Thursday, May 1, 2014
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
When starting out on the adventure of business ownership, you need to take the time to develop a plan. When you bake a cake, you follow a recipe. Same is true when you start a business - you have to follow a recipe. You can't just dump things together in a bowl, stir it around a bit, then realize to turn on the oven, and just hope and pray it will all turn out fine in the end. Chances are if you did that with flour, eggs, sugar and butter you would end up with a mess, so why would you think you would yield any other result when starting a business in the same manner?
So you have the statement: "I want to start a cake business" - now what? This statement is very broad, what you need is to focus - what is your vision?
Overwhelmed? Don't be. Just take it one step, one day at a time.
Need more help? Here are several websites with more information about starting a business and writing a business plan:
Starting a small business in Ontario - Ontario.ca
Restaurant Start-Up Guide from Canada Business Network
Writing Your Business Plan from Canada Business Network
BDC Business Plan Templates
ScotiaBank's guide to writing a business plan
Bank of Montreal's Small Business Centre
CIBC's Guide to Business
TD Bank Business Planner
RBC Royal Bank Business Resources
This is just the beginning of a long process....but the reward is sweet! Stay tuned for more!
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
At most grocery stores, it's only available in 1L cartons - and sometimes you find it, sometimes you don't, sometimes it has a long expiration date, sometimes a week or less! It can become quite a nuisance when you bake to order and you suddenly get a last minute request but you are out of buttermilk, or you buy more than you need and end up tossing out half the container because it goes past due. Yes you can freeze buttermilk - best to do it in small amounts which can thaw easily, but again that's a nuisance.
Recently we brought in dry buttermilk powder - all the essence and qualities of buttermilk but in dry form just waiting to be reconstituted. Now I have buttermilk on hand whenever I need it - I can make a little or a lot depending upon my needs - no waste! And this is true buttermilk like the product from days gone by - it is the residue left over from making sweet cream butter, and then dried into powdered form. Today's commercial buttermilk is cultured, i.e.: it is milk with an addition to it to create a buttermilk taste & texture. For more info about buttermilk, see this Wikipedia post.
So what can you use buttermilk for? It is excellent in baked goods; from muffins, to quick breads, to cakes - it gives an amazing texture & flavour to your baked items. Here's a quick non-cake related recipe in which buttermilk is the star - Irish Soda Bread. This bread is VERY easy to make, takes less than 5 minutes to prepare, can be on the table in 45 minutes, tastes amazing and has 4 simple ingredients! It's homemade and your family will think you hit a home run! Try it!
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
I know it's been a long time since I have posted - life always gets in the way doesn't it? I have been working on a new series of blog posts called "Baking Up A Business". In this series I will be discussing the "ingredients" you will need to have when starting up your cake or baking business.
Here's the intro:
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Recently I had the pleasure & honour to be interviewed by the talented Bettina Schliephake Burchardt of Cake Pirate. Bettina is the talent behind Betty's Sugar Dreams - she has a whimsical style full of humour and charm. I've known Betty for many years via online cake forums and was happy to finally meet her in person a few years ago when she attended our first class with Ron Ben-Israel. After meeting her in person you can see why her cakes & figures are so fun - her personality is infectious!
Betty's questions are great - they really make you think and reading the responses from people like Ron Ben-Israel, Elisa Strauss, and Debbie Brown is quite informative & entertaining. To be included amongst such talent is an honour.
If you haven't already subscribed to Cake Pirate, I highly recommend it!
I asked Betty if I could share my interview with everyone, so you could all get a glimpse into my world.... here it is - and thank you Betty for including me!
1. when did you start cake decorating
Ok time to age myself I guess…. In 1994 I had dropped out of University and was being “encouraged” (lol) by my mother to get a job! I remember watching something on TV I’m thinking it was Oprah and there was something to do with cake decorating (very basic) on there and I said I want to do that! LOL! So I enrolled in a 10 day course at the McCall’s School of Cake Decorating and took the course. After that I got a job as a PT cake decorator at a large grocery chain. After working there for a year, I decided to go back to University and carry on with life. That was my start and I wouldn’t change it at all! Working in a grocery store gave me the foundation skills that everyone needs to keep up with this industry.
After working in offices etc for several years, I wanted to get back into baking. So in 2001 I went to George Brown College for their Baking & Pastry program. Shortly after graduating and working here and there trying to find my way, I got pregnant and so my baking/caking life came to a halt. It was not until our daughter was 2 that I got back into the cake world when my cousin “forced” me to make his wedding cake…..that’s when Flour Confections was born and I haven’t stopped since!
2. professionally or as a hobby
In 2004 I started Flour Confections as my business/career/obsession/life and it’s grown and changed so much since then!
3. self educated or trained
Both – I’ve had “professional” training in terms of a 10 day course and baking program as well as cake classes which I’ve traveled to take or hosted at our shop, but you are ALWAYS learning on the job. Some things you just have to learn on your own – making mistakes is the BEST way to learn – so stop being so hard on yourself – “perfection” is something you can strive for as it provides you with a goal or challenge to always do better, yet it’s something that is rarely if even ever truly attainable.
