Since I started Little Otter Events, I have met so many talented makers and I love following them on social media and seeing their latest work.
Last year, Cardiff based Elena Floarea came along to our Rhiwbina and Penarth events selling her range of beautiful French macarons. Elena is an amazing baker and creates some truly stunning cakes. Recently I met up with Elena to find out where this talent came from and if she has always enjoyed baking....Introducing Elena...
When did you start baking?
I started when I was 16. I went to a culinary college and at the end of the course I won a french patisserie contest. The prize was an apprenticeship in France with one of the best French pastry chefs there was that year.
That’s when I fell in love with baking and creating delicious cakes and macarons.
Who was your biggest influence?
My mum always encouraged me to reach as high as I can. I went to France to complete the apprenticeship I’ve won because she encouraged and supported me. I was only 18 so she was my rock, helping me increase my confidence.
Where did you study?
I studied for my Culinary diploma at a college in Bucharest. Then in France I’ve received a french patisserie diploma for completing my apprenticeship and also been offered a 1.5 year contract with a popular french patisserie in France.
When did you start your own business?
I set up Lolo’s Cake Away in 2015.
Where do you get your creative ideas from?
I use a lot Pinterest for inspiration! I’m also part of many cake and wedding groups on Facebook where I can follow trends and see what people like most. Then combined with my knowledge and experience acquired over the last 12 years I try to get something different to ensure our customers like the suggested design.
What is the inspiration behind Lolo's Cake Away?
‘Lolo’ comes from Lawrence which is my partner and our gorgeous son Lawson (Lo-Lo). I was in my second year of uni studying Business Management at Cardiff Uni when my partner said he would help me set up the business and follow my dream. It was one of the best days ever and I went for it! Three years later Lolo’s Cake Away is a recognisable brand in Cardiff.
I’m also trying to make Majestic Macarons the best macaron business in Wales. We’re growing every day and maybe one day we will have a shop where we can combine cakes by Lolo’s Cake Away and delicious macarons by Majestic Macarons.
Do you have a favourite flavour cake/macaron?
I have quite a few favourites. However, Ferrero Rocher macarons are my no. 1 favourite ! I’ve mistakenly ate some from my order and realised I had to make some more
And my second favourite is pistachios macarons. It always reminds me of my trips to the Parisian patisseries in France.
As you can see I find it difficult to choose one favourite only! Guess I really love my job!
What is the longest time you have ever spent creating a cake?
One week was the longest time I’ve spent on making and creating a cake. It was for a four tier wedding cake with cascading roses in pink and yellow.
I loved the end result and the hard work definitely paid off! Sugar Flowers are very time consuming but when they’re finished they look so amazing it is worth all the time in the world.
The bride and groom were over the moon and I’ve receive so many compliments on design and skill.
Thanks so much Elena!
Elena's creations are absolutely amazing - she is on social media and regularly posts up photos of her latest work.
She is very kindly offering friends of Little Otter Events a 20% discount - so if you have a birthday, wedding or special occasion coming up, get in touch with Elena to discuss your ideas.
What an amazing maker! I want to get married all over again just so Elena can make me a cake!
If you have been along to a Little Otter Events market in the past five years, you will have no doubt discovered the work of Whitchurch based maker Lydia Niziblian. Lydia's work is always popular at our events and it is easy to see why - she creates such beautiful unique pieces and is continuously coming up with new ranges, and learning new techniques to expand her knowledge as a maker.
She has recently added stunning jewellery made with a technique called Keum-boo. I asked Lydia to write a guestblog to explain the ancient technique and to introduce us to her new range.....over to you Lyd...
One of my favourite things about making jewellery is its therapeutic qualities. I often find myself making according to my mood. At one end there is hammering and forming heavy jewellery which can really release some tension! At the other end of the scale there are some very delicate, almost Zen like practices. My favourite of these is keum-boo. Keum-boo (pronounced kum boo) is an ancient gilding technique originating in Korea. I first started using the process a little over 5 years ago, and it’s become a firm favourite.
Keum-boo (meaning ͞attached gold͟) is the application of thin 24ct gold foil to the surface of metal; in this case silver. Sterling silver must be prepared by repeatedly heating the silver, quenching it, and soaking it in jewellers’ pickle. Pickle covers a variety of available mild acid solutions, although a mix of distilled vinegar and salt work as well! Some people like to brush it with a brass brush in soapy water between repetitions. After numerous soakings, the silver takes on a white appearance. This means a layer of fine silver has been brought to the surface. Now you can apply the gold foil using a combination of heat and pressure. I prefer the piece of jewellery to be pretty much finished; all soldering finished and settings in place.
Some folk use a hot plate; I prefer a butane torch as I find I get a little more control. Using a steel or agate burnisher, you tack and rub the foil into place. How the piece is finished can vary tremendously; I like to either brush the piece with a brass brush, or oxidise or patinate it for contrast.
You can treat yourself (or a lucky friend!) by using code LITTLEOTTER at checkout in my shop to get 25% off any of my ready-made jewellery until June 1st*
*offer excludes made to order items and gift vouchers
Royal wedding fever has hit the UK this week ahead of the wedding of Prince Harry to Megan Markle this Saturday 19th May. Even if you aren’t a royalist, this weekend provides the perfect excuse to get together with family and friends to join in the celebrations.
There has been lots of speculation as to what food will be served at the Windsor Castle reception this weekend. We know that Megan and Harry will be having a lemon and elderflower cake decorated with edible flowers - so chic. But I wonder if the very stylish MM will have chosen to feature the popular choice of many modern brides - macaron favours.
