"Sure, no problem."
I really shouldn't say these words. They are at the heart of several successful cake ranges I do, but it does send me into a right panic while I try to work out how to do whatever it is I blithely agreed to.
For example -
"I bet your scones are great, Jay - can you bring me some to try next week?" "Sure, no problem." Had I ever baked a scone in my life? No, reader, I had not. Nary a one. Cue a mad week of trialling everyone's scone recipes, taking them to the schoolyard and getting votes for the best, and then presenting the winner to my client. It is a damned fine scone recipe.
Early January - "What i really fancy are those cupcakes in pastel colours with that nice swirly icing that you see in London - can you bring me some next week to look at?" "Sure, no problem." Yikes - icing in a pretty way. I sucked at that. I swear to god it took me 5 minutes per cupcake to get that icing right. Nearly one year on, I blast through them in no time.
February - the birthday cake order that I thought was a plain buttercream vanilla sponge cake order turned out to be fondant with a dinosaur on it. "Oh, right. OK, no problem. "Argh! I made a total pig's ear out of it, covered the bad bit with frilly icing, and put the child's name on to distract from the rather, erm, rustic look. Tasted fabulous, though, and the client was very happy. I've offered her a discount this year if she wants another cake, to make up for being my guinea pig last year. I'm much better now...
Then, in the early autumn, a very nice woman said "Do you do Christmas cakes, Jay? I'd like to order a little one, if they aren't too expensive." "Sure, no problem," said Ms Never-Made-Fruit-Cake-But-How-Hard-Can-It-Be. That was a very expensive learning curve, but I am churning out lovely wee cakes at a terrific rate now.
"Can I get a 10 inch square sponge cake with piping on it and maybe some flowers?" "sure, no problem." So, mad dash to Harrogate to get the tins in Lakeland, and I am still working on the piping and the flowers. And I need to do a trial run of how big a vanilla sponge mix it takes to make a 10 square. I'm putting my faith in maths. An 8 inch round tin has an area of 50 square inches or thereabouts, so in theory the same depth of cake in a 10 inch square would need double quantities because it's 100 square inches.
On the whole, my confidence in my ability to solve the problem before I need to deliver the cake has put me in good stead. I am now good at all sorts of cakes and baked goods I'd never tried before and my confidence has grown enormously. I still turn down my major area of fear (pastry) but i am determined to tackle that over the next fortnight by making my own mince pies. I made my first ever batch of mincemeat today, in preparation.
And this weekend I am making Key Lime Pie, in preparation for an order at New Year. It's in the oven now. The batter tasted lovely but I am fairly sure it will be one of those bothersome collapsing cakes.
I may be in for a very limey few weeks.