Who we love – Sunshine Health & Fitness

At The Dandelion Bakery we are lucky enough to get to meet a lot of wonderful wedding suppliers. When we’ve used or worked with those suppliers a number of times and seen what they can do, they sometimes become people we love.

This month I wanted to tell you about the amazing Alison Smith of Sunshine Health & Fitness. I make cake for a living, which means that I also eat a fair amount of cake so I’ve been using Alison’s services for a while now! I’ve been through Alison’s beginners running group and I’m now in the improvers running group, I do leg strengthening classes, I’ve tried Nordic walking and I’ve had PT sessions where the whole session was tailored to suit my goals and my preferred exercises.

Alison Smith of Sunshine Health & Fitness

Alison Smith of Sunshine Health & Fitness

Alison is great because she helps you to feel better: you feel fitter, stronger, more energised and generally a better version of you. But why, you may be asking, is she listed as a wedding supplier? As well as helping to keep me in shape generally, Alison also helped me to lose some extra weight from my hips and stomach so that I could slide into my wedding dress with ease. It doesn’t end there though. Alison’s regular running groups also helped to keep me sane in the run up to the wedding and strengthened and improved my posture (a must for anyone with a corset!), meaning that I looked and felt amazing on my wedding day and was far better equipped to handle stressful situations.

The thing is though, it hasn’t stopped there for me. I’m continuing to see Alison to ensure my ongoing health, stamina and fitness, plus we’ve still not been on our honeymoon so I have to make sure I look good in the bikini! Alison is a firm believer in establishing sensible goals and, in most cases, they will need to be medium to long term so if you are 12 weeks from the wedding and looking for a good tone up Alison can definitely help, however, if you’ve just got engaged and are looking to get married in a year or so, you’d be amazed what she can help you to achieve. Her top tip? Give yourself time and be realistic about what you can achieve in that time frame, but if you find a sport or exercise that you love it’ll be much easier.

So why do we love Alison so much anyway? She is a fabulous human being. She is strong, dynamic and inspiring to be around. She is fit, athletic and takes care of her nutrition, but she also likes cake occasionally. She has the perfect personality for her job too. She is upbeat, positive and smiley but gentle and supportive when you need it (I once arrived at a session, she asked how I was and I burst into tears. She handled it brilliantly.) but don’t be fooled into thinking that she will mollycoddle you or let you off easily. She won’t – without you even realising, she will make you work hard until you are out of breath, and you’ll be so proud of yourself at the end that you’ll want to do it all again next time, and more besides. And the best thing about Alison is that she’ll be proud of you too.

You can find out more about Alison by visiting her website.

Healthier banana cake recipe

This is a delicious, moist banana cake that will satisfy any cake craving without ruining your diet. It’s also incredibly quick and easy to make.
Healthier banana cake 1
Makes 12 slices – 138 calories and 2g of fat per slice
Ingredients
4 bananas
2 free range eggs
150g sultanas
1 tsp mixed spice
100ml low fat coconut milk
115g self raising flour (gluten-free if you prefer)
20g honey

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees and grease and line a loaf tin.
2. Place the bananas and eggs in a large bowl and mash together with a potato masher.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until fully combined.
4. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Healthier banana cake 2
Want to try this at home? Save or print our Healthier banana cake recipe card.

Top tips on choosing a wedding cake

I’m a baker, cake decorator and recent Bride so I know that planning a wedding involves making a lot of decisions! I also know that the better prepared you are, the easier it will be to fly through the decision-making process and have your perfect day. To help you prepare, I’ve put together a list of top tips to make sure that you have your ideal wedding cake.
top tips on choosing your wedding cake

1. Have a budget

Every wedding has a budget and cake decorators have different price ranges. If you have £200 to spend on a cake it’s a waste of your time to visit a cake decorator who makes cakes starting at £800. That’s a Saturday afternoon or evening you could be spending on something else, so be realistic about what you can afford and find a cake decorator who suits your budget. If you are unsure, email the cake decorator and ask if they work within your budget.

2. Allow time

Make sure that you allow a minimum of 8 weeks from your initial consultation, but longer if you can. It can take several weeks from your first contact with a cake decorator to a finalised cake design. A cake decorator then needs time to buy supplies and equipment for your cake and we often make decorations ahead of time. For example, if your cake is going to be covered in large flowers a cake decorator may start work on them 4 weeks ahead of your wedding. Cakes can be made in short periods of time, but it will restrict your choices.

3. Plan your day

Wedding cake designs are usually based on other elements of the wedding day, like the colour scheme, flowers or wedding dress. Cakes can even be based on small details from the day – borrowing a piece of antique jewellery from one of your relatives? Why not decorate the cake with a sugar paste replica. Have a good idea of how you’d like your day to look when you speak to a cake decorator.

