On a warm Sunday afternoon in Brockley, I was visited by the lovely Sarah, a local part time baker that loves nothing more than creating the most beautiful cakes in her spare time. Boxes of gluten free cakes in hand, I knew it was going to be a great afternoon of over-indulging on her stunning sugary creations.
Local to South East London, Sarah, also known as Little Miss SJ Bakes and Makes, started up her baking business whilst working full time. Her love of making ‘pretty cakes’ saw her making one off commissions to large orders of rows of identical cupcakes. Most recently, Sarah began to experiment more and more with gluten free flour blends, determined to make cakes for a coeliac friend, who would often pop over for cake.
With my eyes wide, hardly taking them off the numerous boxes which filled my living room, Sarah unwrapped her goodies and sat down for a natter. I was fortunate enough to sample a selection of her wonderful gluten free cakes including creamy coffee & walnut cupcakes, light mini berry sponges topped with edible glitter(!), and her show-stopper (and favourite gluten free bake) a huge red velvet smothered in a soft cream cheese frosting. Each were light and soft and iced to perfection without a hint of dryness in sight.
Here’s a little more about the lovely Sarah, how she got into baking and some examples of her incredible collection of commissioned bakes. Just try not to want a slice by the time you’ve finished…
1) Why did you start Little Miss SJ Bakes & Makes?
I started up my business as Little Miss SJ Bakes & Makes earlier this year after baking a few informal birthday cakes for friends. I received such great feedback about the quality of my cakes that I thought I’d see if there was a market for some commissions in the local area as it would help pay towards the cost of my wedding. I was fortunate enough to be asked to be the resident cake baker for The Talbot pub in Brockley and my business has started to grow from there.
2) What has been your favourite commissioned cake/s?
My favourite commission so far has been the set of wedding cakes I made for an event in August this year. I was asked to make a series of ‘naked’ cakes to feed 100 for a rustic themed wedding. I was given a tight budget and a very limited brief. I knew they wanted a cake to cut and lots of small cakes, but other than that bride gave me freedom to develop my own ideas and decide upon the presentation. I decided to create a three tier sponge filled with rich vanilla butter cream, raspberry jam and summer berries for the centre piece and a mixture of mini raspberry and vanilla and lemon and blueberry cakes to feed the masses. I was really proud of what I managed to achieve within the budget and how glamorous the finished piece looked.
(Above – Sarah’s stunning collection of naked wedding cakes)
3) Why did you branch out into baking gluten free cakes?
I have a coeliac friend who lives for cake and I wanted to be able to make her gorgeous tasting cakes that she could enjoy when she came round for afternoon tea. I love a challenge and like experimenting with different styles of baking and flavours. I am working on developing gluten-free versions of all the cakes I make. My red velvet cake and cupcakes have been very well received!
4) What’s your favourite spot in SE London for coffee & cake?
Brockley market! Amazing coffee from Dark Fluid, fabulous teas from Good and Proper Tea and beautiful cakes and biscuits from The Cinnamon Tree bakery and Kooky Bakes. And all within a stone’s throw of my house. What’s not to like!
5) Do you take inspiration from any particular chefs or bakers?
My Dad was a professional master baker so I’d say that he first inspired my love of baking. Later in life I have taken inspiration from James Martin, who I think is a fantastic pastry chef. Many a Sunday has been spent with my nose in his books learning about sugar work and various types of patisserie. My other half loves being a guinea pig!
6) If you could make any cake or collection of cakes, what would it be and who would it be for?
I would love to make a full afternoon tea, complete with petit four, for Alexis Gauthier, my culinary idol! I enjoy eating at his restaurant, Gauthier Soho, so much that I’d love to return the favour and bake for him.
1) Victoria sponge or coffee & walnut?
Coffee and walnut
2) Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood?
3) Frosting or filling?
4) Jam or chocolate?
5) Cake with tea or coffee?
Tea, every time!
It’s so lovely to support local talent, and shop locally where you can. Sarah can bake cakes or a collection of cakes for any occasion in the SE London area. She’ll also consider outside of the area, but you’ll need to be willing to come and collect them. Just drop her a message via her Facebook page here or drop her a tweet, no matter what size your order may be. She’s in the process of developing her website, so be sure keep your eyes peeled.
At present, her cakes are available by private commission or can be organised for an event through The Talbot pub on Tyrwhitt Road, Brockley, which coincidentally used to be my local! I now have an excellent excuse to pop back over. A slice of gluten free cake for me, and a pint no doubt for my housemate! Win win!
P.S. If you pop into The Talbot, be sure to keep your eye out for my housemate, aka Prints Harry’s vintage art coasters!