Simply Scrumptious!!!

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 lolasbakes@yahoo.co.uk

22/08/15
Birthday parties are like road trips: getting there is half the fun. Deciding on the theme, decorations, and activities makes the days leading up to the event seem like part of the celebration itself. It needn't be too elaborate -- kids will be happy with a small party as long as they are made to feel special.
Even a simple party requires planning; the sooner you start organizing, the earlier the excitement begins and the fewer details you'll have to work out on the day itself.

The birthday child will likely have ideas about the kind of party he wants, so involve him in the planning. Let your child pick the theme, help you with shopping and decorating, and take part in choosing or baking the cake. Doing so helps spread out the anticipation; that way the focus isn't on a couple of hours of a single day.

Although it might be more efficient to do it all yourself, there's pleasure in working with your child toward an important goal. Plus, he'll have the reward of enjoying with his friends the magical day he helped plan. (Print our planner and work on filling it out together.) (he here 'she')


Pre-Party Timeline

4-6 Weeks Before
Choose the theme, draw up the guest list, confirm the date with your child's best friend, and reserve off-site space.
4 Weeks Before
Write out invitations; get updated class list; and decide on games, activities, and food. Order the cake.
3 Weeks Before

Mail invitations, purchase party goods, start homemade decorations and favors, and arrange for extra help, if needed.
1 to 2 Weeks Before
Purchase crafts supplies and favors, draw up a schedule of activities, make samples of planned crafts, and call guests who have not yet responded.
3 Days Before
Buy food.
1 to 2 Days Before
If self-baking, bake the cake, decorate your home or be sure off-site supplies are gathered, and prepare make-ahead foods.


The Guest List
Whom to Invite
Make sure your child's best friend is free before you set the date. When including classmates, think "all" -- all the kids, all the boys, or all the girls -- if you want to avoid hurt feelings.

How Many to Invite
If you're not inviting lots of classmates, the rule of thumb is to ask as many kids as your child's age plus one. But take into account the activities you're planning. A larger, even number of kids -- at least eight or 10 -- may be best for team games at a 5-year-old's party, but you may want just three guests for a 7-year-old's sleepover.

Invitations
Mail invitations three weeks before the party. Even if your child's school permits distribution of invitations on the premises (many don't unless the whole class is included), it's better not to. That way, children who aren't invited are less likely to feel slighted.

1. Include the date, location (with directions), drop-off and pick-up times, and R.S.V.P. information.
2. Spell out anything to bring, such as a swimsuit and towel.
3. Say if you'll be serving lunch or dinner.
4. Mention specific entertainment, such as a movie.
5. Call parents who have not responded the week before the party; after all, invitations do get lost.

Enlisting Helpers
You can't greet guests while supervising a game or cut the cake while pouring drinks, so figure on having one helper for every four to six children. Ask other parents ahead of time, or hire a babysitter or older sibling to help.


Where to Have It

At Home
At an at-home party, the birthday child's on his own turf, and you know where to find everything. To keep kids from wandering around, define the party area with balloons and streamers, and close doors to other rooms.

Off-Site
Parks are great for warm-weather parties; just be sure to have a backup plan in case of rain.
1. Suspend streamers or paper festooning between trees or along a fence.
2. Spread colorful sheets or blankets on the ground.
3. Mark the party's boundaries and blanket corners with clusters of bright balloons tied to thin wooden dowels stuck in the ground.
4. Draping fabric over a tall fence or over a clothesline provides an attractive backdrop for party photos.

Community Centers, YMCAs, and Churches
Prices vary according to locale, but generally run about $75 at a community center or $100 at a Y, with an hour for swimming. Book at least six weeks in advance, and get the name of a contact person.
1. You may only have a short time to decorate a rented space, so use portable decorations and plan for another adult or two to help you.
2. Have all the balloons already blown up and strung together in bunches before you arrive at the site.
3. Hang decorations with supplies that won't mar the walls, such as low-tack tape, string, and removable self-adhesive hooks.
4. Make a large room friendlier: Use streamers to define the party area.
5. You can also outline the space with balloons tied to anchors.


