All Content, Blog, Mr Baker's Blog on Tour

ROAD TRIP!!!

I posted my first blog post on the 21st August 2017 and when I posted it, I wasn’t entirely sure that anyone would ever want to read my ramblings. I guess that’s a risk we all take when we start something new.

Luckily, after only a few days, I was ready to jump straight into a really exciting week of blogging, thanks to the return of The Great British Bake Off and a secret invitation to appear on the first episode of the new series of The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice!

Yup, this time last year, I was hard at work creating an ‘illusion cake’ worthy of appearing on national television. No pressure – eh? Incidentally, you can read all about that here, if you’d like!

I almost can’t believe that we are already a year down the line (check out the new background for some of the year’s highlights, by the way!) and luckily the stakes aren’t quite so high for my current project. The impact on my bank account and my car’s mileage are another matter though!

Yup, Mr Baker’s Blog is hitting the road for a cake-fuelled, nine-day, cross-country adventure and I’m really excited!

I’ve wanted to take Mr Baker’s Blog on the road for a while now – after all, it isn’t often that we get to go and visit our cakey chums, is it? But this actually all came about because of my super-secret collaboration project – hopefully you have already read all about that over at the Fabricake Blog, right? Yes? Good.

But anyway, long story short, I currently have a team of around twenty amazingly talented (and VERY generous) cake artists all over the country creating the various elements of the… er… project (seriously, you have to go to the Fabricake website to read about it) and I now need to go and collect their contributions from them.

I head off next Thursday – the 23rd (don’t worry, the other half is still at home, so burglars beware!) and the first stop on my journey will be Bolton, where I’ll be meeting up with the one-and-only Rosie Cake-Diva and the immensely talented Kay Gajra of Kaykes at the Bolton Food and Drink Festival.

Photo: Paul Heyes

I loved following the coverage of the event last year, so I am thrilled that I will be able to make it along in person this year. It’d also be great to snag a selfie with everyone’s favourite GBBO winner, Nadiya Hussain, if she’s reading this? Nadiya? *tumbleweed…*

Anywaaaaaay, I’m also hoping to check in with some of my other local cakey chums while I’m in the local area too, so if you’re close to Bolton and would like a visit to your shopfront, class or event – and a shout out in the blog of course – then be sure to get in touch!

Once the festival wraps up, I’ll be heading east and paying some of our favourite Yorkshire-based cakers a visit, collecting a few more bits and pieces for the collab and, hopefully, gate-crashing some more cake-related events, before I then head up to Scotland for a couple of days. Yes, Scottish cakers, I’m coming for you next!!

After that, I’ll be trundling back down the country and I’ve been invited to stop in at the Renshaw Academy in Liverpool – which is another place that I have been dying to visit – so I’m really looking forward to that! I might even be taking in a cheeky lil’ class with the legendary Emma Jayne while I’m there too…

Then it’s on to Birmingham, Nuneaton, Wokingham, Baskingstoke and then, finally, home to my own bed (and my precious kitties)! So yeah, a busy few days – but hopefully super exciting!

I feel like it needs a really goofy nickname though, right? Like Mr Baker’s Blog on Tour?

If you want to follow along with my adventures as I road trip the UK – well some of it at least, sorry Wales, I’ll get you next time – then be sure to hit the subscribe button on the right before you go! You’ll also need to hit confirm in the email I’ll send you too.

Oh, and if there are any haunts that you think I should check out while I’m in your neck of the woods, then be sure to let me know via the usual channels…

I guess I’d better get packing! x

All Content, Blog, Review

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… 😉

All Content, Blog

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: