My, my what a weekend!
I’m typing this as I wait for my now ridiculously delayed flight back to the UK from the beautiful island of Menorca, where I’ve just finished a whistle stop cupcake tour.
Those of you who know me personally, know how important Menorca is in my life, and how it feels more like my home than anywhere else on the planet. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in the beautiful Cotswolds; but Menorca holds the key to my heart. I first came to the island over 25 years ago with my family and have been coming ever since. My parents retired to the island, but unfortunately my Dad suffered a serious stroke when back in the UK and we tragically lost him. Sadly but for completely understandable reasons, we decided to sell the family house on the island 8 years ago & I never ventured back; too many wonderful memories it would be hard to confront. However, it was my sister-in-law who planted the seed for the time to return. She organised a surprise holiday for my Brother for his 30th birthday and he had an amazing time catching up with dear friends and very happy memories. Menorca was not a place to run from but to run too. We had the most amazing childhood growing up here when we weren’t in the UK, it wasn’t right to erase those memories. So with my Brother embarking on a return journey home, I bit the bullet and booked flights for the October and my birthday. That was three years go now, the same time as Cirencester Cupcakes was starting, and the rest they say is history….
Catching up with my most dearest old friends over the last couple of years when we have been back on the island, talk has always come round to how my business started and why cupcakes haven’t really hit the island yet, but everyone has seemed interested and excited about what I am doing. Last October, on my annual visit, my lovely friend Helen asked if I would like to run a cupcake decorating workshop for her and a group of ladies whilst I was out there; what a fabulous idea, how could I say no. So much of a success was the workshop, that the Red Cross (Cruz Roja Española) invited me out to run a series of workshops and demonstrations for them at their Spring Sale.
The Cruz Roja Española the Red Cross’ spanish division is a huge charity organisation in Menorca. The Spring Sale benefits not just the Cruz Roja but also the smaller charities who are able to select from donated items and distribute for their own causes. The island has a population of 95,000 (approx 2010), Cirencester alone has a population of 20,000 (approx) so it’s a small island in comparison, and every little helps
The main lady at Cruz Roja is the amazing Anne Madison, who used to be the big HR lovely for Asda. Anne now lives full time on the island and dedicates her time to helping the charity and organising the Spring Sale.
So, let’s skip forward to 11th May 2012 and having ensured a fresh bake of cakes for the shop and all my orders and the weekend’s wedding cake was finished that morning; I boarded a Monarch flight back to the island. My flight is due to land late evening, so my los ángeles de la magdalena (Cupcake Angels) on the island, Helen and Mo, have been busy baking 200 cupcakes ready for me. We are prepped, buttercream is ready, just the nerves to overcome.
Saturday arrives and I’m feeling remarkably out of my comfort zone; will I be good enough? Will they like what I do? Can I get by with my known Spanish, which doesn’t stretch yet to include cupcakes? Will it be busy? Will the heat melt the buttercream? Everything going through my head, and to top it off there had been a huge amount of coverage about the event and me in all the island’s press… Eek!!
Helen and I arrived at the Spring Sale, hosted at the San Lluís Aeroclub, with thanks to Andrés for supporting the Cruz Roja and us, so generously. As we pulled up to the entrance we were greeted by a lovely chap, Mr Astley, who when we let him know we were the cupcake ladies, gushed how excited he was and how wonderful the cupcakes looked. Mental note, I needed to live up to a huge amount of expectation; no pressure then. We parked the car and went into the Aeroclub to find Anne and get sorted. Oh my word, how many people!! It appeared that the entire expat population and a very generous helping of Menorquians had turned up for the sale; and the bartering was in full swing.
We were shown to our demo area, right in a good prime position next to the cake stall. The Cruz Roja ladies had been busy and had a plentiful array of fabulous home baked goodies, including cupcakes. They were going down a storm. After introductions, Helen and I got organised and the nerves really started to kick in. Now those of you who have met me, know I’m a little on the short side, and I was demonstrating at a huge counter area. Perfect except I was just a head above the parapet. Not to worry, there are ways of working around things, especially the Spanish way! If in doubt stand on a bread crate and with a little spare decking for support…perfecto!
So then, just to keep you updated; I’m still sat at the airport I should have been about to land in 15 minutes but I’ve still an hour and a half left before they think we will be boarding. Tomorrow is going to be a tough old day. Anyway, back to the story….
From my lofty position, on top of the trusty bread crate, I gave two half hour demonstrations on buttercream and piping, with a little sugar paste rose flair as well. After a little shaky start, tearing the busy shoppers away from the bargains a fantastic group had crowded round, and two wide eyed little people were also nose to cupcake as they got close to the action. A rapturous round of applause at the end meant the Girl had done good, and even after I was finished I had people, both Spanish and English coming up and asking questions. Awesome!! The next demonstration was a huge hit as well, and the nerves had drifted away; we’d done it!
A huge thanks to my lovely friend, Maitané who came along to support us and took some great photos for us.
