wedding cupcakes book cover

The day I killed wedding cupcakes (book review)

This heartbreaking tale begins with a note in my inbox several weeks ago. Would I like to review a new book for brides and grooms: “Wedding Cupcakes”? Yes I’d love to. I could have a taste test and everything… it’d be so much fun!

wedding cupcakes book coverSo I replied, and within a couple of days this little beauty arrived in the post. I dashed out to Sainsburys with my shopping list ready to get stuck into one of those beautifully inspiring wedding DIY blog posts that all the top bloggers are so good at. I imagined I’d be as good at this as Lou from Whimsical Wonderland Weddings with all her expert tutorials and home made photoshoots.

I couldn’t have been wronger. As wrong as if you’d led me by the hand to the ‘wrong’ department in the wrong shop, tipped me upside down, painted ‘wrong’ on my forehead and dumped me in the wrong basket on the way out, as one of my expert reviewers might say. (but she’s better at this than I am.) Still, at least I was keen.

I began with the details: modelling icing for my cupcakes

English wedding blog project diy cake icing

English wedding blog project: DIY wedding cupcake icing

I struggled with a few aspects of the ingredients list, and my weakness is always for enthusiastic but misguided improvisation. I couldn’t find ‘superfine sugar’ or ‘confectioners’ sugar’ so used icing sugar for both. I only had lilac and pink food colouring so I changed the colours in the recipes. All the sugar made me very thirsty.

I didn’t have a 3cm heart-shaped cutter so I used a small cookie cutter – which was waaaaaaaaaaay too big. Then I cut hearts by hand with a knife, which was messy. Then I made balls instead. They were easy (but some might say they looked a bit stupid). Nonetheless, I did my best to follow the rest of the instructions to the letter, and considering it’s been twenty years since I last had plasticine, I think I did OK.

I must emphasise that none of my misadventures were the fault of Joanna Farrow. Her publisher wasn’t to know about any of my previous baking experience – and credit where it’s due: a total idiot can follow the instructions in the book, so she did very well indeed there.

After well over an hour making hearts, flowers and balls, I move on to baking. My cupcakes are horrendous! People on twitter said they looked lovely! Thank you Instagram. 😉

The real challenge was baking, then hiding what emerged from my oven

WEdding cupcakes book review pictures

English Wedding reviews 'Wedding Cupcakes' by Joanna Farrow - with shocking results

The verdict: can I make wedding cupcakes? How did my first wedding blogger DIY project go?

My good friend and expert wedding cake designer Beth, from Cakes By Beth, was very kind (perhaps because she didn’t have to taste anything). We’d recently been discussing our favourite retro TV programmes and I suspect this influenced her review somewhat. Beth did suggest that my wedding cupcakes looked a little dry…

“As dry as an extremely dry desert that’s on holiday in Death Valley in middle of a heat wave, eating Jacobs Crackers”

and with all the icing, perhaps a little sweet…

“Sweeter than a teeny tiny baby kitten wearing a teeny tiny little bonnet, dipped in syrup, sitting in a sugar factory, sucking its thumb & saying “Hug me, I’m sweet”

To be fair, Beth was generous with her praise of my efforts. Thanks Beth

How wedding cupcakes are supposed to look

How wedding cupcakes are supposed to look. Picture by

When I told my other friend wedding photographer Jenny McAvoy I was making wedding cupcakes for my blog, she showed me her own “little” DIY challenge: to make a tiered wedding cake and then share it with other people. I’d love to show you pictures – but Jenny’s blog post had me crying with laughter and delight. She called it, Leave it to the experts! You have to see this.

Wedding Cupcakes – a book review

wedding cupcakes by joanna farrow
I should really review the book properly for you now! Wedding Cupcakes by Joanna Farrow has some lovely ideas inside. There’s a variety of cupcake styles for different weddings, and plenty of options for novice decorators to master (with a bit of practice – more than I had!).

Joanna’s ideas for decorating with flowers and tying with ribbons are nice, and with every recipe she shares pictures of how cupcakes might look in a little arrangement.

Some of the designs are a wee bit dated (but not enough to be vintage) in style if you ask me, and some are overly fiddly for beginners to be making by the dozen – see page 14! But overall I like this book for beginners – and I had loads of fun with it.

Wedding Cupcakes is selling on Amazon for less than the recommended retail price as I type – it’s £6.39 with free delivery. Try it and see! (send me pictures of your wedding cupcake masterpieces and I’ll share them on the blog!)

If anyone else would like to send me a book to review, please do! I really enjoy it.

