Can you have a Destination Wedding without leaving the UK?

Thinking of having a destination wedding?

Destination weddings have become hugely popular over recent years. To begin with they were small and intimate elopements, as the cost and logistics of getting your whole family out to your chosen location was prohibitive. But, recently, that has changed. And now destination weddings can be as full on as a wedding at home.

And then THE VIRUS hit.

Suddenly weddings abroad became next to impossible, in fact all weddings are pretty much on hold for now. But that won’t last forever. Weddings will start happening again. Although, I suspect, travelling out of the county will not be something people will be rushing to do for some time, especially if you have elderly relatives you want at your wedding.

Which brings me to the subject of todays blog.

 Can you have a destination wedding without leaving the UK?

The simple answer is, yes! Think about what we mean by a ‘destination wedding.’ It is essentially a wedding that you have to travel to. We have come to think of that as getting on a plane and flying off to somewhere exotic, but it can actually be anywhere.

As you know I live and work on the North Cornwall/Devon border (I live in Cornwall and my studio is in Devon) And one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that this part of the South West is most definitely a wedding hot spot, and a popular place for a  destination wedding. I have had couples come from all over the world to get married down here, as well as from all over the UK.

In fact, I would say, that around 75% of my couples are not living down here. They are using Devon and Cornwall as a destination, in the same way you might think of Italy, Greece or even further.

And there are many benefits to choosing the far South West.

At the moment the big advantage is no plane travel, which also brings the cost of getting to your wedding down for your guests too (let’s be honest, this is going to be relevant in the current economic climate). And well also have a big benefit to the planet.

Family and friends can car share to get to the wedding. This will also bring down the carbon footprint. And they may be able to come by train, which is even better.

Any guests with small children won’t have the stress of taking them on a long flight and can plan their journey around the kids.

You can bring your dogs! And so can everyone else. A lot of wedding venues are dog friendly, and there are loads of dog friendly accommodations down here too. How amazing would that be? And don’t worry, there are dog walking and sitting services available.

a dog at a wedding Claire, George and little Pickle!

Our beaches are amazing! And are quite different depending on which coast you are on, so you can choose the vibe that best suits you. Here on the north coast we are well known for amazing surfing beaches. And the cliffs are rugged and terribly romantic. It’s no coincidence Poldark was filmed down and around here.

We have beautiful woodlands and estates. If you’re not looking for a seaside/beach wedding then you only need to go inland a little for some amazing, and very different, scenery. We have some beautiful country houses and estates down here that are gorgeous wedding venues.

History. Well we have that in spades! There’s one wedding venue in Cornwall with its own Iron Age fort! Then there are the forts from the Napoleonic Wars that are now wedding venues (yes really) And countless historic churches and chapels.

A great many Devon and Cornwall wedding venues offer outdoor weddings, many with sea views, or even a private beach. And a lot of them can be hired as a whole, for the whole weekend. So you and your guests can all stay together on site. No driving, everyone can have a drink, no parking worries.

No time changes. Okay this might not be a big thing. But it’s still a plus. Time changes aren’t so bad within Europe. But go any further and it can be significant, and jet lag isn’t fun. You and your guests really don’t want that groggy, slightly hungover feeling on the big day, save that for the day after!

The weather. Now I know what you’re thinking. This is the UK, it rains. That is true. But it rains a lot less down here than other parts of the UK. And getting married abroad is no guarantee of good weather. One of the most spectacular and long lasting thunder storms I’ve ever seen was while I was in Cannes. And we had a similar downpour in LA!

And is generally a little warmer down here too. The days are also a little longer. I always notice how much earlier it gets dark when I’m up in London compared to down here.

Not to mention the sunsets!

A Bude sunset
A Bude sunset

Imagine that as a backdrop to your wedding photos.

Now I know I haven’t mentioned the wedding cake once in this post. And I’m a wedding cake maker, so I really should.

I do, of course, deliver my luxury wedding cakes across the whole of Devon and Cornwall. And the wider South West. As do most locally based cake designers. But if you have a cake maker based near your home who you’d really like to use, then have a chat with them to see if it’s possible for them to deliver this far.

wedding cake on a chair

Finding the right suppliers so far from home is always something that is going to be on your mind with planning any destination wedding. This is where hiring a wedding planner local to your wedding venue is really helpful. And also ask your wedding venue for any recommendations of local suppliers they are happy working with.

Another big advantage of using Devon and Cornwall as your destination, is that you can easily get here to meet up with suppliers. A lot of my non local couples (mostly London) come down for the odd weekend here and there to have a mini break and meet with suppliers and their venue. Not something you can do as easily if your wedding is in Barbados etc.

So here are a few top tips for planning a UK destination wedding (or any wedding while in lockdown)

1/ The internet is your best friend. Almost all wedding venues and suppliers have websites. There are also many wedding directories dealing with specific areas that will list suppliers local to your chosen venue.

2/ Skype. Or any of the others. Most of us have it. And it’s a great way to have virtual tours of venues and online consultations with suppliers.

3/ Think about travel for family and friends. Make sure the venue you choose is easy to find (trust me they aren’t always)

4/ Think about hiring a wedding planner to help you source the best local suppliers. They will know who the good ones are.

5/ Planning a UK destination wedding is a great excuse for a lot of weekend breaks ?

To get in touch with me about your wedding cake in Devon or Cornwall (or anywhere else) click HERE

 A few wedding venues I can recommend for their beauty, location and lovely staff.

Pynes House near Exeter

Deer Park Country house and Estate near Honiton

Rockbeare Manor near Exeter

Lower Barns near St Austell

Tawstock Court near Barnstaple

Sandy Cove hotel North Devon

Launcells Barton near Bude

Pentillie Castle near Saltash

Stress free wedding cakes – How to get a custom wedding cake without the stress

When you’re planning a wedding there is a great deal to think about. And this can lead to wedding stress. But we want to solve those stresses, and help you have a stress free wedding cake process, but we need to know what those stresses and worries are.

So today I’m going to ask you to get involved. An interactive blog if you like.

I want to hear from you about your freak out moments (we all have them) and stresses, especially when it comes to your wedding cake. And also what I can do to help you. Because that’s a big part of my job, not just to physically make your wedding cake, but to take the stress out of the process too.

Little boy enjoying his slice of cake
Who doesn’t love cake?!

With this in mind, what advice can I offer?

