Hannah Drake

The Pumpkin Patch at Essington Farm

LifeHannah DrakeComment

A couple of weekends before Halloween, on our way back from visiting Luke’s parents for the weekend, we took a detour home to stop at Essington Farm in Wolverhampton. We wanted to pick out some pumpkins from their pumpkin patch and I had even read about a maize maze (corn maze, for us Americans).

Unlike our experience picking apples, the pumpkin patch was packed. We waited about 20 minutes just to turn into the car park and then there were people everywhere. It wasn’t quite the relaxing weekend afternoon I had imagined, but we still came away with some good pumpkins.

We didn’t spend much time wandering around looking for our pumpkins. It’s hard with pumpkins, I think, because if you find a good one, you want to grab it. You’ll never remember where it was if you want to come back for it and you can’t risk someone else snatching it up when you’re seeing if there’s anything better!

The original plan was to find just two, one for each of us to carve, but we ended up with four, including one white one. Of course our carved pumpkins wouldn’t last until our Thanksgiving dinner, so I wanted to get two more that would keep.

It seemed like there was a lot more of the farm to explore, including an area you could take a hay ride to. We wandered around the store a bit, but that was about it. We never did find out if they actually had a maize maze.

There’s this really awesome farm near my hometown in Colorado called Anderson Farms and it’s one of my favourite places to visit in the autumn. They have epic corn mazes (plus a “Terror in the Corn” maze and a zombie paintball area), they have activities for kids, and sprawling pumpkin patch, camp fires, and more. I think I’ve been going every year since middle school or high school and it’s always so fun. That’s definitely one thing I miss about the States this time of year and I doubt anything will come close in the UK.

We ended up getting a few smaller pumpkins that are actually British Cooking Pumpkins at the grocery store a few days later. They’ll be great for our Thanksgiving table if they last that long. And of course we had to pick up some “munchkins” at the grocery store too. Last week, I found some gorgeous white mini pumpkins at a little green grocery in Hampstead in London and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a couple of them as well. So yeah, maybe I went a bit overboard with the pumpkins this year, but they bring me joy, so who cares?

And now to our contest!

It’s been years since either of us have carved pumpkins — we intended to last year but never got around to it. After the Great British Drake Off debacle, we decided we would do a theme so that one of us didn’t carve a classic jack-o-lantern face while the other got super creative. We narrowed it down to Game of Thrones, Marvel, or Harry Potter, ultimately choosing Harry Potter.

Neither of us had ever used the technique where you basically shave off the pumpkin flesh rather than cutting all the way through. I don’t know about Luke, but I was kind of nervous that I would puncture my pumpkin and end up ruining my design. In the end, it worked out quite well. We learned a few things about it:

  • If you’re not going to have any opening at all, like on the Hogwarts pumpkin, you need to cut a hole in the back to let in oxygen for the candle flame. If you’re super creative, you can carve a shape into it to project onto the wall behind the pumpkin. I saw one that had Harry Potter holding his wand on the front and his Patronus was projected behind it. So cool!

  • You can do it slowly and carefully, like the Patronus pumpkin, so the shaved flesh is still smooth and even. On the Hogwarts pumpkin, it was rougher and uneven, but it sort of works because it makes it look like clouds.

I posted both of our completed pumpkins in my Instagram Stories and let my followers vote on the winner.

It was hardly a competition, Luke’s Patronus won in a landslide, with 72% of the votes!

The Great Pumpkin Cake

EntertainingHannah DrakeComment

Back in 2011, my sister Cady and I decided to make a pumpkin shaped cake ahead of Halloween. This year, I was determined to make it for the second time.

Enter: The Great Pumpkin Cake.

It’s surprisingly simple, so don’t be fooled. I promise, anyone can make this cake.

First, choose what flavour you want your cake to be. Of course you can have a pumpkin-flavoured cake, but I decided to use my favourite chocolate cake recipe: Chocolate Zucchini Cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction. If you’re nervous about using a bundt pan, I would recommend finding a recipe specifically for bundt cakes. I had to make two batches of batter to make two cakes (which normally makes a two-layer 9-inch cake), and halfway through it, I panicked that it wouldn’t cook through or come out of the pan, even though I had greased and floured the pan first. It did end up taking about 35-40 minutes to bake. Let the cake cool completely before you start assembling and frosting. Make your preferred buttercream frosting while you’re waiting.

If you’re serving your cake on a cake stand, a good tip is to put down four squares of parchment paper underneath the cake so you can easily pull them out when you’re finished. Put the first cake upside-down in the centre of your cake stand or plate. (You can trim the bottom if it’s not even, but remember no pumpkin is perfect!) Add a layer of frosting on the top and set the other cake on top. Since my bundt pan has wide and narrow ridges, I made sure to line them up properly.

I filled the hole with crumpled up foil rather than frosting because that would have taken A LOT of frosting. However, if you’re using mini bundts and love frosting, go for it! I just flattened the top of the foil, but made sure to keep it lower than the outside of the cake, since real pumpkins dip in toward the middle a bit.

Start with a thin crumb coat layer of your orange buttercream on your cake. Once it’s hardened, add a thicker layer. I was really crunched for time, so I started rushing toward the end of frosting it and especially while trying to reshape the ridges. If you want to see a great job of shaping buttercream to look like a pumpkin, check out Preppy Kitchen. When you’re done frosting, remove the parchment paper from under the cake. You should have very little to wipe up, if any.

