Jess is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met (and it was all through the magic of Twitter!). She started The BritPop Bakery last year, which sells the only fully organic, fair trade cakepops in Britain. She runs the bakery from her kitchen in London and regularly makes cake pops for events, weddings, parties and friends. Her cake pops taste like rainbows and joy – trust me, I reviewed them last year. I caught up with her recently to learn a little bit more about Jess and her wonderful cakepoppery…
When did you start BritPop Bakery and why?
We started the BritPop Bakery in 2011. We set it up because I had become aware of Cake Pops when we were living in Singapore and I was instantly smitten!
I tried to get hold of them when we moved back to London but I was horrified to learn that the accepted method of making them is by coating the cake in something called ‘Candy Coating’, or ‘Candy Melts’. This is a very versatile product that is used widely throughout the confectionery world because it is easy to work with and much cheaper than good-quality chocolate. Honestly, it’s horrendous stuff, I wouldn’t eat it myself, let alone feed it to children. The ingredients include partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil and titanium dioxide, amongst others, and once it’s melted it has to be thinned with vegetable oil to maintain the consistency! So unbelievably yucky!
We really hoped there would be a market for proper cake covered in nothing but the best quality chocolate we could find.
Why cake pops?
Because they are such a genius invention! Come on – it’s cake on a stick! They are totally portable, and perfect for those times when you just want ‘a couple of bites’. They are so fab for parties – they don’t make any mess, and because the cake is sealed with a coating of chocolate as soon as it is baked, it stays fresh for much longer than traditional cakes. They are also brilliant for children; they are small and cute and just enough. Honestly, I love them!
What makes BritPop Bakery cake pops different?
The simple fact that we are currently the only company not to use any artificial ingredients in our Cake Pops – and we never, ever use Candy Melts. All our ingredients are organic, our eggs are free-range and everything is locally sourced where at all possible.
What’s the secret the to the perfect cake pop?
Not to sound like a maths teacher, but the ratio is everything! There must be the perfect ratio of cake to buttercream to ensure that it stays moist and doesn’t fall off the stick – but still tastes deliciously rich and cakey. There must also be the perfect amount of chocolate around the stick; not a huge great thick layer, just enough to seal in the cake and give you that satisfying ‘bite’.
Who taught you to cook?
Delia Smith. Seriously! When I was little, every baking session would inevitably begin with my mother reaching for her Delia Smith ‘How To Cook’ books and saying, ever so gravely, “let’s see what Delia thinks, shall we?” I learnt all the basics from those books: how to make a roux, how to pick a good cut of meat, how to make a basic Victoria sponge.
When I left home at eighteen, my mother gave me a copy of Delia’s Complete Cookery Course, with the inscription: “Dearest Jessica – here’s everything I never taught you”. That copy is the most battered, dog-eared, food-splattered tome in the world and it sits in pride of place in my kitchen!
What do you love most about baking?
I honestly believe that baking is a form of therapy. It forces you to concentrate on only what is in front of you: the mathematical weighing of ingredients, the whisking and stirring and sifting and folding. If I am upset, or angry, or stressed, I find it so relaxing just to empty my mind and go and bake a cake. It’s so calming, and practical too – you end up with something (hopefully) delicious at the end of it! I think that’s brilliant.
What’s your favourite thing to make?
I should say cake pops, shouldn’t I? Ha! But no. Must be honest. I love making cake pops, of course, but my very favourite thing to make is Upside-Down Plum Cake. It it utterly foolproof and has never, ever ever failed me. It’s like the loyal friend that you know will never let you down! I even made it on a boat once, in the middle of a storm in Indonesia, when I had had one too many gins – and it still worked beautifully.
And to eat?
My mum’s Macaroni Cheese. The best thing in the world!
You wouldn’t know it, but I… used to work in a petrol station on the A2 in Kent, making sandwiches and bacon baps for the truckers heading down to the Channel Tunnel! My shift used to start at 4.00am and one morning I was so tired when I got into work I put my bag in the freezer, on some sort of sleep-induced autopilot - God knows why – and had to defrost the whole thing and it’s contents when I eventually found it. It took HOURS.
The greatest meal in the world is… your last. Especially if you are on death row! Because you can have whatever you like. But I suppose you would feel too sick with dread to eat it, wouldn’t you? Hmm…ok maybe not.
The meaning of life is… pleasure.
If I could have one wish it would be… total equality and acceptance for everyone, no matter your gender, religion, sexual preferences, beliefs or upbringing.
The most amazing feeling in the world is… eating something warm, straight out of the oven. NOM NOM NOM!
My favourite place is… the Village Coconut Island, in Thailand.
My earliest foodie memory is… licking the bowl after my mother had made a cake, and not letting my tiny sister have any. She cried, I got told off, then I was sick from too much cake mixture. Lesson thoroughly learnt.
The best advice I was ever given is/was… never be afraid to admit that you need help. Sometimes we just can’t do it alone.