Positive Mental Attitude

My recent mood has not been helped by a dip in success at the market in recent weeks, and the realisation that I can’t simply earn a living from the one stall alone. We had a gloriously sunny day a few weeks ago, but was disappointed to find that I had a lot of cakes left at the end of the day, probably because people were busy in their gardens. Following that we have had two weeks of Biblical type rainfall and very slow days when being on a market stall is a miserable job. Last week I almost decided to jack it all in and rethink the whole business, but, after a much better week this week and a more positive take on things I will be ploughing on.

As much as I love cupcakes, I know that they are just not everybody’s cup of tea, so intend to include a variety of bakes each week to appeal to different tastes. This week I tried Millionaire’s shortbread and it sold out very quickly!

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I also tried something savoury this week, in the shape of cheese and sage scones (much arguing ensued over the correct pronunciation; scone like cone or scone like gone). They sold out but were pretty slow to go, so this week I’m going to stick with the sweet bakes.

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Afetr someone repinned one of my photos on Pinterest, I was reminded of a delicious fatless sponge that I made a few years ago and added that to the menu this week. Not a single person bought a slice, but when I later shared it with my neighbours I was met with cries of ecstacy (almost) because they found it so delicious! It isn’t the prettiest cake in the world though, and I’m not convinced people go for my big cakes when faced with individual cupcakes.

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As it’s Father’s Day this Sunday, I made up a box of cupcakes as an example for attracting orders. Moustaches and beards are particularly au fait at the moment, so I topped each with a little handlebar, rather than the usual football related paraphanalia that is often seen at this time of year.

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Alongside these new additions, I sold some of my favourites: salted caramel cupcakes, double chocolate cupcakes and Jaffa cake cupcakes.

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It is always very much trial and error with which cakes I choose to sell, and something that may sell out one week will not necessarily do as well the week after, but I think I just need to remain positive and trust my instincts.

This week I am hopefully going to have some flyers available, to attract custom orders and draw people’s attention to the fact that I make celebration cakes.

My menu is going to be as follows:

  • Salted caramel cupcakes
  • Double chocolate cupcakes
  • Guinness cupcakes
  • Millionaire’s shortbread
  • Lemon drizzle slice

Hope to see you all on Saturday!

B is For Bagel

Apologies for the dirth in blog posts of late. As some of you may know I am occasionally plagued by the big black dog called depression and, while baking used to be my ‘happy place’, this time around I found myself unable to even muster up the effort to bake a brownie!

Anyway, I am hopefully out of that dark place and shall continue on my Alphabaking journey….

I wanted to use this activity to try out new things that I haven’t baked before, or that I need to perfect, so I struggled to come up with a ‘B’ that really grabbed me. While leafing through old recipe magazines as I planned last week’s market menu, I came across a recipe for bagels by that nice Scottish chappie who won the Bake Off a few years ago. Being a technical bake on the show, and looking slightly tricky, I thought it would be an excellent choice to get my teeth into!

The basic dough is much like that of your standard bread mix, with the addition of honey and a bit more water to make a fairly sticky dough, which then has to be kneaded until smooth. It then has to rise until almost doubled in size, at either room temperature or in the fridge. Nothing too out of the ordinary just yet. Then it all gets a bit tricky as you have to split the dough into twelve even sized pieces and roll each into a baguette shape. This sounds simple; it was not! The dough was fairly dry by this point and, as with any dough, it shrinks back on itself after you have rolled it!. Once rolled, each piece then has to be twisted into a bagel shape and rolled slightly to seal. Once again…dry dough does not lend itself well to sticking together!! Anyway, this was the result:

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After proving, the bagels then have to be boiled, which gives the bread their characteristic chewy texture. I thought this was going to be the trickiest part but, armed with a slotted spoon, I managed to produce a dozen bagels ready for the oven! The trick here is to add bicarbonate of soda to the water to increase chewiness.

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Finally, the bagels are baked for around fifteen minutes to give them a crunchy crust. 

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They may not be the most aesthetically pleasing bagels ever seen, but they tasted pretty good and I can honestly say that they are really not as difficult to produce as you might think!

The Show Must Go On!

