Meet the coolest Irish wedding cake makers in the business
We profile some of Ireland's hippest wedding cake bakers, and find out what trends they're tipping for 2018
When ultra cool East-London baker Claire Ptak was announced as the person who would be creating the cake for the highly anticipated wedding of Britain's Prince Harry and US actress Meghan Markle, it was clear that this would be a royal wedding to really twist the traditional.
It was also quite obvious too that the bride-to-be was taking the reigns for certain aspects of the day, having interviewed Jamie Oliver's "favourite cake maker" Claire for her lifestyle blog The Tig before she shut it down as rumours of an engagement ramped up.
Mother-of-one Claire, who is originally from California, also counts Darina Allen as a fan, in fact the ingredient-first baker was invited over to give a baking demo at the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine just two years ago where she whipped up her classic indulgences with a contemporary twist, including her famous kamut, vanilla and chocolate chip cookies that replace 'ordinary' flour with an ancient low-gluten wheat alternative and her rhubarb meringue roulade where she swaps out vanilla for a few handfuls of cherry blossom petals - when in season, of course.
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Claire Ptak may not be a household name, but she has influenced some of Ireland's brightest baking talent, including Dublin baker Caroline Goulding whose adoration she won for her food philosophies and ingredient-led style.
"Her cake flavour is outstanding and is often my go to cookbook if I want to correct or add a new dimension to a cake flavour," says Claire. "Like me, Claire makes everything from scratch, her own curds, buttercreams and obviously cake. I adore her!"
Claire Goulding is just one of the current crop of brilliant bakers who, like Ptak, are finding themselves in the demand of couples looking for a wedding sweet with a personal touch.
Meet the bakers who are putting their own twist on the traditional, and find out what trends their tipping for Irish weddings below...
Julie Reardon, The Flour Artist
After graduating with a BA in Culinary Arts, and developing the skills and passion for cake decorating during her time working for award-winning Dublin bakery Camerino, Julie Reardon started her full time cake business The Flour Artist in 2015. The Tipperary baker is based out of Glasnevin in Dublin, where her kitchen sits on the one acre organic vegetable farm Elmhurst Cottage ("yes, in Dublin!").
"Our ethos is to create organic, natural style buttercream wedding cakes, using primarily fresh flowers, fruits and dried edible flower petals in our finished designs," says Julie. "It's a really unique style, and suits the boho bride!"
Julie prides herself on using seasonal and locally sourced ingredients - including fruit and vegetables from Elmhurst - where possible. She is also proud of her use of Irish butter and free range, "cruelty-free" eggs in her creations.
When it comes to trends for 2018, 'brushstroke cakes' have Julie's eye.
"For me it has got to be brushstroke cakes," says Julie, "which means melting often coloured tempered chocolate onto a slip mat and creating a brushstroke effect almost like feathers. Once the chocolate has hardened, the shards are placed onto the cake! It's super cool! I also think geometric cakes - a huge trend last year - has gotten even bigger this year. This style of cake always works really well in a more industrial style venue like The Chocolate Factory in Dublin."
Suzanne Brady, Cove Cake Design
Suzanne Brady is a former scientist, with a PhD in Biochemistry followed by a career working for Cancer Research UK. Her passion for baking was born in 2008 after she became a full time mother, and now with two children in the family, her business Cove Cake Design continues to flourish.
"Being a mother as well as running a small business can present its challenges," says Suzanne.
"It is important to know your limits, stay focused and keep very organised. The flexibility offered and the pride in being a small entrepreneur does offset some of the daily juggles however!"
Cove Cake Design was founded in 2013 and Suzanne handles all aspects of the business herself - from the initial consultation with soon-to-be-wed couples to the washing up after!
Suzanne completed a Professional Masters Certificate in Cake Decorating, Royal Icing and Sugar Flower Techniques before establishing Cove Cake Designs - a nod to the area of Sandycove in Dublin where she calls home - in 2013.
"Each Cove Cake Design wedding cake is a bespoke centrepiece, finished to exacting standards and most importantly tasting delicious!" says Suzanne. "Our philosophy is to start with a beautiful cake, offering interesting flavour combinations made using only the finest of ingredients, finished and decorated in a signature contemporary and elegant style."
This year she sees herself getting plenty of orders in for beautiful buttercream wedding cake - influenced by the royal wedding - along with some more traditional requests. "For 2018 I am seeing a return to artistic detail such as sugar flowers. Geometric designs are still popular and with a royal wedding cake finished with buttercream and fresh flowers planned this year I am sure we will see many orders for similar designs!"
Caroline Goulding, The Wedding Cake Boutique
Caroline Goulding had a spent a decade as a science teacher when, while travelling the southern hemisphere, she felt the sudden urge to return to Ireland and enroll in a cookery course.
At home she signed up to Darina Allen's 12 week diploma course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and, graduating in 2008, began a new career as a pastry chef.
She moved to London, and worked in the presigious Clarkes of Kensignton before training with the UK's top cake designer Peggy Porschen. Returning to Ireland in 2013, Caroline set up The Wedding Cake Boutique before establishing Caroline Goulding Cake Design and designing a collection of occasion cakes in 2016.
"My philosophy for flavour is simple," says Caroline, "all my cakes are made to order, using high quality, seasonal, Irish ingredients.
"When I started out four years ago, I really wanted to bring something new and different to what a wedding cake should taste like. The wedding cake has had a poor reputation; of being a tasteless, over priced product for too long. It is the most expensive dessert you will probably ever buy, so it must be the best cake you’ve ever tasted!"
"There are two elements to the cake; flavour and design and both are equally important, yet separate from each other," she explained. "There are cake makers and there are cake designs. When I design a cake it is a collaboration, the couple have come to me, because they like my style. Each and every couple bring something new and exciting for me to work with."
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Jen Rojas, Cupcakes and Counting
Jen Rojas' business was born when her husband's home city of Tacloban in the Philippines was his by a super typhoon in 2013, and was reduced to debris. Their family survived, however with the city was in ruins, Filipino and Irish organisations moved to lend a helping hand. Jen and her husband decided to fundraise by selling cupcakes, and were able to send money earned over to the people who were displaced.
The fundraising ended, but the orders didn't stop coming in, and with that a business began.
Cupcakes and Counting is a part-time business for Jen and husband Jay, one they impressively juggle with their full-time jobs as nurses (Jen is a neuro/surgical nurse, Jay is a psychiatric nurse) and with being parents to two teenage daughters.
They run every aspect of the business by themselves, from fielding orders, to working closely with couples to create a unique and delicious sweet for the day. They then bake and deliver the cakes to weddings taking place nationwide.
Jen trained under world renowned cake artists Maggie Austin, Faye Cahill, and Lori Hutchinson, and holds a Knightsbridge PME Diploma in Sugar Flowers.
"I love decorating our wedding cakes with handmade, delicate sugar sculptures," says Jen. "I like recreating nature's blooms and turning them into edible art!"
When it comes to Irish wedding trends in 2018, Jen says although ultra violet might be the colour of the year, it won't have so much of an influence over dessert designs.
"I think metallic elements, especially rose gold, will continue to dominate this year's Irish wedding cake designs," she says.