Catch-up

I’m still here, baking and decorating and trying to have a life! For a long time it seemed like I did nothing but cakes and that had to change for my sanity. I have however neglected my little website/blog and it’s time for a catch-up!

It’s been a crazy wedding season with some beautiful and quirky cakes so let’s just share a few…

Cherry blossoms and ruffles

Rustic cake tree

A very special cake for “The Queen”

The final touches
Buttercream roses
Silver leaf and damask stencil
Graffiti and bold drip
Vintage Alice

 
Harry Potter suitcase
Cupid and Psyche
Oberon and Titania
Bold and beautiful
I hope to not leave it as long till next time, but I won’t make any promises, rest assured I will be working away regardless. Kathryn xxx

Candytuft Cake Tree

If anyone knows my work they will know I love styling each of my wedding cakes. Sometimes it is not all that easy when it comes to venues and cake, so when I am designing cakes for the wedding fairs I attend or photoshoots, I always consider how it will be displayed, hence the speed at which I have filled my little cake studio in a few years!

Accordingly, my latest acquisition is a cake tree, and here she is,

To show just how versatile she is, I have already styled her 3 times. She has also been booked several times for 2016 and I cannot wait to speak with my couples and find out their themes and ideas so I can get to work on styling and accessorizing each one.

Her first outing was at the Quirky Weddings Alternative Wedding Fair in September 2015. I always like to follow a theme and for Quirky this time round I chose the theme Legendary Loves. Believe me, it was incredibly difficult to narrow down the couples I would design my cakes around but with my cake tree as the basis for one, Cathy & Heathcliffe from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte was like the perfect choice. I wanted each cake to be rustic and simple, hence a simple ganached choc fudge cake dressed with Sweet William, a vanilla buttercreamed semi-naked cake with a beautiful wooden “forever & ever” cake topper, and finally a chocolate ganache bundt cake dressed with pomegranates, physalis and figs. To echo the moors location of the novel, ferns and heather from the Candytuft garden were used to dress the tree.

 The top tier of the tree was dressed with a framed quote from Wuthering Heights and some beautiful roses. 

 The ganached chocolate cake dressed with Sweet William in the most gorgeous jewel colours.

The chocolate ganache bundt cake dressed with fresh pomegranate, physalis and figs.

The bottom tier was styled with a little engraved, mirrored, silver tray, a vintage copy of Wuthering Heights and a vintage style pocket watch.

The semi-naked chocolate fudge cake finished with a gorgeous ‘forever & ever’ wooden cake topper.

The next theme for the cake tree was unmistakably autumn-inspired, my favourite season. I adore the dry, bright, but increasingly chilly days and the amazing autumn colours. The cake tree lends itself to rustic styled cakes so semi-naked cakes were fitting and a little single tier, tree bark effect, cake dressed with the cutest mini pumpkins completed the cake along with his ‘n’ hers toffee apples, candles, pine cones, apples, gourds, physalis, figs and autumn leaves.

Finally, my love of all things Narnian took over for the third theme. A winter wonderland inspired offering with the prettiest of snow covered decor and a special homage to Aslan on the iced cake. It can be tricky to organise photoshoots with 3 little ones to consider but we have a beautiful little space in our very own garden with an antique fire place and paving so I got to work. Meanwhile, my ever willing husband, Mr Candytuft, aka Shoot for the Moon, prepared to do his thing too, as he does for all my cakes. An antique silver tea set, Christmas stockings, candles, decorative trees, a cute little, frosty, wooden sleigh, along with the cakes and, of course, some turkish delight made the theme come alive.

I really hope you have enjoyed looking at each one.

Kathryn xxx

(no one was harmed during the making of these cakes, although it could quite easily have been the case as Mr Candytuft managed to break both a decorative gold mirror tray and a mercury glass candlestick: it’s as well he takes a good photo!!!)

Frock Around the Clock Vintage and Handmade Wedding Fair

Last week saw my first outing at the Frock Around the Clock Vintage and Handmade Wedding Fair at Malone House. Over all the wedding fairs I have done this was the first one that I manned myself, although Mr Candytuft was just beside me under his own name, with his photography business, Shoot for the Moon. It was a lovely day, with lots of happy couples stopping by for a chat and some cake and a wee sneaky homemade marshmallow too.

I have always struggled on deciding which display cakes to take to wedding fairs and inevitably end up taking lots. If you have ever been to a fair where I have been exhibiting or seen photos you will know that I don’t just take cakes, there are the cake stands and little ornamental details, not to mention the furniture to display it all on. That’s where our VW Touran comes in handy and of course the man to load it all up, Mr Candytuft!

