Sunday, May 30, 2010

Portabello West Show - May 2010

I have gone to Portabello West (PW) twice - once with my friend Jessica, and once on my own. It is a great market, full of local vendors who are fantastically creative. The type of items at this fair range from jewelery to makeup to clothing and everything is beautiful. I wondered a couple of weeks ago how to get more business for the iBakery, as I love updating my blog and my facebook, but I am just not getting a lot of traffic this way and relying solely on word of mouth via the parties I have been doing is not enough. I emailed the coordinator of PW and attached a few photos of my work, outlining that it can be considered 'edible art.' I chose this angle since the market doesn't really have food vendors so I thought that might be purposeful. I wanted them to know my work was not 'just' baking, that it was more than that. I heard back withing 1/2 hour with an acceptance to the show. I was SO EXCITED! Then I was nervous as I wasn't sure I could pull off something this big. I immediately made a sketch of what I would want my table to look like, emailed Mike, and then figured out where in our schedule would allow a trip to Costco (yuck, I know) as this is the cheapest place for icing sugar and butter...which I used a TON of for the show. The table rental for the show was just over $100. I figured that this was an ok cost as there is a lot of traffic through the show and thus, hopefully, a lot of new business. In preparation, other than Costco, I punched out paper, cut out circles, got change from the bank, bought a tablecloth and fancy dish, bought flowers, and baked my little heart out. Our friends Michael, Jemaica and their daughter Ryleh were in town this past weekend and thank goodness Jemaica loves to bake! The boys took all 3kids out to the park (in the drizzling rain!) so that we could have some concentrated time and we baked, and iced, 200 cupcakes - all before 6pm at night! Halfway through our Agricola game last night I iced the "I am a bunny" cake and then just packed everything up. My good friend Jessica came over at 10am this morning to help me transport all the goods to the show, and then she stayed with me the entire day - what a trooper!! We had to arrive on site by 10:30am, had until 11:30am to set up our table, show was from 12-6pm and you weren't allowed to pack up early, and it didn't take long to pack up our table and head home.

We sold the cupcakes, had cookies wrapped in cellophane bags with ribbon on display, showed pictures of past treats in a beautiful photo album (thanks, Mom!), and had a give-away for a free custom cake. We had a lot of interest at our table.

People loved signing up for the opportunity to win a free cake, enjoyed looking at the photos, loved my little business cards for their unique shape and size, and in general were quite happy about what we were doing. At the end of the day, I had a lot of leftover cupcakes. At 5pm I walked around to the vendors in our section and offered them a free cupcake. I thought everyone needed a little boost to get to the end of the show and I had a lot of cupcakes leftover. This was a great way to chat with some of the vendors who were all quite supportive and friendly.

I ended up with enough profit to cover the cost of the table, and thus only incurred costs of what I brought, and I am super happy about the entire event. I learned a few things to make it better for next time – I think people thought our business name was ‘edible art,’ so I will change that and because we didn’t have a sign in front of the cupcakes showing their cost, people thought they were just display and thus we didn’t sell as many as we might have. Finally, I think some people thought the free custom cake they were entering the draw for was the “I am a bunny” display cake we had on the table. Easy fixes for next time. I sent Jess home with about 100 cupcakes to try and sell at her work tomorrow, so perhaps we will see a bit more money from the event. PW occurs on the last Sunday of every month so I will be back for June for sure. I think I'll change my theme colour to pink just to make it a bit different for everyone. Today was so much fun! I feel so lucky to have friends and family who helped me prepare, both mentally and physically, for the event and I am excited to be a part of a new creative community who understands the work required when doing a business like this on the side.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thomas the Train

Surprisingly, this famous little train is tough to freehand on a cake. My friend Grace's son Ryan wanted a Thomas cake for his second birthday. We have known Ryan since he was brand new, and I was so happy to make his cake. I prepped my icing colours ahead of time and thought I could 'bang' out this cake. Turns out Thomas is quite symmetrical and thus it took longer than expected to create him, but I was very happy with the end result. I still am a little dissapointed with my writing in icing, but it is getting better. The cake was chocolate with vanilla buttercream, and we were able to have a piece of cake as we were invited to the party. It was hosted at a local gymnastics studio and it was in the 'toddler' zone. Zack & Maggie had a ton of fun bouncing on the little trampoline, walking on the balance beam, throwing foam squares out of the 'hot tub' and swinging from the rings. Grace and her husband Jasper put out a great spread of food to fill the bellies of the active kids, and then cake was enjoyed by all. It is so special to get to watch your friend's kids grow up!

