The last thing I ever thought I’d ever be doing is baking and creating cakes as for the majority of my life I have been a Graphic Artist working in all kind of Commercial fields ranging from Textile Designing to the contrast of running a CAD studio for a large Computer Company in South Africa.. My hobbies were extension of that so would dabble in pottery painting, book illustrations, photography and medical drawings.
I was born in London and the eldest of 3 girls. My parents moved to Kenya and from there my African journey started aged 3. I was educated in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe (Rhodesia back in the day) . I moved to South Africa after I graduated from Art College, married and had 3 sons who are now young men with great careers. I am very proud of them. I am also a grandmother of 2 grandsons that I just adore!!! I have been married 3 times, not something I am proud of, but got it right 3rd time and met my soul mate Martin. I believe marriage is a wonderful institution and have the greatest admiration for long and successful marriages I see around me.
From a young girl you would find me sketching. My prize possessions were my colouring in books that I kept meticulously. I think my tendency to be a perfectionist started there as all these pictures I coloured-in had to be neat and even and no going out the lines. I even loved handling and touching my crayons…I giggle when thinking about it now. I had no intention of being an artist and viewed this as a hobby only. From around the age of 9, I was playing the piano at school and doing my grades. At Grade 3 I won the Junior Cup for our school via The Trinity College of London, this changed the hobby into a career to be developed as a Concert Pianist. This was all-consuming and subsequently never did an art lesson at school, or cookery lesson, or sewing lesson or played sport… it was dedicated music & practise all the way to Grade 9… but the time I had reached my last year at school, I then realised this was not for me, much to my mother’s horror as it came without warning my intentions to stop. As there was nothing on the horizon for me to do before I hit the outside
world in 6 months, my mother urgently sent me off for career assessment and the artistic side came out. S here I was in the last 6 months of school, taking up art lessons for my O’Levels (School Leaving Certificate) … that was a challenge!!! I passed and went and studied Commercial Art but sure had my work cut out to catch up with everyone else. My artist’s career lasted for 26 years. I did become disillusioned by the exploitation the Commercial world demanded of me and so bailed out to look for a different career. I came to the UK and took up administration which led me to Facilities Management which I LOVED. I did not do anything arty for 10 years until a friend of mine persuaded me to illustrate his book… I was reluctant, but did it and enjoyed it… but really, it was my wonderful husband who finally won though in persuading me to stop this rat race I was in and get back to my creative roots which started with a couple of oil paintings and then down went the canvas and up came the icing sheet as my new “Canvas” to create on.
From the first cake I decorated 3 years ago, to date, I have lived and breathed this fabulous confection of delights!! I must bore people as I am such an addict… it is the most fulfilling, satisfying joyful, creative thing I have ever done. I have been able to express myself though my cakes.
How did you first get started with cake decorating?
It all started when my youngest son was turning 30 and my husband and I travelled to Malta where he lived and I made my first designed cake. It was a chocolate ganache with an African theme, as my son is South African… I look back on it with such fondness and pride as the cake made my son so happy he took it to the restaurant to have it displayed there for his party. It was the joy it brought my son that really kicked me into action so off to cake classes I went on a Monday night for 2 hours for 6 weeks course… I landed up doing 4 of them. I call Ange (www.Authneticake.co.uk ) my mentor as I got so much encouragement from her and she is now a very good friend of mine. In 2010, I joyfully made a wedding cake for my middle son and that we me totally hooked after that with no looking back.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Without doubt, it was my first official wedding cake order in December 2012. It took so much planning and administration not just in construction but in time-management as well as I had to fit Christmas into this, along with home renovations too. It was a challenge, but I have to say I loved every bit of it. I drew up some sketch ideas of what the bride-to-be required and she loved it, so winning me the commission. It was for a high profile venue in London… yes, MORE challenges… and assembling the cake on site for 6 hours (with onlookers ) was terrifying. I survived and the bride and groom were so happy and have had wonderful feedback from her guests too. I got great feedback on the taste which is so important.
