Did you see the cake?

I’ve had a little blog hiatus, and it’s been a while since I’ve written a post apart from meet the baker (which will be back next week)

So this time last week we were all coming down from the high that was the royal wedding of Harry and Megan and like everyone their were two things I wanted to see, the dress and the cake.

The dress and Megan were stunning, obvious comparisons were made to Kate’s wedding dress, Megan’s was simple classic and elegant, Kate’s was lacy and elegant and more form fitting. I liked both dresses equally but if I had to choose one over the other Megan’s would’ve been the one for me.

The service was beautiful and it was clear to see that Megan influenced elements of the wedding day from the beautiful gospel choir to the wonderful preacher but that wasn’t the only influence she introduced. It became clear once the cake was revealed that Megan Harry and Claire Ptak from Violets bakery have introduced us all to the deckled edge cake which seems to be a trend in the states.

It certainly wasn’t what we were expecting for a royal wedding cake which was clear to see from the reaction of many.

I knew no matter what it looked like it would be both loved and hated because that’s life, and that’s the cake community (we like to have an opinion) but what really tickled me was the strong and I mean strong emotion the cake evoked within the cake community.

And it got me wondering why did so many react so negatively towards the cake? after all it was the choice of the bride and groom and would have had a consultation if not a few, and it wasn’t like the cake just rocked up on the day, it would have been a well thought out design

So why the reaction?

My theory is because we are used to expected and wanted perfection.

We like cakes that are flawless, razor sharp edges, the realest looking sugar flowers just everything perfect.

We spend hours perfecting our cakes, watching videos, going to workshops, sharing advice so we can create a perfect cake.

So the expectations for the the royal wedding cake was huge but you only had to check out the baker and her style of cake design that this was going to be very different and very rustic in style.

And oh was it different, from the choice of baker, the flavour (no traditional fruit cake)right through to the decoration, the uneven rough finish and the presentation it didn’t look perfect and we were shook.

I’ve read various blogs and threads about how we should encourage and support each after all the vitriol started especially when it was revealed how much the cake supposedly cost.

Personally for me I was in the love it camp but many were not and that’s fine as it’s down to what you like and everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Not everyone wants a perfect sharp edge, not everyone has to have a tiered cake up to the ceiling and not every baker wants to embrace sharp edge perfection, but we are (as a community) obsessed with perfection and that’s why we create beautiful works of Edible art.

But not every baker strives for that.

I watched an episode of chefs kitchen -pastry a few weeks ago and was intrigued by a baker who hates covering cakes in frosting/fondant and I kinda get what Christina Tosi was saying

“From being in culinary school around all these insane masters of beauty and perfection when it comes to finishing a cake, they had tired me out completely to the point where I was like, ‘I don’t think cake should be frosted,I’ve seen how obsessed you can get with frosting a cake, and that time should be spent elsewhere … we’re not in pottery class.”

You can watch a clip here

We are in the business of cake so I don’t wholly agree but we can all admit to spending hours perfecting a cake covered in ganache to create the sharpest of edges because that’s what we do, and that’s what our customers want, right?

Some customers do want perfection, they do want a sharp edge cake they do want a cake that towers above us, they do want a cake adorned with beautifully realistic sugar flowers, but also their are customers who don’t want that, and bakers who don’t want it either and that is fine.

Customers commission us to create cakes because they want a cake that is perfect for them no matter what it looks like.

So I think for me with all the cake commotion that went on we forgot that the bride and groom Harry and Megan wanted that cake, Claire delivered it beautifully and to them it was perfect even if to us it wasn’t.

So no matter what cake we produce, no matter what it looks like our customers come to us because they like the style of cakes we produce wether that be a sky scraping sharp edge beauty or a buttercream deckled edge cake, as long as they are happy then it is absolutely perfect to them.

So it looks like the deckled edge cake might be the next cake trend but are we ready for a little less perfection?

And the winner is……….

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It’s awards season, Grammys,Oscars, the Brits, Cake International (Manchester) well this blog is about cakes so a definite cake reference is needed.

So, today is the Oscars and I’ve made an Oscar themed cake

So after a late cake session I was catching up on new film releases with Film 2015 on the BBC last week and I was watching a review about the New Jennifer Aniston film called Cake. I haven’t watched the film yet but I do know it’s not about Cake well not in the traditional sense.
So as usual some liked the film one of the reviewers wasn’t keen and basically implied the film was created so that Aniston could win an Oscar, to show how good she is, how far she has come since friends and that she could transform herself for her craft, blah, blah blah,indeed she does look pretty different and the acting looks very serious (if you know what I mean) she certainly doesn’t look her usual polished self, but alas neither jennifer or the film have been Nominated for an Oscar but it got me thinking, awards I get it.

