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Cake Art With Chris Murphy, Confectionist to the stars

Tuck Box's Chris Murphy shares the secrets of his success

It’s not every day you’re asked to make a cake for a world-famous footballer and his showbiz wife-to-be (at less than a week’s notice, too), but Chris Murphy takes it all in his stride.

The 30-year-old cake maker extraordinaire from southeast London is used to last-minute requests by the capital’s glitterati, including constructing the gastronomic centrepiece for Ant & Dec’s joint 40th birthday party. When we catch up, he’s putting the final touches to an order for Dior, while simultaneously working on designs for the Ab Fab premiere earlier this month.



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“I had just five days to make a five-tier cake and 120 biscuits for Frank Lampard and Christine Bleakley’s wedding last year,” says Murphy. “Customers want someone who is reliable and won’t make them feel like every request is a big chore as they’re usually stressed enough as it is about the event they’re organising. Ideally, I’d like at least a month’s notice, but I can work quickly when I have to.”

For larger orders, such as the Lampard-Bleakley nuptials, Murphy calls on a trusted team of helpers, but the rest of the time, he’s by himself in his Sydenham studio, a former vicarage converted into apartments. Days are long for the self-confessed perfectionist.

“Because I live and work under the same roof, I’m always surrounded by projects. There’s never a time when I’m not adding another touch to an order to get it just right.”

His tenacity is clearly paying off – Murphy set up his company, Tuck Box, just four years ago, yet is already making waves in London’s events and catering scene with his colourful and inventive offerings.

Chris Tuckbox

“I think what sets me apart from other cake makers is the effort I put into the initial design,” he explains. “I send each customer a detailed sketch before starting, so they can see how the finished product is going to look. If I don’t feel their idea will work, I’m usually able to talk them around to my way of thinking or at least agree to meet in the middle.”

Murphy’s clientele are generally happy to trust his judgement – he knows a thing or two about design, after all. Graduating from Brighton University with a degree in fine art, he applies the same skills to baking as he does to drawing.

“I remember when I finished uni, thinking that it was a waste of time because I was going to be in debt forever if I pursued a career as an artist. But not a day goes by where I don’t have to draw or paint or sculpt.”

In fact, Murphy was recently tasked with creating the invitations and menus for a party hosted by Dragon’s Den star Peter Jones.

Chris Tuck Box

Baking has always been Murphy’s passion, long before shows like the Great British Bake Off popularised the pursuit.

“From a young age, I found it magical,” he enthuses. “There’s so much room for fun and creativity with the cakes I produce, so in that way, there’s a lot of crossover between baking and art.”

Tuckbox

After graduating, he landed a position as an intern at the award-winning Little Venice Cake Company, where he participated in putting together a staggering £25,000 design. When he eventually decided to go it alone, he took a stand at the National Wedding Show, attracting the attention of several bridal magazines with his display cakes.“It all took off from there, really,” he says.

Unsurprisingly, the business of cake making is an elaborate process. Even transporting the finished product to a venue can take several hours.

"There’s a lot of work involved to ensure the whole things stays together,” admits Murphy. “Every cake I do is finished with a chocolate ganache, which keeps the structure smooth and straight, preventing it from toppling over. Then within each cake are fillers that stop the layers from sinking into each other.”

Epiccake Tuckbox

It’s not all about appearance, though. Taste is equally important for Murphy. “I always try to keep things simple, so I offer just a few flavours, but do them well. There’s Victoria sponge, chocolate, lemon, carrot and red velvet. Occasionally, if a customer has something specific in mind, I’ll give it a go, but you can’t go wrong with the classics.”

If you don’t have a wedding or birthday on the horizon, fear not – Murphy has recently started catering for events as well, whipping up delights such as biscotti, raspberry bourbons and buttercream cakes. How does this one-man band fit it all in? He laughs.

“Last week, someone called and asked me if I could make a 6x4ft bird’s eye view of Machu Picchu with just two weeks’ notice. It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally learnt to start saying no!”

21Sttuckbox


The next big thing – confectionary trends

“The natural look is big right now. Cakes finished with fresh, edible flowers and fruits. Chocolate dribble is also really popular. I never get orders for fruit cake. I don’t think people of my generation eat it, plus the kind of customer who comes to me wants something a little different and isn’t confined by tradition.”

DIY cake making: Chris’ top tips

“It’s important to remember that baking is almost a science. You can’t mess around with the recipe, especially if you’re making a stacked cake. Also, it’s important to take into account the season and whether you’re serving it inside or out. If it’s a summer party, you’ll need a hardy base, so it stays intact. Double the amount of sugar to keep your cake firm and the same applies to the ganache – double the chocolate as it has a higher melting point.”

Tuck Box cakes start at around £350 for an 8inch birthday cake, and from £1,300 for a five-tier design.

 

 

 

Posted in Spotlight

by Alix O'Neill
on on 18 July 2016

  cake artist, cake maker

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