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Wedding Cake trends 2020

As 2019 nears it close (and what a completely insane year this has been!) and we start to look towards next years’ nuptials I thought I would give you my take on the wedding cake trends for 2020.

 

Naked or Semi-naked cakes

This trend has been here for a few years and is not going to go away. I already have bookings for semi-naked cakes for 2020. Barns, marquees and outdoor venues are still massively popular and these cakes are perfectly suited to that setting. They can also double up as dessert, with the addition of fruits and berries. This appeals to a lot of couples these days. Not everyone likes fondant, or the formal feel of a “traditional” cake. A sweep of buttercream on your cake is a great alternative. Which leads to the next trend …

Semi naked cake
Semi-naked cake with natural flowers and foliage by Betty Bee Bakes

 

Naked cake
Naked cake with berries by Betty Bee Bakes

Faultline cakes

These are everywhere on Pinterest or YouTube. A buttercream cake, with a “Faultline” exposed round the middle. Fill the faultine with co-ordinating sprinkles, sparkles, piped flowers, pressed organic edible flowers, a coordinating colour, a metallic – anything you can think of! More often seen in single tiers for celebration cakes be prepared to see this style elevated to multi-tiered glory!

 

Nudes and Pastels

Think peaches, ivories, champagnes, pale golds, pale gingers and macaron hues (pistachio is going to be big in bridal wear, apparently. It’s my favourite flavour ice cream but see my superstitions blog here to see why I’m a bit anxious about this one!). I have already had bookings for 2020 cakes in these shades, and they are going to be beautiful.

 

The Roaring 20s

It’s back! 100 years after we first saw Art Deco, geometry, monochrome with gold highlights, Egyptology, The Great Gatsby and All That Jazz we can fully embrace the flapper girl again. As I browsed the Mac counter the other day I noticed one of my absolute favourite lipsticks, a gorgeous scarlet called Ruby Woo, is once again one of their best-sellers, evoking that opulent 1920s look. Even if your cake isn’t going to be 20s themed, I urge you to dance to some Post-Modern Jukebox at your reception. The 20s was all about glamour, decadence and excess – if you can’t have that on your wedding day, when can you?

 

Black

Another trend that has been here for a couple of years and doesn’t look like it is going away. It embraces the Roaring 20s theme but can also be edgy and more fashion-forward. Black cakes lend themselves to non-traditional shapes too – mix and match square and round tiers, stack at an angle, or think 3-D geometric cakes. Accent with metallics or one theme colour and think architectural pieces that guests will mistake for a sculpture.

Black and coral
Black and coral cake with gold accents by Betty Bee Bakes

Sustainability

In total contrast to a black cake, and more about how the cake is made than how it looks. Sustainability in all areas of weddings is going to be huge news in 2020 and onwards. It is having a particular impact in floristry, where foam oasis are being swapped for more traditional and natural methods of arranging flowers. People born in 2000 are now fully-fledged adults and on the cusp of massive social and political change. These millennials (I hate that terminology – sorry) want weddings that reflect how they live the rest of their lives – recyclability, pre-loved, no single-use plastics. The impact this is having on the food they choose for their wedding can’t be underestimated. From using locally sourced produce or re-imagining “waste” food into an extraordinary feast, to going free-from or completely vegan to cater for all guests needs, this means that couples will be asking their cake maker to provide an environmentally friendly cake too.

 

2020 is a leap year

Once every four years the wedding industry goes into a post-valentine’s day flurry of excitement – it’s a leap year, this means, ladies, that you can propose to your man! But as we all know, in this day and age, women can propose to whoever they like, whenever they like. 2020 may be the year that the leap year proposal starts to lose its mystique. But be prepared for all wedding industry social media to be marketing that February 29th proposal date for all they are worth! Although, if you are going to propose, then I have a cake or cupcakes to help you with that …

 

Are any of these on your wedding planning radar? What else do you think is going to be big in 2020? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think.

 

Clare

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

We all know the rhyme, “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Even if you are not superstitious in your everyday life, you have probably thought about this when deciding on what you will wear on your wedding day or what you will have as décor or wedding party outfits. Anything with as old a tradition as a wedding ceremony will come with numerous superstitions attached to it. But what are the other superstitions around weddings?

 

My Gran was a dressmaker by profession. She was also a superstitious woman. Some of those have rubbed off on me. Never eat a mince pie before the 1st December, and its bad luck to speak to anyone during the course of eating that first mince pie! (Even as I type it, I know it’s ridiculous, but I still abide by it!). Don’t put new shoes on a table and don’t put a new hat on the bed. I have no idea where most of these came from, but there is one relating to weddings that she strongly believed, and it had sound reasoning behind it:

 

It is bad luck to wear green at a wedding.

