Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Video: Sugar Hydrangea Tutorial, Wired and for Decorating Cupcakes

In this post I’m offering a tutorial on making gumpaste Hydrangea, both wired and for decorating popular cupcakes. In my plan to make a number of  good sugarflower tutorials this year,  this one takes a front line because I think it’s extremely versatile as well as easy to make a sugar flower.

I believe that Hydrangea is the best  possible filler for any of  your sugar flower / cake arrangements.  Its single blooms are large and fill up the space easily not just beautifully.  They are also flexible in their shape: you are almost guaranteed to find one  that will fill out most gaps.  Hydrangea is known to come in many colours, being another reason why it’s so user friendly.

Even though sugar Hydrangea  is very popular among the cake decorators around the world,  there are many veiners on the market for this one flower, too, giving you a good chace to customise your flower arrangement successfully.

Finally, sugar Hydrangea can be used a as a stand alone, main flower. I can think of couple of talented sugar artists which use the fact that it’s not very commonly used as such, to their advantage, showing it off beautifully a nice  hydrangea only  compositions on their cakes. Please leave a comment if you’d like me to give you some examples…

...But for now, this is my video tutorial on how to make sugar Hydrangea very easily, using basic sugar craft tools.  Thanks for Watching!


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

How to Charge For Cakes? How Not to? I Price my Corporate Cake. Too Much? Too little? You Decide!

How do we do it?  Price those cakes?  There are plenty enough pointers all over the net to  suggest that we shouldn’t under-charge for our cakes, cupcakes, sugar figurines, gumpaste flowers or whatever else we produce and sell, but since the actual prices are rarely shared, pricing a cake correctly  is harder than it seems. I can only think of one cake-maker, who stated the exact prices he charged for his beautiful cakes on his website, loud and clear, and I felt a bit sour on his behalf, because I thought that his beautifully designed cakes, both wedding and celebration, were worth a lot more.  
Is pricing a matter of supply  and demand or is it our general modesty at pricing our hard work fairly, that is the problem, simply because  making them often also happens to be our artistic outlet, and so is already seen by us as gratifying, before the pricing even began? Muddy waters is, this cake pricing…

I’m afraid, I can’t offer the ‘one fits all’ pricing solution here, in this post,  either.  Instead, here’s my personal account of pricing a corporate cake, in this picture below.

So the guy ordering this cake phones up.  Initially, he seems hesitant.  Admit it, it’s supercute when guys are trying to place cake orders. They just breathe in and want to be done with it.  “Message from our newborn son saying he loves his mommy, please”,  “It’s our 50th anniversary and I want it to look...well...very romontic...” “You’re 18 now but will always be my baby... will this fit on the cake?”  Total tear-jerker, get out of here!

He has a sketch of the cake he wants in graphics, in fact.  It’s a first one on  me. As we speak, he also emails me the picture of  the same cake previously done by another caker and  tells me the price which that cake maker charged. It’s a new one on me, too!  Theirs is the kind of price I would have asked for  in my first year of trading. Not a lot. He tells me that he likes my website and wants me to better the cake. “That cake was well received and very tasty,  but we want a step up.”  I take a good look. They used some factory cutters but also custom cut outs for the logos. It’s not a very confident cake, yet not a bad cake, not bad at all.  The guy does want many logos on the cake, that’s for sure. Sometimes subtlety is a cheaper way to go around for buyers,  but of course, it applies to weddings much more than to corporate orders.

I say to him,  ‘Well, I can better it. The10" cake of this design will cost £100.00’

I don’t have a policy about pricing unusual orders.  Instead, I have this slightly hippy way of visualising the paycheck and imagining myself with it.  Do I see myself happy or ever so slightly resentful of own bad judgement? Bad judgement does happen, largely, when I don’t go with my gut feeling.  The most common excuse to myself is, or at least was,  ‘Well, it’s gonna be a good practice.’ If you anything like me in thinking like this, you are kidding yourself, practice and undervaluing your own good work it two different things completely.

There’s a pause.  Then my buyer says.  ‘Ok.  It’s a bit more than our budget. But ok.  Can you pick up some flowers on the way, by any chance, for about £30.00?”  
I gather,  he’s used to dealing with ‘value added service’.  Whichever way, though,  he seems agreeable with my quote, if not 100% happy with it.

