This time last year, I introduced you to Natalie Porter, a talented wedding cake designer and the founder of Immaculate Confections, responsible for the creation of the Rapid Rose and the Perfect Peony kits, which have made sugar flowers accessible to sugarcrafters all over the world.
This month saw talented innovator, artist and entrepreneur Natalie add yet another skill to her CV – published author – with the release of her first book, Book One: Sugar Flowers.
A colourful and easy-to-follow guide to creating beautiful, yet achievable sugar flowers, Natalie’s book features clear and easy, step-by-step instructions that will help you to create a whole host of sugar flowers, buds, berries and leaves and turn your cakes into works of art!
Regular readers (and viewers) will know that I have been very excitedly following Natalie’s journey to bring her first book to life (check out my video from April’s Cake International on Tour 2019 to see more), and it seemed only right that now it is here, we sat down with Natalie, and husband Chris, to find out how she got started in sugarcraft, discover what inspired her to create her range of products and learn how she was able to finally bring her vision to life in her new book.
Hello lovely Rob!
First let me congratulate you on the arrival of your book! I may have already snuck a peek at it back in April and it really is beautiful! You must be incredibly proud.
Thank you! I am… it was hard work and there were moments where I wasn’t convinced I could do it, but I did and it’s here and most importantly, people seem to like it!
I understand that your journey into the world of all-things-sugar began back in 2012, when you created your first wedding cake – your own. How did that come about?
Aye, that’s how this all started! Having always been creative I figured cakes should be doable too: it’s a kind of art, just with edible mediums! We also wanted something that at the time was a little unusual… a fair bit of practise and research later, I made us a cake version of Minas Tirith, a castle from Lord of the Rings. We do love a bit of sci-fi and fantasy!
How did that first foray into cake design set you on the path to becoming a highly sought-after wedding cake designer and regularly featured guest artist, both in print and at international sugarcraft shows and events?
Gosh, I’m not sure that has a simple answer! Even now I often have to pinch myself in disbelief that things have worked out the way they have! I would say the key is practice, patience and tenacity. Practice to get really good at what you do, patience to realise that it doesn’t happen over night and tenacity to keep going even when it feels like it’s not working and all you want to do is walk away.
I often bump into you at cake shows all over the UK and even further afield, but how do you fill your days when you aren’t on the road?
Working! I’m not very good at not working… so whether it’s planning the next class or project, making cakes or wading through endless seas of admin, I’m usually to be found working! On the rare occasions that I do stop, it’s usually for video games or board games that we like to play.
If I had spoken to you back in 2012, do you think you would ever have believed that only a mere seven years later you would be at this point in your career?
Not in a million years!! I was training as an accountant at the time which I didn’t like very much and as for many of us, cakes started as a side-gig. In my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have believed this is where it would lead!
Now, Book One: Sugar Flowers isn’t your first experience of bringing a new product to the market. I reviewed your Rapid Rose kit on Mr Baker’s Blog back in 2018 and achieved some fantastic results. How did you come up with the idea for such a fabulous product?
Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say! It was all about needing a quick and effective method to produce sugar flowers that were commercially viable and beautiful. The quicker or er… more rapidly, that you can do something the better placed you are to make a profit on your work.
This was of course followed by the Perfect Peony kit. Are there any plans to add more flowers to the ensemble?
Yes, very much so! There are plans and schemes in place which we hope will come to fruition before the end of the year!
It has been inspiring to watch your journey within the world of sugarcraft over the years that I have known you. What would you say has been the highlight of your journey so far?
I’ve been blessed to have had a number of great opportunities over the years… demonstrating at Cake International is always a brilliant experience and filming for Paul Bradford’s Cakeflix. Releasing the book and having people not only buy it, but also like it, has been amazing. That being said the best thing has to be having built a business that can support the pair of us and having Chris officially join me at the start of the year – exciting and terrifying in equal measure!
What would you say has been the most challenging project you have taken on in your career?
That blooming book, haha! It’s incredible how much self-doubt can creep in when it’s just you, your camera and computer working to put together a book that hopefully, will stick around and be used for years… You question everything you think you know, all the while worrying if you’ve included the correct techniques and projects, praying that folk will like it.
Being entirely self-published, it was all on me which was tough at times. Honestly, there is a small piece of my soul in each and every one!
This is probably a trickier question to answer, but what would you say has been your favourite cake creation you have ever made?
Oooh, that is a hard question! Probably one of the navy cakes, I love a navy cake. There was one with bright pink and orange flowers and golden drips.
