February 20th, 2014 | Julia Braime
Image by Jade Osborne Photography
Anyone feeling hungry? I know, I know, after banging on about keeping New Year resolutions this morning, I go and put a whole load of beautiful sugar in front of you at just after 3pm. I’m a very bad friend.
I’m a very good wedding blogger though, as it’s my job to tell you all about the best suppliers in the business, available in your local area. Job done. North West brides: wedding cake: sorted.
Let’s meet the lady and Brides Up North Featured Supplier behind these delectable confections, the lovely Liz at The Little Velvet Cake Company.
P.s. Let Liz know that you found her through Brides Up North and there’s a 10% discount in it for you!
Hi Liz! Tell Brides Up North about The Little Velvet Cake Company, yourself and your experience?
Well I wasn’t always a cake maker. In my former life I had completed a PhD in Environmental Chemistry and then I was an environmental consultant, working for an engineering company on big urban regeneration projects. Previous to that, in my early twenties, I had worked in theatres, where I was everything from usherette to stage manager.
I had never really thought about baking, until I jumped off the career ladder to stay at home and look after my two sons. It all started with a few fun baking sessions making cupcakes with the kids, but it soon got serious when I started nudging the boys away so I could do it all myself. They lost interest but I kept going, until one day I found myself offering to make a friend’s wedding cake. I had never iced a cake before, but fancied having a go after watching Lorraine Pascale doing it on her television show. That was it, I was bitten by the sugar craft bug!
I also loved the idea of having my own business based at home, and this was perfect. For me it’s the perfect combination of technical and creative skills. I’m completely self-taught, I got books out of the library, looked techniques up on the internet, and spent a lot of time playing with sugar crafting equipment. Everything I had learned in my previous jobs seemed to give me a good grounding, I don’t even mind the endless washing up as it’s nothing compared to washing glassware in the analytical laboratory where I did my PhD!
Tell us about your cakes? What finishes and flavours are available?
My role of creating perfect and personal centre pieces for something as important as a couple’s wedding day is a big responsibility, and so I work closely with each couple to make sure they get the perfect cake for them. Consequently I end up making a wide range of cakes, but I do think they all have the unique ‘Little Velvet’ style about them. I concentrate on clean, elegant designs that are well balanced and never unnecessarily fussy.
Many brides have quite a fixed idea of what they want their cake to be like, others need a bit of inspiration before they decide what they want, either way I try to accommodate this by relating the cake design to the big picture so it complements the styles, colours and textures used elsewhere in their wedding.
I’m going to get a bit technical here, but where cake finishes are concerned there are two main types (forgive me, I’m such a cake geek!). I do traditional ‘rounded’ edges for that classic, smooth wedding cake look, which is very traditional. These cakes are very natural and romantic looking. I also like to do ‘sharp’ edges, which has a more contemporary look where the sides are ultra-straight with a sharp edge along the top. The tiers on these cakes are typically deeper, so the overall look is tall and elegant.
The more tiers you have, the more flavours you can go for! I do all the standard flavours, mostly vanilla and chocolate sponge, but good old faithful fruit cake is often requested for at least one of the tiers. There is demand for less traditional flavours though, with carrot cake and red velvet cake being popular. Last year I made a cake that was not just lemon coloured, but all 3 tiers were lemon flavoured too. I used plenty of zesty lemon curd and butter cream to fill it, and it smelt amazing. This is the beauty of having a bespoke cake… you get to decide your own flavours.
Tell us about your ingredients?
I’m very fussy when it comes to baking ingredients. I always buy the same organic flour, because I trust it to give me consistent results. Eggs have to be free range, and butter has to be good quality. I believe that if you cut corners with the ingredients, it will show in the baked product. My ingredients are tried and tested, so I’m confident that my cakes will taste the best they can. For example, the quality of cocoa powder varies enormously, so I am brand loyal and get a good quality Fair-trade make that is head and shoulders better than the others. After all, it doesn’t matter how good a cake looks, nobody wants their guests to be disappointed when they eat it.
Do you cater for special diets?
Yes, I have made cakes without gluten, nuts or dairy products on many occasions. However, my kitchen isn’t gluten free, and not entirely nut free either, so I always state that there is a risk of cross contamination although nuts and gluten free products are stored separately and I take precautions to make sure cross contamination is avoided (again, the analytical laboratory experience comes in handy)!
