With The Cake & Bake Show 2016 having just concluded, star baker Juliet Sear tells us how her baking success was kick started by accident and reminisces about Cake & Bake Shows past with Paul Hollywood. Now working on her third book, the acclaimed baker has just settled in Islington with her talented family, who are also making strides in the city…
Words: Rachel Mantock
The acclaimed baking expert, author and food artist Juliet Sear has been involved with The Cake & Bake Show since its infancy. She helped coordinate its interactive content, such as the cookie decorating spectacle, oversaw the baking of thousands of cakes, and put together the stage bake shows of past Cake & Bake expos. However, the Islington local and baking star admits she had a few ‘baking disasters’ in her younger years and actually acquired her knack for all things baked. ‘When I was young my baking used to go disastrously wrong all the time,’ she admits, ‘but eventually I got into the swing of it.’
I actually got into baking as a career completely by accident. I used to throw these huge dinner parties and that’s when I gave cake making a go, everyone thought it was brilliant.
‘I actually got into baking as a career completely by accident,’ she continues. ‘Savoury food was always my passion and I initially wanted to have my own restaurant and bar. I was managing a café/bar in Leigh on Sea, where I’m from, when I met my husband. When we had children I used to throw these huge dinner parties and that’s when I gave cake making a go, everyone thought it was brilliant. I started baking all the time to entertain my three children, who were little then and everything really just took off from there.’
Sear eventually went to work in London for the Little Venice Cake Company at a time she describes as ‘before the internet – Sex And The City hadn’t even come out yet’. She began working on big celebrity projects, such as David Beckham’s 30th birthday cake, and learning all the intricate ins and outs of professional cake decorating. She says: ‘I was really lucky because, nowadays, that sort of training in terms of cakes is just not easily obtainable. Even if you just want to intern in the cake decorating field, it’s really difficult. I was just ahead of the trend before it became a big craze.’
Paul Hollywood ran into a room and security quickly shut the door. Literally not even seconds after, women were splattered against the windows trying to get in. It was awful and hilarious at the same time
Having worked in London for a few years, Sear and her sister decided to open a cake shop in Leigh on Sea, a place she describes as ‘an artsy little sea town’. With all the other cake spots in the town being quite old fashioned, Sear’s fresh new offering received plenty of interest. Knightsbridge’s Harvey Nichols eventually caught on and hired Sear to produce their own range of artisan cupcakes, a range that they eventually rolled out across all their UK stores. ‘It was great for me at the time and as much work as it was, I enjoyed it,’ she says. ‘I did it for about seven years before I eventually moved on.’
She subsequently partnered with Fortnum & Mason, which she adores because of its ‘boutique nature’. With two baking books already under her belt, most recently, Cakeology and a third one in the making, Sear has gone from strength to strength since her accidental entrance into the cake connoisseur world. Since her recent move to Islington, she’s even begun curating pieces for the BBC Good Food Magazine and fun independent brands.
Having sold her ‘beautiful, one off house, built by famous architects’ in Leigh on Sea for the hustle and bustle of Islington, Sear is relieved to eventually be settled in the city having experienced a big hiccup during the move to London. She explains: ‘We never thought we’d have a problem selling or Leigh on Sea home. It was the best house on the street! So when we did decide to make the move to Islington, we enrolled our girls into a school in London before we properly got the ball rolling because we were that confident. In the end, it actually took us a long time to sell it.’
Once, my daughter texted me while having breakfast at a school friend’s house and said “David Cameron has just casually walked in and is having breakfast with us”, that sort of thing has just become the norm now
Sear’s family is full of gifted individuals, as if the successful, artistic flair she so gracefully carries runs through all their blood. The creative genius gene has clearly made its way down her ancestral tree, blessing her and her offspring with an array of creative talents, together forming an Islington power family, all of them in possession of that glittering star quality. One of the reasons they were so keen to sell their Leigh on Sea home was because Sear’s son was being offered multiple acting auditions in the city.
Her girls, an artist and a model are the epitome of Instagram cool, both in attendance of a specialist fine art school where they interact with the children of some of London’s most important families. She laughs: ‘Once, my daughter texted me while having breakfast at a school friend’s house and said “David Cameron has just casually walked in and is having breakfast with us”, that sort of thing has just become the norm now!’
Thinking back to past Cake & Bake Shows, Sear – who adds that she is now happily settled in N1 with her family – reminiscences about the first ever show, reliving the comical moment when she and Paul Hollywood were backstage and a mob of obsessed fans rushed towards him. Laughing, she explains: ‘He ran into a room and security quickly shut the door. Literally not even seconds after, women were splattered against the windows trying to get in. It was awful and hilarious at the same time!’
Find out more at julietsear.co.uk