When I started making cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough, they were asking me mainly for Victoria sponges with the occasional carrot and mascarpone or coffee and walnut cake for a change.
This week, I have delivered eight cakes, some flapjacks, rocky road and cookies. New cakes include the Dundee cake, which always used to be my favourite (I love fruit cakes!) and a gingerbread cake made with fresh grated ginger and treacle (which I forgot to photograph so I’ll have to make another!). I think I am getting quicker at making some of these cakes but others take time, such as the gluten free chocolate fudge cake which needs chocolate to be melted and cooled for both the cake and the buttercream icing. However, the smell is divine so I’m happy to make it regularly.
If the supermarkets are analysing my recent shopping habits, they will notice a huge increase in my consumption of eggs, flour, sugar, butter and olive spread. I have also been getting through the baking parchment circles very quickly – a pack of 100 will only last a month now!
I’m hoping to try out a few new recipes over the next few weeks including some different gluten free cakes. The Great British Bake Off caramel week has inspired me to try that as a flavour although I’m sure mine won’t look as spectacular as some of their creations!
When I started making foods to sell, I was very aware that my prices might seem quite high. However, I hoped that once people had tasted them, they would agree that they were worth it!
Balancing the cost of the ingredients and the selling price has always been tricky. In the same way that supermarkets have loss leaders, I have one or two products that my percentage mark up is greater than others. But then I must add in the increased gas and electricity bills, the cost of packaging and something for my time as well as the cost of the ingredients.
By buying jam jars in bulk, I can keep the unit cost down but I have to store both the empty and full jars. I make all the biscuit packaging so it fits the biscuits I make – so when I am baking for the local Farmers’ Market, I also have to allow extra time to weigh, pack and label all the biscuits I have made.
I try to use the best quality ingredients I can afford as I believe flavour is so important. I always use organic free range eggs and organic flour, and cakes and biscuits are made with either butter or an olive oil spread. When possible, I pick fruit at a local farm to make my chutneys and jams. Other ingredients like dried fruit and nuts are bought regularly so they are always fresh. I know I could buy cheaper elsewhere, but I want my foods to taste good.
I have also invested in better quality baking tins, a new hand mixer, triple tier cooling racks and loads of baking parchment – ready cut discs are an essential when I am baking in bulk! My trusty Rayburn is great for cake baking but I can’t fill the oven too full as it affects the cooking time. I still have my electric cooker but I rarely use it as I think it dries cakes out too much. My next investment will be a banner to use at Farmers’ Markets and maybe a gazebo and table (although I need to sell a few more cakes and biscuits to be able to afford those!).
I am in this business because I enjoy cooking and I enjoy making foods for others – even when I am finishing labelling biscuits at 2am before a Farmers’ Market!
I hope that you enjoy eating them!