Did you know that all my furniture, and cake stands, and ornamental details are all available for you to hire too? If you ever see anything in any of my photos or at shows and think you would like to hire some items please just ask. I do hope to, one day, have a space where all the items available for hire can be displayed properly for you to see, but we will have to wait on those plans, patiently!

So here is a little photograph of my stand from Sunday’s fair, courtesy of Shoot for the Moon.

Gold was kind of a running theme, with the Merchant Great Room inspired cake, Empire Music Hall cake, pink carousel cake, Steampunk cake, Alice in Wonderland trio, Cinderella’s slipper and pillow and Sleeping Beauty gold bird all featuring rich gold accents, then with the chalkboard/tree trunk and elegant red roses cake thrown in too. Looking back, choosing which ones to bring along was not difficult, choosing which ones to leave behind however, was!

I hope, if you visited the fair, you had a fab time, I know I certainly did, here are some of the other fab exhibitors you may have seen too!

Shoot for the Moon
Lulu and Belle Vintage and Antique Jewellery
Eden Stationery
Tippy Longorio MUA
Archive 12
Innocent Chaos
Back Alley Beats
Balloon Candy
Amilo Weddings and Events

and of course Frock Around the Clock to keep up to date with wedding inspiration!

Kathryn xxx

…and now, back to cake, and not just any cake, Quirky Weddings cake!

Mid January can only mean one thing for me, Quirky Wedding prep! Yes, I know it isn’t until Sunday 1st March 2015, from 12-5pm, at the Belfast Waterfront Hall, but if you know me at all, you will know that I have been deliberating over my new designs, well, since before the last fair in September was even over! I have said it before but Quirky really does give me the opportunity to do something different and I relish the challenge of going beyond what I have done previously. Without giving too much away, my new showpieces are designed around 5 amazing and very different wedding venues in Northern Ireland and will hopefully offer lots of ideas to lots of different people.

At the last Quirky Weddings Alternative Wedding Fair, back in September, I choose “Fairytales” as my theme and even up until the night before I was tweaking, it’s probably my worst trait, it is so difficult to just stand back and say it is finished. These five designs all have their own very important journey to make before the even make it to Quirky, so time is of the essence.

I always think cake designing, for me, is a bit of a miracle! My head buzzes with ideas every day, I very rarely write them down, mainly because there’s quite often something else that takes precedence, usually a little voice calling me from around knee height, and then when I come to actually getting something down on paper, my head is so awash with ideas, that it takes me an age to sift through them. Over the following days and weeks the ideas become designs, then the designs become refined. Once the display cakes begin to take shape the design may well change to accomodate some other idea that has surfaced from deep in my little cakey library, aka my brain, and eventually they are completed. I quite often think about looking at my very first sketch of an “idea” and comparing it to the final product, but there is a very high chance that it will not resemble it in the slightest, apart from perhaps the number of tiers, shape and size, and I might scare myself into playing it safe but they wouldn’t be true Candytuft Cakes then, would they?

Here are some of my “Fairytale” wedding cakes;

My Frozen cake design incorporated a moulded snowflake globe keepsake, individually hand rolled icing icicles, handmade faux cake stand and a handcut design based on the embroidery on the sister’s Arendelle dresses.

This sweet little two tier was a little homage to my favourite fairytale growing up, Sleeping Beauty, the Disney version of course. I would dance around the house singing “Once upon a dream” and watch it, repeatedly! I loved the tweets from the sweetly singing birds so here is one immortalised in gold.

Next up, Snow White, she began life with a true woodland theme, tree trunk base tier, snow white ruffles and flowers with little tiny bees, dragonflies and butterflies.

Maleficent was a no brainer, based on the modern day take on the Sleeping Beauty tale, told from the antagonist’s perspective, I loved it as much as I love the original Sleeping Beauty even though the story was changed.

Rapunzel came next, with beautiful sugar roses and brambles in gorgeous pinks and purples, with antiqued applique lace and pearls.

I also made a small Cinderella themed cake with pale blue square tiers and black velvet ribbon with white florals and crystals and  pillow shaped cake with handmade sugar shoe.

If you are thinking of visiting the Quirky Weddings Alternative Wedding Fair then stop thinking and just make plans to go. It is relaxed and fun and seriously full of amazing exhibitors and I am delighted to be amongst them!

