Pop-Up Cakes

I had my first pop-up shop on Saturday – it was a lot of hard work, but terrific fun!

Hopefully, within the long and rambling record that follows, there will be something of use to someone else wishing to do something similar.

Come on in!
One of the first challenges you face with a pop-up shop is that they tend not to be in the best of areas.  There are plenty of exceptions aimed at big name companies doing promotions, but on the whole, for small start ups like mine, what’s available will be premises that other people are not snapping up.

This obviously means you’re going to have to work hard to drive business to, and through, your doors…people are not just going to discover you all by themselves.  Cue social networking.

Did you notice me shudder then?!  ‘Social networking’ is so beyond my comfort zone it might almost be categorised as torture.  Almost.

This means I don’t have a personal Facebook page, nor do I do Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter.  Despite having Googled ‘what the hell is Twitter all about?’ and variations thereof, on numerous occasions, I just don’t get Twitter; I’m going to have to find a patient and non-condescending niece or nephew to help with it I think 😉

Little treats
Anyhoo, I did my best to overcome both reluctance and the lack of avenues I actually have through which  to socially network, pushing everyone I could possibly think of to publicise my business Facebook page through their social networking channels.  It will come as no surprise to you that it definitely helped raise my profile.

I’ve discovered that my desire to have my business be a reality is enough to at least partially overcome my social networking aversion; I still don’t want to get out there as an individual, but as a business…I’m up for it!  I shall be working on working out Twitter et al. over the coming weeks.

Here we are!
So, here we are, at my shop 😉

As I observed to Big Bro, this is not a location from which I’m likely to make my fortune; however, it’s a foot into the arena and is a fantastic, low risk way for me to try out ideas, start getting my name known, and to learn.

It’s also a great opportunity to try to put something into a community and area that has struggled historically, and to support residents of the area who are striving to improve their neighbourhood.  I believe wholeheartedly in the power of a strong community and the importance of contributing to it.

Stocks and supplies
The shop was clean, tidy and pretty empty, with just two small tables and a few plastic chairs.

In the back there was a small kitchen and storage area, complete with hot water urn, fridge, freezer and basic kitchen utensils.


In the windows were these cute paper lanterns, decorated by children using the art club, which also takes place in the pop-up shop (I think during holiday times).

Making tables
We used the existing chairs and tables for customer seating (we were also serving tea and coffee) and got creative for the display tables.

I wanted the overall look to be pretty and welcoming, and to look reasonably professional – not the ‘school bake sale’ look that tends to come with cakes displayed on folding tables 😉

So, using drawers taken from furniture at home, an old pine table top, woodworking clamps (provided by the ever helpful Medieval), and some fabrics, we made lovely, vintage looking benches.  These stood either side of a folding table that we also brought with us.

The drawers doubled up as packing crates when transporting things to and from the shop, so they more than earned their travel expenses 😀

A family affair
Then we all set to, putting out cakes, writing signs (after cleaning off previous notices!), stringing bunting all over the place and generally making the place our own.

This needs saying loud and clear  – I couldn’t possibly have pulled this off without the help of my wonderful friends and family…the morning ‘setting up’ helpers seen here, the daytime, ‘serving’ helpers, and the evening, ‘pack up and go home’ helpers.

In particular, thanks must go to Barn, Petit Man, Mme. E, Super L, Medieval, Queen Ay and Thange – THANK YOU so, so much – you rock my world!!

Time to sit and stare...
On the point of needing help with a venture of this nature, and at the risk of coming across as making some kind of passive aggressive jibe, I learned a valuable lesson, worth noting and passing on:

When people say, “Let me know if you need any help”, they don’t necessarily mean they’re going to give the help!

The thing is, your business is (one would hope) extremely important to you, probably your number one priority, particularly when you’re taking on your first public retail space, be that pop-up shop, market stall or whatever.

Not so for the majority of the people around you – they have other priorities.

And that’s fine, and natural and understandable, but you need to bear it in mind when making your plans – does “sure, I’ll help” mean someone’s really committed, or should you be careful about relying on that person?

On the flip side, don’t be afraid to go down all potential avenues of help and support…it often comes from the most surprising sources.

Cupcake Table
There were six choices on the cupcake menu:

  • Peach melba: sponge cake made with fresh peaches, filled with fresh raspberry purée, topped with a double swirl of buttercream – one flavoured with fresh peach purée, the other with fresh raspberry, finished with a natural peach jelly sweet.
  • Very Vanilla: Light sponge and silky Italian meringue buttercream, both flavoured with Madagascan vanilla.
  • Black Forest: Chocolate and black cherry cake, topped with light vanilla buttercream and a drizzle of black cherry compote, finished with dark chocolate shards.
  • Award winning Banoffee after Dark: Roasted banana cupcake topped with a puddle of caramel and a swirl of dark chocolate whipped ganache, finished with a banana chip.
  • Citrus Tang: Lemon and lime sponge cake topped with a double swirl (one lemon, one lime) of buttercream and finished with lemon and lime zest.
  • Choc on Choc: Fudgy chocolate cake topped with dark chocolate ganache and finished with a trio of chocolate buttons.

