Karen Davies is a highly respected UK cake designer, author and qualified teacher who has a world-wide reputation for her distinctive style. Karen has over 30 years of experience at the forefront of the UK sugarcraft industry and leads the way in innovative designs and simple and easy techniques. Here we ask her how she started cake decorating? What are her must have tools? What are her favourite cakes? And her plans for the future.
When and how did you get into the cake decorating business?
The first time I ever thought about cake decorating was when I ordered a birthday cake for my Mum and it was awful! I have always been creative and so decided to make her cake myself – I really enjoyed it. I decided to attend classes to learn new skills and build my confidence. Apart from making cakes for my family, the first paid cake order I received was from my Dad’s friend. It was a royal iced anniversary cake, with sugar roses and piped lace pieces. I was quite nervous decorating it, but so satisfied when everyone liked it!
How would you describe your decorating style?
I feel that my style predominately shows in my figure modelling. I enjoy creating cute characters that are easy for anyone to achieve. I think my style is very simple, pretty and modern. I like soft colours and delicate styles. My favourite cakes to make are tiered wedding cakes.
Do you have a cake that you are you most proud of?
To date, I think both of my daughter’s wedding cakes. Amy’s had lots of sugar flowers and I created our beautiful Amy Lace mould for it. Alice’s was slightly more stressful as Alice can make stunning cakes herself and I wanted to surprise her which is quite difficult when we work together! I based the design on her wedding dress as it had lots of beading and detail on it. I also had to make lots of succulents and gypsophila which would of been made easier now that we have our Succulent and Wild Meadow moulds!
Do you still have the time to decorate cakes yourself? And do you still enjoy it?
Pretty much all of the cakes I make these days are to showcase our moulds and to take to shows. Sometimes I have a ‘dry spell’ where I really struggle to feel inspired and it shows! I’m constantly looking for inspiration and it doesn’t take too long until I feel excited about making something new again. It is lovely to be able to decorate a cake for family or friends but the only two people lucky enough to get one are usually my two grandsons!
When and why did you start teaching? What do you like about that?
Marion Frost from Patchwork Cutters encouraged me to teach. I was lucky enough to have lessons from her early on. My favourite classes to teach are the beginner classes. Students cannot believe what they can create and it is amazing seeing their reactions. Very satisfying!!
When and why did you start your own line of moulds, sugarpaste, etc.?
I started going to the cake decorating shows to sell my instruction books. I used to take the cakes with me to display and people used to ask me which moulds I had used. This made me think about having moulds made of my models and figures. I had not seen any on the market that looked handmade at that time. I thought cake decorators could then make the cakes from my books, with or without the moulds. I started designing moulds and making them with my husband Barry. We made sure they where food safe and tested to comply to European standards. Our sugarpaste came five years later as we were always having to firm other brands up with tylo powder. We had it engineered so that it works perfectly in the moulds straight from its packet. This makes the moulds even easier to use and it tastes great too! People are happy to have the perfect combination for easy use.
What do you think is important to pay attention to while decorating?
There are so many important factors that come together for a well decorated cake. Starting with good neat covering I think is very important. Keep things simple. A simple cake well decorated, neatly and tastefully is so much better than a very detailed cake decorated badly.
What advice do you have for people who want to learn how to decorate cakes?
Look for classes and sugarcraft groups in your area. Not only for learning cake decorating but also to meet people with a shared interest. Check out Youtube for tutorials and websites such as CakeFlix. Also as I just said, keep it simple when you are learning.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I am always looking for inspiration around me. Look at everything, fashion, fabrics, wallpaper, jewelry, trends for weddings, flowers. It is suprising how many designs lend themselves to cake decorating! In fact, there is a fantastic warehouse 10 minutes away from us called ‘Inspirations’! You will often find myself or Alice wandering around there looking at what’s in trend for weddings and homes as it often transitions over to cakes!
What are your favourite tools and why?
Not mentioning my moulds!! I could not be without a cornflour pouch! We always recommend that you dust the moulds with cornflour before use. A PME cutting wheel – much better than using a knife. Jem veining / mouth tool – two in one, veining tool for flowers and frills, the mouth tool for modelling. Finally, a good selection of painting and dusting brushes.
Do you have any plans and dreams for the future?
We just hope every day that people’s passion for baking and cake decorating continues to grow. You never know when a new trend may start. If you compare cakes now to what they were like just 10 years ago the development is staggering. We also pray that big businesses like Amazon and Alibaba won’t damage the likes of us and other small businesses by selling copies of our products.We also hope to travel to more fantastic places around the world, teaching and to cake shows, meeting many more people who love this art form.
Has anyone ever made a cake for you and how did you feel about that?
I was very lucky to have my 50th birthday cake decorated by Marion Frost! I know she is a very busy lady and I could not believe what she had done for me and of course, what a fantastic cake it was. It was ‘New York’ themed with a Statue of Liberty on the top that looked like me! The New York skyline was around the side of the cake, with all the place names. This was before Marion had her New York skyline cutter so I know it took her a long time to decorate the cake. As a cake decorator you know the time and the effort involved in something like this, so I think we appreciate cakes made for us more than most people!