Interview with Cake Maker & Sugar Artist Julie Gibson of Ice Maiden Cakes
Today I start another new, and hopefully regular, feature “Interview with…” in which I will feature some of the UK’s finest cake baker/decorators and artisan bakers. I’m hoping that this will become a virtual “meeting place” – somewhere you can come to find out all about the wealth of talented cake artists and artisan bakers that are busily working away everyday to produce their finest celebration cakes, breads, pastries and other baked goodies…
Today, I am delighted to feature an interview with Julie Gibson of Ice Maiden Cakes in Somerset. Sit back, and read all about the passion of this very talented lady.
“When did you establish your cake baking business and what prompted you to start?”
I officially started my business on 1st April 2010 so I’m rapidly approaching my 3rd birthday. I had been making increasingly elaborate birthday cakes for my son and the children of close friends for years and it was one of my friends who really encouraged me to get serious about my talent and who started bringing me my first customers!
“When did you start baking and who taught you?”
I started baking when I was around 5 years old with my paternal grandmother. Nan was a proper old fashioned cook and she always had something fresh from the oven when we visited which was pretty much every weekend. My Mum could burn water when she married my Dad so Nan taught her everything she needed to know to feed a family and I learned along with her. Sundays were always baking day in our house and Mum would give me the off cuts of pastry to make little animals out of – before long I was the family pastry expert!
“Who works at Ice Maiden Cakes?”
Just me – hubby helps with the heavy lifting and my 9 year old son heads up Quality Assurance. I pay them in cake, naturally!
“What type of cakes do you make and do you have a signature cake or style?”
If you bake it I’ll make it, but my true passion lies in 3D carved cakes. I love bright, colourful designs with an element of fun and adore making birthday cakes because they can bring so much joy to people. I have had tears, hugs and even bunches of flowers from happy customers collecting birthday cakes!
“In your opinion, what sets you apart from your competitors?”
Two things really. Firstly, the quality of the cake is at the centre of everything I do. As a life-long baker I never let the artistry of cake making distract me from creating something that tastes fantastic. Secondly, and a bit strangely, is my passion for birthdays. The rest of the year you are a wife, daughter, mother, employee, sister, friend etc. etc. etc. – your birthday is the one day when you can just be you and everyone else should make a fuss of you. It’s only 1 day in 365 and I passionately believe everyone should be spoiled rotten on their birthday!
“Do you have a favourite cake that you have made?”
I made a cello cake last year which I think is my favourite to date. It got a fantastic reception from the birthday boy and really helped to make his day which he was having to spend away from home. He was on a course in a music school and the staff went crazy for it – what should have been a 5 minute drop off turned in to half an hour of explaining how I’d made it to all the staff!
“What do you think will the trends for wedding and/or celebration cakes in 2013?”
I’m really happy to have some highly personalised wedding cakes lined up this year and I’m hoping this means that couples are getting braver and making choices that reflect their relationship and interests more. Vintage is still going strong but with a move towards stronger period looks rather than the wedding style vintage of lace and pearls, 1950s and 1920s themes are popular.
“What do you like best about your job?
As corny as it may sound – the best part is making people happy. Seeing that big ol’ grin on their face when you show them the cake and hearing about how thrilled their loved one was. I also love it when the cake is a big surprise and the whole process feels like a secret conspiracy between me and the customer!
“What lessons have you learned in running your cake business over the years that you can pass on to those considering a career in cake making?”
I’ve learned that it is absolutely essential to get a grip on your costs and get your pricing right at the very outset. I have seen so many cake businesses start up, selling cakes at terribly cheap prices, just to reach the end of their first year of trading and realise that they have been paying their customers for the privilege of making them a cake. If you want to be in it for the long haul you need to lose the ‘hobby’ outlook and get serious from the very beginning – your skills and experience deserve respect and that has to start with you! *climbs down from soap box*
“Why do you think people should support their local baker / cake decorator over, say, a supermarket product?”
Other than the fact that the customer gets a far superior service and product, supporting local business ensures that more money stays within the local community. Local businesses spend most of their budgets with other local businesses whereas big chains and supermarkets buy cheap materials and services which are frequently not even from this country let alone your local community. Supporting local business ensures a healthy local economy which everyone benefits from.
“Who do you admire in the baking world?”
Being from good old fashioned baking stock I rather admire Edd Kimber, winner of the 1st series of GBBO (Great British Bake-Off). Unlike so many other ‘celebrity bakers’ it’s all about quality baking and recipes with Edd’s books, he’s like the new Mary Berry!! I was lucky enough to be in London when he did a pop-up bakery in Fortnum and Mason’s and tried his salted caramel chocolate brownie – simply the best thing I ate all weekend, and we ate a lot of cake from some big name bakeries. On a more personal note I greatly admire Beth Mottershead of Cakes by Beth, her work ethic is second to none in the business and her cakes are exquisitely executed and so original.
“Where can we find out more about you and your business?”
You can see more of my cakes at www.icemaidencakes.com and on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/icemaidencakes . You can also follow me on Twitter @icemaidencakes for random cake ramblings and the occasional live tweet of a cake as I create it! If you are a cake business looking for advice and support then have a look at www.cakeoffice.com which I founded last year to support small, independent baking businesses
Thanks to Julie for taking the time to answer these questions, and I hope you enjoyed our first “Interview With” feature!