Sunday, February 19, 2012

"What's in my cake?"

When I discuss a cake order with prospective clients and the topic of "when do you bake the cake" comes up, the first thing a lot of people bring up is "using a mix". It seems that the general perception out there is that one does not bake from scratch anymore, and a using a mix is the just the norm. So, I thought it would a good idea to discuss "what's in your cake".
  • First of all, I DO NOT USE MIXES! I personally find the taste unappealing. I taste one, I taste them all. They all seem to have the same "chemical" taste. It's like going to a "certain" popular coffee shop here in town, all their muffins taste the same, and I know they use a mix. I like the fact that I KNOW what goes into my cakes not having to decipher all the weird "lingo" on the back of the box. Another reason I don't use mixes is that they are too soft and fluffy. I find a cake, made from scratch is more sturdier and less likely to fall apart when it comes to decorating, whether it be carving a cake or stacking it for a wedding cake. The majority of my recipes have been handed down from my grandmother who was a pastry chef in the Canadian navy during World War II.
  • Secondly, I use 100% butter, flour, sugar, fresh eggs, Dutch cocoa, buttermilk, no artificial flavorings ( I use Madagascar Bourbon vanilla bean paste for my cakes).  All my fillings are made fresh from scratch. We do not use sleeve fillings. These are pre-cooked fillings are found in a sleeve that you just squeeze out. Any cooked filling that is found packaged and sitting on a store shelf has got to be filled with preservatives to be prevent it from going bad. While we are on the topic of fillings, did you know that all the raspberries we use are locally grown. By that I mean, they come straight from MY GARDEN! During the summer months, I go out and hand-pick the raspberries myself to make all my raspberry fillings. Then at the end of summer, I freeze my bountiful supply and continue to use them during the winter months so I can continue to use fruit that is local and hasn't been sprayed by pesticides. I had a strawberry patch too, but the squirrels always beat me to it leaving me with no fruit, so I have resorted to getting my strawberries from local supplier. 

  • To answer those who wonder when we bake our cakes, we bake them fresh just for your event.  We do not pre-bake, ice and freeze our cakes in advance. I remember attending a friend's wedding some years ago and one of his cousin's heard I did cakes. He also worked for a local grocery store chain. I won't name "names", but he told me he worked in the "cake plant". He told me all the cakes were baked in this huge warehouse, iced, frozen and then shipped to all parts of the province. Yummm... sounds appealing.  All our cakes are made to order for each individual client.
So there you have it! So if you have ANY questions regarding your cake, please do not hesitate to ask!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sharin' Some Love!

Well, Valentine's Day has come and gone for yet another year! Personally, it was pretty quiet for both my husband and I. We don't make too much of a big deal of it. I do get a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates (which were completely devoured by both my kids and husband... I did manage to sneak a piece  in though). I got him some much-needed darts for his dart board. His were pretty mangled and sad looking. That was about it. No dinner out... he had to work late and I was busy fielding my kids around to taekwando practice and horse riding lessons. 
Both the days leading up to and on Valentine's Day morning was spent filling Valentine cupcake orders. Here are just a few pics of the cupcakes we handed out yesterday. 

Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes

Raspberry Chocolate Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes (we couldn't seem to keep enough of these in stock... they were extremely popular this year)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


"I'M ON A BUDGET!"   I hear those words quite frequently when a bride comes to me to discuss her wedding cake. I do understand the whole budget issue, especially nowadays with the economy the way it is. Personally, I don't want to spend anymore than I have to either.  I cringe everytime I fill up on gas or buy groceries at the store. 

Remembering the time when I was getting married (has it been 13 years already?), I was one of those frugal, budget-conscious, do-it-yourself brides. I was a teacher-on-call and my husband-to-be was a student - IN FACT, he wrote his final exams the day before we got married. We paid about $5000 for our wedding (yes, I know that was 13 years ago, but there are ways to keep it simple and affordable). In fact, our move to Fort St John, was MORE expensive than our wedding once we added up all the moving expenses. To help trim costs, here are some of the things I did for my wedding

  • made my own wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses. Both my sister and I CAN sew, and I made them a year in advance. It's a great incentive to keep your weight down.
  • had a buffet dinner (it was a wild game meal so all our family chipped in with different types of meat)
  • had our wedding/reception all at the same location
  • was gifted the cost of the hall rental
  • used to work with my caterer who is also a dear friend, so she prepared all our food FREE- I just had to give her the money for the ingredients
  • purchased freeze dried flowers from a business going under, my sister did all the arrangements
  • made my own invitations/decorations
  • purchased my husband's wedding band from a business going under - which by the way, he doesn't wear anyway because of his job
  • had a family friend be the DJ - I just gathered CD's from family members for him to play
  • had a family friend who was a freelance photographer do our photography
  • I did have a small wedding cake, plus desserts made by my grandmother

Being in the wedding industry, I am in constant contact with lots of vendors and have come to learn lots of budget-friendly tips.  So here's a few:

1) Guest List - Keep it under control!  The sure way to keep costs down is trim your guest list. For example, if dinner costs $15/person, just by cutting down 10 people from your list, you save yourself: 1 less table rental, 10 fewer chair covers, 10 less people to feed, 10 fewer party favors to make, 10 less alcoholic drinks to buy... you get the idea.  The rule of thumb I learned from a top wedding cake designer and caterer in Indianapolis is the 60% rule.  You plan for 60% of your invited guests.  Realistically, not EVERYONE is going to come.  When I got married my guest list was appx 180, but just under 100 showed up.

2) Plated Dinner vs Buffet Dinner - Overall, choose a buffet dinner where everyone can help themselves. For a plated dinner, you have to pay someone to put everything on your plate and serve it you and your guests individually.  Also, on the topic of buffet, think about your food. A simple buffet with one meat, one starch and 2 veggies is going to be cheaper than too many multiple choices.

3) DIY - Yes, I do believe there are some things that you can do your self and save money, i.e. organizing wedding favors, invitations. HOWEVER, I do firmly believe that there are some things that are better left to the professionals, such as your wedding dress, photographer, caterer and wedding cake.  I believe that you get what you pay for. If you want good quality stuff, then you should be prepared to pay for it.  I can't count how many brides have come to me at the last minute thinking that they could save money by having a sister, mom or auntie make the cake and then it didn't work out and had to have me do it for them.  So, yes, I do believe that you can honestly save money and do some stuff yourself, but be realistic and honest with yourself what you can and can not do.

4) THE CAKE - One important piece of advice - a fake cake is NOT cheaper! No matter what the wedding magazines say (by the way, those articles are not written by someone who actually makes cakes, but someone in an office).  A lot of people say, "well, you're not paying for the ingredients of the cake, so it should be cheaper."  Wanna know something?? Those Styrofoam pieces cost just as much as the ingredients do, plus I have to pay for shipping too, since I can't get them here in Fort St John.  Overall, you have the Styrofoam pieces (equal the price of the ingredients of the cake), plus the time for me to decorate them which would have been the same as if it was a real cake, plus sheet cakes you plan to serve sitting in the kitchen which is STILL cake that I have to bake and ice.  SO, to save money, go with a smaller cake (see the advice of guest list above) and forget the fake cake idea.

My overall advice (which is also what I hear from other vendors too): spend the money on what is most important to you and what you want to remember the most. What I remember the most from my wedding was my dress, the beautiful location (we saved money by having the ceremony, reception and pictures all taken at the same location), the pictures and the food (we had a wild game buffet dinner).  Save money on the little things that honestly no one will remember years from now (and neither will you...Smile.