Life is short. Eat more cake. That's the mantra of cake designer Bea Vo. With a successful tea room in London, Bea Vo from Bea’s of Bloomsbury has managed to craft her own creative life around the art of pâtisserie, a passion which she has long held. Here we speak to her about her top tips for those wishing to follow in her footsteps, and how to create the perfect macaroon every time… How did you first become interested in baking? My family has always made food the focus of happiness for most of my childhood. While most kids had birthday cakes from Baskin Robbins or the local supermarket, I used to get these lovely Swiss buttercream and sponge concoctions from a family friend, and for little treats an Italian bakery called Tivolis – things like white chocolate mousse cakes and millefeuilles. Professionally I became interested in baking while I was studying at university, and realising I was spending more time in the kitchen than in the library! What’s the first thing you remember making? As a child we used to make all sorts of cookies, such as snickerdoodles, oatmeal raisin cookies and spritz cookies for Christmas. My sister’s favourite dessert was crème caramel, and that was my first ‘real’ dessert. I would practice it over and over again to get the caramel just right and the custard perfectly set. Where did you learn your skills? I apprenticed at a small French pâtisserie and restaurant in upstate New York before going on to cook at various hotels and cafés, and then at Asia de Cuba and Nobu Restaurants here in London. What’s your favourite recipe to bake? Personally I like éclairs – we don’t make them in the shop because they’re only good for four hours in my opinion, but if I’m doing a special dessert, I love croquembouches and éclairs. Pâte à choux and crème patissiere also make me very happy. How do you develop new recipes? There are two ways I develop recipes. When I was at Nobu, I learnt the idea of clarity of flavour and balance of texture, sweetness, acidity, and harmony. Also being willing to take risks that may or may not work. For Bea’s, I wanted all of the desserts to be grounded in some sort of nostalgia or a foundation that people will understand – so a yuzu lavender macaroon might not be the most recognisable flavour combination, but a peanut butter chocolate one taps into a person’s childhood. Do you have any top tips for making the perfect macaroon? Always let the macaroons rest after piping for a good 10-15 minutes so a skin develops over the top which helps with the lift when they bake – creating the little feet everyone loves to see. What was your aim when setting up Bea’s of Bloomsbury? I just wanted to make a place that made the cakes of my childhood, and allowed me to please people. I’m a people pleaser through and through. And no matter what we did it was the best we could do, and to just be a real neighbourhood bakery. Create the happy memories I have with cake! What do you think makes a good afternoon tea? Friends. And obscene amounts of clotted cream. Don’t skip on the clotted cream! Where do you get your baking inspiration from? My sister and Mama Kay, along with my mentors Renée Senne who trained me at my first pastry chef job, and Regis Cursan, Regional Executive Pastry Chef at Nobu. What’s your favourite flavour combination? I don’t use it much in the shops, but I’m a sucker for mint chocolate at home. What do you enjoy most about creating your cook books? I think writing down the techniques that feel like second nature to me and trying to explain them in a way that people understand the first time around – so they can avoid all of the years of mistakes I’ve made along the way! What do you have planned for the future? Continuing to make happy cake memories at Bea’s, write a new book based around fusion desserts, and working on a new American-style restaurant in London that will have a lot of my old childhood favourites! Find out more information about Bea and her company at www.beasofbloomsbury.com
In the kitchen with Bea Vo
Life is short. Eat more cake. That's the mantra of cake designer Bea Vo.