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Sunday, 24 May 2015

A fondant farewell...

I'm off on holiday tomorrow...lucky me.  All I could think about at the beginning of this week was the arrival of my granddaughter who was travelling from her home in Maidstone, Kent to celebrate her first birthday with me in Scotland.  (Accompanied of course by her mummy and daddy!)  I had her cake design on my mind and my time all planned out, but you never know what is around the corner.  I was never in the Brownies to the "be prepared" motto rarely applied when I'm involved.  I was on my way to do a demonstration for the British Sugarcraft Guild when I got a phone call asking if I would be able to make a cake for a very special occasion.  The date requested was the 2nd of June and I quickly realised that it was the date I was due to return from there seemed little point in continuing the conversation.  However, the lady (who turned out to be a past student of mine) explained that this was a birthday cake that might not even be seen by the recipient, but the family want to celebrate what is going to be this man's final birthday...if he makes it.  What DO you buy for someone under these circumstances?  The family are going to gather around and celebrate under the most incredibly sad circumstances with the best intentions and with hope that the day will be a lasting memory for everyone and a final grand gesture for the gentleman concerned.  He will be 60 years old on the 2nd of June and his goal is to reach it. I hope he does.  What distresses him most is the fact he won't see his grandchildren grow into young adults, so the them of the piece was purely all about the grandchildren and their love for him.  He owns a timber company, hence the seating arrangement.  I couldn't offer a cake as it was too soon to be making a fruit cake which would last for the longest time but I personally had no time to fit this in at this point.  But if the whole idea was to keep the toppers for as long as possible, the best and only thing I could do was create a sugar topper.  A project more like but something that would remain intact and be able to view at any time....and remember.  I took some details from the lady who furnished me with photographs of everyone so I could work from those.  It was requested that Grumpy the Disney Character be incorporated in the piece somehow.  With time really against me, the only thing I could suggest was that he was added as a colouring/story book.  This was agreed...and so it was.  The log was created using Rice Krispie Treats (minus the 'F' Facebookers will understand the private joke with this one!) and the rest was purely sugarpaste and tylose powder added to create the figures.  I intended to make the figures a little simpler but I just couldn't stop myself from adding the little extra detail.  My intention was to show the love for this man and can only hope this was achieved.  I finished in enough time to take care of the creation of my granddaughter's first birthday cake.  When I told my daughter Vicky about the sadness surrounding this piece, she commented that it was quite a moment to be involved in the creation of the celebration of one's first birthday and another's last.  How sad.  Today, the lady who was my past student came to collect her piece.  I told her about Vicky's comment and she reminded me that when she took her 'class'....she was actually the only person to attend it!  It was held at my own little studio in West Calder some years ago and Vicky was still living at home at the she came to join us and took the 'class' too.  So it was just us three.  This morning, Vicky left with her family to return to Maidstone and my lady arrived this afternoon to collect her piece.  How crazy is that?  I wish Vicky could have still been here and it would have completed this circle of events.  It's so bizarre, happy and sad at the same time.  A roller coaster of emotions and events.  Life is strange.  Which makes me wonder what is still around the corner.  Never give up.  Life is too, too short.  It has been a privilige to be part of this experience.  I'll hold it dear...always.  For more up close and personal views of this piece visit Lorraine McKay Facebook

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

How To Decorate Emoji Cookies With Royal Icing!

I am getting far too hooked on watching SweetAmbs cookie videos.  I think I need to make some and get this out of my system!  I know they make them look so easy and quick but I'm sure there is a lot of waiting time between steps....but this isn't going to phase me.  I see this stuff come up on my Facebook Home page all the time and could sit for....well....two cups of coffee time at least (with the occasional Malteser) just watching in awe!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Return of the Lost Blogger!

