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Safeguarding Your Business Against COVID-19 #cakershour

Hey cake chums!

I hope you will allow me to get a little bit serious for a moment. I think it is safe to say that, along with many countries around the world, the UK is facing an unprecedented crisis right now and like many businesses, those of us on Planet Cake are facing uncertain times ahead.

Following the latest updates from the UK government and their team of experts, the key new measures that we need to be following are that:

  • Everyone should avoid gatherings and crowded places, such as pubs, clubs and theatres.
  • Everyone should work from home if they can.
  • All “unnecessary” visits to friends and relatives in care homes should cease.
  • People should only use the NHS “where we really need to” – and can reduce the burden on workers by getting advice on the NHS website where possible.
  • By next weekend, those with the most serious health conditions must be “largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks”.
  • The UK is now “three weeks” behind Italy – the worst-hit country in Europe.
  • If one person in any household has a persistent cough or fever, everyone living there must stay at home for 14 days.
  • Those people should, if possible, avoid leaving the house “even to buy food or essentials” – but they may leave the house “for exercise and, in that case, at a safe distance from others”.
  • Schools will not be closed for the moment.

In light of these latest developments, I know that many of us are continuing to field cancellations left and right, as well as facing the fact that baking ingredients seem to be some of the latest products to be rapidly disappearing from supermarket and wholesaler shelves, leaving us concerned that we will be unable to source the supplies needed to produce any orders that do remain on the books.

While I would love to say that I will be able to provide all of the answers in these worrying times, unfortunately, like many of you, I feel like I am just muddling my way through at the moment. However, that being said, I am sure that we all have had some experiences already that may be able to provide some support and clarity to our friends and colleagues within the industry.

With that in mind, I thought that it might be useful to use this week’s second instalment of #cakershour to address some of these concerns and allow us all the time to share any experiences or advice that might be of use to everyone.

#cakershour graphic 18.03.20

Before we meet for #cakershour, you may well find it useful to check out Monday’s Facebook Live from The Cake Professionals team, which you can find at this link. And if you know of any other sources of information or advice – including any guidance you may have had from accountants, your local EHO and the details of any local cake supplies retailers to you that might be expanding their range of products to include core baking supplies – please do make a note of them ready to share with the rest of us. You never know who else this information may be able to help out.

With that in mind, this week’s focus questions will be:

  1. How are you handling cancellations or postponements? Have you taken any legal advice or had your T&Cs reviewed by a solicitor? What has the response from your clients been?
  2. Are you struggling to get hold of any cake supplies? Have you found any creative solutions to plug any holes in your supply chain?
  3. What plans do you have in place to be able to continue with any cake consultations during a period of enforced isolation or lockdown?
  4. What other challenges are you facing that we may be able to help with?
  5. How are you going to keep yourself busy during a period of enforced isolation or lockdown?

I am also pleased to be able to announce that Phil and Christine Jensen of Peboryon – the clever bods behind The Cake Professionals – will also be joining us as my guest co-hosts for this week’s #cakershour and I am looking forward to hearing their perspectives on some of the key challenges that we are all facing.

Phil and Christine Jensen of Peboryon
This week’s guest co-hosts…

It will be important to keep things supportive and professional – we don’t want to allow things to descend into panic – and hopefully, we will be able to use this time help us all navigate the uncertainty we are facing during these unprecedented times.

I do hope that you will be able to join us for this week’s #cakershour and I will see you there…

 

Twitter #cakershour is hosted by Mr Baker’s Cakes and takes place every Wednesday from 9:00pm. To find out more, check out the intro post here.

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Guess who’s back… tell a friend!

Gosh, where I do I even try to begin…?

Can you believe it has been nearly SIX WEEKS since I was last here writing?! If I am honest, it feels like even longer…

If you watched my Facebook Live from around that time (can anyone even remember back that far?!), you will have seen that between Cake International prep and a couple of collaborations that were coming due, I was seriously up against it in terms of deadlines. I made the reluctant decision to pause the online content while I focussed on those projects and, in hindsight, I think it was the right decision. There is literally no way I would have got everything done if I was still writing and shooting content alongside my ‘irl’ workload.

That being said, I am a little bit cross with myself that I didn’t make more of an effort to document some of the creative processes that led to my Cake International pieces OR my collaboration contributions – I’m sure they would have made great YouTube viewing. *facepalm*

Oh well, lesson learned for next time…

Woah, there! I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, talking about what I was doing for Cake International – some of you may not even have seen the fruits of my labours yet!

