Brighton baker Donna Ayto sets up cake shop in Brighton... having never made a cake!
PUBLISHED: 15:26 11 August 2014 | UPDATED: 15:26 11 August 2014
Brighton baker Donna Ayto had never made a cake, let alone decorated one, when she chose to set up shop
In a sunny conservatory in suburban Brighton, Donna Ayto creates fantastic cakes of all shapes and sizes.
“I started the business in early 2013,” says Donna, “I don’t really know how I came to love all things cake because I studied interior design when my three children were young but never pursued it as a career. I was a hairdresser for many years which enabled me to earn a living while raising my children, but as my children grew up I found myself with more time on my hands and felt it was time for a career change. I literally woke up one morning and thought “That’s it, I’ll be a cake designer.” To this day I don’t know where it came from, as at that point I had never even baked a cake let alone decorated one. I can’t say like most cake designers that I loved it from a child and that my grandmother taught me all I know. It was just a thought that popped in to my head and I ran with it!”
Donna enrolled on a short course, which taught the basics and the rest was completely self-taught. “Obviously for a long time I was making cakes for family and friends before going into business, it’s been a long journey but one I’ve loved. I take inspiration from all kinds of people and things and get a real kick when clients say that they want something a little different from the norm. I didn’t know I could be so passionate about my work, it’s fantastic and I love it,” explains Donna.
The past year has been a whirlwind for Donna: “I’ve made nearly 200 cakes which, for my first year of trading, is amazing. Although I don’t employ any staff I do have a great circle of friends who step in to help with some sugar work when I get really busy.”
There are a selection of classic favourites which people request most often for Donna to make, which are lemon, chocolate, vanilla and carrot. “These days anything goes, white chocolate, raspberry and coconut seem quite popular these days as well. All my ingredients are fresh and where possible are bought locally, I never use artificial flavorings only natural ingredients. I don’t bake every day because every cake is cooked fresh for each client, because of the bespoke nature of each cake I don’t overload myself with orders, I like to know that I can give 100 per cent to every order making sure all the details are perfect,” explains Donna. “No cake is easy to make, however much I enjoy it, it takes patience and many many hours. Some cakes have taken in excess of 50 hours to make just the flowers to go on the cake. It’s a labour of love and you can’t knock up a cake in two hours.”
Donna loves making wedding cakes: “I think this goes back to my own wedding 22 years ago, my wedding cake was a true horror! I understand how important the cake is at any wedding, after all you’ll have photos for the rest of your life,” explains Donna. “I love to feel that I have contributed in some way to make the couple’s day a special one. I don’t have a particular favorite, although I love the pretty cakes and ones that stand out from the others... something really different!”
Donna’s largest order to date was for 600 people, “for a local company celebrating their 100th year anniversary and it was huge. However the most difficult part of being a cake designer is the delivery,” says Donna.
Last year Donna was shortlisted for the Hitched Breakthrough Awards and this year she has won the Scoot headline award for Best New Business, “I’m not sure if I’ve won gold, bronze or silver yet, I’ll find out soon. Winning these awards has given me the confidence to move the business forward, I have high hopes for the future, I have recently started teaching classes which is going really well, I’m hoping in the near future to open a studio where I can teach, hold consultations as well as carry on making cakes. Ultimately I would love my own shop, maybe in The Lanes in Brighton.”
The Brighton Cake Company; 07954 440092; www.brightoncakecompany.co.uk
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