When my sister and I made the cake in 2011, we broke off a real pumpkin stem to use, but we didn’t have any pumpkins yet, I decided to make a small batch of green buttercream to pipe into a stem. Since it needed to stand upright, I added a bit more powdered sugar than normal to make it stiffer. (By the way, I use Wilton’s gel food colouring, which gives a richer colour with less colouring. Especially in the UK, I haven’t been able to find a decent liquid food colouring.)

When serving, remember you’ve essentially made two two-layer cakes. You can either cut thinner slices, or cut normal slices and separate the two layers, if some people don’t mind a little less icing.


See, it’s a lot easier than it looks and it will definitely impress your friends and family!


Paul + Aimee's Wedding

PhotographyHannah DrakeComment

I’m a little bit hesitant to share today’s post, because I am not a professional photographer. I definitely feel like a fauxtographer. But I’m really proud of the work my friend Pete (you might remember him from his guest post a few weeks ago) and I did, so why not? Who knows what the future holds. Though, Pete is well on his way to being an actual pro!

Here’s a bit of background: Our friends Paul, who is British, and Aimee, who is American, got married this summer in the States. Because half of their guest list lived in the UK, they decided to do a second wedding (ceremony, reception, and all) in Birmingham in September and hired Pete to capture their day. Pete then brought me on as a second shooter. We met with Paul the week before the wedding and did a little bit of prep before the day, but it was Pete’s first time shooting a wedding and by far the most important thing I’ve ever photographed, so needless to say there were some nerves. It seemed like a great opportunity to start though because it was our first time shooting a wedding and their second time having a wedding. They had already done the bulk of their portraits in the States and gotten a few other key shots that we didn’t need to worry about.

In the end, Pete and I made a pretty great team. Pete knows a ton about photography and has been steadily building his arsenal of lenses and equipment for years. Meanwhile, I bought my current camera less than a year ago and didn’t get a prime lens until a month before the wedding. However, I had just gotten married so I was on the other side of the bride-photographer relationship and could use some of that experience to guide me on this side of it. The day was absolutely exhausting, but it was a total blast. I really loved setting up the detail shots and sort of “directing” people when we were doing portraits. Pete worked his magic like the pro he is, and hands down the best moment was when he popped up in the window of the chimney in the middle of the ceremony for a photo of the room. Anything for the shot, amirite?

So let’s get to the good stuff!

Aimee and Paul met online in the summer of 2016. They communicated a bit before their first date, emailing, texting, and even using this antiquated form of communication called phone calls! They weren’t living in the same city at the time, Aimee in Birmingham and Paul about a two hour drive away in Manchester. Aimee said she was very impressed that Paul was willing to make the drive on a week night after work to take her out for the first time.

They hit it off that very first night and the only problem was Paul had to make the long drive back home, otherwise they would have stayed out longer! They didn’t see each other again for two weeks when Aimee took the train to Manchester to spend Saturday with him. It quickly became their routine for the next year and a half. Paul would drive to Birmingham one Saturday. Aimee would take the train to Manchester two weeks later.

Paul knew Aimee was the one not long after they started dating, but it took Aimee a bit longer. He went to visit her and her family while she was home in the States in the summer of 2017 and after seeing him with her family where she had spent most of her life, she knew he was the one. Later, Paul told her that he wanted to introduce her as his fiance at Christmas with his family!

Paul proposed in December of 2017 and they immediately started planning the wedding and for Paul to move to Birmingham to be closer and settle into what would become their first home. They knew they wanted to get married in Virginia while Aimee was back for the summer, but they also wanted to have a celebration in the UK, knowing many of their family and friends wouldn’t be able to make the journey across the pond in July.

With two ceremonies, they had the unique opportunity to incorporate their respective cultures and traditions into two different ceremonies. They got married in the church where Aimee grew up, incorporating many American traditions, but making sure to include some British traditions—like signing the marriage certificate in the ceremony—as well. Paul’s two best men weren’t able to make the American wedding, but recorded their toasts to be played during the reception.

After a honeymoon in Asheville, North Carolina, they came back to the UK to settle into married life—and plan another wedding. Their British celebration looked and felt exactly like a proper British wedding. This time, Paul donned the classic morning suit, coattails and all. During the ceremony, they sat in the front row of the seats, like most brides and grooms do when they get married in the Church of England. They were surrounded by their friends and family from the UK, and even Paul’s brother who now lives in California, made a surprise visit!

Paul’s two best men were great friends from different stages of his life who had actually never met until the wedding. Both gave another toast, this time in person, and rumour has it, it was a bit more of a roast, like the Brits are accustom to.

Aimee didn’t have bridesmaids for the ceremony, as they were all back home in the States, but she did spend the day getting ready with her closest girl friends, who made sure Aimee had everything she needed and was as loved and pampered as the last time! They even arranged her bouquet for her!

After a pig roast feast, Paul and Aimee cut their “Better Together” topped cake, before stepping onto the dance floor for their second first dance as their loved ones looked on.

How lucky be able to marry the love of your life twice!

Check out Peter Horrox Photography for more.