German expat on her love for fast cars and collection of Ferraris
What does it take to bake a cake for a celebrity? Turns out it’s not just about knowing your craft; the measure of flour and flavour or the technique to fluff it out neither too moist nor too dry; but it’s also about time management.
Mich Turner MBE, celebrity baker and ‘Queen of Couture Cakes’, illustrates the point by recalling one of her most challenging orders – a birthday cake for footballer David Beckham. “I think the most challenging order I have taken was when I was asked to create David Beckham's 30th birthday cake, which had to be baked, decorated and delivered to Madrid within 48 hours. That was a huge challenge because it was a very special cake with a small timeframe. It's the only time I've worked through the night on a cake and that one was a real test.”
Author of seven books, Turner is committed to the same level of detail for all her customers. It’s a recipe that seems to be working. She’s not only got the kind of celebrity clientele most businesses can only dream of but she’s also a bit of a celebrity herself. Turner was named Harper’s Bazaar and CHANEL Entrepreneur of the Year in 2006, and in 2010, she was awarded the coveted honour — the Member of the Order of the British Empire for her services to the catering industry.
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She has been a judge on ITV’s Britain’s Best Bakery, ambassador for Scottish Bakers’ Association and consultant to the baking and hospitality industry. She even baked the diamond wedding anniversary cake for the late Queen and Prince Philip.
Turner is the founder of Little Venice Cake Company, a London brand she’s brought to the UAE. It’s located at Atlantis The Royal. In 2022, she unveiled a special creation for VIP visitors to the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020. The cake was four-foot tall, had eight tiers, 1,000 hand-made sugar petals and Union Jack detailing. She’s been called ‘the Bentley of cake makers’ by seasoned chef Gordon Ramsay.
Turner’s culinary run began at 15, when she entered and won a cookery competition. “With all of my science-based studies, I took food nutrition or cookery as I thought it was easier. It gave me some sort of relief because everything else I was doing was very studious. Then I won that competition. That's what really inspired me to take up the food science at A levels, the advanced levels.”
Two years later, her teacher asked her to decorate her wedding cake and that’s where it all seriously began. “Although I'd won the cookery competition, I had never done anything as specific as making a wedding cake. But my school was extremely supportive and funded me to go on a four-day course where I learnt how to do some elements of specific sugar craft in cake decorating. And so, the very first cake I made was a wedding cake,” she recalls.
But the studious learner was still in her: the one who wanted to know how things worked and interacted with one another. “I'm very particular about authenticity, integrity, and doing things the right way. So for me, learning the science of food, understanding how food interacts, be that physical, chemical, microbiological, how the ingredients interact, the different processes involved when you are making food stuff, understanding the colloidal systems - all these things really helped me become a better baker. It allowed me to understand the composition of ingredients, how they work, why they work, what you need to do to make sure you get the very best out of them. That helps me become a much better baker and teacher.”
In the spirit of teaching, she has advice for amateur chefs. She calls for patience as a virtue. “Make sure you allow yourself enough time to follow the recipe to the letter and ensure that your ingredients are stored at the right temperature. That's the biggest thing because the properties of the ingredients are very temperature sensitive. And if your ingredients are not at the right temperature, you won't get the best out of those ingredients; they won't be able to perform their physical chemistry and you won't get the best flavour in the cake you bake. Because no matter how good a cake looks or how much you decorate it to make it look amazing, it's the taste that people will remember.”
And to those who want to make baking a business, she shares a mantra. “Work with integrity, which that means doing the right things, even when no one is watching; making sure that you do the right thing, at every step - how you run your business, manage yourself and your time and how you interact with other people.”
With over three decades in the industry as a baker and refreshing consultant, one might think that baking is quite monotonous. But Turner is quick to point out that every cake she makes is an evolution of the one she’s made before. “There's a constant ability to keep pushing the boundaries, keep testing and trying new recipes, working with new clients in new environments and venues, making the most amazing cakes for the most amazing people to celebrate the most amazing occasions.”
She brings this uncompromising spirit to her couture cake atelier, Little Venice, where you can go and have a private consultation about your cake needs. “We have the most beautiful consultation room where guests can actually come in and taste the cake and have the design created for them.”
The restaurant business is notorious for being wasteful, but Turner says things can be sustainable. “I think we can be sustainable with all the tools that we use. These are long-term purchases. I'm still using the same toolbox I started with and still use some of the nozzles that I started with. And for all the additional items that we have in our atelier here in Dubai, the home wares, and afternoon tea wares are all packaged using recycled or recyclable materials. We don't use any single-use plastic in any of our products.”
In the end, the right recipe to be a top-notch, celebrity baker is having a commitment to the product and process, the integrity to deliver the best and a knack for time management. The rest, as they say, is a cakewalk.
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