I love working on markets and I feel like I’m really starting to become ‘part of the gang’ in Urmston now. Last week I waxed lyrical to several people about how much I enjoyed it and how I feel like I am finally where I belong, selling my cakes out in the open air. Fast forward to Saturday and it was a very different story. I knew the forecast wasn’t great but the Met Office were way off in their predictions! Monsoon style downpours all day long, freezing temperatures and a biting wind meant that barely a sole passed through and I did incredibly badly, for the first time making a big loss. I have had a pretty awful week personally and, as I sat alone on the market (my little helper, Ruth had gone home for a couple of hours) I felt like jacking the whole thing in. Unlike other stall holders who can pack up their stock and resell it another day, my cakes are perishable and have a fairly short shelf life, so if I wake up to rain I have to soldier on regardless. 

I had thought long and hard about what to sell last weekend; weighing up what I had sold previously and trying to cater more for the local market, so I was incredibly disappointed when I came back with the majority of my stock.

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Orangeade cupcakes

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Coffee Shot Cupcakes

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Lemon Drizzle Cake

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Rainbow Pinata Cake

I was so pleased with how the pinata cake had turned out, and it drew lots of attention too! It was really simple to make too! I just baked 6 rainbow coloured sponges and then cut a circle out of the centre of the middle four. After sandwiching them all together with buttercream I then filled the hole with Smarties and other chocolates, before putting the last layer on top. I had no idea what it would look like until it was cut (I think a drum roll was necessary, and far more ceremony than myself and Ruth gave it), but it worked perfectly!

I decided that Saturday was just something that I needed to write off and put down to experience because I am determined to make this business a success and I need to stick with it through thick and thin. So I shall be back on Saturday for the Handcrafted Goods market in Urmston, serving up the following delights:

  • Double Chocolate – Rich, chocolate sponge topped with chocolate fudge buttercream and an extra sprinkle of chocolate, just in case you haven’t had enough.
  • Triple Salted Caramel – Salted caramel sponge filled with hand made salted caramel and topped with buttery salted caramel frosting and finished with a drizzle of caramel sauce. Do not be put off by the sweet/salt thing, people would kill for these babies (apparently. No humans were harmed in the making or selling of any of my cakes.)
  • Lemon Drizzle Traybake – What is says on the tin. Delicious sponge bursting with lemony zestiness and topped with a crunchy lemon drizzle topping.
  • Jaffa Cake – Light vanilla sponge, filled with homemade Jaffa orange curd and topped off with chocolate buttercream and a mini Jaffa Cake. My Mum says these are well nice.
  • Strawberry Roses – Possibly one of the lightest vanilla cupcakes you will ever taste, finished off with a Strawberry Marshmallow Fluff rose.

 

 

Baking & Learning

A little delayed in writing of late, but all because I have had such a lot of baking to do, so shan’t complain!

So excited about last week’s stall, especially the Mad Hatter theme, and after seeing the forecast for the weekend, I thought it was going to be a runaway success! So imagine my disappointment and utter confusion when I had one of the worst days ever! Despite the beautiful weather, I came away with more leftover cakes (and very happy neighbours), probably because, at the first sign of summer, the people of Britain reach for their short shorts, fire up the BBQ and spend every last second of daylight turning a vivid shade of pink…only leaving their gardens to buy huge quantities of meat! The foot fall was poor and the majority of people refused my cakey delights because of dieting! Going off what passing people said, the vast population of Urmston look to be on holiday this week (this being the reason for said calorie controlled nonsense!) Would it be seen as obnoxious to display this poster on my stall next week???

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My best sellers, once again were the salted caramel and double chocolate, where as the more unusual Tickety Brew and popping candy were slow to sell. I have had lots of complimets about both of these cupcakes, and, on the advice of an incredibly bossy neighbour of mine, have decided that tasters would be a good idea, so people might be more inclined to buy a flavour that they wouldn’t necessarily choose straight away. 

The beautiful sunlight did mean I got some cracking photos again (Thanks entirely to my partner in crime, Ruth, and her magical camera).

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As much as I have enjoyed having a thematic style to my stall, I feel that, for this particular market, I need to stick to the staple favourites, maybe including just one or two of the more unusual flavours each week. This, along with the tasters, will hopefully ensure that my stall becomes more successful as the weeks go by. So fingers crossed for a dry, cloudy day this Saturday!