I’m often surprised by how many people haven’t heard of this one, but it is something I must have picked up from her when I was little and it has stuck with me. Even when friends have had teal or emerald green bridesmaid dresses (I attempt to hide the shudder this prompts in me). I will never wear a dress to a wedding where green is the predominate colour. And this extends to décor, and yes, cake too. If you asked me to make you a green wedding cake, I would make it for you, but it would make me feel very on edge. She also maintained that Emeralds were unlucky, particularly in an engagement ring.

So where did her superstition come from?

Once upon a time, green dye was created using lead, a dangerous and noxious substance. Bad enough for the dyers creating the cloth, obviously. But for a dressmaker like my gran, this could prove lethal if asked to sew yards and yards of green cloth with thread also dyed with lead. Think about how you thread a needle. You lick the thread. Now imagine doing that for hours a day, over a long period of time, when your thread was covered in poison. Asking a dressmaker to sew you a green dress to wear on your wedding day (so probably also heavily embroidered or embellished with beads) was tantamount to asking the dressmaker to eat lead. As with many superstitions, it was born out of fact.

 

Peacock feathers in the house are unlucky

Another thing my gran also believed was that it was massively unlucky to have peacock feathers in the house. I found a beautiful example of peacock feather on a school trip once. I hid it in my bedroom so she wouldn’t see it. But in a lot of cultures peacocks and their feathers are symbols of luck or opulance, and particularly feature on wedding cakes.

 

So back to the wedding superstition we all know:

Something old,
something new,
something borrowed,
something blue,
and a sixpence in her shoe

I have to admit, I didn’t know about the sixpence, and apparently it should be worn in your left shoe. The Victorians (instigators of so many traditions we still abide by) added in the last line, to bestow prosperity on the couple. The other items are there to invoke fertility and protect them from evil – presumably leading to a happy marriage.

When I got married, I wore a new dress and shoes, a sapphire bracelet for something blue and borrowed something old, the horseshoe my mum had carried on her bouquet at her wedding 46 years earlier! Which brings me to another wedding superstition.

A horseshoe

I remember when I was probably 13 or so, a cousin got married and I carried a horseshoe on a ribbon which I then gave to the bride after the ceremony. I didn’t know why, my mum just made me! Apparently, it is again about making sure the marriage is prosperous in the chid-bearing department, as female members of the family present horseshoes to the bride to wish her fertility. But remember to hold it the correct way up (ends pointing up) so the luck doesn’t run out! (Another one of my family’s traditions, we have lucky horseshoes everywhere – but then again, we are from the country, I used to ride and horseracing is a family affair).

 

Rain on your wedding day is good luck

This is another one that I think was probably invented to placate an anxious couple before their ceremony. We all hope for a beautiful day, with no inclement weather to spoil photos, hair dos or ruin shoes. (In my case, rain for a cake delivery is always a breath-holding moment and involves a large amount of cellophane and a prayer to the cake-delivery-gods). Certainly, it was not lucky on my own wedding day. It was so wet and windy that we had to have the post-ceremony photos inside the church and missed hearing the bells being rung (the bells we had paid extra money to have rung). We did get married in December though (I was secretly hoping for snow, I’d bought flowery wellies just in case).

 

Throwing the bouquet

This is one I didn’t do, because a) most of my guests were already married, or not in the slightest bit interested in getting married, so there would have been no one to throw it to and b) my bouquet was made of glass and crystal beads – bit heavy to lob at a crowd!

Apparently this superstition comes from medieval times, when the bride would throw her bouquet over her head at the crowd of women chasing her, to distract them. Why were they chasing her? Because it was good luck to tear a piece of her dress off as a keepsake. Yeah, I’d run too! Thankfully we don’t have that superstition anymore!

 

Saving the top tier of your cake

We had to come back to cake at some point, right? This is a cake blog, after all.

This tradition is one that has fallen by the wayside slightly recently, as wedding cakes are created from different flavours of sponge, rather than the more storable booze-soaked rich fruit cake. The idea was to save the top tier to use as a christening cake for your first-born. If you’ve borrowed something blue, been given a horseshoe and abided by the other superstitions, you should be lucky enough to be blessed with a child within the first year of your marriage. The fruitcake, if it’s been properly stored, can then be cut at the christening.