When to Have It


Time of Day
Schedule parties for young children when they will be at their best, neither too sleepy nor too hungry. After nap time works well for toddlers; lunchtime is good for preschoolers. As kids grow older, timing becomes a less important factor.


Duration
Don't feel like you have to entertain for hours. Toddlers and preschoolers do best with parties kept to an hour and a half. Anywhere from two to three hours is time enough for school-age kids.

Party Basics at a Glance

Ages 1 to 2
Time of Day: After Nap Time
Duration: 1 Hour
Number of Guests: Varies

Ages 3 to 4
Time of Day: Lunchtime or Late Afternoon
Duration: 1 to 1 1/2 hours
Number of Guests: 4 to 5 Children

Ages 5 to 6
Time of Day: Early to Mid-Afternoon
Duration: 1 1/2 to 2 Hours
Number of Guests: 6 to 7 Hours

Ages 7 to 8
Time of Day: Early to Mid-Afternoon
Duration: 2 to 2 1/2 Hours
Number of Guests: 8 to 9 Children

Ages 9 to 10
Time of Day: Mid- to Late Afternoon
Duration: 2 1/2 to 3 Hours
Number of Guests: 10 to 11 Children

What to Serve
Baking and decorating your child's birthday cake (or cupcakes) is worth the effort cakes, you could also order from a responsible store where cakes are made from scratch with quality ingredients. Spend time on baking or ordering the best cake, choose other foods that are easy to serve, eat, and clean up. That said, even simple food can seem special. H

Here are some ideas:
1. Cut sandwiches into cute shapes using cookie cutters (cut crusts off first); or use a knife to cut them up into pieces like a puzzle.
2. Serve snacks in creative containers. Somehow, hot dogs are more appealing served in paper boats, just like at the movies. For a fishing-themed party, kids will get a kick out of being served punch from a fishbowl.
3. Turn lunch into an activity. Let kids top English-muffin pizzas. Show them how to make faces with sliced-olive eyes, a pepperoni nose, and bell-pepper mouth.

Choosing Favors
Trinkets and candy are popular and inexpensive favors. If you prefer, you can give out a single more substantial favor, such as a board book for toddlers or a small flashlight for older kids.
1. Match the goodies to the theme: You might give a teacup for a tea party, an action figure for a character party, or flowerpot and seeds for a garden party.
2. Let kids make their own party favors -- a potato-print T-shirt, for example -- as one of the activities.
3. Decorate with items that guests can take with them when the party is done, such as posters or pennants for a baseball party.
4. Arrange with the entertainer to use props or supplies -- individual face-painting kits or magic tricks, for instance -- that kids can then take home with them.

What to Do
Pacing is important. It's helpful to divide the party into 10- to 15-minute increments, with a new activity for each block of time. Allot about 30 minutes for an entertainer (or kids may lose interest), and 15 minutes each for lunch, cake, and opening gifts. If a game or craft isn't going well, drop it and move on; if kids enjoy a particular game, let it run longer than planned. To keep the party moving, jot down the schedule on an index card, and then refer to it frequently or get a party entertainer, they are great at organising the children and keeping them entertained.

1. As kids arrive, you might usher them to a crafts table, where they can busy themselves until more guests arrive.
2. Keep games and activities simple for toddlers: Stick to games they know well or activities without complicated rules (such as dancing or tag).
3. Older kids need more stimulation: plan sports or organized activities based on what your child loves to do, or consider booking an entertainer.

