The Wedding Industry Awards (TWIA) - What's it all about and what does it mean to me?

TWIA - What's it all about?

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The Wedding Industry Awards (TWIA) was set up to recognise and reward excellence in the wedding industry.  There are both regional and national awards and the awards are held annually.  If you win your region, you automatically go through to the national finals to compete against all of the other regional winners. 

TWIA is different to some other industry awards as only couples who have actually used your services in the last year can vote and give feedback.  It is not a popularity contest about who can get the most votes.  This makes it a level playing field for all sizes of wedding business from individuals (like me), to big companies employing lots of staff and undertaking hundreds of weddings a year. 

The judging process

Each couple who votes is asked to score you out of 10 for various statements and also give comprehensive written feedback for the service/product they received from you. 

After the voting closes, the scores and feedback are carefully scrutinised by some leading industry professionals in each area.  As an example, the wedding cake designer category is judged by Adele Duthrie (Editor of Wedding Cakes Magazine), Helen Mansey (Tutor at Squires Kitchen International Cake School) and Rosalind Miller (A multi award winning London cake artist).  No pressure there then!

What did it mean to me to win my region in TWIA 2018?

Last year was the first year I had ever entered the awards.  I knew the competition was tough.  I didn't expect it to be my year but I went into it, hoping to learn something about the awards and keen to receive constructive feedback about my business.  Much to my surprise, I was shortlisted with seven other fantastic North West cake designers.  Even being shortlisted was amazing. It made me feel really proud of myself and my business. 

When the award for my category was announced on the night, my heart was in my mouth.  It is a full on, professional awards ceremony attended by a large number of suppliers.   Everyone is excited and keen to see who takes the regional titles.  I never in a million years expected it to be me winning 'North West Wedding Cake Designer Of The Year', but it was! It just goes to show, that you should always believe in yourself.  Anything is possible.

Here is a video of me winning the regional title (reminiscent of Kate Winslet accepting her Golden Globe!)

The awards are really highly thought of in the wedding industry.  Everyone knows if you have won TWIA! It is a mark of excellence and high standards in a very competitive wedding world.  Other suppliers will want to work with you and couples will want to book you.  It is something to shout about! 

TWIA 2019

Applications for TWIA are now open.  If you are a wedding supplier and are thinking of entering, I would whole heartedly recommend it.  Whatever happens, after the national event in January, you will receive a copy of all of the feedback from your couples which is invaluable to see what you are doing well and if there are any areas for improvement to push your business forward.  This year a 'constructive feedback' section has also been introduced which won't be seen by the judges, but could help you shape your business going forward.  What a great idea!

I have applied again for the awards this year.  There are are things I have improved in my business and little touches I have implemented to make me stand out from the crowd.  I know the competition will be tough again as the North West has some absolutely amazing cake designers but as the old saying goes...

You’ve got to be in it, to win it!

Wish me luck and I will keep you posted about how I get on. 

Kate x

 

 

 

 

It's just flour, eggs, butter and sugar right?

How Much Is A Cake?

It's one of the most asked questions I get, but the answer is not quite as simple.  Think of it like a wedding dress, they vary a lot in price, right? You might find your perfect dress on the high street or you may have the budget for a bespoke designer one of a kind creation.  There is no right or wrong choice, the only choice is the one that is best for you, your wedding and your budget. 

Off The Shelf Wedding Cakes

You can get wedding cakes from supermarkets these days or other high street stores.  This is great and I'm sure these cakes look and taste very nice and are the right wedding cake for some people as they are both convenient and budget friendly.  They will however, most likely have been mass produced in a factory, not by hand and will require you to assemble them yourself which could be stressful on the wedding day.  If you look at the list of ingredients in the cake, it will not be just flour, eggs, butter and sugar, you won't know when it was made. It won't have been made 'just for you'.   Again this is not right, or wrong, but it may be something you wish to consider when choosing your cake. 

Budget Friendly Options

If you are on a smaller budget, then a naked or semi naked cake might be your best choice.  These require minimal decoration so can be cheaper than iced and decorated alternatives.  They can look really beautiful decorated with fresh flowers, fruits, berries, figs or even herbs. Sometimes less is more with this style of cake. But similarly you can go all out with beautiful blooms to create a real statement cake. 

What will make my cake cost more? 

