Something about ‘”R U OK” day’
After scrolling through various social media platforms today, reading the scattering of comments, tweets and posts in relation to "R U OK" day, I thought it was a good idea to do some reflection on this particularly vulnerable topic.
I don't claim to have perfected the art of enlightenment, self-fulfillment or have unwavering self-worth, I do however have an insight that I feel most don't after digesting the comments of today. At various points the words had me interested, concerned, saddened, elated, disgusted and often devastated.
A wise friend of mine said to me this morning "my beef isn't with R U OK day as such but more so with people who are assholes to people 364 days a year who suddenly care about mental health". He wasn't only referring to the average Australian but also to the countless media personnel, bloggers, performers, artists, models, weather-women, sportspeople - all using this incredibly vulnerable notion as an opportunity to promote themselves, their businesses, product or image as oppose to deeply caring about the people who this "day" is truly dedicated to.
I don't know, perhaps I'm hyper sensitive about it all given my own personal suffering. All I know is it just doesn't sit right with me and my friends comment basically summed it all up to perfection. However whilst there is enormous validity to his comment, there is also a great opportunity to learn, here are the things I've learnt on this topic that hold me in good stead..most of my days ;)
- I've learnt that we'd all be enormously shocked if we new the struggles of many of our fellow humans.
- I've learnt that nor you or I have the right to ever tell anyone, including ourselves, how they "should" be feeling. I grant myself the permission to everyday feel how I feel with zero judgement.
- I've learnt that those who wait for a specific "day" to check in with their loved ones are the ones who will live with the most regret. It sounds overly cliche' but make yourself an available and reliable source for your loved ones to open up to.I hear so often people say to each other "..I didn't feel comfortable opening up, I felt like I'd be judged".
- I've learnt that unfortunately there's no changing the majority of the worlds inhabitants and because of this I consciously only surround myself with people who lift me up, who inspire me to be better, and who make me happy. There was a time I'd would've rebated this with "but how can I avoid all the bitter and nasty people in the world, honestly its impossible". I believed that for a long time, but hand on heart as I sit here today, I couldn't think of anything less true. The second I feel my mood shift or my instincts latch on to negative energy when I spend time with an individual, I consciously intend on spending as little if not zero time with them again. It sounds simple, but really its about respecting yourself enough to know you deserve better than to sit with the poison a lot of people are selling.
- I've learnt that I have so much more to learn. I still battle with my own demons which threaten to whip me off track when I feel vulnerable, but I know there's no rule which dictates how many times I can get back up and on track again.
Ultimately I'm pleased that mental health is starting to gain more and more awareness, but lets not lose sight of what days like today genuinely encourages. It costs nothing to be a good person, a kind person, a non-judgmental person, but it could be costing a hell of a lot to be the opposite.
I'll leave you with a quote by the Dalai Lama ||| "Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them"
Something about ‘The perfect School Holiday activity for the kids’
Station Preparation - Make sure each child has:
Something about ‘My Top 5 Cake-Creating Music Playlists’
The sometimes arduous kneading & rolling of big quantities of hard Icing calls for some flexing of the guns and the best way to get in this mode is of course with some heart pumpin' workout music.
**Getting the nod here is - 'My Hero' by the Foo Fighters or 'They don't care about us' - by the King in Michael Jackson.
** 'Sorry' by the Biebs gets a few - ok fine, way more than a "few" - replays.
Something about ‘Avoiding Wedding Cake disasters’
Something about ‘My fear of failure’
Something about ‘Making my Cakes 100% from scratch”
Gone are the days when it used to be an unspoken, unquestionable fact that all sweets and delicacies were made using real butter, chocolate & flour. In a society obsessed with mass consumption and quantifiable products, the true essence of baking has slowly and sadly vanished. I could easily too join the flock and start making my cakes using a mixture that comes from a bag, but I will not, that is not the legacy I want to leave.
With respect, there is absolutely no comparison between a cake made from scratch versus a cake from a bag. That's not to say that a premixed cake is "bad", its just a fresh cake is authentically better.
I am a huge advocate of healthy living. Its taken a while, but I have finally established a good balance between nutritional eating and regular treating. I stumble occasionally, because, well who can resist good old cake cut offs?! Ultimately though, I've got a solid idea about incorporating small treats into my diet. When I do treat myself, because it is on a rare basis, and in small quantities, I want to make sure I am putting as little preservatives into my body as possible. A cake made from scratch, using butter, eggs, sugar, real chocolate, cocoa powder etc whilst a little high in calories, is free from nasty additives and preservatives. Most premixes have additives and subsidisers in order to create an affordable and workable product, this is a reality. It is because of this that if I'm not willing to eat a premix cake, I am not willing to sell it either.
