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! 😀

IMG-20160402-WA0005
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’).

20160402_101338
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

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

 

Cupcake Catch Up

I noticed recently that a few cakes have slipped through the record keeping net so there are no recipes for you today – just cakey pictures for your voyeuristic pleasure.

passion fruit curd

This pot of deliciousness just had to be bought.  It led to the creation of…

orange cake with passion fruit curd centre

…these – orange sponge cake with a passion fruit curd centre, topped with fresh orange Italian meringue buttercream and finished with a drizzle of passion fruit and orange glaze.

passion fruit curd centre in an orange sponge

Gorgeous, golden, passion fruit curd in the centre of an orange sponge cupcake.

I’ve seen a few recipes for strawberry meringues using artificial strawberry flavourings, and one or two using freeze dried strawberries, but prefer to use fresh ingredients where possible; in the end I decided to do some experimenting using fresh strawberry purée for both flavour and colour (click on pics for full descriptions).

They tasted absolutely  divine but my word were they ever a faff to get baked!.

Basically I didn’t fully account for the extra moisture added by the fresh strawberries (albeit a mega reduced purée), took them out too soon and consequently had to spend hours in a cycle of reheating the oven, cooking the meringues for a few minutes, turning off the oven, letting everything cool, checking, reheating the oven…

This was not an ideal method of cooking them and resulted in slightly weepy meringues, BUT it truly was worth the effort in terms of taste.  The freshness of the strawberry flavour was exceptional and the light strawberry chocolate cream used in the ‘regular’ ones was a sublime compliment.  Having said that, the whipped white chocolate vanilla ganache in the cookie ones was pretty damned fabulous too!

So…more experimentation…longer initial cooking time…

Choc on choc on choc

Choc on choc on choc: chocolate fudge cupcake topped with milk chocolate buttercream under dark chocolate poured ganache. Decorated with whipped milk chocolate ganache, hand crafted marbled chocolate shards, dark chocolate shavings and a dark chocolate rolo.

Surely enough chocolate to satisfy even the most die-hard chocolate addict?!

Lemon Raspberry Ripple

Dreaming of summer with lemon raspberry ripple cupcakes: lemon sponge rippled through with fresh raspberry purée, topped with a swirl of fresh raspberry and white chocolate mousse, finished with a fresh, juicy raspberry.

Strawberry cupcakes with whipped strawberry chocolate ganache

Still bringing on the summer vibe with strawberry chocolate cupcakes: strawberry sponge with fluffy, whipped strawberry chocolate ganache, topped off with a chocolate dipped strawberry.

coffee with double choc

Coffee sponge cupcakes with a silky double chocolate topping (milk & white) of whipped ganache.

Ok, I think that’s the cupcakes all caught up now…there’s a couple of celebration cakes still to post but I’ll do those separately.

Goodness…I’ve just made myself very hungry…I’m off to see if Barn’s left anything in the cake tin…don’t know what you’re going to do…  😉

x

Cooling Minty Cucumber Sauce

This is a great dip or sauce to have alongside spicy foods like curries or koftas.  Provide huge bowls of it for the weak of taste bud amongst your kith and kin – you know, those who prefer bland food and freak out at the sight of a chilli 😉

Minty cucumber sauce

It takes minutes to make and can be eaten immediately; however, it does benefit from being allowed to sit a while before consumption…the flavours get a chance to meld together that way.

Ingredients
Around 5 tablespoons natural yoghurt
Around 2 tablespoons crème fraîche (or just use an extra couple of spoons of yoghurt)
Approx. 2 inch piece of cucumber, finely diced
A sprig of mint leaves, finely chopped
A squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

Music on?  I bet you’ll have this made before the track’s finished…

Ready?  Set?  Go…

Ingredients

Put everything (including the lemon juice, which is not apparent in this picture), into a bowl.

Mix, taste, adjust seasoning as required.

Cooling minty cucumber sauce

Bish, bash, bosh…your sauce is ready 😀
x

Quick and Tasty Beef Koftas

Looking for a winning dish for dinner?

Cooked beef koftas

In that case, you should know that these beef koftas are almost effortless to whip up; the bulk of the time it takes to make them is actually the 30 minutes chilling time. Winner.

They don’t seem that effortless to the people eating them, who will demonstrate their appreciation of your ‘slaving’ over dinner by showering you with attention and affection.  Win, win.

They’ll probably do the washing up too.  Win, win, win.

Of course, they taste amazing too.  Win, win, win, win.

Well, would you look at that!  It would appear that the beef koftas are quadruple winners!  There’s clearly no need for you to continue your search for a dinner dish, which is happy news, because by now you must be very hungry.  I shall delay you no longer and will proceed to tell you how to make this scrumptious meal…

Kofta ingredients

Serves 3-6 people, depending on accompanying dishes

Ingredients
500g minced beef
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-4 green chillies, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1 egg
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon harissa paste (If I’d had harissa paste in the stores I’d have used it, and the dish would have benefited from it, so I’ve included it here)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 wooden skewers
Music

Done your onion and chilli chopping?  Ok then, let’s get this show on the road…

Mix ingredients by hand

Throw everything (apart from the skewers) into a bowl and use your hands to mix well.

