Natalie Dickinson of Cuppies and Cream says the proof is in the eating! Lynda Bowyer
Swept up in the mouthwatering mêlée of The Great British Bake Off, Xn set about tracking down some of the region’s talent when it comes to all things cakey. We were not disappointed, and found a real cornucopia of culinary delights at Cuppies ‘n’ Cream, based in Winnersh.
“I started Cuppies ‘n’ Cream in October 2011”, owner Natalie Dickinson explained, “I’ve always baked and I did some cupcakes for my boyfriend’s relative. Everyone commented on them and said how good they tasted and also how pretty they looked. It kinda went from there and a few people asked me if I would bake them some cakes – and I did, just for fun and for free as gifts. I then researched what I’d need to do in order to sell my cakes, such as having my kitchen inspected and doing all sorts of Council paperwork and it just went along from there!”
Indeed it has gone from “there”, and the Cuppies ‘n’ Cream brand has gone from strength to strength over the past three years into a phenomenal business with a healthy customer base both from corporate clients and wedding clients. Cuppies ‘n’ Cream boasts a Food Standards Agency “Scores On The Doors” rating of 5 out of 5 stars, being the highest score possible. This assures customers that her business has excellent standards when looking at food hygiene, preparation, cooking and storage. In addition the rating includes marks for the building premises, cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and also the business management records to ensure that safety standards are upheld. This is a rating which, quite rightly, Natalie is proud of.
Natalie continued: “I make a point of not using any flavouring extracts in my cake work; the main reason being I don’t like E-numbers and all those other nasty things that sometimes go into food so, for example, in my carrot cake I use only fresh carrots and walnuts. It’s all natural ingredients from the outset. In my strawberry cupcakes I put fresh strawberries into the mixture. I make my own jams for the cakes and fruit syrups which I then brush onto the cake before icing so the fresh fruit flavours infuse before I put the buttercream on.”
When asked what would her choice would be if she had to dine on cake for the rest of her life, Natalie gave a surprising reply: “If I had to live on cake for the rest of my life, it sort of defeats my own business ethos of not using food colourings, but I love Red Velvet Cake! That said, I also love my own natural Chocolate Fudge Cake.”
Pictures: Lynda Bowyer
Cake craft has certainly changed over the years and we now seldom see the Royal Icing type of cakes of the 1980’s which needed a pneumatic drill to get through the rigid layer of icing to the cake below. American-style frosting and buttercream piping has brought with it a new era of artistry and this is where Natalie excels in her creative side. “I love how cakes have changed over the years,” she said. “Sometimes I take the time to plan a cake and whilst I’m about to frost it, I completely change the plan. I sometimes start with the piping bag and, having seen something recently on television or in a magazine, I’ll do it and see how it turns out – with some great results. I did Art at A-level so my cake work is a way of developing that skill in a different way.”
Flavours have changed too over the years. Fruit cake for weddings is traditional but more often than not, flavoured sponges are the order of the day. At Cuppies ‘n’ Cream there are over 30 flavours to choose from. Natalie explained: “Vanilla is always popular with my clients. I use vanilla bean paste or the actual vanilla pods. Some people might think it is a bit bland, but I call my vanilla sponge ‘Dreamy Vanilla’ because it’s so light, fluffy and creamy. Raspberry Ripple is a favourite too!”
With such a huge range of designs and flavours, is there anything that Natalie wouldn’t do? “I do cakes for hen parties,” she said: “but I have to consider each order as it comes. For instance, I won’t do rude cakes. I’m a mum with small children so it’s not appropriate having cakes of various body parts cooling on the rack, plus it doesn’t fit in with the ethos of Cuppies ‘n’ Cream. The most enjoyable client order I had was recently in May. When it’s for an event which you’re going to be there at, it’s nervewracking. The cake was for a really special friend who is into diving. I’d hand-painted and designed the cake with marine life, so when I turned up to the venue and saw the cake had been placed in a setting which had fish tanks surrounding it, I nearly cried because it looked that beautiful. Nobody there apart from my friend knew I’d made the cake, and it was brilliant when people were commenting on how great it tasted.”
As a busy mum and an exquisite cake maker, you could be left wondering what next for Natalie? “Well,” she said: “I have some tutoring coming up in January at the Cake College in Arborfield. There will be three workshops which I will be leading; one will be teaching students how to do one of my 3 tier shabby chic cakes and the other two sessions are cupcake workshops. Every so often the workshops will be changed around with different recipes, so that’s something different to look forward to. I’ve weddings booked in to 2016 already which is crazy, plus some weddings booked back home in Yorkshire.”
Yes, that’s right, Yorkshire…
“If it matters to the client, I will travel to cover their needs if they want one of my cakes so badly. Mileage is chargeable, but I do events just about anywhere. Mainly, it’s here in the South and I often do weddings and events over in Essex or in London.”
So the burning question is where to find out more about Cuppies ‘n’ Cream? Simply click on www.cuppiesncream.co.uk and see what Natalie can do for you!