For years I wouldn’t enter a competition, being judged on my work sent a shiver down my spine as I never really deemed myself good enough plus why would someone put themselves through that? But I now understand the reason, pure and simple it is to be judged by your peers/experts on the work you do as well as show the effort you have gone too,how far your willing to stretch yourself for your craft using different styles and techniques plus it’s great PR.

Ive entered a few comps in my time, local bake offs, cupcake championships, and currently I’ve entered Flavours of the neighbourhood with Hotel Indigo. https://hotelindigoneighbourhood.co.uk (take a peek)

Entering competitions increases your profile, gets people talking, gets the creative juices flowing and also challenges yourself. The cake I’ve posted has new techniques to me air brushing and sculpting using modelling chocolate, ( the Oscar model)

So after many years contemplating this year I’m going for an entry or two into cake international Birmingham, what am I going to enter ? don’t know yet but I’m definatley going to bite the bullet this year so watch this space.

So have you or will you be entering any competitions this year?

Things to remember

Nearly the end of January and l am just writing my first post of 2015, its a bit later than i wanted but as they say better late than never.
So after a teeny tiny break after what was Christmas cakeageddon its back to ovens roll.

So the first couple weeks into January saw my first cake delivery of 2015 which just so happened to be a wedding cake with mixed flavoured tiered with a design brief of a very classic style wedding cake decorated with Ruby red roses and swags.

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To decorate the cake I used Red wine beau flower paste, I’m a bit of a convert to this flowerpaste which comes in a fab range of colours and doesn’t dry to quickly so giving you plenty of time to use before it dries out. The roses were unwired and made petal by petal as i know there are so many different methods to make roses but this method gives great results.

 

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The cake covering l used was Culpitt sugarpaste, I do tend to use either Bako paste or Culpitt but Culpitt just pips it for me, slightly more pricey compared to other paste but i like the way it covers which doesn’t graze or give that elephant skin effect.

Both paste come in Ivory or white, I used the Ivory as this was chosen by the client and was a very good choice.

Anyway all went well with delivery and set up and l arrived at the venue and received some lovely comments from the venue staff, so after having a quick chat i headed off home but then as I was half way l sudden realised arghhhh forgot to take a pic of the cake set up but luckily for me the mother of the bride kindly sent me a picture of the cake. So with this in mind it made me think about things to remember when delivering a Wedding cake.

  • Emergency kit – Edible glue, cocktail sticks, royal icing, extra roses, what ever you have used on your cake always have extra in your emergency kit incase anything goes a miss upon arrival at the venue.
  • Camera or phone – make sure you have your batteries or phoned charged up
  • Two hands are better than one- Never underestimate how heavy wedding cakes can be so you may need a helping hand or two or three
  • Sat Nav- Country hotels, Golf clubs, wedding venues in general can sometimes be off the beaten track so be prepared
  • Order form –  I always take the original order form with me including the wedding planners phone numbers as sometimes its only the set up staff that will be at the venue and the front door isn’t always open so always give them a quick call if that’s the case.

If you have any other suggestions about things to remember please feel free to comment.

The Evolution of SugarCraft

It’s been a while since my last blog post, but you know the story, bake, decorate sleep repeat.

So I did it again I managed to get myself back into the final of the Cupcake Championship to be held at the NEC in Birmingham in November with my Mayan Chocolate Cupcake.
The cupcake final will be part of Cake International the Mecca for all things SugarCraft.

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Mayan Chocolate and Blackberry Mojito Cupcake

and it got me thinking how far the industry has come.
I’ve been Making cakes as a business for a few years but like most I began as a hobbyist many years ago and dipped in and out of my hobby at a time when Royal icing was all the rage as well as being the cake covering of choice, and garret frills were considered the height of sophistication.

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Cake decoration seemed to stick to a set of rules that now have well and truly being broken.
I remember the mere suggestion that you could get a sharp edge on a sugar paste cake was dealt a sugary Mary berry style stare from my tutor with the look of utter stupidity that I could even suggest such a silly idea, it made me not even dare to try,it was unheard of and not at all possible ( well it was according to my tutor at the time).

And here we are in 2014 you can crumb coat your cake upside down to get a sharp edge, even better if you use chocolate ganache there are no more wedding cake pillars, it’s all about stacked and gravity defying cakes.
You can get a cake to be as pretty or macabre as you like Conjurers Kitchenand Miss Cakehead spring to mind) Yes Sugarcraft has come a longggggggg way.