Hiring an Entertainer
Gather references from other parents as well as children's museums or local libraries. When you call a potential entertainer, ask what age group the show is designed for before you mention your child's age. While magicians and clowns are classic for kids' parties, there are lots of other kid-pleasing options:

1. Balloon artists (their creations double as party favors)
2. Mobile petting zoos
3. Hairstylists or manicurists (call a local beauty school for suggestions)
4. Choreographers or dance teachers 5. Face painters
6. Professional storytellers
7. Deejays

Games Galore

The Classics
Tweak tried-and-true favorites to match the party theme. Simon Says becomes Fairy Godmother Says for a princess party, Musical Chairs is Musical Towels for a swim party, and Pin the Tail on the Donkey can be Pin the Trunk on the Elephant for a jungle theme.

Egg Relay Race
At "go," the first child in each of two teams balances a hard-boiled egg on a spoon, walks about five feet to a marker, returns, and passes the egg and spoon to the next in line. The first team to finish with an uncracked shell wins.

Treasure Hunt
Kids follow the first clue ("Go to the TV") to find the next clue ("Look inside the mailbox"), and so on, until the last clue reveals the treasure: goodie bags. For nonreaders, draw or photograph the clues (such as the refrigerator or car).

Obstacle Course
Guests go through a series of challenges set up in the backyard: walking along a two-by-four, hopping a figure eight around two chairs, crawling under the length of a picnic table, doing a wheelbarrow walk between two markers, and so on.

Dress-Up Race
Two shopping bags of clothes contain a skirt, shirt, hat, gloves, and jewelry. The first kid in each team puts on every item (fastening all the buttons), then takes them off and returns them to the bag. Then it's the next child's turn. The first team to finish wins.

Gifts Now or Later?
There are good reasons to open presents during the party, and just as many reasons to wait until afterward. Some kids love seeing their gift being unwrapped, especially if they picked it out. So guests don't get bored, put names in a hat; the one that's chosen is the child whose present gets opened next. Kids can forget their manners in the excitement, so help your child practice her thank-yous beforehand. It may be less chaotic, particularly for young kids, if your child opens his gifts after the party. In that case, snap a photo of her with each gift and send it with the thank-you.

A Proper Good-Bye
Have the birthday child personally say thank-you and good-bye to each guest at the door, and hand them a favor bag as they leave.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Comments...
08/04/15

                        Nice to see you again!!!
The Call

Running into Holborn underground station to get the central line to Oxford circus, my phone rings persistently – finally I give in and pick the call against my better judgment of missing the train and skewing my entire plan for the day.
On the other end of the phone was a customer who wanted me to create a shoe cake (cake made fully out of cake) for his girlfriend’s birthday.
I was initially excited as I had seen a few cakes carved as shoes. I assumed this was what he was after. I listened for a while – explained I was trying to get the train and promised to call him back as soon as I was off the train. Asked him to send me a picture of her shoe or any he had in mind.
While on the train – I got his email and there was the shoe as I expected, carved out of cake and laid on a cake board. As I reviewed the picture, it popped in my mind – “why not an upright shoe”.
After all my London business was concluded, I called the customer and funny enough he was thinking along the same lines. I promised him a price, luckily we had 3 weeks to prepare the cake.
 

Preparation
My greatest challenge would be to get the cake to stand upright. I goggled and found just one upright heeled cake that somewhat aligned with my expectations – there were however no details or hints (I really don’t blame the cake artist).
I went to my local cake shop and spoke with the lady, she hadn’t had such a request but came up with some suggestions for supports…. I however wanted the cake to be totally free standing. 
 
After much thought – U become an engineer in this instance – I concluded that the sturdiest sections of the cake would be the heel and the sole. The customer wanted chocolate cake and my best chocolate cake – the mud cake is heavy on its own and I would need loads of buttercream and fondant.
 
