Cakey Bakey Art
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Christiane Berridge finds out more about a woman who creates cupcakes big and small.
Christina Ludlam takes immense pride in her reputation for producing unique cakes, cake decoration and sugarcraft with exquisite attention to detail. She has over 20 years experience in producing edible works of art, including the sugar-work for artist, Jane Wildgoose's, 'Life is Very Sweet' exhibition at The Harley Gallery. But Christina not only makes beautiful real cakes, she has also dabbled in making miniature ones - perfect replicas of her pearly cupcakes. I asked her to tell me more about her work.
Q. Cakey Bakey Art - where did the name come from?
I was teaching for West Nottinghamshire College when I decided to set up my own sugarcraft school. I'd spent days trying to think of a memorable name and had even asked students for suggestions, but as I was driving to one of my classes, Cakey Bakey Art (a play on the title of Billy Ray Cyrus' song, 'Achy Breaky Heart') came to mind. Along with many other young girls at the time, my daughter Grace, loved Miley Cyrus and I initially worried that the name might be perceived as a little 'childish' and might not project the image I was hoping to promote, so I continued to search for a name for my new venture. One of my students suggested 'Cakes With Class', which I loved, but the domain had already been taken and when I mentioned the name to a few people, I noticed they either forgot it within a few minutes, or they'd mistake it for 'Classic Cakes', 'Classical Cakes', etc. No matter what alternatives we came up with, I was always feel drawn back to Cakey Bakey Art. After all, sugarcraft really is 'cake art', so I decided to stick with it and it's really grown on me now.
Q. What came first real cakes or miniature ones?
Hmm, this is a tricky one. I'd always enjoyed helping my Mum with her baking and I've had a passion for miniatures for as long as I can remember. As a child, I absolutely adored anything miniature, especially table settings and food, but sharing a home with my 6 siblings, there was always a younger brother around to break my toys and miniatures were no exception. I vowed to treat myself to a dream dolls' house as soon as I had my own home to put it in. However, within a year of buying my first home, I'd given birth to my Son and my priorities changed. During my pregnancy, my late friend Mary, introduced me to a sugarcraft shop where we purchased my first sugarcraft book and the seed was planted! I started making celebration cakes for family and friends but the business grew quickly and soon became my full-time career. I was able to work around the children but it often led to me burning the candle at both ends!
I finally bought my first dolls' house in 2001 and one of the lovely ladies at The Dolls' House Emporium asked whether I'd seen Angie Scarr's book 'Making Miniature Food and Market Stalls'. I immediately purchased the book and was instantly hooked on Angie's amazing caning techniques. I initially hated polymer clay (no doubt because I was so used to the soft, pliability of sugar-paste) but as soon as the clay was well conditioned, I started to experiment with miniature cakes and bakes and loved its forgiving properties. Bakewell tart was one of my ultimate favourite mini-foods - possibly influenced by the fact that we lived just three miles from Bakewell, in Darley Dale.
Q. What drew you to making cakes in the first place?
I've always enjoyed crafts and loved the challenge of creating a cake with as many sugar decorations personal to the recipient. If the recipient enjoyed DIY, I'd make lots of miniature, sugar tools. If their favourite food was fish and chips with chocolates for afters, I'd make miniature fish and chips in hand-painted sugar 'newspaper' and a miniature box of individual chocolates. The problem was that I loved the creative aspect so much that I'd often spend far too much time on each cake and made very little profit for the first couple of years.
Q. What training have you had to become a cake-maker?
After making cakes for around ten years, our milkman asked me to decorate a cake for his wife. I hadn't realised at the time that she was the Town Mayor and actually wanted me to decorate cakes that she was baking to take to the many functions she was attending. My cakes were starting to gain a bit of a reputation locally and the local newspaper contacted me to ask whether I'd be happy for them to run a feature about me and my cakes. I jumped at the chance but almost as soon as I came off the phone, it dawned on me that the journalist might want to know what sugarcraft qualifications I had, so I immediately called around the local colleges and Adult Education providers in an attempt to find a suitable course. Although I'd been self-taught and selling my cakes for over 10 years by this time, I guess the thought of that interview gave me the nudge I needed to get the official training, so I enrolled at Castle College, Sheffield, and spent the next 3 years gaining Levels 1, 2 and 3 Sugarcraft, Couverture, Art & Design, and Wired Sugar Flowers qualifications. In fact, for my very first piece of college work, I married my love of miniatures with my love of sugarcraft and created a 1:12 scale baking scene using just marzipan. I'm not sure it was one of my best pieces of modelling but it was automatically entered into the Sheffield and Yorkshire Bakeries Competition and won me the Gold cup for Marzipan Modelling and the prized Fenwick Cup for Best Entry in Competitions!
I continued running my cake business for several years before taking a 'partial' break to open my own nail salon and then moving on to office management. Working in the office really stifled my creativity, but I needed to earn a living and I enjoyed the challenge of a busy office-life. However, I continued to make cakes in my spare time but on a much smaller scale (no pun intended) than previously.