4. your favorite technique (flower making, piping etc.)
Ooo tough one – as you named in your examples 2 of my favourites! I do love flower making though, and I have to attribute that all to Ron Ben-Israel – he gave me the passion for sugar flowers and I’m constantly striving to do better each time I make them. My recent OSSAS wedding cake was to date my favourite in terms of the flowers I created and the arrangement – it was the first time I stepped back after I created the topper and gasped! Truly it was everything I saw in my head and more. And the praise I received from my flower mentor Ron was just the “icing on the cake”
5. technique you would like to master
You keep asking tough questions!! Funny enough I would love to master the flawless fondant finishes that Rebecca Sutterby of Sugar Creations can do! I really don’t know how she does it (I mean I do know as she tells me each time I say that to her) but I really am in awe of her fondant finishing and it drives me mental that I cannot seem to master that!
6. whose influence formed you
Over the years I’ve been influenced by so many artists and I admire tons of people for various reasons.
If I did have to choose just one person, I would have to say Ron Ben-Israel has had the biggest impact & influence on me – both in my work and professional life. He is perfection personified.
7. first book you got about sugarcraft
OMG I have no idea!!! I’ve had so many books for such a long period of time I couldn’t say which was one of the firsts! Cake Bible is one of my oldest baking books I would say, and looking at my bookshelf I would say any of these would be some of my first books on sugarcraft: The Icing on the Cake by Greg Robinson & Max Schofield, The Wedding Cake Book by Dede Wilson and Colette’s Wedding Cakes by Colette Peters – but believe me I have TONS more! LOL!
8. what is your favorite book
In cake or just book in general? Hmmm you know Betty you’ve made a pretty kick ass book – just wish my German was a bit better ;) Cakewalk by Margaret Braun is just a gorgeous book too.
9. your favorite color
I don’t discriminate! LOL! I love so many colours for so many reasons I couldn’t just pick one!! I’m partial to pink (obviously) and I love grey …
10. where are you getting inspirations from
Everywhere! Art, fashion, designs, wallpaper, textiles, architecture, Google images! LOL!
11. favorite cake you created – (please send a pic)
That I’ve created???!!! Yikes!
One of my favourite sculpted cakes was my Taz that I made in a secret rush for Scott’s birthday! As soon as he left the shop I got to work and turned it out in record time! Made by altering up the Cake Bones set by Browen Weber & Francois Long, frozen cake tops and left over buttercream, it turned out pretty darn sweet! I kinda wish we didn’t have to cut it!
For wedding cakes hmmm I would say a toss up between my last 2 entries in the Grand National Wedding Cake competition – I love both for different reasons.
12. for whom do you dream to do a cake and what will it look like
My daughters wedding cake – how it will look I have no idea as she is only 10 and who knows what her tastes will be – but I can’t wait to find out! Ok maybe I can wait…cause I hope it’s at the very least 15 years from now and I don’t want to know what I will look like 15 years from now!!!!!
13. a design you wish to transfer into a cake
Hmm that’s a tough one! Ummmm……. (think think think)!
I’m gonna have to say Art Nouveau – something with a Mucha feel to it – it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but I love that style so much I guess I’m avoiding it for fear I wont do it justice.
14. a cake, made by another decorator, you admire (please give a link)
Again with the just one option??!!! I admire so many different artists for so many different reasons, it’s near impossible to choose just one!! But I will say that I do love Rebecca Sutterby of Sugar Creations work/style. She has a whimsy to her designs, they are always perfect in execution and she has a way of tying in so many elements in one cohesive design. One that always brings a smile to my face is this cake: Link to flickr
15. 3 tools you can't work without
Just 3?? Small palette knife, turntable, Google images – and for those who know me well a close 4th would be pressure – I do some of my best work under pressure!
16. your favorite flavor
If it’s cake, then a good old chocolate cake. But if it’s dessert then crème brulee is up there for me! I recently had a PB&J crème brulee where they had a peanut butter custard and raspberry compote on the bottom – that was pretty heavenly!!
17. where will you be in 10 years - visions
On a beach, in Hawaii, with a drink in each hand! Haha!
Oh you mean in life & work?!! LOL! Man I really don’t know! If you asked me in 2004 when I started Flour Confections if I would ever be anything more than a side cake business I would have said “ya right”. And if you asked me 5 years ago if my husband Scott would leave his career and become my cake business partner I would have said “ya right”! And if you asked me 3 years ago when we expanded the business to a retail & online sugarcraft store if I would be shipping around the globe, having a staff of 12 and constantly needed more space for inventory I would have said “ya right”!
So not really sure what to say in 10 years time as it hasn’t even been 10 years since I started this business and it’s changed SOOO much. I’m not much for planning so let’s just see what the future holds…
18. if the 10 golden rules for cake decorating existed, what would one of them be:
Oh good question! So many to choose from but probably this: Always strive to challenge & improve yourself. You can always do better and take each mistake as a learning lesson for next time – modesty in your work is a great quality – it is after all just cake. And to quote Genie in Disney’s Aladdin “ Beeeee yourself”!
