Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Sad Cake Face

“I am in that temper that if I were under water I would scarcely kick to come to the top.” 
- John Keats

Have you ever been sad? Of course you have, everyone gets sad sometimes. But depression is a whole other ball game...

Mental Health charity Mind described depression as follows:
We often use the expression ‘I feel depressed’ when we’re feeling sad or miserable about life. Usually, these feelings pass in due course. But, if the feelings are interfering with your life and don't go away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back, over and over again, for a few days at a time, it could be a sign that you're depressed in the medical sense of the term.

A few weeks ago I came across this article discussing whether baking can improve mental health - click click. I found it a really interesting read, and a lot of what it says makes sense. I LOVE being in the kitchen. It's a little bit of peace and solitude, even when everything else might be falling apart around you. That quiet calm you get when concentrating on creating something; being able to take your frustrations out while kneading a loaf of bread; the sense of achievement when a new experiment works - this is all very positive! Of course there are times when things go wrong, and sometimes this does drag your mood back down. But mostly it makes you more determined to get it right next time, to figure out what's gone wrong and fix it. Because in the kitchen, you can fix things. If something isn't working you can adapt it, play with it, see if there is another way to get your ingredients to do what you want.

This led me on to find Miss Cakehead's website about the pop-up event The Depressed Cake Shop.The idea behind it is basically to get a load of people all over the country to hold pop-up cake shops where everything is decorated in varying shades of grey. The point is to raise awareness for mental health issues, as it is estimated that 1 in 4 of us suffer from some sort of mental health issues, with around 1 in 10 people being affected by depression or anxiety at any one time. All the money raised will be donated to mental health charities - in Leeds it will be split between Inkwell and Dial House.Take a look at the Leeds Facebook event here - it will happen on Sunday 4th August in the Corn Exchange. Come on down and buy some cakes for a good cause! Take a look at the Facebook event here - Click Me.

I've been testing out some grey cakes over the past few weeks - these are the contenders so far for me to take on Sunday (I also have a couple more ideas in the pipeline):

Grey Brain Cupcakes
Grapefruit and Olive Oil mini-loaves
- a bittersweet taste for those bittersweet days
(recipe courtesy of Eats Well With Others,
found via Kathy Can Cook)

Various decorating tests (partly blue as I had some blue left over - will post about where that came from next time):


I hope you'll come along and see all our lovely grey cakes if you're in the Leeds area on Sunday. The whole point of the shop is to break taboos surrounding mental health. Even today it seems mental health issues are very hush-hush. They are often not discussed outright - or if they are, it is more often than not under an alias on a website or forum where no one knows you and your anonymity keeps you safe. It's a shame that in this day and age, when there are so many stressful situations around, we are all still so ashamed of our mental health. If you had an issue - would you feel you could discuss it with your friends, colleagues, family? If the answer is yes then brilliant, I admire your confidence, trust and openness.

Other Useful Links:

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Birthday Challenge

Last week I was set a challenge. By my husband. For his birthday. So no pressure then...

He wanted a Parkin cake in the shape of a gold Viking helmet. "Sure, I can do that..."

I managed to get something resembling a Viking helmet using my giant cupcake mould. It's a little fatter and rounder than the picture I was copying but I'd have to trim loads off to be able to make it skinnier and that would be a waste of cake!

It turned out alright. My fondant marker pen was a bit scratchy so the runes and scrollwork could have been better. I tried to give it a gold shine by using some edible gold spray paint but it just made the yellow fondant a bit glittery. Will have to experiment with the spray a bit more.

(The runes spell his name.)

If there was room for improvement with the decoration, I was very pleased with the cake itself. I was worried about doing such a thick piece of Parkin, thinking it would be too moist and soggy but it turned out solid enough to support the icing and light enough to taste good. It even held up to me carving it to smooth off the top rather than having it cupcake-icing-shape from the mould. 

Fairly happy with the cake overall but it makes me want to take a proper decorating course. It was already on my to do list but I think it will get bumped up higher now. 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Friday Feeling Cupcakes

The cupcakes I made this week were inspired by Crunchie bars (which I haven't had in such a long time!!).

