Christmas Gift DIY: Mandala Tattooed Wooden Plates

My mom did a lot of craft projects when we were young which had a massive influence on all 4 of her girls. To this day, our hands can make, fix and prettify anything. Our winter holidays were spent sewing, painting and being creative – those are some of my fondest childhood memories! One of the things that Mom taught us were wood soldering. We created little wall hangings and personalised anything made of wood, and I remember the amazing smell of the pine that softly burned under the soldering iron’s tip. It was during a recent sort out and throw out session that I discovered the soldering irons in a box. And when Ideas Magazine asked me to come up with a Christmas gift DIY, I jumped at the opportunity to use them! I found the acacia side plates and platter at a homeware store and decided that they had the perfect surface to create something beautiful on.

Christmas Gift DIY: Mandala Tattooed Wooden Plates

You will need:

  • Wooden bowl or plate. A wooden chopping board will work as well!
  • Mandala design
  • Lemon juice and kitchen towel
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Wood burning tool with a sharp-angled point
  • Piece of off-cut wood to clean your soldering tool’s tip with



Use a round object like a bowl to draw the outline of the mandala. Find the centre point and divide the circle into quadrants. Then add similar patterns to each quadrant – it’s very therapeutic! If you prefer, you can also download a mandala design here.



Use the lemon juice and paper towel to wipe any oil or residue from the wood and allow to dry.



Draw the mandala design onto the wood. Start with the centre point and draw the X and Y axis before you start filling in the patterns.



Carefully burn the pattern into the wood using the wood burning tool. It is advisable to wear a mask over your mouth and nose so that you don’t inhale the smoke.



When the tip of the wood burning tool gets covered with residue, wipe it clean against the offcut wood. You can also use this as a practice block for smaller details.



Rub out any pencil lines that may still be visible and give the plate a quick wipe-down with a damp cloth before wrapping.


Happy Gift-Making!

Step-by-step images by Ed O’Reilly for Ideas Magazine

Have your Rainbow Mandala Cake this Heritage Day and Eat It!

Every year we celebrate Heritage Day with a braai. In fact, National Braai Day, as its known, is a true South African way of saying that we should put our differences aside and eat together. I am not much of braaier myself – I leave that to my husband. But recently when my sister Anélle made this incredible rainbow mandala cake I thought, what a better way to celebrate our rich South African heritage than with this gorgeous and intricately decorated deliciousness? We are the Rainbow Nation after all! So after you’ve had your braai – and the compulsory nap that follows – have some coffee and rainbow cake and be proud to be a Saffer. To read more about this very talented baker and maker, click here!

rainbow mandala cake

Heritage Day Rainbow Mandala Cake

Prep time: 60 mins

Cook time: 15 – 20 mins

rainbow mandala cake


Equipment: Mixer, spatula, disposable foil tins, disposable piping bags

For the cake you will need:

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 3tsp baking powder
  • 350g soft unsalted butter
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 6 large free range eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • up to 40ml milk – any kind

For the frosting you will need:

  • 300g butter, VERY soft but not melted
  • 250g medium fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • +- 800g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1tbsp lemon juice


Preheat oven to gas mark 4/170ºC/360 ºF

Prepare your disposable tin foil tins by spraying with Spray & Cook and cutting a circle of baking paper for each one

 Instructions for the cake:

rainbow mandala cake

  • Cream your butter and sugar until combined and light and fluffy – a couple of minutes of beating on high speed in a stand mixer.
  • Add eggs one at a time
  • In a separate bowl, mix baking powder & flour, then add little by little and mix well (with the mixer now on slow)
  • Add vanilla extract.
  • If your mix is a little thick as mine was, add up to 65ml of milk – adding a tablespoon at a time and stopping when you get to a consistency that you’re happy with.
  • Divide your mix into 6 bowls (including your original bowl) to do your colours. Add only a few drops of gel at a time and mix well.
  • Use a spatula to scoop all of the batter into a disposable tin. Use the back of a spoon to smooth down each cake – this will help them to bake flat.
  • Pop them into the oven and keep a close eye on them – you don’t want them to get browned. Take them out as soon as a skewer to the center came out clean (15-20 min depending on your oven)
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before stacking.

 Instructions for the frosting:

  1. Mix the butter and cream cheese
  2. Add icing sugar gradually and mix well
  3. Add lemon juice
  4. Refrigerate to firm if necessary, or add up to 60ml hot water if too firm

 To assemble:

rainbow mandala cake

  1. Put your first layer onto the center of the plate, and then frost and put on the next layer.
  2. Continue stacking the cake, taking care to position the layers as evenly as possible, so that the sides of the cake are as straight as they can be.
  3. Apply a crumb coat of frosting to the cake, filling any gaps between layers. The colours of the cake will be very apparent, but don’t worry! Chill the assembled cake for 20min.
  4. Apply a second coat of frosting. Chill for 20min.
  5. Apply a third coat of frosting. Chill until set.
  6. Divide remaining icing into bowls, one for each colour piping icing required.
  7. Colour icing by using only a drop of gel at a time. Scoop into disposable piping bags, then pipe away to your heart’s content!

A bit about mandalas

rainbow mandala cake

A mandala is a symbol that represents the universe in all its complexity and beauty. Start with a center point and then visually divide the cake into 4 quarters. Work your way around and make sure that you do exactly the same thing in each quarter. It’s very therapeutic! There is no right or wrong way and every mandala will be completely unique – just go with it! Here are some mandala images via Shutterstock to get you in the mood!

rainbow mandala cake

rainbow mandala cake

rainbow mandala cake

Happy Heritage Day!