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!!

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A turning point

4 01 2012

Fellow bakers/ cake aficionados; have you ever reached a point in your cake odyssey where it all suddenly clicks? I’ve experienced those moments of divine clarity on various cakes over the years…the first time I covered a cake in fondant without it cracking, gaping or tearing, the first time I made a topper that didn’t collapse or sag, the first time I used colours to paint directly onto fondant, etc. We have moments like this on the journey but I’ve recently had a huge revelation in terms of my cake creations. 

For the last 2 or 3 years, each cake I designed would come out quite differently than I envisioned. Sometimes I sketched ideas on post-it notes when I had a few minutes to spare in work, other times I just created a picture in my mind. About 99% of the time the finished article would be similar to that vision but never close enough to satisfy me. It has occurred to me in the last few months that my visions are almost being realised in their entirety. Aside from a few niggles (that most other people claim not to notice) the cakes I am currently producing are as close to my visions as I can get. I learn something new every single time I make a cake. I suspect that will continue for many years to come. However, I want to embrace the feelings I am having now. I am at a point where I know how my materials work for me, I know how to plan the cake more carefully, where to source the right materials. I’m still figuring out portion sizes and learning how to judge amounts of fondant (that’s one I haven’t mastered just yet) but now when I’m taking pictures I’m not fighting to find an angle that hides the messy part at the back. There are still parts that won’t hold up to intense scrutiny but they are becoming less and less frequent. 

I have never claimed to be an expert but practice in anything will give you more confidence in not only your skills but in your ability to share your knowledge with others. I have made all those mistakes too many times to count. I’ve cried & screamed over a number of cakes and yes, I’ve thrown out quite a few too. I’ve scoured so many blogs that I’ve had to rein in the panic at seeing such perfection, such skill & such attention to detail. What the blogs don’t show is the hours of work, frustration, mistakes and rejects. I understand why; we all want to present the best of everything we do. I do exactly that right here on this blog. This isn’t a segueway into a post with all my rejected cakes. It’s just a timely reminder, as much to myself as to my readers, that baking and the whole world that surrounds it, is as much about hard work, practice and many many mistakes as it is about the finished (almost perfect) cake.

Everyone asks how I do what I do. There is obviously a passion there, and yes, I did an Art Degree but that means nothing compared to just getting out there and trying. I’ve come a long way from having only one wooden spoon and mixing bowl & no scales but you don’t need much more than that to get started. The rest will come with time.