Turning Lockdown Around – Farzana Manzoor’s story

In Farzana’s last blog published on CakeFlix ‘Farzana’s Story to Sparkles Cake Academy’, Cake Decorating teacher and lecturer Farzana Manzoor told the story of her cake journey and how she resumed her connections with CakeFlix after 18 years. Farzana had just launched Sparkles Cake Academy in February of 2020, then in March the world was rocked by Coronavirus resulting in a national lockdowns across the globe.

When asked about this past year, Farzana smiles and her eyes sparkle as she reflects on what can only be described as a rollercoaster year.  She has grown from strength to strength despite being forced to shield during lockdown, and the challenges that came with the newfound world of online teaching. Typically, she laughs in a jovial voice and declares, “here we go….Sparkles next episode…”.  

Farzana was not prepared to let a national lockdown dampen her sparkle; instead of allowing the restrictions to set her back, Farzana seized the opportunity to further enhance her skills and broaden her range expanding her business in ways she could have never imagined! Farzana explains that for the first time she had the opportunity and freedom to concentrate and develop her cake skills and techniques. “It really helped me cope mentally with being at home and online teaching. In the evening I would concentrate on learning new skills”. Farzana was motivated by CakeFlix’ ‘Caking all Over the World’ whereby cake artists around the world demonstrate their specialised skills and techniques. These demos continued to inspire Little Miss Sparkle, enthusing her to learn more and more.    

Farzana then continued building her online presence through CakeFlix tutorials and demonstrations of her love for chocolate shoes. Demonstrating her own bespoke ‘Shoe-stoppers’ live to CakeFlix followers. Her reputation quickly grew as she became known as someone with a fun and wacky personality with her love for colourful wigs and crazy outfits. Viewers were hooked on her charismatic and vivacious personality which Farzana explained left her, “feeling truly blessed to have developed a strong network of friends within the cake industry.”

Chocolate ShoeDue to shielding as a school teacher Farzana was legally required to work from home doing online teaching.  She described this, “anyone who has met me knows I can talk for Scotland, so I found it really tough, not being able to talk to anyone face to face and being in front of a laptop working through Google Classroom. It was both challenging and lonely”.  To boost her wellbeing and maintain her famous Sparkle, she continued to keep herself occupied by making uniquely designed chocolate shoes and learning new cake skills. Why? “I had to take this difficult and lonely time and turn it into a positive and do what makes my heart happy…. Cakes and Shoes!

Farzana was encouraged to take part in a CakeFlix video demo, creating her very own Halloween-themed “shoe-stopper” and this is where a new branch of her business really took off. The feedback Farzana received for her chocolate shoe designs was amazing, and orders started coming in thick and fast. “I just make it up as I go along”.  Farzana explains “I have used my transferrable cake skills to enhance the chocolate shoes such as lace, modelling, piping and painting and creating unique designs as I go along”. Farzana soon realised that her shoe design ideas are unique, which led to her shoe range element of the business being called, ‘Sparkle’s Chocolicious Shoes’.

As word spread of the infamous uniquely designed chocolate shoes, Farzana was approached by the manager of an Arcade in a nearby town to dress a vacant shop window with her chocolate shoes.  Farzana claimed that this was not only a great opportunity to ‘shoe-case’ her designs to the public, create more awareness and increase sales; it also gave a home to her 30 plus shoe designs that she had created and collected over a period of time as she really got into creating the shoes.      

Farzana Christmas TreeFarzana was thrilled when Paul Bradford, whom she refers to as her ‘hero’ then encouraged her to participate in CakeFlix’ first ever “Caking’s Got Talent” competition. With online teaching and a tight turnaround Farzana recorded herself making, baking, dancing and shaking it. Laughingly she says, ‘Got to shake what mama gave ya.’ Her video consisted of doing various styles of crazy dancing from a bit of hip-hop through to Bollywood, complete with a number of outfit changes and everything! To conclude the highly entertaining piece Farzana’s got her neighbours involved. This was important to her as everyone needs to show a lot more kindness in life after the year we had all experienced.

