Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Business planning

I really need to get on top of updating this blog! I've got a list of cakes to write up that's probably longer than the amount of posts already on here.
The past few weeks I've been planning more into getting my business up and running. Still waiting to hear back from the council about registering my kitchen, and there's a few more legal things to do, but I'm getting there slowly!
I have a long to-do list, but I'm determined to get this business sorted out and off the ground! The biggest problem I thought I would have was getting my landlords permission, but that went surprisingly smoothly. My tenancy company are really not my favourite people to call, ever, but this time they were very helpful and quick in response.
While I wait for replies from the council, I've set up my social media accounts, and can be found on Facebook, twitter and Instagram now! Granted there's no posts yet..but..I'm set up.
I really need to make a decision on my logo/colours/etc so I can get round to ordering business cards and packaging and generally sort myself out.

For now, here's some networking! (Updates to follow!)
Instagram : @therosebakery

It's all coming together!!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Last week I made banana bread with chocolate chips, in cupcake cases. The result was actually really nice, I worried it would be a very thick and stodgy cake, too heavy to pass as a cupcake, but it worked!
 The original recipe I used is a banana and walnut cake, but everyone loves chocolate, and I had made this before with chocolate chips. I think chopped chunks always seem nicer and give the cakes a more homemade feel, and I love this chocolate.

This is a pointless picture of how my little measuring spoons make cute shapes from adding baking powder! The mix was pretty thick, because of all the mashed banana, and fairly lumpy to scoop. I also hadn't scaled down the recipe from a 1kg loaf tin, so I made way too much. I managed to fill 12 cupcakes, and 18 minis! However, since the fiasco with running out of mini cases for my market stall, I had barely any left for this either. I thought about how you always see those really nice hand-folded parchment cases, so i tried to shape a few using a shot glass to get the mini size. It kind of worked.. but some of them tried to open out in the oven so the cakes came out a funny shape! Strangely, the four I baked in parchment were much lighter and softer when baked, so I will definitely be trying this out on more of them, and in cupcake size!

I think I slightly overbaked them, they were good, but I like banana cake to be a bit squishy and to keep some of the banana there. I loved the look of the parchment cakes, I've seen them from places like Baked and Wired in DC, and I'd really like to try cupcake size.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Food Enterprise Workshop

Last week I took a step further in turning my cake love into a business, and went to a free, 2 day workshop/course run by my local council and a company called the Food Enterprise Workshop. Its a free course, run at the indoor market, for anyone over 18 living in the city centre thats interested in starting a food business. The first day is all theory, and then the second day you make your food idea and 'test trade' it.
The first day was really good and so helpful, I took so so many notes. There was me, a couple that want to make healthy milkshakes (as well as their farming, marquee business, being a firefighter, milking..etc etc, multitasking to the extreme) and then a woman on her own wanting to make vegetarian food from around the world.

