It’s great to recognise cake icons in the industry for their expertise and phenomenal designs. This month, we speak to Alan Dunn.
Alan Dunn of Alan Dunn Sugarcraft is an expert in cake decorating and sugarcraft, having published over 13 books on cake decorating and particularly flower making, making him our cake icon this month. Due to his beautiful sugar flower cake creations, he is seen as a leader in sugar flowers cake craft. He has taught his techniques with various tutorials and classes worldwide in creating exquisite sugar flowers and cake decorating.
Tell us a little bit about your cake decorating journey – where did it all begin?
My grandfather was a baker by trade. He had actually started working part-time in the bakery from the age of seven and by the time he was 12, he was working full time (how times have changed). He eventually ended up owning the business he was working for. By the time I came along and had started to take an interest in baking, he had actually retired. So I guess it must be in the genes. At the age of about 13-14, I started teaching myself cake decorating techniques from books from both the school and public libraries. My parents and grandparents were amazed when I started to create decorated cakes for them. The first cake was a Mothering Sunday cake and the second one was for my grandparents’ diamond wedding anniversary. Word spread throughout my family, and also at school, that I was making celebration cakes – in fact, I created cakes for a few of my school teachers while I was still at school! When I left school aged 16, I studied at the Newcastle bakery school for two years full time (City and Guilds 120 and 121 Bread and Flour Confectionery and Cake Decorating). While I was at bakery school, I also started to teach and demonstrate to branches of The British Sugarcraft Guild. By the time the two-year course was over, I was already on the sugarcraft circuit; it was the days before the internet and Facebook so news of my work and teaching was spread by word of mouth.
What have you learnt in your career that has moulded you into the icon you are today?
Keep a sense of humour and humility. Don’t take yourself too seriously, work from the heart and try to have fun along the way.
As a cake decorator, what tool can’t you live without?
There are many! I guess my fine nosed pliers as they are essential for bending stems and constructing bouquets.