Kathryn xxx

Kathryn in Cakestandland

Hello. My name is Kathryn and I’m a cakestandoholic…

There is something you might not know about me, but the above sentence is a little more than a giveaway. Not only do I love making cakes but I love displaying them just as much! As a result I have more cake stands than my little cake room can handle! If I had more time I would love to make the display of my cakes as big a part of Candytuft Cakes as the cakes themselves but in the meantime I thought I would share my collection. They are not the easiest things to come by so when you see them you really need to snap them up. Many of them are solely for decorative purposes and cannot bear a substantial amount of weight, so tiered cakes tend to be too heavy. Some of my favourites are my two milkglass stands, in pink and black raspberry and my two latest purchases are beautifully rustic tree stumps. I think this photo contains all of the them, although my hanging stand is missing from this photo, yes it was difficult enough fitting them all in the shot, just ask Mr Candytuft! I shocked myself when I started to empty my cupboards!

 I think it’s safe to say it’s an obsession!

Kathryn xxx

Cake of Thrones

I have been a little awol when it comes to social media recently, falling in and out of love with it at the click of a mouse, if I’m honest I think I’m just exhausted. My love of cake never wanes but occasionally the actual physical exertion of working so late at night catches up with me and as with everything it’s nice to get a break. The decision to take October and November a little easier was not a difficult one, more normal bedtimes and whilst I probably feel more tired than ever, I had time to plan the weeks ahead and finish an exciting little project along the way!

September was a very exciting month. With two wedding fairs to prepare for I think I was surviving on adrenaline and not much more. It was my first time exhibiting at the Quirky Weddings Alternative Wedding Fair in the Waterfront Hall and I had been planning a few special cakes that would take me out of my comfort zone and make my stand memorable, hopefully for good reasons, but one of them was going to be my biggest challenge as I didn’t want it to be like any others that had been done previously based on the same theme, the theme which I am sure you have guessed by the title of this blog post.

A little bit of background might help explain why I chose to design this particular cake… I have always loved fairy tales and fantasy, thankfully Mr Candytuft does too. Some of you may know that our youngest daughter is named Arwen, and if you are fans of J.R.R.Tolkien and Lord of the Rings you will recognise the name, the fact that her middle name is Winter however is more to do with her being born in the midst of our ever increasingly snowy winters despite the obvious link to Game of Thrones. Whilst I don’t have the same time to read these days, there is always television, films and some fantastic series to watch, so you can imagine my delight when Mr Candytuft told me that the series of books he had been reading were being televised and so his love of Game of Thrones continued and mine began. All this coupled with the fact that much of it has been filmed right on our doorstep meant once the tiny thought entered my head I had to run with it.

As with all my cakes they evolve. Throughout the design process and even in the final stages little elements can be changed. The initial sketches for my Game of Thrones cake were nothing even similar to how it turned out. I always wanted it to be striking and instantly recognisable to any fans but not in your face, verging on novelty and there were of course some elements that I wanted to incorporate like the dragon egg effect. The design was bound to be affected by the characters that I enjoy watching and much of it was based on the amazing costumes designed by Michele Clapton and also the embroidery by Michele Carragher along with a little Dothraki and dragons! Hopefully many of you who have seen the show will identify the characters/elements from each tier.

With a photographer for a husband we often talk about the fantastic photoshoots we could have with many of my cake designs but in reality we just don’t have the time to follow them through however with the Game of Thrones cake we had to do something. So, we got to thinking where our setting could be. There are many locations all within driving distance which would be instantly recognisable to any GOT fan but only one seemed perfect, if only we knew the exact location.

After a bit of digging Mr Candytuft managed to pinpoint the general location of the Godswood and headed off to ask the estate staff if we could set up a mini photoshoot, at the Heart Tree! I had decided to go with a banquetting theme, in as much as you can with limited props and space. I thought, with the beautiful setting of the Heart Tree and a little camera work from Mr Candytuft, we could set up a stunning mini set to display my Game of Thrones wedding cake. We were aware that there were bus tours to see the location of the tree, so when we were given the go ahead for the photoshoot, we assumed we were in for a treat and got ourselves a little excited. If you don’t know the tree/wood in the show I am referring to, here it is:

Now obviously we weren’t expecting it to be exactly the same but what we were greeted with made our hearts sink…

We drove through a beautiful wooded area then on our left saw a clearing, looking in we saw a large tree, suspiciously like the Heart Tree, but with no leaves and a brown trunk, and no pond. I thought, no it couldn’t be there, really, could it? We drove on a little further and both turned to look at each other and agreed that that had to be it, it was too much of a coincidence, so we phoned the Farm Manager and he confirmed that it was indeed the Heart Tree. He had assumed we had seen it and knew the state of the actual tree so hadn’t said anything on the phone. However, not ones to let this little set back change our plans we unloaded the car and set up as best we could.