 On the Wednesday, I absolutely legged it there to be precisely on time, and everyone else was late! I thought I'd got the wrong place, even the guy running it wasn't there. (re read that, I WAS ON TIME, this is a rare thing) This first day, it was all business advice, legal info etc. I realised it was crazy for me to be able to access this information for free, and I wrote down everything! I have a notebook now thats nearly half full of just notes from this, the guy writing it said hes never had anyone take so many notes. We started by introducing ourselves, going through our ideas, and then what we wanted to achieve from doing the workshop. I felt like I had the best idea of what I wanted to do, and the most experience of my food idea. The couple had never actually made a milkshake ( ! ) but wanted to use local farmers produce for their product. The other lady seemed to have a good idea, making vegetarian foods from all cuisines, but then wasnt sure if this would be a delivery tiffin service, or a platform for cooking lessons, or something else, but had already quit her job to pursue it..!
We talked through marketing, thinking about target markets, how to find/get/keep/develop customers, and having something interesting to keep people coming back. 
Then we talked about the product, and being able to think of the process it takes, if you could teach it to employees, and how to plan for big orders. I need to think of a USP, a 'unique selling point'. There was a lot of mentions that everyone makes cupcakes, and he said he felt bad because thats what he uses as his example of something thats everywhere. I said that you get a lot of little bakeries and nice cafes in London, but there wasn't really anywhere like it in town/the surrounding area (and of course that everyone needs cake). I said I can do gluten free, and could offer things like vegan etc on demand, as an extra selling point. I know I need to find that point that makes my business unique, but thats maybe still needing development.
He said you could think you have the most unique idea, but if theres no market for the product, (i.e its too weird) no one will try it. I.e. you may want to make food from your far off country, but if there is no one that wants to buy or try it, you won't sell it.
We went through pricing, direct and indirect costs and calculating your profit and margins and breaking even. He said you still need to factor in that if this is your only income, you don't just need to cover the ingredient costs but you need to be making enough to pay rent and bills etc.
Theres three pricing bands, economy, premium, and luxury, and he said to think where you would put yourself, if you're really cheap, youre less desirable, but if you price yourself out of your market, its not worth it.
In term of place, we talked about landlord permission, registering with the council and food safety, and keeping records of cleaning/temperatures etc. And of course, register with HMRC.
He said think about your pricing carefully, because you could be priced cheap now when you have less overheads, but if you move to premises where your costs are higher, your unit price will go up but you will lose your loyal customers who dont want to pay more. 
I need to get my food hygiene certificate too, and apparently Level 2 is the one. Level 1 is too basic, but I can do a day course with the council for £40. Its apparently better to do it in person, so someone can explain it to you, and then just renew it online.
Then we talked about promotion, brand identity and displaying products, how important it is etc. The other three were middle aged and kept saying things like, oh I don't understand the internet, oh I'm not on that Facebook thing etc. I found this really annoying, I think the internet has a huge part to play in business, and can be invaluable for promotion.
Finally we had lunch and I got a break but then I met mum, grandma and aunty and just talked about it all again for half an hour! After lunch, we went through what you should put in a business plan, why you need one, and where you can get templates. This seems like a huge task, but he explained that not only will it be what you need for getting a loan etc, its a good way to plan out for yourself your whole business idea, and you'll have something to refer back to as you go.
Then we talked through legal requirements, tax and VAT, health and safety requirements, risk assessment..trading standards..licensing..insurance..requirements for premises..food hygiene..etc etc etc!! I felt like a note writing machine.
After another little break, we got down to discussing what we were going to make for Friday. It turned out we didn't really have that much time on the day to make the idea, and so I decided to make a lot of my idea at home, to save time (and be able to use my familiar kitchen). When we left, I left my ideas a bit up in the air, and resolved to decide later.
The test trading day is giving out free samples on a kind of pop up part of Leicester Market, with the idea of getting feedback and being able to ask questions to the general public on your business idea. Based on the sample idea, I thought it would be better to be able to give out mini cupcakes instead of a part of a big cupcake, so that you can still get the idea of the cake as a whole. However, in one of my many notebooks, I'd listed all the things that are kind of 'tried and tested', and wanted to offer something other than cake. I settled on making a batch of marshmallows, because even though they take 12 hours to set, they make 70-80 pieces, and theyre really a special thing to give out. 
 I decided to make a couple of flavours, and not stick to boring ones like vanilla or lemon. I made Zebra cupcakes, which is vanilla and chocolate but striped when baked. A variation on a marble cake I guess, but much cooler..! I overdid it on trying to get too many layers, so maybe you lost the effect a little, being that the cakes are so tiny. I also made Red Velvet cakes with cream cheese icing, which have a good visual effect, being so bright.

 This is the huge marshmallow setting on my table!
Friday morning was a bit of a rush, and I took so much stuff with me I didn't even use. But here's our little stall, my cakes on the left, Seema's thai fritters in the middle, and Robert and Caroline's milkshakes on the end.
It was a great experience and we did get some good feedback, but I felt it was pretty quiet. It did rain a little and wasn't so warm, but I'd hoped for quite a busy day.
Its left me feeling that I CAN do this, and that I have a much clearer idea of steps I need to take to become a proper business. The first hurdle is sorting my tenancy out though, it definitely says I can't run or register a business at my address.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Peanut butter is something I always see on American cake shows, as a flavour or a frosting, and its also something I really love! I had a really over the top idea for banana chocolate chip cakes with a peanut butter frosting, but I took it down a bit to just a chocolate cake here to save some stress.

I used my go to chocolate cupcake recipe, but for whatever reason, the cakes didn't rise quite enough to fill the cases. They do have bicarb and white wine vinegar in, so maybe I added it at the wrong time. The most important part was really the frosting. I used an internet recipe, but after scraping out my peanut butter I found I didn't have enough for the full recipe. I reduced all the ingredients by 20% to fix it to what I had already, but it ended up making a ridiculous amount anyway that I couldn't even get in my piping bag!

