Over the coming weeks and months, I will be featuring some of my favourite wedding suppliers from around Ireland. This week, meet Grace Daniels, of Grace Daniels Cakes. I first came across Grace last Spring, when she created a beautiful cake for my parents 40th Wedding Anniversary. On the back of that, I invited her to participate in a wedding fair I had organised and had her speak about her favourite wedding cake trends. Her cakes are whimsical, elegant, stunning – and they taste amazing too!
Grace, how did you get into the cake design industry?
“Completely by accident. I previously studied and worked in interior design and other areas of art and design, but in 2010 I was working in retail. My mother had always baked, she is amazing at every aspect of it, I had never really done any. I was content to just eat what she made! That year I had started baking cupcakes and it turned out I had learned a lot from watching her bake and my cupcakes were pretty good. So when I became unhappy in the retail job I decided to start a tiny side business making cupcakes to order, more to boost my spirits and enthusiasm than for any kind of financial profit. I thought I should learn how to decorate a cake with sugarpaste in case anybody ever enquired about a cake to go with the cupcakes. My Mom talked me through how to do it over the phone, and I discovered I was quite good at it. It makes sense in hindsight as it’s more about sculpture and design than baking, both things I loved previously.
I became unhappy in my retail job and I ended up quitting before I established any sort of actual business with the cupcakes. So I threw myself into it when I became unemployed. Instantly people ordered cakes more so than cupcakes, and it snowballed from there. To begin with I mainly did birthday cakes for adults and children while I built a portfolio of work, then I took my first wedding cake orders. The best advertising is word of mouth by happy customers, so once that started to spread my idea for a tiny part time “hobby” business became my full time employment.”
Describe your typical working day
“My busiest day is when cakes need to go from “naked” to covered in sugarpaste, with decorating started. I cover cakes first, which takes 2-4 hours depending on how many I have and their sizes and shapes. While these set I organise any prepared decorations like handmade models of people, which need to dry in between stages of decorating. I make small decorations, simple flowers, small objects, letters, bows. If any need painting or assembly I do this once firm.
I prepare tiers for stacking, putting supports into them (to take the weight of tiers above), organising ribbons, brooches, and any decorations provided by brides. Being prepared means that once the icing is firm I can assemble cakes relatively quickly. I work long days, to avoid baking too early and losing freshness.
Once I’m done I clean the kitchen, to get ready to mess it all again the next day!”
What cake has been your biggest challenge to date?
My own wedding cake, definitely. Not only was it a challenge to commit to making and decorating it in the days before our big day, the design I chose was very intricate with a lot of handmade flowers and button type decorations (I think we guessed about 500). Our wedding was at the end of October so I had assumed the cold weather would help the decorations set, only for it to be unseasonably humid and the heavily coloured icing wouldn’t set, flowers wilted and petals broke off, over and over again. I chose the design so that should any part break or get damaged when my Mom was setting up it wouldn’t be too noticeable, which was a great idea considering a “helpful” man at the hotel lifted the heavy bottom tiers out of Mom’s car because she couldn’t, only to turn around and hand the cake to her. It almost fell, but my mother-in-law caught the side my Mom couldn’t support. Thank God! I was very happy with how it turned out, and it was absolutely devoured, but it was so much work and so much stress.
Other than my own cake any wedding cake with a fragile design that requires a long drive to deliver is always a challenge, I don’t relax until that last minute when I can photograph it all set up at the venue.
What new flavours are people trending towards for 2014?
“My lemon madeira with lemon curd and meringue buttercream is very popular at the moment, it’s a crowd pleaser and a nice change from a plainer vanilla cake. It’s light, refreshing and tangy after a big meal. My Chocolate & Baileys option also seems to be becoming more popular than my other chocolate options, they work so well together and it’s not too heavy after a 3 or 4 course meal.
Mostly I find that people seem to be a bit stuck in their ideas of what flavours are possible/available. Many people still think that a wedding cake has to be all fruit cake, and many are still hyped up about chocolate biscuit cake, but there are so many flavours and options out there that it’s a shame to see people going for the same few all the time! I offer couples the option of suggesting any flavours that they would like even if they aren’t on my list, and if I can find a suitable recipe I am happy to make them.”
What cake trends are you seeing at the moment?
“Alternate tier shapes (mixing round with square) is quite popular at the moment, as is “White on White”, keeping all the decorations on the cake the same colour as the base icing, but going for different textures and patterns on each tier. This always looks elegant and never gets too busy, as the same design would if a colour was introduced into the detailed designs.
And of course a quirky vintage style with lace, pearls and touches of soft colours and/or warm gold is a huge trend for the last 8-12 months.”
What tips would you have for any brides or grooms-to-be who are looking for their perfect wedding cake?
“Don’t feel you have to find the perfect design already existing online or in magazines to show to your cake maker. Once you can show cake ideas that you like and give info on the style, colours and theme you’re using for your wedding a Cake Designer will be more than happy to create or suggest ideas for you, so don’t feel the job of designing it has to be done entirely by you beforehand. Many brides stress about this part, when it’s really part of my job to do that, I don’t expect someone to present a finished design to me. Let your imagination have fun with it, don’t feel you have to have a conventional or traditional design, colour, or flavour combination based on the opinions of others or what is expected. A lot of work goes into a custom designed cake, so us Cake Artists want you to be excited and as much in love with the finished creation as we are!”
Tel: (+353) 085 7231369