Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Are you shopping locally?

Do you use your local, butcher, baker, 'cake maker'! We all know that most people use one of the big 3 supermarkets for the majority of their shopping.

But what happens when all the small shops have gone???

Think that won't happen?
Think again! Our own UK government's “The House of Commons All-Party Small Shops Group estimates that there will be no independent retailers by 2015. This equates to the loss of 50,000 small businesses. Death of the high street is on our doorstep!

I'm an independent retailer - so this is kind of worrying!

So again - do you shop locally?, or Do you buy birthday cakes in the supermarket (very short cakes, not much butter cream - finished appallingly, not personalised, but in a pretty box and under a tenner? Do you buy your vegetables (shipped in from Egypt, Israel, New Zealand...) in you supermarket?

Why are you not buying from you local grocer - too much hassle?
Get it delivered - there are lots of box schemes etc. e.g Riverford, Able and Cole, along with hundreds of local farmers - both organic and non organic.
Worried about the food going off ?- Buy veg in the supermarket and it seems to deteriorate far, far quicker than veg bought from a farm or box scheme. (In my personal experience, supermarket new potatoes went green after 2 days, and were rubbery, box scheme new potatoes stayed fresh up to 6 days before even having a hint of any deterioration). Supermarket lettuce, no good in 2 days - Box scheme lettuce perfect up to 5 days, and flavour - well that's a whole different story!
So what?Well if you buy a lettuce and throw most of it away because you didn't get time to use it - it may be cheaper from the supermarket, but you then have to buy it again . . . hmm - false economy, waste of money, waste of landfill.
Back to shops!
"Small shops are struggling to survive because of local, regional and national government policies, together with the failure of the competition authorities to deal with the aggressive policies of supermarkets." federation of small businesses(FSB)

"Unfair pricing advantages, such as below cost selling, should be prohibited." FSB
In other words - supermarkets can buy a product and sell it to you for less then they bought it for - how can anyone compete with that, and why are supermarkets allowed to do it?
Now - are you thinking that can't be right, or the supermarket wouldn't make any money - well they don't do it on every product, but the buying power of a supermarket means they can out price most small businesses, and wholesalers that small businesses buy from.
Think about this - Tesco's allegedly make just over £90,000 PROFIT per MINUTE, (business scotsman)
How much does your local Butcher, Baker, Cake Maker make in PROFIT a YEAR. . .
So again I ask - Are YOU shopping locally . . . ?
Cake Decorator

Cake Decorating - Wedding Cakes - What you need to know before going to a cake maker in the UK

Cake Decorating :Wedding Cakes

Choosing a Cake Maker

Recommendations are always a good place to start, talk to friends, family, neighbours to ask who they would recommend. Look in the yellow pages, remember that many cake makers work from home so don't necessarily go for the big flashy adverts! Go to Wedding Fairs, it's a good place to get ideas, but remember that the cakes on display will be fake (dummy cakes), and it's easier to get a flawless finish with a dummy cake!

A shop will be registered with the local council for environmental health checks etc, and food hygiene certificates displayed. If you are using a home decorator, ask if they have been registered, and also ask to see their food hygiene certificates (they should be no more than 3 years old). (remember food business have to register in the UK, whether or not they work from a commercial premises or home)

Ask to see pictures - any good cake maker should have plenty of photographs for your to look at.
Ask if they have one any competitions etc

Wedding cake ideas.
Ask the cake maker - they should be a mine of information and ideas.

Take a look in magazines, ‘Wedding Cakes a design source’ is an excellent place to start, with hundreds of cake ideas in each issue. - available from larger WHSmith, other large book/magazine shops) about £4.99 quarterly.

Think about what you have chosen so far e.g. colour and type of flowers, your bridesmaids dresses etc. Do you want a traditional or contemporary cake? Do you have hobbies you’d like included, do you want something unusual, where is your reception being held?

Cake Size
If you have a lot of guests e.g 200+ and rather than a monster would like normal size Cake, but it won’t be enough for all your guests, think about this - After the cutting of the cake for photographs, your cake will be whisked away by the caterers for serving. Most cake decorators can provide a plain iced cake, in the same colour as your main cake, and this can be ready for cutting in the kitchen, your guests will never know!

Want a three tier Cake but you'll never eat it all!
Most Cake Makers can substitute tiers for dummy cakes these would be iced in the same way as the real cake, overall the cake will look real even though some cake may not be. If you’re not sure … take a look at cakes in a cake shop window - they are normally 'dummy cakes'. If you're still not sure, talk to the cake maker - they probably have photographs of mixed fake and real cakes.

