Monthly Archives: February 2012

Going to the Chapel…

Hazelnut Macarons

It’s all go at Cake Towers! I have my first ever wedding fayre next weekend and I’m really excited. Or at least I was! I’m now full of trepidation and fear; mainly that I’m not going to be ready in time.

Planning a wedding fayre is quite an undertaking. From deciding which fayre you’re going to exhibit at (if at all – I know people that don’t), to working out what you’re going to display, how and what material you’re going to take with you. If you’re going to have a stand, you want to ensure that you’re the only supplier in your category (so you’re the only cake maker, for example). You need to know that it is being marketed correctly and that brides-to-be will come (and it’s best to find this out before you part with your hard-earned cash!). Remember, you’re paying what can be a lot of money (I know of some fayres which charge in excess of £250 per stand) and you need to know that you’re getting value for money.

Once you’ve decided which fayre you’re going to exhibit at, you’ve paid your money, you then need to plan your stand. It’s good to have as varied a display as possible. You don’t want your table to be crowded and too full, but, on the other hand, you don’t want only one cake on there as you’re there to showcase your talents to an expectant audience.

Ideally, you should have a variety of styles and colours; different shapes and different sizes. Try and be unique as well and have a stand that says ‘this is me!’. When you’ve grabbed the attention of the bride-to-be, you then need to engage with her. Ask her about the wedding; if she knows the time of year, has an idea of colours etc. Be interested in her and her day. You might not receive her commission, but at least she’ll go away thinking you were nice (which is always good!) and of course if you interact with brides, it makes the day a better experience for everyone!

So, you’ve enticed the bride-to-be with your stunning display of cakes. You’ve won her over with your charm and kind words. What next? Don’t necessarily expect her to book with you on the day, but give her something to take away with her so that she won’t forget you. I’ve had some extra business cards, postcards and leaflets printed out, so the brides-to-be can take them away and have my details should they wish to contact me. Why not give her an edible gift as well?

Smile and be as courteous to the bride-to-be that you speak to at 5 minutes to closing time as you are to the one that you speak to first thing in the morning. Remember, you’re providing a service and you’re representing your business. Don’t sit at your stand looking uninterested and texting people. If your business doesn’t interest you, why should it interest anyone else?

There is probably more advice I could give, but having not done a fayre yet, I’ll hold that back until after next week. In the meantime, I’m working on my designs. I’ll not go into too great detail here as they’re all subject to change at the moment. I had an unfortunate accident with a hand blender last weekend (just as I was starting to write this actually).  I don’t know if I can do everything that I would like to, but I have been overwhelmed by offers of help – the cake community really does rally round!

If you’re getting married (congratulations!) and in the area, why not pop by and say hello. I won’t bite and you may find yourself leaving with an edible gift!

http://www.voicebroadcast.co.uk/emails/files/4690/image/Wedding%20Fayre.JPG

I do have one plea to ask of you all. As I mentioned above, wedding fayres can be quite expensive. I have applied to Fund101, from Enterprise Nation and if I am successful, they will cover the cost of the fayre. All I need you good and kind people to do, is to click on the following link and to vote for me: http://www.enterprisenation.com/funding-applications/claires-handmade-cakes/

I really appreciate your help. If all goes to plan (or exceeds my plans), I’ll blog again before the fayre. If not, I shall share the experience (and any lessons learned) sometime in early March… In the mean time, happy baking!

 

Swede Cupcake

Vegetable Cakes!

Swede CupcakeReading several blogs at lunchtime (and even commenting on them) I was struck by a pang of guilt. How do I have time to read other peoples’ blogs and yet I don’t have time to write my own? With no disrespect to the people that I was reading about (and they were all lovely and interesting blogs!) surely my business should be more important to me than others’? I started my blog to share my journey, thinking at the time that I wasn’t baking as regularly as I would like, so could write about the other aspects of having a business and baking in general. Now that I am baking regularly, I’m not sure why I’m not regalling you all with ‘tales from the kitchen’! It seems daft that I’m not writing about the thing that I’m now doing!