Stella's Tinkerbell Birthday Party

My friend Shannon has a daughter named Stella. She is one week younger than Zack & Maggie and had her birthday party this past Sunday. Shannon asked if I would make the cake and cookie favours and of course, I said yes!! Shannon gave me creative control over the cake, so I did some research online and found a beautiful cake design that I thought would be perfect on a hot pink cake.

I added the tinkerbell image that was on the cookie favours to the cake and a few non-pareils and it was complete. The inside was a white cake with a layer of the pink buttercream inside. I also made cupcakes for the party, chocolate cake with pink buttercream, as we thought it might be easier for people to eat these instead of cake juggled on plates.

Turns out everyone wanted cake at the party and I think took a cupcake or two home for later. Shannon has a beautiful cake stand which displayed the cupcakes perfectly. A cake stand is something I really need to invest in. I think I'll start scouring the antique shops for one as I would like a vintage glass cake stand. Anyway, the cookie favours for the party were inspired by the cookies in the TomKat Studio's "Kate's Fairy Garden Party." This blog has been a great resource for me lately as I modeled some of the treats and party toppers for Z&M's birthday party from this as well. I asked Shannon if I could make these for her, and I kept a few extra to showcase at Portabello West this weekend, where I have a booth this coming Sunday! The party was a ton of fun and was full of wonderful food, face painting, ballon animals, and great people. Thanks, Shannon!

Holiday Monday = Family Fun Day

We enjoyed yesterday, Victoria Day, with a walk down to Jericho beach to look for bunnies and ducks, and then in the afternoon Z&M ventured out with just me and NO stroller for errands. We were successful in both sightings, we saw one tiny little brown bunny, and a lot of ducks. Zack & Maggie are getting really good at throwing bread to the ducks and even try to feed the red winged blackbirds now ;-) Z&M have gone on walks with me without the stroller, but we never venture too far away as I eventually end up having to carry them both. I can do it, but it is not fun. Anyway, yesterday they did really well. We did take a break at Jugo Juice, where they enjoyed their first commercial smoothie, and a break at Kidsbooks to play with the toys. By the time we made it to Young Brothers, our produce place, they were pretty much done with 'shopping' so we took a bus home and had an early dinner. It certainly was a special day!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Zack & Maggie's Second Birthday Party

Richard Scarry wrote a book in 1963 called "I am a bunny," with the main character being a cute little bunny named Nicholas. Zack & Maggie love this book, as do we, and we decided it should be the theme to their second birthday party. We hosted the party at The Barefit & Pregnant Studio, same venue as last year, where there would be a lot of space for kiddies to run around in a nice bright space. There were about 14 families there to help us celebrate the big day and I think everyone had a great time. We brought over a few toys, taped butcher paper to the floor and had crayons for colouring, and also brought some books. The drawing was a big hit and the remainder of the time was basically spent eating treats. We had cake, cupcakes, cake pops (a HUGE hit), cinnamon rolls, banana muffins, lemon loaf, veggies, fruit, cheese & crackers, and kiddie crackers & popcorn type treats. The party favours were sugar cookies with different Nicholas the bunny images on them. I wrapped them up with colour coordinated ribbon and added a "thank you for coming" tag, identical to the tags used for the cupcakes toppers. I had a lot of fun prepping for the party, and loved having "I am a bunny" to help coordinate everything. I would definitely do events like this for other people - give me a theme and let's see where it goes!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Train themed birthday party

On Thursday I finished an order for train cookies, train cupcake toppers, and a train birthday cake for a 4 year old's Birthday party. The mom of the 4 year old, Pamela, sampled some of my baking at a mutual friend's son's birthday party and was hooked :-) Pamela's son's birthday party was going to be hosted at a venue that had a train the kids could ride, so it just made sense to have all of the treats be train themed. Pamela drove all the way from PoCo to bring me the train cookie cutters (I did not have any) and we discussed the design and detail of the other treats as well. When she drove away I was confident and excited to get started. I had to lay out a calendar to work backwards from, to ensure enough time to bake/flood#1/flood#2/write for the cookies, bake/ice/decorate the cake and purchase the paper to then cut and paste the cupcake toppers together. The cake and the toppers were the easy part of the order, and a lot of fun. The cookies were fun too but a serious amount of work. Once the cookies were baked, they all needed to be outlined in black. The icing was thick and the amount of pressure needed to get it out of the bottle for 144 cookies took quite a toll on my little thumb.
I know, boo hoo for me....I learned though that the icing sugar should be sifted to eliminate any little 'chunks' of sugar that may clog the tip...this was the real problem as I think if I had sifted, then my thumb still might be a little sore, but not numb. After the cookies had time to dry, I flooded them with the red/yellow/blue, but leaving the windows empty.

