Interview #18: Tracy James of Cotton and Crumbs
Back in June, lovely Tracy James of Cotton & Crumbs fame travelled to Australia from the UK to conduct classes at Whimsical Cakehouse and to film video tutorials for Cake Masters. She packed in an amazing amount in her short time here and impressed everyone her stamina, warmth and enthusiasm. I was fortunate enough to meet with Tracy and interview her. Here she shares some wonderful insights into her world, the struggle to achieve a balance for work and home, Mother-guilt and some of her hopes for the future.
Cake Masters is an amazing venture; can you tell us what we will see in your video tutorials?
We are very excited to be part of Cake Masters! There are 2 tutorials live at the moment, one is our signature large rose which gives a step by step guide of how to recreate a cotton & crumbs rose and the other tutorial is our vintage cupcakes which includes how to make stripy bows, rose buds, pearls, stenciling and open roses. There are more tutorials to come including brush embroidery and romantic ruffles.
How did you first get started with cake decorating?
I first started about 5 years ago when I got married myself. I made some iced biscuits for my wedding and brought a couple of books. I was hooked and couldn’t wait to start making larger cakes and cupcakes!
What has been your greatest challenge?
Without a doubt it has to be balancing work life and home life. Working from home has a lot of benefits but when you have a child it can be very hard to get a good balance. School holidays always fall during our busiest times so it’s a case of having a game of badminton while the cakes are in the oven and making flowers during the evening while he’s asleep! I think everyone in the same position feels guilty at some point; it’s a hard one to manage.
What is the most rewarding part of cake decorating?
Probably the wonderful feedback that we get from our customers, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes of cake decorating so when you have put your heart and soul into creating a cake for someone’s special day there is no better feeling than when they take the time to tell you how pleased they were with it.
Can you give some tips to people who have just started decorating cakes or would love to start?
Stick to a style of cake that you like and enjoy making. We don’t all have to be fantastic at painting, flowers, modelling, carving etc. …. You won’t excel at something you don’t enjoy :)
Which one of your cakes is your favourite?
I think my favourite cake is my Vintage Lace Couture design, it’s certainly one of our most popular designs and it incorporates all the things that I love ….. lace, pearls and roses! And it looks lovely in any colour combination.
What’s been the biggest surprise in all of this for you?
I think the biggest surprise for me has been the rapid growth of our business, from making cakes for family and friends to teaching in Australia in just 4 and a half years has been amazing ! I never take for granted the fantastic support we have had from our facebook followers, it’s been truly incredible!
Do you bake, do you enjoy baking?
I baked everything for the first 3 years but now my husband does all of the baking. I’ll be honest and say that the baking side was always the bit that I enjoyed the least. Lining tins, weighing ingredients and waiting for cakes to cook didn’t involve much creativeness which is what I enjoy the most about the job. I do enjoy eating cakes though!
What is your favourite decorating tool?
Definitely lace moulds! I love how they look on cakes and when I order new ones I get so excited when they arrive! I’ve moved on from shoes and handbags … lace moulds and cake stands are the future!
*Do you have any rituals or habits when you are working! *
Getting in a mess is a habit of mine. I can’t tidy up as I go along; I use every piece of equipment possible, leave food colour lids off and always end up with royal icing spilling out of the piping bags all over the floor! When you get in the zone there is no time to be organised, it always looks like a bomb site!
Which of your achievements in Caking are you most proud of?
Being in a successful business that I absolutely love and feel very passionate about is what I feel most proud of.
Which part of the whole process do you like the most….
Creating new cake designs, from sketching my ideas to making the cake, there is no better feeling than looking at a cake you have personally designed yourself and feeling 100% happy with it :)
…and the least?
Without a doubt it has to be transporting cakes! The roads in the UK are full of pot holes, speed bumps, cattle grids, roundabouts and crazy drivers! It’s such a relief when you get the cake to the venue in one piece!
Do you have a cake idol?
Yes! It has to be Vanessa Lti from Bella Cupcakes in New Zealand. I absolutely adore everything she does, her attention to detail is incredible and I love the colours, the designs and the photography. Would love to meet her one day.
Lastly, what is the first thing on your Cake Bucket List?
I would love to write a book at some point if I ever have a few spare months free :)
Thank you so much for your time Tracy, it was really wonderful to meet you :)
Tracy’s Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cotton-Crumbs/47401303755Some of Tracy’s Amazing Cakes