Firstly I would say sign up to my mailing list so you can get lots and lots of free advice on all things wedding cake direct to your inbox ? (shameless plug!) There you will get your guide to choosing your wedding cake, as well as other useful advice (sign up HERE).
I would also say to talk to me, and to all your suppliers. All the suppliers you have in mind to work with for your wedding will be only too happy to answer questions. People often start an email with ‘I know this is a silly question…..’ But there is no such thing as a silly question. After all the chances are you have never got married before, or even been involved in organising a wedding.

Even if this is not your first wedding, things will likely have changed, and what you want, and your tastes will have changed. We do this for a living, so it’s our job to know what we’re doing. We don’t expect you to know. So ask us. Talk to us. Tell us what is stressing you out, and stopping you enjoying the wedding planning experience.

sizing chart
The sizing chart I work from, so you can use it too

Back to cakes.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. It’s YOUR wedding cake, so go with what YOU want. The chances are, these days, you are paying for the majority of the wedding yourselves. Which is even more reason to spend that money on what gets you excited. Something else I’ve said before is book early! This is just as true for the wedding cake as for everything else. And budget properly for the cake. Have a look on the websites of your wedding cake makers shortlist, see what their pricing is. This will give you a good idea of what you will need to be budgeting for the wedding cake.

Remember you don’t need to have all the details of your wedding cake design finalised before booking in with you cake maker. In fact part of my job is to design your wedding cake for you, and with you. As long as we know a rough size (or numbers the cake will need to serve) And a rough idea on the vibe of the wedding, that’s enough to start the process. If you have a Pinterest board for your wedding cake, then invite your cake maker to join it. This way we can see exactly what things you are liking, what you’re being drawn to, and this is really helpful. Or simply email us some reference images as and when you see something you like.

semi naked cake with gold drips
Gold drip cake with friends!

Another tip is to find out early on from your guests if there are any food allergies or special dietary requirements. The earlier you can let you cake maker, venue and caterer know the easier it will be to put all the arrangements in place. And it’s one less thing to have to worry about.

Getting your date booked in with all your chosen suppliers is the best way to give yourself piece of mind. Knowing that these things are booked, even if there are still details to confirm, will take a lot of pressure off.

Other things to think about

Another thing to bear in mind at the moment is that a lot of 2020 couples are having to move their wedding to 2021 because of you know what. Which means key dates are going faster than usual. So if you have decided which suppliers you want to work with, don’t wait to make that first contact with them. If a couple has already contacted me about a date, I will always give them first refusal should another enquiry come in. And once a booking fee is paid then that date is yours!

Right now we also can’t offer face to face consultations. However we can skype/face time/zoom etc, and you can email me whenever you’ve got a query. This is actually no bad thing, as we don’t have to stick to a set appointment time.

Clovelly studio
My Clovelly Studio when we can do face to face meetings again

Anti-stress check list for your wedding cake:

1/ Write down all the things that are stressing you about the cake.
2/ Talk to your cake maker about the things on your ‘stress’ list. Remember there is no such thing as a silly question.
3/ Block out all the voices telling you what they think you should have. Think about what YOU want.
4/ Book early. Even if you haven’t decided exactly what you want. If you have found the cake maker you want to work with, then pay a booking fee and secure your date. Then you can relax and enjoy planning your dream cake.
5/ Budget properly. Do some research first. Most good cake makers will have a price guide of some kind to give you an idea of the amount you should budget for a cake from them.
6/ Sign up for your chosen cake makers newsletter. There will be lots of useful advice and tips there. And you can unsubscribe once you’ve got the info you need.

Now it’s your turn! Tell me what’s stressing you out about choosing your wedding cake. Tell me how I can help take that stress away. Pop over to my Instagram or FaceBook Page and leave me you comments, ask me your questions and let me help!

And if you want to get in touch to discuss your wedding cake, pop HERE

Luxury Wedding Cakes – Why are there dowels in my wedding cake?

Welcome back! Today we are going to go inside your luxury wedding cake to explore what makes it stay standing, and keeps it structurally sound.

Dowels.

Something you may have noticed when cutting your luxury wedding cake (or any tired cake) is the presence of dowels.

Dowels are usually some form of plastic or wood, and are inserted into each tier of cake to support the one above. I prefer to use a recyclable plastic straw, that is hollow. This is because the solid ones can cause issues with displacing the cake, causing cracks on the outside.

white and gold luxury wedding cake with sugar roses
Every wedding cake needs to support itself

Why have dowels?

The main function of dowels is to provide stability and support. Even though sponge cakes aren’t really that heavy compared to fruit cakes, they are quite delicate. A sponge cake won’t take the weight of another cake for very long.

If you have ever watched Bake Off when they haven’t used dowels, you’ll have seen the collapsing results! And their tired cakes are only out for a short time. Many times my husband has laughed at me for shouting ‘DOWELS PEOPLE!!!!!’ at the tv.

I have occasionally been asked why the dowels have to be there, as they get in the way when the cake is being cut up. Well yes they might, but if you didn’t have them, then you wouldn’t have a three or four tier wedding cake for very long!

Do dowels cut down the amount of usable cake?

I do take this into account when working out how big your wedding cake will need to be for the numbers it’s got to serve. In reality you’ll only be losing about six or seven servings in a three-tier wedding cake because of the dowels. And as we recommend ordering the cake for 10% less than the full number of guests, then it won’t make any difference.

You will also notice that there will be a cake board of some kind between each tier of your wedding cake. Again I have been asked why they are needed when the tiers sit on top of one another.

luxury wedding cake sizing chart
This is the chat I use to work out the size of your wedding cake

But the board it there for two reasons.

Firstly if there wasn’t a board, then the dowels would just push up into the tier above and wouldn’t give enough support. By having the board, you are giving something solid to rest on the dowels. Secondly the cake will need to be handled, and having a board means it can be lifted and carried safely, without fear of damaging the cake.

Types of dowels

I mentioned above about the types of dowel I use. But there are different kinds, and each cake maker will have their preferences.

I prefer a thick, hollow plastic straw type. Sometimes called pollydowels. And a wider straw that the pollydowel sits inside. I see this as a ‘belt and braces’ method.

Now I am aware that plastic isn’t the most popular thing, and I try hard to limit the amount I use. The cellophane I use to wrap some cakes for transport is 100% compostable for example.

I am always on the lookout for a better option for dowels. But, for now, the only other option is solid wooden or solid plastic dowels. And these come with their own issues.

