What's in my bake?
Den products are made from scratch with high quality ingredients; fresh, seasonal, unrefined and organic, wherever possible. I don't use any preservatives and I don't pre-make and freeze my cakes. Please let me know of any and all allergies at the time of ordering. You can request a full list of what's in your bake with your confirmation email, but key ingredients are also given below.
Eggs: I use free range eggs. Macarons, meringues and meringue buttercreams use either fresh free range egg whites or Two Chicks free range pasteurised egg whites.
Sugar: I use golden caster sugar for all bakes. Some cakes also use light/dark soft sugar. Macarons and classic buttercreams use icing sugar.
Butter: Cakes, buttercreams and biscuits use organic unsalted butter.
Flours: Cakes use organic self-raising or organic plain flour, plus baking powder and/or bicarbonate of soda.
Edible decorations: I use natural, homemade or shop-bought sprinkles, high quality chocolate and washed fresh fruit. Some custom cakes are topped with shop-bought chocolates and treats from well-known brands. Fondant toppers use homemade fondant, made from shop-bought mini marshmallows (which contain gelatine), icing sugar and water. The fondant is rubbed with coconut oil before being stored. Any edible flowers are sourced from reputable edible flower specialists such as Maddocks Farm Organics. I use Edible Art foodsafe paint or Rolkem edible dust mixed with a little alcohol (it evaporates, don't worry!) to paint any glittering decorations, and edible gold or silver leaf on some custom bakes.
Food colouring: All Den cakes are free from unnatural colours. Where cake, buttercream or macaron flavour allows, I can use dried fruit to achieve pink or orange and cocoa for brown colours. A dab of Wilton EU or PME food colouring paste is used to tint other brightly coloured macaron shells, meringues, fondant toppers or buttercreams. Considerably larger amounts have to be used for red velvet, rainbow and any brightly coloured cakes, and I'm just not comfortable with that (boooo, buzzkill, I know). Please note that almost all edible unnatural colours contain at least one of six E numbers - E102, E104, E110, E122, E124 and E129 - which, the label says, "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children." Here's what the NHS says.
Non-edible decorations: Some custom cakes use personalised toppers sourced from laser cutting specialists. Plastic toppers, foliage and herbs are washed and dried before being used on Den bakes. When a cake features non-edible flowers, these are washed, dried and prepped first, before I use flower tape, wire and biodegradable straws to protect your cake from any sap or bacteria. I will not use non-edible flowers which are toxic to humans - the Royal Horticultural Society list of potentially harmful common plants is here.
Please, please ensure you tell me about any allergies before we confirm your order. Allergens constantly in use in the Den kitchen are eggs, dairy, cereals (gIuten), nuts and soya. I make everything in my kitchen at home and I use a LOT of nuts (macarons are made using ground almonds). I do store nuts separately to other ingredients and take several other precautions with other allergens to protect you, but if you have an acute, airborne allergy, please be aware that I cannot provide a completely allergen-free environment.
I use non-latex vinyl food handling gloves when decorating bakes and hand-rolling truffles- let me know if you're allergic to vinyl and I'll just use my (extra, extra clean) bare hands. To be absolutely sure you don't miss this bit, third time lucky: please ensure you tell me about any allergies before we confirm your order.
Why do custom + wedding cakes cost more?
It's a question bakers hear a lot, and it's completely understandable - I wondered the same while shopping around for my wedding cake in my pre-homebaking days. The simplest answer is just that custom and wedding cakes take significantly more resource than other bakes.
There's quite a long process for any bake, especially when you're a small batch baker - and that'll be most small, independent bakeries or other homebakers like me. Personally baking everything to order means that most elements of every bake will be made from scratch, usually a couple of days before your order is due. For me, that means sourcing the ingredients, cake boards + boxes; baking, cooling and levelling your cake; cooking the filling, mixing and flavouring the buttercreams, then assembling and decorating your beautiful bake the night before you collect it. With a custom bake, I'll also consult with you before personally designing your special cake from the inside out. There'll be a greater complexity to your custom cake - different flavour combinations, a variety of colours, handmade decorations, stacked tiers and so on - that bring with them additional cost in time, skills, overheads and ingredients.
I'll never try to earn more than a fair price for my bakes; I calculate what it costs me to make everything, factor in the electricity, gas, time and the skills I use, and end up adding a very skinny margin because of my desire to provide gorgeous tasty things that don't break the bank. It's why I'll always ask from the outset what your budget is - I want to design and make you something special and delicious that you can actually afford to buy. I've learned the hard way how it unpleasant it can be if we're not on the same page on price, not least since I'm unwilling to compromise on using high quality ingredients or being paid for my time and efforts. When I do bake for free, it's always for charity. Or for my kids. If they're extra lucky.
I'm in the wonderfully fortunate position of having a business that lets me do what I love, and while it's demanding on both me and my family, we wouldn't have it any other way. I'm so grateful to all my fantastic customers - thanks for helping me keep my dream afloat and letting me share a little sweet goodness with your tastebuds too !