What sort of Cake to have?
Traditional Fruit Cake has begun to decline in popularity with sponge cakes and even cupcakes being the top choice. Depending upon your design you can have mixed tiers e.g. one fruit, one chocolate, and one plain sponge. Remember though that it is not just you eating the cake! Many guests would like to keep a slice of wedding cake, therefore it is nice to have one tier in fruit. Again talk to your cake maker, but at the end of the day the decision is yours!
Cake Decorating,

Chocolate Cakes
So you've seen an amazing 6 tier wedding cake, all chocolate cake, with chocolate ganache, and chocolate curls etc etc - Great, but if you're getting married in a Marquee in July, or you cake is going to be displayed in front of a window in a hotel reception - think again. The last thing you want is a collapsing cake, or a cake wilting in the sun! talk to your cake maker!

Special Diets and Allergies?
Some Cake makers will cater for special diets, but remember that nut allergies can be more difficult, we would suggest that it could be very difficult for any cake maker to say they do not have nut trace, because they would normally use marzipan and other nut products in their kitchen.

Should we use fresh real flowers on a cake?
Fresh flowers have become very popular on cakes - check with the florist though that they are happy to decorate a cake in flowers - check that they have done it before, ask to see pictures!There are some issues such as water damage to the icing or flowers wilting! It's also worth checking that if you are having exotic flowers that they are not poisonous! Take a look at sugar flowers, you can have them hand made - but expect to pay for this high skill - some cake shops sell sugar flowers ready made - they are not as fine as professionally handmade flowers but are still popular for wedding cakes.

How can I store sugar flowers & decorations?

You can safely store these for many years in an airtight container, out of direct sunlight and away from any damp atmosphere. You can also buy picture frames and Perspex containers, in which you can display your flowers.

Is it possible to keep a wedding cake tier for a Christening?
Fruit cakes can safely be kept for a few months, though people do keep fruit cake longer, most cake shops will only date a fruit cake with a best before date of 3-6 months. Sponges must be eaten within a week, but you can also freeze them for a few weeks. Again talk to the cake maker. Be aware that if you keep a fruit cake for longer than the best before date, you should take off all the icing and marzipan and put fresh on the cake - the reason - the bit most likely to go off is the marzipan, it can ferment due to moisture under the icing. The last thing you want is a mouldy christening cake!

I want a wacky cake with figures or buildings in sugar?Talk to your cake maker! They should be able to design unique cakes, make bride and grooms in sugar, make cars, buildings, pillars in the shape of people and so on.

I want my cake to taste as good as it looks
Talk to your cake maker! Ask your cake maker if it is possible to get a sample of cake- don't expect to get a chocolate cake sample with chocolate cigarello and sugar flowers! - You should be able to get a piece of cake with filling, so that you can try it.

Can I take my wedding cake abroad, as I am getting married outside the UK?
Your cake maker should be able to supply your cake in heavy duty transport boxes, these are stronger cardboard, but you still must ensure that the cake remains level and isn’t bumped around too much! It has been known for people to book extra seats on flights just to take the cake - check with your airline. Most importantly - check whether you can take cake into your destination country! For example Australia has very strict guidance on food products.

When should we order our Cake?
As soon as possible! Trained, skilled cake decorators are rare, and their talents are in high demand. We recommend booking a wedding cake 3-6 months in advance, book early.

When should we order our Cake? As soon as possible!
Cake prices vary hugely, for a standard 3 tier sponge cake you should expect a starting price of around £200 - £250, and then start adding your decoration etc on top. For a three tier fruit cake you should expect to start at around £350. If you are in London, you should look at prices starting at around £500 for most wedding cakes.

Should we make an appointment to order our Cake?It is not always possible to take a wedding cake order on the spot . A cake maker would rather not rush your order! It normally takes half and hour to and hour to take a wedding cake order, this is to allow enough time to detail your design. It is a good idea to take with you anything relevant to your wedding e.g. colour samples, your theme, where your reception is...

Do I need a deposit for the Cake?
Most cake makers will ask for a deposit to secure the date, this is usually non refundable. Expect to pay a fairly big deposit £50-£100 or more.

When are balances normally paid?Usually your cake maker would ask for the balance to be paid a few weeks in advance of collection or delivery. Some may take the balance on collection.

Should I expect to see the cake before the wedding.

This would depend on the type of cake you've ordered, if it's all chocolate you might not be able to see until the day before, if it's all fruit, you may be able to see as far as the week before.

Important NOTE - When is the cake going to be served?Traditionally the cake is cut just after the meal, with photos taken of the bride and groom, the cake is then taken away for cutting and is served with the tea and coffee. Many hotels will persuade you have the cake cut at the evening buffet - this sounds good, but when your guests have eaten a large meal at 3-4-5pm and then have possibly been drinking, the last thing they want to eat at 8-9-10pm is wedding cake. You need to decide whether your cake is for display, or if it is a big part of your day and you have your guests enjoy it! If you want your cake cut at the reception, put your foot down and ask for it to be cut at the reception!

