In just a few years, luxury cake and chocolate specialist Laure Moyle has made quite a name for herself with her company, Pudding Fairy. From appearing on Bake Off: Crème de La Crème to being commissioned to make a birthday cake for singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, Pudding Fairy cakes have established a reputation for making cakes with the lightest of sponges and an element of chocolate art. Now bringing her to show-stopping cakes to the wider events market, we caught up with Laure Moyle to find out more about Pudding Fairy cakes.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What did you do before you set up Pudding Fairy?
Although my very first Saturday job was in a Patisserie in my home town outside Lyon, I spent over 15 years in digital marketing then optimising customer experience online for large corporate businesses and start ups too. In the end, you could say I went full circle and came back to my real passion!
What’s your background in cake decorating and making?
I’m pretty much self-taught. I use a lot of online tutorials, books and…trial and errors. I also train with the best experts as often as I can. When I competed in Bake Off: Creme de La Creme (now called The Professionals) our team was against Mark Tilling’s team. They went on winning but I went on training with Mark several times. He’s a multiple winner of the UK chocolate master awards so it’s been a real privilege learning from him. I try to learn at every possible occasion, including watching live demonstrations at events and doing behind the scene Home Economics freelance jobs for events such as the Cake And Bake Show. You learn a lot from the chefs you assist.
Why did you choose to specialise in patisserie and chocolate?
When I decided to reconvert as a cake maker (I call it “from corporate to chocolate”) I started by making novelty cakes with fondant icing…even though I really hate it. It took me 6 months to make a brave move and say no to the next customer who asked me for a cake like that. Honestly at the time I thought I would never get a cake commission again. But I like cakes that are amazing to eat first, with different textures and bold flavours, using super light sponge base like Genoese so the fillings can be the real star of the show. Hence the Patisserie side. The chocolate came later. It was Bake Off: Creme de La Creme that open my eyes to the unlimited artistic possibilities chocolate gives you. That was it. I still work with elements like meringue buttercream but most of my cakes now include at least a chocolate art element.
What inspired you to set up your own business and what challenges have you faced along the way?
I wanted to give my kids a legacy, show them that if you have a passion or a dream, you’ve got to give it a go. My motto in life is Carpe Diem! I have faced and still face challenges all the time. Technical ones as I’m still learning a lot of new ways to work with chocolate, create taller and bigger cakes like the Ultimate Movie Fantasy one I made last month (6 tiers of white chocolate and “galaxy” finish buttercream, including nods to Beauty and The Beast, Harry Potter, Shaun of The Dead, Star Wars, a 3D hand cast chocolate Death Star and more – it weighted over 30kgs!). I’m also learning how to wear all the hats as a sole business owner, and keep looking after myself too. But then, a lot of my best business ideas have come out of challenges I have faced. For example, after feeling quite lonely and seeking feedback from like-minded start up business owners, I have created a new type of chocolate art workshops called “Boost and Brow”. It’s a mini digital detox day where you learn new chocolate skills so make yourself feel great, meet and exchange ideas with other business owners and also talk about a specific business challenge and leave with new action points, revived, boosted up and ready to grow.
What makes Pudding Fairy different from other cake companies?
Think of Pudding Fairy as a secret den: A place where you can step in and wish for the most incredible bespoke cake, or learn to create chocolate art yourself through classes and the new kits to practice at home coming out very soon. It’s all about creating magical memories of special occasions.
You were part of the BBC2 Bake Off: Creme de la Creme 2016 series. What was that experience like?
It was so tough. I got myself way out of my comfort zone. I had no idea how hard it would be and that was a good thing – I would have never done it otherwise. It was amazing meeting so many great chefs, many of which have become friends since.
Who commissions you and can you tell us a bit about some of the cakes you’ve been asked to design?
I get commissions from private clients for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and christenings. Some of my clients decide to use a lot of their event budget on their cake because they are real cake lovers. I work with a lot of businesses too, to help them create show stopper cakes for corporate events, bespoke gift boxes for clients or mini experiences too. Some of my clients are well known and prefer not to be named. But I did get a fairly special request at the start of this year which I can tell you about: I was asked to make Ed Sheeran’s birthday cake for his 27th birthday party.