On the treats table we had:

  • Choc pops: Strawberry, Lemon & Lime or Apple
  • Hand made vanilla fudge
  • Cake loaves: Lemon Curd or Black Cherry & Vanilla (both yoghurt cake)
  • Chocolate Bark: Dark & Milk with Cranberries & Pistachios; Strawberry & Vanilla with Strawberry & Meringue; Milk & Peanut Butter with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

There was also a table for a couple of display cakes, to advertise the custom celebration cake service.

And there we were, all set up and ready to go.

Just time for a cup of tea before opening up 🙂


We flung open the door and…well, I can’t say we were exactly knocked over by the rush!  Nonetheless, a slow but steady trickle of people started to pop in…and buy 🙂

Of course...put the display cakes in the window!
Things were helped a great deal when Barn and I realised there’d been a collective, ‘Duh’ moment during setting up (blame tiredness and over excitement); having moved the display cakes to the window we began to attract a lot more attention from passers by.  Fancy that, eh?!  Honestly, for intelligent people we can sometimes be so stupid! 😀

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So apart from the obvious thing about putting your display where people can see it(!!!) what else did I learn over the course of the day that might be helpful next time?

  • Curiosity might have killed the cat but the human race is pretty safe!  If some new place opens up around where I live, I’ll be there, face pressed against the glass, seeing what’s gong on.  In fact, I’ll probably have chatted with the builders/shopfitters/delivery people beforehand 😉  Turns out most people are not as nosey as I am.
  • With due regard to the above, I need an A-frame and a large printed window sign in order to attract more attention.
  • Ditto…need to build online and social presence and really push the business name so that people know who we are and want  to come to where we are!
  • Allowing for waste, stock that will carry forward to next week, rent, insurance etc., my takings meant I finished the day on a small loss, just short of breaking even.  With less waste I might even have made a tiny profit…so next time, make and take less stock!
  • I need to invest in some polystyrene cake dummies for the display cakes.  I didn’t have time (or the resources right now!) to get any this time around, so they were made up of odd layers, baked from various leftover cake batters.  Not only was this an unnecessary cost, it also made the creation of the cakes more time consuming than needs be.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a business (although, in fairness, that could be filed under ‘Things I Already Knew’).

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What next?  Well, I’ll be at the same place this coming Saturday but then I’ll be taking a break from the pop-up for a while; there are some legal necessities that have to be dealt with and put in place before I go any deeper into this venture.

I definitely, most certainly, positively, for sure, want to keep going on this path.

One day I’m going to open up the cutest little cake and tea shop, with welcoming staff, comfy seating, delectable, top quality treats to eat, and a Cake Tailor on hand for when you’re ready to order your custom designed celebration cake…

Perhaps I’ll see you there? 🙂

x

Chargrilled Vegetable Pasta

Left over dips and a zest free lemon

What is a person to do with a spoonful of olive dip, a couple of spoons of aubergine and red pepper dip and a zestless lemon?

Chargrilled veg pasta

Add a few other ingredients and create an awesome pasta dish, that’s what!

This is a bit of an unfair recipe really, because unless you’ve made the olive dip and the aubergine and red pepper dip that I’ve previously posted, and have some leftover, then you won’t be able to make this exact dish.

Still, I decided to post anyway partly because those factors might have aligned for you, but perhaps more to demonstrate the fundamental principle that making pasta sauce is a good way to use up leftover dips like these, or salsa, or a bean dip, or any other non-creamy dip really.

Orange bell pepper and artichokes in oil

Ingredients
Enough pasta for your serving requirements
3-4 tablespoons of leftover dips (the non-creamy variety)
1 red onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
A splash or two of olive oil
Passata – probably about 150-200ml
A few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
A couple of squeezes of lemon juice
Vegetables for chargrilling – I used an orange bell pepper and some artichokes in lemon oil but courgettes, aubergines and the like would be great too.
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Music

Put your pasta on to cook – follow instructions on packet – when ready, drain and keep warm.

Chargrilled vegetables

Meanwhile, brush your chosen vegetables with oil and cook on a very hot griddle or grill, until chargrilled.  Conveniently, this should take about the same amount of time as it does for the pasta to cook and for you to make the sauce 🙂

If they’re done sooner, pop them on a plate and keep them warm.