The main problem with a solid dowel is that it displaces the cake as you push it in. Where the hollow straw type doesn’t, the cake simply fills the void and creates extra stability. The other problem with the solid wooden ones is cutting them to the correct height. A dowel needs to be cut to a whisker above the top of the cake it is going into, and this is a lot harder to do with wooden ones. They have to be sawed or cut with heavy duty cutters, running the risk of sawdust and splinters. Not ideal I think you’d agree! And the solid plastic ones are not much better.

luxury wedding cake with glass separator
Even with a separator the cake will still need dowels

But what about the thick paper straws I hear you ask?

Sadly they are not an option as cake dowels at the moment. Although they may work for cake pop sticks.

This is because paper absorbs moisture. So paper straws will start to absorb the moisture in the cakes and the fillings. Eventually becoming soft and they then start losing their strength. This defeats the purpose of a dowel.

I very much hope there will be a paper alternative, eventually, that can be used without going soft. But, for now, I will carry on using the pollydowels. They can be pulled out of the cakes and recycled, which is something. And you can speak to your venue or caterer and ask them to do that for you. I am also always looking for a compostable/biodegradable plastic option. So of they do get thrown away they will at least do minimal harm.

If what the dowels in your wedding cake are made of is important to you, then do discuss it with your wedding cake maker. We will always be happy to go through all the available options with you.

To discuss dowels with me, or any other aspect of your luxury wedding cake, click HERE

To get your FREE guide to choosing your wedding cake, click HERE

Wedding Cakes Devon- Bicton Botanical Gardens Photo Shoot

A few short weeks ago, before the madness descended, I was asked to be a part of a photoshoot at Bicton Park Botanical Gardens. I have to say it now feels like a lifetime ago, but it was only late February.
You probably know that I trained in horticulture when I left school (don’t ask how long ago that was!!) And although I no longer work in that industry, I do still love plants and flowers. These days it’s the sugar kind I spend my time with. But a photoshoot in a botanical garden was something I jumped at!
And it didn’t disappoint.

a view over Bicton Park gardens
The view from The Terrace

The venue.

I don’t know why we have never been to Bicton Park before. I guess it’s that old thing of knowing it’s there whenever you want to visit, so you never get around to it. Something none of us will be doing in future I suspect. This whole situation we find ourselves in right now certainly makes you appreciate all the things you can no longer do, like visit gardens. And these are ones I will certainly be returning to when I’m able.
The Gardens were originally part of Bicton Park, which was built by the Rolles family in the 18th century. The gardens were laid out at the same time as the house, and much of the original features still exist. Such as the Palm House, one of the areas used in the shoot, which is around 20 years older than the famous Palm House at Kew.
There are 60 acres of gardens to explore, with lots of places to stop and have beautiful wedding photos taken. And there’s a train!! The Bicton Woodland Railway is a 25 minute ride around the gardens, a bonus for any train buffs in the wedding party.

 

The Terrace
The Terrace (Image from Visit Devon)

The shoot.

The shoot was the brainchild of Helen Chapman of Helen Chapman Photography and the theme was Victorian high tea, a theme that fitted in perfectly with the venue and its history.
Having the wedding fit in with the chosen venue is something I have spoken about before. It really does make a huge difference. If you’ve chosen a particular venue then the chances are it is, in part at least, because you know it fits with the type of wedding you want. But bringing elements of the venue into the details of the wedding will make it even more perfect.
For this shoot we very much kept with the Victorian botanical theme. The stationary had beautiful, botanical style, painting. The table was set up on the terrace with echoes of the greens that were all around us. And, of course, there were lots of flowers!
Greens and whites were the colour scheme, with a hint of blush pink. This gave a very fresh feel and fitted perfectly into the palm house. Although I don’t think you can actually get married in the palm house, I would recommend going there for a few photos, you won’t regret it.

The Palm House
The Palm House (image via Visit Devon)

The set up.

While our lovely bride was being photographed in the palm house, I took the cake and sweet treats around to the terrace to help get the table set up.
Now last time you will remember me talking about outdoor weddings, and how it’s a good idea to have at least one area partially covered. This photoshoot day proved my point perfectly! There we were, merrily setting up the table and making the terrace look beautiful, when the heavens opened. It didn’t just rain, it poured! If we had been fully outside then everything would have been ruined. Soggy tablecloths, washed out stationary, ruined cake….. you get the picture. But, because it was a covered terrace we just carried on! And, ten minutes later, the sun was back out.
At Bicton Park the terrace is in-between two orangeries and looks right out over the gardens. It makes it the perfect setting for an outdoor wedding, because you are under cover but still open. And you can dive into either of the orangeries if needs be. You can then have your reception in the orangery and still be looking out over the gardens.

the cake and sweet treats
Cake table with a view!

The Cake

Of course I’m going to say that the cake was the star of the day…….
I was asked to create a cake with a Victorian vibe, but very much in keeping with what a modern day couple would actually want.
If you have ever seen images of wedding cakes from the Victorian era you’ll know they are very elaborate affairs! Lots of royal icing and complicated hand piping, and nothing like the wedding cakes we have today. Although that style is starting to make a come back, and done right it can be stunning.
I decided not to go full on Victorian though, it’s not really the style my couples would want. Instead I used the petal shaped bottom tier as a nod to the period, but took the rest of my inspiration from the botanical setting.
You know that I love sugar flowers, so there had to be plenty of those! But I added a bit of a twist (as I’m known to do) by including a glass separator filled with silk foliage. This was a nod to the glass houses and Palm House.
Mixing in the silk foliage with the sugar flowers is a great way to get high impact. Having that foliage in sugar would have taken days of work, added a lot of weight and been at high risk of breakages.

The cake
The cake

The sweet treats

Confession time, dessert tables aren’t really my thing. Don’t get me wrong I love them, I just don’t really do them. Mostly because it’s just me, and I only have so many hours and one pair of hands! But I really enjoyed doing these.
The Victorians took afternoon tea very seriously indeed. And the more elaborate the better. Again I didn’t intend to recreate a full High Tea, just some sweet treats that could be an accompaniment or alternative to the cake.
So we had mini vanilla sponges with raspberry buttercream, meringue nests with creams and fresh fruits, lemon madeleines and pink sugar mice (if you’re going Victorian then you have to have sugar mice)

mini vanilla sponges
Mini vanilla sponges with raspberry buttercream

Recreating the look

Something I think comes across well with this shoot is that you don’t need to go full on Victoriana in order to get the feel. And also that it pays to work with the setting and backdrops the venue already has. Neither the Palm House or the Terrace needed any dressing, they spoke for themselves perfectly.
Have a chat with your wedding planner or stylist. Everything we used in the shoot can be hired in, and this is something I highly recommend doing. Not only will you get exactly what you want without having to spend weeks tracking each item down, but it can all be returned at the end. There are many wedding stylists who will come in on the day and dress your venue for you, then come back and take it all away again.

