To celebrate 2 years as a professional baker, I spent some of my hard-earned cash on a very posh handbag. I am not generally a designer handbags kind of woman but I really loved the bag as soon as I saw it. And what the hell - goodness knows I've earned it. I worked stupidly hard in November and December and my expected quiet month of January hasn't quite materialised.
It happens that I go away to London for the same weekend every year. Around about January 15th I go to Sadler's Wells to watch Matthew Bourne's latest ballet (Cinderella, and marvellous it was too!) and to have a little time to myself, browsing galleries, bookshops and coffee shops as well as having a prowl in the cake shops to see what's coming.
Two years ago, I had just had my meeting with the deli and agreed to start supplying them with cake after the weekend. I was giddy with excitement at actually supplying a shop! In addition to the cakes I brought her, the deli owner asked for pretty cupcakes so I spent part of the London weekend obsessively watching the people in Hummingbird ice their cupcakes using palette knives in the hopes I could manage something similar. Every cupcake took me 3 minutes of icing and re-icing to get right. Now I slam them out at a hell of a pace.
Last year I got some good ideas, including Rocky Road cupcakes that have been very successful with my customers. This year was similarly productive. I've spent all week having a go at recipes inspired by things I saw. I tried 3 different cakes while I was there. Primrose Bakery was as pretty as ever but the cake was stale again. How they get repeat business is a mystery, unless I am terribly unlucky. However, I chatted to the girl working there and got some helpful insights into what they do and what's successful for them. It was pretty much as I would have guessed, but it's nice having it confirmed.
Ellie's was much busier than last time. I expect this is because the owner has her own series on BBC2. The cupcakes are nice enough (scarily priced, but Covent Garden rents must be breathtaking).
Mark tells me I'd be a roaring success if I lived in Notting Hill - hobnobbing with media types and celebrities while I sell them my cakes, then having a shop, book deal and telly series. That's what happens in that there London, apparently. And the woman who nearly frogmarched me to the recording booth at the British Museum because of my "beautiful speaking voice " would no doubt agree.
Incidentally, I am not often embarrassed but that had me cringing. I think she mistook "loud and talkative" for "beautifully spoken," personally. However, it has been a fun thing to tease my pal Bon about, as she was the one I was talking with at the time and no one made her record her voice.
She would doubtless claim it is because she couldn't get a word in edgewise.
Anyway, I was inspired by what I saw to play about with rose cupcakes, berry crumble cupcakes and lime and coconut cupcakes. The deli will stock the first two in the next couple of weeks (woohoo!) and I am refining the third as I am not happy that it is quite what I want.
I do love a bit of inspiration.