Another attempt at blogging

OK, so I started my blog a year ago and failed miserably to keep up with regular posts. So this is my second attempt….

Why am I blogging? Who am I aiming it at? What am I going to blog about? All questions I am working on at the moment.

Where to start

Let’s start with my passion – cake decorating. In 2012, I discovered a love of sugarcraft. Working in an office based career, I had a frustrated creative side which never had the chance to surface until the Queen’s Jubilee. I made some cupcakes with my daughters and nieces, as part of an afternoon tea celebration. It was like a thunderbolt! Starting with the basic buttercream swirls and sprinkles, I found a passion for making everything pretty, as well as delicious.

Red and white sprinkle swirl

The pretty buttercream swirl

With the help of a couple of introductory one-day classes at the Blue Door Bakery in Hagley, I moved onto sugarcraft, making cupcake decorations out of sugarpaste, which was more interesting than swirls.

Made during a one day class at Blue Door Bakery, Hagley. BRilliant class!

Made during a one day class at Blue Door Bakery, Hagley. BRilliant class!

Brown Eyed Girl Bakery was launched soon after (named after the Van Morrison song played at my wedding) and, relying on word of mouth and a few leaflets posted locally, I began to develop a small customer base. My logo was designed by a friend who owns The Design Frontier, a great design company in Telford.

Brown Eyed Girl Bakery logo, designed by The Design Frontier

Brown Eyed Girl Bakery logo, designed by The Design Frontier

After a year of cupcakes, I moved onto large celebration cakes and, more recently, wedding cakes.

My first celebration cake, for my own daughter's 4th birthday

My first celebration cake, for my own daughter’s 4th birthday

I have tried my hand at competing at Cake International and exhibiting at a wedding exhibition, trying to find my way through the cake industry. There are many cake businesses I look up to who inspire me and lead the way in cake decoration, such as The Clever Little Cupcake Company, Richard’s Cakes, Carina’s Cupcakes, The Little Cherry Cake Company. If I can be half as good as them one day, I would be extremely happy!

Some of my latest cakes

A birthday cake featuring Elsa from Frozen

A birthday cake featuring Elsa from Frozen

One of my wedding cake creations

One of my wedding cake creations

Mother's Day cupcakes

Mother’s Day cupcakes

Back to the questions

Why am I blogging? Well, I love what I do but I know that I am far from being the only one. Cake decorating is a very popular hobby. I’m not precious about what I learn and its amazing what you can do with the right tools. I want to share useful tips and techniques as well as share my experience as I learn how to establish my business.

Who am I aiming it at? Anyone who shares my passion for all things cakey! Business owners, hobby bakers or anyone who simply enjoys looking at beautiful cakes.

What am I going to blog about? Cake decorating tips, lessons learned from the cake business, ideas and trends for cake designs, recipes and maybe an occasional tutorial.

I hope this monthly blog will be of interest to some and I’d love to hear back from people who share my passion.

 

 

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Cupcakes – Making it personal

I recently had an order for some cupcakes for a surprise 40th birthday party. The customer who was organising the party wanted the cakes to be the centrepiece to the party, reflecting the birthday girl’s interests and character. This was such a lovely thought and made it a really unique display.

I was given a list of the birthday girl’s likes and some details about her. The next challenge was how to communicate this through cake!

Her favourite food is chicken, so what better way to show this than with a chicken dinner! This proved to be very popular.

Chicken Dinner cupcake toppers

A sneak peek of this posted on Twitter was picked up by Tesco and Aunt Bessie’s! Aunt Bessie’s reposted it on their Facebook page too.

Other items I used to make the display personal were Hello Kitty, ebay, B&M stores, light switches (because she is always the one to switch off lights when they have been left on) and rings (because she has been hinting for an engagement ring for a while). Luckily, her partner proposed to her the night before the party so it made the rings even more relevant.

