Tasty Cakes: Meet our master baker, Lara

jack sparrow cake

Lara is one of our chat room moderators here at tombola. By day, she chats to tombola players in our chat rooms but when the weekend comes around, she has a very different job. Lara is a dab hand at baking, but we’re not talking your average 1-tier sponge cake, we’re talking life-sized Johnny Depp cakes to Formula 1 racing car cakes! We wanted to find out more about Lara’s very unique talent so asked her all about it.

Lara, what made you first want to start baking?

I started watching an American TV show called Cake Boss. It’s all about baking really unusual cakes, the kind you can’t buy in the supermarket; it looked like a lot of fun so I thought I’d give it a go. I started watching YouTube videos on how to make unusual cakes and quickly realised how much I enjoyed creating really quirky cakes.

What was the first ‘quirky’ cake you baked?

My mother-in-law was on the lookout for a professional cake maker for her 25th wedding anniversary so I piped up and said I’d give it a go. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to make but nothing set in stone until one evening I went into the living room and my mother and father-in-law were both fast asleep on the sofa. I took a picture of them and copied it for the cake! It took three days to which looking back, was a very quick turnaround.  I was pretty nervous when I presented it to them because I didn’t tell them what I was doing but they loved it!

When did you turn pro? It was literally the day after I posted a photo of the 25th Wedding Anniversary cake on my Facebook page. A friend asked if I’d make her hubby a cricket themed cake for his birthday. I said yes, but I was probably more nervous baking this because it was my first paid for project! Before these two cakes, I’d only ever made the pre-mix cakes off the shelf so the pressure was on. It turned out well and my friend and her hubby were really happy with it – phew.

Out of all the cakes you’ve baked (and that’s a lot), which is your favourite?

It has to be the life size Jack Sparrow! He was 5ft 5in – it was a real challenge. From designing him and working out how to make him stand upright, to making his hair look realistic, it was all tough but so much fun. He took 90 hours in total to finish but I went on to win gold at Bake International which was literally the cherry on top!

Jack Sparrow cake

Lara won a gold for this cake!

Where did you bake him?

He was created and then lived in my mother-in-law’s kitchen for the duration. I had to put a massive sign on the kitchen door so that when people walked in, they didn’t get a shock when they saw a life size cake in the corner! My partner and I have just bought our first house and we made sure the kitchen was a good size, but most importantly that it had a dining room. A lot of the creating happens in the kitchen but all the design and craft happens in the dining room as I need a large space to work.

Which baking gadget could you not do without?

My Kenwood Mixer! Without that, it would take me double the time to bake anything. It’s a life saver for anyone wanting to bake often, especially if they are large cakes!  We’re thinking we’ll leave Lara to the creating and we’ll stick to the pre-mix stuff but if you want to brush up your skills in the kitchen, here are Lara’s top tips:

  • Always follow the ingredients – it’s a science after all
  • Don’t trust your oven – use the time as a guide but keep checking your cake. All ovens are different
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment – you can always eat your mistakes.

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