Walking on the ground near to the tree you could tell where the pond had been, the ground still soft and squelchy underfoot, you could also see where the trunk had been painted, where branches had been nailed on and we even found a selection of fake leaves which had been stuck to the tree. So, yes, the ethereal scene you see above actually looked like this:

We had loaded the car with everything we needed, wedding cake, table, flower urn by the lovely Marie Cafolla, hurricane lamps, candles expertly melted by Mr Candytuft and various other props, there was no way this was going to waste. Here is what we did:

Mr Candytuft aka Simon Hodge Photography is working on the photos to see if he can add a bit of magic to them, we still had a fab time, just the two of us. We both love what we do and love joining forces. Marie always goes above and beyond and the display she made for the shoot (which you can see in more detail just above) was more than I had hoped for. Although, she admits, not her usually neat and tidy self, the beautiful foliage and exquisite roses and berries in a weathered urn were simply perfect.

I even made a little thank you cake for the Farm Manager, to say thank you for his help, Game of Thrones inspired of course, with the irony that I had decorated it with the very elusive red leaves that we so missed that day!

 This, we hope, will be the first of many collaborations, and we hope to involve lots of the many talented people we have met over the past few months. It is a very exciting time for us both and having been accepted for the next Quirky Weddings Alternative Wedding Fair on the 2nd February 2014, I am already planning a few stunners for then. Can’t wait!!!

Kathryn xxx

Caking – inspiration vs. originality

Little did I realise when I started making my very first celebration cake, that in a matter of a few years I would be in the position I am now. I often wonder have I made the right decision. I am trusting this is what I am meant to be doing at this point in time. I love making plans, Mr Candytuft and I have lots of things we would like to do, including combining his photography and my cakes but our priority is our 3 children so only time will tell whether these plans will come to fruition but it’s nice to dream.

When the business really started to kick off, naturally things cropped up that weren’t immediately apparent, a few years down the line, there are many other issues to consider. One of these issues may seem trivial to non-cakers but definitely worth consideration for those already in business or thinking of doing so, and perhaps interesting to those of you reading this who may order celebration cakes for special occasions or those thinking about it in the future.

So what is this issue? It’s the issue of inspiration versus originality. You may ask what that means, well, of course I shall tell you as best I can. I like to think of myself as a cake designer, that’s not me being pretentious, that’s the view I have of my work. Yes, I bake my own cakes from scratch. Yes, I ice and decorate my own cakes. Yes, I handcraft all my sugar models and flowers but ultimately the bit I pride myself on most is my cake design, this goes especially for my wedding designs which is where my passion lies! Can you imagine then my feelings when I see my designs copied almost to the tiniest detail? I am not a multi million pound company, I do not teach others to replicate my designs, I do not have a book of my designs available with full instructions for others to purchase and copy, I do not post my designs on my website, Facebook page and blog for others to copy. I do it to promote my business, by giving potential customers the opportunity to see what I can do and I certainly don’t expect other cake decorators to copy my designs pretty much to the letter!

Now don’t get me wrong, there are so many fabulous cake designs out there that I fully agree there are few truly original designs but anyone with a little vision should be able to put their own spin on a design or have the confidence to design their own cakes based on a theme etc. I too am inspired by many, many unbelievable cake designers,  who create stunning cakes but I always endeavour to make each cake design I do unique and personal and that is what I want to be known for.

Why then am I writing this? I’m sure you have guessed by now that I have come up against this myself. I have no doubt it happens to many cake designers the world over and by and large this doesn’t affect those designers directly but when it happens on your doorstep it is a different matter entirely. I charge for my cakes and included in my price is the design process which can be quite labour intensive, it’s not just a case of copying a cake, it’s the thought, the research, the sketches, the continual evolvement of a design that make it unique and hopefully make it that bit more appealing than a replicated design and make me stand out from my competitors. However when someone profits from a design that I have produced it cuts me to the core! Part of my soul goes into every design,  they are like little extensions of me and I am very protectice of them!

I have experienced this first hand over the past few weeks. At first I was gobsmacked, I always presumed it was an unwritten rule in the cake world. I wasn’t naive enough to believe it didn’t happen but I at least thought that a local competitior would have the decency to come up with her own designs. After a few blatant copies it almost became comical, waiting to see what they would do next! I got over it though, until last night, when purely by chance I saw one of my cake designs copied by another, relatively local cake maker. There are some cake designs which, no matter what you do to try to change them simply look like many others, in essence they have a simple style. This design however was a labour of love on my part. A design which took weeks of planning, research and tweaking to get just how I wanted it and one which I showcased at a wedding fair last Autumn. I received two enquiries about this particular cake and genuinely quoted a price, only to not hear back from either party. Then last night I find a replica of my cake made by another NI cake decorater for one of the brides who had initially enquired. Suffice to say I was gutted! I can only assume my price wasn’t right and the bride asked other decorators to quote for MY cake design, this decorater obviously felt no remorse in blatantly copying my design, detail by detail as far as she could see in my photos and of course profitting from it!