Many couples these days keep their top tier for their first anniversary. Couples marry having already had children, or not wanting to have children in the next few years, or at all. It is possible to keep your sponge top tier for your first anniversary. Ask your cake designer how to store it correctly. But sponge cake is best eaten fresh, so enjoy your cake on or soon after your wedding day, then ask your cake designer to make a new cake for your anniversary (you can replicate design elements from your wedding cake) or make a christening cake for your children.

But if you do want a fruit cake top tier and want to save it then the best way is to strip off the fondant and marzipan, give it another feed of alcohol, wrap well in greaseproof and then foil, put it in a sealed plastic bag and pop it in the freezer. When you want to use it again it can be defrosted and recovered and will taste even more delicious as it will have matured even whilst sitting in the depths of your freezer.

 

What do you think about these? Have you got any superstitions you follow? What superstitions will you abide by on your own wedding day? Or do you think there is no room for these sort of things in this day and age? Leave me a comment and let me know

Touch wood and fingers crossed,

Clare

Why order a custom cake?

You are having a celebration. A wedding, a birthday, an anniversary, a funeral. You want a cake to mark the occasion. So you search the internet for a design you like, create a Pinterest board for cake inspo. Then you get on local social media, google local cake makers or ask friends and family if they know someone.

You find a local baker and discuss your cake. Then they tell you the cost …

Here is where one of two things happen:

1) You are wowed by their design, agree the price and pay the booking fee immediately. The cake is going to look and taste amazing and you can’t wait!

2) Radio silence. You are not paying THAT much for “just a bit of cake” and anyway Aunty Doris has said she will bake it for you and her scones are legendary at the village fete.

So why should you pay that money for your custom cake?

The first clue is in the question. “Custom” cake. Bespoke, unique to you. Combining elements that reflect the style of celebration or the personality of the recipients. You won’t get that from a shop-bought cake. As a cake designer I can create a cake specific to your requirements, including models, themes, flavours and colours that you won’t find in an off-the-shelf cake. Or at anyone else’s celebration. When you get a cake artist to design your cake you can let your imagination run wild. I have made a half-and-half Moana cake for boy/girl twins, the cake was split in half by the parting wave. I have made cupcake toppers with packets of crisps, x-box controllers and superhero logos (all in the same order). Did you see my packet of Haribo Starmix on the last blog? And what about a wedding cake that looks conventional on one side, but reflects the couples love of Harry Potter or sport on the back? The possibilities are endless …

Quality Ingredients. I know exactly what has gone into my cakes, because I have baked them from scratch, using good-quality ingredients. My cakes are made from baking spread, sugar, flour, free-range eggs, natural flavourings* and milk. The buttercream is real butter, icing sugar, natural flavourings and a dash of cooled, boiled water if needed. I don’t make my own fondant/sugarpaste, but I buy a good quality product that tastes nice.

*by natural flavourings I mean real lemon juice and zest, cocoa powder, elderflower cordial etc. I try to avoid artificial essences and flavourings, because I don’t like the taste.

There are 9 separate ingredients in my basic cake with buttercream. Have you looked at the ingredients list on a supermarket cake? Do you even know what some of them are? It’s scary. There are artificial flavourings and colours, preservatives to add a long shelf life to the cake, and E numbers galore. My cake won’t last as long as the preservative-laced mass-produced kind, but it’s not meant to. It’s baked fresh to be eaten within a day or two of the event.

Which leads nicely onto the next point to consider. My cakes taste delicious. Not just nice, not OK, they taste very, very good. I pride myself on making cakes you want to eat. This is, after all, the whole point of having a cake. My daughter recently had a slice of supermarket kids birthday cake at a party. It tasted of air and sugar and not much else. Not memorable, nothing you would go back to for another slice (except maybe for the addictive sugar-rush). Sometimes, that’s the sort of cake you want to eat. But for a special occassion, don’t you want something special? I have repeat customers, they recommend me to their friends and family. They wouldn’t do that if my cakes tasted like they had been magicked up on a frothy, squirty conveyer belt.

I’m sure that Aunty Doris can make delicious cakes with traditional ingredients too, so what’s my point?

Not only will a cake from a professional baker taste good and (hopefully) be made from fresh ingredients (some bakers use “box mixes” packet cake mixes – check with your baker how they make their cakes). It will also look good.

