A couple of weeks ago I went to the Squires Baking exhibition in Farnham with @MissV1ss and we had a fabulous time wandering round seeing beautiful wedding cakes, cake competition entries and watching demonstrations like macaroon making by Mark Tilling. The pics speak for themselves so check out the wedding cakes below. There will be more tips and photo stories to come from the exhibition so watch this space! We also purchased a load of goodies from the Squires shop up the road from the exhibition.
On Saturday I went for afternoon tea with my friend at Beas of Bloomsbury in St Pauls. We originally went a month ago for coffee and cake but hadn’t found the service very good. Having been in touch with Bea herself, we were invited back for afternoon tea to recreate first impressions. We were greeted with a table upstairs where all the afternoon teas take place and the table was set out with fresh baguette portions and a cake stand adorned with cupcakes, scones and mini cakes. I liked the lights which were teapot shaped – thought it was a fun touch to the atmosphere.
We were offered a selection of teas and coffees and iced water which came quickly. The food was very fresh and it was good to have baguettes rather than sandwiches to be a bit more substantial. Flavours included brie and ham, salami, and my friend had a soft cheese and veg one. It turned out my friend was cutting out sugar for Lent so she only tried a few bits of the afternoon tea. I, on the other hand tasted everything! I most enjoyed the millionaire shortbread square, nut and choc brownie and the pistachio macaron was to die for. The food was good quality and tasty. The only cake that let them down was the mini meringue which was a bit tough to bite in to. I wasn’t a massive fan of the homemade mango marshmellow because of the texture but thought it was something a bit different. There were so many other mini morsels to try that it didn’t matter too much if there was one you didn’t like. The scones were also fresh and broke in two easily and they went down a treat with strawberry jam and clotted cream. We had a lovely afternoon and really enjoyed it.
Couple of things to note: there are only four tables for coffee and cake downstairs in winter, double that capacity on sunny days. If you want to go for afternoon tea then you need to book by email in advance. Everything is made to order based on the number of afternoon teas that day – this is to reduce food wastage and keep the price of the afternoon tea more affordable – £17 for full afternoon tea which I do think is good value. However, because of this sandwiches aren’t on the menu at weekends for those not having afternoon tea, nor are scones. Beas of Bloomsbury are looking into what they offer customers who aren’t coming for afternoon tea so you never know this might change.
I would recommend the afternoon tea – it was a lovely atmosphere and great fresh food plus good service. Hopefully the service is mirrored downstairs from now on and if you’re only wanting cake and drinks anyway then it’s not a problem that sandwiches aren’t provided.
To mark the second anniversary of the Cake takes the biscuit blog, I decided it was time to give it a makeover. Having set out on a journey to tweak recipes and review cupcakes and cafes, my mission hasn’t changed, I’ve just added in a few extras like reviewing afternoon teas and photo stories with fantastic images from the likes of Jonathan Pollock. I have met some great people along the way writing the blog and I hope it continues!
My illustrator and designer friend Mary Kilvert very kindly offered to design my new logo and background. I hope you like them – I certainly do! I have also given the blog a fresh look with a new layout. Hopefully this is more appealing with the content categorised by theme. If you like Mary’s work, she will be exhibiting at the Country Living Magazine Spring Fair on stand M69 on 21-25 March. Mary will be launching her new Spring Lambs, woolly eggs and colourful sheep egg cups at the show. If you can’t catch her at the show, Mary’s lovely products can be found on her website.
On a summer evening last year, Jo Shaw came up the idea for Just Bake over a glass of wine with friends. Six months later the website launched selling beautiful cake decorations and cupcake accessories. Mumpreneur Jo explains how Just Bake came to fruition and gives us her best business startup tips.
CTTB: Why did you decide to start the Just Bake website?
JS: I always wanted to have my own business but it wasn’t until last year that the idea came to me. I do lots of baking with my two young children and at the same time I couldn’t find the cake decorations I wanted off the high street. When I looked online I found a lot of poor quality websites were around. I realised what was missing was a simple, easy to navigate website which was appealing from the outset where people could buy pretty decorations.
CTTB: What advice can you give to someone else who is thinking about starting up their own cake business?
JS: Research the market properly, the product range you’re going to offer and who your target market is.
I did lots of anecdotal market research – speaking to various people about the products they like and the products they couldn’t find easily. I carried out lots of competitor research too like ordering from competitors to understand the customer journey. I also ensured I hired a good quality web agency. Finally, I checked that the cupcake boom wasn’t about to dive. However, I was still careful to give the business a more generic name ‘Just Bake’ so it was insulated from any cupcake trend changes.
CTTB: Have you any tips on how to secure funding, especially in these tough times?
JS: I looked at the costs of borrowing from our bank and using our own investments – weighing up which was the best option with the lowest risk. The two big costs were the website and branding plus buying the products.
CTTB: What have you learnt whilst setting up Just Bake?
JS: One thing I did learn along the way is that until you can buy bigger quantities of product, the supplier firmly has the upper hand. I spent a lot of time trawling through supplier websites until I found the best deals and understanding the quantities of stock I needed. I also had to pass an environmental health assessment to ensure all the products were in a hygienic space and kept at the right temperature. It’s not easy setting yourself up as self-employed and learning about the tax regulations – I’m going on a course run by HMRC so I can make sure I’m compliant.
CTTB: Best piece of advice given to you that would help others?
JS: One of my friends said you don’t need to do and learn everything at once – work on one aspect of the business at a time and you’ll build it up from there. He was right and it really helped me to stop worrying and focus.
CTTB: Are there any big trends you can foresee for 2012 based on what people are browsing for on Just Bake?
CTTB: And finally, cake or biscuit?
JS: Definitely cake.