• Isabel Albelda Ros

Baking taught me how to find time for the things I love - and how you can too

Is there something in your life you wish you had more time for?

If you follow me on instagram, you've probably noticed I'm a huge fan of baking, specifically cakes. There's something almost meditative about baking, and I love the joy it brings my friends and family when I share a special cake with them; the organization fiend in me enjoys planning out the cake and finding new recipes and techniques to try.

Whenever I bake, the two questions I almost invariably get are "why don't you quit your job and make a career out of making cakes" and "how do you find the time?!"

For a long time, I didn't. I'd log off work on Friday and bake until the clock struck one in the morning and my husband dragged me to bed, and then I'd get up early to finish the cake before we were due to meet with whoever I was planning on feeding my cake to (I'm always on the lookout for volunteers). I'd be exhausted, running around like a headless chicken and hoping it set in time. Not quite the meditative experience I was going for, even if they always tasted amazing.

I couldn't bake very often - there just didn't seem to be much room in my life for that type of thing.

I'd heard the old "If it's important you'll find a way. If it's not, you'll find an excuse" (Ryan Blair) but that didn't help. At all.

Until I stumbled upon the concept of week-night baking popularised by Michelle, the genious behind Hummingbird High. She was working a full time job while also running her successful baking blog, and so she had the same problem I did - she just didn't have the time. But her book, Weeknight baking, promissed "desserts on a tight schedule". And it delivered.

Her recipes broke things into steps that could be done over multiple days. It was no longer a matter of finding time for a whole cake, start to finish. I only had to find time for a step.

My back no longer killed me from standing for eight hours in a row hunched over my baking either.

I could batch and be more efficient - I started making the frosting ahead of time, doubling the recipe and freezing it so I could whip up a cake at a moment's notice. I went from taking three hours to make a batch to 90 minutes for two batches. Granted, some of that was down to practice and fine-tuning the recipe that worked for me, but batching helped with that as well - when you make the frosting back to back you start to notice the little things that affect it.

Suddenly, I could bake. Finding eight hours in a row to bake, frost and decorate a cake was almost impossible, but a few one to two hour chunks? That was (pardon the pun) a piece of cake. I took her system and applied it with abandon to other recipes and projects, and it worked.

Now I could plan my cakes ahead of time, splitting the time spent researching and designing the cake, baking the sponges, making the frosting and decorating over multiple days. I learned about how to use my freezer to let the flavour develop, so I could bake when I had time and assemble just the day before.

The last time I made a cake for work (normally a tough challenge, since I'd have to make it during the week) all I had to do that Tuesday night was pull the sponges from the freezer, take the infused chocolate ganache from the fridge, grab my flaked almonds, pull my frozen italian meringue buttercream and assemble (which took three hours, but that's because I can't resist a decorating challenge).

But more importantly, I learned that I can find ways to make space for the things that are important to me, in reasonable slices.

I couldn't find the time for a full website rebrand, but I could find a couple of hours to redefine my core message, then find half an hour for reviewing my colours and typography, and an hour a day for a couple of days to go over the content. I chuncked it up into pieces that I could swallow, and a project that had been in my backlog for months was suddenly done within two weeks.

This is probably obvious to many of you, but for me it was a revelation.

It was also a change on how I'd done personal branding before. I was a big fan of the intensive workshop approach (still am, to be fair), where you'd spend a weekend or week working on your personal branding and focusing solely on it. And while it works, it doesn't work for everyone, because not everyone can just take off for a whole weekend or a whole week like that.

But almost everybody can find thirty minutes to work on a personal branding exercise. And then on another. And another. And without even noticing you've split the mental load, made incredible progress, and didn't have to put your life on hold to accomplish it.

You just pull your answers from the freezer and assemble.

Maybe keep those pockets of time and give cake making a try.

Maybe keep them for other things you're passionate about - for family time, for painting, for writing, for reading, for resting.

What will you find pockets of time for?