Meringue nests with fresh fruit
Meringue nests with fresh fruit

The Suppliers

These are all the lovely people who were involved on the day.

Photos by: Helen Chapman Photography, https://www.helenchapmanphotographyuk.com/

Venue; Bicton Park Botanical Gardens, http://www.bictongardens.co.uk/

Hair and beauty: by The Courtyard Hairdressers, Honiton,www.facebook.com/TheCourtyardHairdressers/

Wedding dress by: Lovely Bridal, Honiton, http://www.lovelybridal.co.uk/

Flowers by Bridget The flower shed, https://www.bridgetsflowershed.co.uk/

Wedding cake by Claire’s sweet temptations , https://www.clairessweettemptations.com/

Wedding venue decor by Bold and Beautiful Weddings https://www.boldbeautifulweddings.com/

Invitations by Dilly and Dilly, https://dillyanddilly.co.uk/

Luxury Wedding Cakes Cornwall and Devon: Having a Wedding Cake at an Outdoor Wedding.

It’s early April 2020 and we are all on lock-down/self-isolation. But it’s a glorious day outside, which got me thinking about having a wedding cake at an outdoor wedding.

 

In the UK you can’t, as things stand currently, have a fully outdoor wedding. There must be some kind of permanent structure, with a roof, that will hold at least the minimum 5 people needed to legally marry. This is why many wedding venues have pagodas etc in their grounds, usually open sided so that it’s as outdoors as possible.

Or you can do the legal marriage somewhere else. Then have a fully outdoor blessing, hand-fasting, or celebrant led ceremony.

However, I’m a wedding cake maker. And so my focus is going to be on the cakes with these kinds of weddings.

 

Can you even have a cake at an outdoor wedding?

white fondant wedding cake
A wedding cake outdoors needs some though

Unless there is an extreme heatwave, then yes you can, with a few considerations.

Now I’m not going to say that you can’t have a certain kind of wedding cake if you are having an outdoor wedding. It’s your wedding, you can have exactly the cake you want! But there are types of wedding cakes that will work better than others.

 

Firstly I would avoid the fully naked wedding cakes.

 

These are the ones with no icing or buttercream at all on the outside, just the bare cake on show. This type of wedding cake dries out quit fast at the best of times, put it outside and it will dry out even faster. And no one wants a dry cake.

Semi naked wedding cakes will cope a little better, but not if it’s hot. Buttercream, of any type, wants to melt. It’s why I won’t set a cake up by a heater or open fire etc. Or directly in front of a window getting full sun. you’ll have a sticky mess in no time.

Plus it’s only buttercream on the outside, and buttercream can get sticky. If you’re wedding cake is set up outside then there will be dust, pollen, grass or even sand floating around. If this sticks to the buttercream, then you’re going to be eating more that just the cake.

 

buttercream cake outside
Buttercream cakes outdoors should be kept cool and protected

Your best option is a fondant covered cake for an outdoor wedding.

 

Think of the fondant (sugar paste) as armour. It will be protecting the cake inside from the elements, and anything floating in the air. Once the cake is cut the fondant can be pulled off, and the cake inside will be perfectly okay. Of course you can eat the fondant too.

 

This is not to say you can set a fondant wedding cake up just anywhere outside.

 

The ground needs to be level. If it’s not, then the cake will look wonky. And you may have stability issues too. If the cake table is standing on uneven ground, then it’s going to be unstable too. The same goes for log slice cake stands. You’ve seen me mention them before. Make sure they are properly prepared and level or you’ll have a wonky looking cake.

The cake needs to be set up in the shade. Even with a fondant cake it will still need to be in the coolest place you can find. Fondant is sugar, and sugar doesn’t like heat. I always keep all wedding cakes as cool as I can before delivery, and will often travel with ice blocks in the car with them. Once it starts to warm up though, the cake will start to soften, the fillings will start to soften, and we need to avoid that for as long as possible. Even though the cakes will have their supporting dowels, this won’t guarantee that nothing will move if the cake gets too hot.

fondant wedding cake
Bring the wedding cake out at the last minute if possible

 

THINK WASPS!!!

 

I hate wasps, and it’s mutual (is there actually any point to a wasp??).

A wasp sting will knock me off my feet for a good 24 hours. And wasps LOVE sweet things. Therefore they are going to love your wedding cake! I have seen a whole swarm of wasps on a cake before (not one of mine, but online) and it wasn’t nice. You certainly won’t be able, or want, to eat it after they have finished with it.

Again, a fondant covered cake will offer some protection. They will only be touching/attacking the outer covering, and not the cake itself. So if the worst happens you can pull the fondant off and the cake beneath will be fine.

It’s the same with flies.

Okay I know I sound like I’m raining on your parade, sorry about that. That’s not my intention. I want you parade to be as glorious as possible!

 

If you want to have the wedding cake outdoors, then I would recommend having it brought out just before you want to cut it. This way it is not out for too long. Discuss this with your cake maker, and make sure you have someone on hand to carry the cake out at the appropriate time who knows what they are doing.

The other option would be to have the cake table set up under semi cover. Which brings me to my next point.

 

black wedding cake
Having an easily movable cake table is a good idea

 

It might rain.

 

Yep, it’s the UK. Rain is highly likely let’s face it. So having the cake set up outside will mean someone has got to try and quickly get a heavy wedding cake under cover, without dropping or damaging it! I certainly wouldn’t want to do that!

Some kind of semi cover is a good compromise. Maybe a small, open sided marquee or gazebo. Or if the venue has a summerhouse or covered patio, that would work well. Even under a large tree. Plus, there will be somewhere for everyone to shelter should the great British weather do its thing.

 

Wedding cake under a tree
Under trees can work too

 

 

Here are my top tips for having a wedding cake outdoors.

 

1/ Have the cake in the coolest, and shadiest place you can find. In semi cover is best.

2/ Make sure the ground is level before setting the cake table up.

3/ Be aware of wasps, flies and general air borne dust and dirt.

4/ Have a fondant covered cake to help protect the actual cake underneath.

5/ If the venue has a room that looks out over the site of the wedding, where the cake can be set up, but everyone can still see it, that’s the best option of all.

If you wan to get in touch to discuss all you wedding cake options further, click HERE

Or to receive my FREE guide to choosing your wedding cake, click HERE 

Luxury Wedding Cakes in Devon and Cornwall: Wedding cake toppers and decorations explained.

Something that has come up recently is the question of wedding cake toppers and decorations. And if they are edible or not?

This is an interesting question. And so I thought we would look at that today.

A lot of wedding cake toppers, and cake toppers in general, are wood/ceramic/glass/plastic/resin and so are clearly not edible. They are meant to be a keepsake. They will be made of a food safe material, but that’s to make sure they don’t contaminate your wedding cake.

wooden cake topper
A wooden cake topper that can then be kept

But what about wedding cake toppers and decorations we cake makers make out of sugar?

As I’m sure you know I’m very partial to sugar flowers and wafer (rice) paper. And yes, these materials are technically edible.
I remember being fascinated by rice paper as a child. And my great aunt gave me sheets of it to eat when we went to visit. I was eating paper!! What was this madness??!! Although it actually doesn’t really taste of anything much.

wafer paper flowers
And gum paste/flower paste?

Well yes, you could eat it, if you really had to. It is sweet and sugar based, but sets super hard. Which is what we need it to do when making flowers and models. However, this means you risk breaking a tooth if you did decide to take a bite!
This is assuming, of course, that there are no internal supports.
These are what will render your sugar flowers or sugar cake toppers into non-edible decorations.

sugar flowers with a resin cake topper
Sugar flowers with a resin cake topper

Let me explain.

When you are making sugar flowers or any topper or decoration, there are a few things we must take into consideration.
1/ The style you are going for. This determines what will be used to make the decorations. If you wanted very real looking flowers, then flower paste is the best option. But if you wanted something more stylised, then we could do wafer paper flowers instead. And if you wanted to keep them forever, then a cold porcelain can be used to make flowers.
2/ The way they are to be arranged on your wedding cake. This will determine how we make the flowers or decorations. If you want them to cascade down the side of the cake, and not just sit on top, then we will need to factor in a supporting stem. And this is made with florist wire.
3/ Weight. Anything made with any form of sugar tends to get quite heavy. Dozens of sugar flowers or decorations will add a lot to the weight of the cake. However, wafer paper is much lighter. So if you know the cake is going to have to be moved then this might be a better option. And wafer paper is also a lot less fragile to transport too. Worth considering.

With cake toppers and models its very similar. On the outside they will be sugar. But they will almost always need some kind of internal support. Especially with standing figures of the happy couple for example.

flamingo cake topper
This flamingo couple are a good example

What types of internal supports do we use?

1/ For many sugar and wafer paper flowers we will use a polystyrene cone or ball on a florist wire. We can make the cone or ball out of more paste, but they take a long time to dry out, add unnecessary weight, and will still need the wire. We must add the wire in order to secure the flower to the cake.
This wire becomes the flower stem, and is inserted into the cake in the same way as a real flower would be.
*Note: No flower stems, real or wired, can be inserted directly into the cake. It’s not allowed. We use posy pics, food safe tape or food safe wax as a barrier.
2/ Cocktail sticks are often used in smaller models. Usually to secure a head or limbs to the body (goodness that sounds grim!) These are food safe and you can pull them out and then eat the model (which sounds even more grim, lol)
3/ Bamboo skewers. These are used as larger cocktail sticks, and for giving a ‘spine’ to larger models.
4/ Armature wires. This is where it gets fun for us doing the making! Anything on a larger scale will need a skeleton. And any models that are posed will need this too. The armature wire is first wrapped in aluminium foil tape to make it food safe. But you can’t really eat these models unless you were to strip all the sugar paste from the wire.
5/ Florist wire. Used mostly in sugar flowers. A florist wire is often inserted into individual petals and leaves before assembling the flowers. Because of the delicate nature of this, the wire is inserted directly into these petals and leaves, no food safe protection first. So any wired petal or leaf won’t be edible, even if you pull it from the wire.
6/ Full cake frames. These are used for the large, sculpted and novelty cakes you see. They are a skeleton but for the entire cake. When these are used they are always a food safe structure.

sculpted wedding cake
An example of using a framework to get the effect

So that’s the inside. But what about the outside?

On all cake toppers, decorations and sugar flowers you’ll see the various colours and maybe even some sparkle. There are several ways we do this.

1/ Edible paints. I use these a lot. Especially with the beautiful watercolour effect cakes I do. I make my own paint by mixing edible gel colours or dust colours with alcohol, usually vodka. Some of the metallic paints I buy ready-made, but the are still 100% edible.
2/ Airbrushing. Not actually something I do that often. But, as with the edible paints, airbrush paints are a mix of edible food colour and an alcohol carrier.
3/ Dry dusting. This is used a lot for sugar flowers to add the tones and realism. Personally I always tint the actual flower pastes myself with edible gel food colour, but the petal dusts always add the details. Again these are 100% edible.
4/ Lustre dusts. Similar to petal dusts. They are 100% edible and can be used over a whole cake to give that pearlized sheen.
5/ Cocoa butter paint. This is similar to the edible paints. Instead of using alcohol we use melted cocoa butter to mix with the petal dusts/dust colours/lustre dusts.
6/ Edible glitter. This is where it can get tricky. When you are buying glitters for cakes there will be two kinds. Edible and non-toxic. If we know the glitter will be going directly onto the cake, then it will always be edible.
7/ Non-toxic glitters/colours. These are only used on toppers and decorations that will have already been rendered non-edible by the use of wires etc. Your cake maker will tell you what elements of the decorations should be removed before serving the cake. However, if you were to consume any, it’s non-toxic, so won’t do you any harm.

edible metallic painted wedding cake
This one was painted with edible, metallics

Really the main point of the wedding cake topper and the decorations isn’t to eat anyway. They are there to look amazing and wow your guests. And they will keep surprisingly well if you follow a few rules. I always say treat sugar work like gremlins: don’t get them wet and keep out of bright light!

To enquire about your wedding cake click HERE 

Luxury wedding cakes: The cake ordering timeline explained

A recent enquiry from a couple getting married soon got me thinking.

They wanted to know if I had availability for their date as they hadn’t heard from their cake maker for several weeks They were getting worried they might be left without a cake.

This made me think about the timeline of the whole cake ordering process. And what to expect in terms of communication from your cake maker. Also what we need to know from you. After all we do this day in and day out, but it’s new to you.

posy of sugar spring flowers

In the early stages there are emails/messages being exchanged regularly (with one bride we exchanged 148 emails!).

I try hard to make sure I reply to all emails within a couple of hours (this isn’t always possible, so please don’t hold me to it.)  I’m aware you are wanting the answers to your questions asap. I’m also aware that you many not get the time to sit down and get to your wedding planning until after work.  This isn’t an issue. I’m not saying I work 24/7, but we all live and work in a 24/7 world now.

So if I am available at 9pm to reply to an email then I do. If not then I will reply first thing the next morning. The only time there will be a delay in responses is when there is a time zone difference involved, this often happens when my clients are based in other countries.

The Process.

You will send me an email or fill in the contact form on my website with your enquiry. When doing this it’s really helpful to give me the date and venue of the wedding, then I can check my availability before replying. If that date is already booked I may be able to give you the names of other cake makers I know and trust who may be able to help.

I pick up your email and reply. I will ask you your wedding date and venue, (if you’ve not already told me that.) I’ll also ask if you know, roughly, the numbers the cake will need to be for, and if you have any ideas on style. This will give me the information I need to start putting a quote together for you. Usually I will be back in touch with that quote within 24 hours, unless there are other things I need to check, or unusual requests I may need to research.

I’ll get a quote back to you and if you want to meet with me, then we will arrange that too. I’ll also answer your questions, so don’t be afraid to ask anything.

Once we have met, you’ve tasted your chosen flavours, and discussed design, I will leave you to decide if you want to go ahead and book with me. If, in the meantime, I get another couple asking about your date then I will be back in touch sooner. If you’ve already enquired about a date, then you get first refusal on it.

What’s next.

If you decide to book, then I’ll give you the details you need to pay your booking fee (you cake isn’t booked in until that has been paid.) I’ll also check all the details I have so far. I will ask the time of the wedding so that I know when I need to deliver and set up your wedding cake. I will ask if there is a designated contact at the venue that I need to know about, and their contact details

.

You pay the booking fee, I confirm I’ve got it and that you’re booked in, and give you the date you need to pay the balance by (no later than 14 days before the wedding). I’ll also refer you to my Ts&Cs as by paying the booking fee you are agreeing to them.

Easy as that.

And really that’s it for now. I will know everything I need to in order get your wedding cake booked in and order whatever I need to for it etc. From my side I will have no need to get in touch until about a month before the wedding.

At that point I will get back in touch and confirm everything with you. As long as nothing has changed with your order then I’ll get on with everything and leave you in peace to enjoy the countdown to your big day!

However that doesn’t mean you can’t get in touch with me. You can email me at any stage about anything that is concerning you, and I will always be here to answer your questions. Remember there is no such thing as a silly question.

Time to panic?

So when should you be worried that you’ve not heard anything from your cake maker for a while? Well this depends. Did they tell you that they would be in touch? I always tell my couples that I will be in touch around a month before the wedding to check in and confirm everything is still the same with their wedding cake.

And I always ask that if things do change to let me know asap, so if you change your mind about flavours, colours etc, it’s best to communicate that straight away.

If your cake maker has said they will be in touch but then hasn’t.

I would drop them another email. And mark it as urgent.

You may get an ‘out of office’ response. So they will be in touch, just a little later. Maybe they have gone on holiday before wedding season kicks in and they won’t see daylight for weeks. I often have to pop up to London for a night or two, and the travelling (train wifi isn’t all it could be!) and meetings with couples can mean I’m a bit slower with replies.  When this happens an autoresponder should ping back to you letting you know what’s going on, and telling you when you can expect to hear back.

But what if you have been trying and trying to get hold of your cake maker (or any supplier) and haven’t had anything, not even an autoresponder?

The first thing I would do is pop to their website and social media. Are they still active?

If yes, then it’s likely they will get back to you. Your email may have gone to their spam, or they may simply have missed it. So drop them a message on another platform and let them know that you’re waiting for a reply.

Still nothing? And no recent online activity? Then have a word with some of your other suppliers. The chances are they will know each other.

The wedding industry is a very friendly place, and we all get to know each other quite well. So I’m sure one of your other suppliers will have heard if there is anything to worry about.

Back to the email that I received that got me thinking about writing this post.

I heard back from that couple. Their original cake maker didn’t get back to them, so they are going with me. This did make me realise that, unless you know the process, it might be easy to panic and think something has gone wrong. In this case it had, but in most cases everything is fine.

Did they do the right thing by getting in touch with me before they heard back from their original cake maker? As they explained the situation, that they were just seeing if it would be possible to get something done at fairly short notice. Then yes, I think they did the right thing. It’s completely understandable that they were getting worried.

What I would say is that it is completely normal to book a supplier and then not hear anything for a while. We aren’t ignoring you. And have vanished or gone out of business. We have got all the information we need from you to be able to start work.

And as weddings are usually booked many months ahead, it’s quite normal for things to go quiet for a while. But if you are worried then drop us an email or go HERE. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you ?

Luxury wedding cakes : CoronaVirus, Covid-19 and your wedding.

Okay I wasn’t going to add to the already mountainous column inches about Covid-19. But I have been starting to get emails and messages from some of my couples with weddings coming up. So I thought I would let you all know where I stand at the moment.

It is Tuesday March 17th, and this is where I am at with things as they are right now.

So what advice am I giving to couples contacting me? Honestly I am not giving ‘advice’ as I am not a doctor or lawyer. Although I do have a lot of well informed connections who I am listening to and taking my lead from.

Firstly get in touch with your wedding insurer before you do anything!

Secondly get in touch with your wedding venue and ask what they are planning. And sound them out about future dates you could move your wedding to.

POSTPONE DON’T CANCEL!!

If you follow me on Instagram or FB then you will have seen me posting about postponing your wedding rather than cancelling it. And this is the biggest piece of advice I can give.

After all you still want to get married, right? That hasn’t changed. And you still want the wedding you have been planning all these months, that hasn’t changed either. So why cancel?

