Introducing ~ Lesley Wright from Royal Bakery!!

Here she is….Lesley Wright from Royal Bakery ~ the ‘face behind the page’

“Well, hello! It’s me, Lesley, from The Royal Bakery!

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Monday Moaner, Tuesday Top Tipper, Wednesday ‘WHOA’er, Thursday Thinker, Friday Free-for-aller, Saturday Spotlighter and Sunday Schooler! If you don’t know me, none of that will make any sense!

I am English, but have been living in California for two and a half years. My husband, Neil, worked for Apple in the UK and we jumped at the chance to move when they offered him a position in Silicone Valley. And we just love it! The summers are hot and dry, the winters are cool and rainy and there is zero humidity. Perfect caking weather! We have a 13-year old son called Will who is my biggest fan (along with my mum) and loves to hear all about the latest cake drama.

Before the move, I worked as a Marketing Manager in a Girls’ Boarding School. It was a fun and varied role, but I especially loved the more creative aspects of the job—designing advertisements and brochures, setting up photo shoots, and writing magazine articles. At home, I always had some creative project on the go—sewing dress up costumes and soft toys for Will, designing stationery and school yearbooks, or planning themed dinner parties. I’ve worked in some form of marketing or other since I was 18, and am now *cough* 44. I haven’t had a ‘real job’ since moving to the US, but find that most of the marketing principles I learned in my 25 years can be applied to running a Facebook business like mine.

I decorated my first cake a few years before the move, when I threw a spy party for Will’s eighth birthday. It took me months to plan the party and I put so much effort into it, that It seemed a shame to just serve up a run-of-the-mill cake from the local supermarket. So my mum and I made a cake that looked like a ticking time bomb. It was SO awful, but we thought we were fabulous! I actually served it on an aluminum foil-covered bread board!

Here it is!

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I enjoyed making another couple of cakes for Will’s birthday after that, but never thought it would one day become such an obsession!

When we arrived in California, I joined Will’s school PTA board as Director of Communications, and helped organize a Teacher Appreciation lunch. I baked a cake – my first ever two tier – and it went pretty well! Well enough that friends started asking me to make cakes for their special occasions. It was such a shock to have them specify what type of cake they wanted – it meant I had to learn to bake! I’m really not a natural baker, although I’m a pretty good cook and can throw handfuls of stuff into a pan and know it’ll turn out fine. But baking is half science, half magic, and it’s taken me a long time to get to the point where the most of what I bake ends up in the cake and not on the bird table!

First tiered cake for the Teacher Appreciation Lunch. Look at the bulges! Ganache for me all the way after this!
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I like to be adventurous with cake flavors and fillings and ask my friends to choose a favorite candy, cocktail or ice cream sundae flavor and I try and recreate it for them in cake. My biggest challenge was to create a cake flavor based on a chocolate bar called the Whatchamacallit. It’s described as ‘This peanut-flavor crisp topped with a layer of caramel and dipped in chocolate has a name and a taste that’s hard to forget!’, but was asked that it not be too sweet or rich! I think I pulled it off!

Baking is just a means to an end for me, as I’m sure it is with most cake decorators. I try to keep myself amused with interesting recipes but, really, it’s the decorating that I love! If I could find someone to do the baking for me, I’d be very happy! So because I used to be less than confident about the inside of my cakes, I knew the outside had to be spot on! I decided when I made my very first cake for a friend that I would never say, ‘that’ll do.’ It has become my mantra and if I look at something and find myself saying, ‘that’ll do’ then I redo it. I’m lucky that I have the luxury of time and don’t have to cram my baking and decorating into a few short hours after work, so I can afford to spend time doing things over if I need to.

Cake I made two months later!
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So my Facebook page started to grow with the help of my lovely new cake friends like Peggy Does Cake and Way Beyond Cakes by Mayen. They would share my works and send so many new Likers my way – I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without them! I realized then that I needed to offer more than just the odd photo of a cake, so I started my first themed weekly post – Top Tip Tuesday. ‘WHOA’! of the Week quickly followed every Monday, but have since moved that to Wednesday – both because it alliterates better and because I started the Monday Moan! I’ve added a Thought for Thursday which is usually just something for us to ponder on, and also the Free-for-all Friday, where anyone can share their work on my page, as long as they stick to that week’s theme. Saturday Spotlight chooses the best of the previous day’s shared cakes and during Sunday School, I share my favorite decorators alphabetically. It’s fun to have a set of posts planned out for each day of the week, and if I ever forget a Moan or a Tip, you can be sure that folks will soon be asking where they are!