The Earlsfield Deli opened in Garratt Lane just before Christmas and I am now supplying them with cake. It’s a bit of a trial and error process for us both, but one that I am enjoying and I don’t appear to have poisoned anyone yet, which is a good thing! I’ve had a good week – they have taken a dozen Valentine’s Day cupcakes, a carrot cake, a parsnip cake, a coffee and walnut cake and on Saturday will be having a clementine and almond cake and a batch of Millionaire’s shortbread.

One of the things I’m loving about the deli, is that I’m getting to experiment with cake flavours. I tried a parsnip cake last week which went down very well at work (I started off with a glut of butternut squash, so I turned it into ratatouille. In the process, I needed some parsnips, so I then ended up with too many of those and thought I’d turn them into cake. It really works!). When making one for the deli last night, I realised about 3/4 of the way through, that the recipe I was making wasn’t the same one as I made last week. Oops! Hopefully I’ll get another chance as the one I meant to make was really good!

Talking of parsnip cakes, I ended up starting a thread on Twitter last week about vegetables and cakes and was sent a recipe for a swede cake. I now have a swede, so I’ll be trying that out in the next few days and I’m really keen (I have been for a while!) to try a courgette cake. Perhaps I shall get myself a reputation as the vegetable girl! It’s certainly one way to get your 5 a day! (I suspect those advocating 5 a day didn’t envisage 5 different cakes however!!!)

So, in addition to trying lots of different cakes (and using as many vegetables as I can!), I’m going to get my blogging back on track! I have ideas for the next few weeks, including my up-coming wedding fayre (about which I’m scared, nervous and excited!) and I will start adding recipes here. I do send out a monthly recipe in my newsletter (shameless plug: you can request it here) but it seems like a month is a long time to wait for a recipe. In the meantime, I recommend baking with vegetables! If you want to be a little less virtuous, make a nice icing to go with it!

A New Month

So, we’re at the beginning of February already, which is scary! I read a blog last week by Claire Habel about taking stock of where you are and as we’re now in a new month, I thought it seemed like a good idea. The original blog can be found here: http://www.workfromhomewisdom.com/2012/01/25/new-years-business-resolutions-how-to-stay-on-track-to-achieving-them/

I have a big to-do list for the foreseeable future. It’s comprised of tasks for the next few days, weeks and months; some simple which should take minutes; some which will take hours. This list has seen me through the last month, being added to and removed from on a continuous basis.

My main accomplishments in 2012 are the creation of my newsletter. The second edition of which is about to go out and can be subscribed to here: http://www.claireshandmadecakes.com/newsletter.html and I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out so far. I’m now supplying my local deli with cake.  http://theearlsfielddeli.co.uk/earlsfielddeli/Home.html It’s very much in its infancy, but I really hope that it’s a success for us both as the deli is such a great place. I’m keeping up with my blogging (just about!). I’ve set myself the target to blog once a week. There will be 2 blogs this week as this blog is last week’s! Finally, I’ve just booked a wedding fair, my first ever!

I wouldn’t say I’d had any failures this year, yet! I’m trying to keep my website and facebook site up to date and Claire’s Corner is going well. I’m currently working on my Valentine’s edition, which will be out in the next few days. I’m not being as hard on myself this year as I have been in the past and I’m taking breaks from the kitchen, the books and my laptop. I’m running in the marathon in just over 11 weeks (a thought which is horrifying!), so I’m enjoying having a focus that’s not work or cake related.

Over the next few weeks, the recipe experimentation is going to continue. Now that I have my Kenwood, which is right at home on my kitchen worktop, I’m eager to find out just what it can do. I’m still to try macarons, but as my March newsletter will feature them, it won’t be long before I’m cracking open eggs! I’m a member of the Real Bread Campaign http://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/and I want to get baking bread. I made hot cross buns last Easter, so they’re on the menu again this year and as the year progresses, I hope to be sharing some savoury dishes as well as cakes and biscuits. I’m making marmalade this weekend (hopefully) and I’m looking forward to using that in my cakes and baking. I’m really excited about the possibilities and opportunities of the next few weeks and months and I’m looking forward to sharing them.

I hope that 2012 is treating you well. If it’s not quite going to plan, it’s a new month, so start afresh and keep striving to be the best that you can be. That’s my ultimate goal for 2012!