It took quite a while for it to come together really, and then I overbeat it so it was a little thick for piping. After all my ingredient stress and piping bag problems, it made way too much!
They turned out really well and were super tasty, rave results from my testers!

Gluten free apple pie

I've been wanting to make an apple pie for a while now, it's always something I made as a child with my mum. My boyfriend is currently on a gluten free diet however, and isn't impressed when he can't sample my baking exploits! On advice from my mum (my dad has a gluten intolerance too) I got some DS brand pastry to use. I do want to try making my own pastry at some point, but this was much quicker for today.

As my hate for gluten free things seems to get stronger, this pastry was another challenge. The tiny block of pastry is nowhere near what you would get in a pack of normal ready made pastry! I saved a third off for the top, and rolled out my base, thinking this should be fine. I ended up re-rolling it about a million times, getting angrier each time! I kept having to take more off my reserve pastry to even cover the tin, and its a small tin!

Unfortunately this meant that the top ended up having a lot of holes/rips/issues. As this was just for home and I didn't exactly expect any more from the crazy pastry, I baked it anyway.
Awesome news, it was fine!
 Thanks goes to the extra large Starbucks mug for helping to get the pie from the tin. No sticking either!
 No apple pie is complete without custard! The only thing I'd change (apart from the pastry) would be to add a little more sugar. Maybe vanilla sugar?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Cakexperiments- Green tea with lemon & ombre

I've got really into trying to think up new flavours and try new ideas with my cakes recently. This time I had two ideas I wanted to try, green tea with lemon, and ombre cake! I made a basic cupcake batch and split it so I could try both at the same time.
For the green tea cakes, I steeped a couple of teabags while I prepared the mix. I wasn't really sure how much I would need, or how strong the flavour would be after it was baked. I looked up earl grey cupcakes in one of my recipe books for how much to add, and from a couple recipes, I added 2 tbsp, and a little extra. I put cases in my cupcake pan, and decided to do three with the green tea, and add some extra lemon juice to the other three.

I was taking notes all through this, so my cases were different colours for a reason. Green cases were just the green tea, and yellow had added lemon juice. 
Next I went back and split the other half of the plain mix into three, and coloured two with different amounts of pink gel colour.

I had two tries, going from pink to white, and the other way round. They all baked pretty well, but I think I got rid of the air I'd beaten in originally as they didn't rise all that much. There was actually a small colour difference between the two green tea types surprisingly, but the ombre cakes came out a bit of a mess.

Obviously I needed a taste test!!
They are underfilled their cases, but I do think thats from overmixing, as theres no other difference from this and my usual basic mix.

The green tea cakes were pretty evenly baked and light. The taste was quite nice, quite sweet, but the main lemon taste had sank to the bottom. Considering I didn't add any other sweet flavouring like vanilla, they had a good flavour to them. 
Strangely I expected the added lemon ones to be sweeter and for it to enhance the flavour, but it was the opposite. The cake was much wetter, even though it was baked through, maybe it needed longer than the others. It had next to no flavour really, not good at all.

The ombre cupcakes baked well, but I added too much vanilla. I think I probably added enough for 12 cupcakes when I needed half as much! I'm not so happy with the results either. I should have thought about the way the cake cooks, thinking back to making zebra cake in cupcakes and how that cooks. There was also no fade like I had imagined in my head! I'm not sure how I would really achieve that, unless I try to mix it about when its all in the case, but I don't want marble patterns..

 All in all it was good to experiment, and to be able to try lots at once. I would probably make the green tea ones again. I have seen people adding matcha powder for a good effect and taste, but I didn't really like how they were so green in colour.

Cakepops !

I made these little pops a while ago now, for my little cousin Eliza's first birthday party. I had made these maybe a couple of years ago and then a week before this. They're really fun to make and a little treat you can have with something else, or as a snack. For once I actually didn't take many photos of the baking process! Maybe I should get someone to just hang around me and take the photos so I don't forget so much. 

