So fellow Cupcakers, this week I decided to go mad and instead of filling these Bloggy pages with images of mouth watering baked goods, I decided to pick the brain of someone behind these delicious looking things we call ‘Cupcakes’.
This week ‘An Interview with…’ premieres with Suzi from Pretty Witty Cakes who makes brilliant cupcakes from the novel to the amazingly intricate.
Tell us about your passion for cake. How did it lead to starting a business?
I have a totally unconventional start to cupcakes as I used to be a lawyer! But, after I had children I found that my old career was just not working for me as hardly ever saw my little boy. So, I resigned not knowing what I would do. It was only after attending a one day course on how to make cupcakes that I discovered an absolute passion for something that I never knew existed. After that one day course, I absolutely submerged myself into the word of cupcakes. For months I taught myself new skills – learning largely by trial and error and I found a real love for modelling in sugar and florist paste. To start with, I was making cupcakes for weddings and birthday/anniversaries etc but I found that so many people were asking how I made the cupcakes, that it became a natural progression to start teaching cupcake classes. Those classes now take up the majority of my time although I still make time to fit in pure cupcake making. One thing I can now say is that I absolutely love my job. I can work from home and see my children (there are now 2 of them!) whenever I want. I only wish I had done this 10 years ago. It is true what they say – that is you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.
How did you decide on the name?
When I got married, I took my husband’s name “Witt”. I really didn’t like the name at all and it took me a long time to get used to it. But, when I was trying to think up a name for the business, my brother suggested I call it “Witty Cakes”. I was initially hesitant because I didn’t like the name Witt much but the “Pretty Witty” element perfectly captured the style I have – in that I love the pretty cakes but I also like to inject a bit of humour into cupcake especially in my novelty cupcakes. The name also became very personal too me as it incorporated my family name. The end result was that I love the name of the business and I am now quite fond of my own surname – something my husband is quite chuffed about!
What’s your favourite cake to bake and decorate and why?
My favourites are the Novelty cupcakes and if I had to choose a favourite animal, probably the little frogs as they really take on their own characters well.
I also enjoy doing the Novelty animal cupcake towers as the recipients are always so excited when they see them for the first time.
If cake weren’t your career what do you think you would be doing?
I often wonder what would have happened if I had not resigned. I was never that happy in my old career and suspect I would just have plodded on hoping for the best. I would now advise anyone who doesn’t like what they do to make the break. For me, it was the fear of the unknown that kept me in my old career. If I knew then what I knew now about how enjoyable a different career would be, I would have resigned years ago. Having said all of that, when I was younger I always wanted to be a pilot – the problem was as I got older I developed a fear of flying!
Do you invent any of your own cake flavours?
I tend to focus on decorations more that flavours although I am very keen on adding real fruit to cupcake to make them all gooey – strawberries being a really good one for this. I have tried lots of weird flavours as it is all part of the experimenting fun side of baking and I have a family who is very willing to taste test!
What is the most amount of cupcakes you’ve ever made in one day?
A lot! Whenever I have wedding orders, I make the cupcakes as close to the event as possible (i.e. the day before). This makes the day/night before a wedding really long but it is worth it for fresh cakes. I never freeze cupcakes either but I have 2 ovens so I can cook 48 at a time, The most cupcakes I have made in a day is about 350!
Some of your cupcakes look so intricate! What’s the longest amount of time it’s taken to decorate just one?
The one that takes the most time is the tea cup and saucer because it needs a long time to dry. But the great thing about the pastes I work with Is that they all last for ages so you can make the decorations week/months in advance. When I first started, it would take me hours to make novelty characters but now I can make them in a matter of minutes!
What is the best way to eat cake?
LOL! My husband is forever calling me “the mouse” as I tend to break pieces off of everything making a complete mess! But it lasts longer if you do that. I do it with everything – it drives him mad!
What’s your best baking tip?
The one thing I say to all my students is that the single best thing they can do when starting is get an oven thermometer. If I had done that at the beginning, I would not have thrown away so many cakes nor wondered why they were not right even though I followed the recipes. The temperature on the dial seems to never be the same as the oven inside and cupcakes are so dependent on baking at the right temperature that this is a vital tool
Any tips or words of advice for those starting a cupcake business?
I would advise anyone starting to seek as much information and advice as possible but only implement the things you like. Let everyone give you their tips and advice whether that is your grandmas or the postman (and everyone will give you their advice whether you ask or not!) But once you have all that info, just take the bits YOU like and ignore the rest. Everyone is different and there is no perfect business model that would suit everyone. I also really believe that when starting out, It is important to do something different that is unique to you so you create your own style. Choose the thing you are best at and perfect that rather than doing lots of things poorly. And above all – don’t just copy someone else’s style – there is no fun in that!
Are you interested in opening a retail shop at some point, or do you intend on focusing on the custom orders?
I work from home at the moment and I like that because it increases the time with my children when not working as there is no commuting so at the moment no. My style is very bespoke so a retail outlet would not work for me at present.
What’s next for Pretty Witty cakes?
I have just released a new stencilling and piping class – with a new set of skills to teach people. There are lots of things in the pipeline including a massive project being worked at present but it is all under lock and key until it is ready…
Suzi’s Cupcake Classes include:
- Cupcake Basics – for the beginner or those who need a refresher.
- Beautiful Flowers – for beginners and intermediate level.
- Wedding and Party Cupcakes: – for beginners and intermediate level.
- Novelty Cupcakes: – for beginners and intermediate level.
- Retro/Vintage Stencilling and Royal Piping– for beginners and intermediate level.
- The Cupcake Business Class
And are based in Crowborough in beautiful Kent so you can learn how to decorate cupcakes and take a trip to ‘The Garden of England’!
Thanks to Suzi for a great interview, hope you cupcakers learned a lil’ x