Monday, February 24, 2014

Seasonal Ba-King

Teetering on the edge of March is a reminder that Easter is around the corner.  To those not familiar with the traditions of the south, this is the season of king cakes.  The king cake is shared during pre-Lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras. 

I never really considered where the name came from nor have I personally tried the pastry, despite spending almost two years stationed in northern Louisiana at Barksdale Air Force Base.  I suppose that's because it freaked me out to see a tiny baby being pulled from someone's mouth. 

According to tradition, the pastry is named for the three kings of the bible who visited the baby Jesus.  And the plastic pink infant symbolizes the Christ child.  Historically the person who's "lucky" enough to discover the baby provides the kings cake the following year.

The season for king cake extends from the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas up to Mardi Gras' "Fat Tuesday"--the day before Lent starts.  And despite the name, Louisiana-style king cakes aren't cake at all.  They aren't batter based but a dough braided and formed into a ring with the baby baked inside.  It's then topped with a sugar glaze and gold, green and purple sanding sugars--reflecting the traditional Mardi Gras colors--along with other decorations.

To date, Cravings Cupcakery hasn't ventured into baking kings cakes, however we can provide you with a festive cake to celebrate your Mardi Gras or Easter event.  And although we can accommodate just about every request and would even bake a king cake upon request, I wouldn't expect to find a naked plastic baby inside unless you mention it when placing your order.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A wedding cake walk

When planning a wedding, there are countless checklists available to help you navigate the many decisions to be made.  Selecting a celebration cake doesn't have to be difficult and can actually be fun if the happy couple follow a few simple steps.

1) Gather ideas early.  If you don't know exactly what you want, consider your wedding theme or style. Whether you're aiming for rustic romance or formal elegance, using Pinterest is a great way to get your thoughts together.  Take into consideration your colors, traditions, tastes and personal style.  A wedding cake should represent you and your groom.  And it doesn't have to be cake.  It can be cupcakes, a dessert table or a combination of all!  Keep photos of your selections to show your baker during the consultation and tasting.  This makes it easy to visually share what you like and elements to eliminate--allowing your to create a personalized focal point for your event.  If you don't have a direction for the cake, ask your baker for suggestions.  An intuitive vendor can recommend ideas based on the other details of your planning.

2) Determine your budget.  Wedding cakes start normally start at $4 per serving for a basic buttercream-covered cake.  Since fondant-covered cakes also have buttercream beneath the fondant layer, they cost more.  Realize this cost reflects the artistry and infrastructure of creating a cake--accounting for not only what you see and taste but what you don't see, the "bones" that ensure the cake stands tall.  A good starting point for budgeting is $5 per serving depending on the level of detail and decorations.  Be sure to ask if the quoted price includes delivery, set up, and taxes.  Delivering and setting up a delicate wedding cake can be a precarious undertaking that requires a skilled professional.

3) Once you know your wedding date and venue location, start looking for a baker.  There are a limited number of bakers who specialize in weddings, with a limited number of slots available.  In 2012, according to The Wedding Report, there were more than 2,000 weddings in the Washington, D.C., area.  That means 2,000 brides were looking for cakes.  Since most of those weddings were held on one of the 52 Saturdays during the year, an average of 40 brides were competing for a baker on the same day--even more during peak wedding season!

4) Research your baker.  Check out bakery websites as well as Facebook and Pinterest pages to see examples of work.  Pay attention to the details of their artistry and reviews of previous clients.  If you don't know where to start--let them come to you by using an online service like, where bakers compete with bids to accommodate your request.  When you find someone you like, schedule a tasting.  Many bakers will charge for this service but deduct the amount if you book them for your wedding.  During the tasting, show them the photos of what you like and ask if they can create your cake.  

5) Book!  In order to reserve your date, a deposit up to 50 percent is normally expected.  Once a contract is signed, check "Find a baker" off your list and relax.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"War" Wounds

Sometimes, like a skirmish in combat, my experiences in the kitchen are a bit risky.  Although at first glance, it seems unlikely that baking--an activity I consider soothing--could be hazardous.  Especially if you watch the professional chefs of television fame who can easily whip up a miracle in a 30-minute time slot.

But for someone like me, who's not so graceful, it's a bit more dangerous--hence the "Bumble" in my blog name.  For example, the oven alone serves as a treacherous obstacle course that constantly threatens lasting scars.  Between the two metal grates, that seem to move toward me as I reach for a cake placed just a little too far into the oven, and the door that creeps up slowly as if to challenge my skills in removing a batch of cupcakes, we've developed a love-hate relationship.  Of course I love that my gas-powered oven gives me impeccable results every time!  But the burns I incur as a result of my clumsiness drive me to curse its consistent heat.

Although the occurrences have settled down in frequency, at one point I was burning myself at least once a week.  The scars on several fingers, my left forearm and my right wrist all serve as a reminder of who's really in charge of my battlefield--and that oven means business!  My boyfriend commented that I need to find a Nascar-style suit that protects me from head to toe--which undeniably would not only be an investment in safety but could be really cool if styled in the Cravings colors of teal and chocolate brown!  While we're at it, I would want a matching helmet so I don't hurt my head when I bump it--told you I was clumsy!  On second thought, that idea's not realistic for restroom breaks and I really do appreciate the comfort of baking in sweatpants and a t-shirt.

So for now I just remind myself that even the most benign of entrepreneurial efforts incur risk.  For some it's a financial risk that threatens success.  For others it's the risk of failure that drives the business owner to sweat every decision to the point of paralysis.  To combat those risks there are infinite resources.  No doubt there are countless books claiming to hold the key to small business success.  And who knows, maybe one of them is actually right!

But for me, the true measure of success is found in an excited toddler when I deliver their birthday cake or the photos of a Cravings Cupcakery wedding cake that will forever be part of a couple's special day.  These emotional moments in my client's lives resonate in my oven burns.  Those scars are my war wounds and they represent the hours of hard work, creativity and passion dedicated to each client's custom order.  And so, the battle between baker and oven continues.  I'm goin' in!