Shape onto skewers

Divide the mix into 12 rough balls then form into oval shapes on the wooden skewers (or make into patties if you don’t have any skewers).

Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Beef koftas

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or grill and cook for around 8-12 minutes on a medium to high heat, turning to ensure they’re browned all over.

Job’s a good ‘un!

Beef koftas with Mediterranean dips

Served here with a minty cucumber sauce*, pitta bread and a selection of Mediterranean dips*.

x

* Recipes to follow shortly 🙂

Chicken Breast with Mushrooms and Blue Cheese Sauce

This recipe arose due to the need to use up several bits and pieces in the Renegade stores – the cheese and cream being the main driving factors.
Oh the hardship 😉
The resulting dish turned out to be very quick and easy to make, but felt like a real treat – another great midweek meal.

Chicken with mushrooms and blue cheese sauceServes 2

Ingredients
2 skinless chicken breasts
a sprinkling of olive oil
6-8 mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 knobs of butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
75-100ml white wine
1 chicken stockpot/stock cube
2 dessert spoons (ish) of crème fraîche – leave it out if you don’t have any
1 large tablespoon of cream cheese – I used chive flavoured Philadelphia
100-125ml double cream
125-150g gorgonzola, cubed – or other blue cheese of your choice
2 teaspoons of fresh parsley, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Depending on the cheese you use, and how much of it, you may also need a couple of heaped teaspoons of cornflour, mixed to a runny paste with a little cold water, to thicken the sauce

Music

First you need to butterfly your chicken breasts.

Place your hand flat on top of the chicken – this holds it still and keeps your fingers out of the way at the same time.

Use a sharp pointed knife, and starting at the fat end of the breast, slice across the chicken, almost but not quite cutting it in half. It should still be joined at one edge and you should be able to open it up like a book – or a butterfly’s wings.

cover with cling flim and bash

Once you’ve done that, cover with cling film and bash with a rolling pin.  Not too much – you want to tenderise and flatten it, not pulp and obliterate it.

Rub lightly with olive oil and cook on a preheated grill, turning once, for around 8-10 minutes or until cooked through.

mushrooms

Meanwhile, melt a knob of butter in a large pan and heat until it foams.

Add your sliced mushrooms in a single layer and cook, turning once, until both sides are beautifully browned.  Remove from pan but keep warm.

sauce ingredients

Make your sauce by melting a knob of butter in a pan over a medium heat then cooking the crushed garlic for a minute or so.

Add wine and stockpot/cube and heat until stockpot has melted.

Add cream cheese, crème fraîche, cream and blue cheese and continue to heat, stirring frequently, until the cheese has melted.  Do not allow to boil.

If necessary, thicken with a little cornflour paste.

Stir in chopped parsley and plenty of black pepper.

Chicken mushrooms and blue cheese sauce

Place cooked chicken breast onto a warmed plate, arrange sautéed mushrooms on top and pour over the blue cheese sauce.

Chicken breast with mushrooms and blue cheese sauce

Served with petit pois and green beans sautéed in herb butter, and oven baked sweet potato chips.

x

Gluten Free Blueberry Pancakes

Some things are just made to go together: strawberries and chocolate; a needle and thread; Starsky and Hutch; fish and chips; a lazy Sunday and blueberry pancakes.

So sayeth me.

a delicious stack of pancakes

What about you?  Do you fancy some?

Makes around 8 medium-ish pancakes

Ingredients
3 large eggs, separated
115g gluten free plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
140ml milk
A good pinch of salt
Maple syrup and a dot of butter to serve
Music

If you’re going to need to cook in batches (which is very likely) put the oven on now, at a reasonable temperature, so that you can pop cooked pancakes in there to keep warm while you finish frying their kin.

egg yolk and flourPlace the flour and baking powder into a bowl then beat in egg yolks and milk, creating a smooth batter.  Start with the yolks, then add the milk a bit at a time, beating after each addition.

beaten to peaksWhisk the whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks.

fold togetherAdd egg whites to flour and yolk batter.

fold until just combinedUsing a large metal spoon, cut and fold in the whites until just combined – go gently, taking care to keep in as much of the air as possible.

sprinkle with blueberriesHeat a heavy based pan or griddle on a medium to high heat.  Lightly brush surface with a thin coating of butter or oil then pour on batter – make your pancakes as big or as small as you like.

You may need to control the run with a spatula but after a few moments they’ll start to firm up and hold their own shape.

Sprinkle with a few blueberries and continue to cook until the bottom is golden brown.

Turn pancakes over (blueberry side down) and continue to cook until that side is also golden brown.  You may need to press them down gently with your spatula to get even colouring.

Work quickly through cooking your batches as the mixture rapidly deflates and becomes overly runny (still nice when cooked though).Topped with butter and maple syrupServe immediately, stacked high, with a little button of melting butter and a good dousing of maple syrup (far more than it would appear in the pictures!)

x