Melanie Marley - the cake artist
PUBLISHED: 14:16 02 January 2014 | UPDATED: 14:18 02 January 2014
Her glorious creations can take up to 40 hours to make and decorate
Designer and creator of beautiful and imaginative cakes Melanie Marley – The Cake Artist – has been baking for over 20 years. Melanie has always been creative: “I just needed to find the right medium. It took a year for me to learn the skills required to bake and decorate cakes,” says Melanie. “I’m inspired by my mother, who was an amazing cake decorator herself, and having her on hand was invaluable.” Melanie became interested in cake decorating after starting a family. She discovered that, compared with her mother’s work and her ideas, the standard decoration was quite mediocre and rather ‘inside the box’.
This year, Melanie has been creating an average of four cakes per week during the high season. Due to the complexity of the design process Melanie keeps the numbers down, giving her more time to concentrate on design. “In 2012 I saw a growth of 70 per cent on 2011, which was amazing, and the growth this year has been in the region of 25 per cent. Again, that is good considering customers are more cautious about spending. The cake appears to be one of the first sacrifices when budgeting for a wedding,” says Melanie.
With Melanie’s cakes, the design element is key. “A basic cake would take in the region of 12 hours to make compared with a full-on design with sugar flowers, which can be 40 hours or more,” says Melanie. “A number of my designs are popular – Much Ado About Chintz, Burlesque and I Heart You, for instance – but the winner without a doubt is Wedding Night, which has been reproduced in many different colour themes.”
The most unusual request Melanie has been asked to create was a wedding cake in the image of a container ship. Clients generally choose from five popular flavours, and sometimes a twist is introduced. “For instance my chocolate cake, which is amazing as it is, can be enhanced with added flavours such as mint, ginger or Amaretto.
“If I had to choose my favourite cake, it would be the traditional rich fruit cake. Not only because it originated from my mother but also for the continued surprise and accolade from clients who rave about its flavour. Many ‘fruit cake-haters’ have been converted once they have tasted a fruit cake of true quality.”
Melanie re-launched the business after relocating to West Sussex from London five years ago. Although many of her clients are still London-based, the company is seeing rapid growth locally, and she will soon outgrow her studio, which is part of the family home.
Things haven’t always gone so smoothly, though. One of Melanie’s funniest moments was creating a cake for her football-mad brother-in-law. “I decided to make him an actual football-shaped cake. His birthday being mid-August and it being a hot summer, I put the finished cake in the fridge so the buttercream would hold its shape until the required time,” says Melanie. “Deciding to make a cuppa, I opened the fridge for the milk only to hear a sudden cry of “ball!” from my two-year-old son. I looked down to see the cake in my son’s hands as he prepared to kick the ‘ball’ across the kitchen. A shrill scream pierced the air, from me, and the cake was dropped from the hands of a shocked little boy. Fortunately football is not my brother-in-law’s only sporting interest and the cake morphed into a rugby ball!”
Melanie’s cakes are unique. All of her creations are currently made and designed fresh to order and can’t be bought ‘off the shelf’. She loves to meet clients personally, but you may need to book early to avoid disappointment. During the popular wedding season Melanie is generally booked up 12 months in advance and even has a confirmed booking for 2017!