In 2008, the company I was working for relocated and, as my Husband also worked for the same company, we decided to buy a house closer to the new location to ease the difficulties of juggling the school-run with trying to get to the office on time. Moving house was stressful and the office-job was equally stressful, but was nothing compared to what 2008 had in-store for us. Whilst waiting for the removal van to arrive at the new house, I felt a hard lump in my neck. After being diagnosed with Glandular Fever, I returned to work and attempted to continue with my duties but would have no energy at all for making cakes in the evenings, so sugarcraft was forced to take a back-seat. After a further 5 visits to my GP, in January 2009 I was eventually diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The disease had spread throughout my chest and I started 6 months of intensive ABVD Chemotherapy the following day.
Although it may sound a bit cliché, going through such a life-shattering experience really did push me to re-evaluate my life. We decided that life really was too short not to be doing what I really enjoyed doing. Within days of my final chemotherapy treatment, I spotted an ad for a teaching post in the local newspaper. The ad stated that applicants should have relevant sugarcraft qualifications and be willing to work towards a teaching qualification. It sounded too good to be true that I could be paid to teach the subject I loved, whilst studying for a teaching qualification.
Attending that first interview with barely a millimetre of stubble on my head, and still a couple of stones overweight from the steroids, was terribly nerve-wracking but I was absolutely thrilled when I was offered the job. I started teaching at the start of the following term and also enrolled with Derby University to study for my Professional Diploma Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS).
Teaching, studying, running a home, being a Mum and trying to regain some kind of normality was pretty hard-going, but I loved teaching and could feel my creativity starting to flourish again. I happened to mention my passion for 1:12 scale miniatures to a member of staff one afternoon and was absolutely thrilled when Community Education asked whether I'd consider teaching Miniatures and Dolls' House Interiors at a selection of community-based venues. I couldn't believe how rewarding teaching could be, especially as I was able to indulge in my two passions - sugarcraft and miniatures!
There were many times when I felt I'd bitten off more than I could chew, returning to studying aged 39 and so soon after finishing chemotherapy, but graduating in the summer of 2011 was an extremely proud moment and marked the beginning of a whole new chapter for me. I loved teaching but wanted more freedom to teach a wider variety of topics and techniques so decided to start my own sugarcraft school.
Q. Your website includes handbag-shaped cakes. How easy are these to achieve?
Being a qualified teacher enables me to recognise the various ways in which people like to learn, so all classes a differentiated and broken down into stages to ensure all students are able to recreate the designs easily. Our classes can be quite intensive, but everyone who attends remarks on how much they've learned and all students go away with a huge smile on their face and fantastic cakes in their hands! The Designer Handbag class is one of my ultimate favourite classes right now - maybe it's just the whole 'women and handbags' thing! That said, I'm really looking forward to our new Woodland Wonderland class which incorporates lots of sugar modelling with cake carving and caning techniques to create a miniature picnic, complete with sausage rolls, ham salad sandwiches and a Victoria sponge.
Q. Do you still make miniature representations of your full-sized pearly cup cakes?
I do make miniature representations for my dolls' houses whenever I get the time to indulge, but I really enjoy creating edible miniature scenes on my cakes and cupcakes. I can often be found in the studio, using sugar-paste to create a miniature baking scene, complete with 1:12 scale sugarcraft tools and packaging, on top of a cupcake.
Q. How do you make the mini cupcakes cases and what materials do you use?
I use Fimo and Sculpey to make the cupcakes and cupcake cases. I initially purchased a couple of cupcake case moulds but they were too small, so I then used a plastic cap from a small tube to make my own mould. I had to play around with the moulds a little as the detail was a little hit-and-miss, so I made a couple more using some jewellery findings from TeePee Crafts and came up with the one I'm using now.
Q. And the mini toppings?
I used beads to make the domed tops and a selection of Diane Harfield cutters and the smallest sugarcraft cutters and moulds I can find. I'm obviously unable to use the same moulds and sugarcraft tools for sugar as I use with polymer clay, so I'm a little limited as to what I can make without spending a fortune on lots of new tools, but I'm happy with the selection I currently have for use with polymer clay.
Q. What plans do you have for the future of Cakey Bakey Art?
I currently teach classes of just four students at a time as I like to assure them of my full attention. However, I'd like a much larger teaching area and would love to eventually move to larger premises with a larger retail area, but for now, I'm loving what I do. I work extremely long hours and spend almost as much time preparing and baking for classes as I do actually teaching, but it's true that if you find a job you truly love then you'll never work another day in your life. I feel blessed to be able to share what I love doing with others and am thankful that my life has taken the turns it has.
Q. If someone wanted to make a cake maker's room in miniature what are the essential pieces of equipment that they should include?
Mess, mess and more mess! Seriously though, a rolling pin, large green work-board, set of yellow and white sugarcraft tools, perhaps a turntable, pastry cutters (for cupcake tops), sugarcraft flower cutters, food colour pastes, sugar glue, paint brushes, cake/cupcake tins, sugarpaste (fondant), icing-sugar dredger and some miniature cakes/cupcakes.
Cakey Bakey Art offer a variety of Cake Decoration, Sugarcraft and Cupcake courses in Derbyshire, Mansfield and Nottingham. Suitable for all levels of skill, our courses range from 'Sugar flowers for beginners' to 'Exquisite Cupcakes
Tel: 01773 603006 Mob: 07731 736767