Friday, 14 November 2008

Let them eat Cake at Handm@de Oxford

Saturday 9th November saw Let them eat Cake displaying our wares at the Handm@de Craft Fair in Oxford Town Hall. The town hall was a beautiful location, built in the reign of Queen Victoria, with a stunning ceiling and organ in the main hall adding a large slice of elegance to the proceedings.

The fair itself saw over 1300 people through the doors, and a lot of interest and lovely comments on our cake stands, with many of our leaflets given out on the day for our online shop.

What was truly amazing was the wealth and quality of handmade items presented by all the stall holders on the day - so much talent, so many beautiful items, that we had to be extremely careful in not blowing the bank as we picked up lots of lovely gifts. Meeting a lot of the other crafters on the day also led to some great discussions on other fairs, products and generally the love of everything handmade.

There are lots of fabulous pictures of the day collated on the Handm@de Flickr group and you can check out the individual crafters exhibiting on the links panel of the Handm@de blog. A big cakey thank you again to the organisers, especially Beccy (whose Moments by Martha shop is well worth checking out if you love beautiful jewelery)

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Let them eat Cake Christmas Roadshow

We're going to be super busy over the next few weeks as we are ahowing our vintage china cake stands at a lot of events in London and the Midlands. We've made about 300 new cakestands so there will be lots to see, and we'll get them onto our shop and our Flickr photostream very soon, but in the meantime, check your diaries and see if you can make any of the events below - it'll be lovely to see you there, and give you an opportunity to see our vintage cakestands in the flesh so to speak, and perhaps pick one up for that extra special Christmas present you've been searching for...

3rd/4th November
Macmillan Cancer Research Christmas Market
Royal Horticultural Halls, Westminster, London
For more information and location

9th November
Handm@de Oxford
Oxford Town Hall, St Aldates, Oxford, OX1
Do visit the wonderful Handm@de Oxford blog which is showcasing some of the fabulous crafters who will be at this event

15th November
St Mary’s Barnes Christmas Fair
Church Road, Barnes SW13 9HL
For more information and location

16th November
Vintage Christmas Shopping Fair
Chelsea Old Town Hall, Kings Road, SW3 5EF
For more information and location

16th November
Crafts for Christmas
Coventry Transport Museum, Millennium Place, Hales Street, Coventry, CV1 1PN
For more information and location

19th November
Marylebone Christmas Lights Fair
Marylebone High Street, London
For more information and location

29th/30th November
Crafts at the Castle
Warwick Castle, Warwick
For more information and location

4th/5th/6th/7th December
East London Design Show
Shoreditch Town Hall, Shoreditch, London
For more information and Location

Elemental's "Cup of Brown Joy" video

Elemental - Cup Of Brown Joy from Moog on Vimeo.

This is just simply a delightful, eccentric, and maybe distinctly odd music video by Elemental, which sums up our love of tea (of course accompanied by cake).

All together now, when I say "Earl Grey", you say "yes please"...

Clare's simple buttercream icing

Buttercream icing is simple to make and very forgiving. It works on fairy cakes that have risen or those that haven’t and you don’t need a professional’s hand to produce a lovely buttercream swirl. A bit of irregularity just adds to the charm.

Now I’m criticised for writing too much. Of course I think it’s all very interesting and useful stuff, but for those of you who want to cut to the chase, here’s a speedy version of the recipe…

Speedy version...

- Beat 50g of unsalted soft butter (with an electric beater).
- Slowly add 100g of icing sugar (and a little flavouring and colour if you wish) and keep beating for 5 minutes. Add a little hot water if it’s too stiff.
- Apply the icing with a palette knife, or pipe it on with a large nozzle.
- Go for swooshes and peaks, not a smooth finish.
- Ice then decorate a few at a time.
- Be very proud.