Getting the template right can take some time as you want to make the cake look realistic and also have enough cake to feed the guests.
 

the Heel.
There is no short cut to preparing the heel – this should either be made with modelling chocolate or modelling paste. I2 days before the cake was due , I coloured the modelling paste in black, cut out my sole template (made larger than a normal shoe so there is enough cake to feed the guests) formed my heel – 5.5 inches high – with reference to the sole template, I stuck dowels in the heel as I needed it sturdy enough to carry weight of the cake, buttercream and fondant without cracking.
I left the heel to dry for 12days as I wanted it super rock solid.


the Shoe Sole
 I decided on a sole size that looked appropriate above. To make the sole sturdy I used 2 firm food friendly corrugated cardboard boxes glues together. I allowed this to dry out for 3 days. I ensured that the heel of the sole aligned with the top of the heel.
I worked on bending the cardboard to the shape I wanted it to form.
On the day of cake assembly, I attached black modelling paste to the underside of the sole as adhering it any earlier could have led to the paste cracking.
 

the Cake
The cake for this project was my best mud chocolate cake --- extremely yummy cake paired with chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. 
For the toes section of the shoe I baked 2 6inch tins and for the sole I baked an 8inch square. I always prefer to have more cake than not enough.
 
 

Assembly.
 
Assembling the cake was great fun; it was a great luxury I was home alone – no distractions.
I started with the front of the shoe, carved out the rounded shape from the 6 inch cakes, wanted a realistic look so went for 3 inches but next time will go a bit higher….we live and learn. I butter creamed this section and put it in the fridge to firm up.
I then worked on the sole, measured it and cut up my 8 inch cake into smaller chunks. I used the left over rounded parts of the 6 inch cakes for the heel portion of the sole.
While assembling, I didn’t want to put the pressure on the heel so looked for a container the same length as the heel.
I was nervous and excited during the assembling as I wondered if the sole would withstand the weight of the cake, buttercream and fondant. I think what greatly helped the sole was the modelling paste I adhered to the underside of the sole. I would not advice using fondant on the sole or for the heel.

Learnings
1. Ensure buttercream is as smooth as possible
2. Roll your fondant 1/16th or less if possible. Using a good brand like Renshaw helps
3. Will make the front much higher next time

#shoecake
All said - the cake was a success, the celebrant loved it........job done!!!!!
 

 
Lola
Comments...
17/02/15

So glad to see you here again!!!!

Last few weeks have been busy, quite a bit (lot) of caking and a lot on the personal home front too.
Made some interesting and for me challenging cakes (successfully) and used a whole lot of my favourite buttercream – the Swiss Meringue buttercream. Still tweaking the buttercream to suit me but all in all – love its taste.

Today I am sharing 2 skills I learnt in the last month.


The Extended tier cake –  big brother to the Double Barrel cake – it is indeed another kettle of fish on its own.
I did some homework on this cake – read as many blogs and posts and watched as many You-tube videos as I could get my hands on and got the confidence to tackle this headlong.
 
Our Extended tier was made of 3 10inch cakes each 3.5inches high – giving a cake 10 inches in diameter and 10.5 inches tall.

The individual layers were crumb coated and refrigerated to harden the crumb coat. The final coat of frosting however was a good skill testing challenge.
The three cakes were stacked one atop the other, dowels inserted in the individual cakes for support (I didn't use a central dowel for this) . One of the challenges was not having the luxury of the refrigerator to harden the final coat (cake too big), I had to leave the cake on the table for the buttercream to firm up, I also didn’t have a 10inch wide bench scrapper (searching for one)

Having decided before hand on the wrap and cover fondant method - my second challenge was rolling out my fondant long and wide enough to go round the extended tier to measure 36 inches in width and 12 inches in height.
Kneading 1.8kg of fondant is no easy job….I really would love a fondant sheeter.... anyone…!!!
Taped 2 fondant mats together to get the desired length, and successful rolled out the fondant – albeit not as thin as I would have liked but not too thick either.
I tried my best to get the fondant onto the cake quickly...….learning – get someone to help you with this part - I sure will next time I embark on such a huge project – the fondant and the rolling pin were quite heavy for me to manoeuvre.

Where the wrap and cover method is used, you have to work quickly to close the seams created before the fondant dries ( I will take pictures on my next project).

