What’s your baking specialism?
Although I’m a qualified baker and confectioner, I’m internationally recognised for my work with royal icing. It’s a passion of mine and a skill which I’m dedicated to promoting and making relevant for the next generation of cake decorators. There are two very different groups within the royal icing community: those who wish to keep traditional skills alive by taking inspiration from, or replicating, historical pieces of piping and then those who decorate with a contemporary twist, giving royal icing a new lease of life. I fall into the latter group as I believe that unless a skill is allowed to grow and develop with the ever-changing trends, it will become redundant.
How long have you been baking or in the food industry?
I graduated from bakery and confectionery college 39 years ago and, although my career has taken me in several different directions, I’ve always been a cake decorator and a cake artist at heart.
What do you love most about baking and decorating cakes?
I am attracted to the sheer alchemy of baking. I started life as a chef, where certain combinations of seasonings and flavours meant there would be variations possible for each recipe. Baking is a science and if you get the balance of ingredients or the temperature wrong, then you are going to fail, no matter how good you are. When time allows I like to experiment with traditional baking and confectionery recipes to generate new and exciting ones. Today, cake decoration is becoming recognised as an art form, and the creations appearing at shows and in magazines are breathtaking. I always say your only limitation is your imagination.
As a professional, what baking skill do you find the most challenging?
The most challenging type of baking for me is allergy baking. When I was trained years ago it was very rare for allergies to be considered within a recipe but now there’s a whole new generation of bakers and recipes creating incredible foods for those with dietary needs. I have a lot to learn.
If you could bake a cake alongside any famous person, alive or deceased, who would it be?
It would have to be Rosemary Shrager. I've had the privilege to work with Rosemary a few times over the years, when we have both been demonstrating at large cake and baking shows, but I've never once baked with her. Rosemary has an infectious personality and I'm sure laughter would become the main ingredient in anything we baked together.
What’s your favourite food?
Lasagna and salad. I also love combining unusual foods, so if I have curry I love fruit to be involved and if I have cheddar cheese, I like chocolate with it. Banana and peanut butter sandwiches are the ultimate comfort food for me. When I was a child I used to like cheese and jam sandwiches or, better still, mashed potato sandwiches!
When you bake at home, how do you like to work, what’s your style? With music, with family or maybe in complete silence?!
I like to bake on my own as I'm a tad controlling in the kitchen and I also like to work with music in the background. When I bake I go into my own little world, the house could burn down around me and I wouldn’t notice... If I've had a stressful week, I'll bake bread because bread-making is something that can't be rushed. The smells and feel of the developing dough are very calming and then the heavenly smell of baked bread is second only to that first warm slice smothered in butter.
How much cake do you eat each day, all in the name of ‘testing’ of course?!
Remarkably I'm not really a cake eater. I do like a nice piece of cake occasionally as a treat, but I have a savoury tooth rather than a sweet tooth.
Which one baking skill do you think every amateur cook should know?
Learn to make pastry. Once you can make a few variations of pastry the world of baking will open up for you. Next, tackle sponges.
What do you most like about teaching? Please provide any interesting stories about your teaching experiences…
I am very lucky to have been given a creative gift, that of teaching and practising cake artistry. The moment a student walks into a classroom, they may be feeling vulnerable, so I believe it’s my job as a teacher to help, support and nurture their passion and place them on the road to their own personal success. Seeing a student smile when they've achieved the class project is a huge pleasure and reward for me.
Anything else interesting to add?
I’ve been a student many times over and without a doubt there is always something you can take away from a class. Just be open to new techniques and ideas and then find your own way of working to create your unique art.
To browse and attend one of Ceri's forthcoming courses, click here.
- Next-level bakes with Makiko Searle
- Working with wafer paper
- Marble, Sparkle and Gold Leaf Wedding Cake
- Candy floss clouds and chocolate bunnies
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