It boils down to cake makers etiquette, perhaps there should be a rule book. Many things in the cake decorating world go without saying, but I admit it may be difficult to know what these rules are. I assumed that copying a competitors cake for a lesser price would be a huge ‘NO!’ and when I am presented with pictures of cakes from other designers I explain that I will not copy the designs. There are occasions when a design may be perfect for an occasion, in these cases it is a given that permission is sought from the original designer where possible, or at least credit is given for the design. I completely understand that these things may not be immediately apparent to any newbie cake decorators but who are any of us without a little education and experience?

Perhaps those of you who are reading this who are not cake makers may be mindful of this too. Part of what I do at Candytuft Cakes includes a unique design service and my designs are precious to me. The particular cake in question was inspired by the 2012 adaptation of Anna Karenina, I first exhibited it at the Crawfordsburn Inn Wedding Fair last Autumn, it made it into the top 15 on the Cakes Decor website, I chose it to display in my photos of my newly designed cake room and it now takes pride of place in one of my display cabinets and I still love it, maybe that is why it hurt to see it copied by someone else. Please don’t think me silly for feeling like this but when you dream of a cake design over several weeks and finally take the time to bring it to life only to have it copied by another, making profit from your hard work and vision, it hurts. My cakes are never just cakes, so if you see one of my designs and like it, so much so you enquire as to the price, please accept that every bit of love and attention I have, has gone into my design and it is priced accordingly, because of this please don’t ask someone to replicate it. Talk to me about it, I will work with you and see if we can come up with a similar design to suit your budget. Similarly, if I do not have availability please don’t ask someone else to replicate it, they are like little babies to me and a little piece of my heart is in every single one.

Kathryn xxx

Wedding Fairs: Then and Now

For anyone who knows me well, they will know that I am not the most confident person. It does, of course, depend on the situation, but I still surprise myself when it comes to wedding fairs. I can only put it down to being passionate about my work and confident in my abilities.

Having exhibited at my 7th wedding show in the past few weeks I was reminded of my very first displays, this prompted me to have a look at my progress.

My husband and I have been married 9 years and at the time of planning our wedding we didn’t go to any wedding shows, I don’t actually know the reason for this. On thinking about it though, I also didn’t even go to more than one bridal dress shop, in fact, the first I tried on was the dress for me!!! Hopefully that just means I knew what I wanted, although I know I would do it completely different now. There is so much more choice but I won’t dare to tell you what my wedding cake was like! So having had no experience of a wedding show, I didn’t have any pointers on what my table should potentially look like, here however was the outcome of my second one…

This was in October 2011 and since then I have acquired a few more display items to make my display more interesting! Below is a photo of my latest…

  
 I like to hope I give visitors something to look at, not only a variety of cake designs but matching cupcakes, cookies and homemade sweeties, beautiful cake stands for hire, and lots of little decorative items, to make one of the focal points of any wedding day extra special, with , of course samples to try! Meeting lots of newly engaged couples is certainly one of my highlights!

Kathryn xxx

Love to bake, love to cook!

I have always loved baking but never dreamed I could make a career out of a passion, feeling I was destined for a tedious office job which simply served to pay the bills. Whilst it’s easy to take things for granted I do have to pinch myself at times, as I realise I have the luxury of doing something I love all from the comfort of my own home. Yes I did have an office job before Candytuft Cakes, certainly not mudane, but after six years my heart wasn’t in it. The birth of my first child came at the perfect time as during my nine months maternity leave I iced my first celebration cake… three children and a few years later here I am.

Whilst I adore what I do, when I don’t have to bake, I love to cook! I love discovering new recipes and although I don’t tend to follow them to the letter they have inspired meals which have now become firm favourites in our house. Risotto has long been one of those favourites, especially when teamed with butternut squash roasted with sage and crispy bacon! However I recently found a recipe for butternut squash risotto with the addition of toasted ground hazelnuts. Admittedly it’s a bit of a faff on a school night, when you have to make a different meal for your two kids and are carrying a seven week old baby in a sling, but oh wow! amazing!!! You can find the original recipe here, Squash Risotto, definitely worth that little bit of extra effort!

Kathryn xxx