An Interview with Paul BradfordPosted 11/02/2014 by Rebecca Cannon
Paul Bradford is one of the UK’s most prestigious cake designers and behind the Paul Bradford Sugarcraft School. Paul has made cakes for many celebrities and now runs his own sugarcraft school and online cake decorating tutorial business – here’s what Paul had to say….
When was the Paul Bradford Sugarcraft School established and what prompted you start your own business?
I started in business in 2002 at just 23. I spent almost every Saturday learning cake decorating with my gran from a young age and after leaving school went off to college to study bakery. After a short spell with a cake design company I knew that I wanted to do cakes my way so started out on my own. With David’s help we grew the business quickly and within 4 years had 7 outlets, 35 staff and a turnover in excess of £1m.
What type of cakes do you make and do you have a signature style?
My signature style is the Chocolate Wrap design and would say that to generalise my style its to achieve the WOW factor in a short a space of time thereby making the cakes commercially viable.
What do you like best about your job?
I just love meeting people and teaching them to create something that they never felt possible. There have also been a few of our online viewers who have shared some very personal stories saying that my tutorials had helped them through a particularly bad time, which is very rewarding to hear. When the business was very busy I didn’t enjoy things so much which is why we decided to split the business into smaller entities and sold off everything apart from the teaching part. It makes such a difference doing something you love.
What’s the most challenging cake you’ve ever had to make?
When I was teaching in Monaco to over 100 Italian Cuisine students I was told that I had to make a cake for Prince Albert there and then. With very little preparation and a language barrier I managed to pull through, but being driven from the classroom to the Palace is a journey I will never forget. Everything you hear about Italian drivers is true! Alas, I just missed meeting Prince Albert by 5 minutes, but was given a very special tour of the inside of the Palace and saw places that the public just don’t get to see, all because of a cake!
Have you had any cake disasters?
The worst one was when our delivery driver phoned to say that he had come off the road and 5 wedding cakes had been badly damaged just a few hours before the weddings. It was like a scene from ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ where all designers were called into the bakery on a Saturday morning, dummies prepared, cakes iced and we still don’t know how, but all brides got their cakes on time and were no the wiser to the drama that had unfolded.
What valuable lessons have you learned whilst running your cake business?
Without a doubt number 1 is – Get your prices right! We were winning awards, very busy and to the outside world looking in we were hugely successful, however we weren’t profitable. We ended up putting our prices up by 35% and much to our surprise only lost 10% of our customers, but within 6 months customer numbers were as before and we were making 35% more per order.
Who do you admire in the baking world?
There are lots of great designers out there, but I will go with the old school and say that Eddie Spence MBE and Debbie Brown have been the ones that I admire most and inspired me when I was younger and I am now lucky enough to be able to call them friends.
What’s been the highlight of your cake decorating career so far?
Having the honour to makes cakes for the Queen. 5 years in a row I had orders to make these cakes for the Queen’s annual visit to Balmoral, there’s lots I would love to say, but can’t and it was one of the huge disappointments in selling the cake business that I had to let these orders go.
Where can we find out more about you and your business?
CakeBaker would like to thank Paul Bradford for agreeing to this interview.