What do you get if you cross a trained architect, a helicopter pilot, a multi award-winning cake-making genius and a much-sought-after television presenter?
Well if you answered anything other than Rosie Dummer, then I have to ask: where have you been? The chances are, if you haven’t heard Rosie’s name before, then you will at least know her by her caking alter-ego, Rosie Cake Diva.
A staple at many of the country’s cake, baking and food festivals, she is probably as well known for her inimitable presenting as she is her show-stopping cakes. In fact, with a 2017 presenting roster that included both of the Cake International spring shows, the Bolton Food Festival, the London and Manchester Cake & Bake Shows, the Kirkcudbright Food Festival, Eat Drink Fest, Cake International: The World’s Largest Cake Show, The Cake Masters Magazine Awards, a weekly cake and bake show on The Craft Channel and, of course, her own show on BBC Radio Lancashire, it might be fair to say that in some circles, people forget that first and foremost, Rosie is one of the brightest stars of the UK cake industry.
Thankfully her return to the latest series of Channel 4’s Extreme Cake Makers will soon put pay to that and I thought it was time for the rest of the world to meet the lady behind the microphone…
Ok, before we start, I have to ask: Where did the name, The Cake Diva come from?
Oh my goodness, it wasn’t because I was an actual diva, I promise you. It was more because I was a perfectionist. I would keep working on a piece until I was happy with it. In that respect, I guess there are a lot of Cake-Divas out there!
Yeah, I can relate to that! With that in mind, do you ever go ‘full diva’? What would it take for her to emerge?
Yes yes yes. I have TOTALLY gone full Diva. I have grown into the title! But only recently if I’m honest. Sometimes muggles don’t get it. They don’t get how delicate cake is, how much time and hard work go into a piece and how easy it is to destroy all that.
When people get cocky about moving cake, knocking it and touching it (yes, some members of the public don’t think twice about touching it), I have been known to go full-Diva. I have learned with time that sometimes you have to get quite blunt with people.
So yes, occasionally the Diva has shown her face. Damage my cake… or anyone else’s and you might get a rare glimpse! 😉
Now 2017 was a big year for you, not only with all your presenting work, but also with your amazing Big Ben installation, your fabulously inspiring cake celebrating women’s suffrage, your insane life-size cake statue of Union J member JJ Hamblett and of course your stupendous (Yes, I’m running out of adjectives) flying balloon and helicopters for the 60th Anniversary of the Army Air Corps. What were your personal highlights of the year?
For me, the Army Air Corps job was very personal. To see my former colleagues – some of them after 20 years – was quite emotional and for them to share in my current career was a lovely twist.
The Pankhurst cake was also very special. After all the things that I have achieved in my life, it was very poignant to be honouring the suffragette movement and it was quite emotional to be working so close to the story. I don’t mind telling you my eyes got a little watery when meeting Helen Pankhurst. I love how cake has put us at the centre of some fascinating stories.
And you’re back on our screens this month as part of Channel 4’s Extreme Cake Makers, where, once again, you’re wowing us all with your enormous cake projects. How does it feel to be back firmly in the public eye? Does it make you nervous to put your head up above the parapet, so to speak?
It’s soooooo intrusive to have cameras on you all the time and it really slows the whole cake-making process down too. But it is nice to allow people to see what goes into our work.
There is definitely an element of putting your head above the parapet but I have always been a warts-and-all caker on social media, so I like people seeing the full story. We all struggle with too little time, problems we have to overcome, things that go wrong and delivery disasters. We always moan about how customers don’t understand that, so this is our opportunity to show what really goes into our work.
The Army Air Corps Balloon cake was probably the closest I ever came to losing a cake en route. Despite all the work, the planning and preparations, it was nearly all over before we even got there. And that’s reality. That’s why we are so nervous of travelling with cake and it’s good for people to see how hard it can be.
Preach sister! So, what has the reaction been of people you meet?
