Wednesday, 4 December 2013

A quick catch up

Hello webby pals!

Sorry I've not posted for a few days. If I wasn't working I was asleep, which left little time for blogging. However, I've a spare half hour now and I thought I'd do a quick round up of the last week's events.

When I bake it is usually to order. People ring me up or email me, and agree what they want and for which date. All my cakes and biscuits are pre-sold, which means there is no wastage. With ingredient costs being so high at the moment, this is a definite advantage and allows me to work for a small profit whilst keeping my cakes as affordable as possible.

However, every year there is an exception to this business model: the school Christmas fair. I bake like a fiend and take a stall there, donating either a fee, a percentage of sales or raffle prizes like a Christmas cake to the PTA. I almost always sell out of cake. I enjoy that 2 hour stint of selling to the public, offering samples, chatting and persuading as best I can. It makes such a nice change from working alone in my kitchen with the radio for company.

Now that I have two kids in our local high school I thought I'd have a go at their school fair as well as my daughter's primary school. It is a bigger event which lasts longer, so I prepared proportionally more cake for it. Lots of cake. Lots and lots.

I did 20 chocolate gingerbread cakes, 35 boxes of Christmas cupcakes, a good stack of hot chocolate spoons, a couple of chocolate malteser cakes and a large iced Christmas cake to raffle off. All the decorations were hand made. Rolling tiny holly berries from red icing is a pretty tedious job, by the way. I'd not recommend doing more than 100 unless you have something really good on the radio to keep you occupied.  And the dratted sparkly glitter on them gets everywhere. Still, I like things to look and taste beautiful and beautiful takes time.

I spent 42 hours in the kitchen in all.
I couldn't manage a photo of the whole stall without getting my fed-up "why am I helping on a Saturday morning when I could be sleeping" son's face in the picture, and he prefers to remain anonymous at this stage, so here are 2 quick snaps of the display. The left side held most of my products in order that the right had space to let people fill in the raffle tickets.


Unfortunately, as well as 3 commercial cake stalls they'd booked, the high school had a PTA cake stall selling donated cakes and biscuits. Donated means they don't have to recoup ingredients cost, so they were priced accordingly. With about 1600 pupils across the primary and secondary campus, the PTA had many families to cajole into donating cake. I've never seen a stack of baked good so high in my life.  By the end they were selling them off at 50p for three cupcakes.

Hand crafted cakes made with butter, free range eggs, real vanilla and good quality chocolate cannot compete with that. People went for the pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap option on the whole, except those buying  for a gift. I sold very, very little - enough to recoup my ingredients cost, but not much more.

I sold some of the surplus to the deli and some friends. The chocolate ginger cakes would freeze, so they were fine. The rest I gave away (or we ate!) because all those hand made decorations would collapse if I tried to freeze them. It was a low moment.

Since then I did a day's work in the garden mending fences and mucking out the pets in the cold sunshine. That did wonders for clearing my head. In essence, I lost nothing but time last week. I can't get that back again, so why not kiss it good-bye and move on to things that are more productive. I shook off the disappointment and looks ahead. There was plenty to catch up on.

I've done a little more of the Christmas and birthday shopping, sorted out some paperwork, taught two clubs (glass painting and cake decorating respectively), tried to catch up on all the household chores I'd ignored while I was baking like a mad thing and spent some time relaxing with my kids.
Miss B and I finished reading On The Banks of Plum Creek and started By The Shores of Silver Lake. The Big Lad chose to cash in his reward for a half term of getting to school on time, so we all watched Despicable Me 2  together. There were cupcakes for dessert three nights in a row.  Not a bad few days, all things considered.

Now my focus is Friday's Women in Radio workshop. Eek. Thanks to my marvellous parents - coming over from North Wales to look after the kids while Mark travels back from London - I can go to Birmingham tomorrow afternoon, work out where everything is, potter around their Christmas Market or go to the movies and get up at a reasonable hour for the 8:45am start. I'm meeting a couple of the other attendees for a coffee before hand. From the little we've chatted on Twitter they seem lovely, so that should be a good start to the day.

I'm vacillating between excited and intimidated. Some of the other women who are going seem so professional and qualified. I've just got myself to offer. Yikes.I asked one of the BBC presenters who will be taking part what I should do to prepare. She says all I need is enthusiasm and questions.

I can do that. I've got loads. Wish me luck!
Jay x


  1. Jay, they're just people! You are ace at people! And yeah, some of them have Qualifications - but Caitlin Moran didn't. Kate Adie didn't either. Just blagged their way in where angels fear to tread. Open your mouth and start talking, and you'll be off...wishing you the luck of the god(esses) for Friday, have a super time!

    So sorry about the cake stall - I've seen that happen to professional bakers at our school fair too - we have lots of bric-a-brac/lucky dip/tombola, there's so many stalls to spend your money at and no one wants to buy posh when cheap and cheerful is on offer.


  2. Lucy, your comment has made my evening! Caitlin and Kate Adie and me... What a marvellous thought