It's that special someones Birthday, and you want to get them the perfect cake to suit their personality and taste. With the millions of images out there, where do you start? A little thought can help your Cake Maker give you the perfect cake at the right price.
1. Allow Plenty of Time
Like all good things, cake making takes time. If you contact your cake maker the day before, or on the day of their birthday, you will only be able to get what is available or worse, nothing at all. If you want seven tiers, a sculpted car or a cow, your cake maker will need to purchase materials to build a frame, or wait for a cutter or topper to arrive in the mail.
For a simple cake allow at least a week, for something more complicated we may need several weeks.
2. Think about your budget
It is a good idea to share how much you want to spend with your cake maker from the start. They can then advise what is available for you in your price bracket, for the size of cake that you need. Be aware like many professions we charge by the hour. A hugely detailed cake can take many hours, and has to be charged accordingly. Just like taking your car to the garage, we also have overheads, insurance, power and more to pay for. Your cake maker wants to give you the best experience, so that you recommend us to others. Revealing your budget from the outset, allows us to give you the best cake that we can for that amount. Also to remember, often the most beautiful things in life are simple.
3. The flavour
Have a think about the favourite flavour of the receiver, and also any no-no's like nuts or other allergens. By far the best selling flavours are the classics, chocolate, lemon, vanilla, banana and carrot. If you want a sculpted cake, stick to a firmer flavour like chocolate or lemon, as banana and carrot cakes can be too soft to sculpt with.
4. How many serves do you need?
How many people are coming to your party? Would you like some leftover? If yes, make sure that you are not eating cake for breakfast for the next month! Also to consider is not going too small. If a hundred guests are attending, a small single tier cake will not give everyone a piece.
5. How many tiers?
If you are serving up to 20 people, you probably only need a single tier cake. As you increase the number of tiers, the complexity of the cake will increase, and so will the cost. These days most people want tall cakes, as they look better. For 6 inch high cakes we stack two cakes on top of each other to get the effect. If you like the look of tall tier cakes, be sure to tell your cake maker that is what you want as a standard size cake is 3-4 inches.
6. The search!
Now we get to the exciting bit, the actual design. We always recommend using google or pinterest to search for images to share with your cakemaker. Pictures always give a better idea than words. If you only like certain aspects of a cake, we can take bits and pieces and piece them together to give the perfect design. If you hate fondant, use buttercream in your search terms.
7. The personality of the receiver
Have a think about their personality. Do they love bright colours? The colour of a cake is good place to start when you are not sure of a design.
Are they fun, sophisticated, a lover of nature? Do they have any hobbies? What else do they do in their spare time? eg. Party girl, Art, Gardening, Golf, etc. All of these types of words will bring up lots of designs for you to look at and consider.
If it's for a child, what do they love right now? Common popular themes are superheroes, unicorns, animals, favourite TV Shows.
8. Words and numbers
For young children, its popular to have their name somewhere and a number. For adults a meaningful phrase can be thoughtful. Try not to make the words too long, as they can take over and detract from the design. For an art inspired cakes, words and number are often best left out. Custom designed toppers can be a beautiful addition. Do allow several weeks in front for these. Most will need to be mailed and often take some time.
9. The Big Day!
On the big day there can be so many things to do. For the small addition of delivery, do think about having your cake maker deliver. Especially if the cake is large, expensive, or you have young children to look after. Then you can concentrate on enjoying the celebration. Happy planning!
School holidays are always hard to keep kids entertained and off devices. With the added restriction of self isolation, these can pass an hour or so on a rainy day. We made these with just a few easy ingredients from the supermarket.
Let your imagination go wild with the fillings and toppings. We used fresh blueberries as they are readily available and cheap, but you could substitute with banana, tinned fruit or jam. These are not overly sweet, and rely on the sweetness of the fruit. If you feel they need a little more just sift over a thin layer of icing sugar.
1. Defrost your puff pastry sheets.
2. Lightly brush one sheet with water using a pastry brush and press another on
3. Carefully cut your large square into 9, by scoring into 3 in both directions. This bit is best left to an adult. Use a ruler if you need to.