The calm and far more interesting version…


Before you start, here are some top tips for success…

- Use best quality ingredients: unsalted butter, not margarine
- Take the butter out of the fridge early, it should be properly soft. If you forget you can soften it (carefully) in the microwave – low temperature and 10-20 seconds at a time, to avoid a mass of molten butter
- Weigh out your ingredients and sift the icing sugar
- Decide your technique for applying the icing first – palette knife or piping bag. Read on for guidance…


For 12 fairy cakes:

110 g unsalted butter - soft
220 g sifted icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
A little hot water if needed – up to 2 tablespoons
A few drops of food colour, optional (paste is best)
Sprinkles, sparkles or sweets to finish, optional


Large mixing bowl
Hand mixer
Palette knife and a glass of hot water or…
Piping bag and nozzle (approx 1cm star or round) and an empty pint glass or jug, all will be revealed…

To make…

Put the soft butter into the mixing bowl and beat it thoroughly until light and fluffy. Add the icing sugar (gradually, to avoid a snowstorm in the kitchen) and any colouring and/or flavouring you want to use. Mix very thoroughly; the longer you mix for, the softer the icing will be – at least 5 minutes.

The finished icing should be fluffy and light, and should hold its own in the bowl. If it’s too stiff add hot water, a teaspoon at a time and mix again.

And now to apply the icing…

You have two choices – a swirl with a wet palette knife, or a peaked affair with a piping bag and nozzle. Both are simple and both benefit from flamboyant application.

It’s your choice. Me? I like the flourish of piping and it really is very easy to get a professional finish…

Which ever method you choose ice with confidence and you’ll be AMAZED by the results. Even if you don’t feel confident, try not to show it.

Once you’ve done a few cakes you’ll realise that the first one, which you thought looked so awful, doesn’t, in the company of friends…

You’ll also discover that your technique will improve very quickly and soon you’ll be joyfully icing your cakes with a flourish.

Oh and finally, ice and decorate a few cakes at a time so your decorations stick while the icing is still soft rather than bouncing to the floor.

Piping method

- Fit the nozzle into the piping bag. Put the bag into a glass or jug, the right size to let you pull the edges of the bag over the rim of the vessel – so creating an opening into which to drop your icing.
- Hold the bag in place, and with the spatula, drop buttercream into the bag. Don’t over fill it or you’ll have icing squeezing out of both ends – not very domestic goddess. 3 generous dollops at a time is probably enough.
- Remove the bag. Use one hand to gather the bag at the top and gently squeeze the icing down towards the nozzle. Guide the nozzle with your other hand.
- The pressure you apply when squeezing will determine how fast the icing comes out – try to aim for a steady even flow.
- Gently start piping around the outside of the cake and spiral in to the middle then pull the bag up and away to create a nice swish on top. Oh and stop squeezing…
- Hooray! You’ve piped your first cake. Stand back and admire then do a couple more.

Remember you’re not after perfection!

Palette knife application…

- Submerge your palette knife blade in hot water. While you ice, dip the knife and wipe it dry frequently – it stops the icing sticking to the knife.
- Scoop up a dollop of icing onto your palette knife. Pick up the cake in one hand and put the icing on the centre of the cake. Elbows out, turn the cake one way and the knife the other, to spread the icing to the edges of the cake. Then swap directions and push some of the icing back to form a little flourish in the middle. Remember you aren’t after a smooth finish – it should have movement and swish.
- If it doesn’t work the first time, just dip your palette knife into the water and swirl again. Be gentle, you don’t want to drag crumbs into the icing.

Some other thoughts…


Go for a liberal sprinkling of sweets, sprinkles or sparkles or a sophisticated careful positioning of a single loveliness on top - perhaps a gold chocolate dragee, a chocolate-dipped cherry or a crystallised violet.

Flavour variations

- Chocolate is always popular, but I don’t hold with the ‘add a teaspoon of cocoa powder to make it brown’ school of thought – that is NOT chocolate buttercream. For true chocolate flavour, omit the water from the basic recipe; melt 50g of dark chocolate over simmering water, let it cool a bit and then add it to your icing.
- For coffee icing, mix 2 tablespoons of instant espresso or coffee powder in 2 tablespoons of hot water and add it instead of the water and vanilla.
- Or swap the liquids for other lovely flavourings like cordials (ginger or elderflower maybe), or citrus juice.