For more cake decorating items visit

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

List of UK Cake Decorating Supplies - Online Shops

There's a lot of competition out there!, if you're looking for cake decorating supplies, here is a list of cake decorating supplies shops in the UK that sell online.

Starting with of course oursleves!
Cake-Links Ltd -
Cake Decorating supplies, fast delivery, with helpful videos, chat and more.

Also in the UK . . .
A piece of Cake Thame -
Design a Cake -
Cake Craft Shop -
Cake Cookies and Craft Shop -
The Cake Place -
Windsor Cake Craft -
The Sugar Shack -
Surbiton Art -
Pastry Wiz -
Pipe Dreams -
Splat Cooking -
Knightsbridge PME -
The Scullery -
Cakes for All -


Cake Decorator

Monday, 15 June 2009

How to stack a wedding cake

Never stacked a cake before? - Don't Panic!

It really is quite easy, as long as you follow a few basic steps.

What size cakes?If you are stacking 2 cakes, 3 cakes or even 8 cakes, the difference between the sizes of cake should be 2" or 3" but no less than 2".

So for a 2 tier cake, your cakes sizes might be 7" for the top and 9" for the bottom, or 6" for the top and 9" for the bottom.

A wedding cake is usually made up of three cakes 10", 8" and 6"

Depth of Cakes

For stacking a cake you need to bake all of your cakes to the same depth, you can cut them to size.

Usually fruit cakes are cut to 3" deep and sponge to approx 2½" deep before filling with jam and Buttercream.

Put your cakes on to a thin cake card the same size as each cake - BEFORE covering with marzipan and or icing.

Check that your cakes are level - use a small plastic spirit level - (get them in your local DIY shop)

Once you have iced all the cakes separately, ice a large thick board (13mm Drum Board) for the bottom cake, e.g. if the bottom cake is on a 10" thin card, you will need to ice a 13" drum board, for all the stacked cakes to sit on.

Trade Tip - If you are making a wedding cake, that will be displayed on a large silver or gold base display stand, they are usually 14" across, (unless they are an antique stand), At Cake-Links we always ice a 14" thick board, so that it fits perfectly on the base display stand. For a wedding, phone the hotel and ask them what size the top of their cake stand is.

Before Stacking the cakes one on top of the other - you need to add supports.

Use plastic doweling to do this. Measure in 1.5" in from the size of the above cake and mark around in a circle. i.e. If you have a 10" base cake and your next cake will be 8", you need to mark on the top of the 10" cake 3.5" from the edge of the 10" cake. Push a dowell into the cake on the line you have just scored. Mark the dowel level with the top of the cake, making sure that you have pushed the dowel into the cake straight and have reached the thin card under the cake - remove and cut to size with preferably a junior hacksaw, or sharp kitchen knife. Push the cut dowel back into the cake making sure that the dowells are straight.. Repeat this so that you have 4 (or more if your prefer) dowels around in a circle. Finish with one final dowell in the centre of the cake.

Stacking the cakes

It's a good idea to mix up a little Royal Icing, Put a very thin amount on top of the bottom cake, covering the dowels. The Royal Icing will dry and help to prevent the cakes slipping in transit.

People have different opinions as to when to stack a cake - i.e. either before your icing has set or after the icing has set. As a rule, either stack while the icing is fresh or leave for at least 2 days before attempting to stack or you will crack the icing. We far prefer to stack while the icing is fresh, then if you mark the cake, it can still be smoothed back to perfection.

Stack the next cake on top, and then if you need to add a third tier, repeat the dowelling, add some royal icing, and stack the next cake on top.

Finishing the cakes.

It's a good idea to put a 12 or 15mm ribbon around the bottom of each cake, even if the ribbon is just the same colour as the icing - this will hide the join between the cake and cover up any rough edges that may otherwise not easily be covered with simple piping. Only put ribbon on the cakes once they are stacked!

Transporting a stacked cake.

It's a good idea to invest in a heavy duty stack box, these boxes have inserts in the bottom - both round and square that will hold the cake in position. oh and one more thing - drive carefully!

frequently asked questions

Can I stack a sponge cake
yes - We often make 3 tier stacked sponge wedding cakes - Just make sure you have plenty of support dowels

Can I have mixed tiers of fruit cake and sponge cakes?

Yes - but remember you can only have fruit cake at the bottom of a cake with sponge layers!

Would it be better to drill holes through the boards and put one dowel all the way through?

No - Absolutely not, this won't work, the cakes will still sink!!!

Do I need to dowell a Fruit Cake

Absolutely Yes - think about it, if a an 8" fruit cake weighs 1600g and has 800g of marzipan and 800g of icing on it - that makes 3.2kg - if you stack that on top of another cake it will sink, even if the cake undeneath is fruit - it will sink!!!!

For More information visit our website