Can you tell us about your cake decorating and confectionery journey – where did it all begin?
Although I wasn’t very academic at school, I went to a secondary school and my technical drawing was great so I did quite well with that. My sister and brother won scholarships so they went to college and my parents were unable to keep me at school as well. I left school, started at Mackie’s in Prince’s Street in Edinburgh on my 14th birthday and got to know all the different ingredients that went in the cakes. I was in my first role there for about a year. Because I was so small, and I couldn’t reach everything, they had to give me steps to use to reach the top shelves! When I was 15, they moved me up to the confectionery department and I was there for two years. Then I went down to the wedding cakes and did two years there. Then I went to the bread department but didn’t stay there for too long – it was very heavy lifting all those bags of flour; I was only there for about five months. When I was 21, I went to the wedding cake department and did such things as the window displays at Mackie’s. I also got to recreate Edinburgh’s floral clock in icing! So that’s how I started! I got married at 23 and also in the same year, I was asked to go up to the college to start teaching. I was taught by some of the best in Scotland. I was in the right place at the right time!
Tell us what it was like to get a standing ovation at the Cake Masters Magazine Awards?
I couldn’t believe it! It was awesome. It certainly brought a tear to my eye. I was very very emotional over it because it was absolutely fabulous. In the audience, I must have known at least 75% of the people there and lots of people came up and got their photograph with me! It was an honour to receive that for doing something that I’ve loved all my life.
You’ve made some amazing cakes such as the Queen’s Golden Wedding Anniversary and Diamond Jubilee cake – do you have any other highlights that stand out?
There were weddings at Mackie’s I did cakes for Dukes and their families as Mackie’s had the Royal Appointment sign above their door. We did cakes for an awful lot of events at Mackie’s and people from all over Scotland and England asked us to do their cakes for them. When the Queen was in residence at Holyrood Palace, my department at Mackie’s did a lot of the afternoon teas such as petit fours, etc. One of the cakes I did in the wedding cake department at Mackie’s was Princess Margaret’s cake which I remember her telling me had to be traditional. I’ve designed and decorated a lot of amazing cakes over my time! The last cake I worked on was the Queen’s 70th Wedding Anniversary cake.
You started baking really young aged 14 as an apprentice and have been a professional in the industry for many years – was cake decorating always fun and interesting for you or were there times it simply felt like work?
I’ve always said, if you love what you do, you will never have to work! I’ve been working for 62 years, and teaching. I’m actually a baker and confectioner by profession so people can ask me about scones, bread, cakes, etc. and I can give advice! I can honestly say I have enjoyed all aspects of my career. Thankfully, there have never been any bad moments. I am truly blessed to have met many many wonderfully talented people in our world of cake artistry and decorating. It is the best family to be a member of.