Tutors travel half way around the world to teach, such as Michelle Green from The Business of Baking plus there are numerous online cake classes/Schools such as Paul Bradford SugarCraft Schooland Craftsy, don’t even get me started on you tube, pick a tutorial any tutorial, it’s pretty amazing really.

But along with this evolution comes those that what to run before they can walk, lost count of the the good cakes gone bad that I have seen, cakes not stacked correctly and collapsing at venues, burnt cakes, leaking cakes, the list goes on there’s even a website dedicated to them Cake Wrecks

But the biggest difference in this evolution is social media, facebook, twitter, Pinterest we can share our pictures, ask questions, watch tutorials , join a cake class, market our businesses, communicate directly with the customer and be part of cake forums with the much repeated “how much would you charge for this cake” question,yes Sugarcraft is huge, so it was sad to hear that some big names such as Blue Door Bakery and Carinas Cupcakeshave decided to scale back or hang up there pinnies.
Cake decorating can be so tiring as a business/hobby.

If you think the majority are home businesses it isn’t unheard of for a cake decorator ( myself included) to be going to bed at 1.00am and getting up for the day job/school run to perfect a cake for our customers and if your lucky enough to be busy you can repeat this pattern almost daily so it’s no surprise really that some decide to take a break, and it must be even more challenging if you have a family.

So really this post is dedicated to all the cake decorators, cupcake makers, bakers who have made the industry so exciting right now, I look forward to Cake International 2014 to see what amazing creations that will be on display this year.
So Are you going?
Or are you entering?

I got through

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If you read my previous post about National cupcake week you will know I entered 3 categories for the chance to get though to the final of the Cupcake championships, it since transpires I actually entered two, (don’t think they received my 3rd) anyway received notification via email at the airport on my way home from my relaxing late summer holiday. I knew the 16th September was the reveal day so had a mixture of nerves and excitement to see if my cupcakes had made the grade.
A few days later still on a high i received two letters, the first saying my chocolate baileys vodka martini cupcake

they are ones above
Chocolate Vodka baileys martini cupcake (above)
Strawbery cheescake cupcakes (below)

didn’t make it, (sad times) but the other letter saying my Teddy bears picnic themed cupcakes got through (good times) , therefore I am now in the Pro Bakers themed category and I am over the moon.
The final will be held at Cake International in November and in case you don’t know cake international is an annual event held at the NEC in Birmingham which is a cake maker/ Decorators paradise.
Not only can you purchase every conceivable piece of kit for baking and decorating cakes, but there are chances to exhibit your work by entering various competitions which have a number of different categories. Of which I think I’m also going to enter, but which category ?? I have yet to decide, but have some ideas in mind.

So if your planning on going to cake international this year here are my top tips for going

  •  Wear flat shoes – the event is huge with lots of walking and standing so be comfy
  •  Wear light clothing- or removable layers it gets really warm in there
  • Take a camera- not condoning plagiarism but you can certainly get some ideas
  •  Make a list- I did this last year and was very restraint (well to a degree) but be prepared you will make the odd impulse purchase, it’s inevitable and let me just say I still have some mini shoe cutters from about 3 years ago that I still haven’t used yet (nuff said about that)
  •  Suppliers – when researching for my business I was seeking a particular cupcake box that was difficult to find but luckily found a supplier at the show that stocked exactly what I wanted so use the show as a way to seek out new contacts and suppliers
  •  Food and drink- they do have food stalls but theirs nothing wrong with a little picnic certainly saves queuing leaves more time for browsing.
  •  Best day to visit? – in all the years I have gone I have chosen Sunday to attend which is certainly still busy but a little less than Saturday ( from what I hear)
  • And lastly I have seen some people take those mini pull along  suitcases for purchases, (they certainly mean business) so could be an idea if you plan on purchasing a lot

So Overall it’s a fab day and even if your not that much into cake it’s well worth a visit

National Cupcake week – 2013

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In case you didn’t know Monday 16th September is National cupcake week http//nationalcupcakeweek.co.uk

A week long celebration of all things Cupcake.
From Cafes, Bakeries, hobbyist and Home bakers we will all be baking up a storm.

The week long event also raises money for Clic Sargent a charity for children with Cancer http://www.clicsargent.org.uk

Cupcake week allows all bakers a chance to enter the National cupcake championships to find the best cupcake in the land.

The categories are:
Alcohol
Themed
Classic
Free from

I have entered 3 categories and I am keeping fingers crossed that one of my entries makes the final.