You may or may not have been aware of my frustration over the last few weeks.  If you follow me on Facebook then nothing I say here will be of great surprise.....BUT.....after all the confusion (my own doing) and touching of buttons that I know nothing about except for the "let's see what happens!" experience, I think I have learned my lesson...but don't quote me!  Somehow everything you have online relating to social circles (social media??) can be connected to each other and that's where I've fallen short of a brain cell or two.  I'm still trying to work out Google+ which is probably the equivalent of giving a baby a square peg to fit into a square hole.  It's not that difficult and they will get there in the end...probably a lot quicker than it will take me to get to grips with technology as it is today.  In my geniousness (it's in MY dictionary OKAY??) I managed to disable myself from my own blog.  Thankfully I have another Admin who many moons ago redesigned this blog for me so she will always have access to it.  So I have her to thank for reinstating me.  I own my crown once more and shall reign upon this blog with more care and attention than ever before! means that much.  I remember starting it after discovering how a computer worked (thanks to my kids who are all grown up now of course but who taught me everything...and I mean EVERY thing there was to know about plugging in a computer and how to Google!) and finding a whole new world (cue Disney song...) out there.  Over the years I've kind of abandoned the blog but I think it's time to keep on top of it once more and see what I can personally bring you.  So first of all, let me show you that I am still very much promoting my book which is called "Serugif Nuf" according to the photo I've uploaded!  This is of course the foreign version which should read "Fun Figures" in English.  I have been 'out of stock' personally on this item but will be taking delivery any day now.  It is still much cheaper to buy on Amazon of course but if you want to help a poor starving (dramatic effect apologies offered) Author then buying from me direct puts more pennies in my pocket and instead of smiling at the Electricity man I can actually pay him too!  So there you have it.  Problems solved (I hope) and a new adventure with the BLOG.  I'll understand it all some day...and hopefully you'll stay with me while I get there!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

It's in the bag!

I feel like I haven't made a cake for a client in such a long time, so when this order came in I was more than happy to take it on.  I was given a picture of the cake laying down which to all cake decorators would be a breeze, so of course I thought the same.  A kind of rectangle cake laying flat, covered in stripes.  Bish, bash bosh....good to go.  But no.  This one had to stand up.  Now if you are the kind of cake decorator who is capable of building constructions and making things look like they are floating in mid air when they are actual cake (and polystyrene and Rice Krispie Treats) then this task would be like mental arithmetic using an abacus.  Easy.  Right?  But when you have a brain like mine which is possessed by procrastinating demons then the make up of this stand up cake becomes as big a deal big deal, okay?  It may look simple enough to some but the cake itself is layered and separated by cake cards somewhere in the middle and covered in chocolate ganache to hold it all together smoothly.  The biggest task is measuring and cutting those fondant stripes and placing them neatly with some degree of accuracy...and therein lies the headache.  But, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing it all turn out in the end AND to have a satisfied customer who you know will come back for more.  The logo on the bag was freehand painted using white dust powder and a little alcohol.  Use a fine paintbrush, drink the alcohol and WAY-HAY!  Seriously had fun doing this piece of work.  Just need to get some new background materials and nice lighting to make sure the cake photos don't let me down in the future.  The perils of moving to a smaller house...only room for a small dog and Maltesers.  (To be stored separately!)

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Cake decorating...a blood sucking industry?

Well here's a little rant for the's been a while. (A whole week at least!)  For those who frequent my Facebook on a regular basis, you will be no stranger to my occasional p*ss and moan, but today I choose to rant on my blog as I don't think my gripe (it might be looooong!) would fit into the status box provided without spilling over to another page.  This post is dedicated to all those who have had successful cake businesses and have sadly over the last few months...weeks even...decided to hang up their sticky aprons and concentrate on something a bit (lot) more appreciative of their time.
For the past year I have concentrated on sorting out personal stuff and with the sale of my little shop/house (long and boring story which is not entirely relevant but still makes me want to burst a gut...not that I am bitter or resentful in any all...honest) I have relocated to a little piece of heaven in my opinion, out in the sticks and away from town/village mayhem.  Now that I am settling in to my new domain, I am finding it extremely difficult to get myself known as a cake maker without forking out shed loads of stupid cash on advertising.  The phone is ringing occasionally so the potential for new customers is certainly there....until that is, you give them a quote for the type of cake they have in mind for their special occasion.  When someone says to me in the first few minutes of conversation, "I don't want anything too fancy, just a plain sponge." then I know that I should just hang up there and then.  I can do a plain sponge for you, but what about the covering and the decoration?  Baking the cake isn't the biggest cost here, but shouldn't be dismissed either.  Ingredients...not forgetting the petrol used to shop for such....gas/electricity, storing, layering, filling,'s just a cake, right?  Wrong!  The next step is to find out what type of decoration is required...and there you go.  People expect Cake Boss, Choccywoccydoodah, Ace of West Lothian/South Lanarkshire or any other collection of villages...for £50!  For £50, I will bake and cover a 7" cake for you, place it on a cake board and maybe even put a little bit of ribbon around it.  How does that sound?  The little Dracula long did that take me?  You want me to add him to the 7" cake too?  I'll charge you a further £25.  (He's small....bigger models with more intricate detail will cost you more)  You want extras?  The cost continues to rise.  What do you realistically expect for £50 from a bespoke cake maker who does everything from scratch?  No pre coloured pastes (unless to cover a large cake perhaps).  
Then there are cupcakes.  Not just a cupcake with a buttercream swirl on top.  Little hand made toppers to go on each one.  These can be more time consuming than making larger models and much more tedious, but we do it because it's what the customer wants...if the price is right.  But these days more and more, the price just isn't right at all.  Customers are blinded by the supermarket offerings and the TV shows which are obviously not educating the public by explaining in much detail, just what this means as a cake maker/decorator.  Not explained in terms of money OR the sacrifices made by many just so they can have a successful business.  I ranted about my lethargy in pushing myself too much in this industry that I love so much because of the responses...many of them just plain rude...when I quote a price on their expectations.  The number of friends...Facebook related, but nonetheless friends, who have supported and stuck by each other on this social media...who have given up or lost businesses because of the lack of respect and understanding they get through doing this job is overwhelming, and just plain sad.  
Am I giving up?  Nope.  I'm surely not.  But I'm not going to give in either.  If you want to have a special cake made by hand, designed and created for you to the standard you would expect for the money you are quoted then I will continue to provide such a service.  To those who want to start with a budget of £50 to serve a hundred guests, let me tell you this...the loaves and fishes story is in the Bible.  I don't possess such skills as the loin clothed icon who could turn out miracles at the flick of a wrist.  My Kitchen Aid can do some tricks, but churning out cheap cakes is not one of them.  If you are on a low budget, a personalised and skilled bespoke cake maker is not for you.  By all means, make your enquiries and see if there is something that fits your bill, but please....please....don't be rude about it if it doesn't.
Cake makers and decorators stay strong and respect this over indulgent industry.  Don't let the "I'll do anything you want for a tenner!" bakers put you off or shove you into a corner.  Just remember, good cakes aren't cheap and cheap cakes aren't good.  It's okay to say "NO!" once in a while too...politely of course.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Golf? It's all balls to me!