The insides are vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. I baked a batch of 12 cupcakes for the base, I know you can just stick it all in one tin, but I trust myself more to bake them as cupcakes. A waste of cases really, but I just used some rubbish ones I don't like from the bottom of the draw. I found it easier to make up the balls and refridgerate them for a while. Then I got everything else sorted and set up a makeshift assembly line. I used Candy Melts for the coating, its an american brand that I recently found in the Fenwicks near me. I've heard so much about them on other baking websites/blogs, and I've used them twice now. They're so easy to melt and it sets really fast without any refrigeration or complicated tempering, perfect for cakepops! I set up little dishes with different sprinkles so I could quickly roll the pops after coating them.

They came out really well I think! I'm not sure if maybe my cake should have been baked a bit longer, you want dry cake for this really because it gets mixed with the icing. I'd love to try some with a cream cheese frosting in it, cheesecake pops I'm thinking! I can't wait to use the Candy Melts I got from the Windsor Crafts place either, they would be great on cake pops, really bright.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

More experiment- Popcorn & Tie-Dye!

Hello again! I have been doing more cake experimenting, this time two very different ideas; tiedye/rainbow cupcakes, and popcorn flavour cupcakes! Really this should make two posts, but I didn't really take that many photos of the popcorn ones nor decorate them well, so I'll just have to make them again.

 The popcorn ones really came from my wanting to use the flavouring I bought at the Windsor Crafts store. It advises to use it sparingly, 1/4 tsp should be enough to start, then add to taste. I thought I'd mix up a basic vanilla cupcake batch (omitting the vanilla), then split half and half popcorn and tie dye. Making 2 dozen only means I have to eat/get others to eat that many!
I added a little less than 1/4 tsp, thinking that I had a small mix and wouldnt need so much. The result was that the flavour was strong in some and nothing in others, I needed more flavour and more mixing. I also added some into the buttercream, just enough for one cake (incase I ruined the mix) and THAT was good! It really suited the icing flavour and made a really good topping for both the popcorn and tie dye cakes.
The first one I had actually had a strong flavour, and it was honestly just like cinema popcorn. I'm really impressed with the flavouring itself, and would definitely look into buying more. The company, Beau Products, does loads of flavours, I'm tempted to get Mojito or Cosmopolitan next...

Second recipe was more time consuming, I split the remaining mix into six bowls and coloured each one. I was a bit worried I would have beat all the air back out of the mixes getting the colour in.

 It didn't seem like I really had much of each colour, but it was only half a mix. It was too thick to use it like a zebra cake and hope it spread so I just lumped it in..

 I think it looks like I tried to bake plasticine. They actually came out really well! The colours look very bright but I did think the colour might cook out slightly so I maybe over-coloured. After putting them in the oven I realised I hadn't added any vanilla/any other flavour, so I hoped there wouldn't be an overpowering colour gel taste.

 All in all, I'm pretty pleased with them! The cake rose perfectly, wasn't sticky, and all the colours apart from the pink were really bright! I wouldn't use pink again, it wasn't bright enough and went a bit dull in the oven, but any brighter and it would mess up the red I think.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Iced Biscuits

On Wednesday I made some cute little biscuits. My friend and I swapped very late birthday/christmas presents the day before, and one of mine was a cat shaped cutter! Following my usual recipe but swapping the flour out for gluten free, this time, it finally came together!! Usually it gets much too sticky and I end up adding flour, making the finished biscuit very dry. However, this time, the dough came together like normal dough does, and I set about cutting them. I had my new cat cutter, and a cute bird one I found at the back of the draw.

The little birds came out well, and it was a easy shape to lift. As for the cats.. they didn't fare so well. The tail part of the cutter is just too fragile and compared to its fat body, just falls off. I got a few onto the sheet and pushed the tails onto the others, but quite a few had oven issues!

 Yes.. one has no tail and a 90% decapitated head, oops. I'll blame the fragile gluten free recipe. I bought some squeeze bottles the other day and really wanted to try these out for icing biscuits. I used them for chocolate decorations and that showed me the bottle isnt easy to use unless its really full. My birds are going to a lovely pale blue, and the cats pink..because of the little girls I'm giving them to, who love pink.

 I outlined and then filled them, and while it was good for control when outlining, the bottle is hard to really squeeze. Good for small details I think, but not flooding a cookie. I'll stick to using icing bags (when I get round to buying more).  I tried out some patterns and mixes of colours too, really like the chevron one! The cats colour is a bit patchy on some, I wasn't happy with the dark colour, too much piping gel. These biscuits are stronger when they aren't gluten free, for future piping projects I'll make them with wheat flour!