It’s a bleak, wet, wintry night when I come to visit Sabrina Medford’s creative nest in the heart of her home. By the time I reach the warm, small kitchen in a suburb of Milton Keynes, Sabrina is already hard at work on decorating the birthday cake she has already invested many hours of her time and creative effort into.
It’s a Lego peel back cake – something that is becoming popular in kids parties – Sabrina was given a brief to provide a colourful cake and having seen the peel-back styles before wanted to experiment on a Lego theme. With a rainbow sponge under a layer of white icing, with a chunk of colourful bricks exposed “underneath”, it’s a fun thing to see constructed – but is the product of many hours work which started days before I arrived.
On the day I visit, the full-time shift worker, 36, has already put in a ten-hour day at work, which started with taking her son Jaidon to school and taking her baby daughter Kalise into nursery, and has already put her children to bed.
As she forms a brick-shaped icing name for the top of the cake she tells me that she’s trying to establish her own cake decorating company – Sweet Reality Cakes – but that the business is still more of a creative outlet than it is a money spinner.
“I do it just for the love of it,” muses Sabrina. “The name of my company is Sweet Reality – I love seeing it first in my head and making it reality – always thinking how am I going to pull this off?”
And where does the energy come from? Sabrina chuckles and says in a bright voice: “I just fight through. I have a task to do – tiredness can’t be something I think about. Although sometimes I get to the point where I crash – tiredness has taken over and I’ve got to stop what I’m doing for a while.”
Sabrina’s creative cakes originate at her mother Maria’s side as a little girl. Whilst Maria, who only ever attended a single cake-decorating class, would carefully pipe royal icing into intricate designs, her young daughter would watch closely and imitate with the icing leftovers, placing them carefully over an up-turned dish.
These sweet moments fell aside as Sabrina grew and, despite doing art a-level at school and dabbling in sketching, her artistic side lay dormant for many years until she found herself, in motherhood, inspired to create.
“The first one was a 3 tier cake I designed myself for Jaidon’s first birthday,” she recalls. “I had an idea in my head and I drew it up in a sketch pad.”
The idea was realized in a colourful three-tier creation which got friends and family talking and requests for cakes started rolling in and the creativity took hold.
Self-taught with inspiration from TV programme Cake Boss, Sabrina immersed herself in what she calls “The university of YouTube@. Collecting equipment has been no mean feat on a family budget but clever eBay buys and picking up collection series magazines has meant that she is now fully equipped with an array of tools which help her fill the brief with even the most exacting clients.
The toughest brief of Sabrina’s work so far has been a five tier wedding cake (below) – although she wasn’t first choice.
She said: “It was for a family friend. When mum first came to England my mum used to work for her – her daughter was getting married. Mum has always done all of their cakes. This time round mum wasn’t going here for the wedding – the groom said she needed to get a ticket back to England. She couldn’t but she told them “I’ve got an apprentice…”.”
The family decided to give Sabrina a chance but the scale of the challenge became clear when the bride came to Sabrina with a wish list of cake styles and specific instructions.
“It was the hardest cake I had to do and was a big challenge. It took me two weeks from start to finish. The bride wanted David Austin roses on the cake – to make a single one took 100 icing petals – there we’re eight of those. I had to cheat and buy in the ordinary roses because I ran out of time.”
Word got back to mum in Barbados, telling her that her baby girl had done her, and the family’s cake making name, proud.
Family is at the heart of Sabrina’s efforts – her dream is to establish the business to help her spend more time with her children and husband without the bind of working for someone else.
“There are a lot of talented cake decorators in Milton Keynes right now so I’d have to work hard to stand out,” she says. “I could do it but I like my sleep as well! If I try and do it now I will burn out. I need to bide my time.
She laughs and adds: “ When I have more time maybe I can take over the world! In my wildest dreams I’d own a cake decorating company where I have decorating minions and I am the face of it. Own shop, cake decorating equipment branded with my name on.
“It is for my enjoyment right now and cash on the side. But soon I hope to be able to give it a real push. I’d hope to get it to a place where I don’t have to be there all day every day. I just want something big enough to sustain itself and I can have days off and enjoy life with my kids.”
Sabrina’s husband Carlston (who is somewhat known for his Bajan sweet bread – so much so he’s formulating a gluten free range) is providing more than just moral support. He is often by his wife’s side – helping her iced gems come to fruition.
“He knows how to decorate cakes too and helps me out when I have a few cakes,” smiles Sabrina in her bright and wide smile. “It’s a real family affair.”
The family have benefitted from an array of cakes since Sabrina rediscovered her passion – and her love has manifested in her proudest work – Kalise’s Christening cake (above) – which she rustled up on a holiday to her parent’s home in Barbados. “It was my favourite one,” she says. “ I like it because it is so pretty and girly, fluffy and sparkly!”
Children’s cakes are Sabrina’s favourite – often because they prove to be the most satisfied customers: “With children’s cakes you see the children’s innocence and you get a bigger reaction from the kids when they get the cake they wished for.”
And now, years after she played by her mother’s side with sugar, Sabrina is seeing that she might not be the only one with a flair for cakes.
“Jaidon made his own 3rd birthday cake,” She tells me, beaming with pride “I was making a cake for someone else and had cake bits and icing left. Had wanted cars and cake – so we cut out cars from the icing and made clouds and that he stuck it togther. Every time I’m doing cakes Jaidon wants to be part of it.”
Developing her business hopes for the future Sabrina knows that confidence will be key but this, unlike her talent, is still work in progress.
She adds: “When you see a cake you don’t see the person behind it, the person who decorates it, I would like to develop a signature – I need to decide what is about me. I still feel like a nervous decorator – I have got to be more confident in what I do – everyone says I’m doing a brilliant job. When I feel confident and feel “Yes! this is a bad ass cake!”, then you will see my signature coming though.
Find out more about Sabrina’s work via her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Sweet-Reality-Cakes-514381288605127/
Do you create for creation’s sake? Contact me via the comments section….