Awesome August

August started off on a sweet note for me. I received an email in July from a lady asking me if I could bake for her daughter’s first birthday. To set the record straight, I bake for family and friends and seldom do I take up offers from people whom I do not know simply because I could not handle big orders and that I bake for fun, for hobby.

I don’t know why I agreed to bake for this lady, SP, and as we continued in our discussion, more stuff was added and before I knew it, I was to bake cupcakes, cookies, madeleines, smash cakes, birthday cake and a surprise cake for her niece. I must have calculated the timing wrongly and thought I was still in my second trimester which translates to having the energy still to bake and decorate. Alas, nearer the date, I realised I was in my third trimester already! Oh oh!

But it was all good. SP was a very nice lady to chat with and as we went through the details, I was challenged to come up with designs that could suit her theme and also make cakes that I would normally not make. I must say that I caused much disappointment for her two smash cakes as the colours condensed and bled ( I placed them in the fridge) but she was magnanimous enough to forgive me! What a wonderful lady!

IMG_20150808_063640This was the dessert table that SP created for her daughter, Chloe. I contributed some of the baked goods in the picture and when she sent me this image, I felt all the hard work has paid off. It was beautiful and I’m inspired to have a dessert table for my daughter and newborn too.

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This two-tier cake is made of an 8″ lychee sponge cake and a 6″ rainbow vanilla sponge cake. On the actual day itself, I took the whole of the morning and afternoon to do up the decoration since there was very little I could do beforehand. The horses had to be hand-painted and dried and thankfully all was well. It was undoubtedly a very heavy cake!

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Three flavours of cupcakes were requested to match the colour theme. Here we have chocolate-mint, strawberry and blueberry-flavoured ones.

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SP loves madeleines and she specially requested for lavender ones and I’m more than happy to bake these treats for her because Faith also loves them.

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Cookies for the guests. I can’t afford the time to use royal icing to decorate the cookies but I hope the fondant ones will do the job. 😉

20150801_152259 (2)This is the surprise cake that is meant for her niece who also turned 1YO around the same time as her daughter. This is a 6″ red velvet cake with minimal decoration except for the name and three owl figurines!

20150801_154446 (2)This is the part that I love most. To see the completed product and waiting for them to be delivered is really a joy in itself. And I definitely heaved a sigh of relief when they were all delivered safely!

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A week after that, i was to bake a 6″ lychee owl cake for SP’s niece. It was challenging not because of the amount of work but because it was raining cats and dogs on that day and if you have experience dealing with fondant, you will know that that is not the most ideal circumstance – the fondant perspired! I was racing against time and had to place the cake back and forth into the box that is filled with drying agents just so that the fondant will stay the way I wanted it to be.

Thankfully, the ‘owl’ was cooperative and stayed the way it was till cake-cutting.

It was indeed a wonderful first two weeks in August making these sweet treats and thanks, SP, for the opportunity to work with you!

The Totoro wedding cake

I’m currently in a state of contentment.

Over these few years, I’ve learnt to accept and enjoy my role as a SAHM. Perhaps, it’s because I have only one kid and things are manageable. However, I believe I can attribute such contentment and joy to a few main factors and one of them is my interest in baking and cake decorating.

Being stuck at home can be depressing and I quickly realised that I am not one who can survive such a lifestyle. I love to learn, communicate with others and impart knowledge to others. Picking up from where I have left off, I decided to continue to hone my skills in baking and ventured into cake decorating by going for relevant courses. Gradually, friends asked me if I could bake for them and after much consideration, I decided to give it a try. I was honoured yet fearful because we all know that taste is subjective; I’m not sure if I could do a good job.

Anyway, I went ahead and baked more cakes. I love the process of learning through baking various kinds of sponge cakes and it’s really therapeutic as I work on the figurines. It’s a form of art and I find myself enjoying it.

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In the course of learning, I was privileged enough to get myself a freelance teaching job at a cake decorating school. It’s a dream come through. Flexible working hours works well for SAHMs and it’s definitely a bonus that you can share your passion with others too. At last, I could have a decent adult conversation! Do you realise that your vocabulary deteriorates when you only talk to a child most of the time? I do!