Oh I DO love my Winter retreat when it is all lit up at night, don't you?  HA! I wish.  This stunning building is the view of The Royal & Ancient Golf Club taken en route to the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews where I had the great pleasure of visiting last weekend.  I didn't stay in the hotel, but I did enjoy the luxury of sitting in front of the floor to ceiling window in the bar, sipping a Prosecco and strawberry syrup...otherwise known as Rossini.  So delicious you have to have at least two to appreciate it.  On the way to the hotel to partake in the liquid delights, the wind was blowing a hearty gale and the cold was biting every available facial space that was left uncovered by scarf, jacket and gloved hands and whistled through every orifice...enough said.  It's funny how after the alcoholic entertainment, the walk back to my residence seemed like a stroll in the Bahamas.  (Google search hip flasks or mobile intravenous drips for future excursions)  I have travelled around and visited many places, it's true.  This is the first time I've escaped...been an idyllic weekend break which isn't that far away from home.  I stayed in the gorgeous open plan Whins Cottage and dined (and wined) at the most delicious restaurants, my favourite being Forgans.  I'm no golfer by any means.  All I know is that a stick and ball are involved and you need to be there to appreciate it.  But what I do know is that you don't have to be sporty to enjoy and appreciate the beautiful surroundings of St Andrews or the respectful manners of the people at our service no matter where we chose to be.  I mean...anyone who tops up the nuts bowl in the bar without being asked is way up there in my estimations.  Freezing at times as it was, the warmth of the gift shops/coffee shops/bars provided an adequate buffer so that thawing out in between strolls was a pun intended.  It all ended too quickly but was a short break that won't be forgotten in a hurry, for many reasons, most of which are unbloggable!  Thank you to my male accessory who enabled some restoration of sanity to my chaotic brain by being both gallant and entertaining at the same time.  I hope the ghosts of Christmas past will be laid to rest and Christmas present will be the beginning of a new dawn....and perhaps a return trip to St Andrews one year from now.  "FORE!!" cannae whack it! 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

WHOA! The tunnel light is BRIGHT!

FINALLY!   It's HERE!  My new book "Fun Figures ~ cute character cake toppers for all occasions" is now on sale.  As the last chapter of my life closes, a new chapter begins...and this is what it has all been about.  I am proud to be a published Author at last.  The book can be found on Amazon and the Book Depository for a bit less than if you purchase direct from myself.  I don't have any control or influence on either of these sites so if you wish to own a signed copy of the book, a direct purchase from yours truly is the order of the day.  Sadly I cannot offer the kind of discounts these other sites can and the postage to some countries from the UK are a bit on the hefty side, but I thank all of you who have already opted for this choice as it makes all my hard work (blood, sweat and swear words) worthwhile.
The book can be found in Extra Icing SHOP.  Only UK buyers can purchase directly from the shop.  Overseas buyers can still purchase from me using the Contact Lorraine option at the top of the Shop page and inform me of home address and e-mail address along with any message you wish to have written in the book.  A PayPal request will be sent to collect the payment required to cover the costs for that specific country.  Check out the costs at the top of the Shop page and decide if this is the route you wish to take to buy your copy.
I can hardly believe that the book is now available and am overwhelmed by the number of buyers along with all the support and appreciation being shown to me.  I cannot say Thank You enough times to make it sound enough...but THANK YOU!  It means a whole lot more than you know.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Happiness prevails...but cash helps!

