Peggy Porschen is London’s Queen of Cake. From her Belgravia-based cake parlour, she creates award-winning cupcakes, pens best-selling recipe books, provides mouthwatering cakes and cookies for Royals and Hollywood stars, and also runs classes to teach others how to perfect their icing technique. In short: she is a rather busy lady.
Here, Peggy shares the secrets of her success, including her advice for budding professional bakers, the ingredients she swears by and what, exactly, makes the perfect cake.
Have you always loved baking?
I was always given a fabulous cake every year on my birthday as a child growing up in Germany, which is a nation that loves cake! The cake was always the highlight for me and even then I was incredibly passionate about both the taste and the look. When I was 14 years old I decided to make my own and it really just started from there.
What did you do before you set up the business?
I was an air stewardess! I wanted to travel the world and take a bit of time to figure out which path to take in life, I saw the advertisement in the paper to work for Lufthansa and just went for it.
What gave you the idea to set up the business?
It was basically just the next logical step as I was getting more and more commisions. I had moved from home in Germany to London in 1998 to study at Le Cordon Bleu. After successfully completing the Grand Diploma of Cuisine & Patisserie, I worked as a pastry chef at London’s Lanesborough Hotel and celebrated caterer Rhubarb Food Design, followed by a position as cake decorator for German master-baker Gerhard Jenne, proprietor of Konditor & Cook. I didn’t set up on my own until 2003 from my home in Battersea, which I eventually had to move out of as the business grew and grew.
Other than the basics, what is your favourite baking ingredient?
I just really love Vanilla and lemon zest. Simply and delicately delicious.
What do you think makes a great cake?
My own wedding cake was perfect. It was absolutely beautiful, elegant and incredibly pretty, intricate without being over the top, the classic and traditional was softened with a satin bow. I designed it and one of my team made it for me. It tied in perfectly with the wedding and was actually inspired by my laser cut wedding stationary and flowers. But most importantly it tasted as exquisite as it looked.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Obviously commissions from Elton John and for Stella McCartney, which came relatively early on in my career, were notable highlights. However, the most significant milestone for me was definitely my first book. It defined me as a cake designer and was a true reflection of exactly what I had set out to become.
What are the best and worst parts of running your own business?
The best part is realising my lifelong dream of having my own cake shop and getting to do what I love all day everyday – I realise how lucky I am to enjoy my work and I love that I am putting my own personal mark on the cake industry.
The worst is probably that I always seem to be working when others are celebrating!
What is the inspiration behind your shop?
A mix of a European/French style patisserie with a ‘New England touch’. My main inspirations have always been Martha Stewart, Ladurée and Miette. However the aim was for the Parlour not to be a version of someone else’s but for it to have its own identity. The experience we are hoping to provide is one of cake heaven. We want our visitors to enter the ‘Peggy pink’ and chocolate brown shop, to instantly be hit by the baking smells which are coming up the stairs from our onsite kitchen, to gaze around and be inspired by the various cake creations that decorate the shop and to taste something incredibly delicious.
Not only that, but cake-makers can stock up on Peggy Porschen baking accessories, recipe books, polka-dot pinnies and a selection of delicious cake fillings to try at home with their own cakes. I’d like to think that it has become a cake destination in London and I love that people come from far and wide to visit and share their love of cakes and baking.
The addition of the Peggy Porschen Academy, London’s first cookery school entirely dedicated to baking and cake decorating, which sits just across the road from the Parlour, has also helped to create an inspirational and exciting atmosphere.
What advice would you give to budding professional bakers?
If it’s a career in cakes you are interested in there is no better start than the six-week professional diploma course at the Peggy Porschen Academy. More generally, I would say that one should be prepared for a lot of hard work and should always have a plan and a business basis before they start. A lot of patience, dedication and resilience are also essential for success!
Peggy Porschen Cake Parlour – 116 Ebury Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 9QQ
Peggy Porschen Academy – 30 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 9RB