If you’ve read my ‘About Me’ section, then you’ll already know a few brief details about when and why I started baking. But as you’d probably expect, there’s much more to the story, which is why I want to share a little bit more about how I got into baking, what years of practice have taught me, and what baking really means to me.
Where it all started…
I was born and raised in Stourbridge by a wonderful mum and dad alongside two older brothers. Growing up, I was fairly sporty, obsessed with ‘Groovy Chick’ and I loved food. But I was also a seriously fussy eater! My tastes have definitely changed as an adult, but when I was little, there was a huge list of foods I refused to eat. The only exception was sweet treats.
I’ve always had a real sweet tooth; as far as I was concerned, dessert was the best part of any meal, chocolate was the best part of Christmas and Easter, and birthday cake was the best part of every birthday.
My mum used to bake the best birthday cakes for me and my brothers every year, taking ideas from an adorable children’s party cake book by Ann Nicol, filled with fairy tale castles, circus characters, pirates, zoo animals and sports cars. My favourite cake she ever made was for my brother Rory – a sweet shop cake (surprise, surprise), topped with jellybeans, skittles, dolly mixtures, gummy bears and lollypops. My mum still has this book – it’s tattered and worn and features a lot of my own green scribbly artwork, but it still sits among her cookbooks, next to an ancient copy of Delia Smith’s ‘Complete Cookery Course’.
I didn’t actually bake much myself when I was younger, with the exception of stirring the batter and licking the spoon. It wasn’t until I had actually moved out of my mum’s house and into my own flat that I started baking.
I loved having my own kitchen. I’m definitely a homebody, but no matter where I’ve lived, my kitchen has been my pride and joy. So, on a lazy Sunday afternoon in 2014, my boyfriend (now fiancé) and I decided to make little butterfly fairy cakes. The flat was part-furnished, so the kitchen had a couple of shallow cupcake trays, and I bought basic ingredients. Granted, they looked like a 5-year-old had made them, but they were delicious, and I really enjoyed making them. I had caught the baking bug.
I started to make little cupcakes and brownies and took them into work – back then I was a Marketing Apprentice at a travel company. I would take part in charity bake sales and make cakes for my colleague’s birthdays. I experimented with different recipes, flavours and decorations, and I started to really fall in love with baking.
As time went on, it became all about practice; making different treats over and over again to get better and better. And there were definitely milestones in my baking journey – I was over the moon the first time I properly nailed a buttercream rose, and equally excited the first time I successfully covered a large chocolate cake in ganache.
When I moved jobs to become a Marketing Assistant at a law firm, my new boss gave me the nickname ‘Kipling’. I was taking my creations into work at least once a week and became known as the office baker. I would send company-wide emails offering cupcakes on a first come, first served basis, and it was a brilliant to see people literally jump out of their chairs to come and grab something I had baked. Pro tip – baking is a great way to get in good with new colleagues!
Eventually, friends and family also started asking me to bake for them. In 2016 I made my first wedding cake, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my entire life. I baked and decorated two naked-cake tiers, took them on a 3-hour car journey and set them up at the venue. It was terrifying, but the bride and groom loved it, and the experience gave me so much confidence in my abilities.
Practice makes perfect…
In the years that followed, in between new jobs, new houses and new pets, I started to invest in my hobby.
I bought better equipment, I worked on my piping skills, I branched out into confectionary and I discovered and perfected my cupcake flavours – sticky toffee pudding, maple syrup and carrot cake have become my firm favourites, as well as my team’s. I also started to make more wedding and celebration cakes, including two seaside themed cupcake towers for my dad’s wedding in 2017, a topsy-turvy wedding cake for one of my best friends last year and several number cakes for milestone birthdays. I even started a hand-written book of my own recipes, which became my inspiration for this blog.
Back in 2014, I asked one of my favourite bakers what her top tips were for improving my skills. She told me to simply practice as much as I could, and it was the best advice. I baked at every opportunity and six years later, it’s awesome to see how far I’ve come.
Baking gives me a real sense of accomplishment; it gives me an opportunity to be creative and it gives me something to share with the people I care about.
I know that there’s still so much to learn, but I’m excited to see what my bakes will look like even further down the road.