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And now for something a little bit different…

Now, the whole point of Mr Baker’s blog – my core mission if you will – is to share what each and every one of you mega-talented peeps in the world of cake is up to all year around. We often talk about how lonely the life of a cake maker is, with thousands of us toiling away alone in our kitchens, cake rooms and workshops and all looking forward to the various events that give us a chance to meet up and mingle, but hopefully Mr Baker’s Blog and in particular my weekly Something Sweet column do a little to tide us over in between these annual highlights.

As part of this, I try to stay as up-to-date and informed as I can possibly can about what everyone is up to so I can share it with you all – and that is how I stumbled across the fact that one of my favourite sugar artists and modelling-chocolate-master, Laura Dodimead is diversifying her artistic profile somewhat – and not merely by dallying with other types of sugar either. No, Laura has taken her artistry in an entirely new direction by starting a tattoo apprenticeship.

Now, before you panic, the marvel behind Life in Sugar isn’t turning her back on her sugar art at all – instead she plans to balance the two, by continuing to write, teach and create with all things edible, while also honing her skills in the tattoo studio – as Life in Ink.

Now, those who you who know me personally will know that I am a huge fan of body art and no stranger to the tattooist’s chair myself and, with two of favourite worlds colliding, I obviously had to find out more…

When I got in touch with Laura, she invited me along to her other base of operations, The House of Pain Tattoo Studio (a somewhat disconcerting name, I’m sure you’ll agree) in Bordon, Hampshire where she is completing her apprenticeship under award-winning tattoo artist, Paul Pain (which explains the name!). A delightfully kitsch and traditional space, full of fabulous historic artwork and other quirky bits and pieces, The House of Pain is a really welcoming place and I immediately felt at ease. The lovely Barby on reception offered me a hot beverage within seconds of arriving and I could have spent hours exploring the studio shopfront. However, very quickly, I was taken down to see Laura in the main studio, where it was time for a chat.

“No, I’m definitely not turning my back on sugar,” Laura explained. “I’m just exploring something that I have wanted to do for many years.” Originally intending to pursue tattoo artistry back in her teens and early twenties, as is sometimes the case, life got in the way. Once she had had her children, Laura didn’t feel like she had the confidence to put herself out there anymore. “I think that the recognition I have received and the awards I have won whilst working in sugar have given me the boost I needed to be able to try something new – to try something different.”

Before she found The House of Pain, Laura had visited a number of tattoo studios and shared her portfolio of artwork with them. There were ultimately two options that she was considering, but Laura felt The House of Pain was the best fit for her. “I think my style is best suited here because both the shop and the team here are full of character and our personalities mesh well too. I basically came back in and begged them to give me a chance!”

Obviously, I couldn’t visit Laura without indulging in my own permanent memento of the day and, rather than something cake-themed, which we decided wouldn’t suit my hyper-masculine image (don’t laugh!), we decided to stick with the theme of the majority of my body art – superheroes. As I had been particularly impressed by a beautiful watercolour piece Laura had completed on her friend Simona, she suggested that she could take inspiration from a fabulous Superman painting by French watercolour artist Clémentine Campardou, known professionally as Blule.

Now, speaking as someone who has been tattooed by a number of professionals over the years, I have to say that I was particularly impressed by Laura’s lightness of touch. If I didn’t know better, I would have assumed that she had been doing this for quite some time. I think that Mrs Dodimead may be a bit of a natural at this…

Of course, the finished picture is very fresh and a bit bloody – it also features the inkless blood-outlines that allowed Laura to place her shading accurately – so once healed, it will look totally different, but I love it already and I can’t thank Laura enough! There is something so special about being able to carry a piece of my friends’ artwork around with me always and that is why I love all my tattoos – they were all created by talented friends.

Fortunately, it seems that Laura enjoyed the experience too: “You sat like a pro and were a dream to tattoo. It’s always more fun tattooing your friends because you can have a chat and a laugh – you feel much more relaxed.”

I wish Laura every success in her new venture and I will certainly be watching closely to see what she dreams up next – both in sugar and in ink.

 

Laura is looking for more willing volunteers to allow her to practice her tattoo artistry. If you would be interested in letting Laura create something for you, please contact her directly via her Instagram page, Life in Ink or even via her usual cake channels: Facebook, Twitter or email.

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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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Hurry down the chimney tonight!

If you’re a regular reader of cake decorating magazines, then I am almost sure that you will have seen the wonderful work of Laura Dodimead of Life in Sugar (previously known as Cakey Bakes Cakes). Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely Laura to guinea pig one of her new festive cake classes, The Sleepy Santa.

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I first discovered Laura when she entered her glorious BFG cake at Cake International in 2016, but she has been hard at work in the cake industry for many years. She has had her own market stall, supplied tea rooms and cafés with homemade cakes, made novelty cakes to order, produced countless published tutorials and taught classes at many locations around the country. It has been a genuine pleasure getting to know her over the last year and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Laura at the new permanent base of Life in Sugar at the Badshot Lea Village Hall and Kiln, where she has set up her own classroom.

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Laura specialises in modelling with modelling chocolate and she is a real advocate of its benefits to cake artists. As primarily a cake sculptor, the thought of modelling often fills me with dread, so I was excited to have the chance to try something new and experience some new products.

On the day of the class, I headed up the A3 from Fareham to Farnham and easily found my way to Laura’s new workspace, where I was thrilled to discover ample free parking – always a plus when one has a cake to carry out to the car later that day. I was also delighted to find out that lunch is provided too.

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As soon as I arrived, Laura made me feel incredibly welcome with the first of many coffees (an essential part of any cake class!). Inside the workshop, she has decorated in a wonderful fusion style, pairing vintage fittings with a modern colour palette. Throughout the space, Laura has placed a combination of her own competition entries, tutorial cakes and upcoming class pieces, creating an inspiring work environment.

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We quickly got down to business and Laura’s relaxed and unassuming style of teaching immediately put me at ease. I enjoyed using the modelling chocolate to create my piece and thanks to the chilly weather, found it far easier to use than I have done on previous occasions. Laura encouraged questions throughout the class – not just about this particular class’ content either – and was happy to explain different ways that the topper could be customised based on attendees’ personal preferences.

As ever with classes, there are obvious unavoidable time constraints, but Laura never made me feel rushed and I was thrilled with the topper that I made under her expert tuition. The workshop was great fun and we were honestly laughing throughout the day.

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The topper I made under Laura’s expert tuition.

I would highly recommend heading over to Life in Sugar if you can. You will have a fantastic time, learn some fabulous new skills and get to spend some time with one of the loveliest cake artists I know.

To find out more about Laura’s classes at Life in Sugar and to book your place, you can visit her Facebook page.