Each month we like to get to know a supplier even better and bring you snippets you won't know about them from their page. This month, our supplier of the month is Hannah of Hannah Culley's Cakes, a wedding cake designer based in Royal Wootton Bassett who will take gorgeous cake anywhere in the South West. Here's what Hannah had to say when we quizzed her...
Who runs Hannah Culley's Cakes and how did you start out in business?
Just me, but with a little bit of help from my Mum who will help with wedding cake deliveries mainly being the driver and holding bits for me,but I am the sole owner of my business! My twin nieces were born back in 2008 and in their early years I was challenged with making their Birthday cake every year. Having baked a few cakes and enjoyed it, it was their 4th Birthday cake that really started my ‘flare’ for cake making and designing. It was a cake themed around The Gruffalo, I spent so many hours and days creating it and a long time was spent on Google to follow tutorials and pictures. With a little help from my fellow cake friend Diane of Supercakes I finished it for their party and from then started my fondant and figurine cakes that was back in 2012! I was doing my GCSE's at the time so it was more of a hobby… From then I had lots of messages from friends of my sister as well as family members and I made a few more fondant celebration cakes, and then in 2014 I had my first enquiry from someone that wasn’t a family member or friend after I posted images on Facebook of my recent work. That person asked if I had a Facebook page dedicated to my cakes and I didn’t at the time so that was when ‘Hannah Culley’s Cakes’ was created! Facebook was and still is a huge platform for my business; it grew and grew with likes, comments and shares as well as orders from the general public. I had just finished my A Levels, one of which was in Business Studies, I achieved an A and for those whole 2 years I absolutely loved learning about the business world. After finishing Sixth Form I decided to take a year out before going to University so in 2015 I opened up as a ‘proper’ business and I have flourished since whilst also obtaining my Consumer Behaviour and Marketing degree at the University of Reading. So I definitely have my nieces to thank for my cake baking, as well as that one lady who recommended I start a Facebook page!
What is your greatest fear when you are working on a wedding?
That when I leave the venue after I’ve set up and placed the cake in prime position looking perfect it gets knocked over or collapses. I have nightmares about it, my cakes are fully supported and it’s never happened but sometimes I get wary of other people, especially little ones running round! Last year when setting up the beautiful naked cake for Sarah & Joe in Stanton St Quintin I drove away from the marquee and about 15 minutes in to my journey home I turned around and went back to check on the cake!! It was a very hot bank holiday Saturday and I just wanted to make sure it was okay, of course it was but I was so paranoid so if I have to make trips back to check on it then that’s okay with me, gives me a certain piece of mind…
What is your greatest extravagance that helps you get through the day?
Oh gosh I really don’t know, a lot of my ‘extravagances’ are at home and help me bake and create the cake and the things that come out with me to set up are very simple… palette knife, latex gloves, my glue and glitter!
What is the best theme you have seen at a wedding?
It has got to be the Steampunk themed wedding I did last July, one word: WOW! It was a wedding that Natalie (Whitewed's founder) was working on actually, that’s when I first heard properly about Love to Plan / Whitewed. When the bride and groom first enquired about their cake and told me what their theme was, along with sending me pictures of ideas, I had never ever heard of Steampunk! I was completely amazed of the uniqueness of it and Gary and Gemma were so so helpful and lovely to work with, they helped ‘teach’ me about Steampunk in every way they could. Their cake will always be one of my favourites. It was just do different to anything I had seen before, completely bespoke to them, beautiful and just SO cool! I knew their cake was going to be a challenge but I believe I pulled it off; I was incredibly pleased with the result and the reaction I received when I posted it on social media was amazing, the review also from Gary and Gemma nearly brought a tear to my eye! They are an amazing couple and I will remember their wedding cake always!
What is the hardest thing a couple has ever asked you to do for their day?
Honestly, I don’t think there is anything that has been really hard, the Steampunk cake was definitely a challenge, also a wedding cake I delivered to The Swan Hotel in Bibury was a challenge - it was covered in 100s and 1000s and the roads were SO twisty and bumpy. A lot of time when my couples think logistics will be tricky ,it isn’t such. For example, delivering a cake just after their ceremony and before their wedding breakfast, yes it requires time precision however it actually works out better for me as the cake doesn’t have to sit there all day. Nothing is too much to ask to me, challenging yes but nothing has been prominently difficult.
