Hi, I'm Emma and I'm the face behind Emma Stewart Cake Design.
I’m originally from Kent, the garden of England. I grew up in Maidstone with my parents and my little brother (who’s not so little really as he has towered over me for many years). I was always busy doing something whether it was dance school or gymnastics, swimming, diving or trampolining. My love for sports took me off to study Sports Therapy at university back in 2000.
Fell in love...
It was whilst at university that I fell for the dulcet tones of a handsome Northern Irish man. Within six months we had got engaged and were planning our intimate wedding in a wee town called Omagh in Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Organising a wedding when you’re not living locally is always a bit of a challenge; our experiences are something that I not only cherish but definitely influenced the way I work now.
When Steve and I finished university back in 2005, we had to make a decision on where we wanted to live…would we stay in Luton, move back to Kent or head to the green isle. And well who can resist the charms of the NI countryside. We moved over 8 months before our wedding. I got a job as a medical receptionist and a fitness instructor. Then with weeks to spare to our big day we bought our first home. Being the creative person that I am, in order to save us a little money I decided to make all our wedding stationery from invites to thank you cards. I even made our wedding favour boxes and some little treats to go inside.
So that’s a bit about me and how I ended up as the pretty little girl from England living in the depths of Northern Ireland. But how’d I get from kneading muscles to creating cakes?
It's in the blood...
My first cake memories are from when I was about 12 years old, helping my Nanna with baking a birthday cake and decorating it with my Grandpa. My Nanna used to make the best buns ever. And my Grandpa…well as a kid I was told that he used to decorate Easter eggs and cakes when he was younger before he went to work in a paper mill. I never knew why he stopped working in the bakery, I just remember that he seemed so happy when he did those little bits of decorating with me. He taught me how to make a really basic rose, something that stuck with me right through to when I began my cake journey.
Then when my Nanna passed away in 2018, I went home to be with my Grandpa for a couple of weeks. I took my sugar flower work with me so he could watch me and take his mind off everything else. He sat mesmerised by all the tools and techniques that I used. Asking questions and smiling away. You could still see his passion for sugarcraft was still there and his pride in me was evident for all to see. It was then that he told me about his Dad refusing to sign his bakery apprenticeship forms; apparently it wasn’t a proper job and doing the training would mean he’d be bringing in a lower wage. His Mum used her savings to buy him the book and piping nozzles he would need for the course and the bakery continued to train him. At the end of the course though, he couldn’t get his qualification or progress to be a Master Baker, all because the form wasn’t signed. That was the end of his dream, well until I took it on for him.
During that fortnight he gave me the book and nozzles that he had used telling me “If they’re no good Emma then bin them, they’re probably no use to anyone”. Obviously I didn’t bin them, they are far too special! In fact, I found a box frame and mounted his piping nozzles in it which sits proudly on a shelf in my kitchen. If you hadn’t already worked it out, my Grandpa is my inspiration and hero…even when he knew he wouldn’t be able to get his apprenticeship, his love and passion for cakes took him on that journey anyway…one that both he and I are eternally grateful for…after all it must run in our blood.
I know, I missed out the bit where my cake journey began. But it just seemed right to tell that inspiring bit first so the rest all makes a bit more sense.
Cakes become me...
So our first son Daniel was born sleeping at full term back in 2008. An experience that no one wants to go through. Then in 2009 Jamie came along. As we approached his first birthday the following year, we wanted to make it extra special and I got this crazy notion to make him a cake. Now I’d not made a cake since my early teens with my Nanna and Grandpa, so this was a real challenge. It certainly was far from perfect but I was proud of it none the less. We had a party and friends of ours came, Vicky and Ross, who had recently got engaged. On seeing Jamie’s cake they asked me if I would make their wedding cake for them. Honestly, looking back at my first cake I don’t think I would have asked me. No pressure though as they’d given me 18 months to practice before their big day. So I did just that making lots of cupcakes and cakes for friends and family. Then another friend got engaged and asked me for a cake. I thought, if I’m going to do these I’d better do it right and got myself registered with my local environmental health.
In early 2011, I left my full time job to become a childminder, as we were expecting Ben and working from home meant I’d have more time with him. That summer though the economy crashed and people lost jobs, including the parents of the kids I was looking after. It gave me the push I needed to make me focus on my cakes. By the time Ben arrived, I had a steady stream of orders and I was quickly being absorbed into the cake world. I say this because it’s definitely not a job you can easily switch off from. Even when I’m out for the day with my family I’m constantly looking and seeing inspiration everywhere…and yes I’ve been left behind on many walks because I’ve stopped to take photos of a random wall or flower or textured something. Honestly cake becomes a part of you, my love and passion for it literally bursts from inside me.
By the time I made Vicky and Ross’s wedding cake (that very first cake request), I knew this was it…this is what I’m meant to be doing. The decision was made and my professional career began.
Over the years I have won numerous awards for my wedding cakes and have been featured in a variety of magazines and blogs. It's always an honour to be recognised for my work especially in such a fast moving and competitive industry. These gave me the confidence to step into teaching and establish my own cake academy where I can support other cake makers to learn new skills and develop their own businesses. The icing on the cake is seeing how proud my achievements make my Grandpa!
As time went on I found myself really drawn to wedding cakes and I stopped doing novelty style cakes. I loved everything about them. The fact that I got to know each couple and create such beautiful designs. I wanted to give them everything I wished we’d had when we were planning our wedding not what we actually got…in and out in 5 mins, no getting to know us, no sitting and sketching designs and we didn’t even get to taste any cake! Which is why I create such an exclusive experience now for my couples, I want them to feel so special from start to finish. To me the cake should be as bespoke as a wedding dress is to each bride…expertly chosen and perfectly fitted specifically for each couple.
My love for modern twists on classic elegance, the illusion of simplicity even in the most complex of designs and the intricacy of botanically correct sugar florals, has evolved into the style I’m now internationally renowned for. With styles and trends constantly changing I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate them into my own style. After all, a wedding cake is not just a cake it’s an expression of each couple and their lives.
I pour my heart and soul into every cake and there's no other way to say it... I absolutely love what I do.
I hope to chat with you soon about your wedding cake.