As much as I love making cakes, I am mindful that my interest does not take precedence over my main responsibility – my family. I am first of all, a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, I am wife to my wonderful husband and then a mother to my child(ren). While God has given me gifts and abilities to bless others, I must make sure that I don’t fill my schedule such that I sacrifice the first three priorities.

I have thus learnt NOT to accept every other cake order that comes my way, especially in my current capacity. It’s painful, to be honest, to pass potential orders to my baker friends when I know I can do the job. However, at the end of the day, I have to let go so that I can fulfill my other responsibilities.

Last weekend, I had an opportunity to work on a rustic wedding cake and it was really pure joy working with the bride. She envisioned a cake with lots of fresh berries and a couple of cake toppers. So I just baked the classic Victoria Sponge Cake and sandwiched with cream, {lingoberry} jam and berries. 

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This is a simplified version of how the Victoria Sponge Cake is made via etsy.

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A few days before, the figurines, a Totoro wedding couple were made. They have to closely resemble the pictures that the bride had given me. I used fondant + tylose powder which is my best friend when it comes to sugar modelling.

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A day before the actual day, the three stacks of cakes were baked and frosted. I do believe that the flavours need time to blend and thus making the cake a day before is best. They were all packed and placed in the chiller since fresh fruits are used and I wouldn’t want to risk anything, ya know?

In most cases, I don’t do delivery but since this cake involved three tiers and I had to add in more fruits on site, it makes sense that I deliver the cake. The whole troop went with me because honestly, I couldn’t manage it all by myself now. #pregnancywoes

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Pardon me as the following pictures would have me in it since I got the hubs to snap me in action. Thankfully, the ride was smooth and by right, there shouldn’t be any accident to the cakes since they are heavy! For the bottom and second tier, I inserted dowels or those big, fat straws so that the cake would not sink when I place another layer on top of it. Royal icing is your best helper as you need to ‘glue’ the layers of cakes in place.

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I’m always very nervous when it comes to stacking of the layers of cakes. Because there is simply no back up plan and to add to the stress, you have eyes on you as you work. So there cannot be any mistakes! Delicate hands, please!

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Placing more fresh fruits by the sides and adding real flowers that are supplied by the bride. I should have added more actually!

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To have the snowy effect, I sprinkled dusting powder (not icing sugar) all over lavishly. This powder stays in its normal form and will not be ‘soaked’ by the moisture of the cake.

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There you go. I had fun with this cake and with all the $$ I got from baking the cakes, I could at least contribute a wee bit to the family. Granted that it’s a far cry from what I used to get when I was working, it does help in paying off some expenses. And… it does feel good to have some earning power. ;p

😉

Pororo cake that went ;(

Recently, my cousin asked me to bake a Pororo cake for my nephew and I went, “What is Pororo?”

Okay, I know I am really ignorant but pardon this busy mother, all right? When she showed me a picture, I know for certain that I have seen this character before. He’s so cute!

Nothing much was asked for the cake except that it has to have the Pororo figurine somewhere. My cousin is easy on the cake, just a simple vanilla and a non-fondant one will do.

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A few days before the actual cake collection, I set out to do the centre-piece, which is Pororo itself. It isn’t difficult to do the body. In fact, you just need two big round mass for the body and head respectively. The difficult part lies in the finer details like the pilot’s hat and the specs. I took quite a while to figure out the proportion of the hat while using two different sizes of the piping tip to make the spectacle rims.

IMG_20150103_2257130.7179084798424332The decoration pieces were made two days in advance.

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I used Wilton’s food writer pens to draw in the details of the hat and the eyes itself on the actual day of the cake collection.

IMG_20150104_1718340.2740290181284296So, I used a super soft vanilla sponge cake for this cake order. I took a risk by laying a piece of fondant on the top so that I could stick the figurines and other decor pieces on it. The Pororo figurine proved to be too heavy for the sponge cake and I had to insert a dowel/ lollipop stick to sustain the weight.

