Wedding Cakes Devon- Bicton Botanical Gardens Photo Shoot

A few short weeks ago, before the madness descended, I was asked to be a part of a photoshoot at Bicton Park Botanical Gardens. I have to say it now feels like a lifetime ago, but it was only late February.
You probably know that I trained in horticulture when I left school (don’t ask how long ago that was!!) And although I no longer work in that industry, I do still love plants and flowers. These days it’s the sugar kind I spend my time with. But a photoshoot in a botanical garden was something I jumped at!
And it didn’t disappoint.

a view over Bicton Park gardens
The view from The Terrace

The venue.

I don’t know why we have never been to Bicton Park before. I guess it’s that old thing of knowing it’s there whenever you want to visit, so you never get around to it. Something none of us will be doing in future I suspect. This whole situation we find ourselves in right now certainly makes you appreciate all the things you can no longer do, like visit gardens. And these are ones I will certainly be returning to when I’m able.
The Gardens were originally part of Bicton Park, which was built by the Rolles family in the 18th century. The gardens were laid out at the same time as the house, and much of the original features still exist. Such as the Palm House, one of the areas used in the shoot, which is around 20 years older than the famous Palm House at Kew.
There are 60 acres of gardens to explore, with lots of places to stop and have beautiful wedding photos taken. And there’s a train!! The Bicton Woodland Railway is a 25 minute ride around the gardens, a bonus for any train buffs in the wedding party.

 

The Terrace
The Terrace (Image from Visit Devon)

The shoot.

The shoot was the brainchild of Helen Chapman of Helen Chapman Photography and the theme was Victorian high tea, a theme that fitted in perfectly with the venue and its history.
Having the wedding fit in with the chosen venue is something I have spoken about before. It really does make a huge difference. If you’ve chosen a particular venue then the chances are it is, in part at least, because you know it fits with the type of wedding you want. But bringing elements of the venue into the details of the wedding will make it even more perfect.
For this shoot we very much kept with the Victorian botanical theme. The stationary had beautiful, botanical style, painting. The table was set up on the terrace with echoes of the greens that were all around us. And, of course, there were lots of flowers!
Greens and whites were the colour scheme, with a hint of blush pink. This gave a very fresh feel and fitted perfectly into the palm house. Although I don’t think you can actually get married in the palm house, I would recommend going there for a few photos, you won’t regret it.

The Palm House
The Palm House (image via Visit Devon)

The set up.

While our lovely bride was being photographed in the palm house, I took the cake and sweet treats around to the terrace to help get the table set up.
Now last time you will remember me talking about outdoor weddings, and how it’s a good idea to have at least one area partially covered. This photoshoot day proved my point perfectly! There we were, merrily setting up the table and making the terrace look beautiful, when the heavens opened. It didn’t just rain, it poured! If we had been fully outside then everything would have been ruined. Soggy tablecloths, washed out stationary, ruined cake….. you get the picture. But, because it was a covered terrace we just carried on! And, ten minutes later, the sun was back out.
At Bicton Park the terrace is in-between two orangeries and looks right out over the gardens. It makes it the perfect setting for an outdoor wedding, because you are under cover but still open. And you can dive into either of the orangeries if needs be. You can then have your reception in the orangery and still be looking out over the gardens.

the cake and sweet treats
Cake table with a view!

The Cake

Of course I’m going to say that the cake was the star of the day…….
I was asked to create a cake with a Victorian vibe, but very much in keeping with what a modern day couple would actually want.
If you have ever seen images of wedding cakes from the Victorian era you’ll know they are very elaborate affairs! Lots of royal icing and complicated hand piping, and nothing like the wedding cakes we have today. Although that style is starting to make a come back, and done right it can be stunning.
I decided not to go full on Victorian though, it’s not really the style my couples would want. Instead I used the petal shaped bottom tier as a nod to the period, but took the rest of my inspiration from the botanical setting.
You know that I love sugar flowers, so there had to be plenty of those! But I added a bit of a twist (as I’m known to do) by including a glass separator filled with silk foliage. This was a nod to the glass houses and Palm House.
Mixing in the silk foliage with the sugar flowers is a great way to get high impact. Having that foliage in sugar would have taken days of work, added a lot of weight and been at high risk of breakages.

The cake
The cake

The sweet treats

Confession time, dessert tables aren’t really my thing. Don’t get me wrong I love them, I just don’t really do them. Mostly because it’s just me, and I only have so many hours and one pair of hands! But I really enjoyed doing these.
The Victorians took afternoon tea very seriously indeed. And the more elaborate the better. Again I didn’t intend to recreate a full High Tea, just some sweet treats that could be an accompaniment or alternative to the cake.
So we had mini vanilla sponges with raspberry buttercream, meringue nests with creams and fresh fruits, lemon madeleines and pink sugar mice (if you’re going Victorian then you have to have sugar mice)

mini vanilla sponges
Mini vanilla sponges with raspberry buttercream

Recreating the look

Something I think comes across well with this shoot is that you don’t need to go full on Victoriana in order to get the feel. And also that it pays to work with the setting and backdrops the venue already has. Neither the Palm House or the Terrace needed any dressing, they spoke for themselves perfectly.
Have a chat with your wedding planner or stylist. Everything we used in the shoot can be hired in, and this is something I highly recommend doing. Not only will you get exactly what you want without having to spend weeks tracking each item down, but it can all be returned at the end. There are many wedding stylists who will come in on the day and dress your venue for you, then come back and take it all away again.

Meringue nests with fresh fruit
Meringue nests with fresh fruit

The Suppliers

These are all the lovely people who were involved on the day.

Photos by: Helen Chapman Photography, https://www.helenchapmanphotographyuk.com/

Venue; Bicton Park Botanical Gardens, http://www.bictongardens.co.uk/

Hair and beauty: by The Courtyard Hairdressers, Honiton,www.facebook.com/TheCourtyardHairdressers/

Wedding dress by: Lovely Bridal, Honiton, http://www.lovelybridal.co.uk/

Flowers by Bridget The flower shed, https://www.bridgetsflowershed.co.uk/

Wedding cake by Claire’s sweet temptations , https://www.clairessweettemptations.com/

Wedding venue decor by Bold and Beautiful Weddings https://www.boldbeautifulweddings.com/

Invitations by Dilly and Dilly, https://dillyanddilly.co.uk/

Happy New Year!! Luxury Wedding Cakes- 2019 review.

It’s the end of another year!! Where has that gone?

2019 is almost over and so I thought I’d do a recap and a roundup of the year at STHQ. It’s been quite a year of changes for me. Here is my 2019 review

2019 for Sweet Temptations looked something like this:

42 Weddings

1 Celebrity wedding and feature in Hello!

1 Celebrity birthday cake

1 Business relocation

1 London base secured

Lots of meeting with lovely couples and other wedding industry professionals

Being courted by a luxury wedding show

Being invited to exclusive wedding industry events

And a bronze at Cake International in collaboration with two other local cakers, proving there really is collaboration over competition.

Not bad for a one woman show! It’s only when I look back like this that I realise how far things have moved on in a year.

One side of our piece
Part of our Cake International entry

Moving on.

The moving was quite literal! And not planned. But I think the best decisions are often not planned.

As you know I am now based out of the stunningly beautiful Clovelly on the North Devon/Cornwall border. Before you gasp at this, I’m up the top! There was no way I was going to be trying to take cakes up and down that hill and cobbles…… been there….. done that….. in the back of the open backed Landover….in reverse. That’s another story for another time though.

It happened by accident, if these things are ever really accidents. One of my best friends lives in Clovelly, also up top. We had been to the cinema to see Marry Poppins Returns (as two grown women, with no children in tow) I was dropping her home and happened to look across the car park to the row of shops that are there. One was obviously empty, so I asked her about it. The next day she took it upon herself to email John (the estate owner) and CC me into it, telling him that I was interested. I am so very glad that she did!! Now I had never really thought about having a business premises outside of the ‘cake nook’ at the back of the house, but it was clear I was outgrowing that. Had Em not been so proactive I may still be annoying the family with cake stuff all over the house, and moaning that I have no space. It has turned into one of the best things to have happened this year. And you can now come and see me there to talk about your wedding cake. The views are just breath-taking, and you can go and look around the village afterwards.

Decisions Decisions. 

Another snap decision was joining The Wedding Gallery in London. I knew about it, and had been following them on Instagram. I knew it was the most amazing place, and also that it was quite exclusive. A girl can dream. However I was at a NAWP meeting (national association of wedding professionals) and got chatting to a wedding planner there. She said I really needed to go and see them at The Wedding Gallery, especially as it was literally just around the corner. So I did. I turned up, introduced myself, told them a fellow NAWP member recommended I visit. They were so lovely and welcoming. Hannah showed me around and said that if I wanted to become a member, they would be delighted to have me. And so I did just that! And it’s another decision I am very glad I made.

images of the wedding gallery
The Wedding Gallery

I would say around 75% of my couples are London based, even thought they are getting married here in the South West. And many are unable to get down to see me in person. I’ve done countless weddings where I haven’t met the couple at all, and that’s a shame. So being able to have a London base that I can use to meet with couples has proved invaluable. I’ve already met several couples there this year, and hope to meet many more.

More Decisions!

When you are a sole trader you have to make a lot of decisions about how to structure your time. And one thing I did this year was to cut down on the number of wedding fairs I decided to do. I enjoy wedding fairs, but there are so many of them, and only one of me. One opportunity I did say yes to though, was to exhibit at South West Wed Meet Up. I always try to go to these industry networking and training events, and the March one is the biggest one of the year. This year it was at Deer Park near Honiton over two days, with lots of workshops and guest speakers. There’s also the chance to exhibit to your fellow industry professionals, and they asked me.

Again I said yes, and again it was a good decision. Also attending the event was the lovely Anisha from BrideLux, who curate some of the worlds most luxurious wedding shows. My cakes clearly impressed her, as she asked me if I would like to be part of future BrideLux shows. Sadly I’ve not managed to do that yet, but it’s on my list. And, in the meantime, she invites me to their stunningly beautiful industry events. They pride themselves on only working with the best, so being on their radar, and included in their world, is an honour.

Mayfair rooms The Connaught
The Mayfair Room at The Connaught

Celebrity Love.

Now you may have noticed on the intro list that I mentioned a couple of celebrity cakes? Well one I can talk about, and one not. Well I probably could, but I won’t.

Back in the new year I got a phone call about a wedding cake. Nothing unusual. We chatted cake, date, venue etc as usual. It was the bride I was talking to, she gave me her name and then said that the wedding was probably going to be featured in Hello! Magazine. This took me back for a second as I hadn’t recognised the name, but then I’m not good with names in general. It turns out the wedding was of top model Jade Parfitt, and was attended by other super models and society figures. And it was indeed featured in Hello! A five page spread with a full page just of the cake cutting photo!

Hello! Full page spread
The giraffes! And the full page spread in Hello!

The other celebrity cake? Well it was a birthday cake, and all I’m going to say is Hollywood A list, and leave it at that.

What a Year!

In between all of this I seem to have done 42 wedding cakes! I didn’t realise it had been this many, although I knew it was a busy year. My feet and knees will attest to that! I’ve been so very lucky to be able to work with some truly lovely couples this year. It is always my pleasure to be able to be a part of such a special day, and to help create beautiful memories. Every wedding, and therefore every wedding cake, is unique, and that’s part of what makes my job so special.

cake pic round up
A few cakes from 2019

All in all it’s been quite a year! Behind the scenes there’s also been a lot going on, and I’ve relied on my work to keep me going. My husband and the man I’ve been with since I was 17, has been battling prostate cancer, then went and got facial shingles, which gave our son chickenpox! So, although the above reads a bit like a dream, it’s not all been good. Life never is. I’d hate you to think this is a smug post about how wonderful things are, because there’s been parts of this year I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But I have also been very lucky.

If 2019 has taught me anything, it’s to celebrate the wins. I hope you have many things in 2019 to celebrate, and that there’s even more of those moments in 2020.

If you’re interested in having a Sweet Temptations cake for your wedding, click HERE

Three go to Cake International.

Two weeks ago I was in Birmingham at the NEC with Jackie Curtis from Jax’s Cakes N Bakes for the biggest cake show in the world, Cake International. This involved sitting in a van at 6am waiting to be allowed into the car park behind Hall 17 to drop off out competition piece in the collaboration class. This cake making lark really is glamorous……

Three of us came together to create our entry, myself, Jax and Sarah from The Cornish Cakery, you’re allowed up to twenty people!! So only having three was going to make it a challenge. Especially when you know that we had the space of two trestle tables pushed together to fill! That’s a lot of sugar. And as we all run our own cake businesses, it all had to be fitted in around orders and school holidays. We had to keep telling ourselves that this is fun…. Yep, we were enjoying ourselves…

So why did we put ourselves through this? A question I found myself asking while sitting in that van at 6am in the rain. But there was a good reason behind our madness. And that reason was to create more awareness of mental health, something all three of us suffer from. And it’s something that sadly still has a stigma surrounding it. Which is crazy (see what I did there?) because mental illness is so common. I can guarantee that you know someone who suffers from some form of mental health issue. And so we thought it would be a good chance to turn those thoughts and feeling into a visual display that might get people talking.

One side of our piece

Of course it was also a competition piece, so we had to make sure we produced the best work we could. Not easy when you’re having the busiest wedding season so far. And that six months between deciding to do it, and getting it onto that formidable black tablecloth just flew by! Where we happy with it? Yes, although it wasn’t exactly how we first imagined, but not in a bad way. I think it’s great when designs and concepts evolve artistically. And one exciting thing about working in a creative group is that you bounce ideas off one another.

Eventually, after lots of hours and a few changes of direction, we got it finished literally on the morning we were leaving for Birmingham from my studio in Clovelly. I have the space and bifold doors, so it was the perfect place to work on such a big project (it’s still there, we can’t decide what to do with it!) On the Thursday we argued ‘Nelly’, as she’d been named, into the van we had to hire in order to get it there. It took three of us (we borrowed Karren from the gift shop next door) to get her into the van, but there was only the two of us going….. hmmmmm….. this was going to be interesting. What were we going to do on Friday morning trying to get her back out of the van and into the hall? We decided to order room service while we thought about it.

