Laura Cartledge talks iced inspiration with Brighton’s Tuck-Box.
From mountains topped with snow white icing to sandcastles made of sponge, Chris Murphy’s cakes come in all shapes and sizes.
In fact I find myself asking the Brighton baker ‘what don’t you do?’
“Anything too normal,” he replies with a smile, recalling one wedding project which was far from ordinary.
“She loved books and he loved film, at the front the cake looked all pretty – orange and flowers,” recalls Chris.
“But his favourite movie was Predator and he said he wanted it smashing out of the back of the cake.
“I tried to steer him away but I did do it in the end,” he confesses (pictured bottom right).
“For so long cakes have just been white but now I feel people put so much more personality into their weddings.”
Calling on his background in fine art, Chris launched his business Tuck-Box in 2012 and now makes edible masterpieces for a living.
“I saw a gap in the market,” he explains. “You have Choccywoccydoodah, which I love, but I felt there was something inbetween.”
This feeling was confirmed when Chris was an apprentice for a wedding cake maker so he decided to take the plunge thanks to a little encouragement from his mum.
“She said ‘Chris you hate your job’ – I was working in kitchens until the early hours by myself for minimum wage – so I bit the bullet,” he smiles.
“As soon as I had decided on cakes my imagination went wild and it hasn’t really stopped.
“I made five bright cakes, then magazines started to get in touch and now I am a cake maker.
“I thought cake, best day of people’s lives… I want to be a part of that.”
Business has taken off so much Chris can’t, and doesn’t, stop for our entire interview.
“If there is one thing I can do it is bake and talk,” he reassures me, while taking a red velvet out of the oven which will soon become a Minnie Mouse birthday cake. “It’s pretty much morning, noon and night.”
So much so the ‘baking part’ is Chris’ time to relax as he ‘can just follow the recipe’, conserving his energy for the mammoth decorating stints.
“I never want to stop until it looks exactly right, I am in it for the long run,” he admits. “In the final hours I just add and add and add.
“I just can’t leave things,” grins Chris. “People tell me ‘you are going over the top’ but I say ‘that is who I am, leave me be’.”
The end result is just breathtaking, from the fondant fruits to floating hot air balloons, and everything just radiates a sense of fun.
“I want people to look at the cake and think that must have been fun to make,” he agrees, but confesses the reality can be a bit different.
“Last summer was the hardest summer of my life. You have the order, you have taken the money and you have to fulfil them – it is stressful.
“But when I have those crazy late nights I think I used to do this for other people, this is much more rewarding.”
While Chris’ belief cakes should be ‘a celebration’ has been warmly met by couples seeking something different, he has had some resistance.
“If anyone is sizing up to me it is the mother-in-law,” he reveals. “They say ‘how much for a cake? I can make a fruit cake’.
“I’ve never had an order for fruit cake.
“My cakes taste like kid’s birthday cake and I’ll openly say I think that is the best taste in the world,” enthuses Chris.
“In fact I often find it is a revelation to people that wedding cake can taste nice.
“Most people’s memories are of horrible fruit cake,” he adds. “They used to have to be able to last, you would have a wall of icing before you get to the middle.
“But now it can be made on the week it is going to be eaten.”
Proving he is not about style over substance, Chris’ cakes are made with organic ingredients wherever possible and use the best quality chocolate and vanilla.
So what are his plans for the future?
“I would love to make a cake that looked like a fountain with birds fluttering around it,” replies Chris.
“I’ve never had a celebrity wedding, that is what I am waiting for. And I want to tick every seasonal box, I have done spring, fireworks night, I need someone to get married at Hallowe’en or Easter…”
Bespoke cakes serve 120 guests normally start around £1,250. To find out more about Tuck-Box, visit www.tuck-box.com