How I Became a Food Blogger

I was off work last week due to minor surgery on my toe which was accompanied by a rotten cold so I was feeling rather miserable. However, sitting at home on the sofa with my foot elevated for a couple of days did allow for some time for contemplation.

I’m inherently quite a curious (alright, nosey) person and I love hearing about how people ended up doing the jobs they do or leading the lives they have. I then started to think about how I came to set up my blog because I find the history of such things fascinating. Bloggers all have different stories to tell about how they began so I thought I’d share mine.

Two and a half years ago, I was sitting on the same sofa with my leg elevated but for a far more serious reason. In March 2013, I was hit by a car as I was running across a road (after my dog which had scarpered during a walk in the park) and subsequently suffered a badly broken right leg and a head injury. I think the fact that I’m quite a generously proportioned lady of a certain age (!) and therefore quite robustly built was what ensured that I wasn’t killed (the driver must have been doing at least 50 mph in a 30 mph zone) because apparently I was thrown through the air and landed in the middle of a crossroads. I don’t remember the impact or the landing – as I was knocked unconscious and the next few days were a blur due to the vast amounts of morphine I was given. At least the dog was OK.

Only a few months before the accident I’d set up my small home baking business (to run alongside my day job in HR) having registered with my local Council, completed an online Food Hygiene course and given my new enterprise the name of ‘The Little Pink Kitchen’ because my kitchen is quite small and the walls are pink. I attended a cupcake decorating workshop run by the 2011 Great British Bake Off winner Jo Wheatley and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was the first time I’d really played around with cutters, moulds and sugar paste and I was hooked from the start. Orders were steadily coming in and I did a few bake sales and got my name out there locally. All things considered, I was feeling rather good about things at that time.

But then, the accident changed my life. I got over the head injury relatively quickly – although I must say that you do get quite a bad headache when your head comes into contact with a road from a great height! The leg took longer as initially I had a ‘tibial nail’ holding it together (basically a titanium rod from knee to ankle – with screws in) but the bone didn’t heal so after 6 months it was removed and I had a plate put in, which on the X-ray looked like a long piece of meccano. (If you are under the age of 40, you’ll probably have to google ‘meccano’.)

With these surgeries came a lengthy recuperation period involving crutches, no weight-bearing with no cast, then light weight-bearing with a cast (I had a pink one!) then an air boot all followed by months of physiotherapy learning how to walk again. It took almost two years for life to get back to a relative ‘normal’ state. My poor husband didn’t know whether he was coming or going as he had to look after me and the dog as well as trying to do his job. It was a very difficult and emotional time for both of us.

Although I couldn’t do any baking or cooking for several months, I kept my hand in with the cakey bakey world via Twitter (mostly) and other social media using my trusty iPad. Well, it was a better option than watching day time television – I think that really would have finished me off.

I was delighted to find such an active online baking community on Twitter. I made contact with a lot of home bakers and people who had started their own baking and cake businesses, both on a small and a large scale. I was surprised to find that people who wrote blogs could make serious money by doing it. I remember thinking that it must be wonderful to earn a living doing something you love. I work in HR dealing with the problematic side of people management, things like disciplinary hearings, poor performance and absence so a lot of what I deal with on a daily basis can be quite negative and it definitely drains you. Making cakes and pottering around the kitchen makes me happy and the worst thing for me about the accident was that I couldn’t do it for months.

As time went on, I got back into the kitchen and started baking again, just on a small scale for pleasure. I found baking to be very therapeutic: it took my mind off my troubles and there was something nice to eat at the end. At the same time, the thought of returning to my job was not making me feel particularly happy. It was a very large company with over 16,000 employees and there had been a lot of changes while I’d been away. I think my managers were wondering if I’d ever come back given the recovery time after the operations and I sensed that their sympathy was waning, which to be honest was quite hurtful. Anyway, an opportunity came for me to leave in mid 2014 when there was a restructure and I took it because financially it was worth it and it felt like a great relief.

Since then, I’ve found alternative HR work that I enjoy and I’m now baking and cooking much more often and feeling a lot happier. I’ve attended courses at Squires Kitchen and a celebration cake decorating course at Konditor and Cook at Borough Market and I highly recommend both. Late last year I started writing monthly articles and recipes for a local newspaper but this offered only limited opportunities going forward. It was at that point that I had a ‘light bulb moment’ when I realised that if I set up my own blog, I could write about anything I liked, with no limits.

