I've heard a lot of people saying 2016 hasn't been the best of years. Other than any personal/professional issues, so many, like myself, have had emotions run high over events or cruddies like Brexit, US elections, the refugee crisis, Orlando nightclub attack amongst many other acts of terrorism - it would seem only horrible things happen on Earth. Not to mention my Facebook news feed has been reading like an obituary of famous people. But I am the forever optimist and I am positive the world is not ending (yet...I'll elaborate on that in a bit), the sun will rise everyday (even in December in the Northern hemisphere), and everyone will be much better off if we all individually endeavour to be more compassionate, mindful, and generally nicer/less $hitty people.
Chrimbo-Limbo, or the perineum between Christmas and New Year as I've heard it be hilariously described, is typically the time of year to feel bloated and enjoy a refreshingly slower pace, and reflect on the big wins and losses of the year. It helps shape a plan to start off the new year with. For me, I don't care much for terms such as "winning" and "losing" in this context because they insinuate some sort of finality in a competition. You win or lose at the Olympics, not in life. Hence, I've titled my post as Loves and Lessons, because not only am I an amazingly self assured bad@ss creative chef, I'm now also a new-age, self-proclaimed self-help Instaguru.
1. THAT Time-Out front cover: Hands down, STFU moment!!! It was one of the biggest honours to be recognised as one of the top dessert makers in London by one of the top London magazines, and having my work grace their front cover is probably the biggest compliment I have ever received (right up there along with "You look like Padma Lakshmi", or "You're exotic like a mango" but much more believable)
2. Cool Custom and Corporate projects: Working with brands such as Cadburys, Dr Oetkar and BBC on stuff like recipe creation, cake decorating masterclasses and corporate cupcakes has been exciting and providing a fun buzz to our everyday.
I got on a jazzy Double Decker bus, had a road trip to Leeds to teach over 8 hours in a day, and we made hundreds of cakes and cupcakes! And that willy cake, oh geez, only click through this linkif you wanna be really grossed out but laugh out loud, I'm not gonna post a pic here cuz y'know, kids.
3. The Croquembouche Cake: My favourite creation ever, our own croquembouche cake made from 100% cake, and decorated with various dessert items such as macarons, profiteroles, chocolates, meringues, eclairs, candied popcorn, cookies, buttercream flowers etc.
There's me showing off our all new "Horn of the Unicorn 🦄" cake tower - ALL 4.84 kgs of it! Thank you to everyone who guessed the weight in the previous post - the response has been amazinggg!! We do have one FrEaKISHLY close guess of 4.85 by @bohemiannaboo who is our giveaway winner! @bohemiannaboo please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your London delivery address for this beast to make its way to you tomorrow 💋 . . #buzzfeast #food #beautifulcuisines #foodgram #infatuation #foodandwine #yougottaeatthis #dessertbae #foodintheair #ohwowyes #feedfeed #dailyfoodfeed #tastemade #eeeeeats #asos #lovefood #picoftheday #foooodieee #foodporn #colorbae #delicious #heresmyfood #foodoftheday #foodpornshare #wonderful #vsco #eatnowplaylater 🦄🦄🦄🦄
It made THAT front cover I've just gushed about, hung out with some of the best talents I admire (@cakesbycliff and @enyatodd) and we've made them for birthdays and Christmas celebrations and look forward to creating them for weddings soon!
4. My best friend's wedding: I was a Matron of Honour ("Matron"?! Really?! I think I'd take exotic mango over that please) as well as Cake Maker for this incredibly special occasion in Devon.
The wedding featured one of my personal favourite cakes, the bride and groom were some of my favourite people, and the day was one of my favourite days. So freakin much favouriting.
5. Alice in Wonderland: This design is like the gift that keeps on giving. I created this to mark Alice's 150 year anniversary. It's my most loved fairy tale, so much so that I drew inspo for our own wedding festivities from it, and it is now also one of my most loved cake designs. It caused a little bit of an online ruckus when a certain US celeb shared it on their social media however the design stood up for itself (as did I) and all was much better.