The general rule of thumb, is that, the bigger the cake and the more detail on a cake, the greater the cost.  Sugar flowers, ruffles, intricate piping, complex models or detail are all going to add to the final cost.  If you don't have a huge budget, you can still have an amazing cake, without tons of detail and complex design elements - think 'less is more'.  A few statement focal points or elements of detail can still give you a wow factor cake. Your cake maker should be able to advise about working within a budget so be honest with them before you embark on the design process, so that neither of you is left disappointed. 

Why do different cake makers charge different prices?

This is something I think a lot of people have misconceptions about.  A cake is just a cake, right? No, this is wrong. Let's give you a couple of examples:

Cake Maker A: They love baking. They use cheaper 'Savers range' supermarket ingredients and baking fat, not butter to keep costs down,  They batch bake cakes from home and freeze them so it's quicker to put orders together at the last minute.  They are making at least five cakes a week, so can't give too much time to each order to ensure a high quality of finish.  They are happy just to charge enough to cover the cost of their ingredients and enjoy baking as a hobby rather than a business.

Cake Maker B: They have been making cakes for a few years and now run a business from home in a private studio.  They are fully insured, registered and food hygiene qualified.   They have undertaken lots of professional training to hone their skills and stay on top of new techniques.  Quality is key with this baker. They buy the best of everything to ensure their cakes taste as good as they look. They pride themselves on attention to detail and a flawless finish.  Nothing leaves their kitchen until its absolutely perfect. They limit the amount of orders they take to ensure perfection. 

Cake Maker C: They have a high street store front and have been established for 20 years.  They employ five staff.  They run a very successful business and have won numerous awards for their intiricate wedding cakes.  They specialise in making wedding cakes for celebrity couples and are often in OK Magazine. 

Obviously there is going to be a cost difference between these three cake makers.  It is down to you to ask the right questions to establish what kind of cake maker you are employing to make your wedding cake and whether you are happy with the level of service and product they are going to provide. If they are very cheap, there will be a reason for this, if they are extortionately expensive, it might be they have a very well thought of brand and luxury product.  Most reputable cake makers will have a good website and social media presence where you will be able to see examples of their work and read customer reviews.  Just make sure you are completely happy with what you see and read before you commit.  If you are not sure, ask to meet your cake maker and taste some samples of their cakes before you place an order. 

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How is the cost of a cake calculated?

When calculating a cake cost, lots of things need to be take into consideration.  Each cake maker will have their own way of calculating costs that they are happy with.  These are some things that will be taken into account:

  • Ingredients - This will form the very basic starting price for a cake
  • Time - Not just time for baking, there is also lots of other time to consider: answering queries, sending quotes, preparing for consultations, baking for consultations, the consultation itself, designing the cake, shopping for ingredients, mixing, baking, making fillings, filling and ganaching cakes, icing, making decorations, attaching decorations, contacting venues and florists, preparing the cake for delivery, delivering the cake, assembling the cake at the venue, washing up, cleaning workspace, admin time.......I am sure there are more things that take up precious time too.
  • Other costs - overheads, equipment, training, utility costs, car insurance, house insurance, cake boxes, dowels, advertising, stationery, fuel, accounting......etc.

So, it is by no means, just the cost of the basic ingredients themselves and a little bit of time.

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Common myths

Dummy tiers will make my cake a lot cheaper - This is not necessarily the case.  If your dummy tier has a lot of decoration on it, then chances are, there won't be a huge difference between the cost of a real cake or a dummy cake.   Also, dummy cakes, particularly large, or unusually shaped ones often cost more than the ingredients for a cake.  Decorating a dummy cake costs exactly the same as decorating a real cake. 

I'll just have a small cake and then cutting cake to keep the cost down - This can actually end up costing almost as much as a larger tiered cake.  There is still the cost of making and icing the cutting cake, and the portions needed will still be the same.  So it might be worth thinking about having more of a showstopper cake rather than a smaller cake and cutting cake that never gets seen. 

Cupcakes will be cheaper than a bigger cake - Again, this can actually be incorrect. If there are 100 individual cakes to bake, ice and decorate then this could actually be more time consuming than making one tiered cake. Particularly if each cupcake has individual decoration e.g. sugar flowers. It is unlikely a tiered cake would have 100 sugar flowers on it, but 100 cupcakes might. 

You are a lot more expensive than XYZ Baker's down the road - This may well be the case, but a cake is not just a cake (see previous paragraph). The level of training of the cake maker, the quality of ingredients used, the height of each tier (this may vary from 3" - 5" or more), the finish of the tiers (rounded edges v's sharp edges), buttercream v's ganache, the quality of the fondant used....the list goes on. It is not possible to directly compare two cakes unless every single aspect of the cake maker and the make up of the cake is the same. Which it is never going to be. Would you expect a Skoda and a BMW to cost the same? No. Well, it's just the same with a cake. 

