Using Baking and Cake decorating as a therapeutic tool to help me along my personal journey with a disability
Author: Debbie, Baking for Therapy
Hi, I’m Debbie and in 2012 an accident damaged my spinal cord leaving me unable to work. This was a life changing event that I found difficult to cope with, both physically and emotionally. During therapy, I was advised to find a couple of things I enjoyed and focus on how I could still manage to do them.
At the time I was Chair of, and an active performer in a local Panto Society. Thanks to their support, I eventually made it back on stage, using a variety of sticks as props, and indulging in one of my favourite pastimes, singing, and passing on my skills to our younger members. As a wonderful bonus, both my children were actively involved also, and my son met his future wife during rehearsals of ‘Puss in Boots’!
I also decided, with the aid of probably every kitchen gadget known to man, to try my hand at baking and cake decorating. I discovered a treasure chest of free tutorials on YouTube which have enabled me to master new techniques, and as I improved, I created a Facebook page where I posted pictures of my cakey creations. To my surprise (and delight) friends started asking me to make cakes for them, and I get a fantastic sense of achievement from doing so. I've always loved baking but my two 'kids' had been the only recipients of my efforts up till then. My ‘babies’ now like to challenge me to make a different novelty cake every year! (Do they ever grow up? I hope not 😀)
My baking and involvement in the Panto Society have become very important therapeutic outlets for me, but I couldn’t do either of them without the support of my very special family and friends, who have helped me through some tough times.
Because of Children in Entertainment regulations, I have focused this blog mainly on the baking side of my ‘therapy’, but you may still get a few Panto related posts now and then.
And if reading any of my posts helps you to find your own therapeutic outlet, I hope you will share your journey with me too.
Stay safe and healthy
It’s been a strange 2020, and so far 2021 isn’t looking much different!
Despite that, my friend’s daughter Freya decided to get married on New Year’s Eve, and her mum, Elaine asked me for some cupcakes for a very cosy family hen party just before Christmas. It was so lovely to find some joy in the middle of the COVID-19 chaos, and I wish the happy couple a long and happy life together ❤️
At the same time, Freya requested 40 macarons. I’d previously used some as decorations on her birthday cake ‘Pretty in Pink’. I’d used Sugar and Crumbs cherry flavour Whipping it Up to make them, and she liked them so much, she wanted more!
As I said, I used Sugar and Crumbs Whipping it Up to make the macarons. It’s basically flavoured icing sugar with pasteurised egg white powder added, and is a multi use product that makes Swiss Meringue Buttercream, Mousse, Pavlova, Meringue, Shortbread, Macarons, Marshmallow fluff, Roulade and lots of other yummy recipes! It comes in lots of different flavours too! Much easier than separating eggs, then having to find a use for the yolks! Here’s the recipe for the macarons I used half the 500g bag and got about 50 macarons! Coloursplash pink was used to colour them ❤️
This was almost my last request of 2020, almost! There’s just one more cute cake to tell you about in my next post!
After chilling in the fridge for half an hour, I final coated with milk chocolate ganache, made with Callebaut 823 callets, smoothing it as much as I could with a heated tall metal scraper. (To do this I had a tall jug of hot water that I dipped the scraper in, wiping off any excess water on kitchen towel before using)
I made the antlers out of Callebaut milk chocolate callets and free handed piping the shape on baking parchment. I inserted lollipop sticks whilst the chocolate was still wet, attaching them once they were good and set! The rest of the features were made from Renshaw sugarpaste in poppy red, chocolate brown, white and black.
I placed the cake on a 10” round cake drum covered with Renshaw poppy red and Lincoln green sugarpaste, partially kneaded together to create a slightly marbled effect, then finished off with a red ribbon.
The recipient of this cake, my friend Steph from Panto, won a cake from me in a charity prize draw earlier this year, and this is what she chose. I had great fun making it and it smelled amazing!
I used 2 x 8” round 4” deep PME pans and cut each cake in half to make 4 layers (double recipe) While the cakes were cooling, I took the remaining liquid from the cherry pie filling and thinned it out with a little boiling water. I brushed this over each cake layer to add flavour and keep it lovely and moist.
For the filling I made buttercream with more Black Forest icing sugar, but to crumb coat the cake I used Black Cherry icing sugar as this remains white in colour.
Once the crumb coat had set in the fridge for 20 minutes, I added Coloursplash pink to a small amount of the white buttercream and set it aside.
I then covered the cake with the remaining white (Black Cherry) buttercream and smoothed it out with my tall metal bench scraper. I wasn’t too bothered about it being perfect at this stage!
