We decided that a blog all about photography – much as we love the subject – could easily become a bit boring. So we came up with the idea of making it a more useful resource for couples planning their wedding with links to interesting articles, suppliers and inspiration for all things wedding. Each month we’re also planning to feature a short interview with a specialist quality wedding supplier, from rings to flowers to help give tips and ideas – all with lots of pictures to give you inspiration. And what better place to start than with my second love – cakes and chocolate!
Wedding cakes are not easy to get right or to please all of your wedding guests: Everyone has their own ideas on whether it should be fruit or sponge, what colour, flavour and shape – and should it be traditional or contemporary? We decided to ask wedding cake designer extraordinaire and master chocolatier Barbara, from Parker’s Cakes and Chocolates based in Hampshire, to share some of her expertise and experience.
Parker’s Cakes & Chocolates create exquisite and distinctive wedding and celebration cakes for every occasion. A family run business they provide a friendly, personal service, with a high level of customer care to produce your perfect cake.
1. How long have you been a chocolatier?
I started making chocolates during my job as a pastry Chef and things grew on from there. I was sent to a fantastic Chocolate School near Manchester to improve my skills and after a few years decided to open my shop at the Fairground in Weyhill. I have been here for 5 ½ years making Cakes and Chocolates for all occasions and to all specifications.
2. What are the advantages and frustrations of being a family business?
I think customers like to see a family business – it feels friendly and you can give a more personal service and really get to know your regular customers. In a family business you know you can always rely on someone to stay late if you need or there is someone there to step into the breach and deliver a cake for you or nip to the shops if you have run out of greaseproof paper! All of this outweighs the odd frustration – usually over a minor creative difference of opinion. Being self-employed really feels like you are building something for the future that you can be proud of – and who better to enjoy that with than your family.
3. Why did you choose to locate your business at the Weyhill Fairground?
The Fairground is a great place to work: It’s full of people just like us, all working individually in small studios to hand craft items for the public. It’s good because there is always someone about to give you the benefit of their own experiences if you need it or help with the planning of an event such as our Michaelmas Fair in September. It has become a fantastic annual social event with its roots in the traditions of the past and it has a really warm, community feel to it!
4. What is your idea of the ultimate wedding cake?
I was very lucky to get married this year so my Dad made me the most amazing cake: It was a massive Pyramid of white chocolate with overlapping chocolate triangles. Dad usually only makes chocolates at the shop, and not cakes, so it was extra special that he made it for me. It took two whole days to assemble and was so beautiful no one would break the Chocolate to eat it! Luckily we had cutting cakes as well, so we gave the cake to the Village Street Party the next day for the local children to demolish!
5. What are your top 3 tips for brides to be when choosing a wedding cake?
It’s your day! Don’t be swayed but what you think other relatives might want you to have.
Always have a cake tasting, a Cake Maker should never mind you wanting a small sample of the cake you wish to have!
Pay the extra and get your wedding cake delivered – transporting cakes can be very stressful and turn the family member appointed to collect it into a bundle of nerves!
6. What alternatives are there to the traditional fruitcake?
Really anything goes these days. We can make any type of cake and in the shop chocolate cake wins hands down as the most popular. We have made some more unusual Coconut and Malibu Cakes, Lemon Vodka Cakes and we can also make cakes to suit special dietary requirements such as dairy free, egg free or even gluten free which is becoming more and more common at the shop!
7. Would you recommend then a mix of fruit and sponge? Why?
You can have different tiers of different flavours, although we would always recommend the heaviest cake to be at the bottom for safety reasons. If you have a mix you can often get around issues like “ what if not everyone likes chocolate cake or fruitcake? ” but beware if you have too many it may cause arguments if someone doesn’t get a bit of the one they want - especially if you are using the cake as a dessert!
8. Which other special occasions do you find have the most demand for your cake designs?
We do cakes for any occasion, from Births to Funerals. Over the last year or so we have had quite an increase in Communion Cakes but Birthdays and Weddings really do beat them all! We are lucky to have been here long enough to do the Engagement, Wedding, 1st Anniversary, Christening and 1stBirthday cakes of some of our regular customers, and it’s lovely to see the families grow and keep coming back to the shop!
9. Have you had any unusual requests?
Pork scratching dipped in chocolate, a Boar’s Head Wedding Cake for a Medieval Wedding. At Christmas we made a Roast Turkey Dinner Cake, which was so much fun! We also make Stilton Dipped in Chocolate for the Festive Season and are going to be creating our own version of a Bacon Chocolate over the next few months!
10. Which celebrity would you most like to create a wedding cake design for? Why?
I would Love to do a Wedding Cake For Tim Burton the creator of such movies as The Nightmare Before Christmas and the more recent Alice in Wonderland – a little odd I know, but he has such an unusual view on the world , that it would truly have to be the most bizarre cake ever created and something I would really have fun with!
11. How would you sum up what you can create for your clients?
At Parkers we can create pretty much anything!
We make things from Chocolate Pizzas to False Teeth; we also have moulds for Giant Letters and Numbers and make Chocolate Plaques for any occasion. Our many bespoke items include these fabulous Star Wars Storm Trooper wedding favours! During the Festive Season we make various different moulded figures and themed items. At Parkers we love the challenge of something new or unusual that’s guaranteed to get our creativity flowing – and take our delicious cakes and chocolates to the next level!