Hayley recommends taking pictures of your projects whether they are good, bad or ugly – read on for some great tips
When did you first start decorating cakes?
I first attended a local cupcake decorating class back in 2012 after the birth of my son, Harry. It was a short four hour class where I learnt how to pipe a rose with buttercream, and make a basic decorations with plunger cutter, this is where I caught the bug. Prior to this I had worked as Cabin Crew for British Airways for 10 years, but always had a keen interest in baking.
Where did you learn your cake decorating skills?
Initially I learnt as I went along, watching video tutorials, and reading magazines. Practicing and taking pictures of my work, lots of pictures!
As my skills & confidence grew and I wanted to add new competencies to my skill set, I would look to see what courses were available. Identifying what I would learn from each class and where I could use these skills in my business.
I have since been taught by some of the industry's leaders such as; Faye Cahill, Sharon Wee, Tracey James, Mark Tilling & Tracey Rothwell.
How would you sum up your style?
I like to think that I have a modern contemporary style. I'm known for my clean, crisp finish and attention to detail. I'm now confident to work in a variety of different mediums, chocolate, fondant, sugar flower work or modeling.
How would you describe your day to day life as a cake decorator?
Busy, I feel like I wear lots of hats. I work alone primarily, so I only take on a limited number of orders each week enough for myself. This may be two wedding orders or three celebration cake orders. My days are quite flexible as I have a young family, it was my whole reason for starting my business 'Dollybird Bakes'. I normally start work when the children are at school at 9am and work through till about 3pm. I then quite often start work again when the children are in bed. I work from my little studio at home so I don't have far to commute!!
Which one of your cakes is your favourite?
Wow! I have lots and all for different reasons. I love cupcakes with character; like my animal themed cupcakes, they are bold bright and fun. I love the on trend drip and unicorn cakes that are very popular at the moment, everyone has a different slant on them, I love all the different varieties. My favourite recent wedding cake 'opulence & sparkle' combines gold accents, marbling effect complete with matching mini cakes and cake pops.
What’s your design process?
It depends upon the client and how I'm lead from them. Wedding orders are normally initiated from a consultation with my couples at the studio over a friendly cuppa tea and some yummy samples and we discuss all things cake. We talk about all aspects of their day and work together to create something special. We look at colours, venue dressing, textures, flowers and also consider the weather for the season too. Marques and buttercream cakes on hot days could pose a problem.
After a consultation I send over a quote based on our chat along with a mood board and often a cake sketch too.
For celebration cakes orders I normally work via emails again lead from the client, listening to their idea and then pitching ideas to them based on the information given.
What are your top three cake decorating essentials?
Where do you get your inspiration from?
- My acetate smoothers... essential for a smooth finish on my fondant. I use these in addition to the standard paddle smoothers.
- Trex – I use trex a lot, more than I thought I ever would. Its great for using in moulds to stop the icing from sticking. You can use it on your work top as an alternative to cornflower or icing sugar to rollout. A little trex on you hands before colouring fondant ensures the colour doesn't stain your hands. When making sugar flowers with florist paste I use a tiny amount of trex to work through the paste and make it a little more supple and pliable. I could go on for a while, but you get the idea. I always have some in the fridge!
- Acupuncture pins...they are perfect for removing bubbles / air pockets in fondant, and they don't leave any visible marks on you finished cake.
Inspiration for cakes can come in many forms, fashion, textiles, textures, nature and of course Pinterest.
What are your top tips for a beginner?
I always say to take lots of photo's of your work, the good the bad and the ugly. The pictures remind me of how I did something, it reminds me If I'd perhaps not try that method again. It's also good to see your journey in pictures, how your skills develop and grow over time.
Magazines, and online tutorials are a great way to learn a new skill. There are also lots of online 'cake decorating' forums where you can ask questions and get advice from fellow cakers, there is a huge amount of experience and knowledge out there, don't be afraid to ask!!
What are you plans for the future?
- To try and not eat too much cake...
- My hugely supportive family are always happy & proud when they see me or my cakes in print, so I hope to continue to be featured in various magazines and publications. So I want /need to keep current and up to date in a ever changing environment.
- Maybe I'll dip my toe into teaching classes too, I'd just need to grow my self confidence a little more first!!