Clare's perfect sponge recipe part 2

Now you've got your perfect fairy cakes, here are some thoughts and variations on the theme


Once they’ve cooled down you can decorate them as you please. There are several kinds of icing, but the one I think works best whether your cakes have perfect smooth tops, are hiding in the cases or a bursting out of the top, is buttercream. It covers a multitude of sins and it’s very easy to achieve gorgeous looking results.

We'll blog our fabulous buttercream icing recipe next so you can make this with the greatest of ease.

Some extra thoughts and tips

The professional touch…

Many top bakers drench their cooked sponges in sugar syrup. It makes them extra moist and delicious. Simply combine equal parts caster sugar and water in a saucepan (100ml water and 100g sugar for 12 fairy cakes). Heat gently and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat and let cool completely. Dribble the syrup over your cakes – it will soak in. Mmmmm. If you’ve made flavoured fairy cakes, add half a teaspoon or so of matching flavour to the sugar syrup (e.g. vanilla extract, lemon zest or cordial), or for a grown up touch add a wee tipple…


These cakes will keep un-iced in an airtight tin for up to a week (so I’m told!). You can also freeze them. Wrap well in clingfilm and/or foil and an airtight container. Un-wrap to defrost.

Bulk baking

I often make fairy cakes for the school fete. When I do, I’m mean with the mixture – half-filled cases only. More cakes mean more money for the school coffers. You can do 3 times this recipe with ease, just buy or borrow enough bun tins for the occasion, make sure they fit in your oven and use a piping bag to fill your paper cases.

Baking with children

Children LOVE baking and they LOVE making a mess. Accept it, go with it and don’t worry about the results. Let them stir with a wooden spoon before the mixer moves in. To decorate make a simple glace/water icing (icing sugar with tablespoons of hot water added gradually to get the right consistency and a few drops of colouring). Then let them loose with spoons for the icing and a plethora of sprinkles and sweets to spread all over the kitchen, I mean cakes.

Recipe variations

This basic sponge recipe can be tweaked in many ways. You could flavour the basic mixture. For lemon add the zest of a lemon and, for chocolate cake replace 50g of the butter with 50g of good quality dark chocolate (melted over a pan of simmering water first).

Or you could make filled fairy cakes. Slice a little lid off the cooked sponges, hide a teaspoon of jam, lemon curd, chocolate spread or some such underneath and then replace the lid. Ice the cakes to complete the disguise.

Or make a traditional Victoria sponge, which after all is what this recipe is, at heart. Cook the mixture in 2 greased or lined sandwich tins for about 30 minutes. Glue the cooled sponges together with cream and raspberry jam and sift icing sugar on top (through a paper doily if you fancy).

Tea, anyone?

Clare's perfect sponge cake recipe part 1

I’m told I write too much. So for those of you who don’t want to read all the fascinating and useful things contained in these pages, here is the recipe speeded up. You’re missing all the best bits though…

Speed baking...

- Pre-heat the oven: 180C (fan-assisted), 190C (no fan), 375f, Gas Mark 5.

- Combine 110g each of self raising flour, soft un-salted butter and caster sugar; with 2 eggs and a teaspoon of (good) vanilla extract. Mix with an electric hand beater or in a food processor for 3 minutes.

- Share the mixture between 12 cake cases in a bun tin and cook for 12-15 minutes. They’re done when golden and springy to the touch.

- Cool them. Done.