4. Meet your cake decorator

Always meet with your cake decorator. Cutting your cake is a highly photographed moment in the day so finding someone that is on the same wave-length as you and can translate your taste into a cake that will wow you is very important. It also gives you the chance to tell your cake decorator all about your day and to share images and ideas. Consider having an extra invitation made that you can leave with your cake decorator so that they can see the style and colours of your wedding, or put together some ribbon and fabric samples to be colour-matched. A face to face conversation is always more creative than an email exchange. It also gives you chance to…

5. Try the cake

I get that you are probably on a diet (most Brides-to-be are!) but you really should try the cake. There are many flavour options so you really can tailor your cake to suit your tastes. Often, couples have different tastes so why not do a Groom’s tier and a Bride’s tier? That way you can each choose your favourite flavours. And the quality of the cake is incredibly important. Yes, the cake has to look fabulous for the photos, but if it tastes anyhting less than amazing that is what your guests will remember. It is an unfortunate truth, but bad food seems to be incredibly memorable!

And if you are really anti-cake tasting because of the wedding dress fittings, an average cake tasting at The Dandelion Bakery comes in under 300 calories. That’s about a 2 mile run.

6. Size matters

Have a good idea of the number of guests attending your wedding. Bear in mind that the cake is often cut in the evening, so ensure that you allow for evening guests too. However, portion numbers aren’t the only factor. You may be having a small wedding, but if your venue is rather grand with a high ceiling, a two-tier cake may look a bit lost. Why not talk to your cake decorator about using polystyrene dummy cakes or cake separators to add some height to your cake without adding too much to the cost.

7. Consider set up and delivery

Think about how you would like to display your cake. Will you buy a cake stand, use one from your venue or hire one from your cake decorator? Remember to find out how much your cake decorator charges for delivery and set up and to ask how long it takes. Most cakes are assembled on site, so you will need to allow your cake decorator time and space to do that.

Finally, try to enjoy the process of choosing and designing a cake. It’s something personalised for you and your partner that you really can make all about you. And you get to eat cake. What could be better?

If you’d like a pdf of this to take away with you, you can have this one: Top Tips on choosing a wedding cake

Christmas gift ideas for experienced bakers

So you have a baker in your life but you’re not sure what to buy them. Or you are a baker and your other half keeps asking what you’d like. Our Christmas gift list is here to help. I’ve put together two gift lists, one for an enthusiastic baker who is still learning, and one for a very skilled baker who knows their stuff. This week we’re looking at gifts for the experienced baker.

pro bakers gifts 1

1. Patisserie at Home by Will Torrent, Amazon £15.99. This is a great recipe book with some lovely recipes for both classic and modern patisserie. If you are looking for some more complex but recipes to try that need some skill but are perfectly achievable, this is the book for you.

2. Stainless steel modelling tools, Wilton $39.99. Sadly only available as a US import, these tools are great. The stainless steel tools leave no marks or tears on your fondant or flower paste where plastic ones may from the joins in the plastic. Beautiful to work with.

3. Professional colour pastes, Squires Kitchen £32.40. A set of professional colour pastes that will cover all of your colouring needs and a little goes a long way! We use these pastes in our kitchen and any experienced baker will love the full rainbow of colours in this box.

4. Coffee grinder by Tefal, Amazon £18.83. Some spices are best when they are freshly grated, like nutmeg and cloves. We also use a coffee grinder to blend spices, grind tea leaves and break seeds out of pods, like cardamom. This gets so much use round Christmas!

pro bakers gifts 2

5. Croquembouche set, Amazon/ £17.99. If you have mastered the art of Choux pastry and would like an extra challenge, this is the gift for you. Combine your choux skills with caramel work for the perfect centrepiece dessert.

6. Excalibur dehydrator, UK Juicers £264.90. A bit of an extravagant one, but such a great gift! Freeze dried powders have been very popular for a while now and (combined with your coffee grinder!) this is a great way to make your own. The is also a great way to make concentrated fruit flavours or pretty decorations when you want a break from sugar.

7. Wedgewood cake stand, John Lewis £52. When you make beautiful cakes, you need beautiful cake stands to display them on and this is one of the most stunning.

8. Food painting kit, Squires Kitchen £32.40. Hand painted cakes have been very fashionable this year and this is a great starter kit for someone who would like to try this technique.

pro baker gifts 3

9. Sugar thermometer, Amazon/ £18.48. Perfect for making caramel, marshmallow, fudge and jams, you will find some many uses for a sugar thermometer and this is a great digital one that means you can keep your fingers out of that pan of hot sugar!

10. Marble rolling pin, Not on the High Street £45. A great gift for the biscuit and pastry maker, this marble rolling pin is as beautiful as it is practical. The natural weight also makes rolling out easier and it’s a very satisfying object to use.

11. School of icing ticket, Biscuiteers £78. If your favourite baker would love some time to learn a new skill from an expert, this is a great option. The Biscuiteers produce beautiful iced biscuits, and they can teach you how too.

12. Kenwood Chef Titanium, Amazon £349.99. Kitchenaid mixers are very popular, and yes, they come in lovely colours, but this is THE mixer to have. It’s the one the professionals have.