Desperately seeking…something.

Yesterday I got up extremely early to finish a cake before work. I do this a lot. I work best under pressure is what I tell myself, in reality I always just leave things until the last minute. I’m probably not the kind of person cut out to juggle 2 part time jobs.

I drove the 20 minutes to work, walked in and was told I no longer had a job. It was like a break-up, the classic “it’s not you, it’s me” line. To be fair I was not alone, many of us fell victim to the ‘curse of the staffing budget’ with immediate effect (nobody has real contracts anymore, we don’t get notice, we are instantly disposable).

The drive home, longer owing to terrible traffic. My radio wouldn’t tune in, unwilling to allow my brain to ponder in silence I put on a CD, Harry Bird and The Rubber Wellies were singing about a sinking ship but at least their chirpy pop-folk tones put a slightly more positive twist on the situation. Home, a glass of Malbec and a cigarette, because drinking pre-noon (it was 11.45!) and smoking even when you’ve given up (the man in the shop gave me one of his) are both perfectly acceptable in these circumstances.

So, I am unemployed. Desperately seeking a job, or inspiration, or anything, because I can’t tell my children that I wasn’t good enough, or that they’ll have to go another year without a holiday, or that the mean kids in school will probably spend another term mocking them for being poor. The same kids whose parents tell me that a 3 tier custom designed cake is way too expensive at £80. You know what my hourly rate of pay works out at for that over-priced cake? About £1.50, and I don’t make any profit.

I’m not going to rant about the price of handmade and decorated cakes vs supermarket cakes, its a discussion that has raged since well before I first picked up a spatula, it goes around in circles and is ultimately pointless. I definitely couldn’t afford to order a bespoke cake, I totally understand budgeting. I know that it’s entirely my own fault that I don’t incorporate an hourly wage and % profit into a cake quote, it’s because I’m reasonably sure that the people that wouldn’t pay £80 (“why is it so expensive? It’s just eggs and sugar, I’ll go to Tesco”…), certainly wouldn’t pay £110. It has become painfully obvious that business is not my area.

So, do I fight with my ex colleagues for Christmas temp jobs in the local shops, carry on giving my time away making cake? I don’t know. Guess its fingers crossed for a lottery win 🙂

Until I win my millions, I am going to have a little game of ‘Cupcake Catchphrase’ to pass the time, I’m off to bake a batch of caramel cupcakes and then decorate them according to a theme, whoever guesses the phrases correctly wins!


It’s a good time to be a child in the North West….

This week I am very extremely excited. I have a beautiful cupcake bouquet and an 18th birthday cake to make, but even more sensational is the arrival of our tickets to The Lost Carnival and confirmation of tickets to the Just So Festival.

I often complain that whilst we live in a beautiful area, we tend to miss out on a lot of big events for families. I always fancied Lollibop but the experience of traveling to London on a train and attempting to negotiate the city with two small humans is not one that I’m in a hurry to repeat (did it once, a private red bus tour of London and party at the Rainforest Cafe for competition winners, fabulous but difficult). Kendall Calling is firmly on the list of things to attend but I definitely need to save up to afford that one (been saying that for the last 3 years, see a previous blog about procrastination…)

Well, apparently I was wrong. (It happens, just nobody tell Dan I admitted it)

This year I stumbled across this website by accident and in less than a minute I was completely committed to attending at least The Lost Carnival. I love everything about it, the whole idea is completely magical and the podcast build up is genius. T is thrilled at the opportunity to dress up, he wants to be a sort of steampunk ringmaster (or that’s what I’ve gathered from his detailed costume requirements), as long as he has his top hat with a golden feather I think he’ll be happy! The Girl is a little thrown by the mystery surrounding it, whilst T is embracing it and trying to work out clues, Iz is slightly apprehensive, I bought her peacock feathers and a load of tulle for a costume, in my experience as her mother, feathers, fabric and glitter pretty much make everything OK.