In the name of research I visited the delightful Teacup in Manchester’s Northern Quarter on Sunday, and was once again astounded by their cake! I had the decadent flourless chocolate cake, while one of my friends had their famous rainbow Battenburg. I now have two choices for this weekend’s cake of the week, inspired by the menu at Teacup: Pear drop sponge or a rainbow vanilla cake. Which gets baked? You decide! (Say that in the same voice as the Big Brother man and it sounds well better!). Alongside the chosen cake, there will be the following:

  • Double chocolate cupcakes
  • Salted caramel cupcakes
  • Lemon drizzle slice
  • Fizzy orangeade cupcakes
  • Espresso cupcakes

I will sadly be missing my little helper from last week though. My boyfriend’s daughter, Poppy really got into the whole market stall thing, although myself and Chris had to explain to her that scowling at customers when they declined to buy cakes was probably not the best way to achieve success, although the slightly manic smile she tried instead was equally terrifying!

Bring on the weekend!!

 

 

A Rainy Day In Manchester

Well I suppose the weather on Saturday was mostly my fault for deciding to go with a Mancunian themed menu! It poured down nearly all day and the market was quieter than I have ever seen it; even the regular stall holders looked fed up! Add to that the fact that there was a fun day being held in Urmston town centre and you pretty much have a wash out! But I was pleasantly surprised at how well my cakes sold!

I didn’t sell out as I have in other weeks, and came home with a few left overs, but people seemed genuinely taken with the Manchester menu and it certainly drew people to my stall!

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I was, erm, lucky enough to have a little helper this week, in the shape of my daughter. Perhaps not one of my finest decisions!!

The best seller this week was by far the Jaffa cupcake and the lemon drizzle, but I was surprised at how put off people seemed to be by the mint cupcakes! Mint and chocolate are one of my favourite combinations. I think I would avoid using the green coloured icing next time as some people are funny about coloured foods (for me it’s blue; why would anyone want to eat blue food??).

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Jaffa cupcakes

For the first time in weeks I decided against doing my salted caramel cupcakes and I had two very disappointed customers who had come especially to buy some! Rest assured I won’t be missing them off the menu again!

I also had a rather unusual order whilst on my stall, for a dummy cake! A lady had been looking for a dummy cake, with creamy swirls and fake strawberries, but with no luck, until she came across me that is!! So that’s another little job I’ll be doing this week, and one which you can find out about on here.

And so to this coming Saturday. I loved the idea of having a theme again, and as this week is a family fun day, I thought I’d do something to appeal to children. The very clever lady who is in charge of advertising and social media for the market suggested a Mad Hatter;s tea party theme, and I immediately decided that was the one for me!

I have always loved Alice In Wonderland, especially the Mad Hatter’s, well, erm, madness and thought it would lend itself really well to some fun ideas for cake flavours. So the menu for the weekend is as follows (drum roll, please!):

  • Queen of Hearts’ Jam Cakes
  • ‘Eat Me’ cookies
  • Crazy Macaroons
  • Mad March Hare Mudcakes
  • Whizz Popping Lemony Cupcakes
  • Curious Caramel Cupcakes
  • Tiddly Tickety Brew Cupcakes

So that’s my menu…have grand ideas for my stall too, and I can’t wait for Saturday and the promised sunshine!

Marvelous Mancunian Menu

After a long couple of days baking I can finally reveal the delicious treats I have to sell on tomorrow’s market.

Those of you who have been paying attention this week will know that tomorrow’s theme is ‘Marvelous Manchester’ and the weather looks set to be in support of this, as a stereotypically wet day looms ahead! But up North we’re used to the rain and I for one am certainly not going to let it ruin what is set to be yet another awesome market day!

First up we have The Jaffa Cake:

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A vanilla sponge, filled with Jaffa orange curd and finished with chcolate buttercream and a mini Jaffa Cake.

And for my next trick; The Tickety Brew cupcake:

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Made using locally produced Tickety Brew ale and topped with a simple swirl of vanilla buttercream.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Uncle Joe’s Mint Cake:

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Rich chocolate and peppermint sponge with peppermint buttercream and just a sprinkling of crushed Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls (created in a worryingly proficient fashion by my friend and neighbour Ruth, who I would also like to thank for the fab photos!).

