The one with a breakdown

28 09 2013

Hi readers,

I usually make my excuses about my lack of posting at this point and this post will not be any different I’m afraid. However this time my reasons were a little harder to endure. I’m not going to go into an insane amount of detail but basically I had pushed myself so far that I had a total breakdown at the start of June. It was like a dam had broken & there was no way to plug the leak. After quick action by my doctor, my family, wife & her family & my work I was on medication & seeing a counsellor very quickly. It took at least a month before I was even functioning on a basic level but things have improved a lot since then. It’s still an uphill struggle but I know the warning signs & that the amazing support is there for me which is a great start to the battle!

I suspected that I wouldn’t be able to make the cakes that I had booked in but I was able to push myself through it and to be honest I’ve been extremely happy with the cakes I’ve produced. Since the breakdown I haven’t taken on any new orders and I’m sticking to that because I need the time to heal mentally & physically. I have a few months coming up when I have literally no cakes and the prospect excites me more than I thought it would. I want to spend quality time with my wife, family & friends & enjoy some hobbies that don’t become as time consuming/stressful.

So it’s time to show you what you’re really here for….the cakes!

I’m starting with one of my most recent because I think it’s possibly one of the best I’ve ever made. I’m honoured to have made all of Riley’s birthday cakes so far. My friend Clare just tells me the theme/character & I make the design up. I had no idea if Woody would turn out at all but I’m so pleased with him & the clean look of the whole cake.


Next up is my 2nd ever Barbie doll cake. A real Barbie with a chocolate cake & fondant dress. While these cakes aren’t to my taste I like the combination of various shades of pink & glitter.


This was for my cousin’s 18th. She has been involved in drama groups since she was 3, sings, dances & plays guitar so I knew I’d have to incorporate all of those elements in one design. She is a huge fan of musical theatre so I ran with that theme then included a model of her guitar & some dancing shoes.


And in the same week as my cousin turned 18, her sister turned 1! That was a crazy cake week. Thankfully her’s was a little easier as it was 2D. The Minnie turned out really well so it’s something I’ll definitely do again.


My friend from Accounting College (who has just passed her full accountancy!) was getting married this summer and I made her cake. She wanted the blue to match her bridesmaids colours. I had never piped royal icing like this so it was a very steep learning curve but thankfully she loved it. And I’m pleased to say her guests adored it too & even asked for seconds once the cake had been cut. I love hearing how my cakes have been enjoyed!


Next up is a Hello Kitty that my cousin ordered for her niece. The birthday girl asked that she have sunglasses & a pink dress with red hearts. I happily stuck to her brief and I’m pleased with how it turned out. Bizarrely I find these 2D cakes almost more difficult in certain ways than a 3D topper on a simple round or square cake.


Next up is another wedding cake but its the most unusual one I’ve done so far. My mums friend asked if I would make her daughters cake. She wanted 70 cupcakes & a cutting cake but she was determined not to have a traditional cupcake tower. She commissioned these 2 trees with mini platforms for the cupcakes & for the cutting cake she wanted a model of the house where they were getting married on top. The topper is rice crispy treats covered in fondant and I made every leaf on the cupcakes and cake by hand using cutters & a variety of petal dusts.




Next up is a 50th cake for a lifelong family friend. Her party was a surprise so her sister asked me to have her relaxing with chocolate & wine while her grandson & nephew played beside her. I decided to have her lounge in a hot tub to give the cake an overall theme. The children are playing in the water.



And finally is another of my favourite ever cakes. It had to be a 3D Mickey holding a present cake. The present & Mickey’s body are all chocolate cake & his head is a polystyrene ball. All the decoration is fondant. It was very well received & I loved how it came out as I’ve never done a cake like this before!



Thanks for sticking with me until the end of this lengthy post! I hope to be back soon to update on more cakes then I’ll be having a break for a few months to recharge!!



23 05 2013

Hi all,

Long time no speak (again) Alas life has run away with me yet again so publishing posts has fallen by the wayside (again) I am on the lookout for a new (and simpler) way for me to keep up to date with sharing my cakery. I had considered something super quick like tumblr but I don’t think that’s what I want. I must investigate as I’m not happy with my current system.