So what did I like? Well, cakes and baking obviously but I also love trying out new kitchen gadgets, visiting food festivals, cake and baking shows, developing recipes, reviewing books, products, cafes, tea shops and so much more. So www.thelittlepinkkitchen.com was born earlier this year after a brief time writing under a WordPress heading.

Recently I’ve been actively making new foodie contacts and networking as although I write my blog for pleasure and don’t make any money from it (one day perhaps…..) I would like it to contain things that people really want to read about and find entertaining. I have some projects in the pipeline which I’m very excited about and have been sent some items to review so I’ll be getting around to that very soon.

What’s the selling point for my blog, I hear you ask. Well, I’m an all-round foodie (as my waistline makes only too clear) so I cover quite a range of topics which adds variety to my blog. I’ve received feedback that I have an engaging style of writing with a quirky sense of humour that comes through in my posts. I’m not paid to write posts so my opinions are my own which means I can be totally honest although I would never be unkind or malicious. (See my earlier post on ‘blogger blackmail’ for an insight of what can happen when bloggers are unreasonable.)

I’ll finish by saying that it’s been interesting for me to reflect on events over the last two years and I can honestly say that if the accident hadn’t happened, my blog probably wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t have made friends with some wonderful people via Twitter, especially the Sunday Baking Club crowd.

You all know who you are. Thank you for your on-going friendship and support.

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Fun With Friends, Cakes and An Extra Slice!

IMG_1543I’ve previously mentioned that I belong to a Twitter-based group called ‘The Sunday Baking Club’. During the week a baking theme is set for the following weekend and on the Sunday, people post photographs on Twitter of their creations. The top 10 are selected and put to a public vote. Whoever gains the most votes wins the big prize, namely a ‘virtual’ Golden Spoon Award. With an incentive like that, who wouldn’t want to take part?

Anyway, the BBC picked up that the group existed and Dominique the organiser was asked if any members would like to attend filming of ‘An Extra Slice’, which is the spin off to ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and airs on a Friday night. A robust group of individuals (me included) took up this exciting opportunity and on Sunday 20th September 2015 we found ourselves heading to Waterloo station to meet up before heading to the TV studio nearby. I didn’t have to travel too far as I live in Surrey / south London but I was astounded to see that other Bake Off loving Sunday Baking Club fans had travelled from the Midlands, Staffordshire, Norfolk and even Leeds to attend the filming. Now that is true dedication to the baking cause. Some of the attendees had met previously while others identified themselves by their Twitter names which was very amusing but put everyone at ease right away. It did feel a little weird though saying “I’m The Little PK. How do you do?”!

Of course, our group didn’t just consist of a number of bodies – there were large amounts of cake and patisserie items too – well it was ‘patisserie week’ after all. I’m in awe of those people who travelled great distances with large boxes while navigating trains, tubes and buses and managed to keep their bakes in one piece.

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We trooped of to the ITV studios and arrived at 1.15pm to be checked in. Here’s the group photograph taken in the reception area. What a fine, upstanding bunch of cakey bakey enthusiasts we are. Can you tell we were just a little bit excited?

We were given rather fetching lilac wristbands and then were escorted to a room where we had to sign a confidentiality agreement. This was because we would be seeing the following week’s episode and would know before the general population who was booted out. After that, we unveiled our cakes and bakes and a chap called Oliver walked round asking people for details of what they had made. The TV team were clearly going to highlight any unusual or interesting bakes that would be discussed during filming. image2 - Copy (15)

I’m afraid that I wasn’t able to bring anything spectacular. As I’d spent the day before viewing houses, I hadn’t had time to make a large cakey extravaganza so I’d kept it simple with lemon madeleines and cherry bakewell chocolate dipped Viennese whirls. They tasted rather good though so I was pleased with them. (I used Edd Kimber’s recipe for the Madeleine which was in his book “Patisserie Made Simple”.) At least I had something to display when the phrase “Show us your bakes” was announced later on.

However, some of the Sunday Baking Club devotees had come up with some great creations – more about those later.