We have honed our skills over many years, perfected the crumb coating, the covering, sharp edges on our fondant, modelling of figures, making sugar flower decorations. Some of us have qualifications, some of us have taken courses or spent hours watching online tutorials, practising to make our cakes and decorations look amazing. Aunty Doris may have wowed the vicar with her strawberry sponge, but has she covered a three-tier cake in fondant, modelled sugar flowers to match your bouquet and then transported and stacked it (appropriately boarded and dowelled to prevent collapse)? Does she know how to do that? Will she know how to tailor the structure of the cake to suit the environment the cake will be sat in? If she does, then by all means, get her to make the cake. I would! Except …

Making a celebration cake takes time. From buying the ingredients and equipment, to baking multiple layers, cooling, filling, decorating. It takes days, sometimes. Does Aunty Doris have time to do that? Do you?

If you are time-poor, then please, pay a professional to do it. In the long run it is an investment, like paying a decorator to paint the bathroom (it took me and the husband two days. I will be paying someone next time! It’s only a small bathroom). Take the stress out of it and let someone who knows what they are doing worry about it for you.

I’ll let you into a secret – I didn’t make my own wedding cake. It was one of those artificial-ingredient-heavy shop brought ones. (The Horror). But three days before my wedding I was struck by flu. The night before I went to bed at 6pm, left my mum to put my then 2-year-old daughter to bed and lay both shivering and sweating in equal measure, dosed on paracetamol and tea. I hadn’t felt that rough since the last time I had had proper flu (when I was breastfeeding my then-5-month-old). There is no way I could have been putting the finishing touches to my wedding cake and then setting it up at the venue the next morning. We also got married in my home village, which is 100 miles from where we lived. I didn’t know any local cake makers and didn’t have time to research any. This was also before I started my business. If I had known then what I know now, (and had the contacts I now have in the industry) then I would have ordered a bespoke cake.

So why does that custom cake cost so much?

Well, apart from the fresh ingredients, the time spent making it, the cost of the ingredients and the equipment? There are the utilities involved in making it – fuel to shop for the ingredients, electricity and gas involved in baking it, the cleaning products I use to maintain my 5* hygiene rating and ensure there is no cross-contamination of allergens, public liability insurance, food safety qualifications and above all, my time. Before you tell me that the price I have just quoted you for your cake is too much, please remember I am a sole-trader small business owner. Not only do I have overheads to pay, I also need to earn a wage from my business. For it to be a successful business I can continue to invest in, it should also earn a profit. How much do you earn per hour? How much do you expect me to earn? I will tell you now, that if it is less than minimum wage then I will not be making your cake for you. I have an MBE for my work in prevention of Modern Slavery. No one should be earning less than minimum wage. That is exploitation. Exploitation is modern slavery. Don’t be THAT person who expects to earn a nice wage themselves but won’t pay for a professional to work for you.

So, there we have it. You know a bit more about what to expect when you order a custom cake, and why it is something worth considering if you want to wow your guests. But if Aunty Doris wants to send some of her scones my way, I wouldn’t say no!

ClareIMG_5395

Cake is cake, Love is Universal

Supplying an LGBTQ+ wedding – why is this even an issue?

This is a blog post I have debated writing for a little while. I know it’s a controversial subject for some people, but I feel it shouldn’t even be a matter for debate in 2019. Apparently, it still is though. And as I sit here typing this, whilst catching up on the final episode of Gentleman Jack, a show where the two female lead characters, and their romance, has captured the hearts of the nation, it seems even more ironic.

A couple of things have prompted me to think about this subject in the last week or so:
Firstly, I read an article that suggested that LGBTQ+ couples were still anxious about approaching suppliers for their wedding or civil ceremony because they couldn’t always be sure of the reception they would get. This makes me very sad. I understand that some people hold strong beliefs about certain things, but there are ways of saying to someone that you can not accommodate their request without allowing prejudice to creep in or make the customer feel uncomfortable. For example, I won’t make a cake with any reference to drugs, drug culture, gang violence or exploitation (I would probably have to hand back my MBE if I endorsed these things, but I wholeheartedly don’t). But if you ask me to make a cake with these themes, I will politely tell you I am fully booked for that date. I’m not here to judge.

Secondly, June was Pride month and in London last weekend the Pride parade celebrated 50 years since the Stonewall riots and was the most well-attended London Pride parade ever. Friends (both gay and straight) who were there commented how much fun they had, how phenomenal the noise was and how vibrant the parade was. London did itself proud. So why are some same-sex couples still uncomfortable about asking suppliers for services for their wedding or civil ceremony?

I don’t profess to have the answer to this, and I am not qualified to answer it. I just felt the need to get it out there that this should not be an issue. That for me, it isn’t an issue.