The Just So Festival looks incredible, really regretting only having day tickets rather than weekend, there is so much to see and do there! I look forward to reporting back in full in August, including whether T got his way and I gave our day tickets to friends and got weekend camping tickets instead……

The only other decision to make is can we afford Geronimo at Tatton Park too? Oh, and who to invite to our own Big Wild Rumpus to celebrate Where The Wild Things Are on June 13th, get involved!

Music, dancing, interactive theatre, performers, mystery, sequins and apparently there’s beer for me too!

It’s definitely a good time to be a child in the North West.


Time for a catch up

Well, it’s been a bit quiet around here lately! Since the summer hoildays are now over I can start messing about in the kitchen again.

First off, since I last saw you, my spots and stripes cakes actually worked! I didn’t even use packet ‘White Cake’ mix! I did a two tier cake for The Princess’ birthday party. The frightening part of this is that you don’t know if it has worked until the cakes are cut…. In front of all their friends….. And their Mothers…. And my Mother.

photovisi-downloadI fell in love with the idea of her party being very girly, she wanted a bit of a My Little Pony theme and lots of sweets and cake! We went all old skool and had it at home so I could do a bit of decoration the night before (and relax with a glass of wine during). My Mum and Auntie helped with food and traditional party games and the party lasted well into the evening after the younger guests had gone home 😉



So, I have conquered the polka dot cake and the rainbow cake, and discovered that covering an 8″ high cake in sprinkles makes exactly as much mess as you would imagine, maybe more, and the best bit? She loved it ❤





Spots and Stripes

This week I am going to experiment with polka dots and rainbow layers, let’s make cake pretty on the inside too!

Firstly it occurred to me that to successfully colour cake it probably needs to be white, or at least very light in colour, and so the descent into disaster began….

In America they have white cake. Based on this I decided to use an American recipe, convert quantities, simple. Or not, because apparently they have something called cake flour too, it’s a magical substance ground by unicorns at the end of the rainbow that makes this recipe work and you cannot make it at home by mixing other bits of stuff together, no matter what the internet says.

Mix looked awesome!

IMG_20140120_141938         IMG_20140120_142022

I was so happy! Look at the colours!!!!!  You don’t get them using yellowy normal cake mix. Smug feeling lasted 10 minutes, ended abruptly when I removed rubber bullets from the oven 😦

DSC_0341  Failed to rise, but morphed into the texture of a squash ball :/

What  I am going to say next will make some people very cross. I have nothing against packet cake mix. Controversial! Granted, most of it is rubbish but I have a guilty love for one of the chocolate Betty Crocker ones, based on this I’m ordering her white cake mix from The States and I SHALL have vibrantly coloured spots and stripes. Watch this space 🙂 x


Party Planning, Or: Surviving Primary School Politics

Izzy will soon be 6. This is wonderful, she’s excited and it means I have managed to keep her alive for much longer than many people thought I would (to quote one of my dearest friends, Mr Smiley, upon discovering I was with child “Ha! Blondie, you have the maternal instinct of a breeze block”).

The downside to having school age children who are excited about an upcoming birthday is the party. Who to invite, what to do, food to serve.

I know I’ll be frowned upon by some for my belief that party food should under no circumstances include anything healthy. To my critics I say – suck it up! It’s a party, eat pastry and processed meat and white bread and things on sticks and ‘crisps’ that are some sort of maize and loads of cake and sweet treats. It’s meant to be fun. If my beloved Auntie Ann is reading this she will be screaming at the screen and probably ringing me to complain, I usually buy her a little bag of salad to keep her happy. She accepts that she’s in the minority at our family parties.

My main issue with parties is who to invite. I know this to be true for a lot of parents. Mums at the school gate discuss plans in hushed tones so that the parents of the uninvited don’t overhear arrangements, they apologise if you get wind of an event your child hasn’t been invited to, they have pre-prepared excuses or just avoid eye contact. To be honest I’m not that bothered. The idea of a whole class party scares me and since Iz moved into year 1 and is in a big new class with different kids that I don’t know, I guess I’ll just let her choose her own guests. It’s her party!

This got me thinking about her party last year. She chose 10 friends from school and we decorated cupcakes 😀

It began as one of those things that seems like a great idea and too late I realised that 15 kids aged 5 and under decorating cupcakes was probably going to be chaos. It ended up being a pleasant surprise and a massive success. And a little bit chaotic.


