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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!!





Baby I’m back…

23 05 2012

So my self imposed hiatus is over. I’ve no idea if anyone is still hanging in there with me and my sporadic (aka practically non-existent) posting on this blog but if you are still out there, thanks for reading!

My break from baking did give me some breathing room and allow me to relax a little but I don’t seem to have got the million other tasks done that I was hoping for! Then again, the point was to chill out a little and get back on an even keel and I’d say that I’ve done that. I have a better attitude towards future cake jobs and I think I’ve discovered a little about my strengths and weaknesses when taking on new baking tasks.

I’m posting a few pics of work I’ve done since my hiatus ended. There are a few cakes and also some personal baking. I wish I had more time for attempting any baking that isn’t a decorated cake but alas that doesn’t seem to happen as often as I’d like.

First up is a toy box cake for a 3rd birthday. I completely fell in love with this toybox. I almost didn’t add the toys and books but obviously that didn’t happen. The birthday girl was very happy to see her favourite teddy, handbag and books surrounding her cake. I hear she also enjoyed the tasty cake too. I love to hear from clients that the recipient loves their cake. It’s really what makes it all worthwhile.

In between making some more decorated cakes I tried my hand at a few non-cake baking. I attempted Ice Cream cupcakes for the first time. They were fun, if a little awkward to construct. I also finally mastered Choc Chip pancakes, adding the raspberry puree makes you feel virtuous and gives them a sharp bite. I made this amazing triple raspberry chocolate mousse cake from Hungry Happenings I used the triple chocolate layer bar from Choccywoccydoodah that the wife bought for me. It was a lengthy process but well worth it for a special occasion.  

Next up is a Sweet 16 cake. The birthday girl was very specific about what she wanted and showed me a pic that turned out to be from one of my favourite cake artists: Pink Cake Box. I had to change the colours around a little as my version was only 3 tiers but I love the contrast of zebra print on hot pink. You can’t really tell from the pics but there was edible glitter over each tier.

This anenome cake was an order from a twitter friend. The first time I met her in person was when she ordered her first cake from me last year. This was a coffee with mocha coffee buttercream and the criteria was blue and green with flowers. I decided to keep it simple and I’m glad I did as I love the stark contrast between the colours. This was the first time I’d tried anenomes, I took some liberties but I like how they turned out. Everything is edible except the stamens.

And finally we have my Jubilee Cake. My parents are both part of our local resident community association and were able to get funding to host a Jubilee Street Party in collaboration with the local YMCA. I made 120 cupcakes, 5 large coffee & walnut cakes, 5 large Victoria Sponges and this chocolate celebration cake. I decided to base the design on the official logo for the Diamond Jubilee. I love the clean lines and how the colours pop against the white. All the baking went down a storm at the party and it was a good way to meet people from our area that I’d not met before.





I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you gave it away

14 02 2012

These cupcakes are so cute you might just find them hard to give away this Valentine’s Day.

I decided that despite my hectic schedule I had to try and make something a little sweet for my sweet so I decided to use a fab tutorial I had saved from the brilliant Bake It In a Cake  Unfortunately my hearts weren’t quite dense enough to stay in the middle of the cupcake and my light batter made them all rise to the top as the cupcakes baked. Despite that anamoly I still think these are super cute and I will definitely be trying them again, perhaps even with lots of different shapes and themes. These cupcakes are double vanilla with a simple milk chocolate buttercream. The heart sprinkles add a little crunch to this springy & smooth treat.

Happy Valentine’s Day lovely readers. I hope there is love in your life in whichever form makes your heart happy!





Anyone for KFC?

14 02 2012

These cupcakes were so much fun to create! Claire, one of my friends on twitter is a superb blogger of all things kitsch and due to her eclectic and varied tastes she always asks for the most fun ideas for me to recreate in cake. She featured a post on her blog of food themed baking which included a great version of KFC cupcakes. I tweeted that they were totally possible as I could see how they were done and was itching to try. She very kindly took the hint and ordered some for her husband for Valentine’s Day. I had free rein on what I made so I decided to try and make a range of items. The cupcakes hidden underneath are Raspberry Ruffle, the chips are fondant, the corn on the cob is rice crispie treats covered in fondant, the beans are Jelly Beans covered with gel colour glaze and the popcorn chicken is simply rice crispie treats rolled into balls (I had planned to add more detail but thought they looked fab as they are!) A kindly KFC employee gave me extra packaging when I ordered my meal on my last visit. I love how these turned out, I’ve even managed to fool a few people into thinking the corn on the cob is real. I’ve added a pic of the in progress work so you believe me when I say I made it myself! Big thanks to Claire for always bringing me fab ideas and her continued orders and support.