4. Each square forms the base of your pastry. Here is where you can creative! For an easy shape fold two opposite corners into each other. You can find lots of shaping ideas on Youtube, or each just stick to a square. Whichever shape you choose, make a indent with a teaspoon in the middle and lightly press down to hold the filling. See our shapes below.
5. Brush the pastry with soy milk and lightly sprinkle with caster sugar.
6. Place a small teaspoon of custard in the indent and top with a small handful of blueberries.
7. Bake at 200 C for 15 minutes until golden brown.
8. Lightly brush with maple syrup and allow to cool.
These are for anyone struggling for some quick and easy meal inspiration at home. We just had a ‘not another sandwich’ moment at lunch time and made these gluten free and vegan cornmeal & zucchini fritters. I have adapted a recipe we use in our commercial kitchen, and was really please with the result! My zucchini had actually turned to marrows, as the New Zealand summer made them grow at a super fantastic rate.
All of the ingredients are easy to find in the supermarket. These are amazing with fresh mint, but I only had thyme & parsley so stuck to those as my fresh herbs. If you don't have access to fresh herbs, try a teaspoon of dry. Basil, mint or oregano would all complement the zucchini.
You can get creative with the spices too, just don’t go heavier than a teaspoon until you have tasted a tester. You can also use other veggies if you don’t have or like zucchini. If you want to up the protein content you can replace 1/2 the flour with chickpea flour. If you do this make sure you cook all the way through as raw chickpea flour has a very special flavour!
1. Sift dry ingredients and whisk together with a fork or whisk.
2. Add all the fresh ingredients.
3. Mix together with your hands, squeezing to bring the mix together.
4. If the mix seems dry at this point, leave for 5 mins. The water from the zucchini will moisten the mix without needing to add more.
5. Form into fritters and fry in a thin layer of your favourite oil. Avoid using a dry pan as the fat helps with flavour and moistness.
6. Cook on a medium head and flip when you can see the bottom has started to brown.
For a gluten free version you can serve like I did with your favourite salad, a handful of nuts and some guacamole or your favourite chutney. This would also work as a mezze bowl with hummus underneath and some rice to accompany the other elements.
These would make a fantastic filled tortilla. Spread the bottom of your tortilla with your favourite chutney, do lines of crispy salad like spinach, red onion, grated or finely slice carrot, cucumber or capsicum. If like me you love fresh herbs, put down a layer of fresh basil or mint. Lay a line of fritters and optionally some of your favourite vegan cheese. If you like a little hot sauce, add that too, then a little salt and pepper. Roll into a burrito then pan fry the edges until golden. For a mixed mezze adaptation also add some beetroot hummus and falafel.
Fritters are also really good on a baguette or your favourite gluten free bun. Spread dairy free spread on the bottom and top. Next tomato chilli jam or other favourite tomato based sauce, crispy lettuce, red onion and top with your fritters. Really filling and a great way to use up any leftovers.
Did you know that 50 % of all food that hits the landfill is avoidable? This means that half of what we throw away is food that has past the point of being eaten, money we have literally just thrown in the bin, and also a significant cost to the environment.
In the commercial environment it makes economic sense to reduce food waste to the minimum as this is money that can be spent on other things like staff wages, new equipment and of course profit.
Today I'm going to share some tips to help you reduce food waste and your weekly shopping bill.
1. Plan it
You are far less likely to overspend on groceries if you plan dinner and lunch ideas for the week. Get the whole family involved and ask everyone what they might like to eat this week. In our family we choose about 9 days worth of meals, as sometimes the weather may dictate what you want to eat. We then make those other items a priority the next week.
2. Freeze it.
Don't wait until something rotten and then throw it out. With meat items that are getting close to their use by date, either freeze them whole, or chop them up with vegetables and herbs for a pie filling. At a later date you can pull them out and defrost in the fridge over night for a fast meal. If you are not going to eat it all at once divide into containers and date.
3. Blend it.
My favourite way of using left over vegetables at home is to make a soup. Chop up an onion and sweat it off. Add the leftover veggies, (this works with left over roasties too), and simmer in stock. Add some spices, herbs and/ or nuts for a nutritious soup. When the veggies are cooked through, cool down then blend. This is also a great way to hide stuff veggies from the kids! You can also use up those bits of veg like the ends of broccoli that would otherwise be thrown away.