These were flooded last so that the colours wouldn't bleed together. After these two rounds of flooding were finished and completely dry, I wrote on the cookies. Finally, the cookies were packaged in threes and tied with a cute little train track ribbon. The birthday was a shared event so blue ribbon was for the boy, yellow ribbon was for the girl and red ribbon was for friends of both.

I'm glad to report that the cake/cookies and toppers were a big hit! I created cupcake toppers for Zack & Maggie's birthday and will post about that soon - just waiting on photos.

Zack & Maggie's Garden

My babies, Zack & Maggie, turned 2 yesterday. We were trying to decide what to get them for their birthday and decided on letting them pick out their own plants for our balcony garden. This way they can watch it grow all summer long and be a part of the process. They LOVED the garden centre and had a ball picking out the plants. They were pretty enthusiastic during the planting process and yesterday thought it was pretty neat to water their plants :-)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cake Pops

I have become a new FB fan of TomKat Studios and Kim, the woman who owns/runs this company, is very good at adding amazing posts to her page. I am inspired for Zack & Maggie's Birthday party, which is next Sunday (yikes!) and wanted to do a test run on a few of these ideas. I made a Paul Frank cake last weekend and had some leftover chocolate cake from carving it to shape. I saved this cake and the leftover buttercream icing to try out 'cake pops.' I finally had some time tonight to put them together. They are SUPER cute, a bit time consuming to make, and taste delicious. Really, how could cake and icing dipped in chocolate taste badly??
So, I started out with the cake, pulsed it to crumbs in the food processor and then added the buttercream to make a sort of pastey mixture (sorry, no photos of the mixture). Then I rolled them into balls of various sizes as I wasn't sure what size would be best. I rolled a bunch of tiny balls because I had the brilliant idea that these little cake balls could border a cake, but then realized at the chocolate dipping portion of the event that it was difficult to cover them in chocolate...too fussy for me.

Anyway, I froze the cake balls for about 20 minutes, then put the sticks into the pops.

I melted some milk chocolate and dipped the cake pops into it...needed a bit of help from the spatula, and then sprinkled them with colourful little sprinkles.

During the drying portion, some fell off their sticks and I hope this was because they were too large and not because this is a common theme of cake pops.

This first batch of cake pops are crude looking compared to those I've seen on the internet, but I am going to keep trying and stay positive.
Look for the blog about Zack & Maggie's Birthday sometime after the 16th to see how the 'real' ones turned out!

Grandma's baking

My Grandma Young is an amazing cook. I have many of her recipes and use a lot of the classics over and over again. Zack & Maggie have helped me make her scones, and actually asked to do so today but we didn't have time. Tonight after they fell asleep I was sitting on the couch watching tv and checking my email and I thought "why not" so I got up and whipped up a batch of Grandma's cinnamon rolls AND raisin scones. These are almost the same basic recipe and are tender and flaky and bring back strong memories of Seaforth and my grandparents...happy memories. I wish I could fly some of these treats home to my family in Ontario as I know they would all love a taste, especially my Grandma Young. She deserves to have someone else make the favourites for her, and I plan on doing so when we are home in the summer.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dr.S Cookies

A woman I work out with at Barefit and Pregnant has twins as well that turned "1" this weekend. She asked if I could do cookies for the party, with the theme being "Dr.Seuss." I said yes right away and then set out to find a cookie cutter to help me make that well known cat and his friends turn into delicious cookies. I could not find a Dr.S character cookie cutter anywhere except online, and I was not willing to pay $10 US plus shipping for this. My backup idea was to use the edible ink printer Mike bought me for my birthday. I've been reading a lot of new websites and blogs lately and came across a step by step guide to creating amazing sugar cookies using this printer - The instructions were perfect and the cookies really turned out well. I am going to do something similar for Zack & Maggie's Birthday, which is in 15 days, but first have to clean out the printer head as the images were a bit striated.

First - a flooded sugar cookie in a colour almost the same as the edible ink image

A bowl full of clear corn syrup to act as the 'glue'

The almost finished product. We decided that they needed a border. The border was actually the time consuming portion of these cookies as I used a super small circle icing tip. Next time I will use a larger tip I think!