Amelia Nutting is no ordinary baker, and her shop in Wolverhampton, Shuga Budz, is no ordinary cake shop. Because in an era when nearly one million under-25s are unemployed, 21-year-old Amelia has been co-owner of her own successful business for four years.
Last year, her talents were recognised at the Baking Industry Awards, where she was named Celebration Cake Maker of the Year, for a cake the judges called "flawless". The award, sponsored by Renshaw, was the highlight of her career so far, she says, adding: "Winning has opened up masses of opportunities."
As well as bringing in lots of new business for example, Shuga Budz was recently asked to make a cake in the shape of a bus station to mark the opening of Wolverhampton’s new bus depot the award has also brought her talents to the attention of the BBC, which has asked her to apply to take part in a new documentary series on BBC3 about young people in traditional industries. She is currently waiting to hear if she has been accepted.
It is a lot of success for someone so young, but Nutting says she has always been ambitious. "So many people say you need to go to university and do a business management course to get anywhere, but I always wanted to do my training when I was young." She went to college, but left after two years, because, she says, "I wasn’t learning anything I couldn’t learn at the shop." Her mum, Debbie, who is also her business partner, has taught her nearly everything she knows.
Early introduction to baking
It was Debbie who introduced Amelia to baking. Growing up, Debbie started cake-making for her children’s birthdays and when her flair became obvious, she was asked to make cakes for friends and family. Nutting recalls earning pocket money helping her mum in the kitchen. "When I was old enough, I would make the wired leaves for her flowers and she would pay me pennies for doing those. It was like pocket money instead of washing the car for £2, it would be, ’Make these leaves and you can have £1’."
From wired leaves, Nutting progressed to more intricate designs, gradually developing her bold signature style embodied by the clowns on her winning cake. When she was 17 and the family kitchen was becoming overwhelmed with orders, Nutting and her mum opened their first cake shop. The name Shuga Budz was inspired by the sugar of the cakes and the buds of flowers Debbie is also a trained florist and the pair originally planned to sell flowers, but they’ve been far too busy with cakes in the past four years to focus on anything else.
Birthday cakes form the bulk of Shuga Budz’ business, but in the summer months weddings take over. And according to Nutting, christenings are a big up-and-coming source of business as parents spend more money on increasingly extravagant events. "Christenings are just getting bigger and more popular," she says. "They are becoming like weddings for babies. People are making it a bigger event and having bigger and bigger cakes. We do a lot of the traditional blocks, but also teddy bears or characters on cakes, and we’ve also done quite a few castles."
Running a bespoke service means that, occasionally, Shuga Budz gets some strange requests. "We were asked to make an opened-up torso, with all the insides outside," says Nutting. It was for a 21st birthday for a girl studying medicine. "We had to do the skin opened up and use piping to make it look like the blood was real and the heart and the lungs and intestines and kidneys." Currently, Nutting is making an Australian-themed wedding cake: "It has a camper van on the top with a dog’s head popping out of the window. Then it has got the bride and groom, and koalas and kangaroos with piped peacock feathers."
The next step for Shuga Budz is to find bigger premises. In addition to Debbie and Amelia, the business employs three part-timers and they want somewhere where they can open a café at the front of the new shop. The pair also have plans to offer cake-making classes in the shop. Above all, Nutting has ambition. "I want Shuga Budz to be big," she says. "I’d like more people to know about us not just in Wolverhampton. I want to be out there with the big guns." And if her record so far is anything to go by, she is unlikely to fail.
"The cake is creative and clean, with good use of colour and finished to a high standard with good attention to detail and a balanced design. Good fun and characterful, and precisely done."
Nic Hemming, Renshaw
Turning creativity into a business
Amelia Nutting’s creative talents showed early. "I did my GCSE art two years early at school as part of a gifted and talented programme," she says. In addition, she says, she has always been a practical, hands-on person, with a desire to turn that into a business. "You have to find the thing you love doing first, and believe in the fact you can get your own business from it," she advises. "It is all about hard work and patience and listening to your customer."
Nutting also believes entering contests such as the Baking Industry Awards has played a big part in her success, and the subsequent press coverage has driven new customers to Shuga Budz. "People know about our creativity and are challenging us more than ever," she says.
How she made the winning cake
Amelia Nutting’s topsy-turvy clown design is made of three cakes, each decorated to be part of a clown’s outfit. The base cake is the top of a clown’s trousers, the middle cake is a clown’s shirt half black, half white, with red buttons, and the top cake is a clown’s top hat.
She then modelled the clown figures from sugarpaste with added CMC for strength, and painted them with food colouring, mixed with Superwhite [icing whitener], to give an opaque finish to the colours. Other features on the cake, such as the squirty flower on the top were modelled from flour paste.
Believe it or not, Amelia is scared of clowns, and the idea to make a clown cake came to her because of her fear. "I still don’t like clowns," she says, "but I’m not as scared now."
Since she won the award, a large canvas of the design hangs in the shop and the cake also appears in one of the 10 albums customers can browse when they come into the shop. Nutting says one of her most recent orders was a version in pink for a girl’s birthday party.