Saturday, 31 October 2009


Today was my 5th market and, again, it was lots of fun and I sold out.  Hooray!

Going with the seasonal theme- it being Halloween today and all, I had special cupcakes with spiders that sold out in double quick time.  Special thanks do need to go to Handsome husband who was enlisted to make spiders bodies, as I just knew I had so much work to do after we got back from work, I would never do it all myself.  I can't say he totally enjoyed his craft activity- it's probably not what he was expecting of a relaxing Friday night, but he chipped in and is a total sweetheart for doing so.

As well as the cupcakes, I had the triple chocolate cookies which went down well.  Alongside these cocoa beauties I had sticky date and cranberry slices which appealed to the non-icing people out there.

However, perhaps sharing star billing with the spider cupcakes were the sticky toffee cupcakes which were something I had started planning all those months ago when I made Sister in Law's birthday cake and had thought 'this would be good as a cupcake, but with the sauce on the inside'.

I made up the base, and made the sticky toffee goo- made with extra cream to keep its gooey consistency.  Then using my new squeezy bottle, I injected this ridiculously toffee-ey nectar into the cupcakes and then topped them with a fudgey toffee butter icing. OH MY WORD.  They were really good.  I sold six beforeI had even unpacked them, and another four a few moments after they hit the stall.

As well as getting to see my 'regulars' who I'm getting to know bit by bit- which is really lovely, and one of the things I really enjoy about doing the stall, I also had my first famous sale.  An actual real local celebrity wot has been on telly and everything.  Mrs Harcourt-Cooze, wife of local chocolate guru Willie Harcourt-Cooze came by with her cute kids and bought 3 boxes of cupcakes.  I hope she liked them!

Friday, 30 October 2009

The storm before the calm

The preparations for the market always seem to fly by in a flurry of icing sugar powder air and a whirring swishing blur of the whizzing food processor and the hot water of washing up between each batch.

For the market this week I have two new additions- the first is a Halloween special; mini vanilla and chocolate cupcakes for the trick or treater’s iced in orange butter icing (and perhaps decorated with tiny fondant icing spiders and bats if I can work out how to make 50 of them in-between coming home from work, putting Darling boy to bed and bed time myself) For the grownups, but probably also for the kids too, sticky toffee pudding cupcakes, iced with a toffee butter icing, and with a sticky toffee goo in the middle. The cupcakes are baked and safely stashed in their tuppaware and after work tonight I am going to be injecting them with the warm toffee goo. It has to be warm, as it's pretty much solid when cool. I haven’t quite worked out how I’m going to do it as the gadget I need is a squeezy bottle with a long, straight thin nozzle- and I haven’t got one of those. So I will have to improvise (not a word you want to hear when it comes to hot sugary sticky substances) I think it will involve a chopstick to make the hole, and an adapted icing bag, and quite a bit of swearing- all in the name of what I’m sure is going to be a gooey gorgeousness of a cupcake.

Have cupcakes, will travel

When sister in law was down for Handsome husbands birthday, she took a stash of cupcakes back with her to the big smoke to sell where she works The Hub- it’s a meeting place (much sexier and whizzer than a normal office), its full of bright young things, doing independent, exciting, innovative things . Set up with an honesty box, the news back from Sister in Law is that the cupcakes sold rather well and were gobbled up in a day or so. I guess the bright young things need their fix of home-baked yumminess to keep their brains fuelled for having brilliant ideas. Hooray, I always new cake was a super-food, it’s all that calcium.

Made up

As the days get shorter, it means we are now leaving the house for work in the dark. Handsome husband drives (we are essentially a 1950’s couple, he drives and I am hopeless at map reading) and whilst he is negotiating the bends and curves as we speed down the hill on the way to the station, I finish getting ready for work.

But now the creeping darkness in the early mornings is making the application of makeup in the car an even bigger challenge than normal. However, for the sake of an extra 10 minutes in bed I shall not be deterred. I used to ‘do my face’ on the tube, often standing up, carrying at least one unfeasibly heavy handbag and squished against a collection of random strangers, not all of whom were particularly fragrant as I recall. In my book, anyone who has trained on the Victoria line is well experienced in applying the slap in adverse conditions. In comparison it makes applying my make-up in a cold, dark, bumpy car, weighed down by a huge handbag (some things don’t change) whilst passing Darling boy shreddies and trying to have a conversation with Handsome husband who is often ranting at the radio a smooth ride.