All this took us to almost 2pm when we were told we wouldn’t be needed until 3.45pm so most of us toddled across to the pub and had lunch which involved varying degrees of sausages and mash, fish and chips and possibly someone had a salad. I’m not quite sure what that was about when the day was all about cake and indulgence. However, it does explain why some people are slim and I’m not! We knew it was going to be a long day so we needed to fuel up while we had the chance. Ahem. Let’s move on……

Back at the studio and after a bit of hanging around and a briefing from the Extra Slice producer, we were led into the area where filming would take place. Our group was fortunate that we were all seated in ‘First Class’ i.e. at the tables close to where Jo Brand and the celebrity guest panel would be sitting. Except that Jo Brand was not available that day and so the lovely Sarah Millican was standing in.

We watched the following week’s episode and therefore were aware of who got knocked out. As I’m posting this after this has become public knowledge and after the Extra Slice show has aired, I can now say that I was very disappointed that Paul the Prison Governor left this week. He’d had a few hairy moments earlier on in the series and it was sad to see that patisserie week got the better of him. I was hoping he would be in the final but it wasn’t to be.

After we’d seen the episode, the panel came in and filming started. The panel consisted, as usual, of three people and I’m embarrassed to say that I’d only heard of Gregg Wallace. The patisserie expert was a lady called Cherish Finden who is the Executive Pastry Chef at the Langham Hotel. It seems one of her finest moments was making doughnuts for Lady Gaga but from what she said, they were above average doughnuts. The other panellist was a (very) young comedian called Joe Lycett who was quite funny and had a style of delivery reminiscent of Julian Clary (who is more my age group). Sarah Millican introduced the proceedings and discussed the episode with the panel. I thought she did a good job of covering for Jo Brand (who I would have liked to see) but Sarah does talk remarkably quickly and I found it a bit of a challenge keeping up with her!

The filming then moved to showing bakes – both good and bad – that had been sent in via social media. The less successful bakes did elicit a few sniggers but they were very funny. I think it’s great that people can make fun of themselves and are such good sports.

And then, the moment I’d been looking forward to – some of the Sunday Baking Club members were picked out to discuss their bakes which was great fun. Rebecca talked about her ‘drunken Mary Berry’ cake

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and John spoke about his elegant looking ‘chocolate and Marmite macarons’ which clearly intrigued the panel, who insisted on tasting them. Now I’d tasted one of these earlier in the afternoon and John didn’t mention Marmite to me at the time. I found it to be delicious but either my taste buds are lacking or I have got used to Marmite but I could only sense a rich chocolatey flavour, certainly no hint of the savoury yeastiness that you either love or hate.

One or two other bakes were picked out for discussion but I wasn’t close enough to see them properly. And then hilarity ensued when a lady was asked to show what she had brought along and it was – apparently – a hedgehog made of choux pastry with a few chocolate fingers added. Well, the studio dissolved into laughter as quite frankly, it looked like a hedgehog that had been run over. It looked like roadkill. To paraphrase the Monty Python dead parrot sketch (yes, I am that old….), “The hedgehog is no more. It has ceased to be. This is a late hedgehog. It’s a stiff.” You get my drift.

And then came the big moment when poor evicted Paul was interviewed about his performance during patisserie week and his thoughts on the whole Bake Off experience. I thought he was a lovely chap even when he was ribbed about his flat Genoise cake and his banana disasters. Given the amount of time that was spent filming the panel discussions which was then going to be edited down to fit the half hour time slot for the programme, I felt that not much time was spent on Paul and his story but that’s life I suppose. The filming concluded with Sarah Millican recording the trailers for the programme and redoing a couple of earlier talky bits.

We, the audience, didn’t leave the TV studio until almost 8.30pm so it turned out to be a very long day although it was good fun (bar the various times spent hanging around). I love meeting up with fellow baking enthusiasts and the members of the Sunday Baking Club are a great group of people. I went home tired but happy with a warm, fuzzy glow after meeting up with the cakey crowd. The fact that I was also clutching a box of marvellous macarons given to me by SBC member Joyce rounded off the day nicely.

Having now viewed the programme, I was a bit disappointed that I’d blended into the background so well that the cameras completely missed me (apart from one fleeting glimpse at the beginning) thus depriving me of even 15 seconds of fame. BUT it was lovely that my baking friend John had his Marmite macarons tasted and discussed by the panel and to see bakes by other friends getting some screen time. Sadly Rebecca’s cake (pictured above) didn’t make the final cut.

I leave you with a final cake made by Clare that was fabulous but perhaps a little too risqué for the BBC!

Hollywood cake SBC