Planning

People sometimes ask me how many cakes I make a week. My answer is usually vague as it depends on how many I am asked for. Some weeks, it may only be five or six, other weeks it may be more than 30. Planning is therefore quite important.

First, I always keep stock of certain ingredients (self raising flour, olive spread, unsalted butter, caster sugar, icing sugar and eggs). This means I can usually make a Victoria sponge or a lemon drizzle cake without having to go shopping.

When I have received my orders, usually by Sunday evening, I know what I will be making in the first part of the week. I then work out what I need to buy and go shopping on Monday. I then bake for the orders and deliver as required. The local Tearoom usually have two deliveries a week while Riverhill Himalayan Garden just have one delivery. I then fit in private orders as and when requested as well as having days for making preserves.

Some cakes recipes are developed through trial and error – a request for something with certain ingredients that change until they become a cake that meets the requirements. Others are taken from published recipes but increased so they make a three layer sponge. Each variation has to be noted down so I can remember what ingredients were used to produce the same next time.

Some cakes end up rather tall which makes fitting them in the cake stand at the Tearoom somewhat of a challenge! The cake shown above is a banana sponge with mascarpone icing and a salted caramel topping. If this cake is too tall, the salted caramel topping sticks to the cake cover, which would never do! And icing the sides of the cakes makes them almost impossible to transport and display so the sides are now left open.

Sometimes, cookies are requested (especially during school holidays) and Smarties ones are always popular. These have some Smarties in the cookie dough as well as others placed on top halfway through the baking process. Keeping them the same size is important – electronic scales help weighing out precise amounts!

Cupcakes are also very popular in the school holidays. These ones were made for a private order with pale blue icing. I regularly make chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream icing and vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing which can have extra toppings added as required.

I usually have to do a top-up shop later in the week, depending on what has been ordered. The advantage is that it keeps the ingredients fresh but is also a necessity as I have limited storage space. Buying 20 bars of chocolate at a time may seem excessive but when making a large batch of Rocky Road, I need almost 2kg!

Enjoy your summer holidays!

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Sending gifts to Spain

This week, my son asked if I could send something homemade for him to give as gifts to people he has been working with at a primary school in Benalmadena, near Malaga. Cakes were out of the question but biscuits seemed a possibility.

I made a batch of spiced cranberry and almond biscotti and some oat and cherry cookies and packed them in bags in a padded box and posted them last Saturday morning. They arrived at the school on Wednesday morning, which I thought was quite impressive bearing in mind it was the bank holiday weekend.

So, his Spanish colleagues can try out biscuits baked in England while I hope he will bring home some Spanish delicacies!

I rarely make Millionaires shortbread – mainly because I love it and would find it very difficult to stop myself continually testing it to make sure it was still ok. However, I made some last week as I knew I had people coming around who could help out. It is rather delicious! And if I cut it into small squares, it may not be quite so bad! I remember making this years ago and burning the caramel – maybe that’s another reason why I haven’t made it regularly. I was subconsciously protecting my saucepans.

Anyway, today has been back to baking for The Earl Grey Tearoom, making them a coffee and walnut cake, a cherry Bakewell cake and a lemon drizzle cake as well as some chocolate cupcakes and gluten free scones. And when I have a free hour or two, I need to look through recipes to find some new cakes to try. Now what would the people of Southborough like to try next?