Well, isn’t that the lovely thing about working with cake? You are often providing the centrepiece – the talking point – and that makes you the focus of an event where you meet a whole range of new people. Being fortunate enough to work at such big events as Cake International and the Cake and Bake Show, I literally get to meet thousands of people and it’s wonderful to see their reactions. Making the King Bulldog cake ‘Big Ben’ for the Cake and Bake Show was a wonderful chance to meet people and show off what we can do in sugar. Yeah… let’s face it; WE’RE ALL JUST SHOWING OFF!
I think it’s fair to say that you’re fairly well known now for your larger than life cakes. What is it about giant cakes (and their associated challenges) that keeps you coming back for more?
I actually do all sorts, from little figure toppers in my Craftsy Class, right through to Wedding Cakes – I won Cake Masters Magazine’s Wedding Cake of the Year Award in 2012 – but I think that, as there are not many people who have made life-sized cakes, that’s what people focus on.
Realism is often something that catches people’s eye, so, whether it’s a basket of flowers, a handbag or a Grenadier Guard, part of the wow factor is that it looks real. I guess that’s where some of the larger ideas have come from. And hey… let’s face it… no matter what they say – to some people, size does matter 😉
You’re also part of the team behind CakeBomb. Can you tell us more about CakeBomb and how it came about?
CakeBomb started as a collaboration of 16 artists at the Cake and Bake Show a number of years ago. Subsequently, corporate clients realised that cake could be used as part of their promotional campaigns and have commissioned dozens of showstopper cakes, which CakeBomb fields out to suitable cake artists nationwide. It’s great to be part of a team that supports other artists and enhances the opportunities out there for talented cake makers.
And dare I ask what is next for Rosie Cake Diva?
2018 will be another year of juggling cake shows, YouTube and, somewhere in there, I will be teaching in Australia. I’m doing much more of the presenting, which is a treat for me, as it often means meeting and working with amazing artists.
Ok, so tell us a bit more about you. Who is the person behind the public face?
Although I trained as an Architect, I ended up as an anti-tank helicopter pilot in the British Army – a far cry from cakes, I know.
My career took me all over the world and cakes weren’t even on the horizon when I married and had 4 kids. My army career sparked a side-line of public speaking, which is probably where the radio and presenting work started too. My husband thinks it’s hilarious that I get paid to talk. He’d happily pay for me not to talk! 😉
When did your love of cake artistry and sugarcraft begin and who inspires you now?
After having 4 kids and dozens of birthday cakes later, it seemed that cake was going to be more than just a hobby to me. Debbie Brown was my first idol and I was always looking for an excuse to try out the next cake. The big shift for me was when so many people were asking for cakes and I had to set up officially as a business.
What has been the most challenging project you have taken on, so far?
Every cake provides a different challenge, as I purposefully avoid making the same cake twice, but structure usually provides the biggest challenge. I guess I will always think that Gus, the Grenadier Guard was the most challenging project, as I was attempting my first life-sized cake with absolutely no experience of structure and a very short time frame.
I did have a fabulous team on board, but the design, frame and planning was all down to me and I was really doing it all from scratch. I may have made more complicated cakes since then, but that was the project where I really earned my spurs and am so proud of what we achieved. I do miss Gus.
What would be your top piece of advice for anyone who fancies getting into cake artistry – particularly those who have designs on emulating your giant confections?
I would say experience and planning are key for a making a supersized cake. I start with transport. How do I move it? How do I get it through the door? How do I stabilise it? Work backwards from there. And do not underestimate how long it takes to make something large. Everything from ingredients to structure to transportation. It all adds up.
Finally, what is your top cake decorating tip for the readers of Mr Baker’s Blog?
I often tell beginners that my biggest tip revolves around consistency of ingredients. Mainly because I realise that, in the beginning, that’s where I would go wrong. Consistency of buttercream, ganache, icing – all of it. You make it really hard for yourself, if you haven’t got nice products to work with.
Once you know what a good ingredient is, you are better placed to make great cakes. I have spent too many hours working with icing that has elephant skin or buttercream that’s too sloppy to pipe, so I put great importance on getting the basics right. The rest will follow.
Thank you Rosie!
Rosie Cake Diva 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.