There are some organisations within the wedding industry, that for a (not insubstantial) fee will go through all your literature, social media and documents to ensure there is nothing contentious in there to dissuade LGBTQ+ couples from engaging your services. Once you pass their scrutiny you get a rainbow badge to display on your social media profiles and website to indicate to couples that you are “inclusive”. Debate about this on wedding supplier groups is divided: Some suppliers are all for it, wanting to show willing and demonstrate their inclusivity. Others are derisive that it is a money-making scheme and isn’t necessary. After all, positive discrimination is still discrimination, isn’t it? It smacks a little of assuming an LGBTQ+ couple will automatically be offended unless you aim something specifically at them. This irks me. Doesn’t it suggests that if you are not heterosexual you need to be spoon-fed assurances that your request for a product or service is as valid as anyone else’s? It suggests that people are looking for offence where none is intended. I don’t believe this to be true.

There are things we can all do as suppliers to make everyone feel we are approachable. Phraseology and terminology are a big part of this. Lots of wedding social media is aimed at brides, because heterosexual brides are still the biggest sector of the market planning their weddings (and as an industry, suppliers will aim to the widest part of the market to make their money). But grooms, heterosexual or same-sex, are now becoming more proactive. So, should we be using “brides” at all? Should we be using “grooms”? Would that alienate female same-sex couples? And what of those who identify as trans, non-binary or non-gender-specific? It can be a minefield, if you let it be. So why not just talk to people as people?

I’m not sure I’ve really given you a conclusion on this. I have probably just thrown some strong opinions at the screen and let them sit there! But hopefully it has got you thinking?

I will leave you with this: I have two sisters-in-law. Not because my husband has two sisters, but because his only sister is married to a woman. I can’t get more inclusive than that. The fact that neither of them like cake much is by-the-by (although her wife does make phenomenal jams and chutneys!).

Let me know what you think in the comments – all opinions are valid, you don’t have to agree with me.

Universal cakey love,

Clare

 

P.S. Why have I given you a picture of a Haribo cake on a blog about LGBTQ+ wedding cakes? A) It’s a pretty cool cake and B) I made it for a lovely customer to give to their husband. The fact that they were both men was totally irrelevant – they love each other, they love cake and they have a sense of humour. These are the important things.

Haribo cake

Anyone for Strawberries?

It’s June, the sun is shining (sometimes) and Wimbledon is about to start. Royal Ascot has just finished and no doubt vast amounts of strawberries and strawberry jam on scones were consumed. We’re no different in the Betty Bee House. Betty is a 5-year-old Strawberry fiend. Every year for her birthday I ask her what cake she wants, and she always says strawberry! What’s her favourite Ice cream? Strawberry – preferably with Strawberry sauce too! What does she want on her porridge? Yep, you guessed it, strawberries (or strawberry jam, she’s not fussy)!
This year we seem to have our own homegrown strawberries coming out of our ears (that June rain is good for something). There are too many for us to possibly eat them all, as much as we try! So I thought I would share with you a few things that we like making with our fresh strawberries. Give them a go and let me know how you get in on the comments.

Betty Bee’s Strawberry cupcakes
These were a “whip them up after school” recipe – they’re that easy! You’ll notice there are no accurate measurements – I made them up on the hoof (I was a bad mummy and forgot that it was Cake Sale day at school pickup, so we made our own!)

Makes 12 cupcakes.
• 3 free-range eggs (medium or large, whatever you have)
• Same weight of eggs in shells of:
• Caster sugar
• Butter or baking spread, at room temperature
• Self-raising flour
• As many strawberries as you fancy, chopped small
• 5 or 6 strawberries, either whizzed up or mushed in a bowl
• Icing sugar

Turn on the oven to 160C fan and line a 12-cup tin with paper cases.
Weigh the eggs in their shells, then weigh out the same weight of the sugar and butter into a mixing bowl. Beat them together until they are soft and fluffy. I used my stand mixer, but a handheld electric mixer, or a good old wooden spoon will do.
Beat the eggs then add in gradually to the mix.
Gradually add in the self-raising flour (weighed to the same as the eggs)
Stir in a couple of spoons of the whizzed-up strawberries (and add in a splash of milk if the mix still looks a bit thick. It needs to be drop off the soon when you lift it up)
Mix in the chopped strawberries by hand
Distribute between the 12 cupcake cases and bake for 25-30 mins until springy to the touch. If you aren’t confident with the spring-touch-test, insert a skewer and see if it comes out clean.