It had secret eyeballs too. I think that one…
Now the book is here, are there any cake projects that have been languishing on your ‘wannado’ list that you would love to get to in 2019?
Ye gods, so many!! We’ve a plan for some videos, I’ve some class ideas knocking about and I am hopeful that there may even be time to compete again in November, I’ve missed doing that!
Having watched you demonstrate live a number of times, you seem to have become a bit of a flower making machine! Do you still have the occasional cake disaster like the rest of us?
Haha, yes! Flower making machine, I like that! There have been near misses… the worst involved a cup of coffee, a map of middle earth painted on a cake and me being a clumsy twit – you can imagine!!
What would be your top tip for when things are going wrong and emotions are running high?
Take a break. Walk away for a minute, have a cup of tea, something to eat, watch the tele… but walk away and calm down. Things never seem so bad once you’ve walked away and come back to it, and it’s amazing what new ideas or solutions can spring to mind having given your brain a little rest.
While we are on the subject of advice, what would be your top cake decorating tip for my readers?
Use colour as if it’s an art project, rather than a cake… be brave and don’t shy away from doing things differently… and practice! Practice does, with patience and tenacity, make perfect.
Now, I couldn’t help but notice that your book is called Book One: Sugar Flowers – does that mean that there will be a Book Two? And if so, what will it be about?
Ah you spotted that! Well, it started out with the intention of just the one, but then it turned out that I had a bit more to say than we expected. Book Two will be more sugar flowers… and there’s a plan formulating for the third too!
And books aside, do you have any other goals for the rest of this year?
Reclaiming a social life and finally finishing decorating our house! We have also been discussing additional cats or kittens, that would be nice 😊
Well, thank you so much for taking some time out of your crazy schedule to speak to Mr Baker’s Blog and I wish you the very best of luck with the book!
No, thank you!! xx
Now, those of you who have met Natalie at a cake show will know that wherever she goes, she is always supported by her friendly, helpful and top-hatted husband, Chris. I wouldn’t be giving you the full Immaculate Confections experience if I didn’t grab him for a quick chat too!
Now is your chance to give us the real inside scoop! 😉 How has it been living with Natalie as she worked on the book?
Traumatic! We moved house during the process which really didn’t help. It often meant being a late-night cheerleader (I’ve got the hair but don’t think anybody needs to see me in the outfit!), proof reader, therapist, the works. It’s a bit like being in mission control for a NASA mission; you can guide and advise, but ultimately you’re a million miles away.
I imagine that you are ridiculously proud of her though?
Of course! Natalie is driven, and tenacious, but regardless it’s still a monumental task that takes a lot of hard work. It’s been a difficult process to watch her go through, but I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out and the response it has received. She deserves it!
I know that the last few times that I have spent time with you and Natalie, the hot topic of conversation has been ‘imposter syndrome’ within the cake decorating industry. What is your take on it as a non-caker, who (let’s be fair) has been well-and-truly sucked into the world of cake?
Seeing as almost all of you are working on your own, it’s very easy to get lost in your own minds, and that’s why I think Imposter Syndrome is so rife, especially in a creative industry. Art is subjective so it’s easy to look at what you’ve done, compare it to other people’s work, and then berate yourself. You’re aware of all the mistakes that you’ve made along the way, you’re aware of how difficult you’ve found it, then you look at something someone else has made, and think that they didn’t have any of those problems. Every last one of you is fallible!
Now you’ve always come across as a thoroughly grounded chap, if you don’t mind me saying. If you could give all of us crazy cake people a bit of advice, what would it be?
Stop looking at each other as ‘Competition’. You’re comrades, you’re in the trenches together. You all the share the same anxieties, insecurities, fears, and problems. Lean on each other, help each other, advise each other. I understand that I sound like a hippy (and I am in truth) but working for yourself is hard enough as it is, don’t make it even harder by turning the guns on each other!
Thanks, Chris! I look forward to seeing you at the next show!
However, in some rather exciting news, Natalie has kindly agreed to offer the readers of Mr Baker’s Blog the chance to get their hands on a very special signed FREE copy! To enter, simply make sure you have subscribed to Mr Baker’s Blog using the sign up box in the sidebar on the right (or at the bottom of the page, if on mobile) and share the link to this interview on your favourite social media platform, letting me know which project you are most looking forward to getting stuck into: Pretty Pastels, Sunny Blues or Tropical Delight and making sure you tag both Mr Baker’s Cakes and Immaculate Confections of course. You can find me on Facebook here, Twitter here and Instagram here.
Once again, I must say a massive thank you to both Natalie and Chris for taking the time to sit down with me and I do hope you have enjoyed getting to know them a little better.