SWEET TEMPTATIONS – WITH LULUBELLE’S BAKES
Q&A with owner and industry expert, Lyndsay McEwan
CONFETTI CHICKS: Your work is astounding, yet you started Lulubelle’s Bakes a mere three years ago. Tell us about this learning curve, and what it has meant for you and your family.
LYNDSAY: Yes! Three years ago on the 22nd January 2014 my life started to change forever. I’d been a conveyancing secretary for over 20 years and then had worked as a PA to a developer for 6 years and the last 7 years I had worked as a property manager and managed property all around South Africa. It was in December 2013 when my son (who is an amazing animator) suggested we make the Christmas decorations for the one and only cake I baked annually and that was the family’s Christmas cake. So off I went to buy some “plastic” icing as I knew it then. I had no clue what I was doing or what tools or ingredients I should be using and my figurines didn’t work out at all. This then inspired me to want to learn all about cakes and decorating, so I started my first cake decorating lesson the 22nd January 2014. It totally took me, and my family, by surprise – especially my husband who couldn’t understand why I’d work all day and then come home at night and work till the early hours of the morning on a cake! I loved all six lessons and from that moment on all I wanted to do was decorate cakes! By my third lesson, my daughter started up a Facebook page for “Lulubelle’s Bakes” – that first night I hit 100 likes. I was over the moon! Three years later I have over 34,500 Facebook followers, and also have followers on Instagram and Twitter – it’s not about the “likes” or the “followers” on these pages – it’s all about the lovely people out there who enjoy seeing my creations and their words of encouragement. Without them and my family’s support, I would never, EVER, have dreamt that one day I would be running my own business. In June 2014 I was retrenched, and I took this as a sign and turned those lemons into lemonade! I took the first huge step towards running my own bakery. My husband even renovated my kitchen to accommodate a full-on bakery; my daughter is a wedding photographer and we often work together on weddings; my son, the animator, has been my right hand man when it comes to making cake toppers and my youngest daughter is always there to encourage me on my cakes. They have all been so supportive to a wife and mum who had a professional office job for over 30 years and who now is a baker and works from home all day!
What do you enjoy most about the wedding industry; what gives you the greatest excitement and joy?
Weddings are such a joyful time in one’s life and I absolutely LOVE doing wedding cakes. I love meeting the couples – whether it’s just for a consultation or a wedding tasting session. I love going to the venues, seeing all the stunning décor, and setting up my cakes which usually are the centre of attention – this is such an honour for me too! I always take photos of my cakes at the venues and the last photo I take is the one just before I walk out of the room. I love to glance back at the beautifully decorated room and see my cake there waiting in anticipation for the bridal couple. Always a proud moment for me.
What have been your greatest lessons that you have learned about your trade?
Probably one of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt from the cake industry is to be confident in myself and to trust myself to be able to do what my clients want me to do. Going into this trade from scratch literally took me by surprise and I very quickly had to find that inner confidence within myself.
What advice do you have for clients in terms of them choosing their wedding cake?
I always ask my clients whether they want a slice for each guest, whether they want the cake more for the look, or whether it’s part of a sweet table. Many couples want a 3 or 4 tier cake but they don’t want all the left overs. What I like to suggest to them is to still go for the look but instead of each tier being cake, we add a “fake” cake tier in between which is decorated exactly like the cake and you really can’t tell the difference. So many people don’t know about this option and it such a good idea – not always a cheaper idea as there is still the same amount of work being done on the fake tier as a normal tier but it is a bit more cost effective.
What has been your greatest wedding memory or experience?
Oh, there are a few, but probably one of my greatest weddings was one I did for a stunning couple who worked for an international airline and live in Dubai. Their venue was quite a drive from my home so my husband and I stayed at a nearby hotel that night, but the cake was one of my first intricate cakes. As they were both air crew, they had travelled the world and I had to put the world map on the middle tier. There was a baker in Australia who had made a very similar cake so I wrote to her for advice. She got back to me very quickly and gave me some tips on how to do the cake and I so appreciated this advice from a world renowned cake artist! The cake was a huge success and the toppers were made by my son who did a great job. This lovely couple have ordered cakes from me on several occasions when they visit their family here in Cape Town. It’s so nice to keep in touch with my clients and now that I’ve been around for 3 years plus I am seeing them all quite regularly now!
What would you do differently if you got married again or renewed your vows?
Definitely won’t be getting married again as I’ve been happily married for 32 years this month! But … if we were to renew our vows (which secretly is something I’d love to do), I’d pay more attention to my cake!! I can’t even remember the flavour or design of my wedding cake – how sad is that! So much attention to detail goes into wedding cakes now and I would love to have a 5 tier cake (with some fake tiers in between to minimize left overs!) with lots of detail on it! Oh, and I’d also have a stunning dress and would have a REALLY STUNNING wedding venue. Back in the day when we got married, there was so little attention to detail that went into a wedding and looking back, we had a lovely wedding but would love to have all the glamour and glitz that there is on offer nowadays!
What different or unusual elements would you love to see a couple incorporate into their wedding?
I like to suggest to couples that their cakes should be cut at the beginning of their evening rather than at the end. Doing it this way, will mean that all their guests are there to see the couple cut their cake and take photos of them. Doing it at the end, some people may have left, some people are outside having a smoke and some people are maybe a little bit tipsy to remember the event. It’s just that they go to so much trouble and expense with their wedding cake that everyone should see it and see their cake cutting ceremony.
Tell us something about yourself that people don’t know.
I never baked – ever – except for our annual Christmas cake. My poor children used to get supermarket cakes for their birthdays. I wasn’t creative and couldn’t even draw stick men. Recently, I had an order for 250 Engagement cookies, each with a stick man proposing to a stick lady – that’s over 500 stick people!) I guess I can confidently say that I can now bake, decorate cakes and I can draw stick men!
Tell us something about yourself that people wouldn’t expect from someone in your line of work.
My forté was administration when I used to work in an office, and I always kept my filing and correspondence meticulously up to date. I still do this now in my business, because cake decorating is not just about cakes. I keep a spreadsheet of every invoice I have sent out, from my first one to the most recent ones I have just sent out. I have a filing cabinet full of receipts, invoices and info. If my office is in a mess, then my head space is in a mess so I always try and keep things tidy and up to date. I also employ my niece to help me with my admin when things get a bit hectic in the kitchen. I am a wife to an amazing husband, a mother to three lovely children and a granny to the most two adorable grandchildren ever!
“Three years ago I never dreamed that I would run my own successful business from home!” – Lyndsay McEwan
Connect with Lyndsay for your wedding cake inspiration!
#lulubellesbakes #weddingcakes #cherylmcewanphotography #weddings #lyndsaymcewan #cakes
Credits: Cheryl McEwan Photography