer of sponge on top.
  5. Cover your cake in a crumb coat of buttercream and refrigerate for ten minutes. Once refrigerated, you can cover your cake completely in peanut buttercream. (Make sure you leave some peanut buttercream to decorate the top of the cake if you wish to do so).
  6. If you wish to cover your cake in chocolate ganache as I did, find my recipe here! Pour your ganache onto the top so that some drips down the sides of your cake.

Decorate your cake as you wish using peanut buttercream, Reese’s peanut butter cups and bits of toffee! Basically, whatever you fancy!

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Notes: A crumb coat is a rough layer of buttercream that you do to catch all the crumbs from your cake and prevent them from ending up in your final layer of buttercream. Your cake doesn’t have to be completely covered in icing, just a thin layer will do the trick.

That’s it for today guys, I hope you enjoyed this post! Let me know if you’ve got any questions, I’ll do my best to help! 🙂

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

 

DIY paper storage- decoupage cereal box!

Check out this DIY paper storage box! Super cute AND super practical, a great craft project for the kids to get involved in.

Hi guys! HAPPY MONDAY! -I decided to put that in capitals because today marks the start of my birthday week! I turn 20 on Friday- yay!

If, however, you’re not feeling too happy about the fact it’s Monday and would much rather be crawling under your duvet instead of facing the week ahead, I’ve got a lovely little DIY project to get you feeling inspired!

Today I bring you my DIY paper storage. As you may have seen in my recent Paperchase post, I have a love for stationary. However, what I failed to mention in that post was that my love for stationary extends to all things paper related. We’re talking pretty folders, cutely decorated storage boxes; you get the idea.

I love to feel organised and on top of my paper work, and being a Physics student, I have a lot of paper work.

Which brings us to today’s post, my how to DIY paper storage box!

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For this DIY you will need:

  • A cereal box
  • Scissors
  • Paper mache paste and paper (Find my DIY paper mache paste here!)
  • A pen
  • A ruler
  • Decoupage paper or other patterned paper
  • Glue (You can buy specific glue and varnish for decoupage purposes here, or at similar craft stores including Hobbycraft.)
  • Washi tape

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I use the brand Decopatch for all of my decoupage supplies; they offer an amazing range of bright and colourful papers with a variety of awesome designs on, as well as glue and varnish specific to decoupage purposes.

What to do:

  1. Draw a straight line from the centre top of the cereal box to approximately three quarters up the side of the cereal box. Do this on both sides of the cereal box and then cut along both lines to create the shape of your paper storage box.
  2. Cover your box in paper mache. If you’d like instructions on how to do this, check out my post! Leave to dry over night. This will help make the box sturdy and strong enough to hold all your papers! 🙂
  3. Once your paper mache has dried, you can cover your box in pieces of paper! Tear your paper up into small pieces and apply them to your box using the glue, one at a time. Layer them up ensuring there are I used decoupage papers from the brand decopatch. I really like the contrast between the red and the blue paper on my box, but you can cover your box however you like!
  4. Paint the inside of your box, or decoupage the inside in a contrasting paper! I used a really cool pink design I’d found at Bents Garden Centre.
  5. Leave your box to dry over night again, before applying washi tape along the edges to cover up any messy bits!
  6. Ta da! Congratulations on your new storage box!

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I love this idea, it’s a great craft idea for kids to get involved in! It was really fun to make and I love the unique finish of this box. 🙂

I hope you guys enjoyed this simple DIY and maybe it inspired you to get crafty. What have you been making recently? Let me know in the comments, I would love to check it out.  🙂

Maddie.

 

 

Super tasty lemon cupcake recipe

These super tasty cupcakes are any lemon lovers dream- filled with zesty lemon curd and topped with tangy lemon buttercream!

Hi guys! Following on from my classic vanilla spongecake recipe last week, I thought it’d be a good idea to share my lemon cupcake recipe with you all! This recipe is probably one of my favourite cupcake recipes of all time, and I’ve returned to it time and time again. I actually made a large sandwich cake version of this back for Jason and I’s one year anniversary; we’re now due to celebrate four years this month.

These mouthwateringly moist cupcakes are filled with a tangy lemon curd centre and topped off with a swirl of lemon buttercream- a lemon lovers dream! Be warned though: these are so light and airy, you might eat the whole batch!

Fancy making your own? Find the recipe below:

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

  • A lemon
  • 4oz self raising flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 4 oz unsalted butter or margarine (I use Stork margarine for all my bakes)
  • 4 oz caster sugar

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If you’d like to make your own lemon curd to go inside the cupcakes, find my recipe here! You will need:

  • A lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 3oz caster sugar
  • 2oz unsalted butter

For the buttercream, you will need:

  • Half a lemon
  • 8oz icing sugar (sifted)
  • 4 oz margarine

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Method (makes 12 cupcakes):

  1. Line a cupcake tin with twelve cupcake cases and preheat the oven to 190C fan/375F/gas mark 5.
  2. Cream together the butter/margarine and sugar. Add the zest and juice from the lemon.
  3. Beat the eggs in, one at a time, before sieving in the flour.
  4. Fold the mixture together before spooning into the prepared cupcake cases and popping in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes have turned a golden brown and you can place a skewer inside the cake and pull it out clean.
  5. Place on a cooling rack to cool.

If making your own lemon curd, do so now using this recipe.

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Once your cakes and lemon curd have cooled, cut a small circle out of the top of each cupcake. Fill the hole with lemon curd before placing the top of the cake back on.

Now you can make the buttercream:

  1. Cream your margarine and icing sugar together using a wooden spoon, at least until the icing sugar is thoroughly mixed in. You may now go in with an electric whisk to speed up the process.
  2. Add the juice of half a lemon and combine.

Once you have done this, you can pipe a swirl of buttercream on top of each cake! Ta da! Now go and enjoy your homemade lemon cupcakes!

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Top tip: If you wish to make a large sandwich cake version of this like I did for my anniversary, multiply your quantities by 1.5 and place the mixture in two circular cake tins, lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for approximately 25 minutes.

Pssst… If you liked this post, why not share it on your social media or pin it on pinterest?