Anyway, onto the cake p*rn. I’m going to be brief and literally just post a ton of pics of all the cakes since we last met. Apologies as it will be lengthy.

If you have any questions about any of my cakes feel free to post a comment and I’ll answer as best I can. Also, if you’ve suggestions of great blogging tools for simple posting, particularly via an ipad/ iphone please do share!

First up we have one of my favourite ever cakes – The Tardis. Now I’m a big Whovian so was super excited to make this for a fellow fan. Her lovely boyfriend organised it as a surprise and they very kindly filmed her reaction and sent me pictures of the cutting of the cake. I love when people do that for my cakes, it means the world to me and makes every back breaking minute worth it. I totally underestimated the time it would take to make this one so it took about 8 hours to decorate. And that was after all the baking and assembling of 8 layers of chocolate cake covered in ganache. I also love that the pic of it cut shows how truly wibbly-wobbly the Tardis is ūüėČ

Next is the always popular Spiderman. I do love making characters as there is always great reference material to work from and they are instantly recognisable if done right. I think I managed to get a great web effect on this cake and on the figure.

This animal themed cake posed a problem. I knew the birthday girl loved animals but her favourite is the Polar Bear. I wanted to incorporate that along with other jungle creatures but wasn’t quite sure how. I went with her dipping her feet in the Polar bears pool while the elephant, monkey, tiger and giraffe¬†gallivanted¬†around the edges. The giraffe was definitely my favourite, so cute.

Another difficult themed cake. The birthday boy has a lot of hobbies and his fiance wanted as many as possible on his cake. I chose golf, fishing & cooking in an outdoor setting to try and bring all the elements together. He’s also wearing his favourite football shirt. The only thing I missed out was a snowboard, I just wasn’t sure where I could put it.

A big fan of John Deere for my next cake. I knew I had to make it look as much like the real thing without driving myself insane so some artistic liberties were taken with the finer detail on this tractor. I loved adding all the mud as I figured part of the appeal of farm machinery is the mess that they create.

A 40th anniversary cake next. My brief was that it was to be a ring box with a ruby ring. I originally wanted to do a completely different colour scheme but settled on gold and ruby as it gelled so well with colours on the ring. I had such drama with the ring, it managed to break in 2 places just as I was putting the whole thing together! After a few quick fixes it was all fine. I was so happy with how the lid turned out. My recent purchase of Tylo powder has made the world of difference to my modelling, my work definitely dries out & hardens so much better now. Big thanks to Kathryn at Candy Tuft Cakes for that tip.

Another new challenge for me, a Louboutin cake. I have made one other cake with heels on it but this had to match exactly with the birthday girls favourite shoes. I actually bought a mould and tried to use it along with some separate modelling but it was an utter disaster so I had to start from scratch while I was also in the middle of making a wedding cake! Thankfully it was a success and despite not getting a pair of the real shoes for her 21st the recipient was very happy with her sugar substitute.

Wedding cakes can strike such fear into my heart. I still don’t know why the pressure of a wedding cake is so unlike a novelty cake for any other occasion. Perhaps it’s that the anticipation and build up to a big day can be so long. I just know that even having a year to prepare for my next cake didn’t stop my nerves when it came time to make it. The design was simple in it’s theme but the execution was difficult. The bride and groom are big Doctor Who fans (along with several other fandoms, I loved their table settings/theming, mostly handmade by the bride and very personal – gorgeous!) So they asked for Gallifreyan symbols for words/ names important to them and the show. They gave me symbols for Bride, Groom, their names, Love, etc. I had to handpaint all of them with edible silver paint on Tardis blue fondant. There really wasn’t much room for error as the dark background was not very forgiving! Thankfully they were impressed as were all the guests.