Monday, 26 October 2009

My favourite type of welly

For Handsome husbands birthday, he had put in a special request to his mum for Beef Wellington.  And she sure came up trumps.  It was quite delicious.  The beef came from West Yeo Farm where our new cattle have come from, and it was amazing, so tender and really tasty.  Mother in law was a genius and managed to find a recipe that skipped the usual pate (currently off the menu for me) and replaced it with pancetta.

Some say the dish is named after the famous Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, due to his love of the ingredients.  Others attribute it, not to the Duke, but instead to the shiny military boots which were named after him.  Another guess is that the dish has it's famous name give to it by an English chef wanting to create a patriotic dish during the Napoleonic wars, as a culinary two fingers to the french.

Either way, Handsome husband was speechless.  He has said if our beef can taste as good as West Yeo's when its ready to eat, he will be a very happy man- and I believe him.

My first birthday order!

Well, this sunday was an exciting day- it was the day of my first birthday party order.

One of the lovely ladies at playgroup had tried my cupcakes at the market a few weeks back and wanted a selection of different flavours and sizes for her husbands birthday.

I was busy baking and icing and had a trial of the cupcakes on the stand to make sure they would fit and looked pretty.  I was pleased with the effect and packaged them up and even managed to find the house without getting lost.  The cupcakes were for a 60th, and I hope they matched the excitement of the occasion and went down well.

 I'll be seeing my first order customer at playgroup and I can't wait to hear  how the party went.

All sorts

My forth market went well, it was a cold day, but the bright sunshine warmed through and the cupcakes and biscuits sold well.  This week I had large vanilla cupcakes with tiny pink flowers, and extra cherry and almond and lemon cupcakes as these seem to be rather popular.

My lovely sister in law and the Entrepreneur, who were down for Handsome husbands birthday came along to cheer me on my way.  Sister in law was on the stall with me, and the Entrepreneur played an excellent role as 'Satisfied customer in the crowd number one' as if he were straight form Central Casting.

I get to meet all sorts of people doing the stall, the old folks who tell me they were born in 1925, and were the best in their school at maths, the diabetics who gaze lovingly, but sadly at their forbidden fruit, the gossips, the regulars, the teenagers, the cheeky old men with twinkles in their eyes, as well as the young families and the grannies.

Possibly my favourite customers this weekend were the most unlikely cupcake fans.  They were a couple of geezers, who had possibly been in the pub all their lives, each covered in homemade tattoos, with tobacco yellowed fingers and a cheeky cockney accent out of place in the countryside.  They were the salt of the earth, but a squeak on the rough side, but were lovely really, I'm sure.  The had triple chocolate cookies for geezer number one, and a large chocolate cupcake for geezer number two.  We had a nice chat about kids (geezer number 1 had one, and geezer number two had five) and as they walked away, their chocolate booty stashed away in a pristine white cake box, geezer number two says to geezer number one in quite a good natured, jovial way, 'Er, if you see that bloke from last night, you hold the cakes, and I'll deck 'im!'  You'd never hear anything like it before in the market, and I'm pretty sure it was just for affect, but either way lets hope the dose of chocolate soothed their spirits.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Handsome husband and the big three oh

It's Handsome husbands birthday tomorrow.  The big 30.  He is famously grumpy about birthdays, but I've got some surprises tucked up my sleeve (and stashed in the wardrobe) and I hope they will bring a smile to his lovely face.

Some surprises are for tomorrow, and one is for next Spring time (that's the present from Darling boy) and he also has some great presents to open tomorrow too which I hope he will like.

For his birthday cake (which we will have on Saturday) I am planning to make a chocolate brownie cheesecake (as per his request) and as a surprise I am going to make a chocolate truffle cow to go on the top.

Much debate was had today with Marvellous mum who was down for the day and with Mr Cruwys Morchard chum at playgroup (the naturally home of all gossip) as to what to make the cow from, either dyed fondant icing (easy to mold, not so tasty) or marzipan dipped in chocolate (this is the yummy, but volatile method, would the chocolate stick? would the cow fall apart once dipped in the warm chocolate goo?) ...Then Marvellous mum had the genius suggestion to make the moo from chocolate truffles.  I tell you, she really is a marvel!