I pick up his flowers in my local flower shop.  It’s run by a lady in a wheelchair.  She’s nice. Nathan and me have bumped into her few times, on the rare occasions when we had some childcare to set us free for the evening.  The flower lady must like the same bars, or is it that we don’t have that many bars in our neighbourhood? Anyway.  She gets around and reminds me of her nice flower shop, while at it.   
I sit the flowers next to my cake, wondering how it is that you can just look on and on a beautiful flower arrangement, and not get bored, more like hypnotised.  

The flower lady,  myself, and the guy, we are all happy now.

I drop off the cake.  I don’t do many cookies that involves filling out shapes with runny Royal Icing so it takes me longer than expected to do that bit adapted to cake, but that’s fine by me,  I just need to get quicker at it.

He calls me the next day to say that the cake was nice. He’s subtle about it, not like when girls  order, they are generally more excited about cakes, just like I would be: cakes do get me very excited. I like looking at them, eating them, offering them as a treat...

My buyer asks me if I would do another of the same cake for their other office.  It’s a bit outside of my usual delivery range. I’m not willing to drive further, yet, I’m happy with the pay.  I my mind, at least, this means, I got my cake quote exactly right, totally spot on.  He offered me another job, yet didn’t  try to convince me too badly, which probably means, he feels about the same.

‘If nothing on Google, check Instagram’  I suggest readily.
I don’t really know why I’m so keen on Istagram. But I feel I made friends with it, with other sugarcrafters I met there. I guess being in the same boat , professionally or by hobby has something to do with it, because who else would I talk to at length  about the intricacies of making things out of sugar? Picking up and dropping the conversation at my own pace?  No one I know in my non-virtual reality pops to mind.

And so we are. £100.00 for this cake.  Delivery near London.   Too much?  Too little? Just right? What do you think? What would you charge?

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

VIDEO. Gold-Digging: Testing Edible Lustre Dusts, Paint and Can Spray, which Agree with Food Regulations in UK

Some of you may already know me from YouTube or Instagram, or very recently, from Cakelosophy Facebook page. For the rest  of you, I’m hoping that my write-up will double up as a bit of an introduction, too.

In this test, I tried out 11  pots of gold.  10 of them are fully edible by UK reg., mostly lustre dusts mixed with vodka, but also a paint, a paste and a spray. I also included 1 non-edible dust, as I was curious to see if it was really that different.  
I  used 4 dried squares  of fondant for most tests:   white/ yellowish fondant base with 1 and 2 layers of paint.

When mixing edible dusts with vodka, I tried to make my paint as rich as possible...Here's my YOUTUBE vid to show live coverage of the tested paint (SCROLL DOWN for TRUE TO LIFE gold shots)

You might find that the pictures of golds tested are plenty enough to give you an idea of what’s what. I took all pics in the same spot of daylight and did not use filters.  If you are interested, however, I rated  each of my golds  on  SHADE, COVERAGE  and it’s SPARKLE-ability see the comments under the pics.

Some of the results totally surprised me!  Be sure to see  the conclusion at the bottom,  for my BEST and WORST golds and more.

Without further ado, let's get started.

*All prices quoted, are from the same place ( Ebay ) and include  postage.

First Dig...

...dust in the Edible Silk Range, by RAINBOW DUST.  Price £2.95 for 4 g pot.

+ SHADE: Not great too orange, looks orangy in a pot, too.
+ COVERAGE: Solid but streaky;  2 layers did not quite solve it, yet it’s likely that  3 layers may interfere with the pattern, quite clumpy, probably more than average drying time.
+SPARKLE: Medium to low.

As I was saying... The shade is a ‘no-no’ for me to bother dealing with the rest.

Second Dig...

...edible lustre by SUGARFLAIR. £2.25 for 2 g pot

+SHADE:  It’s unusual in a good way, imho, would work nice mixed with pearl lustre.
+COVERAGE: Not great, 1 layer is a ‘no-no’, 2 layers is ok , but can see streaks, I’d say matching base closely coud be an idea.  It clumps up ‘medium-ly’. ( apologies for adjusting the lovely English words to own needs) . Dries quite quickly.
+SPARKLE: Medium to low.

