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I think I’m in love…

I often talk about how I consider myself a reformed shopaholic and regularly advise those new to caking that they don’t actually need ALL THE THINGS to make beautiful cakes. That’s one of the reasons why I include the ‘I couldn’t live without…’ section in my weekly newsletter, (A Weekly Slice of) Something Sweet actually – to show new cakers that even the biggest names in the industry often rely on the simplest of tools to create their masterpieces.

And while, for the most part, my reformed status is true, every now and then, there will be a certain cake product that just crawls under my skin and whispers ‘You really need me in your life…’

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If you are familiar with the Shopaholic book series by Sophie Kinsella, you will know that the protagonist, Becky Bloomwood often imagines how other people will see her once she has acquired her latest potential purchase: “So I buy it. The most perfect little cardigan in the world. People will call me the Girl in the Gray Cardigan. I’ll be able to live in it. Really, it’s an investment.”

Quite honestly, that’s how I have felt about my latest purchase for the longest of times. Pretty much since last November when my friend Vicky of Yellow Bee Cake Co. bought one first. So actually, it’s really her fault, thinking about it.
 But I digress…

In my head, I was imagining that people will call me The Guy with the Enviable Cake Tool Case. I will be able to take it along on all of my deliveries (bearing in mind, I don’t sell my cakes – so deliveries usually just means competition set-ups) and for when I demonstrate (which I have NEVER done!), but you never know, that could change in the future. It’s forward thinking. Really, it’s an investment.

And yes, that is what this mysterious purchase is. The very gorgeous wheel-along tool caddies from Italian tool manufacturer, Cerart – and mine actually IS grey too – just like Becky’s cardigan.

And I also bought the matching tool case inserts as well, of course. Because, investment.

With the inserts, there is literally a home for all of my favourite tools (and a fair few more besides), with just the right amount of clearance for my apron, whites and anything else I might want to sit on top. It’s like it was made for me.

And it is beautiful and I love it. Possibly a little too much.

A couple of weekends ago, I actually DID have a delivery, when we celebrated the wedding of my brother to his lovely new wife. Setting up their wedding cake (their gift from us) was the perfect opportunity to take my swanky new addition out on the road and, do you know what? It was actually really useful.

When I have made wedding cakes in the past, I usually rocked up on the day with a ton of ‘bags for life’, stuffed full of the things that I might need, but inevitably I always forgot something.

This time, because I was carrying pretty much my entire cake room in my new case, I not only had everything I had anticipated needing, I also had all sorts of other useful bits and pieces that I was able to whip out as the need arose. The florist had the wrong posy picks? Not to worry, I have a variety of spares! You need more scissors? I have some!

*whispers* Granted I would probably have taken these things in my ‘bags for life’ too – but, this time, I looked really professional and efficient doing it!

And if I’m honest, it’s just pretty. Can I be blamed if I like beautiful things in my life?

If you would also like to invest an incredibly useful, but possibly a tiny bit frivolous ‘swanky tool case’, you can find them at Fabricake Sugarcraft Ltd and they come in a choice of four colours. And remember, as always you can take advantage of my partner discount of 10% using discount code: MRBAKER10 – so really you’re actually SAVING money! That Martin Lewis has got nothing on me…

You’re welcome!

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An ode to the independent retailer…

Please forgive me if I ramble on a bit today, but I wanted to write a piece to celebrate some of the small, independently run cake supplies businesses that allow me to continue to enjoy my hobby with the best tools and ingredients available – so indulge me if you will…

When I first started decorating cakes, I relied almost exclusively on the big hobby retailers for all my tools and supplies because, for somebody just beginning, they seemed to carry almost everything I needed. And looking back to my first ever fully-decorated cake, it was a bit of an ambitious effort and I mean that in the most literal way: it included cake carving; homemade modelling chocolate; airbrushing (yes, I bought one specially); terribly-piped royal icing; and goodness knows what else besides. Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that the ‘almost everything’ offered by the giant retailer wasn’t quite enough and the fairly hefty mark-up they applied to their products was going to make my new hobby a very expensive one.

No ribbon on the board… tsk!

Luckily, a friendly, local caker soon introduced me to a little independent store in the nearest big city to me, only a handy 30-minute drive away. They stocked many of the things that I was struggling to find in my local hobby giant and, unlike the large chain store, they were also able to offer helpful knowledge and advice to a noob just starting out.

A little while later though, I discovered the cake shows and I have written previously about how I immediately needed to buy ALL THE THINGS! Cake shows are terrible places for people like me – proper enablers they are! And even worse, once I had discovered all of these big retailers at the shows, I then realised that I could take to the internet to get my hands on even more products and toys for my cakey endeavours!

A few years down the line, I would like to think that I have become slightly more discerning in my purchasing and I am lucky to regularly receive the support of some incredible organisations like Renshaw Baking for my charitable projects, but of course the business (or even hobby in my case) of cake decorating does still require a lot of purchasing.

Luckily, I have been very fortunate to have made two incredible friends along the way, in the form of Hayley and Michael Wisken, who run an independent cake supplies company based in Southend-on-Sea, Essex: Fabricake Sugarcraft Ltd. The other H&M (as I like to refer to the Wiskens behind closed doors – don’t tell them!) have yet to let me down in my quest for my caking essentials – although I have to be thankful that they aren’t closer, because I’m sure I would quickly return to my shopaholic ways. Oh, and by the way, as a regular contributor to the Fabricake blog, I am thrilled to be able to offer you all the use of my collaborator discount of 10% off all of your purchases, using discount code MRBAKER10 – you’re welcome!

