An Interview with: Sugarcrafter & tutor Pamela McCaffrey
Today I’m so very thrilled to feature an interview with sugarcrafter/tutor Pamela McCaffrey of Made With Love (By Me).
Pamela is the supremely talented sugar crafter behind the beautiful pink Easter Egg cake that I featured in my Easter Wedding Cake blog post a few weeks back, and here it is again – what a stunning design. Pamela was gracious enough to contact me to thank me for featuring her work; what a lovely lady, and truly the honour was all mine Pamela!
During our conversation, I discovered the Pamela does not undertake private cake commissions, preferring to utilise her skills in designing and making cakes only for her friends and family. HOWEVER, Pamela does tutor at Fair Cake’s “Vanilla Workshop” in Greenwich, London. Read more below…
When did you start baking and who taught you?
Like many people I started baking at a young age with my mother. She was a good cook and always impressed on me the importance of food not only tasting good but also being well presented. After that I began making cakes, biscuits etc. for my husband and my son. It is only in the last two years that I have really dedicated time to cake design and with regard to that, I am totally self taught in all sugarcraft techniques.
What type of cakes do you make and do you have a signature cake or style?
I like to make pretty but, hopefully, elegant cakes, I love flower work and always try to be original. I think in general my cakes are all very ‘clean’, not too fussy.
Do you have a favourite cake that you have made?
This is difficult, each time I design a new cake it becomes my favourite, at the time of writing it is my Valentine Cake. However one cake from the past that I am very fond of is my Lily of the Valley cake.
Where do you teach and what classes do you run?
I teach at Fair Cake in London and at the moment I am teaching my Wrapped Present Cake as part of their five day Masterclass. Also at times I do a specific cake in a one day class. It is very rewarding, the students are all very enthusiastic and it is a pleasure to see them picking up new tips and techniques.
Many people are starting their own businesses designing and making cakes, and I imagine many of the students attending your classes are doing the same. Given there is a lot of competition for business, what qualities do you think a baker should possess for success?
You should be original so that you stand out from the crowd.
You need to be honest with yourself and be more critical of your work than anybody else is.
You have to be a good baker, there’s a cake inside that’s going to be eaten and it has to live up to the decoration.
You need to be realistic, don’t charge peanuts just to get business. It is time consuming and skilled work, prices should reflect that but of course do take into account the income levels of your target market/area. It is better to build a reputation for being good rather than for being cheap.
You need to be extremely organised in your time, paperwork and finances.
You need to be patient. Most overnight successes take years!
Have you ever been tempted to run a cake making business yourself?
No. I just enjoy designing and making cakes – oh and eating a little bit every now and then. I get the fun without the stress.
What do you think will be the trends for wedding and/ or celebration cakes in the coming year?
I think that elegant will always be popular, maybe with more colour this year instead of just white for weddings. As ever couture fashion trends will have an influence on styles and colours.
Why do you think people should support their local baker/cake decorator over, say a supermarket product?
Sadly you can’t ignore budget and sometimes that means a supermarket product, which is fine. However if you can afford it, a cake from a local baker/cake decorator will be something special. More care will be taken at every stage and the best quality ingredients used – it won’t just be rolling off of a production line. The design can be unique to you with a choice of more flavours than a supermarket could ever offer. Of course the personal service is more expensive, just like a bespoke suit or a designer handbag, but you will get a special cake for a special occasion.
Who do you admire in the baking world?
There are so many, Peggy Porschen, Zoe Clark, Maki Searle, Naomi Yamamoto and Tracy James of Cotton & Crumbs to name just a few. And, although I don’t do novelty cakes, I should add Carlos Lischetti, his work is amazing.
What plans do you have for 2013?
Hopefully just to go on enjoying designing cakes and teaching. Although who knows, a book perhaps? Or maybe I’m getting carried away!
If you’re interested to learn from Pamela, her next lessons at Fair Cake can be booked here. I would like to thank Pamela for her time in answering my questions, and look forward to keeping in touch with her over the weeks and months ahead – in fact, I’m looking forward to that book Pamela 🙂