So, in-between here and this weekend, I have to make the squillions of cupcakes and mini cupcakes, the snaps and cookies for the market, the cupcake order for this weekend, and a birthday cake, and a chocolate truffle cow.  Easypeasy.  Especially since we are out for most of tomorrow, and I'm working on Friday.

First job is to make a time-machine.  Actually, that's the second job, the first job is much more fun- and that's to make sure Handsome husband has a very happy birthday.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The third market

Preparations for my third market had gone well and, despite getting up a bit late-oops- I managed to set up the stall in record time, even doing it by myself.

The day went well.  This week I had new decorations, of dolly mixtures and tiny pink icing flowers- which all seemed popular.  The triple chocolate cookies and the spiced honey snaps all sold out, which I was really pleased about.  They looked very tempting wrapped in their purple ribbon I must say, and I was pleased with the reaction they got.

Some lovely Devon friends came down to cheer me on my way and to buy a few cupcakes for their afternoon tea.  It was lovely to see them.

I've only been doing the stall for 3 weeks now, and I have already got a birthday and a christening booked in- so exciting.  The birthday is next weekend- and its Handsome husbands own birthday- the big 30- in between here and then.  I'm busy planning his cake too.  He is a plain sponge fan, but I'm sure I might be able to jazz it up a bit, perhaps along a marzipan cow theme???

The other exciting thing about the market is that I felt the baby kicking me for the first time, for definite. It's such a magical feeling, though not entirely comfy.  I think baby must have been doing some yoga or something?

Anyway- all in all, it was a good day, cupcakes sold very well, the new biscuits sold out and the baby gave me a good boot too.

To make an omlette...first your hens have to lay some eggs

To celebrate our new girls laying their first eggs, what better supper to have than an omelette.  Ours had thinly sliced potato and lots of mature cheddar.  The yolks in our eggs are a surprisingly lovely rich colour and the girls are clearly loving the great outdoors already. A true Elizabeth David style supper, omelette and glass of vino (well, milk for me)

Friday, 16 October 2009

market number 3, this time with cookies!

Tomorrow I've got my third market...this time I'm back with my cupcakes and also cookies!

I have baked ginger and honey snaps and triple chocolate cookies.  I've stacked them in fours and tied them like a parcel with deep purple ribbon and think they look great.  I'm hoping they sell well too.  Im off now to ice hundreds of cupcakes, wish me luck!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

A new arrival expected in the spring

I have exciting news...we are expecting a baby! Bump is due in mid March and we are really excited.  I'm getting bigger each day and we have had our 12 week scan and seen our little baby wiggling around on the screen, dancing about and waving.  Our next scan is in 3 weeks and Darling boy has been patting my tummy, saying 'baby', ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Check out the stripes in the photo- that ain't no cake!

Market # 2, success # 2

The day of market number 2 arrived.  Today was the test to see if it was do-able by myself. The baking and icing in all took around 12 hours done in 4 sessions.  I packed up all the boxes the night before and Handsome husband loaded them up into the car.  This time we managed not to leave anything behind (apart from the kitchen stool for me to perch on during the day)  I had even remembered a packed lunch and flask of tea.  Yum.

This week I had baked extra chocolate cupcakes and had also made some pink vanilla cupcakes too to see if this might bring out the girliness in my potential punters.

The market seemed slower than the weekend before, perhaps because it was a lovely sunny day everyone was at the beach....But at the end of the day, it had turned out well again.  I had sold all but a dozen of my cupcakes and was just giving them out to my fellow traders (well, I didn't want to take them home and free cake is always appreciated) when my next door trader neighbour offered to buy them from me to sell on the next day at the local clay pigeon shoot she was cooking at.  No-one else was about to buy them from me as the market was closed already, so I decided to take her up on the offer.  Hooray! this meant another day where I had sold out. 

It's such a great feeling to go home with empty tupperare, knowing that the good people of Tiverton have Adventures in Cake cupcakes either in their tummies, or stashed in white cakeboxes, just waiting to meet their destiny with a cup of tea.