Red onion, thyme and garlic

Heat a splash of oil in a large pan and cooked the diced onions until just starting to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for a few more moments.

Passata

Add your leftover dips and enough passata to loosen the mixture but not make it runny – today we’re making a coating sauce, not a bowl of soup 😉

Tip in your cooked pasta and gently stir to make sure it’s all well coated with sauce.

Squeeze in the lemon juice and sprinkle over the thyme leaves, stir and allow to warm through for another minute or so.

Arrange vegetables on top

Season to taste and serve with chargrilled vegetables arranged on top.

Beam with pride – by using up leftovers instead of leaving them at the back of the fridge to fester quietly into the afterlife, you did a little bit to help the planet.

Tuck into your dinner with gusto (or some other dining companion if you prefer 😉 )

x

A (Working) Week’s Worth of Tasty Sandwiches (Part 2)

Well, I’m still being a control freak over Barn’s lunch (not that he’s complaining), so here’s a second week’s worth of sandwich ideas for you:

cheese salad pittaWholemeal pitta bread, split and spread with chive Philadelphia cream cheese, filled with grated Red Leicester cheese and a crisp peppery salad of rocket leaves, shredded radish, diced sweet red peppers and chopped spring onion.

roast pork on cheese & chutney bread
Thickly sliced cheese & chutney bread (yup, that’s right, the cheese & chutney are baked into the bread!) with slices of roast pork on a bed of baby spinach leaves, topped off with a dollop of chunky apple sauce.

Malted grain and rye flatbread with pastrami
Malted grain and rye flatbread, spread with mustard mayo then folded and filled with red lettuce leaves (they come in a mixed bag – who knows what they’re actually called?!), pastrami and slices of Jarlsberg cheese.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…you can’t have pastrami without pickles…and I agree wholeheartedly.  If this had been for me the helping of sliced pickles would have been so generous as to result in major spillage and much sandwich messiness.  However, Barn isn’t as keen on pickles as I am (he doesn’t dislike them, just would never eat them from the jar as a snack, the way I do) so I chopped some up into really small pieces and mixed it in with the mustard mayo – this satisfied us both 😀

Tiger roll with hummus, feta, red pepper & olives
Crusty rolls, slightly hollowed and shaped to form ‘bowls’; spread inside with hummus then filled with mixed salad leaves, feta cheese, sliced olives and diced red peppers.

Seeded batch loaf with shredded roast chicken, stuffing and apple sauce
Multi-seeded sliced loaf filled with shredded roast chicken and sage & onion stuffing, on a bed of baby spinach leaves, topped off with a dollop of Bramley apple sauce.

Now I wonder…based on the last two weeks…would you want me making your lunch sandwiches or do you think I’m unnecessarily keeping Barn from his plain cheese? 😉

x

 

Roasted Aubergine and Red Pepper Dip

It’s one of life’s little pleasures to hear people making ‘nomnom’ noises as they’re devouring food that you’ve cooked – wouldn’t you agree?

This dip makes people do that and it’s easier than pie to make (much easier…why do they even say ‘easy as pie’?)

Roast aubergine & red pepper dipIngredients

For Roasting
1 aubergine (egg plant), cut into chunks
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced (not too small!)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and kept whole
1 teaspoon chilli powder
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
A slosh of olive oil

For the Food Processor (or Mortar & Pestle)
1 tablespoon tomato purée (the stuff you get in the squeezy toothpaste type tube)
A small handful of fresh coriander leaves
A good glug of olive oil (which is more than a slosh, in case you’re wondering)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Music

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/425°F/220°C

Using your hands, mix together all the ‘for roasting’ ingredients.mix ingredients together

It’s a good idea to do this in the tin that you’ll be roasting in – that way you don’t spend ages trying to scrape the spices off the side of a bowl.
And it’s one less thing to wash up.  See how I look after you?  You’re welcome. 😉
Spread everything in an even layer and slam onto the middle shelf of your preheated oven.

roast until just starting to blacken

Roast for around 35-40 minutes, or until things are just starting to blacken at the edges. Allow to cool in the tray for 10 minutes or so.

tip into food processor

Tip roasted vegetables into a food processor together with the tomato purée, coriander leaves, olive oil, a pinch of salt and a healthy amount of black pepper.

Blitz, taste, adjust seasoning, blitz again if necessary; bear in mind this is nicer when it’s still got some texture to it rather than being completely smooth.

aubergine & red pepper dip

Tip into a serving dish and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Cover and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

x

Excitement!

