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Success at Cake International 2017

I’m still on a high after Cake International! The first weekend in November thousands of cake decorators and enthusiasts from all across the world descend upon Birmingham to attend the world’s largest cake show at the NEC. This year was no exception – there was a buzzing crowd and the latest trends in new supplies and tools were available to buy. There were even amazing workshops and demos too and not forgetting the globally recognised Cake International competition display… but more on that later.   The first Cake International I attended was in 2006, unknown to me at the time I was pregnant with my first daughter and wondering why the smell of freshly baked cakes from the demo kitchen was making me feel nauseous. I remember attending that show with my mum and sister and us being amazed at the competition entries – stunning works of art made from sugar. This was very early on in my cake decorating journey but even then I knew that I would enter a piece into the competition myself one day.   My first entry was in 2011 in the wedding cakes category and I was absolutely speechless when I got a silver award for my piece.   Six years on and Cake International is still an amazing event to be a part of. This year I decided to submit a competition piece in a category completely new to me, that of small decorative exhibit. There were a few reasons for me switching to this category: I’d only ever submitted pieces in the wedding cake category so I wanted to try something... read more

Easy Cupcake Recipe for Kids for Autumn Half Term

    It’s that time of year again and half term is nearly upon us. As a mum, I know how tricky it can be keeping children busy during the school holidays. What with clubs and camps, play dates and outings – it can be a whirlwind of activities, but I always like to make some time to do a little something all together at home too.   With Halloween just around the corner what better way to spend a couple of hours than baking with children, making a batch of seasonal Halloween cupcakes? Ready-made sugar decorations are widely available in most supermarkets and the kids will have a great time adding their own decorative elements and then of course eating them!   You don’t need any special equipment – it is the process and everyone enjoying the end result that makes it great.   In today’s blog post I will be sharing my easy kids’ cupcake recipe with you. This goes perfectly with the buttercream recipe from my previous blog post too, which can be coloured to create a Halloween themed cupcake. Read on for some tips on that later. If Halloween isn’t up your street, you can of course decorate them however you like.     Cupcakes are a great introduction to baking and decorating for children, as the kids can get as creative as they want to on their own little masterpiece. Just remember that this activity does need adult supervision throughout.   Vanilla Cupcakes (Makes approx 20)   Ingredients:   300g Margarine 300g Caster Sugar 400g Self Raising Flour, sieved 1 tsp Baking Powder 5... read more

Budgeting – Customising Basic Cakes

Weddings can be the most expensive undertaking of your life and with the average UK wedding now topping £27k it isn’t surprising that some people find the prospect of planning their big day daunting.   Milestone birthdays look to be going the same way and people are spending more and more money on creating a memorable party or special event for everything from a sweet sixteen to eighty years or more!   Not many people can say money is no object when planning their wedding or big party. But there are a lot of people that are happy to pay a little more for a first-class product and experience.   Given the variety of special flavours and designs that are available to make your centrepiece cake dreams a reality, it is no wonder that you want a show-stopping bespoke creation. But what happens when you have a tight budget or when an affordable wedding is paramount?   As a cake designer it is my job to ensure your expectations are managed and I am able to adapt designs in order to fit your budget requirements.   A popular choice can be customising a basic cake to make it individual and tailored to your theme or vision.   Below are my suggestions for customising a pre-decorated cake either as a way to incorporate a theme, create a striking statement or add special personalisation.     Cake toppers – Personalised cake toppers can be a simple but effective solution. They are great as they are so easy to add to your cake. Simple ones that just say ‘Happy Birthday’ and are... read more

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

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