Monthly Archives: August 2010

Markets and underground tea parties!

The last couple of weeks at Cake Towers have seen me experimenting for my fair in a couple of weeks’ time. This weekend, I decided it was time to venture out of my kitchen and away from my laptop!

I’ve lived in London for over 10 years now and there’s still so much of this wonderful city which I have yet to see; so many cake shops to visit (and sample!), so many markets to discover.

I thought I’d put that right this weekend and yesterday (Saturday) I went to Northcote Road Market in Clapham. As I discovered on my way home, it’s a mere 1 1/2 miles from my front door, which is eminently walkable. The market itself isn’t the biggest in the world, but it’s friendly and there’s a nice selection of fresh food. If the market doesn’t grab you, there are a number of bars and coffee shops in which you can while away a few hours.

I had two reasons to visit the market (or three, if you include my desire to visit the local area!) – I wanted to get some ideas of how to sell my cakes at the fair and I wanted to meet Laura Amos. Laura owns the Dessert Deli. I’ve been following her for a while on Twitter and wanted to say hello as I only live down the road. Laura very generously allows people to sample all of her goodies on sale and her cakes are really rather tasty. If I ever need a dinner party dessert and can’t be bothered to make one myself, I’ll definitely be ordering something from Laura!

Today (Sunday) saw me venture further afield – all the way to West Croydon. I’d be honest in saying that it wouldn’t be my number one destination of choice of a Sunday afternoon, but after today, I’ll be going back. Through the power of Twitter, I stumbled across the Underground Tea Party and I’m very glad I did! Two friends host an informal gathering of tea and homemade cakes (one of which is featured above) and it’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. There was delightful company, interesting tea (I’d never tried peony and rose tea before today, but I’m so very glad I did) and very tasty cake. (It’s always nice if someone else makes it!) Underground tea parties and supper clubs are springing up all over the place and it’s a terrific opportunity to spend time with lovely people who enjoy good food and good company!

Quiet Week in Cake Towers

I don’t bake all of the time. I would dearly love to (actually, even I would need a break!) but right now it’s confined to evenings and weekends. I’ve just been granted my first ever stall at The Spitalfields Show and Green Fair on 13th September, so I’m currently spending all of my spare time thinking about this.

It’s amazing the planning that is involved. I want to make some bunting for my stall (I have managed to purchase some fantastic material from the lovely Zoe from but the sewing machine has still to be switched on. Or even moved onto the table); I want to buy a banner; I’ve been planning on having some aprons made for a while, the list is endless and that’s before I think of things like a cash-box, table cloth (do I go for cotton or one I can wipe?), cake stands…

I’m making endless lists at the moment and the one list which I’ve just about finished is the ‘what am I going to bake?’ list. As this fair is a one-off, I have to guess what I think will sell and how much to make. I’ve decided to opt for some big cakes (lemon drizzle, orange drizzle, carrot, victoria sponge, tea bread (like the one pictured above), coffee & walnut), some cupcakes (vanilla, chocolate, lemon meringue, coconut & lime) and a selection of biscuits & cookies, brownies, jams and meringues.

The next step is working out how much of each ingredient I need. I’m fortunate to have a farmer’s market just down the road from me, so on Saturday, I’ll go along, see how the cake seller displays their wares and find a farmer who can sell me a lot of eggs!

In the meantime, I’m planning on perfecting a few recipes, including one for millionaire’s shortbread, my favourite childhood treat. I’m keen to sell it on my stall, so my friends are going to be guineapigs this week when I make it and try a few cookie recipes out as well.

I love all types of cakes, not just decorated ones and that’s why this stall is so important to me – it’s an opportunity for me to bake an assortment of treats and then to mingle with people who hopefully like what they see.


I thought I’d tackle a serious subject this week – copyrights. I don’t make copyrighted cakes. Despite being desperate to make myself a Snoopy cake (he’s been my favourite thing ever from when I was a very young child!), I’m afraid it’s something that I won’t do.

The reason for this is because if I recreate any part of a copyrighted work, I am in breach of copyright (unless I have a license to reproduce the work). By being in breach of copyright, I am breaking the law and I could, potentially, be fined a lot of money. As I don’t want to break the law or pay a big fine, I have decided the best way to avoid this is not to make copyrighted characters or cakes at all.

This led me to a dilemma this weekend. It was my niece’s 5th birthday and my niece is a HUGE ‘High School Musical’ fan. When I asked my brother what kind of cake I should do, I was told ‘HSM and pink’. That got me thinking. If I adapted an ‘HSM’ themed-cake, would I still be in breach of copyright?

I don’t actually know the answer to this, but obviously I hope the answer is no. I made pink curtains for a stage, made a microphone, some stars and some musical notes and a starburst which was pink, black and silver.

My niece loved her cake (it was pink!) and it went down very well, but I am still not 100% sure I’ve answered my copyright question. I think I’m going to look into copyrights in more detail and come back to this is at a later date.

Local produce and lavender shortbread

I’ve probably mentioned that I don’t just make cakes. Cakes are great, but there are so many tasty treats out there, waiting to be created, sampled and adored.

I don’t think I have yet mentioned my love of cookery books, magazines, cookery programmes and recipes in general. I have an insatiable appetite for knowledge and I have stacks of recipes that I want to try and make my own.

There are programmes that I always make sure I tune in for, or failing that, watch on my laptop at a later date. I am a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. I love my River Cottage Year. I think it’s so important to eat seasonally and locally, after all, that’s when the food is at its best. (I went to the supermarket recently and I noticed the cherries on the shelves. I love cherries and picked some up. They were from Spain. Right now is peak English cherry season. I know that as I’ve picked a number over the last few weeks. I was so angry that I couldn’t get fruit from my own country when it’s actually in season! Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now!)

I’m also a big fan of Rachel Allen, the River Cafe, Sky Gyngell, the list goes on and on! I’m forever looking for ‘excuses’ to try out new recipes (mine as well as other peoples’. I’m always looking out for inspiration!) – friends’ birthdays or spare weekends seem to be good opportunities. Or times when I know I’ll be out with friends and I won’t have to eat everything myself!

I’ve been fruit-picking a lot recently. This has been followed by me making jars and jars of jam. I still have some chutney to make, which will be matured and ready for Christmas, but I’m holding out for plum chutney and the plums aren’t quite in season yet. (See rant above!) I’ve a plum tree where I live and I can’t get any more local than that!

I also have a lavender plant where I live. I’ve been meaning to dry the flowers to keep me going through the winter, but I think I’m too late and I’ll have to wait until next summer.

When I went fruit picking recently, I decided to tie this in with some baking, so I opened up my Hugh River Cottage Year and his lavender shortbread was calling me. I probably didn’t use enough lavender, but it was delicious and it offered an opportunity for experimentation and a pick-me-up in the blackcurrant bushes! It’s already gone down as one of my favourite recipes of the year and I’m thinking, just maybe I will salvage the lavender from outside as at least I know it’s not made a long journey to my kitchen!