The final outcome was great – the 70 year old birthday girl loved her cake.
 
Still got some work to do perfecting my seams but I sure am in love with the double barrel and extended cakes…for now…..... Come on –
place your orders!!!
 
The wax paper transfer method one of my all-time favourite cake artists is Jessica Harris – her work is soooooooo clean, precise and neat. I have spent hours and hours purring and browsing her site …thank goodness she doesn’t charge for views.
 
Got the opportunity to make a Chevron cake and a Stripped cake and decided to use her method. Though a tad time consuming (assuming because it’s my first time) the effect was fantastic. I can’t draw a straight line to save my life (even with a ruler – i chuck it down to short-sightedness) but with this new acquired skill – I am a ‘straight line’ winner. 
 
This method involves getting your required design - try and print this to the width of your cake if covering the whole cake. Tape the design your table, put a clear parchment paper above it. The parchment paper should be smeared lightly in shortening.
Cut out your design from fondant on another sheet and lay on the parchment paper to line with the design underneath the parchment.
Rob some shortening on the top side of the fondant and gently apply this to your cake …..quite simple …not certain I explained it properly.. kindly visit Jessica’s page for more details.
 
I really enjoyed trying out the wax paper transfer method and urge you to try it, if like me you haven’t.
 
Here's hoping I imparted something........smiling.


Happy baking & decorating!!!!
 
Lola
Comments...
16/02/15

Very glad to see you here again !!!!!

To my great honour, I have had messages/ questions from people especially on Facebook requesting advice on making the perfect cake.
I will like to point out that I am still learning a great deal on the 'science' of baking, I have learnt a lot though from 'costly' experience.


1. Oven thermometer - barring you have a brand new oven - I would advice you buy an oven thermometer, this will ensure that your oven is at the right temperature which is absolutely necessary to get a quality bake. I got mine after feeding my bin more cake than necessary - now I get great bakes almost all the time.

2. Pre-heat your oven - except the recipe says otherwise, pre-heat your oven to the required temperature. Assuming a recipe calls for 350 degrees - pre-heat your oven to this temperature before you put your cake in. The cold cake and pan may drop the temperature a bit (indicated on the thermometer) do not however be tempted to increase the temperature. It would come back to the pre-heated temperature.

3. Digital measuring scale - the baker's friend. Weighing your ingredients to the last gram is a must. While some are apt in the use of cups and spoons - I would advice that if you are not, you should get yourself a good digital weighing scale.

4. Room temperature ingredients - as stated earlier - except the recipe says otherwise , all ingredients should be at room temperature. This makes mixing and incorporating the ingredients an easier and smoother task.

5. Follow the recipe - except you are testing and adapting recipes - try as much as possible to find a reputable baker and follow their recipe(s). You could also watch some of the baking videos...which helps.
Feeling adventurous though - experiment.....


6. Your mood -
from personal experience, my mood greatly affects my bakes. Try your best to be in a good place, be as calm as possible......a happy baker makes happy cakes.......lol. My best time to bake is when I am all alone but that is a luxury.

7.  Be organised - plan ahead - decide the pans to be used, weigh and lay out all your ingredients, sift your flours, grease and line your pans before commencing the mixing process. This makes baking fairly smoother and reduces stress greatly.

8. Vanilla Extract/Paste - while my only charge on other ingredients is to use the best you can afford, for recipes that call for Vanilla or other extracts/paste - try and purchase the best , I cannot over-emphasise the effects on the finished product. My preferred is Nielsen-Massey extracts.

9. Do not open your oven- kindly do not open the oven for the first 2/3 part of your baking time.  For a bake of 30minutes, do not open the oven door for 20minutes. Invest in oven lights if possible - would make it easier to view the cake through the door.

All the very best with your bakes!!!!!!!!

 
Lola
Comments...
08/01/15

                                      Baking, Caking and Decorating    

Glad to see you here again!!!!!!

