When they asked me as a youngster “What do you want to be when you grow up” I never really knew. I’d often say I wanted to work on a holiday camp as entertainment staff. Back then I had an abundance of confidence and loved entertaining people. As time went on it became clear I had no idea what I wanted to do. I fulfilled my dream of working on a holiday camp, in 1998 I worked as entertainment staff at Bunn leisure in Selsey in Sussex. It was fun and I’ll never forget the experience and some of the wonderful people I met but it wasn’t the career I’d hoped it’d be.
So there I was, my only goal fulfilled and without any direction at all. I spent the next few years floating from temping job to temping job and I even had a little business I ran at weekends as a balloon and events decorator. It was fun but never something I could see myself doing long term.
I’d gained a lot experience during this time though, I’d been trained my several big companies in how to market their products, visual merchandising and business strategy. These things really lit a fire in me and are still to this day, things that I really enjoy doing.
So you’re now thinking “how did you get into cakes?” Well in 2009 my lovely mum sadly became terminally ill. Growing up Mum had always made all of our cakes, now I don’t want to give you a false sense of grandeur here these weren’t competition standard cakes by any means, but they were made with so much love and effort and it is something that stays with you. It doesn’t have to be perfect someone took the time to make you a cake that in itself is enough.
So as my Mum got worse I decided I’d like to have a bash at becoming the family cake maker. My first attempt was a bodge job as I’d never baked before I had an hour and half to make something for my mum’s birthday, so I cheated, I bought madeira slabs from Sainsburys and built her a cake with those. I covered it, something else I’d never done before, then I decorated it with some pretty wired gems that I made. It wasn’t the greatest cake as you can see but it was made out of love and my mum loved it.
Spurred on by this I then went on to bake my own cakes and decorate them. I made an 'In the night garden' cake and adorned it with my sons new Iggle piggle and Makka packa toys as at that point I’d never even attempted to use fondant for anything other than covering a cake.
I was working part time so at this point it was just something I’d done to ease the pressure off my Mum. In the September it was my stepdad’s birthday, so I decided as he was awkward to buy for I would make him a fabulous cake for his gift. I set about think of his interests and settled on gardening, I’d just helped him set up his own gardening business so he could be home to help with my younger brother once mum had passed so it seemed fitting to do him a gardening cake.
I baked and covered the cake then built a little shed which was adorned with tiny edible planks all with tiny nails. I then made vegetable beds with all the vegetables just as they would be if you picked them, so everyone eating the cake could pick their own veg too. It was a labour of love but it looked great and went down a storm at his party.
Sadly in the October we lost Mum and my heart was broken, she wasn’t just my mum she was my best friend. We’d spend most day’s on the phone together or taking my two boys out to the park. She was such a huge part of my life, of everyone’s lives. My younger brother was only 8 at the time and the thought of him growing up without mum making him cakes made me so sad. I knew I had to be the one to make them for him, to build those memories.
Right there and then the seed was planted and I began to think how this could become something I did as a job as well as for my family. I began experimenting with recipes finding what I liked to do the most. I practiced with every waking hour to perfect my skills then I got myself set up as a business and registered etc, I began taking orders for basic cupcakes to start, with the odd cake for friends to get me started.
Before long I was getting huge recognition for my work. I was regularly featured in the local paper for my quirky take on cakes and I had to turn people away I was so busy with people booking up to 12mths ahead just to secure their date.
In the June after loosing Mum we were blessed with our little girl Erin, she helped mend my heart so much and is so like my Mum it’s uncanny. I now had 3 children under 5 and whilst I needed to work to help with the bills, I couldn’t keep going like I was. I loved making the cakes for everyone but I was so busy I couldn’t spend time enjoying my children. I was still grieving and taking too much on became an issue, I was finally diagnosed as having postnatal depression. It hit me like a ton of bricks and all those feelings we have as parent’s became magnified “ am I doing it right, am I spending too much time away from them, I should be doing this/that.”
I took a few months out to look after myself and enjoy my babies. It was a good move as it helped me look at why I was doing this, why was I working so hard and why cakes? The answer was easy and is the same now. The tradition of making cakes is an important one, everyone should be lucky enough to have someone make them a special cake on their birthday. It’s a lost tradition for the most part,people are too busy to take the time to learn how to do it and it’s often perceived as too hard, something which really needn’t be true.
I wanted to bring back this tradition of baking for your family and make it easier for people to do. I had taught myself how to do it and found I had a natural flare for it. I wanted to help other people to learn the basics they needed to know to make someone something special on their big day.
This is where my classes were born. I set about running several months of test classes to ensure how I taught would be easy to understand for my students. The feedback I got was great and I began running the odd class of a weekend, I would still take cake orders, but this soon became a huge passion of mine.
In the years since I began teaching I’ve helped hundreds of students learn how to make cakes for their loved ones and even turn their new found passion into a successful business. Nothing makes me happier than seeing one of my student’s making a cake for their children and proudly showing it off, or being able to build a home business with my help, quite often enabling them to work alongside caring for their children.
I’ve finally found my job and what makes me tick, those day’s as a holiday entertainer haven’t gone to waste I am often found dancing about the kitchen whilst baking and the children’s entertainment skills come in handy when I’m hosting a cupcake party. My passion for helping others find their potential is all I want to do now, I only wish my Mum had seen me finally stick at something and find something that makes me really happy.
So much has happened in the last 8years, from starting my business to winning awards, baking for celebrities and judging baking competitions, to releasing my first book and demonstrating to thousands of people at the Cake international show. It’s been such a busy time but I wouldn’t change a single moment. Here’s to finding your passion and to many more adventures to come.