I come from Sri Lanka where I worked as an assistant hotel manager, but I’ve always liked cooking, particularly cake-making and decorating, as my mother was very good at it and used to teach me. When I moved to the UK, I decided to start my own business as I saw there were a lot of opportunities in this country.
I started Prestige Creations, which I now run with my husband, Rohan, from our home in Swiss Cottage in London and we’re doing well, making and decorating celebration cakes. That was four years ago, but I recently decided to have a look around at the competition and realised that I needed more knowledge. That’s when I decided I could improve sales and grow the business by learning some more skills, so I started off by doing a five-day course at the International School of Sugarcraft, which was very useful.
I’m now doing a one-year, part-time advanced sugarcraft course at Brooklands College, where I go one day a week, from 9.30am-1.30pm. It’s pretty tough finding the time to do it, as I’ve also got two children (aged six and 10), but I’m really enjoying it and learning a lot.
I’m constantly picking up new techniques; every day you learn something different, such as sugarpaste work, royal icing techniques, collage and bas relief. We’ve also been studying quilling, which is traditionally a paper craft but is being applied to cake decoration; it’s quite difficult and I can’t say that I’ve particularly enjoyed doing it!
We work on dummy cakes, which I’ve kept and will have to display as part of our final assessment, while we also have an exam in June, which tests us on the theory we’ve learnt; 75% of the course is practical and 25% is theory. We are set projects throughout the year too and I have to do reading and research at the library.
As soon as I learn the techniques, I use them on my own cakes and I think that has helped me sell more. People like the fact that my handmade cakes are fresh - much fresher than those you buy in the supermarkets, which can be frozen - and the fact that I can give them ideas, discuss what they want and come up with a bespoke cake. I particularly enjoy making children’s birthday cakes with cartoon characters, and I get ideas for them from books and magazines.
I also enter competitions in my spare time and have had quite a few successes around the country. I’ve won two gold medals in the Squires Kitchen International School of Sugarcraft competition and, last month, I won three gold medals at the Wessex Salon Culinaire hotel and catering competition in Bournemouth, one of which was for my quilling technique on a fan, and another for making sugarcraft flowers - I had to make a rosebud, rose and three leaves in 20 minutes, which was quite a lot of pressure. I’m going to Cork in Ireland next month for another competition. I like entering them and, of course, winning is very rewarding.
I’d really recommend studying sugarcraft to anyone thinking about it, even though it can be time-consuming. I think that if you have the drive to do something, you’ll be able to do it. The cake-making business is really competitive but I want to expand my company in future and set up a website and I’m confident that, after the course, I’ll
be able to do that. n