June 14, 2019 7:02 am Leave your thoughts
A recent addition to the team at Naturally Good Food is Carolyn – local star baker! As well as working part-time in the dispatch department, she has her own cake company: Pretty Little Cakes, based just down the road in Lutterworth. Carolyn’s a professional: she’s been doing this for years, and her cakes both look and taste wonderful. Here at NGF, we happily feast on the leftovers – and get to watch the creative process at first hand (‘A cake in the shape of a basilisk lizard? No problem!’).
Carolyn had never properly made a cake before her son was born. For his first birthday, however, she was determined to bake a celebration cake. ‘The photo of it still haunts me’, she says of that first attempt (though it still sounds pretty good to us). Over the years, she refined her technique. Impressed friends began placing orders and she happily helped them out for birthdays and other occasions, just charging the cost of ingredients.
When a job in a cake-shop as a decorator came up, Carolyn leapt at the chance, working there for three years and honing her art. Finally, she took the plunge and set up her own business. Pretty Little Cakes was born….
It’s a thriving business now – but she still has time to make her children’s birthday cakes. Here’s the most recent one (it’s a horned chameleon)!
What makes a really good cake?
I asked Carolyn: what makes a really good cake? Essentially, it’s two things: the standard of decoration and the quality of the ingredients. For a cake business, the two must go hand in hand. Carolyn uses specialist baking ingredients: ‘it’s no wonder people struggle with the supermarket options’, she says, ‘they don’t work nearly as well’. Standard supermarket icing, for instance, fails to set or mould properly – and without good-quality baking margarine, Carolyn finds it impossible to achieve the necessary ‘lightness’ for her cakes.
Most of Carolyn’s cakes look unusual – and spectacular – but some are also more unusual inside. She does a good line in vegan and dairy-free cakes, for example, using sunflower margarine for both the icing and the base, to give a lovely soft dough. She’s a big fan of soya milk for perfect dairy-free baking, too.
Carolyn hasn’t yet embarked on gluten-free baking, but has become intrigued by the possibilities of all the gluten-free baking ingredients at Naturally Good Food. She’s pretty sure it’s nearly time to dip her toe into the water….
Carolyn’s NGF ingredient tips
Carolyn immediately singles out NGF’s range of Nielsen Massey extracts as star ingredients. ‘There’s a reason they’re so expensive’, she says, ‘they’re gorgeous!’. She uses huge quantities of Nielsen Massey vanilla extract, and adores their vanilla bean paste, mixed into dough or icing. She’s tried out their other extracts too (we stock their almond, coffee and lemon extracts). Nielsen Massey use a ‘proprietary cold extraction process’ that takes weeks, rather than days, to preserve the ‘more than 250 distinctive flavour compounds’ found in the natural ingredients. The end-result is worth every penny!
For sugar, Carolyn favours golden caster sugar, which imbues her cakes with a subtle caramel taste. At Naturally Good Food we’ve got an unbeatable range of sugars, from fine cane sugar, through to heavy muscovados (and, of course, organic icing sugar). We stock unrefined and organic sugars, with complex flavours and a full complement of minerals.
Many bakers make use of our range of syrups, too – Carolyn finds these useful for drizzling. We’ve got golden syrup, of course, and maple syrup, but also agave syrup and a host of others, in small tubs and in bulk.
A lot of cake-decorating relies on marzipan (Carolyn’s is no exception). Naturally Good Food stocks Lubecker marzipan from the Lubeca company: it’s widely considered to be the very best marzipan there is, with its fine ingredients (52% almonds), lovely pale colour and soft texture, making it perfect for moulding.
Finally, Carolyn points to our dried fruit as a really useful baking ingredient. She’s often asked to make fruit cakes, for which our organic dried fruit mix is ideal. Our blend of sun-soaked raisins, intensely sweet currants and juicy sultanas is unbeatable for flavour. Some people like to add our dried mixed peel too, bursting with the taste of Italian sunshine.
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This post was written by Yzanne