It's incredibly important to me that my cakes not only look fabulous, but also taste amazing and most importantly are flavoursome and moist. When you bring a crumb or piece of my cake to your lips I want the aroma to fill your nose with instant gratification and when it hits your taste buds, I want you to be able to identify without a doubt the flavour - be it Choc Hazelnut, White Choc Lemon etc, and once it does I want you to be able to say one of two things, "Wow" or "Give me more".
In a society saturated with dietitians and personal trainers alike arguing with each other about which food groups to extinguish from your diets, we have truly begun to lose the essence of what it means to actually enjoy a treat. My job is to create masterpieces that have the ability to bring an abundance of joy to the consumer, part of that is my wish for each of you to actually be able to savour the moment you get to enjoy a beautiful, fresh piece of cake without any guilt or self-deprecation what so ever.
I believe wholeheartedly that we all need to incorporate a treat into our weekly diets. I've been to those places of deprecation when trying to lose weight, cutting out food groups, cutting out snacks, cutting out treats and basically cutting out my happiness in the process. Its no doubt most of us are in a constant battle with food and forever monitoring what goes in our mouths, that's life .
Though if I give you once piece of advice that from experience has helped me maintain a healthy relationship with food, it is, make peace with the fact that you deserve to enjoy your treats. Eat healthy most days, workout most days, but reassure yourself that you are deserving of treats. By no means am I advocating binge eating or unhealthy eating, at the end of the day, its all about a balance, but I know personally once I gave myself the permission to actually enjoy a treat and not just go through the motions of eating it and then stressing about it, my relationship with food completely changed.
Ultimately if your one treat of the week is a piece of my cake, rest assured my gift to you is that you will not be disappointed!
Something about ‘My Inspiration’
Something about ‘My Greatest Cake Successes & Biggest Mishaps’
I refuse to label anything in my life as a "failure" because truly where we are deemed to have "failed", we really only have been gifted a lesson to learn. How hard is that notion to swallow and accept?! When we find ourselves in the midst of despair and believe we have screwed up exponentially, most of our instincts are programmed to connect what has happened with negativity. It takes much work on oneself to be able to reach the point where despite the pain of a situation, you have the ability to take a step back and find the lesson. I am committed wholeheartedly to this journey in my personal life but also my professional.
By nature I am the ultimate perfectionist. I'd get a B+ in school and I would have epic meltdowns, I accidentally mix a white sock in with the blacks load and I'm ticked off, I'm exhausted after a long days work but I'll still scrub the stove to within an inch of sparkling. These are just a few examples of the ways in which I am extremely hard on myself for not achieving perfection..I'm working on these mundane things though because really, I know you'll find this hard to believe but..the white sock did in fact survive..and so will I.
Of course part of being successful at my craft is having that element of perfection as a prominent part of my personality. Sometimes it becomes a curse, particularly at 3 in the morning when I've entirely stripped and re-iced a cake because of a tiny indentation I just couldn't stand. Most of the time however, it gives me the strength to sit for hours intricately piping, the bravery to take on challenging designs and ultimately the ability to create masterpieces that my customers adore.
I have an unique connection with every Cake I do, however its no doubt the bond is stronger with a few in particular, purely based on my doubt of if I could actually reach the point of presentation.
One in particular that truly tested my limits and was an extraordinary challenge was the 'Tour de France' cake. The cake itself was no trouble, it was the customers actual competition bike which they wanted replicated out of sugar that was the challenge. It was the intricate construction of the bike parts, the chains, the wires, the metal that all are meant to intertwine seamlessly that was absolutely torturous to perfect. I had about 4 attempts to which the profanities were dripping out of my mouth thick and fast, I was becoming increasingly frustrated and it was the only instance I've ever thought to myself "I don't think I can actually do this - I think I'm going to have to call the client and let her know". When the reality hit that consequently by giving up it also meant disappointing a long-standing, supportive customer, I instantly switched into survival mode. I picked myself up, threw all 4 attempts in the bin, poured myself a glass a wine and started again.
Placing the finished, shiny Sugar Bike on that cake was as proud of myself as I've been throughout my journey to date. It wasn't the biggest or tallest cake I've ever had to do, but it was the one that forced me beyond my usual comfort zone. It tested my resolve, my bravery and determination.