I made the cake using agave nectar and brown rice syrup, with a little bit of caramel coffee syrup then covered it in a mound of chocolate frosting and topped with honeycomb chunks (which aren't made with real honey...).

These were made for a friend's birthday but I made a few extra to keep at home and try. It's been so warm here this week that when we went to eat one today (bearing in mind they were made yesterday), most of the honeycomb pieces had started to melt! They still had a solid shell but as soon as you touched it, honey-like liquid squidged out. It was surprisingly nice!

In other news, I stumbled upon an article linking baking to improved mental health and coping with issues like depression which made an interesting read - check it out here.

It turns out there is an event taking place on the first weekend in August where there will be various pop-up shops around the country and there is going to be one in Leeds, so I'll be baking something for it - yay! The theme is that the cakes etc have to have a grey exterior to represent mental health issues (as apparently 1 in 4 people will suffer from some form of mental health issue in their lifetime), but they can have colourful insides. I have a few ideas but I've not had time to test them yet so it could just be a case of seeing what happens on the day!

The idea is to promote awareness of mental health issues, and all the money raised will be going to charity. If you'd like to find out more about the pop-up shops (called The Depressed Cake Shop) take a look here. I don't think there's a facebook event up for it yet but it will be held at Opposite Cafe on Sunday 4th August and there will be lots of miserable looking but lovely tasting cakes - come try some!!

If I get time to try any out before then I will post up some of my test pictures but we have out next performance of Drifters coming up soon so I might not get chance. And my driving instructor wants me to somehow find time to start studying for my theory test so I can get that out of the way...

If only I could pause the world for a little bit and give myself time to do all these things...

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Being a busy bee...

My blog post is a bit late this week - sorry! It's been a busy couple of weeks, involving family meals, driving lessons and BBQ's!

This year has been my sister's final year at uni, however she opted to go out for a family meal rather than going to her graduation. We had a lovely day out in Bolton Abbey - such a beautiful place. Naturally, I decided to take some cake!

The mortar boards melted a bit in the heat (it was VERY warm) but you get the idea... I've not used fondant to decorate my cupcakes before so this was a new experience! I'm reasonably pleased with the outcome but they were pretty simple...

My grandparents also requested some cakes. They wanted a mixture so I did some vanilla (flavoured with lemon or strawberry) and some chocolate (half flavoured with orange):

The meal was followed by my first ever driving lesson which wasn't half as scary as I'd thought it would be - yay! Soon I'll be able to ferry my goods around to whichever local businesses I can convince to buy them!

And then on Sunday the fun continued with our first BBQ of the year! For which I baked another Paul Hollywood bloomer:

And on Monday I had a meeting with a very nice man from the council, who gave me a lot of info about being self employed and helped me work out when it will be most beneficial to register my business - more updates another day once I've sorted through the papers he gave me!

Monday, 1 July 2013

One Step Closer

(No, I've not been listening to Linkin Park...)

I finally found time to go through my Food Hygiene course online so now I officially have a Food Safety Level Two certificate, I'm one step closer to being able to sell my cakes - yay! I have a meeting next week with a man from the council to discuss being self employed. Not really sure what to expect but hopefully it will be useful.

For the first time in a long time, I've gone a whole weekend without baking... sigh. Although I was down in old London having a jolly good time at the theatre, so it's not all bad. We went to see a production of Princess Mononoke which is one of my favourite anime's - probably one of my favourite films really. It's the first time it's been done on stage and it was amazing. Definitely worth the trip to London.

While we were there we went to a Mexican restaurant which had a specifically vegan menu, completely separate to the main menu - I was very excited. So excited in fact that instead of taking a photo of my dinner like I'd planned, I got halfway through and then realised... So instead you just get to see their business card - sorry!

In other news, I had a play around on the Game of Thrones website and made myself a house sigil - have a go here!

And I'll leave you with a picture of some topiary dogs we found in Islington... enjoy!