You are asking my budget to try and rip me off and charge me more - This is completely not the case.  As a professional, I always try to establish a budget before meeting couples so I can make sure I can achieve what my customer wants within their budget.  There is no point in me spending time meeting with a couple planning their dream cake, only to find out we are on a completely different page budget wise and actually I cannot make what they want. I think honesty is the key from the beginning so as not to disappoint anyone.  Whatever your budget, I can help advise on how to achieve the best cake within that. 

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Summary

It is very rare that any two cakes will cost exactly the same from me as there will always be some small differences. Be that, different flavours, different sizes, different decoration.  Because I limit the amount of orders I take to 2 or 3 in one week, I do have a minimum starting price of £400.00 for my wedding cakes.  Most people do tend to budget between £450-650 but often it is more.  It really is dependent on the cake design we come up with and the individual needs of the couple.

So whilst I can't say exactly how much a cake will cost definitively, if you send me some ideas as to the style of cake you would like and the number of portions required, I can give you a fairly accurate quote before we progress any further. 

Hope this is helpful. 

Kate x

Laura & Joy - King Street Townhouse - September 2017

An industrial inspired wedding cake with a nod to Manchester

When Laura & Joy first contacted us about their cake and mentioned the two words 'industrial' and 'copper' our eyes immediately lit up!  We had been dying for someone to choose this avenue for their cake for a while.

During the consultation, we talked about incorporating the Manchester Worker Bee and giving the cake an urban edge with some concrete texture and shade. They had a favourite bar in the Northern Quarter - Cottonopolis who had a worker bee as their logo.  We contacted them to ask for permission to use it, to which they agreed and we had a custom stencil cut for it as the bee had a lot of detail.

The cake incorporated round and hexagon (our shape of the moment) tiers.  Laura & Joy chose flavours of chocolate with white chocolate SMBC and milk chocolate ganache, salted caramel with salted caramel SMBC and vanilla with blueberry SMBC. 

We had a cake stand custom made and sprayed it copper to match the cake. The cake fitted the venue perfectly as the flooring matched the shapes on the base tier.

We pretty much stuck to the original design, just adding some hexagons going up the cake to tie all the tiers together. When it was all put together, we thought it just needed this extra little addition.

Please note: The base tier was a dummy tier as copper leaf is not edible. 

How To Choose A Wedding Cake

So you've become engaged and the exciting task of planning your big day has begun.  You know where you want to get married, the style of wedding you want and have found 'the dress', but where do you start with your cake?

Style Of Cake

First, think about the type of cake that will fit into your wedding venue and the overall style of your big day.  Are you getting married in the luxurious surrounding of a beautiful manor house or are you having a rustic, tipi wedding?  This will help guide you in the style of cake that will fit into your big day best.

Naked cakes and semi-naked cakes are very popular right now and are a good way to keep costs down if you don't have a huge wedding budget.  Naked cakes have no buttercream or icing on the outside of the cake, whereas a semi-naked cake has a thin coating of buttercream around the sponge.  Both look beautiful dressed with fruits or fresh flowers.  You can still choose more than one flavour of sponge to give your guests choice. They are particularly popular with summer weddings. 

Perhaps you'd like a more traditional style of cake.  Sugar flowers, ruffles, lace and royal iced details could all be incorporated.  Lustre can also add a subtle sheen to some tiers which gives a nice contrast to the matt fondant. There are lots of options to keep your cake more traditional but also give it a modern feel.

Or are you having a modern or quirky styled wedding that calls for a less than traditional cake? Drips, metallics, bright colours and vivid prints are all popular trends right now.  Having tall, or shorter tiers and mixing up the shapes of your tiers is a way to add interest and a modern vibe to your cake too.

Don't forget Pinterest! It is an amazing resource for design ideas.  We have our own 'Wedding Cake Ideas' Pinterest board here to help you choose your cake. 

Budget

When you plan your wedding, think about the budget you have in mind for your wedding cake.

Your cake may be very important to you or it might just be something you feel is a necessity.  Try to remember however, that every guest at your wedding will see the cake and most will eat it so it would be better that it both looks and tastes good.  

Try to be realistic when you set your budget.  This may seem a daunting task if you don't know the first thing about cakes.  As an example, a piece of cake from a department store cafe will cost you at least £3.00 so it is unlikely your wedding cake will be less than this per portion.  