Where is your favourite setting for a wedding?
This is a tough one because I’ve seen so many different types of venues that I love because of the way the bride and groom have decorated them… hotels, barns, village halls and more. I think my favourite setting has got to be a barn… Kingscote Barn in Tetbury is beautiful; I love it because of the surrounding land, so peaceful and green! Although one of my new favourites is the De Vere Cotswold Water Park Hotel, a beautiful setting on the water in a lovely location.
When was the last time you laughed out loud at a wedding? What happened?
I’m only there before all the fun starts, as I set up when the room is empty and before the couple and their guests have even had a glimpse of the room and all the beauty in it. I guess I laughed at one of my weddings back in April but a laugh that was a ‘haha brilliant I love it’ laugh not because someone fell over or anything! It was the lovely Charlotte & Matt’s wedding, Matt is a farmer, and as I was leaving Kingscote Barn after setting up their cake they were out in the surrounding fields having photographs taken. In their gorgeous dress and suit combination they had wellies on and were on a big blue tractor in front of their photographer! It was one of those moments I just smiled and laughed because it was just so personal to them but funny to see them in their beautiful wedding outfits but with big wellies on! I waved at them as I left as they were sat on the huge tractor tyre!
What is the most embarrassing thing you have seen at a wedding?
I do remember delivering a cake the morning of the wedding, and as I walked into the room with the cake a few of the waitresses were trying to wake up a guest that had slept under a table from the wedding the previous day! I was there a good 30 minutes setting up the cake and he just wouldn’t wake up to the point I think they thought it was quite serious. Just as I left the person awoke and shouted as he was very confused as to where he was! Luckily he was fine; think he just had a few too many beers!!! Everyone did have a little chuckle to themselves…
What is the one thing you can’t live without in your job?
My KitchenAid! The most money I’ve spent on one item but an absolute godsend, when I started out baking I used to bake using a hand mixer so baking a three tier wedding cake took a very long time! I would not be without it and it’s worth every single penny…
What question do you wish every couple would ask you when you are meeting with them for the first time?
I think one question would be “What is your most popular flavour for a wedding cake?” or “have you got any different ideas on how we could make our cake more bespoke?”
Who do you draw inspiration from for your work?
Instagram is probably my favourite platform for inspiration, I follow some absolutely incredible bakers, their cakes are so beautiful and I love to look on my Instagram feed for some true inspiration. A lot of people like Pinterest, I do however think it’s so saturated with cakes that my creative juices go into overdrive with how many there are! Styles and designs are diversifying by the minute so I think it’s great when my couples are so creative and can give me their own ideas. I think they also love it too when they see their vision come to life on their big day. A lot of the time I’m just given a colour scheme, maybe a theme and some specific factors they’d like to incorporate into the cake and that’s it, I’m free to create and draw any designs as long as they incorporate the above. Couples can then choose what they would like out of those designs.
What moment are you most proud of in your profession?
I don’t know if I could pinpoint a specific moment as I’ve had a lot of amazing reactions after couples see their wedding cake, I remember getting a message from the groom of the Steampunk cake mid-wedding asking if I was nearby and could come and give out business cards as people loved it so much!! I’m very proud that I’ve run my business through University and all on my own, with of course help from family and friends but I’ve created some pretty special cakes by myself in my home kitchen… it’s a big achievement to me that I’ve done it since I was a teenager.
What would people be surprised to learn about you and / or your work?
A lot of people are very surprised that I’m only 23 (just!) and have been running my business since I was 19/20. I think also they’re surprised to know that I was at University full-time for the past 3 years too, so many people would go to me “Oh my gosh, how on earth can you juggle both” but it worked out well, I’ve now got my degree and did all my cakes so it can be done! My work is all self-taught which I think is common now for creators like me, cake making used to be very much a taught thing that you could go on courses for and get qualifications from college. With the internet now and platforms such as YouTube you can learn everything from the comfort of your own home.
For more information about Hannah check out her page Hannah Culley's Cakes over on our directory.