IMG_20150104_1719460.5715718599551294Originally, I had wanted to put some trees as part of the decoration but the sponge cake is really not suitable to withstand the weight. In the end, they had to be placed on the cake board. I think I should just stick to my regular vanilla sponge cake recipe.

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But you know what? The cake didn’t impress. Granted that the Pororo character is cute (I find that it is adorable!) but the sponge cake itself is a flop. My dear cousin gave me an honest feedback about the cake and I do believe I have to go back to testing the recipes again. I’m just angry with myself that the sponge cake has escape my QC during the assembling stage! Arghh…Perhaps something went wrong during the mixing part but oh well… need to really make improvement!

I’m thankful that folks gave me feedback regardless whether it is good or bad review. We all need it for improvement, don’t we?

😉

How do you price your cakes?

This is not a parenting post but one about my other love – baking and cake decorating.

If you are a home baker who bakes at the request of friends, how do you determine your pricing?

I find it really tough to answer this question. Sure I did my rounds of checking out the cakes at the bakeries but I can’t do a direct comparison because what I’m doing is customised cakes. These cakes will inevitably cost more than what are available in the usual bakeries simply because they are made upon specific request. Where sugar art is involved, the cake will definitely be priced higher because of the time invested in creating and beautifying the figurine(s). The ingredients themselves already cost more, what’s with artwork?

I pen down this post because this is a question that is often posed to me when I’m teaching cake-decorating classes. I have no definite answer but what I am certain is that we must cover the cost price of the cake which includes the ingredients used, electricity bills, transportation cost to purchase the ingredients and materials. Cakes that involve sugar art like fondant-covered cakes need a cool environment and that is when most bakers would switch on the air-conditioner just for the cakes. Do we need to take that cost into consideration? I definitely think so!

What is commonly overlooked are labour cost and the time taken to design the cake. How would you pay yourself as you spend time creating the cakes? But sadly, these are often overlooked by those who order cakes.

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I have been teaching cake decorating lessons for almost a year now and each time after the class (especially so for sugarart lessons), the participants will always tell me that it is so time consuming and involves so much work that they now understand why such cakes cost a bomb. More recently, one participant started to bake cakes that require sugarart for others and she would often utter, “It’s not worth it. I spent so much time and effort in creating those cakes but the customer doesn’t want to pay that kind of price.”

My advice to them? Don’t accept such orders. I mean unless you are okay with it, you are better off not accepting the order. In the end, you have to be happy doing what you love and not grudgingly.

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Recently, I made this 6-inch x 3.5-inch Devil’s Food Cake using Valrhona chocolates. How much would you have priced it?

I guess for me, I want baking for friends to be a passion and not a business venture. Baking for {much} profit kills my love for baking but yet at the same time, I do have to cover the cost and maybe get a little bit of return so that I can continue to practise my craft and to buy those materials (hah!). Then again, I think I have underpriced most of the time. Maybe I should look into my pricing again?

If you find yourself at a loss when it comes to pricing, here are some helpful links that were searched by the dear hubs:

– http://www.cakeboss.com/Cake-Stuff/Articles/How-Much-Should-I-Charge

– http://www.veenaartofcakes.com/pricing-your-cakes-a-beginners-guide/

– http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2013/09/pricing-cakes-like-a-pro/

– http://www.celebrate-with-cake.com/p/price-guide.html

Hope this helps.

Drummer boy cake

Today must be a dry day. The fondant I put on the cake didn’t perspire much.

I worked on a drummer boy theme cake for a 3YO boy. His father is a drummer and I think the little one aspires to be one too. So the dad asked me if I could make a rainbow cake for his birthday in the theme of a drum, leaving the design to me.

I went for a figurine. Because I want to practise.

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As usual, the figurines were made a few days in advance since I need to dry them. A day before the collection of the cake, I baked three layers of the cake and today, I baked the rest. So I used my usual sponge cake recipe. the recipe yields about 1130g and I divided the portion into three colours = 376g per layer. I think this is a bit too much for an 8″ cake because if I put on 6 layers, it will be more than 4 inch tall! Today, I put on 5 layers only because I was multi-tasking and forgot about that one layer. But all’s good. I thought it looks better. It’s proportionate.