Obviously, the cake was going to be a big deal. Princess Isobel wanted a castle. Only complaint was that there was no fairy princess on it, not a bad response from my most harsh critic.


I was suitably impressed that all the Mums and Dads got involved (some of them seemed to be having a little bit too much fun, possibly sneaking too many sprinkles….) I just got loads of cans of icing, loads of sprinkles etc in glass sweet shop jars, coloured fondant with mini rolling pins and cutters and threw it all on tables with vanilla cupcakes. I made each child a little icing plaque with their name on and they had 4 cakes they could decorate and box to take home 🙂


I did spend ages making tissue paper pom-poms and gathering interesting cake decorations together but in the end it was worth it. I really did need help from my Mum, Auntie and cousins though, there was a lot of arranging and helping children with icing and tea making and brushing up! Everyone had fun and one of the Mums from school even mentioned it to me this week and asked if I was doing the same this year. Sorry to disappoint but, no, I have asked The Princess and she wants a dinner party! They grow up so fast…..



This week has been a busy cake week, which is nice, but difficult as my oven is broken and there has been lots of loading stuff in and out of the car so I can use my Mums kitchen!


First was the fishing cake, hope they liked it, my cake friend Lizzey asked me to do it as she didn’t have time!

Next came the lemon cupcakes, The Girl knew I had lots of baking to do and so reasoned that if the oven was on anyway I may as well make cakes for her teacher, Miss Jones, who she adores. Since the mix makes 12 Dan got some to take to work too, so I figure that’s my good deed for the week 🙂


Bit of Baileys left over from Christmas brought me to nutmeg cupcakes with Baileys buttercream (well, the oven was on anyway, right?)


And finally my lovely friend Rachel needed a cake for the gorgeous Jack’s 1st birthday and a little something for her Mum too!


My Dad’s birthday is tomorrow. He’s not getting cake. I’m not being mean, he wouldn’t eat it! Think tomorrow will be creme brulee for a change, maybe key lime pie, maybe both 🙂

The nutmeg cupcakes I made to go with the Baileys buttercream are a recipe I cut out of a magazine a long time ago, no idea what one, they’re a nice change, not sweet really so they can cope with lots of icing.

85g soft butter
55g soft dark brown sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 large egg
100g self-raising flour
1tsp grated nutmeg
2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 180 C
Beat sugar, syrup and butter until fluffy
Gradually beat in the egg
Sift in flour and nutmeg and gently mix adding milk
Pop into cupcake cases (allegedly makes 12, I’d say more like 8!)
Bake for 15 to 20 mins 🙂


A Week of Cake


Inspiration in strange places

I’ve just been to Tesco. If you know me you’ll know that this is an utterly joyless experience for me. Not just Tesco, supermarkets in general. I get angry. In fact I get supermarket rage. I go from being the most mild-mannered, polite, quiet person in the world, terrified of confrontation to a sociopathic, hyper-emotional wreck. It starts in the car park and gets progressively worse. Think the frustrated psychosis of Michael Douglas in Falling Down combined with the incredulity of Edmund Blackadder as he attempts to deal with the idiocy surrounding him.

The saving grace here, is that our Tesco has those cool scan as you shop gizmos. They eliminate the stress of bag packing at a million miles an hour whilst trying not to lose the children (they never give you enough bags, you ask for more and are greeted with a steely look like you just kicked a puppy), no price on the shelf? No problem, scan the barcode! No massive over-spend, they are awesome.

Anyway, the point of this post is that there is a nice man who works on the scan as you shop check-out, approving alcohol purchases (I speak to him often, probably due to this…) and generally overseeing things. I think his name is Jon. He’s brilliant with all the customers, especially the kids and always smiling and chatty. Today he told me someone should make cupcakes involving either Starburst (they’ll always be Opal Fruits to me) or Fruit Pastilles, so my next experiment will be this, and for his fab customer service, often in the face of extreme ignorance and rudeness (yes, I spent many years working in retail), Jon will be the chief taster. Let’s hope they’re good 🙂