With all successes however, it is inevitable that spontaneous road blocks occur. I am no exception to this rule. I did experience a moment when I was adamant I had failed, and it probably took me a month to get over it and realise, it too was an opportunity to grow.
For those of you who are not aware, humid weather is like the devil coming to visit for Cake Decorators. As soon as the humidity hits the air waves, it causes a condensation to form on Hard Iced Cakes once removed from the fridge. The difference in temperatures is part the problem, though the humidity is what causes the cakes to essentially sweat. I've had some cakes look as if I've hosed them down, this is a frustratingly unpreventable problem and if there are any scientists out there, please create a formula for a Hard Icing that does not condensate. In my early days, before I was fully aware of the temperament of Hard Icing when combined with humidity, I had an order for an Engagement cake, iced in white icing with all black detail. The night before I intricately piped a beautiful black Florentine piping across the whole cake. After a few hours' work I popped the cake carefully into the fridge, confident that it looked great and was virtually ready for delivery the next night.
The morning of, I woke early, what a blessing that turned out to be, and took the cake immediately out of the fridge, this is custom to let the cake come down to room temperature ready to be eaten. I left it on my bench whilst I went to the supermarket, the gym, and ran a few errands, probably a good 4 hours. What I came back to was an absolute disaster. Being a hideously humid day, the cake had sweated so much that all, and I mean all the black piping had run down the cake, leaving behind, well, I guess it could be best described as a black mess. What was my beautifully crisp, sharp, perfect white Iced cake was barely a glimmer of its former self. As you can imagine I went into shock mode, barely moving an inch for a good minute, I wanted to get back in bed with the intent to restart the day all over again. It was an either sink or swim situation...the fighter in me decided to swim.
I immediately decided it was absolutely no use trying to salvage the black mess that was in front of me. I decided to start from scratch using foam blocks. I was in total flight mode, it was incredible, I did about 10 hours of work in 4 hours from pure adrenaline. I knew what I needed to do and it simply was not an option in my mind to leave my customers' cake table empty on their special day. Whilst it all worked out in the end, I learnt a hell of a lot from that situation, not only that humidity and black piping should never meet if possible, but more importantly about myself. I had the ability to really hone in on my determination, and use my fear as a driver not a road block. It was a very telling experience for me and has given me the confidence to believe in myself and know that whatever mistakes I make (and there will be plenty) I will just handle it.
I'll leave you with one of my favourite and appropriate quotes;
“Let go of the attachment, keep the lesson” ~L.J. Vanier
Happy baking, creating and eating.
Something about ‘The Creaming Method’
For those unaware of the vocabularly, the 'Creaming Method' refers to the initial stage of making most cakes, cookies, muffins etc, where the butter and sugar are mixed to a specific consistency before the addition of other ingredients.
There are copious amounts of opinions and beliefs when it comes to using the Beater or the Whisk for the Creaming stage of baking. I too, am going to share my two cents, why not right? I'm a firm believer that if you have found a way, a method that provides near perfect results, then you should roll with it. The "conventional" way is not necessarily the best way. As such, I firmly believe, after having thoroughly tested both tools, that the Beater is your friend for Creaming. I wont complicate things; a Whisk is used to aerate a mixture, a Beater is used to mix a mixture. In this case, we don't want to so much as fluff up the mixture as we do mix the ingredients together to create a smooth and light result.
Do not even attempt to use other kitchen gadgets such as a hand held mixer or food processor - they wont get the job done to a high quality level, and at 'Something about Cake', 'Quality' is our favourite word.
Moving on to the ingredients themselves, specifically the butter (fat) as is the star of this particular show. It is absolutely imperative, and a tip I cannot stress enough, that the butter be at room temperature. This means it should not even have the slightest chill from the fridge nor should it be at the point of liquid melting. I swear guys, this tip is as simple as it sounds but it the most important point in finishing with a perfectly creamed batter. Lots of recipes say to cut the butter up in cubes, I'm never this fussy, a few rough chunks to ensure an easier distribution is perfectly fine.
The next tip I have is regarding the speed of your mixer. There is a perfect medium when it comes to the speed you should beat at, basically its not too fast and not too slow. If you laughed at that, thinking well that doesn't help much - all I can say is, you know your mixer better than I do, you'll need to find a speed that is not "slow" to the point the mixture doesn't begin to come together instantly and not too "fast" to the point you're stressing the ingredients out. For those of you whom have a KitchenAid, speed 4 is perfect.