Lovely Michael and Hayley Wisken…

However, Fabricake aside, I also wanted to craft this post to also celebrate the other independent heroes – those small little businesses, like the store I mentioned above – who ensure we can get our hands on our caking essentials when we’ve inevitably forgotten to place an order online.

Don’t get me wrong, Hayley and Michael are fabulous at whipping out a parcel overnight, but sometimes I find myself lacking a key ingredient that necessitates a mad dash to find it somewhere locally – it’s actually laughable how often I forget to order cake cards and drums for example. *eyeroll*

Of course, I still have access to that little local store in the next town over, but their business hours coupled with my working hours mean that it isn’t possible to get there before closing and, if I had one complaint, as an enthusiastic cake sculptor, the traditional skills, techniques and products favoured by the team there don’t always mesh well with what I am trying to achieve.

Rather excitingly though. I recently discovered that there is another well-stocked, modern cake supplies store practically on my doorstep and literally just around the corner from my workplace – how did I not know about this sooner?!

Apologies for the photo – it was rather a grey day…

Cakes o’Licious, run by cake baker and decorator Hanli Brain, offers a broad selection of products, as well as a range of classes, from beginners’ cake decorating right through to PME diploma courses. I headed down there for the first time a few weeks ago (when I had forgotten to order the boards for my Easter Buddies tutorial cakes – you see?!) and I received a fabulously warm welcome. Hanli’s staff member immediately welcomed me, in spite of being with another customer, and, once this sale was concluded, guided me around the store, ensuring I could find everything I needed.

While I was there, Hanli also shared a little bit about herself and, as a fellow philanthropist, a charity project she is supporting. The Faith & Football Social Enterprise & Business Challenge is a locally run project for secondary school pupils to create a company and develop a business idea to turn it into a practical way of generating income. The team that Hanli has been championing had developed a range of decorated Easter Eggs that they have been selling across Portsmouth and I couldn’t resist picking one up during my visit to the store.

I wanted to thank Hanli for such a warm welcome to her store and I am sure I will be back soon – I am bound to forget something essential again soon. And also extend the hugest of thank yous to Hayley and Michael for continuing to support my humble little caking journey too. Without the incredible support and opportunities afforded to me by others in this crazy little cake world, I’m sure I wouldn’t be talking to you now.

But what about you guys? Is there an amazing little cake business near to you that you couldn’t do without? Or an individual who has supported you along the way? Feel free to share them in the comments here or over on Facebook – you never know, there may well be someone who is yet to discover that hidden gem on their doorstep…

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Welcome to Some New Arrivals…

Following my recent post regarding my favourite cake tools, I thought it might be time for a follow up. As you probably know by now, I am a hobby baker and cake decorator in the truest sense of the words and so I am always looking for products that I can get hold of quickly and simply and usually very last minute. I’m not always the most organised cake decorator you see! Although I have some great contacts with cake decorating suppliers now, I still buy most of my ingredients and supplies at my local supermarket and hobby supplies shop and one of the brands that I have naturally formed a bit of an allegiance to is Renshaw, mainly because it has been so user-friendly and accessible – not to mention, they have been so supportive of my charity and fundraising work!

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Made from a combination of Renshaw Ready-to-Roll icing and Renshaw Flower & Modelling Paste.
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Topper made from Renshaw Flower & Modelling Paste.

With that in mind, I have some rather exciting news to share with you all! It has been so hard to keep it to myself, but now I don’t need to! Working on The Magical Dragon Machine, we were lucky enough to have a bit of an advanced preview of some new products that the boffins at Renshaw headquarters have been working on.

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Following their official launch at Cake International two weeks ago, I am delighted to now be able to introduce them to you all: Modelling Paste, Petal Paste, Belgian Milk and White Chocolate Modelling Paste and Confectionery Ready-to-Roll Icing in Milk Chocolate, White Chocolate and Caramel.

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Not only that, but after huge demand (not JUST by me), they’re bringing their Renshaw Extra product to the UK! For anyone who’s unfamiliar with Renshaw Extra, it’s their premium paste (on a par with some of the most popular market-leaders), which can be rolled extra-thinly to give great coverage. It’s also really elastic, which makes it is great when working on deep, sharp-edged cakes and sculpted novelty cakes too. Ideal for me!

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Renshaw have carefully considered the needs of their UK consumers and have expanded their range to ensure that they have a product to meet our every cake decorating need. They’ve even put together a handy guide to help us select the right product for each job. As they say themselves,

“Covering Paste is on the softer end of our scale, and is great for sheeting and covering, whereas Petal Paste is our firmest paste and can be used for flower making and intricate petals.”

Renshaw Guide
Image sourced from: www.renshawbaking.com 

Over the next few weeks, in the lead up to Christmas, I will be producing a variety of festive tutorials showcasing each of the new products and demonstrating how you can use them to produce fantastic results on your next bakes and cakes. If you have any particular requests, make sure you get them in quick!

In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about the new line of products available from Renshaw Baking, you can check out their range of handy guides, available here: