No one will forget 2016 in a hurry. From natural to man-made wars and disasters and unprecedented changes in our cultural and political landscapes some events have been shocking and surprising in equal measure. In fact, I almost gave up on 2016 when PRINCE died. His music was literarily the soundtrack of my life.
It is easy in the face of constant bad and unsettling news to lose hope. Being a firm believer of positive thinking and more importantly positive acts and actions, to paraphrase Her Majesty the Queen, we may not have the power to make huge changes to the world, but individually, we can all so small things with great love. For this we need a great deal of passion, projects we believe in and people (good and also bad).
1. The Launch of my long awaited book OPULENCIA was probably the single most important thing I did this year. I have been lucky to have my cakes published and even make the front cover of magazines for many years but nothing beats seeing your own book in print.
The decision to self-publish was not an easy one and it took a lot of courage, time, energy and money to bring my vision to pass. It was hard wearing many hats and juggling the roles of writer, copy editor, publisher, designer, stylist etc. However, the level of success of OPULENCIA completely caught me by surprise. It not only reached the Amazon top 20 in the cake decorating and baking books categories, it won awards at the Paris Book Festival, the New England Book Festival and the London Book Festival. We also got really positive reviews, features and mentions in cake magazines, on baking blogs and in the mainstream press.
OPULENCIA was also shortlisted (we made the final four!!) out of 65,000 entries for a prestigious #cakeoscar at the world renowned Cake Masters Awards awards ceremony in Birmingham. Being the only self-published book with no big publishing name behind it and no marketing budget, to be validated and honoured in this way was simply beyond my wildest dreams.
2. Travel – This was the year of travel for me. Now in the past, our cakes have been sent to different parts of the world and I get a little jealous as they receive better treatment than me (private jets, refrigerated trucks, limousines and special packaging). However, 2016 decided it was time for me to spread my wings a little.
It all kicked off in January when we were chosen by Quintessentially to work on an exclusive wedding at The Shangri-La in Paris (road trip!!). Working in a two Michelin star kitchen with some of the best chefs in the world was incredible. The staff were soooo supportive and it remains one of my best culinary experiences so far. Our incredibly huge cake and lush cake table was so well received the General Manager of the Hotel Stefan Bollhalder had this to say “I have to congratulate you on the design and quality of cake you made, just outstanding” Need I say more?
Come February, it was back in France again, this time Marseille, where I was invited as an ambassador of Massa Ticino by Carma (the BEST sugarpaste in the world) to judge the French Cake Championships at Expogato. Organised by the very talented Sarah Gough, it was an honour to not only help choose a winner but I had the opportunity to teach and demo a number of cake decorating techniques.
Other countries I visited in the course of my cake adventures include Singapore (the cleanest, most pristine city ever), Prague (the most beautiful architecture that rivals even Paris), Czech Republic (beautiful food and people), Slovakia (the nicest hotel experience), Switzerland (my most favourite city and hands down purveyors of the best chocolate. I’m coming back for you Confiseri Sprungli and Laderach) and New Orleans (I met my SHERO, the incredibly talented and arguably the best street jazz musician Doreen Ketchens @DoreensJazzNewOrleans).
I feel so honoured to be able to share my work and art with so many people and massive thanks to everyone who showed up and bought a copy of OPULENCIA.
1. Teaching – For years, I kept getting requests from potential students all over the world to teach. However, I didn’t want to me a ‘me too’ teacher. There are lots of YouTube videos for that. What I wanted to teach was something that I see so may cake businesses struggling with, so I teamed up with Shikhita Singh of Fair Cake and we came up with the course “How to Sell Your Cakes” The class has been a rip-roaring success, attracting students from all over the world. Thank you for all your kind comments and we have more success building content in store for you next year.
2. Collaborations – I’ve been incredibly blessed to collaborate with the best names in the business this year. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love networking and lending a helping hand and collaborations can be a result. They are an opportunity to come up with unique and new ideas and flex a little creative muscle. They can also push new trends, they encourage personalisation, and of course provide the most stunning images for one’s portfolio. This year, a few of the names we collaborated with includes Amie Bone Flowers for their 10th year anniversary bash at The Shard, Suzanne Neville’s ‘The Portrait Collection’ at the Tower of London, Gordon Ramsay Weddings and Zita Elze at Brides the Show.
Some of the collaborations led to features in magazines and blogs including Brides Magazine, Strictly Weddings, The MayFair Times, Rock My Wedding, Perfect Weddings, You and Your Weddings, Grace Ormonde, in a Sony Columbia Film and on Channel4!
A special mention also goes to Kitchen Aid who not only gave me not one, not two but THREE lush Kitchen Aid mixers in our rich OPULENCIA purple to promote my book. I can’t believe a very cool brand like that would not only partner with us but also take part in our giveaway and extend a warm welcome to Elizabeth’s Cake Emporium. Just amazing.
Thank you also to WATERSTONES especially Hyebin Lee who not only hosted my book signing but made the decision for the store to stock OPULENCIA. It was very emotional for me to see my book on the shelves alongside my cake heroes such as Nigella, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.
3. Speaking engagements – for some reason, I am considered to be a coach, mentor and self-help insta guru. Heaven knows I can do with all three myself! I was very honoured to be asked to speak at a number of events including one at JP Morgan where I met the founder of Aduna Andrew (not James) Hunt who is crazy about Baobab (Bao what you might say, please look it up) and wants to change the world. A fabulous example of someone doing seemingly small things with great love and getting big results.
4. Cakes – my true love and reason for Elizabeth’s Cake Emporium. Now I’m not just saying this but we made some really beautiful cakes this year and the proof of this was being nominated and SHORTLISTED out of thousands of entries worldwide, for yet another Cake Masters award for the category of Best Wedding Cake Designer.
To create the incredible cakes take a lot of thought, time and work and of course lovely people who not only choose to work with us but also trust us to create something truly special. This year we created some sky high fairy tale castles, secret garden confections, dramatic edible gold baroques and white ethereal beauties. The diversity of our cake designs and range may be why we keep attracting some of the best clients and venues in the world. For me, to borrow the words of Meghan Trainor, ‘it’s all about the cake, no gimmicks’
This bit is going to read like the #cakeoscar speech I didn’t get to make, so please indulge me. 2016 would not have been what it was for me if not for the incredible team around me. Many thanks to Mr Massa himself, Fabian who has been a true believer and supporter. Thanks also to the clients, planners and venues for the wonderful opportunities to create some art and magic.
I would also like to thank Nek Vardikos for his incredible images, occasional styling and for being an all-around good egg. Thank you also to Kim, Charlie and Catherine for their incredible support and advice. Thanks also to my family for everything. I am also thankful to my heavenly Father who makes all things possible. Thank you, Lord, for a wonderful 2016 and here’s to an incredible 2017!