Cakes & Bakes
Peggy Porshen: Interview, Book Review and Afternoon Tea at Peggy’s London Parlour
Believe it or not, I had never heard of Peggy Porschen 6 months ago, but I definitely wish I knew about her sooner. She hit my baking buttons right from the start and I was quickly seduced by her unique ability to add glamour and sophistication to baking and cake decoration.
You only need to take one look at the way her cake Parlour in trendy Belgravia is decorated or flick through her new book ‘Boutique Baking’ to know that Peggy is not your average baker. Her exquisite wedding and celebration cakes are what originally propelled her into cake fame, but now she is diversifying and translating her talent into something many more can enjoy either through baking her recipes or enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of cake in her beautifully pink cafe.
I have been lucky enough to interview Peggy, visit her cake shop and thanks to my brother and his wife, her new book sits proudly on my increasingly strained kitchen shelf. So if like me you want to find out a little bit more about how to keep up with the ever changing cake trends, the story of how to make it big in the world of cakes, or whether to book afternoon tea at Peggy’s Parlour then keep reading. I’ve also included a mini review of ‘Boutique Baking’ just to give you a snippet of what it is all about.
Interview with Peggy Porschen
When did your love of making and decorating cakes develop?
I was always given a fabulous cake every year on my birthday as a child growing up in Germany which is a nation that loves cake! The cake was always the highlight for me and even then I was incredibly passionate about both the taste and the look. When I was 14 yrs. old I decided to make my own and it really just started from there.
What do you enjoy most about baking and cake decorating?
Obviously commissions from Elton John and for Stella McCartney’s wedding cake which came relatively early on in my career were notable highlights, however, the most significant milestone for me was definitely my first book. It defined me as a cake designer and was a true reflection of exactly what I had set out to become.
Sugar Paste is my favourite medium to work with, it allows me to be creative. It works best for large cakes and offers the best finish for a wedding cake.
Sugar flowers are my specialty, my mother and grandmother were florists and I think I must have got it from them. I also love graphic patterns and designs inspired by different eras, such as baroque scrolls and swags which make gorgeous piped designs.
In a nutshell, how did you get to where you are now? Do you have any tips for someone who as similar aspirations to you?
I started out looking for a German apprenticeship which would have taken 3 years to complete, I quickly realised that by studying at Le Cordon Bleu I could learn the same amount but at a more intensive level and complete my diploma within a year. I chose London as the UK is famous for expert sugar craft and I knew that it was an area I wanted to focus on.
After working as a pastry chef for a number of different companies I was personally commissioned by Elton John to create 550 individually-handcrafted chocolate Faberge eggs for his White Tie & Tiara ball – This was the turning point for me which inspired me to set up business on my own.
It was always a dream to have my own shop and the Peggy Porschen Parlour has allowed me to make cakes that are affordable to all. I would say that one should be prepared for a lot of hard work and should always have a plan and a business basis before they start. A lot of patience, dedication and resilience are also essential for success!
What is your favourite recipe in your new book Boutique Baking and why?
My cravings change with the seasons but at the moment I am obsessing over my sticky toffee cupcakes which are in the book and also sold in the Parlour, they are incredibly comforting, with a gooey toffee centre and nutty sponge – I just can’t resist. Otherwise, my Strawberry and Champagne cupcakes are proving very popular with customers so far this summer, especially because we have just teamed up with Laurent Perrier and are offering a glass of pink champagne which is the perfect accompaniment. A deliciously decadent summer treat!
Wedding-wise there is certainly a trend towards the traditional tiered cake, brides are opting for elegant and understated designs which display detailed craftsmanship and skill. Flowers of course remain very popular, I find a lot of brides ask for a bouquet of different blooms as opposed to one flower and one colour. After the Kate Moss wedding and with the new film due out, I predict a huge surge towards Great Gatsby-esque twenties designs, with pearls and swags and tiers of varying heights and shapes. Parlour-wise we are noticing a huge trend towards dessert tables at parties, with lots of yummy little bites and bakes rather than one large cake. We are having more requests for Baby Shower cakes and cookies than ever before.
Peggy’s Cake Parlour
I actually ended up going on my own to the Parlour, but in some ways I think this was probably best. It allowed me to really take notice of all the detail and soak up the relaxed atmosphere. I spotted the shop from quite a distance due to the pink ‘P’ logo sign that was hanging up outside so it is relatively easy to find. As a approached the shop, which sits perfectly on the corner of a street I felt quite excited about going in.
