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Cupcakes 101

This week is National Cupcake Week so it was easy to choose the subject of our blog for this week – cupcakes obviously! I’ll be covering everything from the appeal of the cupcake, to a recipe and common problems and how to resolve them.     Cupcakes have been “in” for some time and are showing no signs of going out of fashion. If anything they are becoming an increasingly popular alternative for wedding and christening cakes too. This is down to the versatility of cupcakes.     Paper/foil cases are available in a wide range of colours and designs that makes it easy to co-ordinate the cupcakes with the event that they will be displayed at.   Plus, they lend themselves to experimenting with different flavours – whether it be the sponge, a filling or the frosting, each of these components can be used to showcase a different flavour profile.   Flavours can also be chosen to complement the type of event, for example for a Hawaiian themed party I made pina colada flavoured cupcakes – coconut cupcake topped with pineapple buttercream.     You can have Halloween cupcakes, Christmas cupcakes and more, all in a variety of designs, sizes and flavours… The end of your imagination is the limit.   Want to try to make your own cupcakes at home? Buttercream is the perfect and simple icing for cupcakes.   Vanilla Buttercream (Enough to ice approx 16-20 cupcakes)   Ingredients: 250g soft unsalted butter 500g icing sugar (see tips) Vanilla extract 1tsp Hot water 1tsp Piping bag Paste/Gel food colour Piping Nozzle   Method: Using a freestanding... read more

What Flowers are Best for your Cake – Decisions Decisions…

Edible flowers have been en vogue for some time, from sugar roses to real flowers – any floral decoration has been the go-to for fashionable eating. We have seen them featured in the TV programme The Great British Bake-Off and some edible flowers are sold in supermarkets nationwide too. With actual real flowers added to everything from salads to cocktails and even cakes. Allegedly Waitrose even sell edible real flowers in their “essentials” range. So there’s no denying that flowers adorning foods and cakes is a trend that is bound to stick around a while. I have many a couple request a floral design for their wedding cakes and lots of birthday cakes and celebration cakes feature flowers too. But, the decision about the type of  flowers that can be featured is something people are unsure of. This is where I come in. Here’s my top five flower options available for cakes:     Sugar flowers – depending on the skill level of the cake designer sugar flowers can look very realistic and often indistinguishable from the real things. That said, some flower species are labour intensive – think orchids and passion flowers , so naturally this will impact the overall cost of the cake. Sugar flowers are a fantastic option if you want particular flowers that are out of season at the time of your event. Or if you would like to include a certain flower type that’s toxic if you were to use the real thing. Sugar flowers are extremely delicate so this is a consideration if you are transporting your cake yourself and it is travelling... read more

Bespoke Cakes vs Shop Bought Cakes

Yes this is a blog post written by a Cake Designer, but this post is not biased and unbalanced in favour of bespoke cake. In-fact this blog post is written to be balanced and fair, examining all the elements of both shop bought and bespoke cake.       When people meet me and discover my job is designing and creating bespoke cakes, they are often surprised by my opinion when the subject of supermarket bought cake comes up. I am not anti supermarket cake at all. In-fact I think there are some nice options on offer at high street supermarkets. I even go as far to say that there are times when supermarket cake does the job perfectly.   I believe the situation or event determines the type of cake you may like and need. For example, if you were celebrating a birthday of a colleague in the office it probably wouldn’t be necessary to commission an elaborate cake creation. Actually it would probably be the wrong thing to do and it’s much easier to pop into your local supermarket and pick something up. For this scenario I would encourage you to buy a supermarket cake – it will be everything you need it to be.   For a milestone birthday you may want something more specific and special than what a supermarket can offer. Maybe you are catering for people with varied tastes or dietary requirements and want to ensure that the cake is something that everyone can enjoy.   The cake I made last week for a 30th birthday is the perfect example. The birthday girl... read more

Think you know everything there is to know about wedding cakes?