As I was saying... this one is a very distinctive colour  for a brave caker!

Third Dig...

...edible lustre by SUGARFLAIR, £2.25 for 2 g pot.

+SHADE: I think it’s very good, true to light gold I imagine, anyway.  Beware, it does look very similar to other Sugarflair gold dusts when you try to buy it online, very non-distinct shade when dry.
+COVERAGE: Very even, though not solid, its sparkle effect hides areas with less paint very well.  It doesn’t clump up at all, so while 2 layers might not be enough from the draditional point of view, it could easily pass off as the modern ‘is it on purpose or they just can’t do it’ effect. Dries very quickly.
+SPARKLE:  Fantastic Sparkletastic.

As I was saying... 3 layers with this one will not be clumpy and obstructive but is timely and more expensive.

Forth Dig...

...dust food colour by SQUIRES KITCHEN £4.50 per pot of 5.5g

+SHADE: Heavy orange tint, NOT obvious by looking a the dry dust, even in a shop, never mind online.
+COVERAGE: Quite solid but streaky, similar to ‘Metallic Golden Sands’,  and it’s clumpier than average.
+SPARKLE: Hardly any.

As I was saying...Expected much more of this make, as I love their image and bought some great stuff like impressive veiners from there, but not with this one. One thing, though,  I remember it as being expensive, but it isn’t, if you pay attention to the gram/price ratio.  

Fifth Dig...

...Pearl Dusting, dust Colour by COLOUR SPLASH, £5-6 for a 5 g pot

+SHADE: Light gold, similar to how it looks dry , good ‘lighthearted’  colour.
+COVERAGE:  Not bad, not solid, but 2 layers will do a decent job, it clumps up moderately, not problematic.
+SPARKLE:  Quite decent.

As I was saying... This one seems very similar to, but if  applying dry, NOT as effective as most SUGARFLAIR dusts, I used.  

Sixth Dig...

6. SAINSBURY’S ‘dust’. About £2.00 per pot.

+SHADE: Seems ok, ‘goldy’ and sparkly while  in packaging, but when mixed with vodka, it’s a bit like wet sugar, has very odd, 'clingy'  in all the wrong places, texture.
+COVERAGE: Pretty rubbish , slightly grainy and hardly visible, yellowish in colour that can be seen in some places but not other. Clumping up doesn’t apply here, it’s just all wrong.  
SPARKLE: None whatsoever, once liquified.  If pplying dry ( I did ), it's a bit like using sand, again, and it’s heavy, too. Did anywone use it happily, I wonder, and how so?

As I was saying... Looks inviting when dry but don’t be fooled, it seems to do the opposite of what you expect it to, on every count,  epic  golden fail, basically.  (On balance, I do like Saisbury’s Pizzas and their gluten free flour ain’t half bad!)

Seventh Dig...

...edible lustre by SUGARFLAIR, £2.25 for 2 g pot

+SHADE: Good, true to its name.  This one, too, looks very similar to other Sugarflair gold dusts when dry.  
+COVERAGE: Very even, though not solid. 2 layers’ may not be enough but 3 would work just fine, it hardly clumps up, so one problem less there, too.
+SPARKLE:  Yes. Or at least a ‘full on’ shimmer.  

As I was saying... Good all-rounder.  I especially like how it looks as the first layer under two layers of ‘Gold Sparkle’ by Sugarflair *( The odd square on the  5 squares’ pic! )

Eighth Dig..

...edible food PAINT by COLOUR SPLASH, £5.00 for a 25g pot ( heavier, being a paint)

+ SHADE: Very nice, bright  gold.
+COVERAGE: Good, the only edible with one layer being enough, probably. It’s quite thick, two layers might obscure very delicate pattern.  On a flat surface the brush lines are hard to avoid,  but might work really well for rustic look.  Takes  longer than dusts to dry but the brushes are as easy to clean as with dusts, which was a nice surprise.
+SPARKLE:  Excellent.

As I was saying...When applying watch out for bubbles.

Ninth Dig...

...paste  by SUGARFLAIR. £3.80 for a regular SF paste pot.

