Paul Bradford has made cakes for the Queen, Prince Charles, and Prince Albert of Monaco. He now teaches cake decorating through his online tutorials and is the proud winner of Cake Masters – Best Learning Experience 2016. We recently caught up with Paul to hear about his journey to becoming a cake decorator, his favorite cakes and sugarcraft creations, and his suggestions for his students and peers.
Tell us a bit about your background. What attracted you to baking and cake decorating?
When I was young, I used to visit my Gran every Saturday afternoon; and from the age of 7 I was helping with the baking, which is where and when I became hooked. All through school, I knew that I wanted to open a cake shop – which really wasn’t a cool thing in those days.
My dyslexia pushed me into the bottom classes at school, and it really was a struggle. However, it was the making of me because by the age of 22, I had opened a designer cake shop in Linlithgow, an affluent town some 10 miles away.
Give us some insight into your creative process. Do you start out with a specific design in mind and work toward it, or do you let your cake decorating creativity evolve and develop until the finished product emerges?
My creative juices are flowing all the time, which is great; but sometimes, I just wish I could switch them off. But honestly, it´s an amazing experience when a bride or customer starts to explain what they want and I just get all these images coming into my head – which spark the key questions, which in turn form the design. I´m afraid I would get bored if someone asks me to make a cake I´ve already made as it just doesn´t challenge me enough.
What level of baking and decorating mastery is required to create the designs and recipes that you showcase on your website?
Our website is geared towards taking someone who has very little or even no knowledge of baking or decorating cakes, all the way through to helping them open and run a profitable cake decorating business. We have over 150 free lessons, and there are calculators and blogs to help anyone who is interested get up and running. Our paid Premium membership is aimed at the keen hobbyist, and we provide a new course every single week and do our best to cover the whole spectrum.
There are lots of great designers out there, so we bring in special guests to help out with specific styles to ensure we have a variety of designs and disciplines as well as presenters. Our Pro members get all of that plus access to our Private Business Group, monthly live video Q&A with me and my partner David Brice, plus 75 business courses with a new one added every month. We cover everything from pricing, tax, marketing, systems, and many many more key business topics. We have brought in digital marketing professionals and an accountant to offer professional advice in their specific areas.
What are some of the most popular tutorials on your site right now?
As you can imagine, we get a lot of stats from our tutorial views; and it’s very clear at the moment that gravity-defying and couture cakes have been the most popular in 2016. For 2017, we see detailed modeling becoming ever more popular.
What’s the most unusual cake design or piece of sugarcraft that you’ve ever created and/or are the proudest of?
My proudest work has been the cakes for the Queen, but I can´t say any more than that. In terms of unusual cakes, it must be a replica of the Stone of Destiny I was asked to make to mark the 10th anniversary of its return to Scotland in 2006. This is a very historic stone which had seen the coronation of Scottish Kings since records began. It was stolen by the English in 1292 and has sat under the coronation chair for 700 years. As you can imagine, it´s very carefully guarded and you aren´t allowed to take any photos; so I nervously sketched the stone’s nooks and crannies with lots of security watching. The cake was very heavy and was ceremoniously carried by soldiers led by a piper into Edinburgh Castle, where a gathering of Scotland’s top officials welcomed the cake to a huge round of applause.
Can you provide us with one tip for novice cake decorators that will improve their skills dramatically?
My top tip for novices is: don´t be afraid. Push beyond what you think you are capable of and always outside your comfort zone. You´ll be amazed at what happens.
Do you have any success stories or feedback from the people who have viewed your cake decorating tutorials?
I´m lucky enough to have received many great compliments about my tutorials, which is lovely. However, the moment that sticks in my mind was when a lady came up to me at the Cake Show and grabbed my arm very tightly, which got my attention. She simply said, “if it wasn’t for your tutorials, I wouldn’t be here right now.” She had had a long battle with cancer, and seeing the tutorials and taking her away from her real life had helped her get through it.
Back at the start of my career, I said all I wanted was a cake shop. I couldn’t begin to think for a minute that my craft and tutorials could have such a positive effect on someone’s life. It´s simply overwhelming.
Finally, why is cake the ultimate gift for someone you love?
Cake has to be the ultimate gift for someone you love because it´s so charged with emotion. It´s a personally designed, hand crafted piece of magic, and it’s the emotion that it brings out in the receiver that makes it all worthwhile. That´s why cake designers should not try and compete on price, but instead should compete on the emotion and pleasure that they can bring and make every cake special no matter how busy they are.
Looking for that perfect cake for that special someone? Check out our selection today!