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Don’t mention the C word…

Sorry I have been ignoring you of late. I don’t know about you, but I am NOT ready for the big day. There are still presents to buy, Christmas cakes to finish and don’t even ask me about Christmas food… *wails*

I took it upon myself to make eight Christmas cakes this year and an additional load of mini ones too. As it stands, I have finished two: one for my brother, which will never be posted online (sorry Paul) and one to be raffled off to raise money for my school.

The cake raising money for The Victory Primary School

Our own cake, my mother’s, my mother-in-laws and the copious remaining gift cakes are still languishing in a marzipan-covered purgatory awaiting their final covering and decorating.

At some point, I still need to whip up the various signature bakes that people have come to expect from me over the holiday season and, of course, finish my Christmas shopping and buy some food for the hoards that will be descending on my dining table come Christmas Day…

It’s not all bleak though – today marks the final day of school (after the LONGEST autumn term in history – literally) and then preparations can really step up a gear. I even hope to be able to shoot some of my Christmas cake decorations for the blog – here’s hoping!

How are things going your end? Reassure me – no one else is ready, right? RIGHT?!!

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Back to normal… -ish

It’s nearly all back to normal here at Mr Baker’s Cakes HQ. The Magical Dragon Machine has been packed away and Paddington is safely ensconced in his display spot in my cake room (which still needs a jolly good sort out, if I’m honest). Gearing up for Cake International, my head, diary and emails had been entirely full of dragons, bears and crammed-in tutorials and I barely managed to think about life beyond the shows. It’s both a blessing and a curse that it’s all done and dusted for the year – I’m happy that there is now the chance to stop and breathe, but I’m also sad that it’s all over. Naturally, plans are already afoot for next year’s collaborations and exhibits though, so there isn’t THAT much breathing space!

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Next on the agenda though is a charity fundraiser (I try to do at least two a year) and the baking possibilities offered by festive season. I love Christmas baking and am so excited to get my teeth into some festive tutorials for my friends over at Fabricake and of course, share some of my favourite recipes with you guys too! Fabricake have thrown me a real curveball for this month’s project though and I can’t wait to show it to you – if I can pull it off!

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My charity fundraiser went live earlier today over on Facebook and it is supporting local radio station, Wave 105’s Cash for Kids appeal. After a quick poll to find out what people would want to win, the people spoke and, with a resounding 69% of the vote, the people wanted chocolate!

Chocolate Cake
Made for a recent charity event, the prize will be along these lines…

As a result, up for grabs is a devilishly decadent loaded chocolate extravaganza: my gorgeous (if I do say so myself) original recipe mud cake, filled with luxurious milk chocolate ganache and topped with a ridiculous amount of tasty chocolatey sweets and treats! If you want to get in on the action, head over to my fundraising page and donate just £2. Yup, that’s it! Want a better chance of winning? Donate more! For every £2 you donate, you’ll get another name in the hat. More information can be found on my fundraising page. I love how baking and cake decorating has given me a platform to do some real good in my local area and I can’t wait to see how much we will be able to raise together.

Right, I suppose I ought to start thinking about that cake room sort out – but maybe a nap first… 😉

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Well that was different…!

Last week, I was contacted by a leading cake decorating magazine and asked to submit a tutorial for their Christmas issue. This isn’t something that I’ve done before and I was definitely nervous, but I do try to keep a ‘never say no’ mentality when it comes to cakey opportunities. As I’m not a business and don’t make cakes for clients, I have to embrace these chances to share my work or I will always just be the random dude that turns up to family occasions with ridiculously elaborate cakes!

It seems the turnaround for Magazine work is always very quick though, so it didn’t leave me with a lot of time to come up with my idea. Fortunately, I had been playing around with a particular Christmas cake design for a while already, so I decided to roll with that as my tutorial submission. Luckily the team loved my sketch, so we were a go!

Photographing food is always best in natural light and, as I work from 7am-6pm Monday to Friday, this meant I was restricted to shooting the tutorial over a weekend and really, to ensure I got my completed cake shots on the Sunday too, the majority of the work had to be done on the Saturday. I’m a fairly slow caker, so this would be a challenge in itself – I usually work on a cake for 2-3 days!

Roll on to the weekend and it has been one mad rollercoaster from start (waking up at 5am each day ready to get started as soon as it was bright enough) to finish. One of the other things I didn’t realise would happen when working on a cake AND shooting progress photographs was how much longer everything takes, so in addition to the fact I only had a day to pull this off, this was another time challenge. As it happens, I did have to carry on into the evening and so the lighting does change dramatically across my various progress shots – we’ll have to see if that is ok with the ‘boss’.

Now it’s done, if I’m honest with myself, the aforementioned challenges combined resulted in some elements that I wouldn’t normally be happy with, but without the option to redo, I had to simply make do. Would I put myself through it again? Possibly, but definitely not with quite such an elaborate design – my cake is three tiers, mixing both traditional and sculpted elements, it involves modelling, airbrushing, structuring and more. A total of around 100 photographs and almost 70 steps to follow! But I’m pleased that I did it. It would have been very easy to say no.

If the magazine is happy with my tutorial, then it is scheduled to be released in the November issue. So now begins an anxious 6 week wait, but luckily I have plenty of other projects on hand to keep me busy!