Meet the Baker: Dawn Butler
To celebrate the start of the Great British Bake Off and the launch of our new cake frame in stores, we got together with creator of the cake frame and gravity-cake extraordinaire, Dawn Butler. Beware of much hunger as you read…
Meet the Baker: Dawn Butler
How did you first get into baking?
When I was 17 I got a job in a local bakery in the celebration cake department. It was a 6 week job in my summer break from university. I loved every minute of it, but didn’t return to baking and decorating cakes until I was 30, when I had children and began to make their birthday cakes.
What was the first bake you made?
My eldest son’s first birthday cake was a Finding Nemo themed cake, and was a simple vanilla sponge (still a recipe that I use lots today).
What kind of baking do you love the most and why?
Our family have become a little bored of cake! But they do love my baking, we love to bake at Christmas and make mince pies and Baileys cheesecake. But our favourite has to be a simple biscuit cake – melted butter, chocolate, and syrup with your favourite smashed up biscuits and other treats, all mixed together and pressed into a lined tin and chilled in the fridge. Be warned, it won’t last long – we can usually devour a 6″ cake in one sitting!
What has been your proudest bake?
Am I allowed to have two? I was lucky enough to win a coveted cake award this year, taking home the “best in show cake” at the ICHF cake international show (it’s bigger than winning GBBO). I made a bust of Albert Einstein (all cake and all edible), and not long afterwards I was asked to make a flying helicopter cake for the Queen and Prince William, for an event at the East Anglian Air Ambulance. It was such an honour, and to make a cake fly was such a challenge! But thankfully I managed to pull it off and everyone enjoyed it!
Where do you find your inspiration for bakes?
All sorts of things give me inspiration for baking and decorating, the Einstein cake was about me wanting to try a new technique for making hair look life like (I used rice noodles for this and put each one in by hand with tweezers), and sometimes it’s all about the taste . My family love my biscuit cakes and we often see something in the supermarket (such as a new chocolate or flavour) and we think about how we could incorporate it into a new flavoured biscuit cake! (we made a white chocolate and peanut butter one last week- amazing!)
Describe your baking space to us.
My workshop is full of shelves high to the ceiling, each packed with tools and equipment for different cakes. I have a station to airbrush on, and an areas to photograph my cakes (the worst thing you can do is photograph them in a cluttered kitchen counter, or in their box!) I have a large island in the middle of the space, with drawers at each end, everything has its place, but I always seems to make a complete mess whilst working, using all the space, and every piece of equipment, until I can’t move, and have to tidy it all up again! I can’t smell anything in there but people always tell me how wonderful it smells. They all say it smells like chocolate and vanilla – I do always have a large tub of ganache on the go, and I use chocolate paste a lot in my work.
How did you come about the idea for your cake frame?
Cake frame was a the result of my frustration. I was not keen to put wood and metal in cakes as it’s just not foot safe. I though there had to be an easier, more appropriate way to get structure into cakes, and my lightbulb moment came early one morning. I set about drawing my ideas. I actually did nothing with those drawings for over a year, but once I finally got round to taking them to a plastics manufacturer, we went from the plans to a working product in just 9 months.
Are there any trends or products that you’re really excited for coming up?
I’m really enjoying seeing the crossover between wedding cakes and novelty cakes, with designs like the geode cakes. And I also love that crafting and cakes have blended together. People are using great craft techniques on their cakes, such as scrap booking and wafer paper, and now we’re even seeing adult colouring book free hand styles on cakes too!
What’s next for you?
I have all sorts of things in the pipeline. I am working with major film companies on licensed cake frame products, and I have other products (completely different to cake frame) on the way too! I’m continuing with my travels too, this year has seen me in America and Europe and in September I’ll be appearing at a large cake show in Mumbai.