Claire x

(This blog post contains affiliate links to Amazon. The book was offered to me free for review. I bought all the sugar and food colouring, marmite and other ingredients myself.)

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.



  • Jenny McAvoy
    8 years ago

    Oh Claire-I think they look great once decorated-I honestly would not be ashamed to serve them to anyone! My biggest problem-everything tastes ok but looks like a 3 year old made it, dropped it and put it back together again! My friends once watched my ice cakes with the kids and asked if i was making them childlike on purpose! The answer-no! Unfortunately I always try my best but sometimes we just need to accept we can only be Practically Perfect 🙂

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Heee Jenny – “childlike on purpose” – Ouch!!!
      My cakes are like little rocks, hidden under so much squidgey icing it might, just, if I’m lucky, disguise the taste as well as the overall appearance.
      I’m glad I’ve shared this post with you, we’re a great baking team.
      C xx

  • With constant practice and constant baking, everything will end up perfect! 🙂 I love cupcakes and really like to bake and design them. 🙂 Your cupcakes look amazing, I also believe that the icing and the decorations all hide the imperfections of the cupcakes. 😀

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Aurea, thank you. That’s a really, really kind thing to say.
      I’m sure your cupcakes are much nicer than mine.

  • They really don’t look that bad Claire!! And as long as you had fun making them thats the main thing. 🙂 x

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Tory – too kind. I had a wonderful little baking adventure and learned a lot about myself. It was fun!
      C xx

  • This entire post had be laughing out loud… “alas no vanilla essence only lemon or marmite!” I thought you went to the shop for supplies? 😛

    Seriously though, your roses looked beautiful 🙂
    and as a keen baker- and follower of Hummingbird recipes I assure you, it is about practice 😀


    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Hi Laura,
      Yeah, my shopping list had a number of assumptions about what I thought would be in my cupboards. Still, I managed!
      Bless you, the roses looked ‘unusual’ at best. Not like the book. They were supposed to be ‘paper thin’ but I made a chunkier variety (I did try) instead.
      Should I keep practicing, I wonder? My family would suffer. Would it be fair?!
      C xx

  • Zoe Rusga
    8 years ago

    Top marks for having a go! I am far to much of a perfectionist and would prefer people not to know that I was doing a book review involving cooking, unless the end result was perfect ha ha! This is coming from the girl who couldn’t even send in a year 5 Tudor recipe for her son’s project, as the pastie creation was just too horrific. I preferred to say we were too busy, rather than reveal the horrors into mis-adventure by cooking!!

    Another angle is, DIY may look easy, but my god, it is not!
    Practise does make perfect, I agree, but is it worth frown lines before your wedding day and the 3am stress about icing cupcakes before your big day? Maybe not.

    PS I love the brandy glass in the picture, definitely helps dryness. What dryness ??? 😉

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Thank you Zoe. Proud of my top marks 🙂
      Oh yes, pasties are a nightmare – all that folding and they won’t stick together and then it comes out of the end and tears a hole in the top and you have to patch it up and…. yes, I’ve made pasties too. You should take Jenny’s lead and blame the kids. “He made it.”

      A good point about DIY – and cupcakes are definitely not as easy as they look. I’d definitely advise any bride to have a go well before the wedding (like months and months before – while there’s still time to buy a designer wedding cake if needs be!) The same applies to making wedding jewellery, stationery, accessories – there are experts out there for a reason!

      PS Did you spot the Whisky? The Heineken also helped 😉

  • Wendy Bell
    8 years ago

    Claire I think you did a fantastic job! As I can’t taste your cupcakes I will take your word for it that they were’t great, but frankly cake decorating is tricky and time consuming. I went on a course to improve my decorating skills…the photo I’ve attached is of some cakes I made for my niece’s birthday and it took me forever to die the sugar paste and cut out the little flowers! As a first time attempt I think you should be seriously chuffed.
    Oh, and I love the strategically placed brandy/whisky glass!

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Wendy, they’re really sweet little cakes! Mine were so burnt compared to yours – and I could have done with your nozzle instead of mine… (blaming my tools).
      Strategically placed? Dropped, in a blur. Couldn’t even see it by the time I took that photo.

  • I. LOVE. IT.

    Your cupcakes may be cr*p but this book review is excellent.

    J xxx

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Julia you made me spit my hot chocolate out. Great comment. Thank you. Heeeeeeeeee!!!

  • Amma // Beyond Beyond
    8 years ago

    They don’t look half bad at all my cakes are all from Mr Kipling or M&S :))))

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Can’t beat a French Fancy if you ask me Amma!! Xx

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