And finally, you’ll be please to hear, is my most recent cake. A colleague is leaving this week to have her first child. I used muted pastel colours on a pair of booties and patchwork quilt. It’s a simple design but very effective once put together. This was a surprise and very well received. The family’s on both sides passed it around for everyone to see over 5 days, I was starting to worry that the parents-to-be were never going to get to eat the cake! Thankfully it was finally cut and promptly devoured.

Cheers for bearing with my pic spam, maybe next time I’ll post a little bit quicker!

Mash Direct – Sustainability & great taste without compromise

9 03 2013

As my readers know cake is my passion. I don’t only enjoy creating cake designs unique to each client but I love to eat cake too. My sweet tooth may encompass almost the whole of my mouth but I do have some room left for savoury treats too. I love finding new restaurants to try and while I may have the sweets nailed down my mum and extended family are big foodies in the savoury field so I’ve never been too far from the love of good food.

So as a change from my usual cakery last weekend I attended my first food blogger event. One of my favourite tweeps Claire was asking for bloggers to pass on to Mash Direct for a potential visit to their farm. I am a fan of their products but really knew very little about their story.

Myself and four other bloggers visited the Farm/ Factory for a fun afternoon of discussion, product testing and an insight into the ethos of this family business.
I must admit I was like many other consumers, if it’s packaged and in the convenience food aisle it must be processed and full of preservatives/ additives. I had tried several Mash Direct products and knew that their taste was definitely superior to other brands but I wasn’t aware just how fresh and free from additives their products truly are.
Mash Direct was dreamed up in 2003 up by Martin Hamilton, the fifth generation of a Comber farming family, who wanted to produce Champ to make the most of the farm produce. The Hamiltons (Martin, his wife Tracy & sons Jack & Lance are at the core of the business) knew that diversification was the key to longevity in the farming business. They set about investigating the best way to produce quality mash that steered away from the processed gloop that fills Supermarket shelves. This involved enlisting the talents of their neighbour Tony Reid, an engineer who specially built their unique masher and steam ovens.
Over the last nine years the business has grown to include a lengthy list of products additional to the core range. As the range grew so did the factory, staff and fields. They now have a dedicated staff of over 100 who produce the orders that leave the farm daily for distribution to UK, Ireland and destinations as far flung as Dubai & New York.
What came across strongest during my visit to the farm was the intense passion the team at Mash Direct have for their business. They are now a commercial farm but they have not lost any of their original goals. They have created an ethos of sustainability & great taste without compromise. There is an assumption that when a business becomes commercial and is sold in all major supermarket chains then there must be a loss of quality or ehtics. In the case of Mash Direct this could not be further from the truth. At every step they have been leaders in sustainability, health & hygiene & environmental awareness. They have so many awards and accolades they have run out of room to display them. As well as multiple taste gold awards they have also come top in a variety of farming awards due to their achievements on the farm. Mash Direct is also the only company in the whole of Ireland (and one of only three in the UK) to hold the British Retailers Commission A+ rating which is the highest rating from the BRC.
Tracy & Jack Hamilton along with Clare Forster the Marketing Manager shared the history of the company, let us taste test a wide number of products and discussed future plans for the business as it gears up for it’s tenth year. Neil, the general manager gave us a tour of the factory filling us in on a myriad of facts about production and how each day unfolds.
Here are some interesting facts that I gleaned during my afternoon in Comber:
A typical day starts at 5am for the factory staff with produce being brought in to start the process of peeling, cooking and mashing. It is in its packaging and on a lorry ready for distribution by 11am. This means the majority of Mash Direct veg is fresher than most veg available in supermarkets.
They use heritage seeds from the 70’s as these¬†produce a better flavour than many current seed varieties because they are not concerned with uniformity of shape and size. That is why most fruit and veg commercially available today is bland and lacks any distinctive flavour, retailers are more concerned with how the produce looks on the shelves. I notice this flavour most in the sweeter veg like carrot & parsnip mash or honey roast parsnips. As Mash Direct do not add anything to their products you can taste a real difference when comparing them to other veg.
Once they started to expand the product range they realised that they would need to bring in produce additional to their own crops. They ensured that these would be local too, much of the extra veg is still farmed in the vicinity of their own farm and meat & dairy is sourced from award winning Northern & Southern Irish companies such as FiveMileTown cheese or Cookstown meats.
The specially constructed machinery by Tony Reid includes the steam ovens that all the veg is cooked in. Tony’s company also constructed all the panelling for the Titanic Belfast Museum.
Once¬†veg has been peeled it is weighed in 50 kilo batches and fifteen trays are put in each oven meaning that 750 kilos of veg is being steamed in each oven at once. It takes approx 30 mins and each batch is hand checked to ensure they’re not over or under cooked. Once steamed they are blast chilled within half an hour of coming out of the oven which is the secret to the longevity of MD products.
A ton of milk and half a ton of butter is used daily in production.
Many of the MD products are approved by The Vegetarian Society as suitable for Vegetarians and a large number are also approved as Gluten-Free. They hope to be completely Gluten-free in the future. Their new line of Potato Croquettes are even GF with rice flour being used in lieu of traditional flour for the crispy batter. I can attest that this does not affect their great taste at all.
Every product is low in calories, salt & fat. Even products that include sauces/ meat come in at less than 300 calories. MD were also one of the first companies to use the Green Light system (soon to be a legal industry standard) on their labelling to highlight the low calories and lack of additives in their products.
While at MD we tried a variety of products including some of their more recently added mash pots and soon to be released potato croquettes. I enjoyed everything I tasted but my highlights were the potato & leek gratin, the cheese & onion croquettes and the carrot and parsnip mash. I love the veratility of the side dishes, they’re great to add your own twist to, an easy addition to a roast or in the case of the potato cakes, suitable for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The mash pots are the perfect size for a healthy, warm lunch that really blows a bland sandwich out of the water. I even loved the red cabbage and beetroot and I don’t like beetroot!
So have I convinced you to give Mash Direct a try? Do you think you can overcome your preconceptions that convenience food can’t be healthy, tasty & free from additives? I really do hope you give Mash Direct a go. If you spot the Mash Bus at an event pop over to say hi to the MD team, they’ll only be too happy to chat to you about their products and let you have a taste.
And finally, I couldn’t let the opportunity to create¬†a veg-tastic cake go by (I am a cake nut after all) so I constructed a special cake for the MD team. The cake is lemon with lemon & raspberry filling and all the decoration is fondant. The veg are Rice Crispie treats covered in white fondant and handpainted.
If you’d like further information on Mash Direct get in touch via their website,¬†twitter or facebook. They’ll be very happy to answer any of your questions or tell you where to find their products in your area.
Or for more food fun why not visit the blogs of my fellow MD farm visitors.
Claire at The World of Kitsch
Sarah at Little Pink Kitchen
Aoife at The Daily Spud
Kristin at Edible Ireland