4. Roast it.
Roasting is a great way of using up tired old veg, and you can roast more than you think. Parsnips, Brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli are all delicious roasted, then added to some leaves and nuts or seeds for a nutritious salad. If you are skipping the dressing, a squeeze of lemon is just beautiful.
5. Get saucy.
We repurpose lots of tired old fruit, veg and herbs by making our own sauces, chutneys and pestos. Soft tomatoes add a beautiful freshness to a tomato sauce. Fruit that is past its eating best and a little soft can be beautiful when made into a compote.
6. Pickle it.
Instead of buying expensive pickles from the supermarket, invest in some simple ingredients and make your own. Places like pinterest have an absolute ton of recipes to try.
7. Batch cook it.
The easiest way to make sure you use everything up is to make a big batch of something. Tomato sauces, cottage pie, pasties, applesauce, and muffins can all be frozen for a future date. At home I will often make double the amount of mashed potato for dinner, then use it to make shepherds pie the next day.
8. Wrap it.
Our favourite thing for lunch in the Sugar Sisters kitchen is to use up all of the leftovers from lunch service in a wrap. There is always a sauce and vegetables., sometimes some protein. The rule is just leftovers, in any weird combination. Some of our best flavour ideas have originated this way.
9. Bake it.
Homemade muffins using leftover fruit, crumbles, granola bars and pies are much nicer than the supermarket versions and healthier for you. as you can moderate what goes in. In the age of convenience we often forget that baking and cooking are important life skills.
10. Eat it.
Savour and appreciate every mouthful. Taste it, enjoy it and use it all!
We get asked this question a lot! This is the first in the series of how things work behind the scenes. Being a cake decorator is a wonderful career. Its creative, fun, and very satisfying to be able to make something really beautiful. Nothing compares to the look of wonder on a small child's face when they see the cake you have made for them. It's also very stressful. Working to deadlines, regular late nights and long hours, and the anxiety of ruining someone's special day if something goes wrong.
1. Commercial kitchen costs
Making food for sale is an expensive business. We have rent, power, telephone bills, internet, pest control, contents and liability insurance, accountants fees, bank fees, vehicle costs, health licenses, equipment to buy and maintain, to name a few. This is before we even purchase a single ingredient and sell anything.
2. Food costs
Buy in bulk and you get things cheaper right? Not necessarily. The wholesale cost of items is often more expensive than the prices you pay in a supermarket. Supermarkets buy everything by the truckload and can discount as its spread across all of the stores. This may not be as easy for the farm who supplies your eggs, or the fruit and veggie supplier who provides your carrots and lemons.
To make your cake taste really beautiful we also buy really high quality ingredients. Good quality butter, free range eggs, real vanilla extract with seeds, and high quality chocolate are not cheap. Can you taste the difference? We think so. The difference between a packet mix and the real thing is like trading your 10 year old car for the top of the range new model.
In professional kitchens we spend a lot of time cleaning. I mean, a lot. Cleaning ovens, mixers, sinks, worktops, sweeping, mopping floors, and washing dishes. All of this can take around a third of your day. That third of your day not making cakes still has to be accounted and paid for. With minimum wage on the rise, many kitchens do not have the luxury of a kitchen hand to do dishes for them.
Like fashion, the style of cakes and trends change. Along with that are the tools to go with it. If you are wanting something different or sophisticated we may need to buy in tools to do the job. Impression mats, air guns, etc are all neat tools that make a massive difference to the final finish of your cake. They also cost a truckload of money.
In addition to the tools, there are the foundations that keep your cake supported. There are cake boards. The boards to support each tier and a cake board underneath. Ribbons to edge the boards, and supports between tiers to stop our creations combusting before they get to the party. There is also grip mat to stop your cake flying.
For finishing your cake there can be a decent amount of fondant, flowers, toppers, edible gold leaf, and all the other bits and pieces that make your cake gorgeous, and expensive.