"Money can't buy you happiness but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery."  Spike Milligan said that...and I'm here to tell you how right he was.  I'm not going to dig up all my trials and tribulations which have tested my mentality and endurance over the last 4 years.  I don't have a big enough shovel for a start.  On the stress scale, the top main causes for such is moving house, divorce, money (the severe LACK of) and fear of uncertainty.  When you lump all 4 of those together you go into hyperventilation and basically can't tell your arse from your elbow.  When a marriage breaks down for whatever reason, the initial elation kicks in (let's face it...if it wasn't worth sticking around for, run for your life and kick up some dust along the way!) but reality hits like a brick wall.  Moving house isn't always in the plan so when it is forced there is nothing in this world you can do.  Not unless you have the cash to buy the other out or go find somewhere new without pressure.  I had a little shop below my 3 bedroom flat on a busy Main Street.  For the first couple of years of being on my own, all was pretty much well....kind of.  I wanted to have that time to build the business a little more on my own but realise now that it would probably have been best to bite the bullet and put it all up for sale immediately.  Hindsight is a proverbial...with a capital B, ending in D, middle letters ASTAR!  As soon as the 'For Sale' sign was attached to that pretty window it was more or less curtains for the business.  Cake orders dwindled faster than a packet of Maltesers in my hands.  Like the little pig's house of straw, it all came tumbling down around me.  Every penny became a prisoner...unless I ran out of mascara.  C'mon.  You understand, right?  
My poor little dog has also suffered these hard times.  Earlier this year she was so badly needing groomed.  I remembered that I had a set of clippers in the attic and decided to give her a haircut at home.  I'd always cut the fringes (bangs to those of you in the US) of my girls when they were little.  What could be so different?  Let me tell's a whole different ball game working with clippers on a hand knitted dog than cutting a straight line across the forehead of a wee lassie!  My poor Princess was left looking like she suffered from alopecia and had to wear a doggy jumper for weeks until most of it grew back!  Never again.  But desperate measures were very often required on a regular basis.  Heating couldn't be afforded much so during the winter months I began a relationship with two hot water bottles who will now remain in my life forever!  A snuggie blanket and fleecy onesie, one hottie tucked into the small of my back and the other at my feet...pure bliss!  My duvet wasn't the best either.  With all the layers on me before I got IN to the bed, I was probably rated a higher Tog than the bloody duvet!  
At times when you fall flat on your arse, you surely get to know those who really care.  I have to say that I struggle to name anyone who didn't which is pretty damn amazing.  There are many things I kept...and will myself, but I shared enough information about this shi**y period for people to realise that all was not as it should be.  Facebook gets a bad write up sometimes, people sharing stuff they later regret and continue to complain about but then share some more.  People using it as a playground to bash each other...but this isn't my experience, although I've been known to share some rants of course, it's all in the name of 'banter' and it has kept my sanity (what's left of it) in check.  Without the support of my Facebook friends I can honestly say that I may not have reached this point with such determination and gritted teeth.  The highlights of this year have been the birth of my granddaughter, Jessica Lorraine (I had to get her second name in!) and also the completion of my book which is being launched next month.  Did I just say that??  NEXT month!  At times I thought I couldn't do it.  I couldn't muster the energy and concentration required to put those words down and reach the finish line.  But a little part of that flame still burned and I KNEW that this day would come, albeit months later.  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  FACT! 
TODAY....I am in my own little castle ....a rented one with 3 other flats attached but who cares.  The old place has finally SOLD and the hardship has been lifted.  It's now up to me to make sure I never know such times again.  Fancy handbags and expensive shoes are all well and good if you have money to burn.  I won't be burning any soon.  Maybe one day....

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Real Housewives? My arse!