We love the beer barrel birthday cake you made for Ed Sheeran. How did you think of the idea?
His friend actually contacted me with a similar design in mind. We made it really personal by adding 3D chocolate modelling characters of Ed and his friends asleep next to the barrel, and the logo of his favourite beer too. Finally I finished it by “ageing” the chocolate barrel using a mixture or very dark cocoa powder and edible clusters, plus copper tinted chocolate taps.
Do your clients normally have a clear idea of what they’d like or do they look to you for inspiration and how do you advise them?
Both. Some have a fairly precise idea. Some really don’t know- in both cases however I always go back to their story – I find that from there, the cake design almost always fall into place very naturally.
Can you tell us about the design process for creating one of your cakes?
Let’s say you want a show stopper birthday cake. You and I would have a chat over the phone first – this gives me the first shoots of ideas if you like. I’ll then send you initial sketches, costing and options which work with the logistics of your event, also taking into account whether you want to serve your cake as a plated dessert, whether slices need to be able to get boxed and travel back with guests, any allergies or intolerances….Using the initial range of design ideas, we would have a second meeting (over the phone, in person or via skype for clients who are abroad) to refine your bespoke cake idea. Once we are 90% there, I hand paint your sketch as a watercolour so you can see your cake before your event. It makes sure you are 100% happy with the design and also becomes a lovely keepsake. More and more of my clients actually ask me to post them the original watercolour to frame.
Do you keep an idea on trends and were you surprised by the choice of Megan Markle to have an informal wedding cake?
You’ve got to keep one eye on cake trends to be able to run through them with clients who ask about them. Saying that, I’m very lucky that most of my clients tend to go for bolder designs which reflect their stories, rather than necessarily following trends. I wasn’t that surprised by the choice Meghan Markle and Prince Harry made for their wedding cake as it seemed other elements of their wedding were aiming for a modern, chic and understated style. Light meringue buttercream cakes are, for me, so much more tastier than hiding them under heavy layers of fondant icing…that in most cases gets peeled off and discarded. In fact, I delivered a similar style meringue buttercream for one of my couples on the same day (except that one was a 5 tier design).
Tell us a bit about your cake decorating classes – would they work as team building experiences?
They are perfect for team building experiences and also for wellness workshops at work. I work closely with the Goodwood Estate in Sussex where I have run corporate classes. In my chocolate art classes in particular, I see students getting completely “in the zone” and focusing on what they are making with total concentration, leaving aside the “30 tabs constantly open in your brain” for a few hours. All my students comment on how relaxed they feel by the end of the class, and also feel really great having achieved impressive decoration techniques they were convinced they wouldn’t master when they came in. I’ve been told it does help that I preach a digital detox approach, with all phones either away or on Airplane mode during the workshops.
What’s the most challenging design you’ve worked on?
The Ultimate Movie Fantasy wedding cake from last month was definitely one of them due to the sheer amount of elements of hand craft and the size of the finished cake (I didn’t breath much driving it down to the wedding venue!). Aside from that one, it would be a cake I was commissioned to make for a very well-known and respected pastry chef. Sorry I can’t give you a name. But I definitely felt the pressure to deliver on a beautiful precise and tricky design (A Chanel giant gift box entirely made of black tinted dark chocolate panels, complete with edible branded ribbon), matched by a perfect combination of layers (9) , flavours and textures. I felt so relieved when I heard back “It was brilliant”.
Do you have any advice for others who are looking to start their own cake business?
Go for it. Life’s too short not to try to follow your dreams. After that, make sure you look at your numbers. You need to make sure you are making money. And build yourself a “tribe” of like-minded people (through virtual or in person networking…). It can be lonely building your own business and often all you need is to bounce ideas with someone else or share stories to find out we all face similar challenges and fears. I’m always more than happy to share my journey, stories and learnings so feel free to connect with me on Twitter @lauremoyle or via Instagram @Pudding_Fairy. And ask away!
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