Onto the cakes next with the beautifully named Goosnargh cake:

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The confusingly named Goosnargh cake is actually a biscuit, but this is my take on it, made into a loaf cake and containing caraway seeds and orange marmalade.

Going a bit old school with Manchester Tarts:

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Crisp pastry, raspberry jam, custard and toasted coconut. I took one for the team making these, as those of you who know me well will know how I feel about wobbly foods such as custard!!

Absolutely no link to Manchester but back by popular demand…my Lemon Drizzle cake:

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And finally, my piece de resistance…The Vimto Sponge:

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A moist, fudgy chocolate sponge flavoured with Vimto, filled and topped with Vimto buttercream and mixed berries. 

As always, my cakes are made using the finest ingredients including locally sourced free range eggs, quality butter and Fair Trade sugars.

See you all tomorrow!

50th Rock God Cake

Spent a lovely day on my own today while Ted was at Nursery, and was able to fuel my passion for making celebration cakes in the form of a 50th birthday cake for one of my closest friends.

She pretty much gave me free reign over the design, but we were both in agreement that it should reflect his passion for music and all things rock. I found a photo on the internet and based my design around that…here’s the finished result…

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I decided against using coloured icing for the flames and instead painted them with watered down food colouring paste, which made it easier to blend the colours and achieve a more pleasing effect.

The guitar was a fiddly bugger to make (especially the frets), but I think the size of it made it more realistic looking. Need to think of a way to do strings if I ever have to make one again!

 

A Is For….Angel Food Cake.

As promised, here is the first of my alphabakes….Angel Food Cake.

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Originally from the US, this is a type of sponge made with whipped egg whites, and so named because of it’s airy texture, said to be the ‘food of the angels’. It is usually baked in a tube or Bundt tin, the sides of which help the cooking batter ‘climb’ up the sides of the tin, giving a better rise. When cooked the cake should be cooled upside down in the tin, to prevent it collapsing in on itself. It is not normally frosted, instead being served with a glaze or cream and mixed, fresh fruit.

The use of egg whites and omission of butter means that this is a fairly low fat cake, in my opinion making it even more angelic!

I have made this cake on a few occasions, always struggling with folding the flour into the egg whites, and ending up with a slightly lumpy batter, but, as you can see, this one turned out almost perfectly! I took my time folding in the dry ingredients, using a spatula to slowly cut through the batter, and I managed to keep the majority of the air in the mixture. The texture was incredibly light and the cake itself turned out almost white in the centre, as all Angel cakes should.

Come back soon for the next letter in my Alphabaking but feel free to make suggestions for baking the letter ‘B’.

My Manchester Themed Market

Yesterday I was told that I needed to spend more time on my business, to which I replied that I don’t have a lot of free time. Imagine my joy this morning when Dexter decided to wake me up at 5.30am!! I can just see the look of pure joy on Mr Wharton’s face when he reads this! Anyway, I decided to make good use of the ungodly hour and plan this weekend’s market stall menu.

I thought about having a Manchester theme to my cakes this Saturday, and set about trying to find as many recipes as I could.

First of all I came across Manchester Tart….obvious really. This is a pastry tart filled with raspberry jam, custard and finished off with toasted coconut and a cherry. This was a popular staple on school dinner menus in the 1970’s and is a variation of the Manchester pudding, first recorded by Victorian cook, Mrs Beeton. I am going to stick with the traditional recipe for the market on Saturday, although a common variation may include sliced banana underneath the custard layer.

I found very few traditional Manchester recipes during my search, and so decided instead to go with some famous flavours. After seeing a photo shared on Facebook, I was inspired to make a Vimto cake. The fruity drink originated in Manchester, originally sold as a tonic in cordial form, and contains the juice of raspberries, grapes and blackcurrants, flavoured with herbs and spices. It was created in 1908 by Noel Nichols, who saw an opening in the market for soft drinks following the temperance movement and the passage of the 1908 Licensing act. Originally sold as Vim Tonic, the name Vimto was introduced in 1912. I thought that the well loved flavour would make a great addition to a cake, and I plan to substitute Cola for fizzy Vimto in James Martin’s chocolate cake recipe

