The BlogThe WebsiteTutorialsHow TosCustomer Reviews

Welcome to my Extra Icing blog!

Follow my journey in the cake world...with a side plate of personal stories (not always relative to the title of this blog!).
Find me on FACEBOOK and TWITTER too!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Come fly with me...

I haven't made that many cakes this year, but I have to say that those that I HAVE done have been quite the challenge.  The trend seems to go from the general square or round with a little (customer's perspective which translates to a LOT from the baker's side!) decoration on the top.  I have had more requests for shaped cakes and when it comes to transport, I file them alongside the 'froses'....sugar roses with a silent F.  (not so silent if you happen to be in the room while I'm making them!)  It seems the more I try to convince myself that these things are outwith my capabilities, the more I dig my heels in and rise to the challenge.  I'm sure this cake (and making roses for that matter) and other types of sculpted cakes are right up a lot of cake decorators street.  I've seen some amazing sculpted creations all over the internet and in cake competitions too and trust me, shaping the body of a plane...well, MY version of it that nothing.  If you can give your interpretation of something and it still looks like at least three quarters of the request you've been asked to take on then it's a bonus.  My passion and best skill will always be in making little characters, and for a while I adapted other styles, incorporating them into my own.  I've never felt so uncomfortable!  Why?  Because I realised I was not being myself.  Comfort and confidence comes from being true to yourself and not to be swayed by what you might consider better than your own.  Didn't I write my own book?  Didn't I??  So what was I THINKING???  So this little figure on top of this plane means a whole lot as he brought me back to my senses and made me realise I am who I am.  Love it or hate it...I'm not changing it.  I hope the coming year brings more personalised cakes my way.  I might even relent and consider the occasional FROSE!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The end result...always the BEST!

I created this cake for a friend so I didn't take professional pics which I was wholly disappointed about...but look at what I got in return!  A beautiful smile from a happy 16 year old is more than enough to make me feel worthy as a cake maker.  All too often we bakers bid farewell to our creations and wonder what happened in the next chapter.  I for one LOVE the next chapter.  Some designs I can take or leave and am happy to see them go out the door never to be seen again...but for some reason, the undersea and fishy creations really capture my imagination and thoughts which is quite extraordinary from one who can't swim the length of herself (all 5 feet with no shoes!) and who nightmares about deep water and oversized waves!!  Life is strange...but in the cake world can be very precious.  Thank you for the feedback on this cake Miss Mia.  It completes the cake journey and I wish others would follow suit.  THIS photo is what it is all about cake peeps...don't you agree?? 

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Love is blind...

As a carer to this young man, Paul, with complex Special Needs, I'm regularly (translated: ALWAYS) banging on about how the public react when we are out together.  But hey...we don't care, most of the time.  It's understandable and actually a lot more acceptable than years gone by when kids and young adults like Paul were kept very much out of sight.  So in actual fact, perhaps we should wave a little flag and say "hooray for progress!"
Today I took my 3 year old granddaughter Michaela out with Paul.  Of course, those who already know my family will know that she is the younger sister of Daniel, my cheeky 8 year old grandson who has Downs Syndrome.  Even though she doesn't understand nor question the reason why some people need to be assisted in their mobility, thankfully she is neither fazed or frightened by this mode of transport.  We trailed around a massive store today looking at all the Christmas trees and sparkling lights.  She was running ahead of the wheelchair and turning around calling out to Paul "come catch me!"  Hahaha!  He got very animated (LOUD) and lifted his fist to 'chastise' her in a mocking way but was clearly loving the attention and her silliness.  She stood waiting until the chair reached her tiptoes then giggled and turned on her heels to start the game over again.  When it came time to go and have some lunch...or "yunch" in Michaela speak...I parked Paul's chair at a table where I had a good view of both of them while I waited in a queue to get the goodies.  I watched as Michaela NEVER stopped talking and Paul gazed at her as if only her words mattered.  Then she disappeared under the table to 'hide'.  I could see Paul getting flustered, trying to tell her to get up off the floor.  "Aine!" he shouted, looking over at me and pointing a waggy finger in her direction as if to inform me of her bad behaviour.  I waved my hand calmly to let him know it's all okay and that she is only playing.  She popped up on the opposite side of his chair from where she disappeared a moment ago and shouted "Peek a boo Paul!"  He howled with laughter and quite loudly stated "ya bugga!"  Translate that as you will...he's allowed to express himself in any way he likes!  Michaela squealed and soon I was able to join them at the table and calm this pair down and finally have a quiet(ish) lunch.
Michaela is fortunate to be brought up in a family where disability is not an issue or something to be afraid of.  If only parents could explain in some kind of terms to their children of how others may not be as fortunate as them, approach disabled children and adults when out and about, especially in cafés and places where people gather on a social level.  It's great when strangers take the time to simply say "Hi!" as opposed to steering the child with the pointy finger and the loud voice stating "Look at the tiny man!  Look!"  That's a mild me.  I've had occasions where I've wanted to react, probably pretty badly but haven't.  On other occasions I haven't been able to be so polite.  Why should I be?  It takes all kinds to make a world.  If you are in good health, good spirit and sound mind then be thankful.  Nobody knows what lies ahead.  Today was a fantastic day and a reminder of why I have little to complain about....and the fact that my fridge is empty of Maltesers really is a very small issue!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Shoes and Handbags...yes?