The most expensive ingredient in our cakes is not the Belgian chocolate, pure dairy butter, almonds, vanilla pods etc...it's TIME. Time to imagine, time to create, time to practice and time to perfect. We noticed a sudden spike in traffic to our website and after a lil sleuthing it appears to be because of this post by @sandraleeonline who posted an image of our display Alice in Wonderland cake in Selfridges. I don't know who Sandra Lee is and while I thank her for sharing our work (uncredited) and am flattered by some of the comments, a proportion of the misguided comments are also very sad. I'm sure someone can replicate this and do it a lot cheaper, but we made it first and that's our point of difference. Innovation and improvisation leads the way, while imitation seldom does, or so I say to myself anyway. In the great words of John Ruskin, "There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man's lawful prey." For anyone curious about "how much of a fortune" this cake costs, the link is in profile 😜 And to all the finger pokers and decoration pickers...look what you have doneeeeeeee to my babyyyyyyy. It's now social-media famous full of finger marks!!! 😭😭😭
It's one of our best-sellers and an absolute joy to create each time despite how long it takes...just...grrr those handmade toadstools.
6. Visiting my Family: There isn't a better time than NOW. This time last year I realised we were busy fools trying to run a shop premise as well as online and Selfridges bakery, whereas this year I realised the business was running us more than we were running it. Before we knew it, it was coming up to 2 years since I saw my parents. Nothing terrible happened but my mind was cloudy, energy zapped, and I couldn't figure out why I was feeling so pants. I can now firmly say it was because I was getting run down by not taking any time out for ourselves, and after having watched one of those TED talky type things where they reveal the biggest regret anyone ever has on their deathbed is not spending enough time with their family we made the decision to put ourselves first and planned to spend two uninterrupted weeks with mine in Kolkata, India.
Not only did we come back looking visibly fresher (yeah! Fresh mango!), I'm brimming with ideas and inspiration and cannot wait to get stuck right it.
Lessons & Tough Love:
1. Time is finite: And valuing my time as a human, not a robot. With so much more exposure and awareness we have sadly had our own share of "freebie" requests and "collaboration" enquiries dressed up as nothing but "cake for free". I like making new friends, networking, collaborating etc but being told "your work may get eaten or tweeted by a celeb", "your work may make it on TV", "goody bag this goody bag that" and the likes is so zzzzzz and gets a template one-line response from us.
A younger and less experienced me may have indulged, but being older, more cynical and having to work to live grounds me firmly into reality.
2. Bad Eggs Be Gone: I'm not just talking in terms of ingredients, you'd hope that was a lesson learnt a long time ago! I'm talking in terms of opportunities or enquiries that just don't sit right. I've applied the very important lesson of Time is Finite to recognise who and what is worth our time. It sucks to say No to that rare odd enquiry that gives me the total heeby jeebies, or deal with dodgy anti-competitive behaviour online (eg: copy cats, using our brand name as part of Google Adwords amongst others...naughty naughty), but I'm treating it like Taylor Swift's band-aid - rip it off, and shake it off.
3. Sustainability: This year we've invested in a hybrid electric vehicle used for our deliveries. We've also made a conscious decision to minimise food and paper waste by making efficient meal and production plans, and going paperless in terms of invoicing and reconsidering all our packaging. I love polar bears, and despite this love being unrequited I do not want them to starve and drown in melting ice caps and want to do a little bit more to help kill the planet a little less.
4. Change is constant: Adapt, adapt, ADAPT. We sold out of macaron gift boxes earlier this year. It sucked selling out of the product that we built the business on all those years ago, and with Brexit affecting the exchange rate so much we decided against restocking due to the much higher expense. I was pretty upset about it, but over time realised I was a lot less stressed and was better focusing on our core product now, CAKE, which is way more rewarding (and we haven't "ruined anyone's Christmas" this year or been called a "dingbat". Hurrah! Oh the stories though ;)...). Also, with our view on sustainability I realised how much waste was being created by the gift boxes - from the packaging box itself, to the inner lining, bubble wrap, packing hay, mailing box, tape, dispatch notes and labelling. While it was essential for our business before, it isn't anymore as we have evolved into a different business.
5. I freakin' need a driver's licence. Badly.
My above achievements and lessons are a small drop in the ocean of what was an unpredictable 2016, and I hope the world's 2017 sees a lot more brighter moments overshadowing the bleak ones and that I see my family and friends more. Because you know, that TED talky thing also revealed that no man ever said on their deathbed "I wish I had worked more!!".
Lots of not-so-self-helpy love,
ps: I am not a self-help Instaguru. Please don't take my advice on anything other than making macarons and drip cakes. All that other stuff?? That's just me learning as I go along wading through the poo of life. You're welcome to help yourself to it.