+SHADE: Horrendous. I don’t seem myself bonding with it under any trend.
+COVERAGE: Very patchy, not improving much with the second layer, but managing to obstruct bits of pattern all the same.
+SPARKLE: Hardly there when applied ( seems stunning while in the pot, but without  diluting with vodka , it’s too ‘heavy’ to be applied, which is just as well, as it woud have costed tons)

As I was saying...Maybe you are supposed to use this to colour the base fondnat? But if so, why waste time with the sparkly effect in the bottle, which would never show up if added in fondant mix?

Tenth Dig...

10. PME
...edible lustre spray GOLD. £6.79 per a spray can

+SHADE: Ok, a bit orangy.  NOT at all as it looks on a can, which can be a bummer, considering that it’s not cheap.
+COVERAGE: Quite easy to use on testers once you got hang of the right distance and pace, but I see it being a disadvantage for cakes as it spreads around quite a bit, though perhaps I’m just not used to the medium and the whole  masking thing is worth it, the rest being quick and easy.
+SPARKLE: Not bad, more like a shimmer, but is definitely there.

As I was saying...For me, it wouldn’t have been worth the price, but I never use cans to spray. If I do, I’ll post more on it.

Final , NON - EDIBLE Dig...

10. Golden Rose
...the non-edible DECORATIVE gold dust about £2.80 a pot.

+SHADE: Out of this world, but the big BUT.
+COVERAGE: Pretty solid with one layer, though I’d use two ( run out of squares, hence no second layer).
+SPARKLE: Total bling, as you can see.

As I was saying...One use for it  I can immediately think of, would be a custom cake board, ( have vid for on of these on my youtube, sorry to self-prom) though you’d need something stupidly bright on a cake itself to counterbalance, or else everyone will just stare at the board, nevermind what else.

My BEST and the WORST and the rest...  

The BEST edible gold paint for me out of this lot, was ‘GOLD SPARKLE’  by Sugarflair.
True to its name, it was the gold that sparkled the most, the shade was very jolly and gold-like and the coverage came out very even and was easy to apply.

My WORST eidble gold was a close call between the confused dust from Sainsbury’s and the paste ‘Gold’ by Sugarflair.  Sugarflair has at least one more gold paste that I know of, called ‘Honey Gold’ so my mind boggles as to why they dicided to call this one simply ‘Gold’.  Go and have another look at it:  surely this particular shade coudn’t have been their idea of ultimate gold? But here goes. I will go for Sainsbury’s offering as being the  WORST, though.  At  least one can use Sugarflair as a base colour, while, havig applied all imagination at my disposal, I still can’t think of how to use the other one with any good effect.

On another note, the non-edible paint is very impressive, but I’d just double-checked,  and it contains ‘copper’ , which makes it a bit of a non-event, as I could have bought something of this sort in Hobbycraft, or is it any better? It looks like it could be edible…. Is there any difference between this £1.60 per pot Golden Rose and the $30.00  ‘Ideale’  that is classified as  ‘not regulated by the FDA as a food product, so it should only be used on decorations and parts of the cake that will not be eaten’ as put up for sale by the Evil Cake Genius (on my 'Cake: Sourcing Materials' Pinterest Board). Because if ‘Ideale’ also gets it’s ‘goldness’ from copper, without saying that much, then maybe everyone shuld just start using Golden Rose, cheap and cheerful,  and be done with it? I’ll just leave this for another blog post, shall I...

And so  to finish off ...

I’m definitiely not claiming to be an expert gold-digger, just sugarcraft curious ( and this will apply to the vast majority of what I’ll blog about, I’m afraid to say, my gallery and social media should should convey my strenghts and limitations if anyone’s interested in my cred or lack thereof), so I’d LOVE TO HEAR about your experiences and takes on food grade Gold in UK and abroad.  Do GO to the  pink button below  and COMMENT!  Commenting and hearing back is fun, once you get started.  

Does anyone use the vaguely deifined seemingly edible gold for things like sugar flowers, for example?  I know I did.  If to order, I explained  and got written consent.
How about using gold in other coutries? Where in the world are you lucky enough to use this faboulous gold dust  that looks incredible on insta pictures of cupcakes and makes all UK cakes green with envy?

And this is about it for this post, sorry it was a bit too long and hope you enjoyed it.   Thanks for reading and participating. I’m planning to do at least one more ‘gold-digging’ post in the future.

...These and more...