No...I didn't make this sugar shoe (YES!  YOU CAN EAT IT!!) but I'm gonna!
I am incredibly excited to be taking part in a class and be shown how to make this perfect sugar shoe by the wonderfully talented Kelly Cope of Crafty Confections
Kelly is coming to Grangemouth, Scotland on the 21st and 22nd of November and will be teaching two classes.  Handbag and shoe.  What more could a woman ask for?  (except an eternal supply of coffee and Maltesers)
I've never been the student, always the tutor in my own field of sugar craft.  So this for me is a completely new and thrilling experience, to realise that there is something that I need to learn and accepting that actually, I don't know EVERYthing after all!
Go get the details for Kelly's class at Crafty Confections and sign up today.  Class spaces are very limited so don't hang around too long.  I've a feeling this one is going to be 'soled' out soon!  (see what I did there??  Did ya??)

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Bear neccessities!

There's nothing more satisfying than delivering a pretty big cake with so many varying degrees of fragility on it...intact!  Well, it almost made it.  You know when you are driving like a snail on valium and avoiding every pot hole in the road, every sharp bend and worst of all...the speed bumps, the last thing you want to hear is that little sound of something dropping onto the corner space of the cake box.  No real drama.  It was only a tiny piece of the grass surrounding the house on top that toppled off...unless you count one of the little trees that decided to keel over right on the doorstep of the recipient.  Not actually ONTO their doorstep.  The cake was covered lightly with cling film as I had no cardboard to make high extending sides on the box that only reached up to the top of the first tier.  So frustrating and totally useless. So I stood there with box in hand for only seconds but the weather was against me.  With a whole week of no rain, I thought I had this one in the bag.  But of course, like any other important delivery day, not only did the rain come but the wind decided to join in...and I'm not talking about the after effects of last night's dinner!  I managed to re attach the little tree after cutting a sliver off the bottom to make it flat and to find the inner softer paste again.  A little water is all it took to put it back in place but if I had given this more careful thought I'd have gone prepared with a little bag of cake decorating cement which is of course royal icing.  In future my motto will be "don't leave home without it!"
Next week I deliver a wedding cake to a venue that will take me on another twist of a journey and a hill that needs a road sign to state it's angle of steepness in percentages!  Who needs that kind of road sign when you're a cake maker?  Show me one with a four tier cake with the option of one, two or three tier spillage to help me decide if I'm parking the car at the bottom and carrying it the rest of the way to safety.  THEN I'll take my chances.  Why is no cake delivery ever in a straight line on a flat steps or lifts??
A wedding cake topper is also in the making so there will be plenty of pics to show off soon.  By the end of this week I reckon I will have deserved the glass (LARGE) of bubbly I have coming to me!  

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Hats the way to do it!