But actually, before we get into that, I thought I’d also share my contribution to one of the aforementioned collaborations, as one has already gone live.

Sugar Spooks, masterminded by Avalon Yarnes of Avalon Cakes School of Sugar Art is now in its seventh year, and it is seen by many as one of the pioneering online collaborations, paving the way for all that followed. I have honestly looked forward to its release every single year since I entered the world of cake art and design, and I was completely blown away to be invited to join the ranks of legendary artists that make up the Sugar Spooks team this year!

For 2019, the theme of the collection was the Sugar Spooks Haunted Mansion and immediately I was inspired to create a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy, taking my lead from various urban myths and short stories that I have read in the past.

I named him Sinister Sid and, alongside the sugarcraft element, participants in Sugar Spooks also create a back story for their pieces, so this was mine:

“On first inspection, nestling in his little corner of the room, Sid looks like a harmless sideshow oddity – perhaps the souvenir of a neglected hobby or maybe quickly forgotten gift? It’s only on closer inspection that one starts to notice some rather unsettling peculiarities… those rather disconcerting eyes, the rather menacing expression and what is that dripping noise…?

“No, Sid isn’t your typical toy – the Hon. Sidney Edward Watts used to be the respected owner of this grand abode – well, until he fell afoul of one of the many menacing ghouls that walk its halls that is.

“No one quite knows what he did to warrant an eternity of punishment – and Sid certainly isn’t letting on – but he hasn’t taken his punishment lying – or even sitting – down.

“You see, when night falls, and a cloak of darkness descends over his beloved home, Sid stalks its halls, seeking out victims and taking his bloody revenge on any who dare to trespass within its walls.”

I loved how Sid came together and he is certainly pretty darn creepy, but I was even more blown away when I saw the rest of the collection – be sure to swing by the Sugar Spooks website and check them out for yourself. You can find it here.

After Spooks was out of the way, it was time to knuckle down and get seriously cracking on my contributions to 2019’s Cake International – the largest cake show in the world.

This year, I had agreed to create a contribution for the Sugar Witches display and one for the Stephen King feature. I was also entering the prestigious competitions as part of the Sugar Chronicles team (see more about us here) and had somehow volunteered to craft the centrepiece for the Help Harry Help Others charity Santa’s Grotto – a life-sized edible Santa cake that could be SAT ON! *screaming emoji*

When we were originally planning the Santa’s Grotto, I made a rather tongue-in-cheek comment that, ‘One can’t create a grotto entirely from cake without having a Santa that you can sit on.’ The mastermind behind the feature, Hayley O’Beirnes of Gadget Cakes agreed and quite rightly put me on the spot, suggesting that I make one – and honestly guys, a little part of me never thought our pitch would be approved, so I agreed. Then it WAS approved and I suddenly found myself in a position where I had to bring this to life somehow. Cue panic!

Luckily, I was able to draw on support from a number of different parts of my life, including my father, who is a very experienced engineer to help me with the structure (which I had sketched out on the back of an envelope); my dear friend Nicola, who works out of a large commercial unit and was kind enough to lend me a little corner to work in; and some wonderful brands, including Renshaw and Fractal Colors, who both kindly contributed some of the materials that I would need.

Rather than repeat it all here, I have documented the process of creating my life-sized edible Santa cake in a short video, which I will link below. It didn’t go without its dramas and don’t even get me started on the nightmare I had trying to get him to the show, but it all came together in the end (Thanks Rhu, Sharon and Keith) and I think he was a popular addition to this year’s event.

One of the challenges I also had to deal with in the weeks leading up to Cake International 2019 was some fairly inclement weather. My home sits not too far from the shores of a lake and, when it is particularly wet, the humidity here is dire. About a week before the show was due to begin, we were hit by almost biblical monsoon-like rain and both my competition entry and my contribution to the Stephen King display did not survive the ordeal. I found myself in the position of having to start both of them again from scratch, which is not what you want when you also have a life-sized Father Christmas cake to finish.

Unfortunately, I did run out of time in the end and I was unable to bring my Stephen King exhibit to the table. However, the rest of The King of Horror display was absolutely incredible and I don’t think it was noticeable that my tiny contribution was missing. Thanks to the team for being so understanding though and congratulations – you really did create something special. Do you make sure you go and check out The King of Horror feature online here.

