Taking a slice
An Ashdown Forest baker reveals to Charlotte Pearson how the big apple provides her with big inspiration.
When most people go to New York on holiday it is usually for a shopping trip in search of shoes, bags and perfume.
However for Mandi Morton, cake designer at La Maison des Petits Gateaux, when she hits ‘the big apple’ she goes in search of baked goods.
“My son is studying in New York, so when we go over and visit I stalk bakers,” she laughs.
“I think it is good to see what other bakers are doing and see their influences to get new ideas.
“At the moment they use a lot of buttercream in the US, and make it in a different way to over here,” she reveals.
“It is just great as I get to go over there and eat lots of cake,” she smiles.
“I love the show Cake Boss and went to their Hoboken bakery in New Jersey, we sat in Sinatra park with a view of Manhattan and ate delicious cakes.”
Mandi set up La Maison five years ago when she says her son was ‘old enough and didn’t need her anymore’.
“I looked at doing something for myself,” she reveals. “I have always been creative so looked at cake decorating.
“I did my research and did a range of courses with the people I felt were the best in the business.
“I also did a course on how to run it as a business, which looked at things like health and safety – there is a lot more behind it than just making cakes.”
Based in the Ashdown Forest, Mandi specialises in bespoke wedding cakes, individual mini cakes, cupcakes and towers, cookies, favours, christenings, and anniversaries.
“I do so many different flavours, like chocolate mud cake, lemon drizzle and a passion fruit one,” she lists. “You can have anything under the fondant of a wedding cake.
“The passion fruit one came as I had some really ripe ones so I went online and looked at passion fruit recipes, but they all looked really complicated so I just did my own.
“Sometimes I put the seeds in, sometimes I don’t, as I know not everyone likes them but I like the texture.”
She admits when she started on the venture she also had to learn to bake as it wasn’t something she had done before.
“I think when I was a child I must have liked Play-Doh or something as I really enjoy the decorating, taking a blob of fondant and creating something beautiful with it,” says Mandi.
All the cakes are made to order, however Mandi is expanding a diffusion line where people can buy the cakes as they are seen with no personalised touches.
“I think it is important to give people the choice so if they can’t afford a bespoke cake they can have one that is equally delicious,” she says.
“Everything is electronic now, and I have brides coming to me with a picture from Pinterest of a five tiered cake that they want for £350 and it isn’t going to happen.
“There is just so much choice out there it can be hard for people to know what to ask for and what they can afford.”
When it comes to the popular style of wedding cake Mandi still finds a lot of brides-to-be asking for ‘vintage’.
“Or romantic cakes,” she adds. “Sugared flowers are still being asked for as well.
“The Americans love those style of cakes, the bakers over there take bits from us and we take some from them.”
Which is why going to New York is so exciting for the cake designer as it gives her the chance to chat to fellow bakers and exchange ideas.
“We all share ideas but I love doing topsy turvy cakes which involves carving,” enthuses Mandi. “To be honest I just love my job as every cake is different.”#
“Naked cakes are still really popular, which have to be made pretty close to the day as there is no fondant to keep it fresh,” reveals Mandi. “I think the popularity will continue for a while.
“I am planning on doing an autumn one with blackberries, but I would love to do one of different flavours as well.
“You can do pretty much what you want with it.
“A lot of work goes into it, even though it just consists of Victoria sponges, as most of the time you have to take your time to make sure you stack it right so it doesn’t topple over.
“I have also seen a more modern trend of cakes that look almost like chalk boards with dusty fondant and then the pipping looks like chalk.”
For more information, visit www.lamaisondespetitsgateaux.co.uk
Pictures: Claire Hill of Woodland Hill Photography – www.woodlandhillphotography.co.uk
September 28, 2015 Food and Drink