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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The floral language of love

The whole world seems to be caught up in the romance of Prince William's impending marriage to Catherine Middleton. It was an article about their wedding cake in the Telegraph, which inspired me to research this topic. Apparently Kate (I really can't get used to referring to her as Catherine... ) has requested flowers to play a part in the decoration of her cake by the amazing Fiona Cairns, not only for their beauty but also for their meaning. The daffodil, rose, thistle and shamrock will represent the four nations and other blooms will convey messages of love and luck for the marriage.

Flowers are probably the most popular decoration on wedding cakes, they change with trends but are generally present in one form or another. Using the meaning of flowers to convey a message dates back to the Victorian era, and it is one that now fascinates me. It can also be a minefield as there are many that should perhaps be avoided on your wedding day. Striped carnations (not my favourite flower it has to be said) mean "No, refusal, sorry I can't be with you" and Anenomes (which are so pretty and do feature on my cakes - see above) mean forsaken... oops!

Roses are always a popular choice and the classic red rose symbolises love but avoid the deepest crimson which is more appropriate as a funeral bloom. I'm slightly perturbed by this as I had very deep roses on my wedding day and I wouldn't like to say which side of the crimson/red line they were on.

The meaning of many flowers is simply love, loveliness, pleasure, lasting affection etc... but others have longer messages and the idea of combining two or three of these on a cake in the form of a floral love letter is truly romantic and something I will be using when I redo the display cakes in my window in the next few weeks. The following are some of my favourites:

Lily of the valley - you've made my life complete

Stock - you'll always be beautiful to me

Blue violet - I'll always be true

White rose - you're heavenly

Primrose - I can't live without you

Orange Blossom - Eternal love

White Camelia - You're adorable

White Heather - Wishes will come true

I will keep you posted as I design and make my love letter cake... will it be fit for a princess?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Hula Ella

I love all my orders but some are extra precious, especially when they are for someone special. I met Alex 10 years ago on our mutual honeymoons and we've been firm friends since despite the distance... she lives in France. So when she asked me to make a special topper for her daughter's 8th Birthday cake I was so pleased... it turns out though it was an even bigger deal as the topper was then going to be put into a time capsule for Ella's 18th Birthday too :-) I was so excited and couldn't wait to get started.... the small problem of getting it to France? ... well I'd cope with that later :-)

Ella wanted a Hula themed party and already had her costume at the planning stage so Alex sent me a photo and I got to work. Hula Ella all completed I packed her up super carefully and we crossed all our fingers and hoped for the best. Unfortunately when she got to France she was headless, but thanks to Alex's new found cake decorating skills she was put back together and you would never have known:-)

Above are a few pictures throughout the process and the finished cake made and expertly decorated by Alex, can you believe she's only being doing this a few months???? :-)

Thank you Alex, was a pleasure to be involved in such a special project, not to wish your daughter's childhood away but, I can't wait for Ella's 18th now, hopefully I'll be able to get to you for that one :-) xxx

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Fighting Feathers!

I read this expression the other day and it just struck home... In context it wasn't relevant at all (describing the political intrigue of the jacobite uprising of 1745) but the words "I feel as though I'm fighting feathers" really sums up the stresses of starting your own business. The hard work is a given when you embark on this kind of adventure, you know it will be all consuming but the frustration lies in what is out of your really do feel like your fighting against something as wispy and almost intangible as feathers!
I'm a complete control freak so it's not surprising I get stressed by the things I can't either can't control or where I've been wrong and am learning as I go along, but I'm guessing this applies to lots of new ventures too. I think the two main areas for me are advertising and revenue.
Advertising or more specifically getting your message to the right market is harder than it seems and boy have I learnt the hard way, I've been seduced by glamour (see Vogue add above.. expensive and effectively useless) swayed by wedding fairs (an obvious choice you may think, but not that effective either) and found the most productive advertising to be word of mouth and internet searches.... You have to think like your customer, where do I look for anything these days.... erm GOOGLE. If you don't show up on an internet search you're not going to get very far.... this is something I'm in the process of remedying with a brand new website that acually shows up on search engines! The second marketing tool I'm finding incredibly helpful in terms of getting my name out there is networking. Not expensive BNI type affairs but twitter and tweet meets collaborations with fellow wedding professionals. By mutually promoting each other, we will hopefully increase all our profiles and have a lot of fun along the way.

The advantages of having a presence on the high street are huge, especially as well placed as my studio is above a beautiful florists and bridal boutique I am lucky to have a ground floor window display too, I love it when people come in and say it's the cakes on display that have drawn them in :-) Obviously this needs to be weighed against the cost of running the studio but I'm convinced it will pay for itself in time.