Two of my favourite cakes which were for friends and family.  There's nothing quite like having a free hand in what you want to do for someone.  Less pressure (sometimes) and a chance to put yourself to the test without fear of the consequences should it not turn out quite as you hoped...or worse, as your customer expected.  The "Dr Seuss" hat was a dream to do as I've always loved the animation in the books and the vibrancy of the colours.  The cakes were made up of three 7" cakes which were layered 3 times and filled with buttercream.  There are two tiers to the cake so they are separated with a 3 mm cake board and supported accordingly.  The cake travelled all the way to England on a 5 hour journey so it had to be secure.  Short of super gluing and pinning down under a net, I had to make do with dowels.  It made it to the happy little recipient in one piece so I can only be relieved and hope I get the chance to do this theme again one day.
The frog in the Magician's hat was for my grandson Daniel.  As most of you know (or if you didn't, you do now!), Daniel has Downs Syndrome.  He is a joy and a delight and the funniest little character to grace this planet.  He is always playing a role of some kind and takes on the personality (as he sees it) of whichever character he decides to be.  Most of his characters possess magic powers of some kind or another so he is often brandishing a 'wand'......aka wooden spoon or chop stick!  If you chastise him (dare to) he may turn on you with a look of haughty disdain and turn you into a frog.  The theme for his cake was a no brainer!
Also a two tiered cake with a frog created using Rice Krispie Treats.  (formerly known as RKFT....the 'F' was my own inclusion as a descriptive note on the tasty treats which can be a sticky nightmare to deal with, but has since been dropped due to the fact I have become quite an expert on the making without ending up looking like the Bee Man!)
At the moment there are no novelty cakes on the horizon but I do have a sweet wedding cake coming up next month.  It includes a lovely cascade of flowers (kind of).  I'm sure there won't be any stories to tell along the way....d'ya think?  Looking forward to 'sharing'.  I'll try and curb the F's!  

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Bakers unite...same old song, different tune?

This is a cake I created for my granddaughter and would happily recreate it for anyone else who was willing to pay me it's worth.  So let me ask you...what do YOU think it's worth is?  The cake is made from a 9" and 7" round madeira (pound) cake, layered twice and filled with buttercream which was whipped into a frenzy with vanilla added to ensure the sweetest, creamiest texture.  The sugarpaste covering is ready made colours from Renshaw simply because this saved me a small amount of time and I also love the range they have.  So why not.  The characters on the cake and the crown are made from Satin Ice Gumpaste.  I used a circle cutter for the heads of Ben and Holly to get a grasp of the size and proportion I wanted.  The rest of the characters I cut freehand and left all to dry for an hour or so before dusting the faces and limbs (TINY limbs!....very footery! Good old Scottish word right there) and painted the details using Sugarflair colour paste mixed with clear alcohol.  I dusted and painted the clothing and added the little wand and crown, etc.  The leaves were cut using a cutter that I have in among all the other cutters that I bought over the years and have no idea what their actual use or purpose is originally...but I simply search for a shape that will do the job and 'tweak' as I go along.  So the grass was shortened, pinched, cut accordingly and painted over in parts to get the effect I wanted.  All of these little details were added individually and stuck in place...taking hours....and hours...and lots of coffee!  I used little blossom/daisy and star cutters for the little garden accents.  The sign for Michaela's Little Kingdom (changed to personalise for the birthday girl) was cut hand free using a template I drew and I painted the letters onto room for error.  So....the cakes were baked the day before the cake was decorated.  Colouring, preparing, filling, covering and decorating all took place from 8 am and the cake was complete by 10 pm at night.
When I get enquiries for childrens cakes, I'm usually met with "we just want a sponge" which immediately flags up that they don't expect to pay more than £40 to £60 for the cake.  But if you come to me....or any other bespoke cake maker, it's not "just a cake" that you are going to walk away with.  There is no other job out there that you would work for less than the minimum wage so please don't expect cake makers to do it just because you can't see the work involved in the process and the outcome.  It's very frustrating, and soul destroying to say the least.  I will happily recreate the above cake for anyone who asks...if your budget is £90+ for an adaptation of the above (same size cakes as mentioned) then I consider you get a bargain!  
In the last couple of weeks I have taken enquiries for 3 different cakes and designs.  Each one I gave a price for and one by one they came back with thanks but no thanks.
Quality and personal time comes at a price.  I refuse to underestimate my standards just because you underestimate your budget for hand crafted goods.  
So I ask again...what would you expect to pay for a cake like this?

Monday, 6 July 2015

An IMPossible cake?