A few people had again asked me about weddings and parties...hopefully something will come of this.  It would be such fun to take on a big order, especially a wedding (I love, love, love weddings, the romance of it all)

4 hens, 4 eggs

So exciting! The hens are here.  Handsome husband picked them up on saturday and they are settling in well. They are in much better condition than I thought they might be.  They are fairly fluffy, but just missing a few feathers on their breasts, the poor poppets had plucked them out from boredom.  They should grow back in time, and their beaks, which are a bit of an odd shape should even out too.

They seem to be enjoying the sun on their feathers and the great outdoors.  Darling boy is very excited by them, and the cats seem fairly intrigued too.

We have been debating names and have settled on Diana Ross, Margot and Barbara (in honour of the brilliant 'Good Life') and for the bravest chicken who boldly goes, Valentina Tereshkova- the first woman in space.

Amazingly, they have already laid one egg each...At this rate we will be having 24 eggs a week.  Omletes for dinner then!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Chick-chick-chick-chick-chicken, lay a little egg for me

As soon as the market is over tomorrow, I need to pack up and zoom back up the hill to a teeny village just past our house to a nearby farm because I am picking up our rescue chickens.  

We are collecting 4 'girls' that have lived in a barn all their lives.  I'm not sure what sort of state they are going to be in, not as 'oven ready' as the ex-battery hens, but probably fairly scraggy.  We are looking forward to giving them a better quality of life that's for sure and maybe enjoying an egg or two along the way.  They will have a very cool swiss chalet to live in, fresh air, a great view, yummy chicken food, grass to eat and 2 acres to roam when we are home to check on them.  I have also heard they like to play football, so maybe some balls to kick about too.

Flying solo

The last two days have been a blur of baking, icing, sprinkling and washing up.  I'm back at Tiverton Market tomorrow, but this time flying solo as marvellous mum is back at home.

The cupcakes are iced, the boxes packed and I've even remembered a packed lunch to keep me going.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and nervous all over again- will anyone come back for a repeat visit?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Practising piping

The day before the big market bake, Darling boy and I had a date with my Crwuys Morchard chum. This was the perfect opportunity to try out a new chocolate cupcake recipe, practise piping and to break out the D.I.S.C.O glitter as decoration. The effect was most pleasing, pink and gold sparkles and chocolate icing on a chocolate cupcake- what girl could want more? The cupcakes went down very well with the sweetheart girls too- two of my chief tasting panel members.

A last minute pudding

What with all the hours and hours of baking and decorating, somehow I had managed to forget to make a pudding for dinner on Saturday night. This calamity only came to light when we were sitting down waiting for our local venison (bought at the market)and red wine casserole to cook after Darling boy has been tucked up in bed. A dinner without pudding just wouldn’t do. A quick trawl through Nigella unleafed just the ticket- a posh pud ready in seconds (well, minutes, I’m not that fast) It’s basically a chocolate mousse, but without all that raw egg and hanging around for it to chill. You melt marshmallows, chocolate and butter, whip cream with vanilla essence, insert part A into part B, spoon into something vintage and gorgeous (like my grandmothers tea cups) and chill in the fridge. I added a touch of all spice and orange zest to mine to give it a little lift. After the rich venison, they were a perfect partner, I couldn’t have planned it better myself. In fact it was such a standby success that I now have 2 reasons to keep marshmallows in the house at all times as a store cupboard necessity (the first being rocky road of course)

This little piggy went to market

The big day had arrived. Of course marvellous mum and I got up a bit later than planned, so had to dash around in the morning, stuffing toast and sloshing back tea at break-neck speed. We loaded up the car and were off down the hill and were half way to market when we realised we had forgotten of the boxes- the one that contained the table cloth, sign, bunting, and so many other essentials. A frantic call to Handsome husband saved the day and he zoomed down after us with our forgotten box.

No market manager was to be seen to welcome us and show us where we were supposed to be (turns out he was on holiday), so we made it up, and bagged the free table next to the cafe. The table was laid, cakes were arranged on the platters and stands, the bunting was hung and the sign was up- we were ready for business.

As all the other traders finished setting up, I went round with a tray of baby vanilla cupcakes as a sampler, to say hello and introduce us as the newbies to the market. These were eagerly welcomed, well, everyone likes cake- especially free cake.

I couldn’t quite believe it when we made our first sale, it was such a buzz- people liked my cakes, enough to give me money for them. I know this was the point of the exercise, but it was still a shocker.