Friday morning the alarm went of at 5.30am. Now I’m the first to admit that I am NOT a morning person, at all, ever. There have only been a very selective number of times I’ve been up at that time of the morning, if you’ve ever lined the red carpet for a film premier then you’ll know the drill. So I was a tad grumpy, poor Jax. Luckily we had stopped on the way and I’d got some of that chilled, ready made, coffee. Plus Jax was driving, so that helped. But we still had the issue of how we were going to get Nelly onto her table. Of course the collaboration tables were as far away from the Hall doors as they could be! Not helpful when our class has the largest and heaviest pieces!! Anyway, the car park guy took pity on us and allowed us to get quite close to the doors. And after a bit of swearing we got her to the tables just inside the door used to make repairs etc. Phew! But now we had to get her all the way across Hall 17 to the display table…..

The other side of our piece

However we were saved by the cake angel that is Cali Hopper. Now Cali is cake word royalty, she’s one of the most talented sugar artists I’ve ever come across. Anyway, she was at a neighbouring table and we were chatting (I’ve known her for years). Her husband Martin was with her and she offered him to us to help carry Nelly! Saved! It just proves that there’s so much love in the cake world. The # collaboration over competition has never been more relevant. And the name of our group was ‘Kowethegeth’ which is the Cornish for friendship. Very fitting.

Cutting the rest of the story short, as a lot of it involves food, coffee and sleep! The next morning we went to see if we had ‘won’ anything. After all it was a competition. Although that’s not why we entered, it was still something we wanted. And TADA!! We got a bronze medal! Not bad considering we were all creating our elements in our separate work places and bringing them together.

Our Bronze certificate
Our Bronze!

Will we do it again? Well if you’d asked us on that Friday then I’d have said HELL NO!!! But now? Let’s just say there are already Pintrest boards filling up.

Inside the Luxury Wedding Industry

If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll have noticed that I’ve been in London a couple of times recently. You might think this a bit strange for a wedding cake maker based on the north Devon/Cornwall border. But let me explain.
You may also have noticed the Bude – Clovelly – Marylebone on my website and bio etc. This is because, a few months ago, I joined the amazingly beautiful and inspiring The Wedding Gallery at 1 Marylebone Rd, just by Great Portland St tube station. Why have I done this? Well even though I’m based in the stunning South West, I find that most of my clients are from London or the South East. Devon and Cornwall are perfect for a destination wedding, without having to leave the UK. And lots of people have a connection to the area. Although I will, of course, deliver to London too.

The Wedding Gallery
A peak at The Wedding Gallery

Having that London base is a perfect way to connect with my London clients, without them having to come down to me. And I adore London, so any excuse to get up there is welcome!
If you don’t know The Wedding Gallery then I highly recommend you check it out. It’s wedding Narnia!! An exclusive, appointment only, wedding showcase of everything you need, all in one place. So being accepted as a member was a big deal. Oh and the toilets are an experience all on their own!
And as a member I was invited to their exclusive networking evening. Well don’t mind if I do! And it was well worth the trip. Getting to meet others in the wedding industry is always good, especially as we often work alone. On the wedding day we are all so busy doing our own thing to really get to chat and connect. Plus these events give us the chance to get to know other suppliers who we can then recommend to you. I only ever recommend suppliers I know.

Networking with the best
Networking evenings

The second trip was also an industry event. This time I was invited by BrideLux to attend their Summer White Party at The Café Royal. Another exclusive event for the best of the UK wedding industry, and another chance to connect with gorgeous suppliers. The endless cocktails were an added bonus 😊
I had forgotten how beautiful the Café Royal is, as it’s been years since I’ve been there. Wow what a place it would be to get married! Especially with the roof terrace. It is full of the classic elegance you would expect, but with lots of modern touches. It certainly was the perfect location for the wedding industry to get together.

The Cafe Royal Terrace
Balloons and bubbly at The Cafe Royal

BrideLux run high end, luxury wedding shows in some of London’s top venues. And they are well worth attending if you can. Even if you are not planning such a lux wedding, they will still provide lots of inspiration. Think luxury with a twist. The twist being suppliers who offer more than the ‘cookie cutter’ wedding. But, instead, offer you a luxury and custom product. As you know, I’m all for making your wedding truly yours. They approached me back in March to exhibit with them. Sadly I couldn’t that time, but I will be in the future. Watch this space.
If you are looking for the best wedding suppliers around, then it is well worth checking out The Wedding Gallery, BrideLux and The National Association of Wedding Professionals (NAWP). All of who vet their members, and are very selective with who they work with. So you know that you are going to be in very safe hands.