Michelle runs a home-based cake company in Wokingham called Brown Bear Bakery and is different from most other bakers I know. I’m trying to think of a way to word why she’s different without offending her… and I’m now actually wondering if she ever does get offended.
She’s the type of person we all need in our lives as she’s probably the most down-to-earth, foul-mouthed, sarcastic woman I’ve ever met. BUT she’s massively honest, hilarious and cracks me up every time I speak to her.
She’s 100% my type of person.
Michelle is my very first ‘guest’ in this ‘Meet the Baker’ series of blog posts I’ve been wanting to start for a while now, and I can’t think of a better baker to have in my very first interview.
Since turning my own hobby into a little business back in 2011 I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and making friends with some incredibly talented people and whilst this industry has its ups and downs, like any other industry, the people are what make it amazing.
I wanted to do something to recognise this talent, help build a community whilst creating something to remind those who also want to start their own cake business, that it’s always possible and we all start differently and have our own tips and helpful hints.
Michelle’s my go-to cake friend when I need to rant, laugh or when I need to see if anyone is still up cake decorating at two o’clock in the morning. Along with our other close cake pal Lucy, she tells you exactly how it is and there’s no beating around the bush with either of them.
So, with no further introduction needed, here’s Michelle from Brown Bear Bakery, in her own words…
PS: If you’d love to be featured, give me a message 🙂
Where did your cake company name come from?
Oh, this is not going to be off to a great start! I allowed my then 6-year-old son to name my company. He wanted to call it Brown Beaver. After a long and difficult conversation about why that wasn’t suitable, I told him to pick another animal and he chose a bear. I decided just to go with it because it could be a lot worse.
When did you start your cake company, and why?
2014. I’m a bit flaky, I’m not one to stick at the same job forever, so fancied a change. Gave up my job and opened a shop. As well as flaky, I’m also fairly impulsive.
Where are you located and what areas do you cover?
I’m based in Wokingham, but I’ll go anywhere I’m paid to go. I quite fancy delivering a cake to the Maldives if anyone wants one
Is this your full-time job?
And, what did you do before?
Something a little different…I was a police officer. In fact I still am, I’m on a little six year career break while I think about my options. I’m due to go back in 2020. I’m currently weighing up if I get less abuse in the police, or being at home with my children.
Do you have a particular favourite style/technique?
At the moment I’m all over drip cakes piled high with anything and everything. I also really like textured cakes. Anything you don’t need to be too neat and precise with. I’m not a neat person.
What was your first paid order?
I can’t remember. I know my first wedding cake was at Wasing Park, and it was a square cake (my nemesis) with umbrellas cascading down it. That makes it sound really crap, but it was nice I promise. Different to anything I’ve ever done before or since.
What inspires you?
Money. Money inspires me a lot. I like having it and I like spending it. And Pinterest. Pinterest inspires me to spend my money.
Do you have a favourite cake/cupcake flavour?
That depends on the day or the mood I’m in. When my kids have driven me to distraction then nothing beats a huge chunk of chocolate fudge cake. When I’m trying to pretend I’m being healthy or more grown up I eat carrot cake. I know it’s not particularly healthy, and I’m not sure why I think it’s more grown up, but that’s what I tell myself.
Cake tool you couldn’t live without?
My acrylic smoothers. It always amazes me how they can transform something that looks like my
Where do you see yourself in a year’s time?
I see myself lying on a beach with Johnny Depp rubbing suntan lotion in my back. Oh, Did you mean business wise? Hopefully still doing the same. But married to Johnny Depp.
What is your favourite thing about cake decorating?
That I can fit it in around my family. Years of working shifts
And your least favourite…
Being at home all the time with my family
It’s nice but I do miss being able to just go out to work with other people and be an actual human for a while, instead of a crazed sugar covered monster who’s shouting at the kids not to touch anything in the kitchen!
Who is your go-to cake decorating supplies shop/website
I get most things locally at The cake decorating shop, but if I’m particularly organised I’ll put a bulk order into Culpitt.
Top business tip for making what you do a success?
I’m not sure I’m a success so I don’t know if I have any tips. I think just love what you do. If you’re passionate and enjoy it, then your customers will pick up on that.
Any words of advice for cake decorating beginners?
Try new things, don’t be frightened. Don’t look at a cake and think “I could never do that” (like I do with carved cakes)
Most inspirational cake artist?
Other than you? I’m a huge fan of Angela Morrison. Her cakes are beautiful.
Best bud or go-to friend in the cake industry?
You! And Lucy at Lucy’s toppers.
What’s been your favourite cake/cupcake order to date?
Honestly, I never truly like anything I make. I just see every fault and imperfection. If I was to pick a favourite, it would be based on the customer and how nice they were to work with, rather than what I produced at the end of it.
Have you had any cake fails so far?
Too many to count! The amount of cakes that I have never photographed is massive. Thankfully, less and less as the years go by.
What is your biggest business hope, dream or ambition?
I’d really like to retire at 45. Or 40. Or now.
What do you do when you’re not cake making and decorating?
I have two children so I mainly shout, put toys away, wash clothes, and drink gin.
And lastly, tell us a random fact about yourself?
Jason Donovan once touched my boob. And he loved it.