We love to collaborate with local, like-minded businesses. So imagine our delight when we realised that The Indulgent Sugar Plum bakery – from Channel 4’s Extreme Cake Makers – was a short stroll from our Bermondsey studio.
We invited cake designer, cake architect and baker Nastassja Lusengo (Ms Sugar Plum) to visit our studio to talk about wedding planning, flowers and of course, cake!
Sugar Plum cake and Hayford & Rhodes flowers: Ultra Violet colour trends 2018, and a match made in heaven!
What inspired you to start The Indulgent Sugar Plum?
I have a degree fashion, multimedia art and design, and I was working in fashion, but I wasn’t on the design team (where I wanted to be). I started making cakes for the team at work just for fun, but soon started taking paid orders from colleagues, and what started as a fun hobby to earn some extra money started taking up most of my time! Four years ago I started baking full-time. I love art and design, but never thought I would end up expressing that through cake.
Your cakes are known for being beautifully decorated with real flowers. How did this signature design evolve?
I like to use ‘real’ everything. I don’t use dummy cakes and whilst I did start by using sugar and fondant flowers, I didn’t really understand why real flowers weren’t used more often on cakes to compliment bridal bouquets, so I just started working with them, and clients loved the results. I love the softness of a real flower next to the chunkiness of one my cakes. They perfectly compliment each other.
What was it like coming to Hayford & Rhodes to work with our flowers and team of florists?
It was my dreams come true! The sheer creativity… It’s so much more than flowers: There is art and design behind it. Hayford & Rhodes change the narrative behind flowers and take a fresh look, asking how flowers can be daring; how can they be the main part of the entire event/ celebration and the most desired things in the room. That’s my aim when I design cakes, so it was wonderful to meet like-minded artists.
Ms Sugar Plum enjoying unbridled access to the Hayford & Rhodes studio
How long does it take you to plan a cake from conception to delivery on the big day?
Most couples come to see me between three to six months before their wedding. Any earlier than six months can be risky, as the theme of the wedding may evolve. Two months before is cutting it fine, as it can take between 4-6 weeks to finalise the design. On the day, I need to be at the venue 2-3 hours before the reception starts. I like to work behind the scenes and be invisible. Saying that, I have been invited to some of the weddings I’ve made cakes for, and that’s been fun.
What is the process behind designing a cake?
It is quite a lot like the process for selecting wedding flowers. It starts with a consultation where the couple comes in to taste cake samples, discuss their ideas and I do some rough sketches there and then. Before the consultation, I send them a questionnaire asking about their preferred flavours, colour scheme, budget and number of tiers. After the consultation, I send my sketches and usually after one or two amendments, we finalise the design.
And on the day, can it get stressful?!
I always leave extra time if I’m travelling to somewhere outside of London, such as Painshill or Luton Hoo. Sometimes traffic plays havoc with my timetable and on one occasion, hours in a traffic jam left me with less than an hour to build the cake! I travel with a Cake Emergency Kit, including several books of gold and silver leaf and tools to help repair any cracks. I never travel with the cake built unless it’s small; I build the cake at the venue when everything else at the venue has been done. The cake is usually one of the last things to be put in place before the start of the reception.
What advice would you give to couples before they order their wedding cake?
My top tips are:
- Don’t plan too early: Come to me a maximum six months before your wedding when you’ve decided a colour scheme.
- 2018 weddings are all about Pinterest boards, which are really helpful and a lot of fun. But even a scrap of fabric or a page torn from a magazine are good starting points to share your cake vision!
- Connect your wedding suppliers – cake designer, florist – to your wedding planner or the event manager at the venue. I don’t want to bother any body in the bridal party on the actual day!
- Think about timings: Cake has a shelf life, and a cake that’s been standing about all day (especially on a hot summer’s day) is usually not a happy cake! I provide a ‘cake care’ booklet for all my couples to ensure that they get the best out of their cake on the day.
Lastly, what are your favourite flowers?
Hydrangeas are gorgeous, but Peonies are my favourite. The Peony is so delicate and intricate. How the layers of petals seem to go on forever… So dreamy.