Inside it was clear that lots of thought had gone into the decor and all the little finishing touches. This is the sort thing I notice and love. There was pink paper pom poms, bunting, sparkling chandeliers, fresh roses and rows of delicious looking cakes. You might argue that I am easily pleased but for me this detail made all the difference to my visit. I do believe that old saying that we eat first with our eyes.
There was lots to choose from (see the Parlour menu) but I felt like celebrating a bit as it was my birthday weekend, so the word champagne quickly caught my eye and picked a strawberry and champagne cupcake to be complemented by a floral tea.
I very much enjoyed both. The cupcake was fresh and moist and the frosting was cream cheese which is my preference to buttercream. I could definitely taste the champagne so a big thumbs up there. The service was polite and quick although perhaps the staff could have been just a little bit more friendly. They all looked a bit serious to me. My cake and tea came to about £6 which I thought was quite reasonable for London.
All in all, my visit was a great success. I plan to get some of my girlfriends along with me next time and have already picked the cake I want to try…Lemon Limoncello which Kelly at American Cupcake in London has made herself and reviewed.
Boutique Baking: Mini Review
In a nutshell
This book is a stylish collection of baked treats which includes cupcakes, layer cakes, biscuits, classic cakes, and some simple but effective sugar craft ideas. There is also a chapter on drinks. The Pink Lemonade and Hot White Chocolate with Vanilla look particularly tempting. When I flick through this book I see an inspiring collection of fresh, beautiful and contemporary baking ideas. As someone who is always striving for new baking ideas myself, having a book full of them is a real achievement.
Key Baking Trends/Techniques
- Covering cakes with ganache or soft buttercream (needs a bit of practice but with a turntable and a palette knife its not too difficult to get a nice effect, although if you want perfection this is hard)
- Dome shaped cakes
- Painting warm cupcakes with a sugar syrup for maximum moisture
- Surprise centres: filling cupcakes and cakes after baking with jam/chocolate/caramel/creme patisserie
- 3 layered marble cake
“Writing this book has helped me to rediscover just how much I love to bake. I find it fun and therapeutic and truly believe that cakes can make people happy” (P. Porschen, Boutique Baking, pg 11) I can totally relate to this!
Booked Marked Pages
Summer Berry Cake, White Chocolate Passion Cake, (reviewed here by Maison Cupcake), Strawberry and Champagne Cupcakes.
Page Turn Off
Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake (a bit too rich for me) and Springerle Cookies (look fab but I have no idea where I will get a traditional German wooden cookie mould from).
Something I Made Earlier
I felt it was very important (for the sake of research) that I make something from Peggy’s book for this review. I took the book to bed with me one night and after quite a while decided on the Banoffee Cupcakes (page 56). Here are a few notes that I made about the process in case you try them yourself too:
- The recipe says 24 cakes, but I only had enough for 17
- I was worried about chocolate chunks sinking to the bottom, but the batter was a perfect consistency for holding chunks of chocolate in place
- I baked mine for 13 mins, (recommended time was 12-15 mins)
- There are many steps that children can help with, putting batter in cases (easier as it is slightly thicker than normal), painting on the sugar syrup after baking, mashing up the bananas etc
- I only made half the sugar syrup and this was plenty
- Adding a tablespoon of flour with each egg really helped to keep the batter together and not curdle
- I used a tin of caramel for the filling rather than dulce de leche
The sponge cake with the chocolate chunks and secret filling was divine. It was moist but came away from the case in one piece and mine rose evenly without peaking in the middle. It felt a bit more special than the average cupcake. I was very impressed.
The frosting however, did let this recipe down. I think the addition of banana puree is too much liquid and the frosting is not stiff enough as a result. When I read that the frosting had to be put in the fridge to set, I knew these would not last at room temperature for long. I also think that the cake is sweet enough by itself so adding frosting makes it too sweet for me. Next time I might try whipping some double cream until it is fairly stiff, and using this to pipe on top. I think this might make all the difference, even if you would have to keep these cool as well.
And if you have read this far, well done for reaching the end. I hope you enjoyed it.
Has anyone else tried recipes from Boutique Baking or visited The Parlour?
Disclaimer: The idea to contact Peggy, review her book and visit The Parlour was completely my own. I have not been paid to write this blog post in any way. The book was a birthday present from a member of my family and I paid for my own cupcake and tea during my visit. All views expressed are my fair and honest opinion (apart from Peggy’s interview which was of course written by Peggy).