So how are cupcakes doing, and is there still a demand??

From my experience cupcakes are not a fad, they are well and truly here to stay, but rather than it be “ooh you bought cupcakes” it will be ooh you bought cupcakes from ………. ( insert preferred choice)

“Cupcakes have never been more in vogue, with a small army of professional bakers successfully launching their own businesses on the back of this delicious classic,” says Martyn Leek, editor of British Baker.

“It is the creative, entrepreneurial start-up business idea of the moment with many people dipping their toe in by catering for events, farmers’ markets or through the web. The sheer level of innovation in this sector is reflected in the 2013 National Cupcake Week Championships. All of our finalists are leading the way in trends, taste and style – and bakers out there should prepare for the new wave of exciting cupcakes now coming through.”

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I use my Facebook page and twitter presence to promote my fortnightly Sit back kick back cupkakery cupcake Friday, this allows me to promote my business as well as experimenting with new flavours etc….. So customers can be the first to try new cupcakes.
Mid week is usually #FlavourReveal and then deliveries are made on a Friday and occasional Saturday.
You can check my page out at http://www.facebook.com/Cupkakery

So it is up to us cupcake bakers to keep being innovative and exciting and for all our customers this cupcake week to have fun,support your local cupcake baker and enjoy a cupcake or two or three.

Next stop national baking day in October

Start up Britain: Start up food

Thursday 4th July, a very sunny day Myself and my friend Ann went on a road trip to London for Start up Food organised by start up Britain http://www.startupbritain.co/events/startup-food
This was an event for foodie start ups, i cant tell you how excited i was about this event, all the advice any food business would want as well as an amazing list of speakers who were:

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 -Luke Johnson, British serial entrepreneur http://www.lukejohnson.org/home
– Tessa Stuart, Packed http://www.packedbranding.co.uk/
– Tim Roupell, ex-Daily Bread http://www.princes-trust.org.uk/about_the_trust/the_enterprise_fellowship/tim_roupell.aspx
– Cate Trotter, Insider Trends http://www.insider-trends.com/
– Mike Salter, We Are Pop Up http://blog.wearepopup.com/

– Becky Jones, PopUp Britain http://www.startupbritain.co/meet-the-team/becky-jones

– Buyers from top high street chain Sainsburys

-Philip Dundas from Pipsdish http://www.pipsdish.co.uk/

-Rekha Mehr Pistachio Rose http://www.pistachiorose.co.uk/

i was particulary inteseted in Pistachio Rose Founder  Rekha Mehr who managed to get her Pistachio Rose products into Fortnum and Mason, I was suitably vey impressed

So the subjects and speakers covered all aspects of running a food business from alternative sources of finance to alternate ways to start your business via pop ups and supper clubs, i was scribbling away and had the messiest group of notes but too many inspiring ideas to miss a thing

The floor was also  open for plenty of questions, and it was obvious that many foodie entrepreneurs where hoping to get some of the big players to hear out there ideas, the stampede that followed Luke Johnson when he left was not subtle to say the least (hope they caught up with him)

A few food producers bought with them some food samples where i got to try some of the most amazing Luxury Turkish Delight from a company called Gulluoglu  crammed full of pistachios, i am not usually a Turkish delight fan but that might have just changed my mind  http://www.gulluoglu.co.uk/

A huge fail on my part was why i didn’t  take cake?? (and in the voice of Homer Simpson, Doh)
Anyway 2 of my favorite parts of the day was listening to Philip Dundas From pips dish,who opened up a pop up restaurant in a garage, yes a garage, how cool is that,  he came across so humorous and  passionate about what he does me an Ann were truly in awe

And the 2nd part was very dragons den 5 foodie entrepreneurs pitched there foodie products to 3 buyers from sainsburys with the hope of getting there products onto supermarrket shelves.

I admired them all for having the courage to pitch not just in front of the buyers but also in front of a room full of strangers, I wish them all the very best of luck.

Coming from a hospitality background i did find the focus was quite heavily geared towards retail operations, and some manufacturing but thats not to say the advice wasnt still applicable, the speakers all seemed like experts in there field and were happy to share advice, i came away with my head buzzing full of ideas and it certainly made me think.

i think there may be more start up food events in the future so check out the site or look out for them on Twitter.
Start up Britain will also be on tour with their start up Britain tour bus so if you get chance check out the site to see where they will be next

Oh forgot to mention also got chance to visit the Amazing Borough Market, OMG amazing foodie heaven.well worth a visit http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/