I also try and write tutorials for the cakes I make, or at least some part of them, but last year I bit the bullet and decided to write some tutorials to sell. I started with my clouds because I had so many questions about how to make them, but it was hard to explain without photos. I was totally overwhelmed with how popular it was! Since then, I’ve tried to create original cakes like the Jolly Santa and Valentine’s Day owl to make tutorials from. It’s nice to be able to make a little money to spend on cake goodies!

This is my Cloud Cake…
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This is one of my other favorite cakes – The Owl. This one has a tutorial available to purchase – A special offer for Fifty Shades of Cake fans, for the next week the tutorial will be a dollar off at only $3 USD click here for purchase details: https://app.ecwid.com/jsp/1440083/simple-store

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But I continue to make a cake every weekend for my friends, and Will’s friends and my husband’s colleagues, and am trying to develop my own style. I’ve not got there yet though as there are still so many cakes I want to try and decorators that I am inspired by! People will argue with me about this, but I don’t have much imagination. I have to plan each cake right down to the last detail and draw it out, first with a pencil and then using Photoshop or Artboard so that I can be sure it’ll look right ‘in the flesh’. I’m not one of these people who can start with a blank canvas and just wing it – it would be a disaster for me! My only skill really is being able to make something look like something else, so if I have the computer sketch in front of me, to scale, then I can normally be pretty sure the cake will end up looking pretty similar!

My must have tools:

My Kitchen Aid mixer is top of the list. It’s black and sparkly and I just couldn’t do without it! I love my silicone spatulas too, and got the Kitchen Aid one from Santa that is almost the full length of the mixer bowl! Letter cutters are my other big obsession, which I’m sure is something to do with having been a graphic designer! I love fonts and add to my letter cutter collection as often as I can. And although it’s not a tool, I just love Wilton fondant. It gets a bad rap because it doesn’t taste too good, but I swear by it for making all of my cake decorations. I wouldn’t use it for covering cakes – I use FondX, Fondarific of Carma Mass Ticino Tropic for that – but for making bows, cutting letters, modeling figures, spots, stripes, chevrons, clouds and everything else, I love my Wilton fondant!

Advice on business:

Well, I don’t have a baking business yet, so I don’t really feel qualified to give much advice, but as far as running a Facebook Page is concerned, I would say this. Don’t get too concerned with any many “Likers” you have. You might think that’s easy for me to say as I have quite a few, but 99% of them are fellow bakers. That’s great for my business of selling tutorials, and it’s wonderful to be able to ask a question and know I’ll get an answer from somebody within a few minutes, but these hundreds of global likers aren’t going to buy my cakes when I go into business. Work on Likers that are local to you and might actually order from you! Word of mouth is the very best marketing strategy you can employ. Make a free cake for children’s school, your work colleagues and your husband’s colleagues, your church or gym. If they love your cake, they’ll tell their friends and you’ll have customers for life!

Even though caking is just a hobby for me right now, California passed a cottage food last year and is gearing up to issue licenses in the Spring. I’m excited and nervous to turn The Royal Bakery into a proper business and hope you’ll all keep your fingers crossed for me!

Visit Lesley over at Royal Bakery!!

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Introducing: Victoria Threader from VICTORIOUS CUPCAKES!

Here she is…. Victorious Cupcakes ~ exposed! A ‘Face’ to the ‘Page’…!!

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I am Victoria Threader, been meaning to change my name by marriage to Dickinson for YEARS now and still haven’t married my OH Mark. One day… I live in Netley Abbey on the south coast of England and I have lived here for 5 years. Mark and I moved from Liverpool when Mark found a new job in Southampton.

We have a daughter Millie, she is my Number 1 fan and often ‘Bigs Me Up’ whenever we go anywhere. You will often hear her in Tesco shouting “Don’t buy those, buy Victorious Cupcakes!” It can be Embarrassing but it keeps me chuckling, Millie has a great sense of humour.

I am 41 and grew up in Milton Keynes, England. After school, I had MANY jobs.
I started in a Restaurant that my parents ran.
My Mum cooked the hot food and my Dad was the Baker. I also worked in a Jewellers, LOTS of Restaurants and then finally settled in a great job as a Flight Attendant for a Company called ‘European Aviation’. It was owned by an Australian man called Paul Stoddart. I was very lucky to see some wonderful places while I worked with them, I think my favourite being Petra, a jaw dropping experience.

I came down to earth with a bump (literally) in 2006 when expecting Millie. I was made redundant while on maternity leave which was a bit of a god send as I wasn’t sure I’d want to travel after having Millie.