Once cool, mix the remaining mushed-up strawberries with enough icing sugar to make a spreadable consistency, and dollop on the top.
Delicious!
As the icing has uncooked strawberries in, they are best stored in the fridge. Ours didn’t last that long …

Strawberry Ice Cream
This is another easy one, and when we made this on Sunday morning, we cheated a bit with the custard.

You will need:
A 400g tin of custard (or make your own if you’re being fancy)
A 500g tub of yogurt (we used Skyr, because that’s what we had, but any plain yogurt will do)
Honey
Chopped strawberries
Sugar
Water

I used the ice cream making attachment on my food mixer, but if you don’t have an ice cream maker, then blitz the ice cream ingredients in a food processor and freeze in a big tub, stirring every hour or so until set.
Mix together the custard and yogurt in a bowl and add in 3 or 4 teaspoons of honey. Pour into the ice cream maker and churn until almost setting consistency (about 20 minutes but refer to your manufacturers instructions). For the last couple of minutes add in the chopped strawberries and carry on churning. Pour into a large plastic tub and freeze. After 2 hours take it out and stir. The edge will probably be frozen, but the middle still soft. Put back in the freezer and leave for another 2 hours.

In the meantime, make the strawberry sauce. Now, I just made this up this morning, but the ratios are so easy you could make it in whatever quantity you wanted.
In a saucepan put equal quantities of sugar and water (I used 50g of sugar, 50ml of water). Add in double (of the sugar or water) the amount of chopped strawberries (I used 100g). If it’s easier to remember, the strawberries weigh the same as the water and sugar combined. Slowly dissolve the sugar and stir in the strawberries, mushing with the spoon as you go. When the sugar is dissolved let it come to the boil and simmer until you have a nice saucy consistency and the strawberries have almost disintegrated. This isn’t jam, so don’t worry about boiling points, just make sure to stir so the sugar doesn’t stick and burn.
Turn off the heat and leave to sit for about 5 minutes. Carefully pour through a sieve into a bowl and mush through any remaining lumps of strawberry. Discard the seeds. Pour into a squirty bottle thing and sore int eh fridge for up to 5 days. Great on pancakes too!
When your ice cream is frozen scoop into bowls or cones and drizzle on the sauce. Betty has given me a thumb’s up for this one!

Strawberry Jam
A classic, and something I love making. My mum used to make vats of the stuff because we always had a glut of strawberries. My recipe is how my mum makes jam and is pretty basic. There are loads of other recipes out there, but this is so easy to remember. You just need to make sure you trust your instinct and don’t let it over-cook.

Equal weight of chopped strawberries and granulated sugar (jam sugar is great to use if you can get hold of it)
A squirt of lemon juice
Water (for 1kg of strawberries you will need about 80ml of water)
A jam thermometer

Put a couple of saucers or small plates in the freezer (trust me, I haven’t gone barmy).

Put the strawberries and sugar in the bottom of a large, heavy-based pan (use the biggest one you have – you don’t want it boiling over). Mush them up together a bit so the sugar starts dissolving in the juices. Add in a squirt of lemon juice and the water.

Put your jam thermometer in the pan. Put the pan on a low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. This is really important; you don’t want to feel grainy bits under your spoon. Once dissolved turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, but trying not to splash too much up the sides. Don’t let it catch on the bottom, your jam will taste of burnt sugar.

After 20 mins switch the heat off, let the boil settle for a moment then take a teaspoon of jam and put it on one of your frozen saucers. Let it cool for a few minutes (you’re going to stick your finger in it, so you don’t want to do that in boiling jam!), then push it with your finger. If it wrinkles your jam is set, if not, boil it for a couple more minutes and test again. Repeat until it’s ready – or you get bored, whichever comes first. Some days you just have to accept that your jam is going to be more of a pouring than a spreading consistency!

Leave it to stand for 10-15 minutes, scrape any scummy bits off the top and stir to distribute the fruit. CAREFULLY pour into hot, sterilised jars and seal tight.

Leave them to cool (wait for the popping sounds as the lids seal airtight – so satisfying), label them up, then store in a cool dark place. Enjoy on your toast, scones, porridge (a la Betty) or however you want to eat your jam.

I hope you give these a go, I’m off to rescue some more ripe strawberries from the woodlice (they love them as much as Betty!).

Getting the most from a Wedding Fayre

I love a wedding fayre. The chance to wander around, browse all manner of things that you didn’t even realise you needed for your wedding. Ogling the beautiful dresses, sampling some cake, having a makeover, admiring the beautiful vintage car your fiancé/fiancée REALLY must have as your transport on the day. It’s all rather lovely. But it can also be a tad overwhelming.