Weddings are full of traditions. Whatever the family background or the cultural influences in the wedding, I can bet that the one thing they all have in common is that there will be at least one tradition present on the big day.     There are tea-drinking ceremonies, the giving away of the bride, Mehndi tattoos or crushing glasses or the giving of rings and wedding speeches. Even weddings that embrace the “anti-wedding” or “un-wedding” theme, with a relaxed style, normally still feature a first dance and a wedding cake.   The root of wedding customs is rich in history. Even the tradition of a wedding cake dates from pre-18th century.   One of the first was in Ancient Rome where the cake – in this case special barley like bread, was broken over the bride’s head by the groom. This was to symbolise the end of her maiden life and to assert her husband’s power over her! It was meant to bring luck and fortune but I am pleased to say we have come on a bit in the wedding cake stakes since then. I’ve not met any brides that would happily have a whole cake broken over her head yet. That said, there seems to be a modern tradition, particularly in America, where the bride and groom feed each other the cake and then smash it into each other’s faces! Maybe an evolution of the cake over the head tradition?   The Croquembouche, which is still a popular wedding cake choice, particularly in France, was borne from a tradition in England in the Middle Ages. Then cakes... read more

Choosing your Perfect Wedding Cake

Let them eat cake… Finding the perfect cake to reflect your personalities, needs and of course your budget is a major project for most couples planning a wedding. A bespoke cake is a big investment; back in 2014, Brides Magazine gave the average price of a wedding cake as £300, but that’s not going to be enough for a complex, intricately-designed work of art or a cake suitable for a very large number of people.   The main thing to consider, after the budget you’ve set aside for your dream cake, is how many people you need to cater for. You will need to make sure there’s enough for everyone of course, even though some people might not claim their piece. Don’t go too mad, but at the same time, don’t underestimate and end up without enough cake to go around. A matter of taste The days of sticking to vanilla sponge are long gone but you do need to bear in mind that the more exotic the flavour, the more expensive the cake will be. Vanilla, chocolate or lemon sponges are popular choices and a good bet for most people. If you intend to cater for those with specific allergies then be sure to let your cake designer aware of this, as you might want to consider having a separate cutting cake made for those guests. Fruit cakes are more expensive and time consuming to make than a sponge cake but they do work out at good value because the portion sizes are smaller – not everyone is a fruit cake fan though.    Inspiration There are some fabulous... read more

From Consultation to Wedding Cake

A couple of months ago I was extremely lucky to create a wedding cake in Essex for a reception at Ye Olde Plough House. A picture of the final cake had the greatest reach of any picture posted to my facebook page at that time. As it was so popular I’ve decided to share the story of that wedding cake. From the moment I first met the bride, Melissa, to the day that I delivered the cake to the reception venue. Sept 2014: It was during a wedding fayre at London Excel, where I was exhibiting, that I first met Melissa. During that fayre I met and spoke with hundreds of brides, so I must admit, that first meeting was a bit of a blur. However, following the wedding fayre, Melissa arranged a consultation to further discuss her wedding cake requirements. The date of Melissa’s wedding was not until March 2015, so there was ample time to plan for the cake. Prior to the consultation Melissa sent through various images of cakes that she liked and provided important information, such as number of expected guests. Oct 2014: The day before the consultation the sample cakes were prepared for the tasting session, vanilla sponge with white chocolate ganache and chocolate cherry sponge with white chocolate ganache. During the previous few weeks, I had been researching different cake designs based on Melissa’s requirements and using the example pictures she had previously provided. On the day of the consultation, all relevant information was to hand including my own portfolio of designs. The consultation went really well, Melissa was absolutely lovely and extremely... read more

How to Maximise your Wedding Cake Budget

Planning and organising a wedding can be an expensive affair, and your wedding cake is probably the most expensive cake you’ll ever buy. That’s why you need to get the most from your budget. The following 5 wedding cake tips will help you do just that. 1. Choose an appropriate design: The cost of a bespoke wedding cake consists of the amount of cake needed and the complexity of the design. Make sure that your chosen cake design provides enough cake for your guests without resulting in wastage. If you don’t know how many portions your design will give, consult with a cake designer, who will be able to suggest some designs that will give the required number of portions. Look for ways to replicate complex designs with more cost effective alternatives. Swap sugar flowers for artificial flowers or handmade sugar models for off the shelf equivalents. Many minor changes here and there could have a significant impact to the overall price of your cake. 2. Use dummies: If you have your heart set on an extravagant show stopper cake, then ask your cake designer to replace some of the cake tiers with polystyrene dummies. The polystyrene dummies are incorporated into the overall design, which reduces the amount of cake required, therefore reducing the cost. However, if your design is complex, then the use of dummies may not reduce the price significantly, as any savings would be swallowed up by the cost of producing the design. Work with your designer to find a good compromise between the number of cake portions and the required design. 3. Cutting cakes: A... read more

