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?

A day off from baking

About once a week, I have a day off from baking. Today is such a day – I delivered two cakes to The Earl Grey this morning (Victoria sponge and gluten free Chocolate Fudge cake, for those that are interested) and their next order is for one on Thursday and three on Friday. I have loads to make for the Riverhill Himalayan Garden tomorrow for delivery on Thursday, so will have a long day in the kitchen.

Sometimes, my ‘day off’ is spent shopping for ingredients. I buy most from Sainsbury’s but also go to Waitrose (organic self raising flour, sugar) and Lidl (dark chocolate, limes, mascarpone and nuts). Going to three different shops does take time but I like the quality of the ingredients I use.

Sometimes, I make preserves instead. My latest is a new batch of lime marmalade which still needs labelling.

This afternoon, I am making a batch of Granola to see me through breakfast for the next month or so. Chopping the fruit takes a little time but it is worth it – toasted oats, seeds and bran with honey and groundnut oil, with dates, apricots, sultanas and toasted hazelnuts, which I have with yoghurt and fresh fruit.

Tonight I need to make 4 trays of Rocky Road so my cake tins are ready for baking tomorrow. This isn’t baking as it just requires melting, chopping and mixing followed by overnight in the fridge to set.

And then there is supper …. possibly Lebanese spinach and chickpeas, recipe courtesy of Riverford, followed by ironing (not my favourite job!).

So even on a day off from baking, there is plenty of cooking going on!

Thank you for reading.

Which is your favourite?

These two cakes have been safely delivered to the Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough today. Which would you choose?

First, there is a Red Velvet cake with cream cheese buttercream icing to go with the cocoa flavoured red sponge, kept moist using sunflower oil and buttermilk.

Or there is a white chocolate and raspberry cake with raspberries and white chocolate baked in the sponge, iced with mascarpone and white chocolate and topped with freeze dried raspberries.

We are always looking to add new cakes to the choices available – what flavour would you like to see? Cherry and coconut? Or perhaps a chocolate mocha cake? What about cakes made with vegetables such as beetroot, courgette or parsnip?

Come along to the Tearoom, which is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 9am to 4pm, and let us know which cake you would like to see available.

Keep baking

I have always enjoyed making cakes and love receiving positive feedback from people who have enjoyed eating them.

Last year, I made over 350 cakes, more than 100 cupcakes and 18 traybakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough. The favourites there are a Victoria sponge, carrot and mascarpone, coffee and walnut, gluten free chocolate fudge, lemon drizzle, coconut and lime, white chocolate and raspberry, cherry Bakewell and blueberry and lemon. I also made 46 gluten free chocolate cakes, 42 trays of Rocky Road and 36 traybakes for The Riverhill Himalayan Garden near Sevenoaks. Around Christmas, the focus switched to Christmas cake and Panforte – and all the time, I have been making chutneys, jams, marmalades and jellies with fresh locally picked fruit or dried fruit.

One of the biggest challenges is keeping stock of the basic ingredients so I don’t have to go shopping every time a cake is ordered. So rather than buying eggs by the dozen, I usually buy 36 a week and some weeks, even this isn’t enough! I used about 1800 eggs last year, or 300 boxes of 6. I also have to keep stock of different types of flour (plain, self raising, rice, gluten free plain and gluten free self raising) and sugar (caster, golden caster, light soft brown, light muscovado, dark muscovado, Demerara and icing) not to mention baking powder and gluten free baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, desiccated coconut, lemons, limes and oranges. I rarely have an empty fridge or larder!

If you want a cake made for an occasion, please contact me as I am happy to help. You can contact me via this blog, or through Facebook or Instagram and we can discuss timing and price. I have a good selection of cake tins but most are 8″ round (with a few 7″ round) or any size square or rectangle (as I have a multi size cake tin, up to 12″ square). Any recipe can be resized based on the number of eggs used.

Thank you for reading.

Autumn baking

I am always on the lookout for new cake recipes and when I saw this one, I thought it looked good.

It is an apple sponge made with dark soft brown sugar, grated apple and apple juice, topped with a toffee sauce and baked apple slices. I haven’t tasted it yet but have already been asked to make another two for The Earl Grey Tearoom so it must have been popular with the customers!

When I make cakes, I try to make as much as possible myself including the strawberry jam for the Victoria sponge and the parsnip crisps on the honeyed roast parsnip cake. So when the toffee apple cake called for apple crisps, I decided to make my own. This is when a Rayburn comes into its own, drying fruit at a low temperature. This works fine if you remember you have left them in the oven – unfortunately, one batch were left in overnight and ended up rather dark and a second batch went the same way this morning when I was trying to hurry! Luckily a third batch were fine and the cake was safely delivered this morning.

I hope I won’t be making that mistake again!

A change of emphasis

About a year ago, I started making cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough. To begin with, I made just Victoria sponges, then we added carrot cake, coffee and walnut and lemon drizzle cakes. Numbers have increased as their business goes from strength to strength and most weeks I am baking at least eight cakes plus some flapjacks or butterscotch brownies.

New favourites include lemon and blueberry, white chocolate and raspberry and a cherry Bakewell cake. I love trying out new recipes so it is always fun being set a new challenge by Roz and the team. Some recipes need tweaking so they produce a three layer cake, some are adapted after tasting to produce something that the customers will enjoy. Some have to be translated from American cups to metric but with my trusty balance scales, electronic scales, measuring spoons and calculator, anything can be done. I just have to remember to write everything down so I only have to calculate it once.

Since mid-March, I have also been making some cakes for the Riverhill Himalayan Garden. They mainly order gluten free chocolate fudge cakes, gluten free cocoa, courgette and pistachio cakes, Rocky Road and traybakes in a variety of flavours including white chocolate & raspberry, blueberry & Demerara, pear & hazelnut and plum & almond.

In addition, I occasionally make other cakes for special orders such as birthdays.

This increase in cake production has kept me busy but I am still trying to find time to keep up with preserve making, building up stocks of marmalade, chutney, jam and jelly to see me through to Christmas and making the most of seasonal produce like elderflowers, by making cordial. The delicious soft fruit season is starting so I will be making the most of as many different fruits as I can, including them in my baking as well as preserving them for the months and years ahead.

Even more cake baking

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!

And more cakes ….

It is always reassuring when you get positive feedback and I have been delighted with the comments I have been getting about the cakes I have made recently for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough. 

This week, I have delivered ten more cakes – Victoria sponges, carrot cakes, a coffee and walnut cake and lemon drizzle cakes. After a short break, I will be back baking, hoping to try out some different recipes as well as these popular ones.