Ebay, B&M stores and roast chicken cupcakes

Ebay, B&M stores and roast chicken cupcakes

Engagement rings

Engagement rings

Another addition to the display was a different type of cupcake. A cake made in the shape of a cup!

This was made using half a ball cake, covered in marzipan and fondant with a fondant saucer.

This was made using half a ball cake, covered in marzipan and fondant with a fondant saucer.

Once all of the cupcakes had been put together and a top cake was added, the display had quite an impact.

The top cake

The top cake

The final display

The final display!

I received so much lovely feedback from the customer as the cakes were a complete success.

“Everyone loved the novelty cupcakes and 3D cake which had more pictures taken of them as people. You did a fantastic job which certainly was a major attraction at the party.”

 

 

Cupcakes by post

I attempted to post cupcakes for the very first time this week. This is something I have been considering for a while. It allows me to have a wider customer base and it also means I can share my new ideas and flavours with my family who live over 200 miles away!

I purchased a Posting Cupcakes guide and kit from Carina’s Cupcakes as a starting point, which provides a clear step by step guide to posting both kinds of cupcakes, buttercream swirls and fondant topped, and gives you the containers and boxes to use.

I decided not to play it safe and made 6 cupcakes with a variety of decorations which would test just how delicate they can be for posting. So here’s the before image:

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I packaged them up as per instructions and posted them first class Royal Mail on Monday morning to start them on their 200 mile journey. Some people have used other types of postage which are more expensive but I thought I would give the standard parcel service a try.

Good news! The cupcakes arrived the next morning by 8.30am! This is how the box looked:

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A bit bashed on one corner but the packaging inside cushioned the blow. Once the box was opened and each cake pod was opened there were four cakes in perfect condition, one slightly damaged and one completely broken decoration.

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The bow had not survived the journey, however the delicate peony only lost one petal! Amazing!

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Next, the taste test …. They were still very moist, cake cases had not come away from the cakes and they tasted great (not my words, these were the words of my postal guinea pigs).

So, is this a viable business idea? I believe it is. For 6 cupcakes by post, I would charge an additional £6 for p&p, which I think is a fair price. If the customer wants me to use a different postal service, I can, however I will make it clear that the cost would go up.

I would love to hear from anyone else who has tried posting cupcakes. Please let me know about your experience and please share any tips you have.

Tips for displaying cupcakes at a wedding exhibition

Cupcake display for a wedding exhibition

Cupcake display for Telford Wedding Exhibition

I recently did my first wedding exhibition and found it a really valuable experience. These exhibitions are a great way of showing people what you can do and to chat to people about their wedding ideas and how they can be enhanced through the design of a great cupcake centrepiece. It was lovely to meet so many people who had so many nice comments about my designs.

I thought I would share a few things that I learned along the way:

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to “the competition” – There will always be other businesses promoting the same products as you, that doesn’t mean you can’t get to know them. Be friendly! You never know when you might need some help from a fellow cake-maker.
  • Network – Swapping details with other wedding businesses allows you to build up a directory of contacts to support your customers. It also gets your name out there in the industry.
  • Be visual – As well as your display, make sure you have plenty of images of previous work to refer to when discussing possible designs.
  • Something to take away – Make sure you have lots of business cards or other literature. If someone is interested in your designs, they need to be able to find you easily on the web, email or phone.
  • Smile but give them space – Don’t be too pushy. Some people don’t like to chat and prefer to simply look at your work. Make some initial contact with a smile or offer them a leaflet/card and then let them have a look at your work. If they seem interested, ask them about their wedding plans (people always like to tell you about their plans and colour schemes, etc)/
  • Samples – If you can, have plenty of samples for them to try. I couldn’t have samples at this exhibition unfortunately, but if the option is there – take it!
  • Clear prices – Have a clear pricing plan in advance with some example price combinations. When someone has a look at your display, they will want to know how much it might cost them. A potential customer is far more likely to want to work with you on their wedding if they feel confident that you know your stuff!

Well that’s just a few lessons I have learned. If you have had any good exhibition tips, please feel free to share!