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