Following on from my interviews with Rosie Cake-Diva and The BakeKing, I thought I would continue my Extreme Cake Makers series by introducing you to series regular, Molly Robbins. The glamorous face behind Molly’s Creative Cakes, Molly is well-known for her realistic animal cake sculptures and larger-than-life interactive cake displays – as well as being a regular tutor at Renshaw’s Academy.
With her adorable pin-up style, thanks to her ever-present Sunday Girl aprons, and her fresh honesty about the dramas that can befall a real working cake artist, Molly has become one of the undisputed breakout stars of the series, so I thought it was high time I sat her down for a chat…
Hi Molly, it’s great to see you again.
So, you’ve been back on our screens recently as part of Channel 4’s Extreme Cake Makers, where you’re wowing us all with your supersized cake projects, but this isn’t your first brush with fame is it?
It’s so weird. I don’t feel like it’s fame at all, but I come from quite a ‘showbiz’ family – my dad is an actor/comedian and most of my aunties, uncles and cousins are also in the industry.
I always said that I wouldn’t end up on television like the rest of them and would get a ‘proper job’, but here I am ha ha!
What has it been like being thrust so suddenly back into the public eye?
Overall, it’s been overwhelmingly positive and lovely. I have been absolutely inundated with messages of love and support, by both cake makers and not – and LOADS of kids. I think they like my cakes because they’re always very bold and colourful. I think I’m basically a massive 6 year old inside.
Inevitably, there has been a little bit of negative stuff too though, as I thought there would be. Unfortunately, I get a lot of unsolicited messages from gross blokes sending me photos of their private bits and there was also a small amount of negativity from a couple of bad seeds within the cake community.
It hurt at the time but, when you compare it to the sheer hundreds of thousands who love the show and what I do, then it really is a little drop of wee in a swimming pool (Is that a real phrase? It is now).
It’s definitely an interesting analogy! What advice would you give to someone who is experiencing something similar?
It’s pretty hard for me to give advice about dealing with negative stuff online, because I never follow it myself. Don’t read tweets about yourself, but I do. Don’t open message requests from strangers, but I do – and this is often when men’s bits will appear here, so at least don’t do it before lunch. Remember that the opinions of a TINY proportion of people does not reflect the masses – which is probably the one I find hardest.
The one piece of advice I definitely don’t follow is ‘don’t feed the trolls’. I always respond to them and will always defend myself – or my friends. I don’t believe that having a right to free speech means that you can just say whatever you like to whomever you like. We should all be kind to each other.
I think the more people get called out on bullying – both online and in person – the more it becomes unacceptable in society.
No one ever regrets being kind.
One thing I have often wondered is that many of your cakes on the show seem to be donations to charities or charity events. Is it hard finding clients that want the supersize cakes required for the show or do you actively seek out charities to support?
I think out of the 21 cakes I did for the current series, there were only three charity event cakes, so not too many. I do get absolutely inundated with charity requests and, much as I would like to help them all, it is hard trying to fit everyone in! A lot of the charities I work with, I have been doing so for a few years now.
The majority of my clients for ‘supersize’ cakes tend to be bigger companies or significant birthdays. Now I have done two series of the show, my profile is slightly higher and I am in a position where I actually have to turn down a lot of orders. Saying that, if a request comes in that I think would make a good story for the episode then I will try my best to fit it in.
As Rufus Hound regularly reminds us, you originally trained as a make-up artist, so what made you switch eye shadow for icing sugar?
I trained in special effects, rather than traditional beauty makeup, so it was an art-based degree. I specialised in body painting and prosthetics, which is where I learnt to use an airbrush and also did a lot of figurative sculpture. The cakes kind of came alongside whilst I was still studying and a lot of the skills were transferable.
I’m also quite an anxious person, so I find working on my own with a cake much less daunting than having a real-life human sat in front of me expecting to be made into a seven foot alien!
I know you have previously said that much of your work amounted to dusting gameshow contestants with powder. Do you think that you would still be doing that if you hadn’t discovered cake artistry or would you have moved on to something else?