The frustration with revenue is fairly obvious, more needed now not six months down the line when the wedding happens. In the wedding industry cakes are normally booked with a deposit and the balance paid a month or so before the wedding... so the first few months are pretty hairy, I know it will balance out eventually but this bit is literally robbing Peter to pay Paul. You always hear that it's the first year where businesses are fighting for every penny and it's sooo true. I'm learning not to count a booking unless I actually have hold of the deposit as people can be very 'relaxed' about getting round to handing it over but at the same time am amazed by the amount of bookings that have been taken since the studio opened, I can see a light somewhere far away in the distant future when I might actually be able to come home and present my salary to the family :-) I'm afraid I'm guilty of telling my girls that mummy has to work so I'll have lots of money to buy nice things for them.... well one day girls I promise :-)
All this said, I wouldn't change it for the world nobody said starting your own business would be easy but it's a hell of an achievement and worth every tear and every late night...I have big plans for Just Darling Cakes! The studio is looking fabulous, I've got lots of exciting projects coming up with Hello Vintage, Caterpilar Dreams and I am Nat and I can honestly say I love it ... and the feathers.... well that's just character building :-)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

I am Nat

I want to share with you the wonders of I am Nat! Natalie Ramsell is a designer, and she creates the most beautiful stationary, wedding invites, business cards, save the dates, you name it and Nat creates it in her own unique way.
I had the pleasure of having afternoon tea with Nat in my Studio last week and she brought along a goody box filled with samples of her work. She's currently working on an Alice in Wonderland themed wedding and there are some examples of the stationary above... how gorgeous? I love the 'open me', 'eat me', drink me', labels and can't wait for Nat to design some similar ones to put on my boxes of cupcakes and cookies.
I will be displaying examples of Nat's work in my studio and you can see more by visiting her website Mark my words she is destined for big things :-)

Monday, 14 February 2011

My proposal

As I've invited you to tell me romantic or funny stories about your proposals I thought I'd better start you off with mine, which falls into both catergories :-)
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago... in 2000 Mark decided it was time and dreamt up a really romantic proposal, which he managed to execute (pretty much... but we'll come to that in a bit) to the letter.

In keeping with tradition and unbeknownst to me he asked my Dad's permission, how I missed the sweaty palms and stress leading up to this I don't know and luckily he said yes, so hard part over :-) He then picked out a ring and ordered it in my size and then started to panic how on earth he was going to get the ring to Barbados without customs wanting him to take it out his pocket or something similar... so he hid it in a trainer in the bottom of the suitcase... urgh! How nervous was he waiting for the cases to come through in baggage reclaim :-D

He wanted to propose at sunrise and the first few days were really foggy so on the third day he dragged me out of bed and down to the beach... we wandered along... all very romantic at this point, except for being pestered to death by a guy selling Aloe Vera! Then he chose his spot got down on one knee and proposed, lots of tears and yesses later, we recovered and continued to wander along the beach, where Mark promptly fell over the only rock in sight and ripped off his little toe nail....
... cue lots of blood and a nasty trail of the stuff back to the hotel room, where I woke his parents up in the next room for a bit of help (hubby not good with blood) and hastily hiding the ring behind my back (seemed like the wrong moment to tell them) we sorted Mark out before going out for a celebratory breakfast. What a day and it was only about 8.00am by this point :-)
Share your stories too and get a 20% discount off your wedding cake when booked at The Just Darling Cake Studio!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Photos and Makeup

Saturday was so much fun :-) The lovely Jo Bilham of did a fabulous job of doing my makeup and Kev of took some amazing shots of my work. I've only seen a selection of the photos and can't wait to see the whole disc next week but here's a few tasters :-)
I'm finding half the fun of having my own business and working in the wedding industry is the lovely people I get to meet and work with. Thanks to social networks, like facebook and twitter and events such as wedding fairs, I regularly meet new people many whom I will feature in my blog over the next few weeks. I used to work in the oil industry and whenever I had to 'network' would clam up as I didn't have a clue what I was talking about, but now you can't stop me nattering away :-) I'm very lucky to be able to do what I love everyday and hopefully one day might even make some money out of it ;-)
Thanks so much for your time Jo and Kev!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Valentines Day

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, surprise the love of your life with a beautiful basket of delicious handmade butter cookies, decorated with romantic quotations and messages, a cookie lollipop or a box of scrumptious cupcakes...

Cookie Basket £20

A dozen cellophane wrapped cookies in a wicker basket. Cookies can be iced with personal messages.

Cookie Lollipop £2.00

Individual cellophane wrapped cookies on a lollipop stick, iced with a pesonal message, what will yours say?

Box of 4 cupcakes £10

Beautifully giftwrapped red velvet cupcakes, iced with personal messages.

The messages can be individually personalise and even take the form of a question... any proposals made with a cookie or cupcake will receive a 20% discount on ordering their wedding cake at the Just Darling Cake Studio.

Pictures of the products will be posted shortly.