Latest cake pictures

11 01 2013

Hello lovely readers. I do hope you all had a fantabulous Christmas & New Year. Onwards & upwards for cakery in 2013. Yes, I’m still working in my accounts job full time but I’m being super organised with the cakes I take on and I’ve finally learnt to say no when it’s just not feasible to find time to sleep in between work & cakes! I have a few exciting cakes in the pipeline in the coming months including a geektastic wedding cake which is both exciting & terrifying at the same time.

My lovely wife not only bought me copious amounts of baking goodies for Christmas, she also made me a new Portfolio with inserts & a hand stitched funky cover. This beauty will be my go-to place for all the info on future cakes and will also have tons of pics of all my previous cakes to show off my skills.

Now, onto to the good stuff. I’ve had a few ‘1st’ cakes in the last few months, they are amongst this lovely bunch.

My very first doll cake! I was so dubious about this one as I’d never even considered how a doll cake was constructed but I was beyond pleased with how it turned out. Yes, it’s very pink & sparkly but I think I was able to try and keep it a little more classy than tacky & still please the birthday girl. A steep learning curve but very fun to create. The doll is an actual Barbie doll, the skirt is 7 layers of chocolate cake & the base cake is vanilla & raspberry.




Next up we have another cake for the fabulous Claire at The World Of Kitsch She wanted a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse themed cake with 2D design. I love the clean lines and vibrant colours of this cake. It wasn’t as unusual as her usual requests but still a fun cake anyway. I love getting orders from Claire, she is very happy to let me be creative with her ideas.


Another birthday boy cake. This time for a friend’s nephew. A simple request for a Fireman Sam cake and I decided to try for something a little different. I’d seen some themed party ware with the flame design so I decided to go all out and base the whole scheme on the flames. I love this look. I’ve been reading up on figure making so I’m trying to apply some of my new skills to figures. I’m still learning but I’ll get there.


A more adult orientated cake now. I made my first version of this for my brothers 30th last summer but I had some major issues with the support structure I used (basically it wasn’t strong enough!) so when my brothers friend asked for the same cake for her boyfriend I had to rethink my base. I used a much sturdier wooden dowel and extra boards on the bottom to give the cake extra support. Unlike my brothers cake this was plain chocolate. I was pleased that I was able to keep the cake staying upright, it looks so much more effective than a bottle lying down.


Another surprise cake here, ordered by my aunt for her neighbours. They are big fans of my chocolate cake and we thought it was high time they had a whole cake to themselves. The wife came up with the clever idea to separate the one piece marked with the husbands name from the rest of the cake & after some cake crumbling occurred I had to make that piece from rice crispie treats so the joke was even funnier when we handed the cake over.


And finally we have another new learning experience for me! My first ever modelled horse. When I was asked to make a horse themed cake I did consider making a cartoon style horse or even having it lie down on the cake but I felt I should aim for a more realistic look. I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to modelling because I’m a real stickler for realism. I know that I made it extra hard on myself but I’m unbelievably pleased with how this turned out. I know from my art college days that even drawing a horse can be difficult s I had no allusions that this would be difficult. I used wire to make an armature, covered the body and neck with foil then applied white fondant in small pieces to build up the body in layers. I must admit to using some polymer clay books as reference material for getting the proportions right. Once the white model was try I smoothed the edges & hand painted it. As I wanted the horse to be the focal point I kept the rest of the cake quite simple in its style. The birthday girl (and avid horse rider) was very pleased with the result.


I’ll catch up with you soon for more cakery. If there’s anything you’d like to see on the blog or any questions please feel free to comment or drop me an email to the address under the contact tab.

Autumn Cake Update

15 10 2012

A quick picture roundup of cakes I’ve done over the last few months. I’m just coming to the end of a self imposed cake break of a month and I’m ready to get back into the kitchen. I will also get the competition up on the blog that I promised many¬†weeks ago! I’m such a bad blogger!

First up is a fun Adidas themed cake for a 40th birthday. A friend on twitter was asking if anyone could make a trainer cake and I put forward my information and the lovely Gill contacted me to describe the surprise she had planned for her husbands 40th birthday. She sent me some pictures of his favourite Adidas trainers and I researched to find some close up images. As these were the focal point of the whole cake I wanted to be as detailed as I could. I also knew he would be scrutinising the detail as he owns so many pairs of this brand. The shoes are fondant covered rice crispie treats, all the detail is fondant or edible paint.

The majority of my cakes are for family and friends and they are always kind with their comments. Despite believing that they wouldn’t lie to me about my abilities there’s always an edge of self doubt that they might just be saying nice things because they know me personally. I welcome all nice comments but there’s something¬†different about someone with no obligation telling you how happy they are with their cake. I received the following email from Gill and as I’d had a hard day in the batcave this was such a wonderful end to the day:

“Just want to thank you for the cake, my husband loved it and was most impressed by your attention to detail . I have to say it also tasted as good as it looked, you did a fantastic job and when I’m next in need of a fabulous cake I will know who to call.”

Comments like this make every second of hard work covered in icing sugar late at night worthwhile!