[laughs] That was the trouble with having such a specialised qualification in a very over-subscribed industry. It would have been lovely to have worked on The Lord of the Rings but the reality is, unless you REALLY push yourself, the glamorous jobs don’t come. I’m quite passive in nature and secretly very introverted (people never believe that!), so I always ended up doing the rubbish jobs no one wanted!
I think, whatever I ended up doing, it would have been art based. I’m always making stuff even when I’m not working. For example. the other night, I drank half a bottle of wine on my own and made chameleons out of pipe cleaners (Yes fellas, I am single).
Now Extreme Cake Makers wasn’t your only TV project of 2017, was it? Last year also saw you make a few appearances on the BBC. What did you do for them?
Well, there was Blue Peter, also featuring you Rob! We made a display for Blue Peter at Cake International spring show, featuring all the most famous Blue Peter pets.
Alongside us, there was one of my cake-besties Kay Gajra; fellow Extreme Cake Maker, Ben Cullen; and the fabulous Robert Firth. I put together that group, not only for their amazing sculpted cake skills, but also to try and highlight the brilliant male talent in this industry. The episode was fabulous and I still get kids talking to me about it to this day.
I also filmed an episode of CBBC’s How to Be Epic @ Everything, which is a cool little tutorial-style show that teaches kids different skills. I made a massive dragon cake that was breathing fire!
So, what’s next in the world of Molly?
I am still making up to 10 cakes a week for my clients – they will always come first – and keeping one ear out for a third series of Extreme Cake Makers – fingers crossed!
Do you have any cake goals for 2018?
A series, a book, a product range… I never stop working on and thinking about what could be next. I’d like to get some of these into motion this year.
I’d also quite like a pet goat, but my mum says no. *sad face*
So, tell us a bit more about you. Just who is Molly Robbins?
[laughs] That’s a scary question!
I’m quite a normal 26-year-old girl, who is slightly eccentric, very close to my family and friends and always trying to make people smile – hopefully the cakes help me to do that.
Are there any giant skeletons in your closet that you’ve never revealed to anyone until now…?
Yes, I microwave my sugarpaste – I’m not even sorry!
(For those who don’t know, microwaving sugarpaste is one way to soften it up for easier kneading. It’s easy to overdo it though!)
Who would you say inspires your work?
Too many people in the cake world to name! But I’m constantly inspired by people who push the boundaries of cake, like Lara Mason, Liz Marek and Avalon Yarnes. I’m always inspired by things I see around me – particularly any animal! At the moment, I’m thinking about pandas a lot…
What would you say has been your biggest challenge in your cake career so far?
Probably the life-size Shetland pony I made for Extreme Cake Makers in series one. It was the first cake that I had to make a massive support frame for. My DIY skills are getting quite good now.
Also, the orangutan baby I made for Cake International in November. Sticking every one of those hairs in by hand? I must be mad.
What would be your top piece of advice for anyone who fancies getting into cake artistry?
Never stop. I still do small orders: the occasional cupcake; christening cakes; and wedding cakes for friends. I think it’s so important to keep challenging yourself and practising. I don’t think I would ever have improved if I had given up on the ‘bread and butter’ style cakes that earn my living, when I first had a sniff of success.
I’m also a big believer in ‘Say yes to anything and then work out the logistics later’.
Finally, what is your top cake decorating tip for the readers of Mr Baker’s Blog?
Try to master basic sculpting – even if you’re scared of carving cakes. If you can make a dog lying down, then you’ve basically got the technique for a cat, a cow, a lion, an elephant, etc.
Also, if you’re going on national television, with a viewing audience of millions, be sure to check that you haven’t got blue food colouring smeared across your ample forehead first.
Hilarious! Thanks for the chat, Molls!
Any time!!!! xxx
Molly Robbins is currently appearing on Channel 4’s Extreme Cake Makers, which airs daily at 5.30pm or catch it on Channel 4 +1 at 6.30pm.