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Hello… It’s May… AGAIN!

I don’t know what is going on right now, but once again it seems like everyone (and their wife) is celebrating their birthdays this month! [Note to self: Check whether there are any statistics as to why late September is a particularly popular month for conception.]

But that aside, do you all find that as the ‘cake maker’ of your social group, you have certain periods of the year when you find your skills are particularly in demand?

Sorry, I saw this meme this week and I couldn’t resist…

In some ways, it’s great because you never find yourself wondering what to get that tricky-to-buy-for friend as their birthday gift. But in all honesty, I generally always find it tricky to keep up with demand every single time May comes around!

One of the best lessons I have learned for my super busy month is to keep it simple! Once upon a time, I’d have tried to whip up one of my signature sculpted numbers for each and every single birthday celebrator, but, in more recent times, I’ve found that they are just as delighted with a well-made, simple-but-tasty little treat – and they take me an awful lot less time!

So far this month, we’ve celebrated the birthday of my work bestie, one of my one-to-one assistants, my sister and my mother-in-law – and those are just the ones that would usually have cakes (Sorry to those who missed out this year!).

The work bestie happens to be one of them-there gluten-free types, so for her, I rustled up a gluten-free take on my carrot and orange cupcakes (recipe available here), by using one batch of cupcake mix for each layer of this 7” cake – with four layers in total. To make it gluten-free, you just need to switch out the regular and wholemeal flours for an equivalent gluten-free alternative. I use Freee by Doves Farm Free from Gluten Self Raising White Flour.

This rather-orange number was decorated with crushed pecans and homemade macaron, which are the perfect treat for all your gluten-free friends as they don’t contain any flour.

A week later, to celebrate the birthday of the one-to-one assistant (who loves a fruity cake), I did a simpler take on Jane’s Patisserie’s Lemon and Blueberry Cake. My assistant loved it when I did it for my birthday back in January, so my reimagining with a zingy lemon buttercream was just the ticket.

My sister’s birthday was on Monday, but mercifully we haven’t arranged our meet up and celebration yet, so I have a bit longer to plan her treat – I’m under strict instructions to avoid chocolate though. Apparently, that’s what I keep giving her and she fancies a change…

Still to come though, we have my teaching assistant’s birthday this coming Friday and she DOES love chocolate cake as I discovered today, so it may be time to whip up another one of my Loaded Chocolate Cakes!

Oh, and just when you were thinking it was safe to come out of the kitchen, it’s my other half’s birthday on Monday – I don’t think I’ll get away with something simple this year as he’s starting to realise that the more elaborate cakes I create for the blog never seem to go in his direction – he usually gets fobbed off with the leftovers.

I’m still to decide what to do for his cake this year though, so any ideas (that will worth a blog post, of course) will be gratefully received…

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Why everybody needs to be Baking IT… …like a Pro

Over the last few weeks, I have been posting a lot about Baking IT. If you’re not a regular reader, you might just be wondering why, so let’s get you all caught up…

A few weeks ago I was contacted by someone on behalf of the team at Baking IT to see if I would be up for having a play with the software and then writing an impartial review about it here on my blog. I’d seen Baking IT’s stands at the cake shows during 2016 and I was already a little intrigued.

During the discussions that followed, my big mouth managed to develop it into something a bit more ambitious. Could I design a cake over Facebook Live, with input from all my watchers and then bring it to life in time for my murder mystery-themed birthday party on 27th January? I love trying new things, particularly when it comes to cake and so the answer was a definite yes!

The Baking IT team set me up on the system and straightaway I had a quick play with it – naturally heading straight to the 3D cake designer tool. It reminded me of a number of design programs I’d used before, meaning that for those used to onscreen design, it should be fairly intuitive.

One nice touch though that I think really sets Baking IT Pro apart from other similar programs (although, I don’t know if there are any programs that compare) is that when you register, you are encouraged to book a live demonstration slot, which means that one of the Baking IT team will conference with you to walk you through the software firsthand. This is a perfect opportunity to ask any questions about Baking IT and ensure you know exactly how it can support you and your business.

I’ll admit that after my demonstration from Sam at Baking IT, I was completely blown away. The 3D cake designer aside, the back office capabilities of Baking IT Pro are immeasurable. It offers everything from inventory management to recipe conversion, via contact storage and communications, real time scheduling and business insights along the way. I’ve said it numerous times before, Mr Baker’s Cakes is not a business, but my undergraduate degree was actually in small business management and I can totally recognise the possibilities offered by Baking IT to support small-to-medium bakery businesses.

