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An edible masterpiece

07 Jul 2011

An edible masterpiece

From the most delicate flower to Cley Windmill, you name it and Kelly Allen of Eventiss can create it. And we’re not talking about a photograph or a painting; Kelly’s creations are entirely edible. Sophie Stainthorpe spoke to her about the art of cake design.

Kelly has been designing wedding cakes for six years and has a reputation for being able to re-create almost anything.

“I recently made a cake for a couple who were getting married at Cley Windmill and wanted the cake to be the windmill,” said Kelly. “It’s always a challenge to do something completely different like that and it was the first time the people at the mill had ever seen a cake like it, which surprised me because you’d think someone would have thought to do it.”

The most extravagant cake Kelly has ever been commissioned to produce was a 5ft wide and 4ft high Disney castle, complete with moat, swans and climbing roses – all entirely edible, of course. The cost: £1,300.

Needless to say, this is the top end of wedding cakes. An average three-tiered cake costs £300-400.

“I love being able to look at something in nature and re-create it using icing,” said Kelly. “I think I could do pretty much any flower.”

And that’s the part she likes best, the intricate work of shaping and adding the detail to flowers, petal by petal. “Sometimes you forget to breathe because you’re concentrating so much,” she said. “Time flies when you’re doing such detailed work. I can start in the afternoon and the next time I look up it’s 3am.”

Her love of sugarcraft came from her mum, who used to make sugar flowers when Kelly was young.

After completing a hospitality and catering course at City College Norwich, Kelly convinced her mum to join her on a sugarcraft course.

“Every week, I’d come to class with a different flower and the tutor would ask how I’d made it,” said Kelly. “I had a natural talent for it and went on from there to take dedicated chocolatier and cake courses before setting up Eventiss in 2005.”

The company originally handled several aspects of wedding planning, including favours and flowers, but Kelly quickly realised that she wanted to focus on what she loved best – making fantastic cakes.

An average cake takes between 15-20 hours, but Kelly points out that every style is different.

The first stage is to bake the cakes and fill them with the chosen filling, such as yummy butter cream or delicious chocolate fudge.

The entire cake is then covered in vanilla cream ready for the main icing layer, with marzipan underneath if desired. Once the cake has been iced, it is left overnight to allow the icing to go hard and dry.

If the cake is to be tiered, dowels have to be pushed into the cake to provide support and stop the layers sinking into one another. The tiers are then stacked using royal icing to stick them together. According to Kelly, royal icing is like the cement of the wedding cake world – it holds everything together.

The decoration is the most time-consuming part of any cake. Some can have 300-400 flowers, each individually hand-made and painted.

But the job’s not done once the last petal is in place; Kelly personally delivers and sets up each cake at the wedding venue.

“I know how fragile they are so I wouldn’t put the responsibility on anyone else,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for a while now so I know how to handle them and where to put them in the car to minimise movement.”

And in her six years and hundreds of cakes, Kelly has only had two disasters, both of which were resolved before the brides even knew about them. “In both cases, one of the tiers had collapsed into the tier below,” explained Kelly. “It can happen if there’s an air gap in the cake mix, or if the icing hasn’t set properly. But I always have spare cakes in the freezer, so I was able to rush home and re-ice and decorate the cakes without the brides realising. I told them afterwards, of course, but they said they wouldn’t have even known.

“It’s always a worry that something will happen to the cake and it’s hard not to panic when it does, but it doesn’t happen very often.”

You might wonder what a cake maker would choose for her own wedding, and Kelly says it would be very hard to choose, but it would have to be a chocolate cake because she’s a chocoholic and, in terms of style, it would probably be sparkly and extravagant. “I wouldn’t want anyone else to make it, though,” she said – and how could they knowing the bride’s high standards?

Kelly’s made so many cakes now that she has come to terms with the fact that her masterpieces are ultimately made to be eaten. “When I first started making cakes I used to get really attached to them,” she said. “It used to make me feel ill when I dropped them off because I knew they were going to be cut up.” But now she likes the fact that people enjoy her cakes and the biggest reward is receiving cards and emails from brides telling her that the cake was completely devoured.

“One of my brides told me that she was going to ask her photographer to make sure he got a really good picture of the cake because she wanted to have it put on to canvas to hang in her kitchen, so it really was a piece of art.”

For more information contact Kelly at Eventiss on 01508 494626 or visit www.eventiss.co.uk.

Pictures: Brian Mitchell Photography 01508 480883 / 0770 4848 034 / www.brianmitchellphotography.co.uk

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