Forget the Great British Bake Off – for confectionery perfection look no further than Huddersfield.
Self-taught cake maker Robert Firth, who has won gold awards for his unusual creations, has opened Cake Castle at the former HSBC premises in Westbourne Road, Marsh, to sell cake decorations and make cakes for all occasions.
Robert, 29, who was brought up in Elland and attended Brooksbank School, worked as a joiner and later at sweet manufacturer Dobson’s for seven years before turning a talent for creating cakes for family and friends into a business.
He acquired premises in Ossett which had previously been a cake shop, but two years on has moved to Huddersfield to be nearer home.
His “crazy cakes” as he calls them have included an award-winning Edward Scissorhands cake with movable, but inedible, robotic arm; a cake depicting Blue Peter dog Mabel; a 40th birthday cake in the shape of a Ferrari racing car and a four-tier wedding cake in Jamaica’s national colours featuring silhouettes of two love-struck sweethearts.
“I have been doing this for six years,” said Robert. “I started out making cakes for family and friends who said I was really good at it.
“It’s a bit specialised. As well as doing cakes to order I compete in cake shows twice a year. My first ‘crazy cake’ was a three foot tiger which I did about four years ago and which was my first competition piece. It won a bronze award at Cake International at the NEC in Birmingham. That’s the biggest competition in the world with 1,500 entries in various categories.”
The most unusual cake ordered by a customer was a carousel cake 20 inches in diameter.
“The customer was quite specific in that it had to have 21 unicorns,” said Robert. “Then he came back a bit later and asked if I could make it go round. So I did.”
Robert said the influence for baking bigger and more elaborate cakes came from watching American cake shows.
Some of his creations – which sell for between £40 and a few hundred pounds – can take 50 hours to make. The cakes have to be baked in sections using a standard oven.
Robert doesn’t work from paper.
“A lot of it is designed in my head,” he said. “You have a plan, but it doesn’t always go as expected. It’s often down to trial and error.”
He said the HSBC building was ideal for his business, which launches officially today (Saturday).
“It’s quite a big building with a little area at the back where I can put a little kitchen,” said Robert. “I was in Ossett for the past two years but I’ve moved to Marsh because it’s closer to home and has more potential.”
And his advice for the perfect Victoria sponge? “There’s no secret,” he said. “I use an ‘all-in-one mix’ – putting all the ingredients in the bowl at once. It’s down to trial and error and practice.”