What actually is happening when you beat the butter and sugar together is that the sugar granules are cutting tiny holes into the butter - this incorporates air and causes the butter to soften and increase in volume.
So how do you achieve the perfect Creamed Mixture?
With the advent of the more powerful mixers around today, gone are the days of having to whip the butter and sugar mixture on high speed for several minutes to achieve high quality results. Speaking generally (of course it will depend on the quantities of butter and sugar you're working with) after you've been beating the mixture for 3-4 minutes you’ll notice the batter change drastically in colour and texture. At this point, you may need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides if any batter looks to be stuck, but if not, do not disturb the mixture. Give it another minute or so of mixing and you should be ready to switch the mixer off. A perfectly creamed mix will be moist and light in colour and texture. The sugar should be nearly fully dissolved so you barely feel any grit when you rub it between your fingers.
The way to identify if you've Under-creamed your mixture is if it has a wet sand or damp cornmeal feel.
If you've Over-creamed, your mix will have the feel of oil and sugar on your fingers, much like a facial scrub/exfoliate.
Happy baking, creating and eating.
Something about ‘My most Bizarre Cake Requests’
"Hi, I'm wanting to book you in for a Hens Party Cake please. We are wanting you to make a 3D cake of the Male Anatomy and we're happy to pay whatever it takes. But we want it big. Out there. Detailed"... This request, word for word came through to me via email about 2 months ago. I actually blushed when I read it. The thought of going through the motions of actually moulding cake, to be eaten, into the shape of, well, "the male anatomy" was where I drew the line. I very politely declined the invitation.
The most frequently asked question that comes my way is "what are the craziest cake requests you’ve received or had to do". The answer to this question makes me giggle, I feel like I may have become immune to what is considered "weird" - I've heard it all. I am an incredibly open-minded person, designer and creator. The creative blood that runs through my veins allows me to embrace and encourage the bizarre, the unique and the bold. I adore when a client comes to me with a sparkle in their eye - I can just foresee what I'm in for, a challenge no doubt, but ultimately the opportunity to create beyond the norm.
In saying that, I want to share with you the top 3 requests that even made my eyes and ears tense up:
3- "The Tarantula” – Need I say more? Whilst not so much strange, but certainly creepy, I did have a man wanting to order a cake for his wife’s 30th Birthday in the shape of a giant Tarantula Spider. Why? Well, to quote him “she loses her mind over spiders”. Like most people I have a grand phobia of spiders and couldn’t fathom, even for the sake of the job having to stare at a giant Cake Spider sitting in my fridge.
2 – “The Anatomy” – It’s certainly entertaining receiving emails with these requests. The detail is never lacking, the demands are always confusing, and sometimes, if I'm particularly lucky, I even get an attached image asking "can you emulate?"
1- "Cat Litter" - This request was personally the most bizarre. This particular lady wanted me to make a cake in the shape of a Cat giving birth to kittens. Instantly my mind starting summersaulting with ideas, as is custom for my creative brain. A gorgeous vision came to mind of the Mummy cat laying down with 5 or so little kittens nestled against her - post birth.
How wrong could I have been! When I divulged my idea to the customer, she responded with "No dear, I don't want post birth, I want during birth". In other words, she wanted me to carve the Mummy cat in the midst of giving birth to a kitten - "half in, half out". Not only that, she wanted the detail absolutely on point, blood soaked towels, birthing liquids, the lot! I was momentarily speechless, to which she proudly declared "You'll have no problem getting all the details right because I will send you a video of my cat giving birth to her litter last week, I filmed it all!” It was all getting very weird, I mean there is an extraordinarily telling reason I studied Cake & Design and not Medicine & Midwifery.
I am the biggest advocate of celebrating the perceived abnormalities in humans. I will forever continue to embrace the "weird" in this wide, wonderful, challenging world and hopefully continue to get the opportunity to represent it in my Cakes.
Happy baking, creating and eating.
- Something about ‘My most Bizarre Cake Requests’
- Something about ‘The Creaming Method’
- Something about ‘My Greatest Cake Successes & Biggest Mishaps’
- Something about ‘My Inspiration’
- Something about ‘Making my Cakes 100% from scratch”
- Something about ‘My fear of failure’
- Something about ‘Avoiding Wedding Cake disasters’
- Something about ‘My Top 5 Cake-Creating Music Playlists’
- Something about ‘The perfect School Holiday activity for the kids’
- Something about ‘”R U OK” day’