Elegant wedding cakes are the speciality of cake designer and writer Zoe Clark – but she has turned her hand to all manner of decorating techniques and has previously worked as a pastry chef. Her designs have appeared in Cake Decoration Heaven numerous times, and her books are sold around the world. Here she tells us how she set up her cake company, The Cake Parlour, and what most inspires her… Have you always been interested in cake decoration? Yes! I always helped my mum decorate cakes when I was little. Actually, I liked anything arty and crafty, not just cakes. Can you tell us about your path to becoming a cake designer? After deciding that teaching foreign languages in schools was definitely not for me, I started working in kitchens – first as a chef, then I got more into pastry. I started playing around with sugar flowers when I got married, then when we moved to London seven years ago I was fortunately offered an amazing job in a cake shop. I couldn’t believe my luck – I had no idea these places existed! Straight away, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do. What has been your favourite project so far? Probably my last book. It’s a kids’ book aimed at beginners – mums at home with a passion for cake decorating. I picked some of my favourite themes for kids’ parties, avoiding anything Disney or commercial. There are projects from baby celebrations up to teenager parties. Each main cake design has a smaller spin off project to go with it. And in addition to the usual basic recipe and technique section, I’ve included a couple of pages on ‘surprise inside cakes’ – designs or patterns inside the cake! For example, green balls for a Princess and the Pea cake or a camouflage sponge. How did you come to set up your own shop, The Cake Parlour? I started out working from home and things just took off. We ran out of space, so I had no choice but to move into something bigger! We found somewhere local and renovated the inside (my husband is a tradesman so he did most of it with the help of friends and family). I had a strong idea of what I wanted, and over the past three and a half years we’ve continued to make changes! You run courses at The Cake Parlour too – what would you say is the most important skill for a beginner to learn? How to layer and ice a cake first. I like to teach all the courses myself. We have only small groups as we don’t have much space – just four or five people. Our five day decorating class and Whimsical Flower classes have been really popular. I’ll be launching new classes in the next month for the summer. Lots of your cakes seem to have a vintage feel. Is this a look that particularly inspires you? I wouldn’t say so really. I do love pretty girly things, and of course like to follow fashion, but wouldn’t necessarily say this look inspires me particularly. I’m really inspired by lace, but apart from that I’m very drawn to cute decorative patterns, on giftwrap and fabric and also graphic prints. What else would you say were your inspirations? Beautiful buildings and architecture, interior design and artwork. What project are you working on at the moment? I’ve just finished my next book, Simply Perfect Party Cakes for Kids. I’m also working on a couple of new collections. One on lace cakes and another with sugar flowers. What do you have planned for the future – more books? Hopefully! But it’s all under wraps right now! Visit www.zoeclarkcakes.com and www.thecakeparlour.com for more about Zoe and her cake designs.
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