At this point, I want to said the HUGEST of thanks to the most wonderful and lovely Mo!! Mo is one of those people in life that you come across that are truly genuine and lovely and you wish you’d met sooner. Mo had been busy baking cupcakes, getting stuck into my recipe and the joy of baking in her Spanish home along with the gorgeous Helen. Due to the heat, we all decided that to keep the cakes fresher even if only for a day, to freeze them and Mo’s freezer was taken over by 200 cupcakes. Mo’s husband, Rob, was a trooper too. Bearing in mind, up until when I arrived I had never met Mo or Rob and only knew them as friends of Helen, and her husband Simon. How awesome are they to kindly and gladly give up their time to bake and help me out. I’ve just in fact had a phone call from Mo as I sit in the airport. Helen and I had put together a surprise cupcake kit for Mo, knowing how much she enjoyed herself and the workshops. She’s such a lovely lady but I’ve just been told off in the nicest possible way, that she’ll get me next time I’m on the island. Hehe! Mo; you’re a flipping star!!!
The Spring Sale was in full flow and the ladies next to us on the cake stall were rapidly depleting in their supplies; I think it was the lure of the sweet smell of the lustre spray and their amazing cakes. We donated the demonstration cupcakes to the stall and they disappeared quicker than I could decorate them!
A quick bite to eat and the sale closed; Helen and I set up for the first demonstration, and the nerves started all over again. I knew I could do the workshops out here, with a mix of Spanish and English, so it shouldn’t be a problem as all the ladies were English speaking. It was that we’d attracted some attention and we’d some big names on the island coming along.
As it happened I needn’t of worried, all the ladies who came along were fabulous and really got into the cupcake spirit. The traditional sponge style cake of Spain is a Magdelena and it is not as sweet as our traditional sponge, so taste palettes have adapted over the years to the Spanish recipe, but all the ladies commented on how wonderful the buttercream and cakes were. Excellent! Maybe there is a call for a more traditional English cake out here…..
Just to keep you in the loop, I’m still sat here. Surveying my surroundings, I don’t think it’s going to be a full flight home, so hopefully I’ll have no one next to me and I can stretch out and sleep on the flight. Should I have someone next to me, I apologise in advance for any snoring that my come from me on the flight back to the UK!
The workshops I ran over here were a two hour intensive workshop covering everything I do in my ones I run from the shop. We cover glacé icing, sugar paste icing and buttercream piping. The table was decked out with sprinkles, lustres, sprays, chocolates, sweets, sugar paste and cutters and everyone had naked cupcakes to get down and decorate. As with my workshops back home, I let my students imagination do the talking in how they decorate their cupcakes once they are iced. I think it let’s everyone’s own individualistic flair shine through and I can probably say that in all the workshops I have run over the last 2.5 years each and every cupcake is different!
30 minutes to go until they have scheduled our boarding; I hope the flight has arrived at this end…. <airborne>
So skip forward 36 hours, just so you know I eventually arrived home in Cirencester at 3am on Tuesday morning, a good 6 hours late.
Anyway, not to be outdone the ladies who came along to Sunday’s workshops were equally as fabulous as the Saturday Girls, with a little conversation about flying out to create a birthday cake for one of the ladies’ daughters in July. Trust me, if I wasn’t fully booked and in full wedding season, I’d be on the flight back over there. Sunday’s workshops were a little more relaxed, and Helen kindly welcomed the ladies into her home, and we decorated in the sun and by the pool…. Now that I could get used to!!
So the ladies all took their cupcakes home, but what happened to all those that I made during the workshops. Hand on my heart, I didn’t eat them; but they were sent on to some amazing people. Another charity close to Anne’s heart, is the one she set up with Don Hyatt – Rest and Recover Menorca (Facebook, Twitter @RandR_Menorca). The charity was set up for soliders, from the Household Cavalry injured in Afghanistan, and their wives, girlfriends, partners or carers. The charity aims to make a small but important contribution to the injured soldier’s rehabilitation by giving them a well deserved break from the Regiment. They also aim to provide everything they need to be able to enjoy their time in Menorca to the full. Eight wonderful Guys and Gals were flying out after the workshops for a week of R&R, and the cupcakes were a welcome gift. I will tell you more about Rest and Recover Menorca in a future blog post, as I have asked if they can be one of our chosen charities, they said ‘yes’. But coming up in September, the injured soliders and other soliders from the Regiment are attempting a relay swim over 250 miles, swimming around the island of Menorca… Crazy, awesome, inspirational, heroes! You can follow their training progress on Twitter at @HCavSwimMenorca
All in all, despite the fact it was a long flight home, I had an immensely amazing weekend back in Menorca. I met some truly wonderful people and saw my lovely friends, all whilst doing something I love and enjoy – cupcakes! The workshops went so well, that the Red Cross have already invited me back for next year, when we are planning to do a follow on workshop as well as the Decorating Basics.
Lastly, I would like to thank Anne Madison for asking me to come over to Menorca and support Cruz Roja Espoñola, and also for organising a fantastic event. The Spring Sale was a mammoth success. The workshops raised 300€ and they raised over 7,000€.
I would like to also thank both Helen and Mo for their amazing help, support and love. Ladies, you rock and I can’t wait to see you Both again soon. Keep caking!
So back in the UK, and onwards with wedding season.