Sunday, 27 November 2016

Football Mum

I think Sally, who turned 50 this weekend, deserves a 'Football Mum of the Year' award!

It takes a certain kind of person to stand on the touchline week in week out whatever the weather throws at you - and when we both lived in Wales that was generally very wet stuff! It also takes dedication to take, and later follow, your offspring around the county or country to the weekly match. Then there is the never ending pile of muddy kit, if you were very unlucky you used to end up with the whole teams kit to wash.

I grudgingly took my turn taking our 2 lads and friends to matches but was secretly pleased when one decided he didn't want to play football any more and the other got lifts with car driving friends. Sally, who I made this cake for, has 4 sporty off-spring and has supported them throughout - today they still play for a range of local and league teams, one even plays for a national team.

There were quite a few elements to incorporate into the design of the cake which her husband Chris had requested on ordering it - the house Sally loves, her family and their dog. I added in a few football touches - the rice paper shirts on the washing line, the scarves and a football. I think she liked it - her comment on seeing it was 'there were tears'... which is what most of us do when our beloved teams win or lose! 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Baking in Bodrum

When Dave and I lived in Bodrum in Turkey in the mid 80's our little flat didn't have an oven - there's a lot you can do with 2 hob rings and a grill but baking cakes definitely wasn't one of them. Nowadays thankfully Annie has a pretty standard oven in her house and she had already made three delicious, differently flavoured, cakes ready for me to ice and decorate.
Over the past couple of weeks in the UK I had made a selection of unwired flowers, petals and leaves which I packaged carefully to carry in my cabin hand baggage - I really didn't want them confiscated at the airport security checks. Annie, Esi and I had been sharing a few ideas about the design and I knew my turntable and trustee palette knife would be needed together with four cake boards, some wooden dowel rods, ribbon, posy picks and a couple of personalised wooden cake toppers. Cue some minimalist clothes packing to make space for the above!

Annie and I bought up all the available icing sugar in the local Turkish supermarkets. It seemed to be much grittier than its UK equivalent and the butter was much more .... umm .... buttery! Annie thankfully had a sturdy Kitchen Aid which made light work of knocking up a massive batch of butter icing.
The twelve layers were levelled and assembled into three cakes which were filled with flavoured butter cream before crumb coating and refrigerating. A thicker layer of butter cream was then applied and a horizontal ribbon effect achieved by holding the palette knife at an angle and turning each cake carefully on the turntable.
Annie decorated the bottom board with olive leaves from the trees in her garden and I positioned a few simple flowers, petals and leaves around the cake.
With the temperature in the high 20's the cake stayed inside in a cool room until after the main meal. It was a real honour to be asked to decorate the cake for Esi & Celal - what a lovely couple. Tebrik ederiz....
Jake getting in on the act!



Sunday, 17 July 2016

Rome wasn't built in a day....

Rome wasn't built in a day..... and neither was this bespoke 50th Birthday Cake - a model of the Church Inn Pub at Mobberley, Cheshire! 

One day I'll keep a really accurate record (down to the last minute maybe) of how much input and time a cake like this takes to create. But for now lets say it took in excess of 20 hours!! Apart from the Champagne bottle candle every part of the cake is totally edible.

L - Real Church Inn at Mobberley        R - My sugarpaste recreation



That includes planning, quoting, ordering items, making and cooking the cake base, carving the shape, levelling the layers, making and applying buttericing, covering the board, base covering the cake, colouring the fondant icing, making and 'fixing' the walls, roof and chimneys, applying the rice paper windows and doors, piping the ivy foilage, making the following - the plants, the hanging sign, the picnic table, the model (including clothes and hair), the tennis balls and tennis bag, and FINALLY cutting out and applying the lettering.

Phew.........time for a drink - cheers Amanda!!!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Modern Marketing


Noun - 'a regular gathering of people for the purchase and sale of provisions, livestock and other commodities'

Verb -  'to advertise or promote'.....

Shrewsbury Indoor Market
The last couple of months have been spent marketing my new business and products in quite diverse ways.

