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National Baking Week: We Meet Mr Cake



Welcome back for the third and final part of our National Baking Week celebrations! Here you'll find the last instalment of our three-part interview feature on some of the best men in baking and blogging.

We're sad that National Baking Week is coming to an end, but at least we're going out in style with an interview with Mr Cake founder Chris Holmes. Chris caught the attention of the world when he handed in notice of his resignation in cake form, at the same time announcing that he would be working full time on his Mr Cake business.

Here Chris tells us all about the challenges of baking and blogging, his most popular recipes and of course that very famous resignation...

What inspired you to start baking? Did you have any training or experience prior to starting your blog?

After leaving college I worked as a chef for several years, including stints at some Michelin-starred restaurants including Petrus and Midsummer House. I love all sorts of food, sweet and savoury, but making cakes just fitted in with my goal of running a business from home, plus it's an outlet for my artistic side. In terms of cake decorating, I'm pretty much self-taught. I only started blogging recipes recently due to popular demand! I'd also love to write a cookbook so it's all good practice for that.

In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about blogging about baking? Have you encountered any unexpected challenges?

I do all the photography myself and getting the food to look as good as it tastes can be tricky, especially when you're up against the huge PR machines of the celebrity chefs. I also tend to go into a lot of detail, which is often necessary in baking, but I do try to keep recipes as concise as possible. I've put several recipes on my Facebook page but I still need to get them published on my actual blog, which is pretty sparse at the moment. Finding the time to do it all is definitely the hardest part!

How do you decide what you are going to create and write about? Do you have a trick to help you pick?

I simply blog the recipes that taste great. Of course if they are fairly simple that's a bonus, as people are more likely to try them at home, but I think a lot of people just enjoy reading recipes and seeing photos of the food. I certainly read cookbooks for pleasure, when I get the time! Sometimes people ask for a recipe so often that I have no choice but to publish it!

Where do your recipes come from? Are they handed down from family and friends, or are they your own inventions?

My recipes come from loads of places - places I've worked, family recipes handed down over generations, and of course stuff I've invented or modified myself.

What do you think is the most important tip for successful baking?

The most important tip for successful baking is to be organised, precise and methodical. Instructions have to be followed to the letter, which is why well-written recipes are so important.

Who is your biggest baking inspiration? How have they helped you in becoming the baker you are?

My biggest inspiration has been my seven-month-old son; he's the reason I decided to set up my own business so I could work from home. Whenever I need motivation I just think of him.

Which of your recipes is the most popular? How important is feedback from your readers?

Any recipe containing chocolate is always popular. I posted a series of photos of cocktail-inspired cakes, including gin and tonic cake and piņa colada cake, and people have been demanding those recipes too. Readers' feedback is great for giving me a steer as to what people want more of, and I like answering any questions people have because it lets me know what info should be included the recipes.

What do you think are the most important skills to have as a baker? Any advice to aspiring bakers?

As I mentioned before, the most important skills are organisation, planning, precision and patience. An artistic eye and a good palate are certainly useful. My advice to aspiring bakers would be, if you want to do it as a career, learn from the best and be prepared for lots of hard work. It's not an easy job!

What is your proudest achievement in baking?

My proudest achievement to date has been reaching the point (in April this year) where I could quit my day job and start running Mr Cake full time. When the time came, I handed my notice in on a cake and the photo I took of it went viral. As a relative newbie to running a business it was a great lesson in the power of marketing via social media.

Off the back of the resignation cake, I've recently been shortlisted for the Best Use of Marketing in the Smarta 100 Awards - so far I've made it into the top one hundred in the UK but now I need the public to vote for me to win! If anybody would like to vote for me, please do so here - I'd be supremely grateful!

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