Time is the enemy of every cake maker. Underestimate your time and it can cost you far more to make a cake than you have charged your customer. For a three tier cake we can spend a day of labour before we even start on decoration. That time is taken up by baking, weighing out ingredients. making buttercream & ganache, assembling the layers, smoothing the outsides of each layer and stacking cakes. Angles need to be straight and level, and everything set up at the correct temperature.
7. The tax man
15% of what we charge you goes straight to IRD as GST. If we make profit on your cake, we pay tax on that too.
Your cake maker is skilled in their craft and often it has taken many years of experience and culinary school to get to the level where they can sell a cake. As such labour costs need to be charged at a level where they can work for more than minimum wage. Many cake makers work alone and absorb all of the costs we have already talked about. By this point their real wage is more likely to be comparable to a sweat shop, or worse, nothing at all.
The necessary evil of every job these days. Taking telephone calls, photographing work, updating a website, sending invoices and generating quotes. They all take time, which costs money.
How can you help to keep costs down?
A good start is to decide how much you realistically you are prepared to spend. We cannot make a cake like either of these above for $100 or anywhere near. It is good to share what this budget is from the outset, so that your cake maker can work on the best option for you.
Also helpful for us to know is how many people need to eat the cake, any special diets and the flavour you want. A picture says a thousand words and can also help us to work out a cost for you. But do not send us 10 cake pictures and ask us to quote each. Choose either a design, or a budget you want to work with and we can take it from there.
We are so excited to be part of the team offering the most amazing prize - a free Wedding.
All of this could be your and more!
We are giving away a free wedding, you get the whole 20 person package for free (valued at $4000). The catch is that the wedding has to happen on the 27th of November 2016. If you are interested click on the link for details on how to enter. http://www.allyouneedislove.co.nz/index.php/all-you-need-to-say-i-do-competition/
What a scary pair! We thought we would have a little Halloween fun and share our dark sides for this spooky photo shoot.
Our healthy Halloween treat. Spooky spider smoothies. A delicious combination of banana, orange, strawberry, passion fruit and coconut water.
Not forgetting some sweet treats! Frankenstein & Jack o Lantern fondant cupcakes.
We hope you have some fantastic Halloween fun, just like us!
Things are a little scary in the kitchen this week. We are helping you get set for some Spooky fun with Halloween cupcakes.
Available in chocolate and vanilla. So grab your broom Wellington, and fly across to the Cupcakes page to order your Halloween treats while stocks last.
Christmas is just around the corner and it’s time to party. Our head chef Jo has been inspired to create a fantastic Christmas menu melding the best seasonal ingredients and holiday tradition. Why not try our new ‘Mini Turkey, Ham, and Cranberry Pies’ or ‘Mulled Wine, Pear, and Blue Cheese Tarts’. Got a sweet tooth? We have put a Christmas twist on our classic Friands and are offering up ‘Summer Fruit Tarts with Vanilla Crème Patissiere’. That will surely hit the spot.
Whether you need catering for a work function or at home with family and friends we can offer a selection that is sure to make your mouth water. Head on over to the new section of our website and check it out!
Be sure to check back regularly because we will be adding more tasty treats and ideas in the coming weeks. Keep a special eye out for Jo’s range of Christmas themed cakes which are shaping up to be truly amazing. Happy Holidays everybody, we hope you have a good one.
Operation Sugar is a New Zealand Non Profit Organisation that provides free Custom made Celebration Cakes to children who are impacted by critical illness and require frequent hospitalisation. The organisation was founded in 2012 by Mum Rachel Jenkinson and is based on similar organisations across the world. The original concept started in America with Icing Smiles. The idea is simple: Rachel matches volunteer bakers to families in their area. The baker designs a cake based a simple idea from the family.
We registered as Bakers around 18 months ago and we were excited to receive our first assignment. The concept behind this is very special to me as my own journey as a professional baker started with gifting birthday cakes so that my son with a special diet wouldn't miss out on getting some cake.
Here is the cake we designed for a Special girl on her 9th Birthday with a love of the gym. Seeing the smile on your face when the cake was delivered was the best feeling in the world and something we can't wait to do again in the future. For more information on Operation Sugar and their incredible work go to www.operationsugar.org.nz