Country Markets Stall
Stepping back in time (to the traditional notion of what a market is) I have been selling cakes, tarts and biscuits on a co-operative stall within the indoor market hall in Shrewsbury. The stall is part of the nationwide Country Markets  network which had it's beginnings as the WI stalls back in 1919. Nearly 100 years on it is interesting to see that whilst the world has moved on this little stall in a corner of the market retains a feel and clientele of a by-gone age. The Market Hall itself is buzzing with cafes, art stalls, artisan jewelers, trendy fabric and wool stalls, a chocolatier, fruit & veg stalls, fishmongers, butchers, and bakers ... not sure there's a candle maker! See the Youtube Video below -

The Country Markets stall sells preserves, cakes, breads, pastries, flowers, plants, cards, knitted items, bird boxes, bunting and numerous other items but it struggles to attract new customers and new producers. I saw it as an opportunity to test the 'market' really and wasn't really sure how my style of cakes would sell. I took over from a retiring producer who had made the Victoria Sponge Cakes for years, eeeks I thought, the pressure was on to fill some pretty big traditional cake making shoes there. I have introduced some new items to the stall - some with success, others not so. Every few weeks I take my turn to help out on the stall and speaking to the customers I gather useful feedback. 

I prep on a Thursday evening, bake all day Friday and hope it sells on the Saturday. I haven't had much returned unsold and any that has I have given to friends and neighbours!

A selection of my produce wrapped and ready for market

Bang up to date I am trying to get up to speed with modern marketing - using Twitter and Facebook to find new customers as well as creating a website to showcase my cakes. It's a very different form of marketing and needs careful planning, time-management and researching to ensure your content is reaching your market, is interesting, isn't all about selling and you post consistently. Having blogged for a few years (about our travels and my cakes) the IT side of it isn't the issue it is just the time required to keep on top of it all.

Having spent years in administration I thought my venture into cake decorating would be an escape from all that - it's turning out not quite to be as I envisaged! But I really mustn't complain as my first cake commission has come through a Twitter retweet ..... get with it Kath!!


Thursday, 21 January 2016

A little ruffled around the edges

This is a new technique for me and I'll confess that although it looks quite difficult it was actually surprisingly easy to master. The ombre look is one that's been doing the fashion and beauty rounds for a while now - having first been popular in the early 19th Century and more recently in the 2000's!! Last year it became a popular cake finish too either in fondant or butter cream. I'm not sure if I'm too late to this party but it's a lovely effect that can be adapted to different occasions - wedding, christening, birthday.

Here's my quick guide to achieving this effect but if videos are your thing there are plenty of good tutorials on Youtube. The kit you will need is photographed below and includes -
A ball tool
A ribbon cutter (I use an FMM Multi Ribbon Tool)
Cornflour for dusting
A foam board
Small rolling pin
Edible glue (Squires Kitchen)
Paste Colour (I used Squires Kitchen Bluegrass Professional Paste Colour)
Fondant icing

I started with about 100g of white fondant and coloured it to the darkest colour. My top tip is to use a cocktail stick to dot the paste colour onto the icing and then throw it away - saves fingers and utensils getting covered in colour. Cut the ball in half and wrap half to stop it from drying out. Mix the other half (50g) with an equal amount of white icing so you end up with 100g again. Blend thoroughly then cut in half - still with me?? Wrap one half then mix the remaining 50g with another 50g of white icing and keep going until you have 5 different hue's of the same colour. The last ball will be 100% white - this isn't shown in the photograph above. Next step is to roll, cut and frill the ribbon strips.

Starting with the lightest colour (white in my case) roll out a thin strip onto a clean work surface lightly dusted with cornflour. Using the ribbon cutter cut out strips about 2cm wide with a straight edge. If you don't have a ribbon cutter a sharp knife would do the job perfectly well as one edge isn't seen and the other edge is frilled anyway. Place the ribbon on the foam mat and using the bone tool frill one edge to achieve the ruffled effect. If you don't have a bone tool you could try using a tea spoon. I don't think there's a substitute for the firm foam mat though I'm afraid.

Using edible glue (or water if used sparingly) paint a line around the cake and attach the first frill to the cake, straight edge onto the cake, frilled edge sticking out. Gradually build up the layers working down the cake - rolling, gluing, sticking, positioning. The frills have quite a bit of strength and only require slight adjustments once stuck onto the side of the cake to ensure there is no bunching. For the final frill cut the ribbon a little narrower and adjust the frill so that no white fondant on the side of the cake is showing.

The 'story' behind this cake isn't that I made it for a little boy's christening but that it was done for a photo-shoot! My son and I are in the final stages of creating my website and I needed some colourful, attractive cakes, well lit and presented. After a very long day the last photo's to be taken were of me. I'm not very comfortable in front of the camera at the best of times but these were taken with gritted teeth as I was exhausted and a just a little  bit 'ruffled around the edges' by the time we called it a wrap!