You know how when small children get very excited abut something they express it physically?  Like running on the spot or clapping or even, like Barn’s niece, actually juddering all over when the excitement gets too big to contain in her little body…

Well, that’s about where I’m at right now – utterly fizzing!

I was going to wait until things were totally finalised before sharing this news with you all…but I’m so excited I can’t contain myself any longer…

I’ve bagged some Saturdays in a pop up shop for my fledgling cake business – first one will be Saturday 2nd April!

Of course, there’s now a frantic whirlwind of preparation underway….insurance, baking, business cards, baking, working out the ‘staging’, baking, roping in assistance, baking…  it’s truly awesome fun 😀

So now that I’m going ‘official’ I think it’s time to introduce my alter-ego to you…I am The Cake Tailor of Manchester and I aim to bake the nation happy!

The dream in my head is finally stepping out into the real world and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

x

Divine Black Olive Dip

Wrong olives and right olives

I picked up the wrong olives and ended up with those nasty, rubbery, flavourless ones instead of softly wrinkled, salty ones.

Somewhat loathe to throw away a whole jar of olives, even exceedingly bad ones, I came up with this dip-which-is-nearly-but-not-quite-a-tapenade (no anchovies).  Having done so, I’m now dying to try it using some good olives; something that tastes this good with a bad base ingredient is going to taste utterly sublime with an excellent one!

Ingredients
Approx. 120g black olives (if these are of poor quality you’ll also need a handful of sea salt)
1 tablespoon capers
1-2 garlic cloves
A couple of sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped
½ lemon, juice only
A splosh of olive oil
Music

If you’ve got the horrid type of olives like I had (see top picture) there’s first going to have to be some salting action.  If you have decent olives, skip this step.

sprinkle liberally with salt

Tip the olives into a nylon (not metal!) sieve, drain off the liquid and set over a bowl.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt, cover with a plate and weight down with whatever heavy thing you have that will work – children and pets not advised.  Set to one side for a minimum of 2 hours, longer if possible.

Before using, give the olives a quick rinse to wash off any excess salt – there’s plenty more of that going to be coming from the capers 🙂

Black olive dip ingredients

Place olives and all other ingredients into a food processor or mortar & pestle; use only a little olive oil to start with and add more as required to achieve desired consistency.

Pulse or pound until smoothish.

Black olive dip and pitta bread

Tip into a bowl and serve with warm pitta bread.

x

 

A (Working) Week’s Worth of Sandwiches

Barn is currently benefiting from my temporarily unemployed status as, with more free time available, I’ve come over all house-wifely.

Don’t worry, past experience says it’s not sustainable.

However, for now, one of the areas to which my Stepford attention has been drawn is Barn’s lunch.  He takes sandwiches to work (when he remembers to), and without fail what he makes is sliced cheddar cheese in between slices of pre-cut white bread.

Dull.

just cheese

Now I’m the last person in the world who would object to cheese, but c’mon now…this is not the way to do lunch.

This is why the Radically Overhauling Lunch League (current membership : 1) needed to be initiated.

The agreed rules of conduct are as follows:

  • it has to be sandwiches as the nature of Barn’s work means truly eating on the go – no chance to sit with boxed salads, plates or cutlery
  • eggs are not welcomed by colleagues due to the farty smell they emit, both before and after consumption
  • no tinned fish of any kind, or smoked salmon (whaaat?!)
  • no lamb (again, whaaat?!) 

I can safely say the project has so far been something of a success; Barn’s lunches are now, apparently, a major topic of conversation between colleagues in the car each morning.  Methinks they need more going on in their lives 😉

Without further ado, let the lunches commence…

roast beef with horseradish mayo

Wholemeal ‘Thins’ with wafer thin slices of roast topside of beef, de-seeded and chopped tomatoes, peppery rocket and watercress leaves and a generous helping of horseradish mayonnaise.

ham & swiss cheese (jarlsberg) with mustard mayo

Seeded rolls spread with wholegrain mustard mayonnaise then filled with thickly carved roast ham and Jarlsberg cheese.

roast chicken salad

Wholemeal rolls filled with roast chicken chunks, crisp sweetcorn kernels, finely sliced spring onions, de-seeded, chopped tomatoes, and a generous helping of chives, all bound together in creamy mayonnaise.

roast chicken and bacon

Multi-seed rolls filled with slices of roast chicken, crispy bacon and Jarlsberg cheese, on a bed of fresh lettuce and sliced tomatoes, finished with a swipe of English mustard.

triple cheese and rocket

Multi-seed rolls with triple cheese filling (grated red Leicester and grated mature white Cheddar mixed together with chive Philadelphia cream cheese) on a bed of crisp, peppery rocket.

So that concludes a week’s worth of tasty sandwiches – do any of them appeal to you?

x