Monday, June 13, 2016

Kiwicakes is ten years old

Wow who would have thought ten years would pass so quickly. A little over ten years ago before my second child was born, I had a plan for a little business to keep me occupied, as I would not be returning to work after my second baby.

Fast forward ten years, Kiwicakes now employs a staff of 4, we occupy two buildings in Grant st Kamo and are now the NZ distributor of many international brands for amateur and professional cake decorators. So much for the little business I pictured, that might keep me busy for an hour or two each day.

However I didn't do it alone. Extreme thanks must go to my husband, who at times was both mother and father to our kids whilst I travelled attending cake shows nationally and internationally, and for the many hours I spend teaching students here at Kiwicakes. Without him our kids would not have turned out to be the great little people they are.
Also to my mum Betty A.K.A Grandma Kiwicakes, for her business acumen and for always telling me to take the leap, as she had my back. Not to mention the countless hours of unpaid work she's done to help me get to where we are today.
My lovely staff - I thank my lucky stars often, that I have such trustworthy and loyal staff, you guys rock!.
And of course to my amazing Kiwicakers A.K.A my customers - without your support and constant queries about the next best thing, I would not be here today.

I'm pretty proud of what we've achieved in ten years, Looking back, some pretty cool stuff has happened to me and to Kiwicakes. There's been the odd hairy moment, such as the website hacking by a group from Russia and the complete loss of the Kiwicakes catalogue after a website crash - which were quickly set to rights by my incredible website developing duo Donna & Carla (who are responsible for everything you like about the website)

Way back in 2006 I would have never dreamed some of it was even possible. Here's a little recap on some of the "cool stuff"

Kiwicakes is born from my home office 

Kiwicakes website goes live. Ten customers register in the first day!
Kiwicakes releases their first exclusive product design of silicone moulds

More exclusive Kiwiana moulds are added to the range.

Kiwicakes Blog is born - you're already here reading this. And in 7 years, there's been over 1000 posts.
Kiwicakes becomes sponsor for SPCA Cupcake Day
Kiwicakes becomes the official New Zealand distributor for Rainbow Dust Colours Ltd UK

I was nominated for the Next magazine "Woman Of The Year" award for business - attending the awards ceremony was humbling to be included amongst some of NZ's highest achievers.

"Her Magazine" Best use of technology finalist in Bloom business awards.
September 2011 we move to our current location

Kiwicakes becomes Operation Sugar's cake supplies sponsor.
I write my first magazine article for kids cake decorating for Upstart magazine

I make my first Operation Sugar cake
Kiwicakes releases it's own brand of sugar pearls and non pareils which are made right here in NZ
I travel to Sydney to train as a certified Wilton method instructor.

We start making and selling Kiwifudge at Kiwicakes
Campbell Live TV show with cakes from Middle Earth - Sandra makes her first TV appearance
Kiwicakes is a finalist in three categories for the Westpac Northland business awards, winning one category
We launch online loyalty rewards for customers shopping online at Kiwicakes

Kiwicakes is a finalist in two categories for Westpac Northland Business awards
Kiwicakes starts printing & selling custom edible image printing
Kiwicakes launches our inaugural SPCA support month (April)
Goody card is launched in store for customers visiting us st our Grant St store (as opposed to online shopping rewards launched in 2014)
Kiwicakes launches "Kiwicakes cake mixes"

Kiwicakes becomes the first retail store in NZ to offer "Create A Cake" officially licensed edible image service for Disney, Star Wars, NRL & so much more.
Kiwicakes is ten years old
June 2016 - as I write I've just listed our 15 190th product

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pacific Pearl Food & Wine cruise Part 2

During our Food & Wine Cruise with P&O on Pacific Pearl, there were some great cooking shows in the Marquee theatre. Bridget Davis The Internet Chef was highly entertaining. This first show was aimed at no bake desserts.

The first poor lady up on stage faced seized chocolate

So when my daughter Poppy went up on stage, she was determined to not seize her chocolate

And she didn't. Bridget made with her a cranberry and pistachio white chocolate bark.

Poppy was given it on an enormous catering tray to take back to her seat while it set (everything int he kitchen is enormous, as they make things on such a large scale)

The audience was never short on volunteers.

At the end of the show Poppy took the bark up on stage. Sadly for everyone else in the audience it hadn't set yet, so the whole piece had to come back to our room to go int he fridge. Lucky us!