Many high street shops now offer wedding cakes to buy off the shelf for a budget price, but these cannot really be compared to a handmade, bespoke cake. 

If an off the shelf cake is all your budget will allow then go with that and dress it up with fresh flowers, coordinating ribbon or a cake topper. 

But if you want a cake that is especially designed for you and completely bespoke, then you need to have a realistic expectation as to what it may cost. 

We always ask couples to give us an idea of their budget when we meet with them so we can plan ideas for their cake accordingly.  It also allows us to be realistic about what is achievable within a budget or to make small changes that reduce the cost but still keep the overall design similar.  For example, a couple would like metallic gold on their wedding cake.  A higher budget might allow the use of 24 carat edible gold leaf, whereas for a more modest budget we could achieve a similar effect by using gold lustre. 

Choosing A Cake Designer

The most obvious place to start is online, but this can be a bit of a minefield! How do you know who is the best company to choose?

Look at the photographs of the cakes on a companies website and Facebook page.  Do they look genuine? Are they all of a similar standard? Can you see anything you wouldn't be happy with if it was your cake? 

Check the supplier is insured, food hygiene qualified and registered with their local council.  They don't have to have a physical shop.  Lots of cake suppliers choose to work from their home these days (us included), but there are strict hygiene and health and safety rules and regulations that need to be followed so if they have taken these steps, they are at least trying to do things properly.

Ask friends who made their wedding cake, or if they have been to any weddings where the cake was amazing.  Look on social media sites; Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram etc.  Lots of companies advertise on these sites or post examples of their work.

Ask your wedding venue if they have a preferred supplier or any suppliers they recommend.

Read reviews of people's work.  Most companies post testimonials on their websites but Facebook is a fantastic way to leave feedback for companies so check this too.  Also, Google the business - are they present? Do they have Google reviews?  These are obviously not the be all and end all but its good to read other peoples experiences to help you decide if this is the right business for you to work with. 

Ask To Meet With Your Chosen Company

Once you have narrowed down your search, arrange to meet your chosen company/companies for a consultation.  Does the company let you taste their cakes when you meet them? This is very important, as obviously you want your cake to taste good too. 

Some people offer consultations for free, whereas some may charge a small fee to cover their time and expense in making samples for you to try.  Clarify this before you book.  Our consultations are free of charge.

Questions To Ask During A Consultation

Usually you will have around an hour of someones time for a consultation.  You may want to ask some of these questions during that if they are not already covered:

  • Do you make your cakes and filings from scratch?
  • What will my cake be filled with and covered with before it is iced?
  • Will you deliver and set up my cake?
  • Will you liaise with the venue and other suppliers for me if needed?
  • How tall will each tier of my cake be?
  • Can I have each tier a different flavour?
  • What are your payment terms?
  • Do you hire cake stands?

Hopefully then, you will be happy with the person you have chosen and they will go on to make the wedding cake of your dreams a reality.

If you are interested in a consultation and tasting with us, please contact us using the 'Contact Us' form on our website or email hello@littlebuttonbakery.co.uk 

Thanks for reading!

Kate x

My Top 10 Tools Of The Trade

 

When you start out on your cake decorating journey and you begin to look at equipment, the choice of products on the market can be very overwhelming.  If you are anything like me, you will buy everything (even if you're not entirely sure what it's for...........ooooh, but it's shiny!)! But what would you actually find most useful?

I've complied a list of my 10 tools that I think are worth their weight in gold. So if you want to buy a few things to start your journey into cake making, start here and I don't think you can go wrong.

1: A Decent Rolling Pin

This is an absolute essential!  You can't roll out fondant for your cakes without a rolling pin.  But which one should you buy? 

If money is no object then my absolute favourite rolling pin is my King Pin.  Now it isn't cheap, at almost £70.00 but I just wouldn't be without mine.  It is a weighed pin so it does the hard work for you.  You hold the handles and push the rolling pin, rather than roll with your hands and arms (you have bruises, right?).  It recommends it works best with another tool called 'The Mat' but I have never used this and have read mixed reviews.  If you suffer with weak arms or wrists then the King Pin would be very helpful for that too.

 You can purchase one from The Cake Decorating Company  here . 

You can purchase one from The Cake Decorating Company here

I appreciate not everyone has £70 to spend on a rolling pin, so obviously there are other options.  For around £20 you can get a good non stick acrylic pin.  I would suggest getting at least a 19" long pin and make sure it has some weight to it.  There are lots on Ebay for under £10 but you may find they are very lightweight and not as good for the job. It is probably best to go to a cake shop so you can actually handle the pin.  Hobbycraft sell cake decorating equipment too so they would have them.  Reputable brands are PME or Wilton.