Team Peace

28 04 2011

I expound the benefits of Twitter on a daily basis, my family, friends & work colleagues find it bemusing and at times downright tedious but it truly has so many plus points. I have met some absolutely wonderful people that I now consider friends. Without this unusual form of social networking there is no way I would ever have encountered them in my real life.

Two such lovely ladies are @GreatLezBritain (aka Sarah & Lee) They are the British writers for afterellen which is a fantastic website that I have been a fan of since it’s inception. They were the promoters for the recent Heather Peace tour (supported by Jill Jackson)  I was excited about the tour making the effort to come across the pond to our city (take note huge productions; there are fans here who sadly are quite often neglected) Not only were we on the tour schedule, Belfast was the opening night on the two week tour of the UK. I asked Sarah & Lee if they would like a few treats to celebrate the start of the tour and they said that would be lovely. I’m sure you can guess that most of my twitter conversations are about baking & food in general. I’m happy to share that love of food with my tweeps.

I decided straight away that I would try to tackle a completely new (to me) form of baking in order to get images of the artists onto my baked goods. I ordered two sheets of edible icing images online. I took a risk in just googling for UK suppliers but I was seriously lucky in finding Cakes Crazy. They accept picture submissions & instructions via email and are super quick from sending wonderfully edited proofs to receiving the final product and at a great price.  

I quickly came up with an idea to use the album covers as cupcake toppers and larger images to top sugar cookies. I made raspberry & white chocolate cupcakes and banoffee cupcakes, both topped with white chocolate buttercream. The cookies were a simple vanilla sugar cookie. The edible images were placed on fondant before being attached to the cookies and cupcakes. The wife made the fab ‘Team Peace’ bag toppers for the cookies. As an extra and to add some chocolate into the mix I made a huge batch of my favourite brownies.

I had the great fortune to meet Heather & Jill just after their soundcheck to give them the baked treats. They were absolutely lovely and sweetly enthusiastic about the baking despite the fact that everything was running behind schedule due to some insane travel delays due to crazy high winds. Due to these constraints I was only able to briefly say hi to Heather, Jill, Sarah & Lee but I am so grateful for the opportunity to bake for them all and to have enjoyed a fabulous opening night of the tour.

If you’re a fan of great music please be sure to click on the names above to check out their websites for more info on their wonderful albums and all upcoming gigs.





Picture Post

3 02 2011

Well peeps, 2 blog posts in one week, I’m spoiling you 😉 After the epic length of my previous ramblings I’ve decided to let your brains rest with a nice picture post.  It is lengthy as it’s a catch up of all my endeavours for the last few months but I want to bring myself up to date.  I have a few interesting jobs coming up that I’d like to blog within at least one month of the actual cake being made, I know, don’t quote me on that.  Apologies for the lack of picture quality, my netbook is still broken and I’m having difficulty uploading pics from my camera. These were all taken with the iphone, not so great for blog posting.

The pics after the cut are in actual timeline order but I wanted to start with this bad boy.  The wife adores all things Japanese so I wanted to combine a few elements into one cake for her birthday.  Unfortunately it was while I was making 2 other cakes so I was pushed for time.  I made the mini Buddha from rice crispie treats, fondant and gold lustre dust, the cake is a simple double layer vanilla sponge with raspberry & vanilla filling and the cherry blossoms were handpainted with sugarflair paste colours.  She loved it!

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Welcome

7 08 2009

Welcome to cakes and bakes, my first foray into the blogging world.  I hope to share my baking endeavours with all the fun and pitfalls that entails.  While I continue to bake up a storm and learn to take stylish photographs for the blog I’m going to be posting some older recipes and pictures to whet the appetite for what is yet to come.

I’ll start with the basics.  Every baker attempts a wide variety of recipes when they first start out but you soon find yourself going back to a few simple plain cupcake or cake recipes that become your no-fail, go-to recipes that can form the basis of so many moderations and additions.  Here is my no fail vanilla cupcake recipe that I have used as a base for many cupcakes.  Its versatility comes from the frostings that you can use or by adding fruit or chocolate chips.  Here are some double vanilla cupcakes with vanilla cream, sprinkles & mini fondant roses.

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Recipe and more photos after the jump.

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