As one who jogs along (not literally of course) with normal daily life, I am a little bit addicted to watching reality (is it though?) shows such as Real Housewives of Beverly Hills...and all the other countries that claim to show us their "real" housewives.  Beverly Hills being so over the top and decadent has to be my favourite though.  However, this last year has been the most difficult one I've had to endure in my entire life I'd have to say, so watching these women play out their stresses on camera hasn't always had the overwhelming "I wish I was them" affect on me that it normally has.  The biggest dilemma any of these women have to face is which Jimmy Choo to wear today.  They don't have to keep an eye on their gas meter and flick it onto emergency til they find the cash to go top up at their nearest gas station.  I watched in awe at the beautiful Yolanda Foster take charge of decorating a mansion....and I mean MANSION....then go off and watch her daughter trot around on a horse doing some horsey gymasty thing.  Having a conversation with another of the wives, she stated "I only wish I could afford to buy her another horse.  Most of her friends have two horses and she only has one."  There's a whole lot going on in that one sentence that is all my opinion....for whatever that's worth.  (not half a million, that's for sure, but here it is anyway).  In a previous scene she left a party to go home early.  Did she jump on a No. 10 bus or take a taxi?  Of course not.  Her private jet picked her up.  (two horses unnafordable?)  Her daughter has one horse.  Correct me if I am wrong, but if you only have one arse, how many horses do you need?  Also, how many people do I know who have a horse...let me'll get back to you on that one.  She implies that money is the issue for not indulging her daughter in a second horse.  I was almost grabbing the Kleenex as she spoke.  Imagine that.  Poor wee thing...only has one horse.  Then I thought of my experience some months previous, not horse related at all so I'm not sure why it sprang to mind.  I ran out of milk, among many other things, but milk seemed most important at the time.  In my purse, all I had was £1.04.  The milk I wanted was £1.09.  (feck!)  So I had no choice but to opt for the smallest carton and be thankful I could get any at all at that moment.  As I reached the checkout there were flumps on offer so I grabbed one of those too to make me feel better...and I got change!!  Flumps are my least favourite sweet thing ever, but beggars can't be choosers in times of need so I saw it as a treat and didn't turn my nose up.  Yolanda looking so glum about the horsey situation just made me flip a finger at the TV...well laptop actually.  I'm still watching everything on Catchup TV on the lappy til I get the TV ariel man to come out.  (to visit that is...not out of the closet that I've locked him in!  As if....)  But again, there is no point in doing that until I have my new living room in a fit and livable state, and that won't happen until my own finances are sorted (long and personal and very VERY frustrating story...but one I may share in my own way when I can eventually see a funny side...don't hold your breath!)  This sh*tty chapter of my life is about to close and I will continue to catch up on the lives of the vastly better off than me.  But are they though?  Better off than me?  I don't have a horse...and actually, I don't know anyone who does...not personally anyway.  I'll continue to watch the (un)reality shows but to be honest, I'd rather be me.  Who needs a mansion anyway? (I am one helluva liar!)

Saturday, 30 August 2014

I'm going UP from here...just so ya know!

Moving house, divorce and business sliding...these are three things on the top ten list of causes of stress.  Well I can verify that!  Having to sell my house and shop was a huge heartache for the beginning that is.  When you think about these things, you tend to over think them. Well I do that's for sure.  But when you have no choice and the situation is real then there isn't a whole lot you can do about it, and when you REALLY think about it, you realise that there is nothing you would WANT to do to change it.  Only now I realise what being free in the mind really is.  I have not only moved house but have moved location.  In for a penny in for a pound as they say.  I'll take my chances and breathe some new air and realise that this has all been worth the ride so far.  I have moved from a busy Main Street to a little country home where all I hear at night is my kitchen clock ticking...only if I am in the kitchen of course.  It's not on loud speaker throughout the house or anything!  I am on ground level which is GRRRRREAT!!  My usually hyper little poodlydoo is unusually calm and no sedation has been necessary.  She is enjoying regular walks to a park a stone's throw from my door and the home atmosphere is completely relaxed and couldn't be more peaceful if it tried.  Business has dwindled over the months, mainly due to the big For Sale sign hanging outside of the shop for the last year so people imagined the cake making days were over...but only the building was closing, I am still very much trying to do what I do best...and I'll slowly get there once more.  With a new book on the horizon and many classes scheduled around various venues, here in the UK and Overseas, I don't think I need to get out the crying towel just yet.  Times may be hard but they have been harder, and now the light is showing itself at the (almost) end of a very long and depressing tunnel.  Yippeeee!  It's finally time to take care of one more item that shows itself on the stress level list... "failure to take time out and relax".  Well tick that box please.  It's my turn to take some time now.  God knows I've bloody earned it.  Everything happens for a reason.  What's meant to be will be.  True sayings I do believe.  Goodbye to the past, you will never be mentioned again.  This girl is ready to kick up some dust and see only the path ahead...with a few curves along the way I'm sure...but that's okay.  I'm not on my arse yet!!  haha!