2: PME Baking Belts

Get them here from The Cake Decorating Company.

These are quite a new discovery for me.  I had had something similar for years but they needed replacing and just weren't quite doing the job properly.  The PME baking belts are used by soaking them in water and then wrapping them tightly around your cake tin before it goes in the oven.  

They help to ensure a level, even bake and even give your cake mix extra height, which if you are a fan of tall cakes like me, you need.  You can buy them in different lengths and widths to match your cake tins.  I have the 3" wide ones.

3: Acrylic Ganaching Plates

Get yours from The Vanilla Valley here. Or custom made from Hearts & Unicycles here

I could not live without my acrylic ganaching plates.  I use them for every single cake.  It's a personal preference, but I like to use one top and bottom on my cake and I ganache using the upside down method. They give me a lovely smooth and straight ganached cake which is the key to having a smooth finish on your fondant.

 

For my round and square cakes I buy my plates from The Vanilla Valley and for any custom shapes e.g. hexagons, I get them custom cut from a lovely local company called Hearts & Unicycles

If you would like to learn how to perfectly ganache and ice your cakes then I do offer 1:1 classes so please get in touch if that interests you.

4: Acrylic Smoothers

Acrylic smoothers are an absolute must if you want to achieve a smooth finish on your fondant and those lusted after 'sharp edges'.  

Shereen's Cakes & Bakes sells a brilliant set of all different shapes and sizes for £10.00.  Get yours here

5: A Surgical Scalpel

This is one of my most used tools for cutting out small details neatly.  The blades are super sharp and mean you don't get any scruffy edges on your work.  Use with a cutting mat (see below).  I have the handle, the 10A blades and I also bought a blade remover that safely takes the used blades off and stores them inside. You need some pliers to hold the blade and get it onto the handle.  You can purchase them all on Amazon. 

6: A Cutting Mat

Get your SweetCut mat here.

I have only had this SweetCut mat for a few months, but I love it! It's great for cutting on as it is self healing, but it is also really useful for rolling out small details on as its non stick with a slight texture. It also has loads of useful measurements, lines, angles and circles on it to help when you are modelling.  I wish I had found this tool sooner.

7: A Stand Mixer

Kenwood K-Mix Stand Mixer

A stand mixer is your most essential piece of kit.  There are lots on the market to suit all budgets, but my preference is the Kenwood K-Mix.  I have had mine for over 5 years and it is still going strong. I've tried another of the big brand mixers and I did not like it one bit.  Again, it is personal preference, but for the money, I don't think you can go wrong with a K-Mix.  

If you are savvy, you can often pick them up on E-Bay for under £180 which for something you will use every single time you make a cake, is a great investment.  If your model doesn't come with the flexible beater, I would recommend you buy that as an extra tool as it is much better for making cake mix and buttercream as it scrapes the side of the bowl as it mixes.

8: A Cornflour Dusting Pouch/Pot

Get yours here

Yes, you can make your own one of these from a brand new cloth and a rubber band, but it is handy to have a ready made one.  I favour this Wilton one.  When you are rolling out small pieces of icing for flowers, models etc, you should always use corn flour, so this little pouch will get a lot of use.

9: Foam Balls

Get yours here from Purple Cupcakes.

If you plan on making cupcakes as part of your business then these are essential.  They help form domed pieces of icing that you can decorate and place on top of buttercream on your cupcakes.  I would suggest getting 2 sets to begin with so you have enough for 12 cupcakes, then just add to your collection as you need them.

10: A Cake Leveller

If you want straight, even layers in your cakes then a cake leveller is a must.  There are all different kinds on the market.  I like to use the little green and white adjustable plastic ones pictured above that I attach to my 14" cutting knife.  They are really cheap on eBay here.  I would recommend ordering a few sets and sometimes they do break (I am clumsy!).  Or you can get a wire leveller like this Wilton one. Or if you want to pull out the big guns, you can splash out on an Agbay! I haven't taken the plunge with that yet as they are super expensive and also very sharp. I saw a tutor at a cake class once almost lose her finger! So for now, the 99p eBay levellers will do me!

I hope you have found that useful.  Maybe you already have all of these tools, or perhaps you are just beginning your cake journey out and didn't know where to start.   Thank you for reading and check back soon for more blog posts.

Kate x