If you cancel completely then you have just got to start all over again. All those months of planning, searching for your perfect suppliers, your dream venue etc. You’ll have to do that all again from scratch when there’s no reason to. And you may lose out financially if you cancel.

By postponing you are keeping everything the same, just switching the date. All your suppliers are still with you, and none of your hard work will have been wasted. Plus you shouldn’t lose out too much financially either. Although do check each suppliers Ts&Cs for their postponement policies.

As a supplier I would much rather my couples postponed. A delay in income is better than loosing that income. Most wedding suppliers are small or even micro businesses. So if all our couples cancel, we go under. Then we won’t be there when you decide to re-book. everyone looses.

But by postponing your wedding you know that all your suppliers are still with you, you won’t have to stress about re-booking anyone, or tying to find new suppliers as good as the originals. Plus, if you have already paid them, then bonus! Your wedding is already paid in advance! And we keep our businesses going, it’s a win-win.

DON’T PANIC!!

Easier said than done I know. It’s your wedding and you’ve been planning this for months, if not years. But try not to panic. The wedding industry is an amazing place, and very supportive. Contact your venue and then your suppliers, discuss your fears and see what can be done to ease them.

To get in touch about your wedding cake, click HERE

Luxury Wedding Cakes: How to choose the best cake stand.

You have found your perfect cake maker and have ordered your dream wedding cake. You know it is going to look stunning. But have you thought about what you are going to put it on? Today we are going to talk about how to choose the best cake stand and the cake table.

Cake stands

There are as many designs of cake stand as there are cakes. And this can make finding the perfect one a bit of a minefield.
Some cake makers will have a selection of cake stands that they hire out, so it’s always worth asking. I don’t hire out cake stands myself. This is because I deliver my wedding cakes so far and wide that it can be an issue getting them back.

Classic glass cake stand
A classic and simple glass cake stand.

It is also always worth asking your venue if they have any cake stands. Quite often hotels and dedicated wedding venues will have a cake stand you can arrange to use.
If you are having a wedding stylist then they might have a cake stand available that will match up with the rest of the décor.

A cake stand that's also a table
Cake stands don’t need to be ‘cake stands’ This is a trolley!

But why not buy your own? They can become a keepsake of the day, and something to keep and use. One of my couples had a glass cake stand and had it engraved with their names and wedding date. Something like that will become a family heirloom. And wooden log slice stands can be burned with the same thing. And why not put one on your wedding gift list?

Before you buy a stand there are a few things you should do

1/ Ask your cake maker what size the bottom cake board will be. Whatever stand you buy will need to be big enough to fit the cake on!
2/ Ask your cake maker roughly what the height of the cake will be. This is because you may not actually need a cake stand. If your cake is going to be tall, then a stand may not be necessary. You don’t want it to stand so tall that it makes cutting it difficult. Nor do you want to make it unstable, and height = instability.
3/ check out the cake table, or space, at the venue where the cake is going to be going. You want to make sure that it is going to be big enough. Often I find that my couples want to have other things on the cake table.

Wedding cake without a cake stand
When a cake has height, it doesn’t need a stand.

Choosing a cake stand

Cake stands come in a huge range of shapes, sizes and materials. And, like everything else, you can get lost down that internet rabbit hole looking for what you want.
Now not all cake stands are created equal, and it’s a case of you get what you pay for. I would recommend going to a supplier you trust, a major department store or cookware shop for example (I won’t name any names, but you know the places you trust and like to shop with.) It’s good to be able to see the stand if possible.

If you’re looking online then be sure to check the measurements. Like I said before, you need to make sure the cake will fit. Also see if there is a weight limit given. This may seem strange, but a fully decorated and stacked wedding cake can be really heavy! I have found that metal cake stands with a foot, for example, are not very sturdy, and inclined to warp and buckle unless they are very good quality.

Glass and ceramic are really your best bet if you want the classic stand with a foot/stem and a plate on top.

Simple ceramic cake stand
A simple ceramic cake stand always looks elegant.

If you want metal then the solid, low and wide ones are the best to go for. These style of cake stands are the ones that hotels and venues often have.

Classic silver cake stand
The classic and vintage style silver cake stand.

Something else I would say about cake stands is to avoid the ones with a lip or rim around the edge. This makes it hard to get the cake onto the stand. And even harder for whoever is then going to have to take it off again. It’s very easy to get your fingers trapped!! These kinds of stands are better for small cakes and pastries to be displayed on.

And if you are having a log slice cake stand then please buy a properly cut one. One wedding I delivered to the log slice was literally just that. The groom had gone to the woods with a chainsaw! It was so unlevel that I had to pack a load of folded kitchen paper under the cake to try to stop it toppling!

Log slice cake stand
I love log slice stands, as long as they’re level.

Cake tables

Almost always the cake is displayed on a separate table in pride of place, which is as it should be!
But is it that simple?
Sadly I often turn up to find a small table with a basic white cloth, and that’s it. Now I get that you want the cake to be the star, I want that too, and you don’t want too much distracting from it. But you also want the cake table to tie in with the rest of the wedding décor. So why not ask your wedding stylist to dress the cake table too?
A few times there have been other things on the cake table besides the cake stand. Usually photos of either the happy couple, or family photos. One couple had the wedding photos of their parents and grandparents, which was such a beautiful touch. But if you want to do this, then you need to make sure the cake table will be large enough. So let your venue know your plans and ask them to provide you with the right size.

traditional cake cutting
This lovely couple had family photos on their cake table.
burgundy and gold wedding cake
Or you can have the bouquet to display beside the cake.

NOTE: Make sure the cake table is level and doesn’t wobble!! You’d think that was obvious, wouldn’t you? But I have turned up to a few cake deliveries to find a wonky or wobbly table. Once it was so bad that I had to ask for it to be replaced because the top was loose!!

Top tips

1/ Before buying a cake stand, ask your cake maker, venue or stylist if they have ones you can hire.
2/ Before buying your stand, ask your cake maker for the base measurements of the cake. You need to make sure the cake stand is at least the same diameter as the cake base, if not a little bigger.
3/ Do you even need a cake stand? If your cake is going to be tall, then you may not need a stand. And remember, adding height adds instability.
4/ Think about decorating the cake table to match with the rest of the wedding décor. And also adding some special, personal touches.
5/ Make sure the cake table is level and wobble free!! Ask your wedding planner or co-ordinator to check this for you on the morning.

