The popular Pig in Mud cupcake, featured in Cupcake Heaven last year, was designed by owner of Hercule's Cakehouse, Mellissa. Here she tells us about her business, getting involved in the magazine, and a few of her favourite cake decorating projects... We love your photos, which have been used in the mag a few times. Do you have any food photography advice for our readers? Unless you have a solid background in photography, enlist the help of a professional. I'm very lucky to have teamed up with photographer Philip Mowbray and we arrange regular photo shoots. It's fortunate that we share the same styling preference – very clean and uncluttered sets. The image quality is paramount so a smart phone and Instagram won't get you anywhere! Philip has a great knowledge of what makes an image commercial, I've learned a lot from working with him. What got you into cake decorating? I've always had a passion for baking. As a child I would bake cakes almost every weekend. Admittedly, my primary motivation was to eat them rather than make them look pretty! A few years ago I started baking cakes for friends and colleagues and attempted some more complex designs. I found that I really enjoyed it and also seemed to have a knack for it. I knew that the key to move forward was to develop the necessary skills and practice, practice, practice. Can you tell us about how you launched Hercule's Cakehouse? I have an extremely varied work background, from event management to industrial abseiling! As such, I've always believed that I could do almost anything. I'd harboured a dream of having my own cake business for years, but thought that the initial financial outlay would be prohibitive. At the time that Hercule's Cakehouse started to form in my mind, I was working at Harrods. I had to make the decision to either take a leap of faith and launch the business with the resources that I had, or resign myself to always being a hobby baker. I took the leap! I understood it was going to be very hard word, but I also knew it would be incredibly rewarding. Who is Hercule (I really want to know!)? Hercule is the Creative Director of the business, I'm merely his assistant. Hercule is a lovely, velvet, toy cat who started as a social media experiment and quickly gathered quite a following! It just made sense that he would be the face of the business and it hopefully reinforces the sense of fun that is associated with the brand. Hercule takes care of Facebook and Twitter, I think it's important to remain in character! What's the most unusual (or ambitious!) cake you've designed? I received an order on very short notice for a cake like a Grammy Award for an actual Grammy winner. I had to make the gold horn out of three different materials and hope that one of them held together and dried in time! I once made a dragon out of modelling chocolate as part of a cake and thought it would look great if I covered it in individual fondant scales. In the end it did look great, but it took two and a half days to make. Philip and I have an image of a live, Mexican Fireleg tarantula sitting on top of a cupcake. The most terrifying bake was a five-tier wedding pavlova! You've done some great cakes for the magazine. What's your favourite? I loved how the Pig in Mud cupcake looked, and the response from your readers was so positive. The Sea Shells cupcake is another of my favourites. The marble of the blue icing photographed beautifully. Can you tell us what cake plans you have for Easter this year? We will be making cakes with bunny models, Easter eggs and spring flowers as well as some Easter Simnel cupcakes, just for something different. Any plans for the future that you'd like to share? We're excited to be offering classes for private and corporate groups, as well as children's parties where the kids can decorate and take their cupcake creations home. We're also going to be focusing more on our wedding designs this year. We've had such success with our wedding offerings, it would be crazy not to ride that wave. Visit Hercule LeChat over at the Hercule's Cakehouse website, or say hello on Twitter @HerculeLeChat.
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