Earlier in year I posted a wish list of new work avenues I’d like to explore before I’m too far past my prime and turn into, as my dear mum likes to call those of a certain age, a pensioner, a term that really irks me as it gives the false impression that anyone who has retired is suddenly a little old man or lady. I have friends who are retired and are hardly “pensioners” as they are living life to the max and having a whale of a time!
Some of my ideas were very much pie in the sky, although the book writing one could still happen. I just need to find the time and the confidence to travel alone from Land’s End to John O ‘Groats by bus for research purposes.
As much as I would love a tea room or cafe I know realistically it just isn’t going to happen. I neither have the funds, confidence or experience to take on such a business and that dream is destined to remain just that, a dream.
I can make cake though and I can make rather good cake. I’m not a sugar crafter so I don’t make character cakes or beautifully realistic flowers molded from sugar, but I can make a cake that tastes and looks pretty amazing and I get a real buzz knowing that people are enjoying it. I believe that to make a darn good cake you need use the best ingredients you can afford and be adventurous with flavours. Using avocado in a brownie mix works really well as does adding Halva. What you can’t play around with though is the technique. Baking is a science and rules have to be followed. Add too much baking powder and a cake will rise like a dream and deflate the minute it leaves the oven. Over beat a sponge when you add the flour and all that lovely air you added previously will disappear in a flash!
I didn’t inherit my love of baking from my mum. She made a fruit cake every Sunday more out of necessity rather than a desire to make one. Money was tight and shop bought cakes were a luxury. Eggs, flour, sugar and margarine were a staple in the kitchen cupboards and fridge, as was dried fruit. The trouble with mum’s cakes was that she didn’t believe in measuring and timing. A great cake is made with love. Mum’s cakes were a labour but definitely not a labour of love. Dry and often burnt, we often needed a dose of Milk of Magnesia after a slice. We laugh about her cakes now and mum will readily admit that she really can’t see the point in baking!
I discovered that I loved baking when taking A level Home Economics. Rather than making run of the mill Victoria Sandwiches that I’d made in abundance at O level, we made Genoese and fatless sponges, moist ginger cake using the melting method as well as baking bread and different pastries from scratch. Our course recipe book was an early Mary Berry book, so I learnt from the queen of baking, although my cookery teacher inspired me too. That was back in the mid seventies when cakes were decorating a cake meant learning how to pipe with copious swirls of cream and topping each swirl with tinned mandarin oranges or glace cherries. We seemed to use an awful lot of mandarin oranges back then!
What would I say was my style of baking now? Well, I love the middle eastern inspired bakes from Yotam Ottolenghi and the Californian inspired bakes of Violet Cakes, made famous by making Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake. I adore celebration cakes that are simply decorated with layered sponges roughly covered with Swiss meringue buttercream and topped with fresh flowers. Boards adorned with deliciously flavoured loaf cakes or piled high with rich fudgey brownies get a big thumbs up and I can’t resist cupcakes finished off with light as a feather cream cheese frosting and minimal decoration. I want to taste the cake, not break a tooth on silver balls!
There was a time that if you were gluten, dairy or sugar intolerant your choice of cakes was pretty limited and what there was, was deadly dull. The same goes for vegans. Not so anymore. The use of natural substitutes has meant that the choice of “free from” bakes today is amazing, and they taste sooo good. Nobody these days has to live a cakeless existence. You might well say, hang on there, cake is fattening and I’m on a diet so I can never eat cake, but in my opinion I think that a little of what you fancy is good for you, so a small slice occasionally won’t do you any harm. It’s having the willpower to stop at that small slice that’s often the stumbling point. I for one can’t say no to cake, hence being the shape of a doughnut!
Over the years and more so recently, I’ve considered baking as a small business. More as a sideline to start with rather than my sole source of income as I’m more than aware that you’d have to sell a shed load of cakes to make decent money. I would need to sort out the business side of things, understand and comply with the Food Standard Agency’s regulations so I don’t end up poisoning anyone and get to grips with branding, sales and marketing. There’s so much more to owning a cake business than making a decent cake. Thank goodness there’s a lot of help and support out there for people who like me need it.
I’ve decided on a name for my little business. It’s Apricot Sky. It came to me the other week when we were in Eastbourne as the sun was setting after a beautiful day. The sky was a beautiful apricot colour. The colour of apricot frosting. I’ve done a Google search and I haven’t found another cake company with the same name.
So what do I do now? Be brave and go for it, or is it me just being a dreamer?