Up until now I have only been dreaming of making cakes for a living. There are so many hoops to jump through, insurances, legal documents, learning the trade to a high enough level, but at last we have got the ball rolling.
The practice cakes
I’ve been making cakes for friends and family for over two years now just for practice. Tim said that if I really wanted to do this for a living then I’d have to practice and make a cake every weekend. Now, I’m not sure if that would have been a good idea for our waistlines, but he did have a great idea. He said I should put myself out there a bit. Every time Beau or Darcey get invited to a birthday party I should offer to make the cake. I thought it was a great, yet daunting idea, but that’s exactly what I did. I made loads. Then I started to make for all our family’s birthdays and anniversaries and also I helped to celebrate big birthdays, weddings, babies and leaving do cakes at work.
It’s funny how the time passes by and all of a sudden you have been practicing making cakes for over two years. I daren’t add up how much I have spent on these free cakes. I think Tim would freak out. But when I look back on some of my early creations I can see how I would improve on them today and I know that it would take a lot less time to make them and I would know exactly how much ingredients/ icing/ what size cake board I would need as I have that experience under my belt. I’m also a lot more confident with icing. I know how to make it do what I want it to.
Here are the very first cakes I made…
Getting the ball rolling.
So where to start? I think in order to have a cake decorating business the first thing I need is a kitchen that works. With my original kitchen the layout was all wrong. When we moved into this house 4 years ago it was the first room we wanted to do, but as it is also the most expensive it is also one of the last to be attacked. The last few months have been a baking nightmare as the oven was seriously on its last legs and making cakes in an oven that just gets hotter and hotter as it bakes (whatever temperature you put it at) really doesn’t inspire confidence! So we have finally got our act together and got the ball rolling.
The new kitchen
As our kitchen and dining room are open plan we only need the patio doors in the dining area. We still had the original back door in the kitchen so we have just had that removed and a new window put in place. It’s funny what a difference it makes to how the room feels. Our builders Malcom and Steve (I would highly recommend these guys. Fast friendly and the work is impeccable) got to our house at 7am and by 1pm we had a cosier kitchen. The old double glazed window and door obviously weren’t good at keeping the drafts out as the warmth in the room now is amazing!
The flat pack mountain
The Ikea kitchen has been delivered and is piled up high in the living room. Tim couldn’t wait to rip out the old units. I hadn’t finished emptying them before he started pulling them off the wall! Any excuse to get the tools out! We also couldn’t get Beau out of the room. She had just returned from her first ever sleepover party and was very handy with a hammer (in her best party dress!) She spent the whole morning pulling out all the old screws from the units we were putting in the garden.
Now we need to do the decorating before the kitchen is fitted. It’s got grey gloss units. Very modern and I can’t wait! Once it’s all in (new oven ! yay ! and all) and we are tiled up I can get health and safety round to check out the standard of the kitchen and then The Classy Cake Company will really have lift off!
I was asked by the lovely Julia at Woman & Home (Fashion Editor and all round style guru) to make a cake for her beautiful niece Mabel.
I’d heard alot about Mabel. We were a close knit group at W&H and when there is a baby on the way in someone’s family we all get to live the experience. So I knew all about Mabel and had seen all the baby blue eyed pictures, but I’d never actually met her. And I love a baby!
She was coming up to her 1st birthday and Julia and Mabel’s mum Faye wanted something really personal. Mabel has one of those wooden frog toys on a wire spring that bounces around and it is one of her favourite toys. So they decided that the cake should be based around the froggie.
After emailing back and forth about the cake with Faye, she came up with the brilliant idea to have the frog sitting on a lily pad in a pond. I thought that was genius as it was a really easy way to make the cake super pretty. Nothing beats a pale blue pond with pretty pink lily pads to make a cake gorgeous!
I delivered the cake on Sunday morning in time for the family party and I think the cake went down pretty well. Julia texted me the next day to say that her brother said that it was the best lemon cake he had ever tasted! What a huge compliment!
When I was making the frog model my daughter Beau who is seven, wanted to play with the sugar paste and make her own frog for her own cake. She did it all by herself. She made all the frog and I made all the cake! Beau’s frog and her cake didn’t actually get together as the cake was eaten up before they had a chance to meet! And Julia’s brother was right. It was a pretty delicious cake if I do say so my self. But Beau’s frog is pretty cute too!
Melissa is my lovely sister in law (you honestly will never meet a more generous person in your life – (and she’s a nurse too!) and it’s her birthday. It just so happens to be her fiancé, Luke’s birthday just a few days earlier and as it was his 30th Melissa asked me to make a cake for him. How could I refuse? Milly asked me to make him a star themed cake (as he’s a star) which was really cute. But I couldn’t make a cake for Luke and not for Melissa, so I did a mini one for her too!
For starters, Luke is a West Ham football supporter, so the colours of the cake are the team’s colours.