*Note to self. To divide into 4 layers for an 8″ cake and 3 layers for a 10″ cake.

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I used IMBC and a little of the conventional frosting (the one with icing sugar) and surprisingly, the fondant works well with it. I’m happy!

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I’m beginning to enjoy making figurines!

This is the full version of what has happened today.

The Ninjago Cake

I know one fine day I would bake a Lego cake. It’s not surprising since children and even adults love playing with these bricks. I remember when I was young, I could spend hours building and even without the guide, I would draw on my imagination and do a layout of a room or house.

Recently, a friend asked me to do a Ninjago cake for his 6YO son. The cake took a week for me to make, simply because I could only do the figurines at night, after the little one has gone to bed. I was really apprehensive about the turnout and threw a couple of figurines away because they didn’t work out.

In the end, this is the completed product.

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It’s a 3-inch chocolate cake and I’m thankful that the frosting didn’t melt in the heat. I did a double layer of fondant covering after frosting the cake.

The bricks and figurines were done a few days before the cake was assembled since I needed them to be dried. Tylose powder works wonderfully well for these.

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I had problems with the temple though. Initially, i had wanted to build one with either rice crispy or some biscuits for the interior but I thought it would weigh the cake down and decided on doing that single panel. Not my ideal but I guess I would just have to make do.

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In the end, I was most pleased with the bricks and the banner with the name on it. It was a last-minute idea and I did it free hand but I love the result.

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3.5kg

A cake for Mr Wood

Relatives from my hubs’ side came back to visit and I was tasked to bake a cake to surprise Mr Wood, an ardent fan of The Harlequins. Of course, I know nothing about this football club until the hubs told me and I had to do some reading up on it and browsing of pictures before I decided on the figurine that I would be making. Initially, a cake in the shape of a football was called for but I don’t have the pan and I’m not ready to sculpt a cake and decided to just settle for a figurine.

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It’s a rich devil’s food cake that I baked and I decided to pipe some ‘grass’ on it. It’s a simple cake but one which I like because of the figurine. It was made the night before though I wish I had more time. Had I more time, I would have made another player lying on the ground. But that week had been crazy with playdates, homeschool stuff, teaching assignment, a seminar to attend and a cake order in the weekend too. Not that I’m complaining. I actually enjoyed all the activities. Just that the spirit is willing but the body is weak and  I felt it protesting already.

Thankfully, the folks were easy to please and I think the cake satisfied.

I wonder how this week looks like.

PME teacher seminar

Last week, for four full days, I was working real hard at the PME teacher seminar in HK. This is the first time that such a seminar is conducted in HK and I’m thankful that I was nominated to attend.

It was truly stressful as we had to recreate what the instructors had shown us within a short time frame. Everyone was on their toes. No one had the time to chit chat or to have a break. The only real break was for lunch. Other than that, we were all working fast and furiously.

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It was great learning from the very experienced instructors though. The techniques were somewhat different from what I have learnt previously and it’s certainly enlightening. I’m truly humbled by the whole experience. Everyone around me was skillful and passionate about this craft and it can really be overwhelming.

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And at last, at the end of the 4th day, we could finally relax because it signaled the end of the seminar. You could immediately sense the relief among the participants and smiles returned on the faces.

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My fellow baking instructors with the experts.

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Fun shot. We are the only group who asked for that kind of shot.

Would I be an approved PME instructor? I’m not sure but what I’m certain is that I need to keep working at it and be good in what I’m doing. And if I want to make sugar flowers look real, I need to study them closely. There’s so much to learn!

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Cupcakes for baby shower

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The designs on these cupcakes can be made by using impression mat, moulds and cookie cutters! Had a wonderful time teaching this class and having a fun-loving student helps a lot!

It’s mid-week, folks and tomorrow’s Labour Day. This means I can spend time with the hubs and the LO!