19. a cake decorating no-go
Crying – there’s no crying in cake (but I’m sure I’ve shed a few!) And fingernails! – the thought makes me icky! Oh and Lick & Stick! haha
20. who would you like to answer these questions too
Just one person? I would love to see so many people answer these questions hmmm……I think Michelle Wibowo, Bronwen Weber, Debbie Goard, Kate Sullivan, Wendy Kromer and Elizabeth Falkner (pastry chef & chef) would all provide some awesome answers! Ahhh I keep thinking of more people!!!
Thanks Lisa for taking all the time to answer these questions!
If you want to learn more about Lisa and Flour Confections, please visit her website: http://www.flourconfections.com
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Today I was happy to be a part of CakeFu Masters and I offered a training on this cute cake & flower. If you missed out on my Cake Fu tutorial from November 20th, don't fret! Here is the step by step pictorial for you all to enjoy!
From my new line of cutters Flourishes, I came up with this cute cake design & paper inspired flower using my Starburst cutter set.
Here are the tools I used in this project: fondant smoothers, sharp top edger, rolling pin, sharp knife, paint brush, palette knife, gum glue in bottle, CMC (to make glue), clear piping gel, square cutter (largest in set of 3), starburst cutter set.
First we will make the flower. Here is a picture of what you will need to make the flower as well as the completed flower.
Next you will need to attach the edible image paper. For this project I used a paper from Lucks, but you can also print your own or use another design or brand.
To attach the paper to the gumpaste, lightly moisten the surface with either water, or here I used edible gum glue - do not over moisten, just enough for the paper to stick. Carefully attach the paper and make sure it is secure and without air bubbles.
Next you will want to cut out all the Starburst shapes. For this flower you will need: 21 large triangles - 3 sets of 7 pairs and 14 small triangles - 2 sets of 7 matching pairs. These cutters are designed like puzzle pieces and fit against one another. They are also double sided meaning you can cut a mirror image of each shape.
When cutting, try to use your paste in the most efficient manner possible to avoid waste. See here how I've cut the shapes and paired them up as I go to make sure I have enough. I'm also maximizing my paste by cutting the shapes close together. Be sure to trim away any jagged pieces if you get them. Tip to avoid that: keep your cutter edge clean.
You can assemble the flower once all the pieces have been cut. It works best if the paste is slightly dry. Make sure you have cut the gumpaste square and that it is also somewhat dry. Add gum glue (not too much) to entire square surface.
Stage 1: Starting with the large pairs of triangles, arrange them on the square working all the way around like a star shape.
Keep working all the way around the square - I went in a counter clockwise fashion, but you can also go clockwise! ;) Just make sure to place each pair tightly against each other.
Here is stage 1 complete - a star shape which you can stop here or go on to the next stage.
Stage 2: Using the last 7 large triangles, arrange standing upright all around star at mid point of each point.
To attach: use clear piping gel painted on with paintbrush along bottom edge.
Here is a detail shot of where to paint piping gel.
When placing the pieces, be sure to have the pattern side all facing in the same direction.
Here is stage 2 completed - again note the pattern side all faces the same direction.
Stage 3: With the small triangle pairs (looks like a kite) paint 2 edges (bottom edge and top side which will attach) with piping gel and secure as a pair in between each standing piece.
Here is a detail shot of placement
Continue all the way around the star adjusting as you need until all spaces are filled.
Here is the completed flower. Allow flower to dry before placing on cake. To secure flower to the cake side, I used melted coating chocolate as it sets up quickly and securely.
Side pattern design: You can use the shapes to create a multitude of pattern designs. You can space them out as I did by eye, or you can do the math and work it all out! For me, I cut out enough triangles to go around the diameter of my cake and place them all around the cake laying on the board, spacing them out as I go. Once I like the spacing, I will attach the shapes to the side of the cake using gum glue.
From rolled piece of gumpaste - cut out shapes as many as you require to complete your design. Practice different configurations on a flat surface or the counter prior to attaching to the cake.
Here is the start of my chosen pattern. For this pattern I needed 2 matching sets of the large triangles and 4 matching sets of the small triangles.
Continue the design up one full side of the cake so you can see your spacing and configuration. Then work your way around the cake to fill in the entire design.
When using the gum glue, you do have a bit of time to adjust the pieces if required. Instead of using your fingers to move the shapes around, try using the small palette knife or better a pair of them. The straight edge will reduce the risk of distorting the shape.
Use your fettuccine attachment to cut the bands of gumpaste for your border. Roll a long strip of gumpaste to setting #4, then move over to the fettuccine attachment and pass through to cut.
After rolling through the fettuccine attachment you end up with all these strips! Perfect for borders, shoe laces, curly cues or fill on a wine crate cake!
Create a "common cut" - overlap the band and with a sharp knife cut through both layers - creates a perfect join which is practically seamless! Be sure to remove the underneath excess!