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School’s out for… -well, a week!

The school holidays are here and, while I absolutely love my real job, being able to play at being a full time sugar artist and cake blogger is so much fun!

Image: http://www.robbydeephotography.co.uk/

Depending on the time of year, that can take many forms – for example, this time last year, I was desperately trying to finish a competition entry for the spring cake shows whilst nursing a particularly nasty case of the flu – but this half term will be entirely more relaxed. I’m planning on whipping up a particularly decadent recipe for you to share with your valentine, working on a couple of tutorials for my buddies over at Fabricake and getting started on a mega-exciting secret project that I am DYING to share with you all. Hang on, did I say relaxed?!

I also want to spend a bit of time developing my blogging content, as, from the beginning, I have wanted this to be a place for people to keep up to date with what is happening with the cake world – not just my tiny corner of it.

As I’ve said in the past, sugar artistry can be a lonely little pastime, with many crafters shut away for days at a time in their kitchens, cake rooms or commercial units all on their lonesome. Of course, every now and then, we get to meet up together and, without fail, much fun and hilarity prevails, but the rest of the time, it can be pretty isolating.

So, here’s my plan. I want to hear from you! I want to know what you are working on. I want to see the places you are visiting and the events you are contributing to. I want to know about the tools you have discovered. The products that you are finding invaluable. I even want to know if you are having a break and what you are doing for it. And then I want to bundle it up into a weekly ‘e-zine’ (is that even a thing?!) and share it with the world…

A Weekly Slice of Something Sweet!

To this end, I have created a new Facebook page, just for the blog and I would be honoured and delighted if you would consider giving it a lil’ like and follow. And, of course, post to it – telling us all about what is happening in your corner of the sugar globe.

I’m planning on releasing the first ‘issue’ of “A weekly slice of something sweet!” on Sunday 18th February and I might just have a few surprises up my sleeve already…

Keep it sweet, folks! 😘

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My latest interview is up… and it’s a corker!

When I started cake decorating, a little over three years ago, I relied heavily on online articles and tutorials to develop my craft. They are honestly a godsend to the new and uninitiated and I remain eternally thankful to all those individuals who give up their time and energies to share their knowledge and skills with the rest of us. One name that used to appear pretty religiously in all my search results was a certain McGreevy Cakes and a quick click over to Facebook revealed that McGreevy Cakes had about a MILLION page likes, so they clearly knew what they were talking about.

 

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Shawna McGreevy, the talent behind McGreevy Cakes is pretty much considered cake royalty the world over and after falling very much in love with the fun and playful style of her work, I became a fan. Her jaunty tutorials on YouTube were fun and easy to follow and honestly, I just used to watch them for the sheer enjoyment factor – whether I planned to emulate the cake or not! She has since launched her own online cake school, Cakeheads.com, which has just celebrated its first birthday!

I was actually lucky enough to meet the legend herself a couple of years ago (although rather embarrassingly had spent most of the evening with her entirely unaware of who she actually was) and so began a much-valued transatlantic friendship. And because everyone needs a little sunshine in their lives, I thought it was high time I shared the gift of The McGreevy with the rest of you

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A Big Heap of Pooh…

Firstly apologies for the title – I couldn’t resist! But anyway, following on from Paddington in November, this week saw me tackling another of the big three – bears that is. I don’t know if the same is true internationally, but in the UK, if you were to be asked who the most famous fictional bear was, chances are you would either answer with Paddington, Rupert (remember him?) or A. A. Milne’s classic creation, Winnie the Pooh.

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Inspired by Milne’s son’s favourite teddy bear, Pooh Bear first appeared in the book Winnie-the-Pooh, a collection of stories by the author in 1926 and this was followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. Milne also included poems about the bear in the children’s verse books When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. In all of these classic volumes that I held very dear in my youth, Pooh and all of his now-famous friends (also toys owned by Christopher Robin Milne – yes THAT Christopher Robin) were famously illustrated by E. H. Shepard.

We have Disney to thank for the dropping-of-the-hyphens (turning Winnie-the-Pooh into Winnie the Pooh) when they acquired the rights to start producing animated productions in 1961 and, thanks to Disney’s ongoing use of the character, he remains just as popular to this day. As you can probably tell, it was to the Disney incarnation that I looked when designing a cake for a woman who has been a big part of my life.

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Mrs Lucas was originally my sister’s teacher at primary school and was a driving force in supporting her through her education. She has continued to remain close to our family over the years and, when I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher, it was Mrs Lucas who encouraged me to start volunteering at her school.

This week sees her retiring after a long and inspiring career and I wanted to do something to mark the occasion. She has always been a big fan of Mr Pooh and so it had to be the man himself.

I originally planned to do a smallish sculpted bear with a pot of honey, but once I started sculpting, he evolved to become a fair bit larger – absorbing the cake set aside for the honey pot into the main build too. In fact, he stands at almost two feet tall – go big or go home, right?

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Pooh is carved entirely from vanilla cake – no rice krispie cereal in this bear – and filled with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream. He is then covered in my Foolproof Ganache before being wrapped in Renshaw’s original Ready-to-Roll yellow sugarpaste.

His signature red t shirt (which incidentally first appeared in 1932, when Stephen Slesinger drew him for an RCA Victor picture record) was added using Renshaw’s Ready-to-Roll sugarpaste in Poppy and the eyes, eyebrows and nose were crafted from Renshaw’s Ready-to-Roll black sugarpaste.

Top tip: When trying to achieve really bright or dark colours, like red, navy and black, you are always better off using pre-coloured pastes as you wouldn’t be able to achieve the same depth of colour yourself. After being spoilt recently by the new Renshaw Extra, I was a bit worried about going back to the original stuff, but I have found the trick is not to be scared of it. If you hesitate, you give it a chance to misbehave.

On the subject of misbehaving, I seem to be cursed when transporting bears. When Paddington and I made the long journey to Birmingham in November, we had to do an emergency stop to avoid a collision when a lorry cut me up on the motorway, which is how he acquired his ‘damaged in transit’ card for the show. Similarly, en route to Mrs L’s retirement party, some bright spark decided to pull out of garage forecourt right in front of me and yes, another emergency stop. Fortunately Pooh remained standing, although he took some surface damage. Luckily, nobody seemed to notice and he was a great success.

I was genuinely a bit worried when Mrs L refused to cut and server Pooh to her guests (never thought I would need to type THAT sentence), but thankfully the lure of delicious cake proved too much to resist and he got to fulfil his cakey destiny…

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