But anyway, I digress. Rolling forward, I decided to invite a friend to join me for the Facebook Live event – I always feel a bit of a numpty talking to myself – so I asked Laura Dodimead of Life in Sugar to be my plus one. In the meantime, the hive minds of Facebook and Twitter had decided that they preferred a weekday collaboration so on the Monday before my birthday, Laura and I sat down ready to talk Baking IT.

For those of you who weren’t able to join us, we had a glance through all of the back office features, before heading to the 3D cake designer to get designing. After a demonstration of many of the effects available, we decided on a two tier cake, with an 8″ double-barrelled circular tier (10″ tall) and another regular height 6″ tier (5″ tall). Our audience chose an hombré design ranging from black up to a deep deep green and topped with a crown and some luxurious drapes in honour of my character at the murder mystery evening, Prince Reynard and his palace.

We then decided to add a dagger stabbed into the cake, which oddly wasn’t a default Baking IT topper. Luckily, to add this, it was as simple as googling an image and importing it into the software. To represent the other more macabre aspects of the evening, we decided to go with a blood red drip adorning the top tier and, although I couldn’t figure out how to add it to the on-screen design, some blood spatter to the side of the main cake.

Once we had finished with our design, the software offered numerous opportunities for sharing it, but I merely saved mine ready to get making.

Over the course of the rest of the week, I baked a big ol’ pile of vanilla madeira sponges and stacked them up to form my two tiers, filled with yummy vanilla buttercream and raspberry jam. To ensure a perfectly even finish, I coated both tiers in lashings of my white chocolate ganache before covering them in Renshaw’s new Extra sugarpaste. This was then airbrushed from white to achieve the hombré effect.

To craft the crown, I used Renshaw’s Flower & Modelling Paste and the dagger was handcrafted using Renshaw’s Belgian Chocolate Modelling Paste. Both were finished with Rolkem’s supers range in gold and silver respectively.

The drips and splatters were done with royal icing, which I coloured red using Sugarflair’s Red Extra and I think I splattered more of it around my cake room than actually made it on to the cake! Oops!

Finally, it was time to face the dreaded drapes. I’ve never done drapes quite like these ones before – so large and flush to the top of the cake and it took a few attempts to get them to where I wanted, but I was pleased with the final result. To make them, I mixed Renshaw’s new modelling paste (the non-Belgian Chocolate variety) with some more Extra sugarpaste and coloured it with a mix of Sugarflair’s Claret, Red Extra and Black Extra. I finished them with a little airbrushing to add texture and depth.

Once it was all assembled, I was pretty thrilled with the final result, although it’s definitely one of those cakes that looks a million times better in the flesh than in photographs. As you can see, there was definitely more than enough cake for my seven guests at the murder mystery dinner, so I think I’ll be forcing cake on my friends and family for a few days to come.

To summarise, Baking IT is user friendly, intuitive and, as it was ‘Made by Cake Makers for Cake Makers’, in my humble opinion, it does everything you would need a back office piece of software to do for you bakery business. It’s web-based, which means you don’t need to download anything AND you can access it from any computer with an internet connection. The 3D cake designer is sure to impress even the trickiest of clients and you can update and share your designs with them in real time. Bhav and Sam, the geniuses behind Baking IT Pro explained that they set out to create the perfect tool for bakers and cake makers and do you know what? I think they might just have nailed it.

All that remains is to thank the team at Baking IT for letting me loose on their software and to thank all of you that joined me over Facebook Live to help me design my Murder Mystery Cake.

For those wondering, up next in the Mr Baker’s Cakes kitchen is something altogether more family friendly, so stay tuned… 😉

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A work in progress…

So tonight is the night of the big murder mystery evening and this time yesterday, I was a little panicked. I didn’t fancy spending my entire birthday evening caking on Thursday and as a result, fell a bit behind with the all important cake – designed, of course, with over 2000 people over Facebook Live!

Cut to last night and I knuckled down ready to get cracking.

One mega positive about this cake is that it has given me an opportunity to play with all the new and exciting products that have joined the Renshaw family recently.

The crown has been crafted from Renshaw Flower & Modelling Paste (a long time favourite) and painted with Rolkem Super Gold, mixed with a little vodka for airbrushing.

For the dagger, I switched to Renshaw’s Belgian Chocolate Modelling Paste, before colouring it with Rolkem Super Silver and a little black Spectrum Flow for shading.

I opted to cover the cake itself with my new favourite sugar paste, Renshaw Extra, in white before airbrushing to achieve the very deep green – almost black – colour that my Facebook Livers had requested.

Still to do is the drip effect on the top tier, the drapes and the ‘blood’ spatter – so we’re not out of the woods just yet mind, but I have enough time – I think!