Let’s Talk Cake – The Wedding Cake Consultation

So, you’ve ticked off those all important items on your wedding list: Date confirmed – Check! Venue booked – Check! Number of guests decided upon – Check! And now it’s time for the CAKE!!! Even if you know very little about wedding cakes there’s no need to panic. As long as you’ve allowed 3-6 months before your big day, then deciding on the perfect cake, and of course cake designer, won’t be a problem. The thought of spending an hour or two trying out different cake flavours, is probably very enticing, but before you excitedly start booking consultations with designers, it is very important that you have the 3 pieces of information mentioned above. Date, venue, number of guests.   Prior to booking a consultation with a designer, email them or give them a call. You’ll probably realise very quickly that cake designers looovve to talk cake, and for me personally, wedding cakes are my all time favourite topic of conversation. Make sure you include those three important pieces of information in the email, or that you mention them during your phone conversation. You don’t want to waste time turning up at a consultation, only to find out that the designer has no availability for your wedding date. If you do have any images of cake designs that you like, include them in the email. This will give the cake designer an idea of the type of cake themes that inspire you, whether its whimsical, contemporary or traditional. Prior to your consultation, a good cake designer will make preparations for your meeting. As well as baking the cakes and... read more

5 Top Tips for Wedding Cake Inspiration

So you’ve ticked off a few items on your wedding to do list, and now its time for the cake, but where do you start? You’ve no idea about cake, design, colours or flavours. It can be overwhelming. Do not worry. I’ve put together a collection of tips that will help you find inspiration for your cake. Long gone are the days when a wedding cake was an all white, tiered, fruit cake, you can draw inspiration for your cake from almost anything and anywhere, and these tips will be your guide! The Internet – Now this seems like the most obvious place to start, but a word of caution, there are probably millions of images of cakes on the internet. It’s very easy to spend hours gazing at numerous pictures and still end up no closer to what you want. So why not focus your browsing. Pinterest is the perfect social media tool for images. If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, it’s a free website that requires registration to use, but once you’ve registered you can upload, save, sort, and manage images, known as pins, through collections known as pinboards. Your Pinterest friends can see your boards, or you can create a secret board that only you can see. Why not create a board for any images of wedding cakes that you find, all your images will be in one place and easily shared. The Dress – By the time you start thinking about the wedding cake, you’ve more than likely already chosen your dress. Your dress could be a perfect source of inspiration for your cake. The... read more

Time for Cake?

Time waits for no man, so the phrase goes. Especially when you have an important event to plan. All of those individual elements have to come together perfectly on that special day. The cake may be a small part of your wedding day, but being prepared and organised will free up some of your valuable time to tackle other tasks. So how far in advance should you be booking your wedding cake? Well…, when I was choosing my own wedding cake, I knew exactly what design I wanted, it was a 4 tier cake designed to look like stacked parcels, and I’d seen it on a wedding programme on TV. As soon as I saw it, I knew that was the cake I wanted. I spent the next month going to wedding fairs, searching online and in wedding publications, trying to find the right person. Someone who was local, could work within my budget and had availability, to make my dream cake. My search was successful and I had my dream cake. Knowing what you want is only a small part of planning your wedding cake, and some of the other factors may not be in your control. So even if you have the design planned out to the last sugar flower, you should still allow plenty of time to book your cake designer. I’ve had discussions with many brides who just don’t know where to start when it comes to selecting a cake design. So if you fall into this category then the more time you give yourself, the better chance you have of deciding and finding what... read more

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