What is the most rewarding part of cake decorating?
Without a doubt, the smile, the wide eyes and the joy it brings others… it is like an aphrodisiac for me and how wonderful it would be to be able to bottle it… it would make a fortune!! I love giving and my mother used to call me “little friend of all the world” for just that reason… there is no price for that smile and the joy that a cake can bring… A kind photographer sent me some photos of the reactions to some christening cupcakes I made a few months ago.. it made me cry to see these excited faces…that frozen moment put to frame.
When people feedback on yumminess, I am delighted as after all, the visual sensation is one thing, but it HAS to taste good too and I work hard on perfecting taste.
Lastly, I LOVE to teach and so wish I had the facilities to do this and dream one day I will be able to. I have taught one-to-one and have got so much satisfaction out of that especially when the student has a Eureka moment in seeing their self-doubt melt away…. Fantastic!!! I have some online tutorials planned for later on this year as it is a great way to share knowledge.
Could you give some tips to people who have just started decorating cakes or would love to start?
If you have the desire and inspiration and eagerness…… then DO it… as this is your fuel to launch you forwards with the rest happening along the way…
I am not qualified in cake decorating, I have learnt skills from Ange (mentioned earlier) then also loads of source books and references I get off You Tube and Google too.. I watch tutorials and learn from other fellow decorators I see on Facebook pages and here as well on CakesDecor’s fabulous website. I have put myself on 3 weekend workshops to learn more on modelling and absorb all I can from these experienced professionals. I am also a member of The British Sugarcraft Guild and attend meetings where professionals come and do demos and share their knowledge. So all in all… these have helped me….
PRACTISE!!! Make cakes for everyone!!! That way you build skills. It is so important that you have fun and treat it as a joyful experience. It is part of that gift of giving.
How did you find CakesDecor.com and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I found it though the wonderful talented “ Rock Cakes”. I saw it on her page months ago. I had a look at CakesDecor website and loved the wide range of cakes and designers that were on there, with the additions of tutorials, blogs and so much sharing and support for each other. I visit it every day now and really enjoy following people’s growth. The competitions themes are such a great idea and keep me interested and keen to follow, even though unable to enter as yet. I have gained more knowledge from looking at the tutorials people so generously share. I was honored when you asked me to do aprons as prizes for winners and delighted what winners say when they win one.
Which one of your cakes is your favourite?
Tough call as each one has a story and love attached to it… I think my wedding cake I made for my son’s wedding is high on the list as it was my first big cake and what really kick started me onto the path of creative cakes. I can still see my daughter-in-law’s face when she looked at her cake with head in hands and tears in her eyes saying “look at our cake!” … That was an emotional and joyful moment for me… I have had many more since then.
What’s been the biggest surprise in all of this for you?
The biggest surprise is how my cakes have been so well received. I am humbled. I see so much talent that comes out of peoples kitchens all the way up to the experienced professionals. But by far the biggest and most heart-warming surprise is the incredible support I have had from my family and friends. It was my ex-boss who came up with the name of my company whilst we walked around a lake one day… it was my nephew who set up my website and then my eldest son Warren who took it over and spent many long hours in his spare time and after work in the evenings enhancing and making additions etc… he designed my logo and business cards and even set up my Facebook page in 2011 which I did very little on until May 2012. I have sure met loads of fabulous talented people and have forged great friendships too. Warren says “you’re a legend mom” …My other 2 sons have also been involved and so supportive with advice and putting the word out there. Robert has helped me to raise money for “Teenagers with Cancer Trust” though raffling my cakes. He put a lot of time and effort into advertising for this worthy cause. My family tell me they are proud of me and that makes me feel so special as I am dead proud of them too.
The biggest kudos though, has to go to my husband Martin as it was he that made me stop my day
job to get back to creativity. He has a t-shirt with his favourite cake on and it says “I love Callicious
Without him I could never have thought of venturing into this wonderful world of confection.
Some of Calli’s Cakes
Thank you Calli for your time ;)