I then added random ‘blobs’ (technical term 😆) all around the cake, and kept going round it with my smoother to achieve a sort of watercolour blended finish. For the final few swipes I heated the metal smoother by dipping it in hot water. I find this really helps get a nicer finish 😃 Check out the video below for an in depth tutorial on getting smooth buttercream!
I lightly blended the rest of the buttercream (pink and white) and transferred it into a piping bag with a Wilton 1M star tip that I bought in this set of three but you can also buy it separately It’s easily my most used piping tip for cupcakes so I have several!
Whipping it up was developed by Sugar and Crumbs as a sister product to its flavoured icing sugars and has pasteurised dried egg white added. It is a multi use product that you can use to make meringue, Swiss Meringue buttercream, pavlova, marshmallow fluff, roulade, macarons, shortbread, mousse and……. oh there’s so much I’ll just leave you a link to all the yummy recipes!
Back to the cake! I made a white chocolate water ganache drip and applied that before popping on my kisses and macarons whilst it was still wet. This helped everything to stick nicely!
I had covered a 12” round drum board with Renshaw Premium Coverpaste white marbled with pink, and after transferring the cake to this, I took the piping bag and made a border at the bottom. Waste not want not, I used the rest of the buttercream to add more detail to the top and sides still using the 1M tip.
To finish it off I made white chocolate number lollipops with Callebaut Belgian chocolate in a 3 and an 0!
I was very pleased with the result, what do you think? It also gave my baking mojo a boost as I’d been feeling a bit down with all this Covid-19 rubbish! Feeling useful is something I’ve been missing lately, and being cooped up doesn’t do much for anyone’s mental health does it? 😞
I hope you are all keeping well….. and reasonably sane!
This cake was the third in a series of classes with the lovely Georgie Godbold…..online of course, but a live class nevertheless.
Unfortunately, Georgie had an unavoidable family situation so was unable to take the class herself. Rather than cancel, Gerry Chiu from Studio8Cakes very kindly stepped in 😁
Because this was a paid class, I can’t reveal the techniques we were taught, but I can show you the finished cake!
I made this back in September and it was my Mum’s birthday cake. Mum loves sewing so it came just at the right time!
I used my vanilla cake recipe but substituted the caster sugar with Sugar and Crumbs raspberry ripple icing sugar. For the buttercream crumbcoat I used lemon drizzle flavour. I love the raspberry/lemon combination, it’s so refreshing…..like pink lemonade 🥤
All the participants, whether watching to do later or taking part on the day had an absolute blast! These online classes are so much more than just tuition. It’s a chance to ‘get together’ with my online friends from Sugar and Crumbs and share some much needed light hearted banter too.
I’d like to say a big thank you to Carol McFarland from Sugar and Crumbs for setting up these online classes with some extremely talented tutors including Molly Robbins, Gerry Chiu, Georgie Godbold, Oli the Choc, Dawn Butler, Do Griffin, Hannah the ‘Cake Illusionist’ and not forgetting the Cupcake bouquet, Buttercream Flowers, and Nifty Nozzles Classes that Carol herself hosts!
I’m even more thankful for all the free Facebook live sessions that Sugar and Crumbs have been doing throughout the Pandemic 😷 This is in addition to the regular sessions, so there’s barely a day goes by that I don’t look forward to checking in with Karen Griffiths, Carol McFarland or a guest tutor to learn how to make something yummy 😋 With so many people struggling with their mental health at the moment, I can honestly say they’ve been an absolute lifeline, and I know that the rest of the S&C family will concur 🥰
Note to family: There’s plenty of edible Christmas gifts coming your way!
This Fortnite cake is for the same young man I made the last one for, I can’t believe a year flew by so fast!
It seems that as the game evolves, different elements become popular. This time a ‘battle bus’ needed to be incorporated into the design, so off I went to good old google images!
For my cake I just needed a topper as it was to be one of a few elements.
After trying unsuccessfully to use a kinder egg as the balloon (too heavy) I eventually raided my cake stash for a polystyrene egg instead. It was probably a bit small scale wise, but otherwise worked perfectly. Note to self: buy bigger polystyrene eggs!
It’s not an exact copy of the actual bus, more a representation! I think to get all the details right I would need to make an actual ‘Battle Bus’ cake! Maybe next year Josh? 😉
Josh looks really pleased with his cake, and apparently when he saw it he said ‘that’s definitely a Debbie cake’ bless him. Josh is one of the kids from Panto and even though I’d decided when I resigned the chairmanship this year, that I wasn’t going to be involved, I’m really missing the rehearsals and get togethers which usually start in September, and I can imagine the frustration and disappointment that the pandemic has brought to the society, and lots of amateur theatre groups this year. Let’s hope we can all get back to normal soon and live theatre, both amateur and professional will be back in our lives sooner rather than later!🤞