To find out more, you can get in touch HERE

Wedding Cake Design: How to get ‘the one.’

You’re starting to think about your wedding cake design. You’ve seen a wedding cake online and you’ve fallen in love! It’s ‘the one’ So you save it to your Pinterest board and screenshot it to your phone. You show this pic to your cake maker and they shake their head. You’re devastated! We want THAT wedding cake! But you get the same response from every cake maker you show it to. Why???

Now I adore Pinterest and all the other platforms, I spend far more time than I should looking at all the prettiness on there. They are great places for inspiration. But really that’s all they are, they are not a shop window. And that can be a little misleading, because it gives the impression that whatever you see there, you can have.

I get shown a lot of images at wedding fairs and at consultations, with ‘can you make this?’ Well yes, I can technically make it, I mean I have the skills. But no, I won’t be able to reproduce exactly what you’re looking at in that image. And this is for several reasons.

cake pic round up
a few cakes from 2019

Copyright

Yep, it’s a thing even in the cake world. Most of us don’t bother to copyright our cake designs, working on the ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ theory. But some cake designers do, especially if that cake has been created for a cake decorating class. Or if it has been designed for a client who insists on exclusivity, I did once have to sign an NDA before creating a cake.

A few years ago a cake took Pinterest by storm, it was everywhere! And, inevitably, cake makers were being asked for it by clients. One cake maker did her due diligence and went to the original creator and asked if she could recreate it for her client. She was told, in no uncertain terms, that NO she could not, and that action would be taken if she tried. Turns out the cake design in question was for a class the original designer was charging for, and so she refused to allow anyone to copy it until well after the classes were over. Fair enough when you think of the time and energy that goes into designing these creations, and then turning them into a class. Now, of course, it would be hard for that cake designer to track down everyone who had copied her design. The internet is worldwide after all. And a lot of people wouldn’t have even asked her permission in the first place, because they may not know who to ask. Once a cake (or anything else) is ‘out there’ on the web, it is no longer exclusive. However we put a lot of time and effort into designs, and so we hope that this will be respected.

One reason I can no longer design your wedding cake in full and as an on paper sketch before the booking is made, is because of having designs stolen. Sadly, a few times, I have spent time and a lot of effort sketching out a couples cake, only to then be ghosted by them. A few months later, there’s my cake design on Instagram, posted by the same couple!! They had just taken my hard work and given it to someone who had offered to do it cheaper. It’s a shame when this happens, and thankfully it is rare. And I know none of you lovely people reading this would even dream of doing such a thing. But it does make us cautious, once bitten, twice shy.

Now, of course, these are the extreme cases. And mostly we just shrug and get on with our day, because there are lots of us out there. Inevitably we are going to come up with a similar design to another caker, especially if it’s something that is ‘on trend.’ I have had a few ideas that I think are new, only to find similar already out there.

Lakeland catalogue left. My cake from a year before on right. Hmmmm….

Translation

By this I mean translating a flat, one angled photo, into an actual, 3D cake. Not always as easy as it seems. Especially as you can’t always tell from a photo exactly what techniques and materials have been used. This is always an issue when the cake has been posted by a designer in another country. Every country has different food laws and that can affect what can and can’t be used on and in your cakes. Often when looking for recipes I will see one and then realise that I can’t make it, as certain ingredients aren’t available in the UK.

It can also be tricky when there is a stencil, or a cake lace pattern used. Tracking the right stencil or lace mat down can be difficult. Again they are often only available overseas, or may have been a custom design created just for that cake. I have hand cut a stencil a few times to match up a design from the wedding stationary for example.

wedding cake with hand cut stencil
A hand cut stencil to match the wedding stationary.

Techniques

Every cake maker will have a certain skill set that they are stronger with, and that is generally reflected in the cakes you will see us producing. You’ll notice that I don’t do the sculpted novelty cakes for example. Not because I can’t, but because they aren’t really my thing. I love seeing them done, but I’m not really interested in doing them. In the same way that a specialist in those sculpted cakes probably won’t make you a delicate cascade of sugar flowers. We all have our strengths and preferences. Personally I will spend days happily making sugar flowers, and often do.

We also all do the same things differently. Going back to cake classes. If you look at the photos instructors post at the end of a class, with all their students showing their cakes. You’ll see that every one of those cakes will be different, even though they are the same design, made at the same time, with the same teacher and using the same materials.

So what do you do? How do you get that dream cake from your phone into reality?

Well you might get lucky and find the original cake maker who made it. It’s a long shot though. Or your cake maker might know them and be able to liaise with them, also a bit of a long shot. Sadly tags and watermarks are often removed from wedding cake photos, making it almost impossible to know who made it. I have one wedding cake with flamingos on that gets pinned a lot. I know that by the time it’s been pinned and shared a few times, no one will know it was one of mine.

flamingo wedding cake
THE flamingo cake that’s all over Pinterest

When I get shown a wedding cake and get asked if I can make it, I always explain that, although I can’t copy/paste someone else’s work, I can design something just as beautiful. So I will ask what it is about that cake that is drawing you to it? Then I ask to see what other ideas you have been saving for other elements of your wedding. And this is actually way better anyway. I’m sure you’d much rather have a cake that has been designed for you, and with you, than one that’s identical to someone else’s wedding cake? We all know that feeling of horror when we turn up to a party to see someone else in the same outfit! You really don’t want someone saying ‘Oh I’ve seen this cake online a few times.’

Top Tips

So here are the top tips to make sure you get that perfect wedding cake.

1/ Reference photos are great, they are very useful. But don’t be offended if your cake maker isn’t willing or able to simply copy that photo.

2/ Take a good look at that dream cake photo and make a note of what is really drawing you to it? The chances are it’s not necessarily the whole, complete thing. So is it the colours, the shapes, the textures?

3/ Isolate those key elements and discuss those with your cake maker.

4/ Don’t be offended if your cake maker won’t give you a sketch before you’ve booked with them. It’s nothing personal! However how do you know that they will be able to create your vision? Have a good look through their website, Pinterest, Instagram etc, look at their past work to make sure you like their style.

5/ Arrange to meet with your cake maker and have a good chat with them. Develop a relationship with them. When you find the right cake maker, you’ll know. And then you will know that you can trust them to produce your perfect wedding cake for you.

To enquire about your wedding cake and how I can help you design it, click HERE

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