I caught up with Elena Floarea of Cardiff-based Majestic Macarons to find out more about the macaron and its history - it turns out that it was originally created for a royal wedding!
Elena explained, “Created for a royal wedding back in the 16th century in Italy, a macaron is a sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food colouring.
“The macaron was introduced by the chef of Catherine de Medicis in 1533 at the time of her marriage to the Duc d'Orleans. Catherine de' Medici, daughter of Lorenzo II de' Medici and of Madeleine de La Tour d'Auvergne, was an Italian noblewoman who was queen of France from 1547 until 1559, by marriage to King Henry II."
“The term "macaron" has the same origin as that the word "macaroni" -- both mean "fine dough". And originally the macaron was like a cookie in size. But only at the beginning of the 20th century did the macaron become a “double-decker” affair.”
Ladurée, the famous Parisian pastry shop could very well be most associated with the modern-style macarons today. The shop was founded in 1862, but it was not until the early twentieth century that Pierre Desfontaines, grandson of Louis Ernest Ladurée, had the idea of piping ganache on a shell and topping it with another. So the modern day macaron was born presented with a ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two such cookies.
Over the last fifteen years, the popularity of the macaron has travelled across the Channel. In 2005, Laduree opened a store in London’s Harrods, and positioned the macaron as a luxury confectionery.
Today macarons have become a popular sweet to appear on afternoon tea menus across the UK and they are very popular at wedding receptions and other parties. But what is it about this little sweet treat that appeals to so many people?
Elena explained, “With such an amazing range of colours and flavours available, the macaron can be perfectly tailored to suit any wedding colour scheme or favourite flavour of the recipient. Apparently Megan is a big fan of green so will we be seeing any green pistachio macarons on the table this weekend?”
I can’t wait to find out and will be watching from the sofa this weekend. I might even put the bunting out!
** If you are planning a wedding or party and want to include macarons, Elena Floarea of Majestic Macarons is offering Little Otter Friends 20% discount. Visit Elena's directory page to get in touch. **
The sun is forecast to put in an appearance again soon - hooray! After our recent hot spell, I optimistically packed away all our winter clothes and brought our summer stuff down from the attic. I love rediscovering all my dresses and shorts, fingers crossed that they all still fit! Sadly my daughters have grown out of most of their clothes and so we have started the annual shop for new summer clothes.
If you too are on the look out for some new designs for your children for the summer, have a look at the new range from Zac & Bella released last week. I caught up with Hayley from the brand to find out more about her new range and the inspiration behind it...
Hayley, the new range is looking amazing! What was your inspiration behind the designs?
"The collection was very much inspired by nature - with an emphasis on being kind to it! All garments are made from organic cotton which is proven to be one of the most eco-friendly fabrics you could possibly have your clothing made from.
"The prints I’ve used are fun and quirky, making them perfect for children’s clothing. The Narwhals print was one that my son Zac chose as he loves his nature programmes and Narwhals are one of his favourite sea animals."
"The inspiration behind the styles of clothing came from allowing children to play comfortably as well as having the practicality of easy fastenings and being machine washable! "
"I have continued to include the ever popular harem style leggings as well as adding a similar style in shorts with some fun slogan tees to coordinate. Dungarees and rompers also add a fun yet practical addition to the collection.
"The majority of the range is available from newborn to 12 years - perfect for matching sibling outfits! "
I'm sure you'll agree that the new Zac & Bella range is looking adorable. I love the seainspired designs and I know that Hayley is adding new pieces to the range this week so head on over to her website to find out more.
Since creating Little Otter Events back in 2013, I have met some amazing talented people many of whom have now become friends. One regular face at our events who has been a huge support to me over the years, is the very lovely Melanie Constantinou of baked by Mel.
Mel set up her own small business baking from home and was asked to talk about her journey and share some of her advice as part of an International Women's Day celebration last week, hosted by Her Worship the Mayor of The Vale of Glamorgan Councillor Janice Charles, organised by Julie Brown PA to the Mayor.
I caught up with Mel to find out a bit more about the day and how she got involved...
What did you talk about Mel?
I spoke about starting a small business from home and how/why I had come to that decision. I started baking as a business as a single parent to two small boys living on Machen mountain, outside Caerphilly. After many wanderings and living in various places, here I came, to settle in Wales…though with my family, all in Essex…it was tricky to fit in working hours and I struggled to imagine how I would return to teaching. Keen to improve our circumstances, I realised a home-based business would suit us perfectly. Naturally (very )…I turned to cake!!
I was specifically asked to speak about non-aggressive networking too and I gave out some of my tips. It was an honour to be invited and spend time in the company of so many inspirational women including:
International Women's Day...
Started by the Suffragettes in the early 1900's, the first International Women's Day was celebrated in 1911. International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
This celebration held in Barry was part of the #pressforprogress campaign which is the campaign theme of International Women's Day this year which kicks off on March 8 every year. The IWD campaign theme provides a unified direction to guide and galvanize collective action. The campaign theme does not end on International Women's Day. It's just the start. Throughout the year many groups worldwide adopt the IWD campaign theme for further campaign work, gender-focused initiatives, continuing activity and events.
A huge well done to Mel for speaking in public which is always a nerve racking occasion! To find out more about Mel and her work, please visit her page on the Little Otter Events directory. To find out more about IWD campaign #pressforprogress, visit their website.
April Liddell. Founder of Little Otter Markets. Lives a crafty life. Loves going for walks with her dog Betsi, listening to music, and eating chelsea buns.