Mandy Black is CakeFlix spotlight member for September. Mandy is a regular in the private CakeFlix Facebook Group and is very supportive and always happy to offer comments and advice to others.
Having left her IT career in London, she started her cake journey a bit later in life, when she was asked to make her first cake as a gift for her colleagues. It was a Gladstone bag and, by her own admission, it was truly terrible! However, it sparked a passion which has just grown and grown. She has always been a bit ‘artsy’, firstly designing, making and selling mohair teddy bears as a hobby. Despite hating the feel of buttercream on her fingers, cake decorating soon became her new passion and she was hooked.
Due to a family illness, her new found hobby became her new career as it allowed her to work from home and also spend time helping out. She took to it very quickly and has never looked back. She then discovered that she had a talent for painting and incorporated these skills into so many of her creations. Living in the New Forest, Mandy gets asked a lot for woodland cakes, which allows plenty of scope for painting logs and woodland scenes, which can disguise the cake to look more like a realistic painting!
Within 6 weeks of starting her cake business, Mandy was invited to exhibit at her first wedding fair! At that point she had never been to a wedding fair, far less exhibit at one. She recalls the week before the fair so well, she said that "anything that didn’t move quick enough in my house that week, got covered in sugarpaste". She recalls being petrified, but despite all the stress, panic, worry and concerns she took her first wedding cake booking and the venue took her on as their preferred cake supplier. Some 11 years later and she is still there and gets on so well with all the staff that it now feels like home. Looking back, she thinks "what the heck was I doing jumping straight in at the deep end", but it just goes to show that taking that leap of faith and pushing outside the comfort zone really works.
Cake Journey Memories
Mandy attended a workshop with a professional painter. After creating her piece (pictured here) by following the tutor's instructions, the tutor said words that will stick with her forever ... "I knew that one day someone would come to my workshops who would be better than me, and today is that day".
In 2020 Mandy won Day 4 of the Flower Pro birthday celebrations with her Sunflower entry (pictured here). She had never entered a cake competition before and being terrified of making sugar flowers, when her phone pinged with a message to say that she had been mentioned by Nicholas Lodge, her first thought was ‘"Oh gosh! what have I done wrong?" Once she realised that she had been mentioned as the winner, she was on cloud 9 for weeks.
Voted the 5th top hotel the world, you can pay up to £5k per night at the Chewton Glen. Mandy is very proud that they recommend her to their clients which have included, top Russian businessmen, celebrities and the very rich. Mandy confesses that "It's very humbling to think that the rich and famous are served cakes make by me in my little kitchen at home. How the heck did that happen?" This is the same for most well earned opportunities like this. It's being in the right place at the right time with the right product and the right attitude.
Mandy has twice been the cake and bake judge at the New Forest show. Her fellow judges were professional chefs and she found it very interesting and challenging, especially as she knew the amount of work that went into each entry. Cake and Bake is one of the biggest categories in the entire show, which shows the growing interest in this category.
Most cake artists will resonate with Mandy's worst cake memory. She was at home covering the wedding cake for the next day when the groom called to ask where she was! Thankfully she was only a day out and got the cake there in under and hour, but the stress has been etched into her memory.
Mandy is completely self taught with a little help from CakeFlix online tutorials. She feels that its like her SatNav to find the right location and a friend to keep her company on the journey. However, she has maybe been watching too much of Paul as her husband, Stephen, said that she had picked up a Scottish accent after a while!
Mandy enrolled on David's CakeFlix Business Boot Camp at the start of 2021. She said "It has really changed my entire business, I work so much better and I've priced things so much better, I never rated my worth before. It was scary and I thought I won’t get the work, but I'm so busy now and the work keeps coming in. I don’t advertise, its all word of mouth and personal recommendation. I will be rebranding soon, I'm no longer going to hide behind Elmsleigh Cakes, but step out as Amanda Black Cakes and fully take ownership of my business and my craft. I'm still learning something new everyday, but my passion for this craft and the joy it brings just grows and grows. We may not be superheroes or fight fires, but I know every person in the CakeFlix groups has brought joy to someone's life especially during the last year. Like I said before its not just sugar and eggs, I've delivered little parcels of love to elderly family members celebrating birthdays alone during lockdowns, I've been this biggest part of kids birthdays who can’t see friends or have parties, this job has given me so much more than working with computers ever did."
Mandy loves and excels at designing cakes that are unique to each customer or couple. She recently created a blue ‘Waters Edge’ cake for Alex and Tom, who wanted a naked cake, but the design had to hide a huge rainbow velvet cake from their friends. Mandy got all the details about their venue, their lives and she was sent me some amazing coloured cakes for inspiration. She then designed their cake taking all these components into account. The rainbow cake was hidden beneath the waters surrounding their venue with their first naked cake coming out of the ripped painted sugar paste of the second tier. The ripping was to represent all the struggles that as a couple they had overcome and the gold leaf covering the rips was their love for each other, quite literally fixing it. The top tier had more gold leaf floating up onto it, just to show their joy and love for their new combined family and friends. Mandy's moto always comes through that its not just sugar and eggs, the cake and its design can tell a story and be so much more to the couple than a slice of cake.
Mandy is 53 and lives in Milford on sea, New Forest. She is married to Stephen and they have two kids, Lucia 16 and Jacob 14. To complete the household they have two cats an a nutty dog (Mandy's choice of words :-). Mandy describes herself as voluptuous, funny, friendly loves and trusts animals more than most people, if her dog doesn’t like you neither will she! She makes her bakes from her little kitchen (pictured here) and her admin is managed from a small desk below the stairs.
Mandy was brought up in a children’s home from the age of 14 and it was there that she met her husband Stephen. They were engaged for 25 years and together 29 years in total before getting married. They will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary in December 2021.
Lucia (Mandy's daughter) has CFS since contacting glandular fever five years ago. Mandy explains that life stopped for a few years as the only thing she could do was draw, mainly using her computer. She has amazing talent and has just started a level 2 diploma in art and next year hopes to go on to A Level animation and graphic design. What an inspiration given what she faces on a daily basis.
On a lighter note, when the kids were asked for an interesting fact about Mandy, they both agreed that her laugh sounds like a kettle whistling!
Mandy is originally from Winchester, which used to be the capital of England , before London. There are lots of interesting things about Winchester, it's claimed to be home to King Arthur’s round table and the beautiful cathedral is over 900 years old. There is a huge statue of king Alfred (who famously burnt the cakes) in the centre of town. He was the king who founded Winchester and made it the capital. There's lots more to check out about this wonderful city.