I had such a wonderful time creating this cake.  It was so easy and I felt as though I was skipping through Poppy fields every step of the way.  Hang on...that's not quite accurate.  The truth is....the absolute truth is....I over thunk it (WOW!  thunk really IS a word?  No little red rejecting squiggly underline appeared.  Well THAT just spoiled the line I had planned!)  To continue on, I procrastinated, (had to look that one up) and I swore enough to make a sailor proud.  As far as cake carving goes, I'm no expert.  I've said it many times....I can carve a decent mountain at best, but normally don't take on anything more challenging than that.  But to be fair, when I saw the image of this car I didn't get that "I can't do this" feeling....immediately!  So I decided it would be a good thing to take it on.  The fact that my customer is an absolute delight and considers me her personal cake maker, how could I possibly refuse?  It took four 9" x 12" sheet cakes (which sounds like I'm swearing in a phoney French accent.  How appropriate!) to create this car.  So how big was the car?  Well I'll tell was approximately 11" long and 7 or 8" wide.  How good is your maths?  Height, width, volume and all that.  Adds up to all those cakes?  Of course not.  This baking frenzy before the event is what is commonly known in the cake decorating world as PANIC!  I had absolutely no plan, guide, template or feckin clue.  I don't mind admitting it.  I stocked up on Tenas to see me through this entire experience.  However...once I got started...layering...filling...crumb coating...refrigerating...carving/swearing.  It got better.  More crumb coating, more refrigerating...then a coating of ganaché to hold it all together before the final covering which was sugarpaste, the blue dying of which remaining ingrained down the sides of my fingernails for days afterwards.  I hung my head in my hands several times but the lure of Maltesers and coffee helped me lift it back up again and helped me to see the light.  This wasn't such a bad job after all.  Once I started putting all the decorative pieces together and finally gave myself a pat on the head for the detailing, I was glad that I had taken this on....despite my initial (as always) reservations regarding my own ability.  Now all I need to do is change my damn phone to get a few decent pictures in future.  My camera is good.  My back drop is even more  It's on my 'to-do' list to get these things sorted.  Thank you to my lovely and ever faithful customer who gave me this challenge.  She promises that the next one is going to be less challenging and that I will like it...but I sense it won't be a simple shape, that's for sure.  I told her to give me plenty of notice so that I can refill my valium prescription in time!
So...good readers...if you have reached the end of this post, let me be so bold as to let you know (again!  haha!) about my upcoming classes in Seattle and New Jersey .
Simply click the City and State for all the details and booking info.  Come join know you want to!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Come join me in New Jersey for classes!

I'm thrilled to be returning to Secaucus in November for 3 days of class.  See the website for details and hopefully I'll see you there!  Fun and informative.  You can't afford to miss it.
Supply lists will be added to the website very soon.  A minimal of tools are me.  Nobody needs to lug around a huge container of 'stuff'.  I keep it is simple and clean as I possibly can.  Any questions simply contact me through the website and I'll get back to you.
Come on!!  It's going to be FUN!!!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The most unlikely friendship...sweet!

Although I am a cake maker and work with a lot of sweet things regularly...these moments are truly the sweetest.  Totally non related to cake or anything edible (although I could eat my dog sometimes...if only to shut her up!) but I get such a thrill walking Poppy (little black furry one) down the lane near my house where the horses roam around in the vast fields.  As soon as they see us they walk over towards the fence.  Poppy almost takes flight as her tail spins around so fast...mine too!  I love the horses but don't ask me to SIT on one though.  Done that only once in my life and I'm still getting over the shock.  It would take a whole lot of Firemen and a copious amount of duct tape to keep me on a real live horse.  To me it's about as much joy as being kicked up the arse repeatedly.  I'm sure there is a knack to sitting on a saddle and maintaining your dignity but I just don't have it.  I'm happy to watch the beautiful creatures over a fence.
I don't know what's happening with our Summer here in Scotland.  I'm still waiting for it to kick in.  Last week I walked the dog in tee shirt and short jeans...ME that is, not the dog.  This week it's back to boots and puffer jacket!  It's ridiculous.  Oh well...whatever the weather, precious moments remain.  Have a good one whatever you are doing today!  I'm resting up before I contemplate my first car cake next week. a transport cake.  Watch out for THOSE expletives.  Coming soon!