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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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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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Let’s get creating…

So guess what?! You have a personal invitation to join me on Facebook Live! to help design a very special birthday cake – yep, mine!

facebook-live

And we’ll be talking all things BAKING IT too, right there on my page on Monday 22nd January!

Laura

We’ll be kicking off the action at 8pm, when I will be joined by none other than caking mega-talent Laura Dodimead of Life in Sugar!

The theme of the cake? Murder Mystery!

So get your thinking caps on – this cake will be a real team effort and you’re the MVP!

What could possibly go wrong… right?!!

 

See you then… x