Sunday, 30 May 2010

In The Merry Merry Month of May

Sorry it's been a month since I last wittered on at you all. I've been rather busy. May's not been entirely merry*, but it's had its good points.

I did my first wedding order, which was for cupcakes. Don't they look pretty? Perhaps individually placing each silver dragee along the spiral is a little fiddly, but I think it gives a lovely result.
My second wedding order went a bit wrong. The bride has called it off, so I have sent her mum a refund, minus the money I'd already spent on things for the order. It's a shame, as I was quite excited about doing it but heck, I'm not the one having the big emotional crisis.

I got that contract with a new outlet, and I started supplying them this weekend. I did the planned tasting session for both partners in the business and it went very well. But heck, why wouldn't it? What's not to like about someone offering you several different cakes and cookies with a nice cup or coffee and tea on a busy morning. We settled on what they'd start with and I gave them some advice about storage of the cakes to prolong shelf life and manage their stock. The longer the cakes and cookies keep fresh and look good, the better. Stale cake is somehow more depressing than no cake at all.

I'm not quite sure how much work it will mean - like my work with the deli, there will no doubt be a settling in period. However, I set my terms out clearly with regards to collection versus delivery and the notice I require. It feels good to have agreed this stuff up front.

I had my lovely weekend away in early May. It was fab to see my very lovely pals Laura and Alison again and the Gifted Children's May Ball gig was absolutely ace. Almost all of my science crushes were there, and most of my comedian crushes too so it was pretty much perfect. I really wish my pal Rach could have joined us, though; she would have loved it. Marcus Brigstock and Tim Minchin in one evening... on second thoughts it might have been too much for her and she'd have swooned. I wasn't wearing shoes suitable for carrying swooning mates.

I had some baking related adventures too. I took a cake to Absolute Radio for Dave Gorman. He does a bit in his stand up routine about never eating carrot cake again. I'd talked to him after the gig and he said "convince me I'm wrong, send me a cake." It was a lot more eccentric a thing to do when I was carrying a cake through London and knocking on the radio station door than it seemed in my kitchen, but what the hell. His producer and production assistant came to meet me and were really lovely. I saw Frank Skinner. He said Hi! Coo.
And the next day Dave and his co presenters Danielle and Martin mentioned it in the podcast (May 8th, at 33 minutes ish on the podcast, not that I'm obsessed or anything). They said it was "amazing cake, genuinely moist and delicious and lovely." I am all chuffed.

On the Saturday night I went to see Wicked, the musical, which was great fun. I met a Canadian woman there who wanted to learn to bake. We had a good chat and exchanged email addresses, and I am now helping her get started by email. It's fun. I get to be a mentor; how neat is that!

Then it was home again and back to work. As I've mentioned before, tastes change with the seasons. I've stopped offering chocolate gingerbread loaf until the autumn and needed to replace it with something more spring-like.

I've faffed about with a recipe and come up with a very nice elderflower cake that is currently selling well in the deli. I want to find an affordable berry cake recipe too, for summer. Some are just too expensive to be viable commercially, but I am confident I'll find something. I like the faffing.

Whoopie pies are selling well, too. They are as trendy as trendy can be right now, and although a bit of a faff to make are really delicious. I took some to the deli at the beginning of the month and they've been selling steadily ever since. I also got more positive comments from their inclusion May cake boxes than I've had for anything else ever. Evin the non-cake-eating deli owner loves them.

I truly hate their name, though. Whoopie pies. They are not pies. They do not fart when you sit on them. Still, what's in a name, as Juliet so naively asked. (Quite a lot, Julie my poppet, and if you'd picked a bloke with a different surname it would have been a longer play.)

I had another baking session with Z's Year 3 class this month as well. It was a bit, erm, interesting but that was the fault of the rubbish recipe and the teacher rather than the kids. The recipe was for chocolate chip muffins. The taste was bland, some parts of the recipe were pointless and messy and the flashes, bangs and burning smell coming from the staff room microwave was enough to give me nightmares. I won't bother typing of the recipe for you all because I promise you it was rubbish. 50g of melted chocolate and no cocoa between 12 muffins doesn't make a batter chocolatey, it makes it beige. Buying cheap nasty Asda Value bars of chocolate and asking the kids to bash it into chips rather than buying chocolate chips is also a mistake. A frustrating and messy one. Not one group managed to follow the recipe correctly, the teacher did not provide the correct implements and does not understand the difference between millilitres and grams, and I had a lot of rescuing to do to make sure all the kids got their 2 muffins.
Still, the muffins did rise impressively and the kids liked them. And that is the main thing.

The difficult parts of this month have been overwork, managing a poorly child, and being overtired. That the dishwasher packed in this weekend was pretty much the final straw, and Saturday found me sobbing like a toddler. I even regretted starting the business at all. However, a bit of sleep and a morning of doing nothing constructive whatsoever restored me to normality. Well, mostly, but enough to get by.

If I am going to continue making a go of this I do need to think carefully about how much work I take on, how to juggle family and work life and possibly stop doing other external stuff like volunteering. So obviously I'm doing another book swap party fundraiser this year and have offered some help to Cubs. And the school summer fair. Argh. However, I've partially opted out of my book groups until I've got a little more time and I'm looking at ways of managing the household more effectively. And I'm thinking about turning down a cake request that i think will be a pain to do and will mess up part of next weekend for insufficient financial reward. Just because I can do something doesn't mean I have to. That's the joy of self employment.

*That's a Stephen Foster song, by the way - In The Merry Merry Month of May. He wrote that in 1862. Why my head is cluttered with such stuff I do not know, but there you are.