 

So what do you do to get the most out of the day (and out of us exhibitors)?

 

*** At this point I suggest you grab a cuppa and a slice of cake, this is a longer than usual blog post ***

 

Pre-registration for a fayre always comes with perks. Most provide a show guide or list of exhibitors before the show. Use this to plan who you might want to talk to and cross off suppliers you already have in place. Check out the websites and social media of exhibitors to see if they appeal to you. Be savvy and you will come home with more than if you randomly browsed.

 

Here is what you should be asking your exhibitors:

 

  • Where are you based? If the exhibitor is happy to travel (and you are happy to pay the cost) this isn’t so important. But for things such as flowers, cake, cars, choosing a local supplier is a good move. Do you want your cake to travel for a couple of hours to reach you? Think of the speed bumps, think of the time sat in the boot of a car in unregulated temperatures. Think of the potential for disaster. I have done it before. I once delivered my friend’s wedding cake from Windsor to Cardiff. In 32C heat. On a Friday afternoon on the M4. It was nerve wracking for me, for my husband who was driving, and for my friend. The cake survived, and everyone loved it, but it had started to wilt a bit in the heat. It wasn’t as perfect as I would have hoped.
  • What are the trends for the upcoming season/next year? Test the exhibitor’s knowledge. Do they sound like they are confident on their subject matter? Not just on trends but their own ideas too. Do you share similar tastes? Can you feel a rapport with them? Planning a wedding can take months, even years. You will be communicating with these people regularly. If you don’t get on with them, will you want to approach them to ask questions?
  • Pricing – don’t be afraid to talk money (after all, weddings can cost a lot!). It is a waste of time for you and the exhibitor to be having a lovely old chat if you are then not within each other’s budget expectations. Ask starting price, ask special show offers. Feel free to say to them, politely, that you expected to pay less (or more). A good supplier will offer suggestions to meet your budget, or alternative suppliers you might wish to talk to. They won’t judge you, we all know everything runs to a budget – hey, us exhibitors are running a business! But also, bear that in mind. You wouldn’t work for less than minimum wage, so don’t expect us to …
  • How far in advance would we need to book? Always a good question and worth asking, especially if your wedding is six months or less away (it can be done – my own wedding to Mr Betty Bee was four months from setting the date to W-Day). It will also give you some idea of how to apply your budget and when to expect to pay out for certain things.
  • Do you offer samples? I’m not just talking cake here – stationery, fabrics, flowers even. Ask for samples. Can’t get a sample, ask for a brochure. Can you take photos (some exhibitors will say no, but some will be more than happy for you to take a record of their work). Don’t be THAT couple who are like scavengers on a junk yard reality TV show, helping themselves to all the freebies they can lay their hands on. But a bit of careful collecting of items to take home and consider at your leisure is always a good plan.
  • Where can we view your work? Social media, websites, magazines, customer testimonials. If the supplier isn’t happy to share, politely make your excuses and move on. We have created a product for you and paid good money to stand at the Wedding Fayre, we should be shouting it from the rooftops.
  • How many weddings do you work on per week? This depends on the product and the size of the company you are talking to. With cakes, for example, I would aim to only have one wedding cake to deliver and set up per day. This is a s much for my own sanity as anything else. Depending on design and timings I can theoretically accommodate up to four cakes per week in high season. But I will probably choose not to do that. Feel free to ask a supplier if they will be exclusively supplying your wedding that day. If not, ask about logistics. You are paying a lot of money for a service, you are allowed to satisfy yourself you will receive that service.
  • Do you have a mailing list / business card? Take the exhibitors contact details and sign up to their mailing lists. This is the best way of keeping them in mind for when you are ready to commit to that all-important booking!

 

So that’s quite a big list, but this is a two-way conversation. Remember I said be prepared. Well, here’s your pre-show homework:

 