She explained that her next-door neighbour had been going through chemotherapy and she was determined to make her laugh as had been going through such a difficult and challenging time.  The scene ended with her wearing a bright green sparkly Christmas tree outfit with flashing lights delivering cupcakes to her neighbours. ‘It really was something to remember with children, dogs and cats all running down the street after her in her Christmas Tree outfit’. The whole street came out to give a big Christmas cheer, it really did lift everyone’s spirits.  Farzana explains what really made her heart smile was seeing how much her next-door neighbour laughed, she repeatedly said “I haven’t laughed this much in such a long time”. It really did cheer everyone up. Farzana’s authentic, mildly edited all singing all dancing video entry faced stiff competition from the professional quality of her competitors and she felt highly honoured to have made the cut against well-established cake professionals.  

A huge source of inspiration for the whole shoe venture was most definitely Jennifer Lofthouse. The ladies met online during last year’s lockdown and quickly became friends over their love of ‘Shoes’.  Jennifer was well known for her award winning, creative and bespoke designs of cupcakes and ice cream shoes. Farzana refers to her as the ‘Shoe Queen’ Saying, “Jennifer encouraged me to become part of her shoe tutorial group and it’s one of the best tutorials I have ever signed up to”.  Communication between the two continued with Farzana regularly running her shoe design ideas by Jennifer who was so encouraging and supportive and always told her, “Just go for it” and “be as creative as you want, you can do so much with these shoes”. Jennifer has always been renowned for her kind and friendly nature. She would always watch Farzana’s tutorials and comment on her social media posts and Farzana always replied with a complimentary, ‘Thank you my shoe queen.’  

Farzana and Jennifer had agreed that the next Cake International Event would be the ideal opportunity to meet and talk shoes!  Tragedy struck in February 2021 when Jennifer contracted Covid 19 and passed away. “Her death rocked the cake world” explains Farzana, “its crazy how someone can come into your life and make such an impact in such a short space of time! Jennifer will always be my shoe queen’”.   

Farzana’s sparkle shone again as yet another opportunity came her way, she was taken aback when she received an email from a large European sugar paste companySparkles Smartflex inviting her to become a brand ambassador. Farzana knew, “This was a massive compliment”. “Smartflex are an upcoming Hungarian-based sugar paste company, which I first discovered back in 2019 after receiving some of their products in the goody-bag at the Cake Masters Ball. When I tried the product, I absolutely loved it and immediately changed to their brand as the product is so versatile”. She went on to say how unique and easy it is to use, which is why it can literally be used for any cake or shoe related designs. Farzana went on to say “I have since used it for cakes, shoes, and as a teacher and lecturer it’s the perfect product to demonstrate and teach various cake skills. It’s the only product I use now, and it comes in a great range of vibrant colours, so I really am thrilled to be their ambassador”. Smartflex have asked Farzana to do some video demos of their products, and she says she is planning to visit the Smartflex headquarters near Budapest in the future to meet the team.

Unfortunately, at the peak of production, Covid struck Farzana and her sister leaving Farzana with ongoing long covid symptoms. “Covid hit me really hard,” she says, “but, I received so many messages of support from the cake world; Paul and David at CakeFlix and from complete strangers who follow me on various platforms. Cake friend Deborah Edwards, created a post on the CakeFlix (Family and Pro groups) letting members know how poorly she was.  Farzana expresses “I was overwhelmed by all the love and kindness, it really lifted me at a time when I needed it most”. Farzana explains that after being so ill, she has really struggled to do shoe or cake related projects, but with the support of her cake friends Nichola Meaney and Sarah Brown, whom Farzana describes as being her “rock”, through this turbulent year, they are helping her to gradually get back into it! 

Farzana Reflecting on the rollercoaster year Farzana smiles once more and says, “The positives far outweigh the negatives from the past year apart from the tragic loss of so many lives. I have made a wealth of new friends who share my love of cakes and shoes, and their continued support has kept me going through tragic loss and long Covid”! When asked what her future plans, she says she is looking forward to returning to in-person teaching at school (her day-job is a Home Economics teacher) and also getting things back to normal at Sparkles Cake Academy. She also can’t wait to see where the new chocolate shoe venture will take her and hopes to be able to visit CakeFlix HQ in Spain next year. This should give CakeFlix plenty of notice for the return of their Asian Invasion lol. Farzana is also looking forward to meeting the Smartflex team near Budapest. Signing off she enthusiastically declares, “I have recently received funding to set up a website dedicated to cakes, chocolate shoes and teaching cake classes so watch this space!”

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