Peggy Porschen’s boutique bakery is filled with towering wedding cakes, decorative birthday sponges, and, when I visited at 10am on a Tuesday morning, little children deciding which cupcake to ask their mother for.
With such high-profile clients as Kate Moss and Elton John, a cooking academy around the corner, and her many recipe books lining the walls, you could say Porschen had the cake decorating business all wrapped up.
Icing on the…
Funny then, that Porschen’s sweetest baking triumph is not a cake — but an egg.
“The Faberge egg I made for Elton John’s White Tie and Tiara Ball was completely new and different, and went through the press like wildfire,” says Poschen as she guides me through her parlor in London’s ritzy Belgravia.
“That is the job that put me on the map.”
Porschen has since created sumptuous desserts for the weddings of Kate Moss and Stella McCartney; the parties of Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Sting and Trudie Styler; and the 70th birthday of Anthony Hopkins.
But the bigger the name, the bigger the pressure to get everything just right, and in the midst of this media frenzy Porschen says it’s important to stay true to her distinctive style.
“Sometimes there’s the question of ‘what if they want a design that I don’t feel is me?’ she explains.
“You want to take on the commission obviously, but you also know this cake is likely to be very famous and this is a cake you’re really going to be known for.”
Wonderful wedding cakes
Along with the celebrity spotlight, there are the particularly high expectations of brides-to-be.
Porschen often works with event planners to create stunning arrangements for her cakes — one of her creations was once brought into the room on the shoulders of Chinese dancers.
Kate Moss’s wedding on the other hand, was a far more relaxed affair.
“Her cake was very simple and elegant,” says Porschen of the British model, who married “Kills” rocker Jamie Hince in 2011. “It was decorated with sugar lilies of the valley and was soft, romantic, and relatively classic.
“Her wedding was quite bohemian, relaxed, gardeny, and she herself was very relaxed. She was one of the nicest celebrity brides to work with because she was so normal and really appreciative,” added Porschen.
“It felt like we came to a decision on the cake very quickly.”
A very British bake
After working as a bespoke cake designer in Germany, Porschen and business partner husband, Bryn Morrow, decided to set up shop in London around five years ago.
“I’m originally from Germany, so I grew up with lots of cakes and lots of baking, but cakes over there are not as creative as in England,” explained Porschen.
“I wanted to be creative with cakes and it’s very time consuming. So I think a city like London or a country like England was really where there was a market for what I wanted to do.”
Wedding cakes weren’t always the elaborate three-tiered white giants we have today. In the past, newly weds have been known to kiss over a pile of scones and biscuits, break baked goods over the bride’s head, and even pass tiny morsels of cake through wedding rings — all in the name of good luck and prosperity.
Almost 200 years after it was first baked, Porschen still pays homage to one particularly historic cake.
“The one cake that really made all the difference and sparked the sugar craft in England was Prince Albert and Queen Victoria’s wedding cake, because it was the first traditional wedding cake as it is known today,” says Porschen of the 1840 cake which reportedly measured three yards in circumference and weighed over 300 pounds.
“I think there was an element of Prince Albert actually bringing over the idea from Germany of having an actual wedding cake to cut. For me, I guess it’s quite nice to have a bit of history in the background there,” added Porschen.
Surrounded by delicately decorated cakes of every size, shape, and color in her parlor, Porschen tries to pin down her favorite flavor.
“At the moment I’m absolutely into salted caramel, chocolate caramel vanilla, gooey salty caramel sauce and ganache — there’s nothing better at the moment,” she says.
“One of our all-time favorites is our banoffee cupcake which is really popular with our children, who we have here in the shop as well.”
When I ask Porschen what wedding cakes will look like in 100 years, she still holds on to the traditions of old, hoping that couples won’t forget what went before.
“I would hope that the actual shape won’t change too much. I think that the cake decorating techniques will become more and more clever. For example, so many things have been invented, such as sugar lace,” she said.
“I think that in terms of decorating techniques, things will become so much more advanced that you could probably recreate anything, you could print on cakes, and maybe you could get a 3D printer to print your cake, which I think would be a shame.”
Judging by Porschen’s sweet success story, it doesn’t look like computers will be part of the mix anytime soon.