And it was mighty tasty 

Sachie Nomura from Sachie's Kitchen was up next. She had some simple yet wonderful techniques on how to cut cabbage finely, how to butterfly chicken pieces for teriyaki and so much more. I was thrilled to be able to purchase a signed copy of her cookbook on board.

As always audience participation played a huge part

Sachie made one of my absolute favourites - dumplings. I could eat these until I pop!

At the end of her demonstration everyone was invited up to taste. Since returning home from our cruise I have devoured Sachie's book, reading from cover to cover and attempting quite a few recipes.

Sunday morning Bridget was back on stage for "pan frying". First up she showed us how to make a cheese sandwich - now I guess everyone was thinking I don't need to know how to fry a cheese sandwich, but that's where you're wrong. Bridget's cheese sandwich was amazing. She used an Emmental type sweet nutty cheese along with a cheddar. AND she placed cheese inside & outside of the sandwich.

Poppy was sitting in her seat saying "I'd love to try that" - so when bridget called out who wants to try this, and no one did (must have all been a little shy). I called out yes. As Poppy had been up on stage the day before Bridget recognised her and called out "come on up Poppy"

Then it was my turn to salivate. Bridget made a Cubano, made even more famous on the movie "Chef"

So when Bridget called out for a helper, I had to say yes And of course I got one of the chefs hats too - don't I look snazzy.

I layered the sandwich with tasty cheese, ham, pork and pickle.

LOTS of cheese - I love cheese!

Then it was a matter of  frying the lavishly buttered )on the outside) sandwich.

Apparently I was a natural - and this is the result

As we'd just shared Poppy's cheese sandwich with those around us. We also shared this sandwich too. After all breakfast aboard the cruise had left us somewhat full already. Lastly Bridget showed us a salted chocolate sandwich, which was truly decadent. A young boy near us bought a piece over to us int he audience (as we'd shared our sandwiches with him). Just as well it was still a few hours till lunch!

Another fun event was the Pacific cook off. With the Pacific Pearl's executive chef Marc - a very tongue in cheek funny French chef and Bridget Davis the Internet Chef. Hosted by one of P&Os entertainment staff, who kept the jokes coming and attempted to fluster the chefs.

The chefs each had a audience member helper, a mystery bag of ingredients and access to the ingredients on the bench in front of them. Chef Marc decided bananas were useless and tossed them to the stage floor. It was at this point memories of the Muppet's Swedish chef came flooding back and I laughed even harder.

The Pacific cook off was won by Internet Chef Bridget Davis and her cooking partner. It was decided by audience vote, Grandma Kiwicakes had said to me, we're sitting in the front row, Bridget can see us, we'll have to vote for her. However we didn't have to worry, Bridget won us over with her dish. Sorry chef Marc! The prize aside from the glory was a culinary bag of goodies for the audience member helping.

If you love food and you love holidays, I can highly recommend the 3 night short break P&O cruise leaving from and returning to Auckland. For the price of your fare, you receive your room and all meals (unless you opt to eat at Salt Grill - see part 1 of my post). All shows, gym, pool, kids club and many activities are included. Optional extras can include things like wine tasting and cocktail classes, but these are reasonably priced in the $16-25 range

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

P&O Pacific Pearl Food & wine cruise Part 1

Recently Grandma Kiwicakes and I took the kids on a P&O Food & Wine cruise on board the Pacific Pearl from Auckland. We'd travelled with P&O before. So we knew we were in for a good time. Today's blog post is part one of two (the food/cooking stage shows follow in a separate post)

The Food and Wine cruise is a short 3 night at sea break. We sailed out of Auckland at 6pm

The Captain plots the course according to the calmest seas. Below is just a little taste of some of the amenities on board.

On board along with the usual shops, the caker in me was most interested in the chocolate shop. As well as all the usual goodies they've loads of travel exclusives, which are products, that are only found in duty free stores.

I was tempted with these candy rock sticks

One of the Star Wars M&M dispensers did come home with us!

This gummy bear was enormous - I can't imagine one person could eat it.

On board the Pacific Pearl, you've the option to eat buffet style at Plantation restaurant or a la carte at Waterfront (all inclusive in the cruise ticket price). We dined in both, however the Waterfront was a little more to my liking. Arriving here, you can sit as part of a large group of strangers and meet new people, or you can choose a small table for just your party (we did both). I didn't bring out the camera every time we ate. However I couldn't resist taking a photo of the seafood chowder served in a bread bowl, or the wattle seed creme brulee (below). Both were delicious

Cocktails are inexpensive on board and the crew are highly skilled at making them.