Another famous brand that hails from Manchester is the Jaffa Cake, introduced by McVitie and Price in 1927. The original Jaffa Cake consists of a circular Genoise sponge,topped with a Jaffa orange flavour jelly and coated in chocolate, although today the Jaffa cake also comes in the form of a bar. The entire line of Jaffa Cakes are produced in a factory that sits on the Manchester-Stockport border which covers an acre in area. McVitie’s famously defended it’s definition of a Jaffa Cake as a cake at a VAT tribunal in 1991. In the UK, chocolate covered biscuits are subject to VAT, whereas a chocolate covered cake is not. The court ruled that McVitie’s were in fact correct, and to this day, no VAT is payable on a Jaffa Cake. My take on this distinctive flavour will be a chocolate cupcake, filled with orange curd and topped with chocolate orange buttercream and a mini Jaffa Cake.

According to Melanie Sykes and a memorable ad campaign, we are led to believe that Boddington’s is the ‘Cream of Manchester’, but I am led to believe that this isn’t necessarily the case! I am fortunate enough to be neighbours of Keri & Duncan Barton, founders of the Tickety Brew microbrewery and purveyors of some of the finest beer known to man (I kid you not, it’s heavenly!). Their range has expanded in recent months and they now stock a stout, which I thought would be fantastic in my chocolate cupcakes, as a local alternative to Guinness. Part of the ethos of my business involves me using locally sourced ingredients where possible, and you can’t get much more local than six doors down from your house!

Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls famously hail from Wigan in Manchester and have been produced there since 1898. Containing pure peppermint oil, they pack quite a punch and according to their slogan; ‘Keep you aglow all day’. I couldn’t conceivably think of a way of incorporating this sweet in a cupcake (due to the size and solidity of the mints), but have sourced some pure peppermint oil, which I will infuse into my chocolate cupcake batter. Using my large plastic rolling pin, some brute force and a few mental images of my ex husband, I plan to smash up a few of Uncle Joe’s minty balls and use as sprinkles to top the finished cakes.

Goosnargh (such a lovely word, say it out loud several times, go on!) cakes actually originate from Lancashire, but the town of Urmston in which I live was actually in Lancashire until fairly recent years, so I figured it wasn’t cheating too much. Not a cake at all, but a shortcake or shortbread, these biscuits differ from other regional variations with the addition of caraway seeds and ground coriander. As I tend to make cakes on my stall, and as the name suggests anyway, I thought I would go with a simple Madeira seed loaf. Caraway seeds yield an extremely strong flavour and need only be used in small amounts, but make a delicious addition to any cake and often appeal to those with less of a sweet tooth.

So that’s my Manchester themed market menu and the first of many themed menus that I plan to have in coming months, but what would you like to see as a theme? Maybe challenge me to something ridiculous and I might just rise to the challenge!

A is for……

This weekend I have received a verbal kick up the bum….

One of my friends has a very successful web design type business, Push On, and very kindly offered to give me a little advice about how to move forward with my business and make it a success. He is not backward at coming forwards and certainly does not sugar the pill when administering advice, but I’m a big girl, and I figured that he hasn’t got where he has today by being Mr Nice Guy with everyone, so I decided to suck it up and brace myself for a grilling!

 

One of the main issues we discussed was my penchant for a certain sweet related online game, and my ability to while away hours every day drinking tea and gossiping with my friends, both of which waste valuable time that could be spent networking and plugging my business using social media. I agree that I have an incredible knack for wasting time and am not the most driven or dedicated person in the world, and can see that I need to stop wasting so much time!!

So on my internet travels today, I discovered an idea that I loved which incorporates my two biggest loves: baking and writing, and that will enable me to keep my pages fresh and may even attract a few new followers wanting to see how this idea pans out!

So something that I decided to do was bake a lot more, in an attempt to build up my portfolio and improve my skillz, but I often get the baking equivalent of writer’s block and struggle to decide what to bake. Enter my big new idea: Alphabake!!

Before you keel over with the excitement and anticipation that I’m sure this word instills in you, I shall explain…

Alongside other baking that I may do each week, I shall be working my way through the alphabet, and baking one item each week beginning with a different letter of the alphabet.

So this week, we begin with the letter ‘A’, and Angel Food Cake….

Come back tomorrow to see how this divine dessert pans out!