I’m not a good cook, although Mark and Millie, OH and my Mum would say I’m OK, so I never really baked. I would buy or my Mum would make birthday cakes for me and Millie. All changed when Millie was 4.

I went to the supermarket and could never find anything I liked, when I did buy THOSE cakes I’d buy the most expensive THINKING it would taste the best and that was often not the case.

Millie decided she wanted ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ as a birthday cake, so I bit the bullet and decided to try. I thought it all looked awful, my friends and the kids were very kind. Here’s my first attempt at cake:

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It was an easy option, I admit but it was the start of exciting times for me.
I started baking for friends and family and got to quite enjoy it, it gave me something to do at night, when there was nothing on the TV.
If I went anywhere I would take cake and they always got a positive reaction, so it gave me the confidence to keep going.

I started posting my cake photos on Facebook, when a friend ‘Hee Jung’ said a recipe site Good To Know Recipes were looking for people to post their cake photos. So that’s what I did. I made some Ladybirds from my very first recipe book ‘Planet Cake’ by Paris Cutler and posted those. I worked my way through the book, just making the cupcakes as large cakes are still a little daunting for me.

Here are the lady birds….
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and my very first LARGE cake, all 5” of it Hahahaaa!!
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After posting a few months and then featured in the magazine in the Cake Corner section, where they feature followers cakes. I was chuffed to be in print and astonished they had chosen my cakes above all the other wonderful creations!

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Where I am now…

In May 2011 I was offered a job with ‘Goodtoknow’ Recipes. I jumped for joy and said “YES!” straight away. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to think of 5 new cupcakes a month, but (so far) it’s been great.

I have a weekly ‘Cupcake Of the Week’ on Goodtoknow Recipes website and Facebook page here: GoodtoKnow Recipes of the Week

And a monthly feature in Goodtoknow recipes magazine called ‘Victoria’s Cupcake Secrets’ where we have step-by-step photos to show you how to recreate my cakes.

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Making videos in my Kitchen with GoodtoKnow
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In August 2012, I was flattered to be asked to write step-by-step tutorials for Sharon Zambito of SugarED Productions. I was thrilled as I am a HUGE fan of her work, some of the most amazing cakes and tutorials I have seen.

My must have tools…

I couldn’t live without my hand mixer (obviously). I use the Kenwood K-Mix Hand mixer. I’ve not long had it long, my Mum gave me her 40 year old Kenwood hand mixer and it has been brilliant, although now it has a funny smell, which is why I bought the new one. I do have a K-Mix Stand mixer too, but I can’t get the hang of it for my cake batter, it’s not the same as my hand mixer. I do however use it for Meringue Buttercream, as my arm can’t take that one!

The other thing I use every day is my silicone pastry mat. Nothing sticks to it EVER and I really couldn’t live without it. The only trouble is, I usually make the mistake of using the crafting knife and slicing through the mat, so I never buy the expensive ones.

Last one – A silicone spatula. The thing is, I’m not fussed on the cake, never liked sweet stuff really; I’m more a savoury girl, HOWEVER, the uncooked cake batter is something else. I would happily eat it with a spoon, so using a spatula has saved me, as when using one of these, there is not even a smidgen left in the bowl – PHEW!


Advice on business…

I’m not qualified in giving advice on a business level, as I STILL haven’t braved it myself. I’m OH SO confident behind a computer but would fall to pieces if I had to make wedding/birthday cakes for people. The thing is – I enjoy creating, but the thought (and I have had it making a friend’s wedding renewal cake) of not getting right and the continuous fussing and fiddling to make it perfect takes all the fun out of it for me. So, for now, I’m happy with my 3 little jobs.

I am completely self-taught too as I’m far too nervous to attend classes, well then there’s the expense. I’ve always been a skin flint, so would try and teach myself rather than spend money I didn’t have on someone else teaching me. I have learned that my best friends in life are Google and Youtube. I am the master of finding tutorials and videos if I really want to learn something. If I ever had a question, I’d ALWAYS find the answer by Googling. Also, I have to say, I get asked impossible questions sometimes and actually Google in order to find the answer for my followers, I’m not perfect and I can’t possibly know everything there is to know about baking, I’ve only been baking for 2 and a half years! So my advice would be, Google it. Watch videos on Youtube and practise, practise, practise, because it pays off. I cringe looking at the stuff I used to make and I think I have improved LOADS in the last 2 years of Facebooking. A good camera helped too (thanks Mark) :0)

I think that’s about it – Me, a mum who loves to bake and create, for fun, for now anyway.

Visit Victoria Threader at Victorious Cupcakes