I think it works really well. Milly originally asked me to make a chocolate cake but after a random comment about his favourite cake the week before his birthday, she quickly asked me to change it so under all that icing is a really moist Carrot cake and the frosting is cream cheese frosting which is just perfect! Jane Curran the Food Editor on Woman & Home always said that the only way to get cream cheese frosting just right is to use full fat Philadelphia. Use anything else and it will be too runny! So that’s what I did! I couldn’t leave the off cuts alone. Don’t you just love it when you have to level a domed cake once it’s been baked and can eat it all up?
For Milly, I knew it had to be a chocolate cake. I wanted to do something different so I made my favourite devils chocolate cake, but filled it with a raspberry butter cream. The flavouring came from a raspberry flavoured icing sugar from Squires.co.uk. It worked well with the chocolate cake, but I think it could have done with being a little bit pinker, but as the flavouring was all natural there was no point in adding food colourings, and it tasted great!
The design was simple. It was a cake in the shape of a err well cake!, complete with candles made from icing. I wish I had made the candles a few days earlier as they were a bit difficult to make and handle on the same day. The icing loosely covered the top of the cake to look like a dripping butter cream then the wording was added. The candles were then inserted and that was that.
Both Melissa and Luke loved their cakes. And I loved making them!
Peter is the husband of my good friend Theoda. I thought it would be a great idea to surprise him with a birthday cake for his 40th Birthday. Peter and Theoda have a flat coat retriever called Pepsi. He is the most energetic, bouncy dog you could ever meet and he is the love of their lives. They are both dog mad! When I made Theoda ‘Pepsi’ shaped biscuits for her birthday she wouldn’t eat them. She kept them so she could just look at them! For months!
Anyway, Theoda wanted the cake to be a surprise, so we planned it so I could deliver it on the Friday before they got home from work, Theoda arranged for me to have the keys to her house so I could sneak it in, but on the day I got visited by my sister and her husband along with my nephew Asher. It was also the last day of half term so I had my two girls at home too! Needless to say the quick and easy cake had so many interruptions that I didn’t actually finish it till 4pm. I gave Theoda a call to say that I was just leaving to deliver the cake and check that Peter wasn’t going to be home yet. He works all over the country and sometimes finishes early and I didn’t want to get caught in his house without Theoda being there. Even I couldn’t talk my way out of that one!
Anyway, Theoda answered her phone and said “I finished work early. Peter is just picking me up from the station.” The station is literally five minutes from both of our houses !!!!!
I decided the best thing to do was to leave there and then. I arrived two minutes after they did. Peter was sorting out something in the garage and I had taken a basket I needed to return to Theoda with as cover. I said “I’m just returning this as I was coming past your road” To which she replied “Yes thanks for bringing that back for me” in a very loud and comical voice, so that Peter would here and not suspect. As soon as Peter was out of sight I quickly grabbed the cake from the boot of my car and Theoda beckoned me into the house and directed me up to the spare room where I hid it.
It was so funny and he must have thought we were being really weird. I didn’t even wish him happy birthday as I thought that would give the game away.
Anyway, later that evening, Peter and Theoda had dinner at home with some close friends and Theoda pulled out the cake as a surprise at the end of the meal. He didn’t suspect a thing!
A few days later I got a text from Theoda “I’m just eating the last of the chocolate cake for breakfast. It’s delicious” Which did make me laugh.
Woman & Home magazine is an amazing place to work. The people are great, hardworking and super supportive. It’s a ‘full on’ place to work so when it comes to celebrating we always do it round the pillar in the office and in style. It always involves wine (or Champagne if your ABC’s have gone up again!) and it ALWAYS involves cheesy puffs. When it was a big birthday, a wedding or a leaving drinks I would make a celebration cake that was personal to the person leaving, so when it was my time to go I had to do something, but what!
The last Woman & Home cake
Three of us were leaving at the same time so I decided to make a cake that was one for all. Hayley, who was the deputy chief sub, was leaving to go back to her native South Africa where she was marrying the lovely Mark and was building her new life out there, so I made a model of her sitting on a suitcase with a little ‘SA’ sticker on the side. Cate, who worked in the features department was leaving to work on other projects so I made a model of her sitting on a pile of giant books and I left to go freelance and work on other bigger, craftier more cakey projects and as I was the Home editor and am usually surrounded by boxes I thought that’s what my model should be sitting on.
The actual cake was a madeira made with vanilla paste (given to my by Jane the Food Editor to test) and it was covered in the W&H blue colour icing. The models were stuck on top and that was it.
I’ve been planning this blog for what seems like forever! I’ve had great ideas, I’ve written lists and I’ve baked and baked and baked, but it took leaving my job as Home Editor at Woman & Home Magazine here in London to give me the time to actually do it! For that reason I think the best place to start is at the end.
When the time came for drinks around the pillar the cake was brought out and as you can see from the reaction and crowding, everyone loved it!
I’ll miss the team at W&H but they gave me a great send off. As I was leaving, Vicky from art made a little sign from a post-it note that read “bye, bye!” and stuck it to the model of Hayley that was now on her desk.