Or how not to make money from a cake business…
I love to make an epic cake, not necessarily a cake that is huge but one that is super detailed or super tricky to make. Epic cakes take ages to make. Hours and hours, and lots of that time is before the oven even goes on. I spend a lot of time researching and planning and working out exactly what to do to make my cakes even better than the client is expecting.
In terms of research, my first step when asked to make a cake, particularly if it is based on a popular theme like a film or TV show, is to head to Google images.
I type in what I’ve been asked to make i.e. Harry Potter Cake and have a look at those that have been done before. Not so I can copy them, the opposite in fact, I try to see what hasn’t been done yet or what I can do to make mine different.
For example when I was asked to make a Harry Potter cake I saw loads of sorting hat cakes, loads with a scarf and glasses on and several Hedwig owl cakes. There were some awesome versions of those cakes and also many copies of one particular design.
I was determined to see if I could make something that hadn’t been done before.
I had several chats with a couple of friends who are HP super fans to try to come with something original. The result was a Harry Potter 7 Horcruxes Cake!
I made all of the 7 horcruxes out of fondant and gumpaste. The individual items took hours to make and became a massive labour of love for me.
The client had no idea what I was doing and was fully expecting a nice cake with something Harry Potter based on top. The quote I gave her was for that too.
The cake she received was a world away from what she was expecting!
In terms of trying to make a living from what I do, this really wasn’t the best business decision I could’ve made but I still have that cake on my leaflets and website and people still talk about it. So maybe it wasn’t a bad idea after all?
Every now and then, something will spark my interest and I get a chance to challenge myself and make something really cool for the client, but also for me. They can become showpieces for my work.
A few years ago when I was just doing cakes as a part time thing while still teaching, I was asked to make a Mike Wazowski from Monsters inc cake. Again Google Images showed me lots of cakes with Mike on top but I wanted to do something different. Mike has a big body/head and very skinny legs. To make a cake supported on just one pencil thin leg would surely be madness?! But yes that is what I decided to do!
Delivering him was terrifying as there are so many speed bumps in Norwich but he arrived in one piece, unlike my sisters nerves which were shattered after I made her sit in the back with him!
In 2016 I was asked to make a Starwars Themed cake and again rather than going for the more simple option, I wanted to do something different. I headed for my favourite Starwars geek friend who suggested Greedo (among other things like an AtAt which although I’d love to do that, I knew I couldn’t afford the additional time and money required for building the structure). I had never heard of Greedo but I was assured that proper Starwars fans would know exactly who he is and how important he was even as a fairly small character.
Another example of me taking a theme further than the original brief was when I was asked to make a cake for a very good friend who was turning 40. His girlfriend asked for something to do with Starwars or Marvel and as a massive marvel fan myself, I chose that. As the recipient is my friend, I know that he collects Pop Vinyl figures and has loads in his office.
So I decided to make a Pop Vinyl figure out of cake and chose a fairly rare Wolverine/Logan figure to base it on.
The main difficulty with this cake was to get it to be strong and stable* enough to support the heavy head on a tiny little body. (Similar to the Wazowski cake above) *arghhh I can’t believe I’ve just used those blooming words!
After sketching and working out the internal structure I got out my trusty drill and set to work constructing using wooden doweling and some plastic tubing.
I was so happy with the result, the cake survived being transported over lots of bumps in the road and the birthday boy was suitably happy with his surprise cake.
Sticking with the theme of Marvel I was recently asked to make an Avengers cake for a 9 year old. His dad got in contact and said he was happy for me to do whatever I wanted on that theme.
Again the sensible business person would have made a nice simple cake with perhaps a few items to represent some of the key characters. As I’ve clearly shown, I am not always a sensible business person!
Plus I LOVE the Avengers films!
I knew I’d have to include Captain America’s Shield, Hulk’s fist, Thor’s hammer and something to do with Iron Man (mask or Arc Reactor) but I also wanted to have something to represent Black Widow as she is reportedly always left out of toy sets etc. because she’s a woman and apparently boys who play with action figures don’t want girl figures. This is of course complete rubbish, my little Ted used to have lots of Marvel figures including Jean Grey and She Hulk. Plus what about all the girls who play with action figures too? Anyway I’m digressing.
Black Widow doesn’t have a specific thing other than bullets on her wrist and guns but her belt has an identifying symbol so I made that.
I also added a few of Hawkeye’s arrows.
Even though I was including a few more characters it still needed something else to make it even more cool.
So I made the Arc Reactor actually light up!
Wow, so creative and talented, Hayden absolutely loves his birthday cake, couldn’t of asked for more. Thank you so much
I think the final cake I will finish with here is my Only Fools and Horses cake. I was asked to make something similar to this awesome cake by Little Cherry Cake Company.
And a google search threw up lots of very similar cakes.
The order for this cake was placed while I was in the (very long) process of moving house and the actual move finally happened a couple of weeks before Christmas. I had lots of orders to complete immediately after moving in and the Only Fools cake was due to be collected on Christmas Eve. I was exhausted by the time I came to make the cake and really should have chosen to just do what the client had asked for. But…I had got an idea in mind to base the cake around the super kitsch retro decor of the Trotters iconic Peckham flat.
I did lots of research, zooming in to get images of the exact bamboo wallpaper and the yellow floral curtains.
I painted a little photo of Del Boy, Rodney and Grandad and sat it on a hand painted marble effect top (inspired by their bar).
Please note: I wouldn’t normally sketch with pencil first when painting with edible colours onto icing, but I knew that this was a decoration which would be removed and hopefully kept and therefore wouldn’t be eaten.
Finally I added a weird looking creature which is actually a lion shaped cigar jar. Again this is the kind of detail that I imagine only real fans would actually understand.
Yet again I could have made my life much easier (especially after moving and in the run up to Christmas) by doing something simple but I actually really enjoyed sitting down and painting for hours, looking out on my new garden.
I loved the final cake. So did the client and her Only Fools fan boyfriend.
I love giving clients an extra surprise when they see their cake and if I was a rich girl, that would be payment enough. It isn’t always possible for me to go over and above what I’ve been asked to do. I completely understand that most people don’t have unlimited budgets, though if anyone is in touch with some rich celebrities who can pay me properly to make epic cakes every day, I could balance that with making surprise cakes for lovely people 🙂
If you are interested in commissioning your own Epic Cake, get in touch here