Lately, I have been getting inspiration from almost everything I see, from designs on clothes to even trees - imagining everything as cake and in cake form.... wonderfully crazy and exciting... hun...

There are so many ideas in my head, my pinterest box, instagram, google etc that I am so longing to recreate or totally change.  From flowers to fondant animals to cakes...
 While logically it would take time - I am very eager to do them now. So this week I created one of the "cakes I like"   - the double barrel cake.                         


                                                  Double-Barrel Cake

While this isn't totally new, it is new at Lolasbakes and we sure are proud to have made this.

The double barrel cake is a statement cake as it stands way taller than the average cake and can carry a design off on a grander scale.

A double barrel cake is 2 full cakes of the same size layered (about 4 or 5, 2 inch layers) and 'fondanted' as one. I did quite a bit of research before charging at this cake - and as with most the height of the cake is usually twice it's width.
The main challenge with this cake is working the fondant and getting it on before the fondant dries (this happens quite quickly).
One of my findings that contradicted my plan was that almost all the cakes I researched were frosted in ganache - while I personally love all things chocolate - the request was for a coconut cake and no chocolate (I do pair coconut with white chocolate buttercream...divine...I encourage you to give it a try).

Our cake was frosted in buttercream and allowed to set for an hour in the fridge. The 'fondanting' was the tricky part. I finally went with the wrap and cover method - this requires a good quality fondant, Renshaw is my preferred brand at the moment.....love it's vanilla smell.

Very glad to say this cake covered well and came out very well for a first attempt.

Definitely looking forward to making loads more double barrel cakes as the possibilities and creativity are endless.


The Blog


This blog is my way of sharing my love for baking and decorating and new skills I acquire with 
anyone who would read it and all who share my passion for baking, caking & decorating.
Let’s bake!

 

Lola
Comments...
19/12/14

Hello friends, it’s our maiden blog and I would like to tell you a little bit about LolasBakes and myself.
 

                                  ‘LolasBakes’
As I made my children’s birthday cakes – pictures of which I am too shy to paste……lol – I realised that though these cakes were not pretty sights they however ALWAYS got eaten before the beautifully decorated cakes I ordered from the shop – I usually had to hand out my priced cakes as favours.
A few more family celebration cakes later, I started getting requests from family and friends to make them cakes and hence LolasBakes was born.
LolasBakes is devoted to making simply scrumptious cakes that would not only look good but taste great too.
A lot of love and attention go into creating your delicious masterpieces, incorporating your personal touches and ultimately making you and your party a big treat.
 

                                     ‘a bit about me’
I must confess – I have an addiction – a cake addiction. I am in love with baking cakes, decorating cakes, designing cakes, dreaming cakes and lately using loads and loads of chocolate….in all forms…
I am a mother of 2 boys and a passionate cake maker and artist– I believe this is simply what I’m meant to do.
As a child, I watched my mum in awe as she created birthday cakes, as she mixed the ingredients with her wooden spatula in a bowl. I waited eagerly as I am sure most of you did, for her to hand over the bowl which my siblings and I then proceeded to tussle over.
I baked for fun & friends as I grew older. I loved the look of pleasure and excitement on faces as my cakes were shared, eaten and taken away. 
Of greater pleasure now though is the look of excitement on my customers faces when they see their cakes and great feedback after these cakes have been devoured.
Cake baking , design & decorating brings me a lot of pleasure and I am at my most relaxed and excited when planning a cake, reviewing a cake book, learning a new cake decorating skill……… and even making buttercream. I love trying new and unique flavours & recipes and love introducing these to my customers.
For me cake is much more than the norm, I am currently also in love with tall layered and decadent cakes, huge and sometimes crazy but beautiful non-the-less…. Watch this space!!!
 
                                                                  
  ‘The blog’
This blog is my way to share my love for baking and decorating and any new skills I acquire with well, anyone who would read it and all who share my passion for baking, caking & decorating.
 I am glad you are here.
Let’s get baking……..

 
Lola
Comments...