It’s bad news for Rachel Brown’s “Need A Cake” business, which has taken a bit of a financial bashing. She usually produces a manageable 100 cupcakes a month but found herself out of her depth and out of pocket after she signed up to the hugely successful Groupon voucher website to boost sales. It’s unfortunate that she made a loss making £2.50 each and wiped out her profits for the year. Why? Well, she was offering a discount so great that she was in effect paying the customer to eat them. She had to bake 102,000 treats and employ agency staff to whip them up in order to honour the voucher customers. It’s probably a good idea to ask a long list of questions, hit in the internet and do your sums before you deal with any voucher website, that’s as a business or as a punter.
Good news though for Cookie Girl, and for me, who’s cupcake decorating course I booked via Keynoir. This session was held in her Kensal Rise kitchen, seven of us were taken through a two-hour decoration master class and left with eight of our freshly piped masterpieces. When we meet she doesn’t seem rushed off her slingbacks or stressed because the voucher scheme has taken her by surprise, just tired, she’s recently had a baby.
Cookie Girl is in fact Xanthe Milton and author of “Eat Me!” a rather fine book full of recipes for cup cakes and bakes. We were lucky enough to have the master teach us how to decorate her freshly baked fairy cakes but she has a team of trainers who go into offices and hen parties and get people piping.
We all learnt how to make the icing top, left with a Victoria Sponge recipe to create the cakes with variations on the theme.
From roses, helter skelters, piques and ‘Mr Whippy’ toppings we transformed the delicate fairy cakes and gained real skill. What in fact you do learn is the classic swirl, rose swirl, two tone swirls and daisy shapes. In fact all of the ladies in the group said that they felt more confident wielding a piping bag. Just being told how to hold that properly was a massive hurdle for a woman who ends up with more icing up her arm than on any cake I’ve ever baked. Xanthe’s patience and guidance ensured we all left with cakes that looked good enough to eat.
The decorating baubles, glitter, red lips and love hearts turned Xanthe’s kitchen into a junior school art class and we were all in our element. Topping the cakes with more sugar and sparkle added another dimension.
Xanthe told us how she gets City boys (and girls) team building. Taking hardened financial brains into a kitchen with a piping bag, sounds like a hoot and apparently they’re incredibly popular.
My course was £27 so a brilliant discount to the usually £55. That voucher offer is over now but you can book via her website.
Xanthe also runs a full day cup cake decorating class, private baking lessons and half day baking lessons. She also gets kids in the kitchen and does a mean Children’s Party by the pictures on her website. Forget your run-of-the-mill party bag – if you book one of her parties guests leave with a box they’ve decorated and cakes they’ve made inside – wish I were 12 again.