  • Have you set a date yet? If the answer is Yes – brilliant! We know you are serious and on the hunt for suppliers. Let’s talk date and availability. If the answer is No, that isn’t the end of the world. Give us some encouragement! Tell us the season/month and year you are hoping to marry in. But if you are just browsing with no specific timeframe, be aware that suppliers want to pin down the couples who have potential to book with them imminently. I’m happy to chat to everyone, but I know some suppliers who won’t even bother speaking to couples who are just browsing with no specific date in mind.
  • Have you got a venue in mind? This influences everything: date, budget, style, ease of set-up for a vendor, potential cost. The weather can have an impact too. Remember the cake I took from Windsor to Wales on the hottest weekend of the year so far? It survived that, but then had to sit in a marquee with no air con all afternoon. Luckily the design stood up to the conditions, but a buttercream-covered cake, or a semi-naked one, may not have fared so well.
  • Have you got a style/theme in mind? I like to mix up my designs, I don’t necessarily have a specific style. Other suppliers might have very definite design influences. Does it fit your ideas? Can we make it work? If I don’t think I can do justice to your theme I won’t waste your time. So share your inspiration and I’ll see if our ideas match.
  • How long have you been planning the wedding? This isn’t necessarily an important question, but I’m nosey. It can also help me understand where you are in the process. You may have been planning for a couple of years, devoting every free moment to your mood boards and supplier search (and sneaking in some planning at work too!). If you have mission fatigue then I know I need to take decisive action to get your order. Alternatively, if you are new to the planning game, then I can help you mould your idea over a longer period. Although be warned, I once met a couple at a wedding fayre who had only been engaged for a week! The poor man looked like a rabbit in the headlights. I suspect they didn’t make it much further down the planning route, let alone all the way to the vows!

 

 

 

The main thing about a wedding fayre is to enjoy it. As an exhibitor I certainly do. I love chatting to couples and hearing about their plans, I love sharing my knowledge with them. I also love chatting to my fellow exhibitors (some who have become friends), networking and sharing experiences with them. It’s hard work for the exhibitors and for the visitors, but it can be so worthwhile. So, plan who you want to see and what you want to learn about, go prepared with a pen and paper and lots of questions. Wear comfy shoes! But above all, come back home with a bag full of leaflets and a head full of ideas.

 

 

Happy Wedding Fayre,

Clare

 

If you want to see where I am next exhibiting, then check out the welcome page for updates.

 

Trend setter or dedicated follower of fashion?

In the world of weddings there is always huge anticipation at the beginning of December to see what Pantone will announce as their next colour of the year. There is a flurry of posts on social media from across the industry announcing the colour and Pinterest is suddenly awash with co-ordinating mood boards. Brides and Grooms (and wedding professionals) across the nation suddenly rethink their colour schemes for their upcoming nuptials.

 
For 2019 it is an interesting shade of pink called Living Coral (shade 16-1546 to be precise).

 
But here’s the thing. When Pantone announced 2019’s colour it was met with, well, indifference, by a lot of people across the industry, but especially in the world of Wedding Cakes. There are an awful lot of us cake artists who don’t really like it (me included – sorry)! It’s a bit of a funny colour. Not really pink, not really orange. I grew up in the 80s, it gives me memories of coral shell suits, rara skirts and spending my pocket money on some shockingly awful pink shades of eyeshadow in the local chemist on a Saturday afternoon.

 
In moderation, I can see a few coral flowers here or there, maybe a coral lustre on one tier. I have seen some beautiful examples of cakes using coral pink, navy, ivory and gold. But I’m still not feeling the love for it. In contrast, Bride magazine have just published their colour trends for Autumn/Winter 2019/2020 and I love the combinations they are suggesting. There are shades of rich blue, flashes of antique gold and mustard. Mossy greens and rich browns are autumnal and cosy and there is that autumn classic of plumy red wines and deep oranges.

So here is the thing: as a couple designing your wedding, should you follow the trends, or should you set them?

 
There are pros and cons to both.
If a colour or trend is, well, on trend, it will be everywhere. You will easily find items for your wedding in your chosen hues. It will be easy to find matching or coordinating accessories. This could save you time and money. Items will be easily sourced and readily available on the high street. Mood boards on that theme will be everywhere, from Pinterest, to bridal magazines and across social media.

 
But do you want to have a wedding that looks the same as everyone else?

 

One summer I attended six weddings in the space of five months. All of them friends from either university or work. We were in our early 20s, and in a lot of cases, a bit short of cash too. With the exception of one Hindi wedding (amazing experience, I loved it) and one where my incredibly talented crafter friend only invited 20 people and made a lot of the accessories, the others were very “on trend”. But not very individual. Don’t misunderstand me, I had a fabulous time at all of them. But looking back now with a designer’s eye, they were all the same colours (pastels were in). It’s something to bear in mind if you have friends getting married in the same season as you.

 
And as for your cake artist, wedding planner etc. not enjoying your theme? My job is to bring your vision to life, and I will do my utmost to do that in a spectacular fashion. Whatever your theme. So pick your tribe – leader of the pack or fashion follower. Or somewhere in between. It’s your wedding, do what makes you happy (that’s a whole other blog post)!