The day went on, and more and more people came by, stopped to admire the cakes and, shock, bought some! This carried on till around 12.30pm, when we had all but around 6 vanilla cupcakes left. Marvellous mum and I joked that we would now sit and watch 6 cupcakes till the end of the market, and she was nearly right. Somehow it is much harder to sell cupcakes when there aren’t many left, I guess when they are the last lonely ones left they do not look so appetising. Anyway, we persevered and by around 2pm we had SOLD OUT. What a thrill! I had imagined we would sell, maybe a couple, and would have to take most of them home again, but actually I should have baked more.

I had a few people ask me if I do parties and weddings, ‘well of course’ I said (!!?!?!?!?) another asked me how much I would charge to supply a cafe (I said I had no idea and would need to think about it- and I still have no idea) Another asked me if I would take a stand at the local wedding fayre the following weekend.

At the end of the day, I found the stand in market manager and agreed a stall there next week and can’t wait. Though this time it will be harder as it will be just me, as marvellous mum can’t make it down- but I need to see if I can do it on my own anyway. It certainly won’t be as much fun without my partner in icing sugar, but as long as I’m baking I will be happy.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

0 days to go

What a day...

Marvellous mum and I started at 8am, writing lists and planning our plans. Bunting was ironed and pinned, fortifying hot tea was drunk and toast with home-made marrow jam was eaten (marrow jam is, by the way, surprisingly tasty. After all, anything as a conveyor of sugar is alright by me)

To the sounds of Woman's Hour on Radio 4 (brilliant stuff, do listen, though I'm sure you do), we headed off into Tivvy and hit the market for eggs, the local cake shop for icing nozzles and disposable icing bags, and then the marvellous Heathcoates fabric shop for backing material and fabric dye. One day I will tell you all about the treasure trove that is Heathcoates. I would happily write poems about its loveliness, possibly even hinting at its superiority over John Lewis' haberdashery department. This is really saying something, bearing in mind my devotion, and separation anxiety from the deliciousness that is the department store, John Lewis)

Anyway, back to the cakes. We got back to cupcake HQ and, after lunch (well, it's best not to do these things on an empty stomach) We then baked, and baked and baked, and then iced and iced and iced, and then decorated and decorated and decorated, and in amongst all of this, we also sewed like demon seamstresses and laid out pretend tea parties with empty cake cases on cut glass platters and china cake stands to make sure we had enough room for the cupcakes.

The whole operation would have gone smoothly if it weren't for my beloved magimix, which is now on the shelf of shame, for breaking during the first batch. Can you believe it. A mercy dash to mother-in-laws to borrow her mixer meant that show could go on, the people of Tiverton would get their cupcakes.

My brilliant dad arrived 4 hours into the baking and entertained a delighted Darling boy till bath and bed time. We briefly stopped for milk and stories with the Darling boy (from whom we had to hide all the baked booty by stashing it in the store room) A bit more sewing and baking was squeezed in before we stopped again to enjoy a delicious creamy carbonara cooked my Handsome husband. Then it was back to the icing and decorating. I mixed up more and more batches of butter icing, whilst my marvellous parents got busy with the sign, interpreting my sketches of a patchwork beauty into reality.

By 11.30pm, we had run out of icing sugar and were completely delirious with tiredness and excitement. Vanilla, chocolate, lemon and cherry and almond cupcakes were packed up and stored ready for the morning, along with all the other bits and bobs. A mere 15 1/2 hours later, it was time for bed.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

1 day to go!

Marvellous mum has come to the rescue and tomorrow is the day of preparations.

There are ingredients to buy, cupcakes to bake and decorate, bunting to sew, tablecloths to iron and cut glass platters to polish. I also need to work out how to rig the bunting, applique a sign, and maybe print some leaflets (and we haven't got a printer)... and I need to decide how much to charge per cupcake. In amongst this I am half-way through dying all my tea-towels a gorgeous peacock turquoise, why not!?

So exciting!

Friends in Tivvy (or Tiverton, to folk not from round these parts) have promised to come along to cheer 'Adventures in Cake' along the way, with 'mates rates' being hopefully suggested. Since these kind folk normally enjoy my cupcakes for free, I don't know if the hard business woman in me can say no (in fact, I don't think there is a hard business women in me, if there is, she is under a whole lotta chocolate butter icing!)