Next we have a celebration cake for a family friend.  Her daughter picked the design and colours and I think she may have chosen every single thing I love to make a truly fun cake that totally epitomises a celebration. The stars are on florist wires inserted into a few cake picks hidden underneath rainbow sprinkles. All decoration is fondant.

Next up is a repeat customer. A friend that I used to work with wanted a cake for her Mother-In-Law’s birthday. It had to be golf themed, include a figure of the birthday girl and the name of her favourite golf course. I’m still learning when it comes to human figures but they do improve each time a try a new one. All decoration is fondant except the cocktail stick flagpole and the card glasses.

Another colleague has ordered a cake from me every year for her son’s birthday and this year was no exception. I love how each year it has been his current favourite childrens TV programme. This time it was Postman Pat. A fun character to make and I’m happy with how it turned out. All decoration is fondant (except Pat’s glasses which are florist wire)

Something a little different than cake. I have been so excited about an event that was due to come to The Odyssey Arena (aka the batcave/ my workplace) for several years: Walking With Dinosaurs. If you ever get a chance to go and see the tour please do not hesitate for one second, it is absolutely worth every penny. We aren’t ashamed to admit that we went without children and thoroughly enjoyed every second of the production. I had seen these moulds a few months ago and knew I had to try and make something Dino themed for the week that Walking with Dinosaurs was here. These chocolates are a mix of dark, milk, orange chocolate and various coloured candy melts.

And finally, a Lime & Coconut loaf that I made for my colleagues. I was itching to make something without chocolate or vanilla. Don’t get me wrong I love both those flavours but I rarely get to make a cake these days that doesn’t incorporate either or both of them. This is a refreshing change, a hint of summer as we enter the cold and dark nights of winter. The recipe can be found here on the collaborative baking blog 52 Weeks of Baking that I participate in.

You need more Kitsch in your life..

17 08 2012

…I prescribe¬†a daily visit to the best Kitsch blog on t’interwebs: The World Of Kitsch Claire is¬†a fab blogger who is wholly dedicated to¬†sharing all things kitsch with her avid readers. She not only finds a wide range of gems online but she lives the Kitsch life¬†on a daily basis as her home is a Kitsch wonderland. Her passion is evident in her daily blogging and tweeting and her love has passed onto her son. I have had the pleasure of making several cakes for her family, a Henry Hoover, Caravan Cake and KFC Cupcakes and I have the honour of being Claire’s go-to cake maker. ¬†Her 3rd anniversary was approaching and I offered to commemorate this occasion with a Kitsch cake. We had discussed a purple unicorn with a rainbow a few months before the date so I knew I wanted to incorporate that. I added some hand painted panels of a few of Claire’s favourite Kitsch things. I was pleased with how it turned out and she was kind enough to feature it on her blog.

The cake is chocolate with white chocolate buttercream, all decoration is fondant.

Once Upon A Time…

17 08 2012

…there was a girl who became completely and utterly obsessed with a superb¬†fantasy show and her consumption inevitably led to cake. The End.

Well, actually that’s only the beginning. I started to watch Once Upon A Time on Channel 5 after the adverts invaded my brain for about 2 months before the show aired. Once it started I became totally hooked. I devoured everything OUAT related and poured all my crush energy into the most wonderful Lana Parrilla and her Evil Queen portrayal. If you haven’t watched it I highly recommend catching up with it. The wife and I have even converted my mum and she detests anything that can be deemed fantasy, sci-fi, magical or ‘unrealistic’.

As my birthday was approaching in June I decided I must honour my love for OUAT in cake form. I chose the book as the focus of my cake as it’s an important element to the ongoing story. I wanted to make the Evil Queen the highlight of the cake so I added the apple and heart. I won’t spoil it for those that haven’t watched the show but these were important in the half of the season that I had watched¬†up to¬†that point.

The cake is white chocolate mudcake with raspberry marshmallow frosting. The apple and heart are rice crispie treats covered in fondant and hand painted. The detail on the book is all hand painted too. I was so pleased with how it turned out, the apple is definitely my favourite. I still have it saved as I’m loathe to destroy it!

So will you be joining the league of Evil Regals readers?