I grew up on a farm, surrounded by fields in Bolton. We had a vast selection of fruit trees and bushes and when it was time to gather the fruit, off we would all go my brother and sister and I into the fields, colanders clanging to collect gooseberries, blackberries… Well if it was a berry we were under orders to collect it. My mother used to make and sell jam and preserves to passing ramblers.
My mother used to bake once a week with the words “Once the cakes have gone there won’t be any more till Sunday”! I used to watch her like a hawk and listen to her explaining why you shouldn’t bang the oven door, and why it was so important to cream the butter into the sugar… Well at first I was only there to get either a lick of the spoon or the ultimate prize, the mixing bowl. Then I grew wise to this, if I made the cakes, I would get to have the bowl before anyone else! So come Tuesday evening I would ask to bake butterfly cakes or Viennese whirls with butter cream and blackcurrant jam. I then progressed onto making the Christmas cake, birthday and celebration cakes.
Later on I went to catering college and studied to become a chef. I often get asked by people “How did you start making sugar flowers?”. Well I made a birthday cake for someone and with the excess roll out fondant I started messing about making a rose. It didn’t look too bad so I put it on top of the cake and the rest; they say; is history.
I now teach internationally the art of sugar flowers and am an accredited demonstrator for the British Sugarcraft Guild. I run my own International workshops, private 1-2-1 tutorials and guest teach at different venues.
I have been fortunate enough to have taught in the US and Europe and am travelling to Australia and the Far East later this year. Teaching gives me an enormous sense of achievement. Seeing the sheer look of delight on students’ faces when they start to assemble an arrangement is prize enough for me as a teacher.
I met Sue years ago in a crowded nightclub in Manchester…we literally bumped into each other, and said at the same time to each other “I need a friend”. We hugged and from that moment on I knew we would be friends for life. Amazingly enough she lived just around the corner from our farm and our friendship grew and grew.
Twenty five years later the news came – it was to be a winter wedding. Sue said she would leave the design of the cake and choice of flowers up to me. The only specification I had from Sue was that champagne gold was the choice of colour for the bridesmaids’ dresses.
It took me 3 months of sleepless nights trying to think of a design worthy enough for my best friend, then one night as I was falling asleep on the couch watching television… the design came… I saw it in its completion standing proud in front of me. I leapt to my feet and started scribbling a sketch of the dream winter wedding cake.
The wedding reception was held at Bolton Town Hall in a very large high ceilinged room so the cake needed to be grand enough not to get lost in the room. A 7.5 foot wedding cake should do the trick I thought to myself! There were 120 guests invited to the wedding, not enough people to warrant such a huge cake I know! But this is a once in a life time occasion so I pulling out all the stops.
I ordered the ivory regal ice fondant, when it arrived I looked at the larger bottom tier and looked at my dining room table and thought whoops! The table simply wasn’t big enough so I contacted a local bakery, and it was they I paid to cover the dummies in sugar paste for me.
The design around the base of each cake was hand piped baroque scrolls in royal icing, antiqued with champagne gold dust. The design on the supporting drums consisted of similar baroque oval plaques, with hand piped royal iced floral urns. I invested in a day’s royal icing 1-2-1 tutorial from the infamous Eddie Spence MBE. Royal icing isn’t my forte so I thought who better to ask than the best in the business to guide me through a few of the royal icing stages.
The flowers needed to have a winter feel to them so I chose off white calla lilies, snow berries and cream Avalanche roses. For the foliage I chose eucalyptus and ruscus leaves and for a splash of drama I added green cymbidium orchids.
I did want the bride’s bouquet, button holes and cake theme all to tie in together, so I offered to make them all. It has taken 14 months with 2875 hours of hard work to achieve what I wanted but the look on the bride & grooms face was worth every minute. The bride’s bouquet will be kept by Sue so I am making another throwing bouquet. The bouquet and button hole flowers are made from an inedible product called cold porcelain which is very durable and won’t break.
There were three cutting cakes two made by Zoe Clark; a lemon sponge with lemonchello butter cream and a chocolate sponge with chocolate ganache. The third flavoured cake was made by my step father who prides himself on his legendary moist brandy soaked fruit cake with extra thick marzipan.
Sue has involved me so much in her wedding it makes me so proud that I have her as such a very special friend. Michael my best friend helped me assemble the cake on the morning of the wedding, it was a magical winter wedding enjoyed and remembered by all who attended.
Robert Haynes, London http://www.sugarflowerstudio.co.uk