The calm version…


Before you start baking or even shopping, read these top tips for best results…

- Buy the best quality ingredients you can – like free range or organic eggs, butter not margarine and proper vanilla extract not flavouring

- Take the butter and eggs out of the fridge early. The butter should be properly soft. You forgot? You can soften it (carefully) in the microwave – low temperature and 10-20 seconds at a time, to avoid a mass of molten butter

Before you start baking:

- Weigh out all your ingredients
- Put paper cases into your bun tins
- Put the shelf in the middle of the oven and remove the splatter guard if you have a fan oven (for even baking results)
- Pre-heat the oven

Ingredients for 12 fairy cakes

110g/4oz unsalted butter - soft
110g/4oz caster sugar
110g/4oz self-raising flour
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp good quality vanilla extract


Large mixing bowl and electric hand mixer
Or table top mixer, or food processor
Dessert spoon or ice-cream scoop
12-hole bun tin
Paper baking cases
Cooling rack


Get ready…
Take the butter and eggs out of the fridge in good time

Preheat your oven to 180C (fan-assisted), 190C (no fan), 375f, Gas Mark 5.
Get ingredients and equipment ready.

Put all the ingredients into your mixing or food processor bowl and mix thoroughly, on a medium speed for about 3 minutes. Stop every now and then to scrape mixture down from the sides of the bowl. The end result should be smooth and soft – a dropping consistency as they say; put some on a spoon and it should gently slide off.


A bit too solid? Add a tablespoon (or so) of milk and mix again
A bit lumpy and separated on the surface? The mix has probably curdled. Add a tablespoon (or so) of flour and mix again – it should come back together. In any event don’t despair; a curdled mix just won’t rise quite as well.


The raising agents that will make your cakes rise have been activated, so don’t go and make a cup of tea now. Instead, using your spoon or ice cream scoop, dollop dessert spoonfuls of mixture into the paper cake cases which of course are already in the tin/s, because you’ve followed all the tips…

- Share the mixture out evenly between the paper cases
- Try not to spill it up the sides or over the edges of the cases – it will burn and doesn’t look very nice
- Don’t over fill the paper cases – half to 2/3rds full is fine

Put the tray/s in the oven, set the timer for 12 minutes and resist the temptation to open the door before the pinger goes.

Now you can make a cup of tea, or lick the bowl, or both.

Check your lovely cakes after 12 minutes. They may take longer (up to 20 even) as all ovens cook differently. They’re done when they’re golden and springy to the touch.

Take them out of the oven (with pride), leave them to cool in the tin/s for about 5 minutes then put them out onto a rack to cool completely.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Bespoke Cake Stands from Let them eat Cake

If you love the idea of a vintage cake stand but can’t see quite what you want from our wide range of cake stands in our Let them eat Cake shop, we also offer a bespoke cake stand service.

Creating a bespoke cake stand from our china

We can create a bespoke cake stand for you from our vintage china, to fit a colour scheme, style, size or a special occasion. However, as all of our china is sourced and creatively mismatched, to find specific pieces or colours will take us time, so its best to contact us to let us know what you are after and we can discuss the options with you.

Creating a bespoke cake stand from your special china

Inherited or precious china is a lovely reminder of special people and times. But how often do you use it? Does it sit on a shelf or in a cupboard, loved but un-used?

We can breathe new life into your old china by turning pieces into a cake stand for you to enjoy for years to come.

A bespoke cake stand made from family china makes a very special and totally unique wedding, birthday, Christmas or anniversary gift. A truly modern heirloom.

And don’t forget, one set of old china could yield several cake stands – enough for one each and precious memories all round!

How does it work?

Contact us to discuss our bespoke cake stand service in full. In the meantime, here are some pointers…

You select and send us the china pieces you want us to use. Check them for flaws. We think fading and light crackling in the glaze add to the charm, but cracks and chips are a no-no. Wrap each piece carefully and separately.

We recommend a courier rather than regular post for china. We can suggest couriers and even arrange pick up if you like. We’ll simply pass on the charge as billed to us – usually around £5. We can also arrange insurance through the courier if you want it.

Allow 14 days for delivery of your cake stand, though if you have an urgent request call and we’ll do our best to help.

If your cake stand is a gift (or even if it isn’t!) we can supply you with a lovely box, for a small extra charge.

We can make pedestal and tiered cake stands. If you have just a single plate we can source other vintage plates to make you a tiered stand, if that’s what you’d like… This service takes longer as it takes time to find the right china to mix with yours. You can’t rush creativity.

So do drop us a mail and we can see how we can make your bespoke cake stand dreams come true!