Of course I had to have one whilst playing bingo - sadly I didn't win.

Our room was very clean and tidy and our lovely steward Alvin would leave towel animals for the children.

For those who need their daily coffee fix, there's more than one coffee shop on board

As this was specifically a Food & Wine cruise, there were additional activities available (they had the usual cruise fare of pub quizzes, kids club, shows, movies & more). I booked myself in to some of the wine tasting classes, in reality you couldn't book them all, as it would be hard to stay sober!.

I did two wine tasting with Watershed Wines (Margaret River Australia). A very enjoyable and informative hour was spent tasting 6 wines, the stand out for me was the "Awakening chardonnay"

I also spent a fun afternoon in the MIXT bar learning how to make 4 cocktails

An very professional set up was provided for every student.

Our instructor has worked in many bars around the world. And told wonderful stories to accompany each cocktail he chose.

The alcohol was measured out for us, by another member of the bar staff.

We all really got in to the shaking part

First up was the Fresh Grapefruit Cosmopolitan (we used pink grapefruit)
1oz Grapefruit vodka
1oz Cointreau
1oz Cranberry juice
Fresh Grapefruit
Squeeze of lime
Dash of sugar syrup

Muddle Grapefruit with the other ingredients, push muddle stick down on to fruit to release the juices. Fill shaker with ice, shake and strain into chilled glass.

At this point our instructor showed us a snazzy trick with the grapefruit peel. He held his lighter until the peel for a few moments, until there was a sizzle and a visible poof, he called this smoking the peel and assured us it added a smoky flavour to the cocktail. 

I really enjoyed drinking this one.

But no time to rest, it was on to our Pimms Cup, our instructor painted a lovely picture of people drinking these in the park during summer in London.
2ox Pimms
Mint - bruise in glass

Add all of the ingredients to your class. Top up with lemonade Simple!

Next up was the Caprioska. Our instructor explained this needs time to sit, to let the ice melt and blend with it. As I still hadn't finished drinking cocktail no#2, this was a welcome rest period.

3 lime wedges
2oz Citrus Vodka*
1/2oz Sugar Syrup.

Muddle limes with Vodka and sugar and crushed ice

Citrus Vodka
2 limes peeled
6 lemons peeled
2 oranges peeled

Add the peels to your vodka and allow to infuse for at least 3 days or until colour has changed.

Next we moved on to the Coffee & Cream. We were instructed to "decorate the glass" with chocolate syrup. I knew I couldn't be too heavy handed, as chocolate syrup runs. However looking around the room, this may not have been obvious to everyone as most glasses looked like chocolate swamps. The instructor grabbed my glass and showed it around the room, to much comments from others, my only reply "well you said to decorate the glass"

1oz Coffee & Vanilla infused vodka*
1oz Patron XO Cafe
1/2 oz Baileys
1 1/2oz Half and Half

Add all of the ingredients into a shaker, fill with ice, shake & strain in to a chilled glass.

Coffee and Vanilla infused Vodka
10 vanilla pods
10 coffee beans

Cut vanilla pods and add them with the coffee beans to your vodka. Allow 3 days to infuse, or until vodka changes colour.

After busy days of fun food & wine shows & classes, Grandma Kiwicakes and I went to Salt Grill for Dinner, this is not included in your fare and carries a surcharge to eat here. However it is a mere fraction of what it would cost to eat at Luke Mangan's Salt on dry land. And there's actually no limit on how much food you can order. Grandma Kiwicakes and I have eaten at Salt before, so we knew we were in for a real treat.

A peek at the menu

My gorgeous gnocchi starter

Grandma's Lobster Angnolotti

It is rare for me to order a steak when out, but this time I did, it comes to your table on it's own, and you can order all the sides separately. Yes you do see fries on our table, but they are truffle fries - which are divine!.

Dessert for Grandma Kiwicakes was the cheese platter. Which means the wonderful and cheerful staff come to your table with a vast selection of cheese and you can choose as much as you want. Which is safe to say was not a lot, if you saw how much we'd already eaten. Then you've the option to have it drizzled with honey & fig.

I had the petit fours. Yum!

And no trip to Salt would be complete without the souvenir bottles of oils & vinegar. These three were more than happy to come home with us.

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