All Content, Blog

What’s Going on at Mr Baker’s Cakes HQ?

Hey cake chums!

I do hope you are all doing well out there.

It seems like a rather peculiar time in the world of cake at the moment. Some cakers seem to have decided to hang up their aprons entirely for the moment; some are using the current period of isolation to develop their skills in new and existing areas; many are spending their time creating tutorials and going live on Facebook or Instagram to share their knowledge and skills; and yet more still rediscovering their love of traditional baking – away from their usual weekly cake orders (I’ve never SEEN so much bread on my social media timelines!).

For my sins, I seem to have wound up busier than ever, thanks to a combination of continuing to go into school to provide care for the children of essential key workers, adapting my YouTube content to provide weekly children’s baking lessons and working on a whole host of projects that my buddies at Renshaw have sent my way over the last couple of weeks (I’m definitely NOT complaining though!).

With all that in mind, I thought I would pen a few words and update you on what’s going on at Mr Baker’s Cakes HQ…

First things first, while nervous about the potential risk of exposure, I feel incredibly honoured to be able to provide some stability for the children that are still coming into school and we are having lots of fun doing crafts, playing outdoors and… *whispers* … we might even be doing a bit of cookie decoration today!

And if you haven’t yet checked out the first episode of Mr Baker’s Cake School, I’ll embed it down below:

In last week’s episode, we were whipping up a batch of my deliciously light and fluffy vanilla cupcakes, before learning how to top them with some yummy vanilla buttercream and some of my favourite sprinkles. I’ve already received some fabulous photos of children joining in and having lots of fun with baking and I already can’t wait to see how they all get on with our next project.

What's going on at Mr Baker's Cakes HQ - Newspaper Clipping Image

Actually, speaking of our next project, I have a poll running on my YouTube community tab at the moment where you can vote for which baking project you would like us to tackle next: banana loaf or a batch of traditional scones. Head to this link to cast your vote and don’t forget to subscribe while you are there!

And if all that wasn’t enough, as I mentioned above, my buddies at Renshaw have also been keeping me busy with lots of fun projects, including a gorgeous Mother’s Day cake tutorial, inspired by my very own mummy. The cake sits on one of my stone tile effect cake boards (find the video tutorial at this link) and is decorated to look like a flower pot full of my simplified carnations – my mummy’s favourite flower!

What's going on at Mr Baker's Cakes HQ - Mother's Day Cake image

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to share the cake with mum in person (it’s still sat on the shelf, in fact), but I still loved how the dusky pink carnations looked alongside the stunning Sapphire Blue (Renshaw’s Colour of the Year 2020 dontcha know?!) plant pot. If you fancy having a go at a Pot of Flowers cake of your own, you can find the full tutorial over at the Renshaw website here. I’ve also been working on a couple of magazine tutorials for them this week as well, but I’m afraid I’ll be keeping those under wraps for now. Rest assured, you’ll be the first to know when they are out though.

Perhaps ill-advisedly, after the fun you all had with me during my Christmas LIVE decorate-along back in December, I have also agreed to go live on the Renshaw Baking Facebook page (find it here) on Friday at 2pm, where I will be decorating a cake while you tell me what to do! What HAVE I let myself in for?! I do hope you will be able to join me over there – it should be lots of fun… for you at least!

What's going on at Mr Baker's Cakes HQ - Renshaw Facebook Live Promo images

AND (yes, there’s more) if all this wasn’t enough, I’m told that later this week the lovely Zoe Hopkinson of Zoe’s Fancy Cakes will be uploading a fun collaboration video to her YouTube channel that we shot together back in January. In the video, Zoe’s fiancé, Richard challenged us both to create a cake from scratch in only ONE HOUR! I don’t know WHAT I was thinking, trying to take on the queen of cakes herself, but I’ll let you decide who you think was the overall winner. You will be able to watch the video over on the Zoe’s Fancy Cakes channel here!

So yes, that is what’s going on at Mr Baker’s Cakes HQ at the moment. I certainly know how to keep myself busy… eh?

Do head down to the comments and let me know how you are doing and how you are managing to keep yourselves busy. I am absolutely CRAVING adult conversation right now… 😉

And, as always, until next time… happy caking! xx

 

PS. I will get the details of this week’s Twitter #cakershour up on the blog in the morning, so if you have any suggestions for topics or focus questions, be sure to let me know ASAP!

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… 😉