Last year I made a ‘naked cake’ with gluten free products (which is tiered sponge cake without the icing. This one was filled with jam and fresh cream and dusted with icing sugar). These cakes have to be baked perfectly even and I was a bit nervous using the gluten free flour as it can be tricky sometimes. It turned out great though, you wouldn’t have known it wasn’t the usual wheat flour.
What are the most popular flavours?
Vanilla is the most popular flavour, closely followed by chocolate. I think these are the crowd pleasers.
What styles of cake have been popular for weddings in 2013, and what trends can you see emerging for 2014?
Last year many of my cakes had a romantic feel to them, with lace designs being a common theme. White on white details, such as white lace, edible pearls, delicate royal icing, and pretty scrolls gave these cakes a simple, understated elegance.
The naked cake was also a big trend, probably because they are less formal than traditional wedding cakes. I always get comments about how tasty these cakes look, everyone loves to see the buttercream and jam oozing out of the layers, with the piles of fruit and icing sugar dusting. But they have to be prefect, there is nowhere to hide if the baking isn’t completely even and if you aren’t careful they can look like a giant mess. I love doing these cakes, they look stunning and have a real WOW factor.
Both romantic and naked wedding cakes will continue to be popular in 2014, but increasingly I have been asked to inject a bit of glamour into the designs. We can expect to see a bit of diamante, silver, gold and even a few feathers, but nothing too over-the-top, think old fashioned Hollywood. I’m currently working on an art-deco design which will incorporate this look, and I’m really excited about it!
Who would you most like to provide a wedding cake for and why?
I would have loved to have made a cake for Kate Moss’s wedding to Jamie Hince. For me, there’s a little bit of everything going on there, it would have to be stylish and chic, but there would be a certain edginess to it too. It would be big, with lots of intricately decorated tiers (but not OTT), each one a different flavour. I would want it to smell great too, so it would be decorated with lots of beautiful fresh flowers. It would look effortlessly perfect, but with a rock ‘n’ roll vibe going on.
What sets your business apart from other cake companies?
The Little Velvet Cake Company is… well, little. This means I give a very personal service and I like to think that gives me quite an exclusive but relaxed feel. I am quite ‘boutique’ in attitude, in that I can create something quite specialised. I rarely do the same cake twice, and even if I do, each one will have some kind of a twist that is unique to the customer. And don’t forget my baking, as what’s on the inside matters as much as the outside… no mass produced cake mixes here!
What can a Bride & Groom who book you to create a cake for their wedding expect?
The Little Velvet Cake Company is just me, so I can’t take on lots of orders and I never overstretch myself. If you order a cake from me I will take the time to get to know what you want. This enables me to concentrate on the little touches that will make your cake unique and special to you. My cakes are as individual as you are. You can make special requests and get the flavours you really want. If I have to shop around to get the colour of the ribbon right for you, I’ll do it. I like to think I’ll go that little bit further for you, because I want everything to be perfect too.
What areas do you cover?
I mainly cover Cheshire, South Manchester and up into Lancashire. I am happy to travel further, but I do need to charge additional fees to cover my costs.
Can you give Brides Up North an idea on price?
I cater for all budgets, so those on a budget can expect a simple 3-tier wedding cake for under £200. Obviously the more detail that goes into a cake the more time I need to spend on it, but the average cost for one of my 3-tier cakes is around £280-300.
Can you do a discount for Brides Up North readers?
Yes, if you let me know that you found me through Brides Up North I will give you a 10% discount if you order your wedding cake for delivery in 2014.
How can Brides Up North get in touch with you and find out more?
Anything else that Brides Up North should know?
I am always happy to liaise with your florist and venue for you, which takes some of the stress out of planning.
Finally… what’s your favourite flavour?!
I love my vanilla sponge cake, with buttercream and jam. When I first started out I looked everywhere for the perfect vanilla sponge, but most of the recipes I found were a bit on the dry side. Then I found an absolutely killer recipe in a library book, but I keep it to myself because it is my secret weapon. It is such a good cake and comes out great every time. It is delicious, moist, and lasts for a good couple of weeks, I’m always getting great feedback from customers when they try it for the first time.
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Former lawyer and bride to be Julia founded Brides Up North in 2010 with a chip on her shoulder. Frustrated by the poor Northern presence in glossy bridal magazines and online, she decided to do something about it herself. Astounded by the rapid growth of her blog and brand, Julia now manages Brides Up North’s online content alongside their busy wedding exhibition season, industry events and related commissions. And she’s always, always, got a new project on the go…