The Cake Pavilion - bespoke wedding cakes made in Lancashire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 April 2019
Suzie Bunner swapped her high pressure role in the NHS for the joys of cake making. But with her creations costing up to £4,500 it's a serious business. Roger Borrell reports
After days of painstaking work and ten hour shifts, you could be forgiven for imagining an award-winning cake maker shedding a tear or two after seeing her carefully crafted creation sliced up and eaten by wedding guests. ‘Not a bit of it,’ says Suzie Bunner. ‘My cakes are made to be eaten so I love to see people cutting them up and enjoying them. That’s why I make them.’
Suzie really means it despite the fact her cakes are incredibly delicate works of art that can take a week to complete. Every flower is hand made in sugar and the beautiful birds are painted by using coco butter and petal dust. One recent cake, a tribute to her favourite ballet, Swan Lake, had each bird modelled in sugar paste and the bottom tier covered in 600 hand made sugar hydrangeas.
‘I was so excited to make a representation of the prima ballerina’s head dress,’ says Suzie. ‘It is made of hundreds of sugar and wafer paper feathers. It demonstrates to couples how a wedding cake develops around an idea and doesn’t have to be anything to do with their wedding.’
The proud mother of two grown up sons who will have had some pretty special birthday cakes over the years, Suzie came to her trade through an unusual route. She spent almost 40 years working for the NHS, starting aged 18 and working her way up to a senior level as a nurse clinician in Skelmersdale having gained an MA along the way.
Two years ago she decided to quit full time work and follow her dream by setting up Cake Pavilion. Although she had a week of training in the basics of cake decorating, most of the magic she creates with royal icing was self-taught with a little help from her mum. It hasn’t held her back – she gets five star reviews for her work which starts at £370 and but can reach £4,500 for an intricate multi-tiered cake.
‘I follow the same principles of integrity and working in partnership that I held in the health profession and I hope this inspires trust and confidence in the Cake Pavilion,’ says Suzie, who works from the home she shares with her husband Stephen in Mawdesley. Maybe the talent was in her genes. ‘I am following in the footsteps of my mother and father who ran a successful bakery. They produced exquisitely decorated and delicious cakes, with exceptional customer service and I have learned from them,’ says Suzie, who was awarded a Certificate of Merit at Cake International 2018 competing against cake makers from around the world.
‘My Mother won awards many years ago for her royal icing and I am enjoying learning from her and continuing this amazing traditional craft that is little seen now.’
Despite the elaborate exteriors, she is adamant that the inside is every bit as important. Sponges are lovingly made and fruit cakes are laces with regular doses of brandy, provided for weddings and celebrations across the UK.
‘Twenty years ago I may have been aiming to develop a large enterprise but now my aims are to develop the business while maintaining the personal contact with clients and attention to detail.
‘A small business has advantages for me as it offers flexibility and the ability to develop and maintain close relationships with clients.’ She currently works solo but might soon be reaching the stage of needing some help.
‘Although fashions have changed, the principles that guided them have not and I will always go that extra mile to ensure that the client has the cake of their dreams.
Hand painted birds tend to feature in her creations, and they often reflect her love of pheasants. ‘We have about 30 in the field at the back of us at the moment and we feed them every day, hence the pheasant cake. It’s a design which has been very popular in the Ribble Valley.’