Cake Dreams Can Come True
Laura of Cakes by Yolk is one of my favourite cake-makers in the biz. We met three years ago on a food shoot, before I had even considered becoming a wedding photographer, and since then we've crossed paths many times (mainly because I keep harassing her). Our meetings have mostly been photography related, but once she made four layer red velvet cake for a friend's Birthday and it was INSANE. I have no photos because it got demolished pretty swiftly. She's also the creator behind the sweet floral naked cake featured in the Valentine Lake Elopement shoot and the terracotta beauty in The Copse shoot, both pictured below.
Thankfully she's not screening my emails (yet) so she answered some of my questions about what it's like making peoples cake dreams come true. All photos by me.
Describe an average work day.
My days are either ‘office’ based or they will be baking days. I won’t describe an office day, because you can all imagine me sitting at my desk replying to emails, doing my accounts or doing research. If I have a lot to get through, or if it is a wedding day, baking days are planned with military precision. A wedding cake is usually a two day job, I will make the sponges a day before, then pop them in the freezer overnight, so that the next day, I can cut the sponges while they are still cold, for a nice clean cut, and then begin stacking them together. In between this, I will check emails coming in, reply to those that require immediate attention, or post a picture to social media.
In the afternoon, I might pop to a florists to pick up a few bits for the various cakes that need decorating. Or if it is a wedding, I will drive (slowly and carefully!) to the venue, where I usually meet up with the couples’ florist to collect the blooms to finish decorating the cake. Once that is completed, I am either done for the day, or I have to finish off other bits that need doing. This might be finishing decorating a celebration cake, or an order for a cafe, or baking samples of a wedding cake tasting.
If I have the time/energy/inclination in the evening I will try and fit in a Zumba class. Then dinner, maybe a stroll to the pub and then bed, where I manage to read a couple of sentences before I am asleep!
Where did it all begin?
I have always loved baking and when my sisters and I were little we would always be making those brownies from a box, which I remember being so delicious! What I love about baking is that you start with a few bits and bobs, and then a little time later, you have something delicious to eat, either yourself or to give to someone else. The thing about cake is that is always puts a smile on someones face!
After graduating from university with a degree in Russian and Film Studies and realising pretty soon that I wasn't going to swan into an amazing career in film production, I did what most graduates do and just got any old job that paid the bills. Alongside that, I was running monthly supper-clubs at Sugarhouse Studios. This lead to me leaving my job at an estate agent for a head chef position at a cafe in Dalston. I loved and hated this job - I was given freedom in the kitchen to make whatever cakes and sweet treats I wanted, but also havingto churn out plates of smoked salmon and avocado on toast for hours at a time. I began to get a small localised client base who would order celebration cakes from me, so one day I just thought, yeah, lets make a go of this. So I did, with a naive, youthful optimism that everything would be fine!
What do you love most about your job?
There is so much I love about my job. I love having freedom to create something beautiful and delicious that will make people happy. I am such a control freak, so I love being my own boss and being able to do things exactly the way I want to do it. I love that part of my job is creating mood boards and looking through wedding blogs for inspiration. I really enjoy meeting other wedding suppliers and collaborating with them on styled shoots. I suppose what I love most is receiving that first wedding cake enquiry email from a bride or groom. I get so excited and already my head is buzzing with ideas about what I could create for them. It is really nice to have a tasting with a couple when they are also really excited about their cake and we can bounce ideas around. I usually leave with such a good feeling, with a solid image in my head of what they want and how they want it to look and am often itching to make the cake!
What tips would you give to people just starting out?
I would say be true to your own style. This may mean figuring out what your own style is. I remember making my very first dummy wedding cake, and covering it in fondant, because that was my image of what a wedding cake was. And, although it was a valuable experience, the next day, I made a naked wedding cake and decorated it with wild flowers and herbs that I had picked from the local park, and realised that the more formal, fondant look was not for me. Don’t be afraid to try things out, trial and error is a huge part of running your own business. If they go wrong, what is the worst that could happen. There will be times when you are tearing your hair out with frustration or a weeping mess on the floor after exhaustion and self-doubt have set in, but you have to pick yourself up, maybe get a pep talk from a friend or partner, and realise that you have an awesome job and you only get one life, so you might as well give it your all!
What inspires you?
I am really inspired by nature and the natural movement of flowers and foliage. The curly fronds of asparagus fern, the curious enquiring tilt of a ranunculus head or the sheer range of colours you can have on a single hydrangea stem.
I really love floristry and get to work with some really fantastic florists, who often just let me loose on their vans or studios and allow me to pick and choose what I want, which is amazing. I feel like a kid in a candy store when that happens! A cake is a blank canvas, or a naked mannequin on which to play with and dress up - depending on the style of the cake, it can either be a super elegant and over the top, or really minimal and delicate. So for me, it is all about the flowers and the finishing touches that really make a cake.
What has been one of your favourite commissions?
Probably my favourite commission was for Cheryl and Alec’s wedding cake from June 2016. I met Cheryl at A Most Curious Wedding Fair. She had told me that she was a keen baker, and that always makes me a little nervous, so I tried extra hard to please her when I made samples for her to try. They were really laid back and wanted something inspired by nature, with a clean simplicity to it. Their wedding was at Trinity Bouy Wharf in the heart of Docklands, overlooking the river Thames. The venue was dressed to perfection, styled by Rachel of Another Story and adorned with gorgeous hanging arrangements and floral centrepieces by Gayle of Bloomingayles. I loved meeting Gayle, because I had been an admirer of her work for ages and also she was really relaxed and allowed me to rummage around in her van and choose what I wanted for the cake. What a selection to choose from! Alec and Cheryl had gone for lots of beautiful foliage, peonies and scented blooms, so I had my pick of David Austin Roses, jasmine, sweet peas and of course peonies in various shades. It was such a gorgeous mix to choose from. I was really pleased with how the cake turned out, so was equally thrilled to receive a beautiful handwritten note in the post from Cheryl. You don't always receive any feedback or message from couples, but when you do, it is something really special and I treasure every letter or email I get. This wedding seems to be the gift that keeps giving as well, as it was recently featured on Love My Dress, which I was thrilled to see, and was lovely to see the wedding as a whole, as I only usually see the reception venue.