Another highlight of the show had to be the stunning Sugar Witches display, tucked away down by the competition area, featuring a whole host of witchy-inspired creations, including no less than FIVE life-sized witches by Kate Bartlett, Graziella Augier, Anna Taylor Dillon, Nicola Gerrans, Lesley Marshall and Julie Rogerson (plus another supersized piece by Kelly McWilliam and an incredible spinning cauldron by Steph Parker).

My piece for the display ended up being a rather rushed affair – I made a tiny hessian voodoo doll – but the same couldn’t be said about the rest of the contributions.

 

It was an incredible display and every time I walked past, it was absolutely rammed with visitors. It was clearly a very popular addition to Cake International 2019. Congratulations to the whole team.

Another personal highlight of the weekend was being invited to demonstrate on the Ranshaw stand for the first time.

Having used Renshaw products since I first started my cake journey over five years ago, you would be fairly safe to assume that I am a big fan of the brand. They have also been very good to me over the years, supporting many of my charitable endeavours – not to mention contributing to numerous giveaways for you guys too, of course.

During my demonstration, we were using the gorgeous coloured Renshaw extra sugarpastes and some of my favourite moulds from Karen Davies Sugarcraft to create a simple snowman cake with a super realistic woolly hat topper. I even roped in the lovely Zoe Hopkinson of Zoe’s Fancy Cakes to cut out the gazillion daisies needed to create the pom-pom.

We had a fantastic time working together and I loved getting to meet loads of you guys too. If you fancy having a go at creating your own woolly hat topper, you can find the full tutorial as part of my Festive Llama Cake tutorial via the tab above.

And then finally, of course, there was my competition entry, which as I’ve already mentioned was in the collaborations category, along with my Sugar Chronicles chums.

I had kind of fallen out of love with competing recently, having not entered since 2017. I didn’t feel that it was always good for my mental health to add on so much additional stress when I already get so much pleasure from creating pieces for features and exhibits at the show. However, I love working with the Sugar Chronicles team (you may have seen our previous Beatrix Potter and Narnia collections at the Cake & Bake Show), so when our illustrious leader Louise Wolfenden suggested a collaboration entry themed all around the wonderful World of Oz, I jumped at the chance to get back on the competition horse.

In spite of the earlier disaster with my piece collapsing due to the humidity, it seems that fate was actually conspiring with us for once, as my second attempt at the Cowardly Lion far exceeded the fast and his new position asleep in the poppy fields added an additional dimension to the display that the first version never would have done.

We were delighted to find out that we had been given a gold award for our collection after the judging concluded, but were completely blown away to find out that we had also scooped the much-coveted Best in Class rosette. As competition results go, you can’t ask for any more than that, so a massive thank you to the Cake International judges and to my teammates for a fantastic competition experience.

Whether it is enough to bring me out of my self-induced competition retirement remains to be seen though, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

So, there you go… That is what I have been up to over the last five or six weeks since we last spoke. Obviously, there is much much more Cake International news to share with you, but I thought I would save that for the first issue back of Something Sweet magazine, which will be out next Sunday, the 17th of November.

As always, if you have something that you would like to be featured in the next issue, be sure to get in touch using the usual channels.

Moving forward, I am also looking to add some regular contributors to my writing line up, so if you would be interested in becoming a regular member of the Something Sweet team, be sure to get in touch. I would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, I would also love to hear what you have been up to over the last few weeks. I have really missed speaking to all of you and I do hope that lots of you will be in touch over the next few days so that we can create a Something Sweet: Cake International Special that is truly… Something Sweet. See what I did there?

In the meantime, thanks for bearing with me over the last few weeks and happy caking to you all!

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New Video Alert: Attending the launch party of The Sugar Lair

Hey cake chums!

As you saw in my exclusive interview with Kate Parsons earlier this week, on Friday, I was invited to attend the rescheduled launch of the new Cake Design Academy – The Sugar Lair, where we were joined by a rather Extreme Cake Maker and his paw-some creation (see what I did there?!), and naturally I brought you guys along for the ride!

Check out the video:

Quick PSA: Not all of my videos are going to be event vlogs – I promise! I’m working hard to sort out my new cake studio, after which you can expect lots of more cake-focused content.

Feel free to leave me suggestions in the comments of what you would like to see on my channel.

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Check out my interview with Kate Parsons of The Sugar Lair here.

Find out more about classes at The Sugar Lair over on Facebook or at the official website here soon.

You can see more from Peboryon over at their website or find them on Facebook here.

Catch up on past episodes of Extreme Cake Makers on All4.

I hope you enjoyed my latest video, guys! Don’t forget to subscribe!