What do you do when you’re tired of your stressful job in London? Well if you’re Rachel Filmer, you start up a cupcake school in Bournemouth…
In the gorgeous Green House Hotel, tucked away just outside of the busy town centre, 29-year-old Rachel Filmer unpacks her many bags of impressive baking equipment, most of which the average person would not know existed, let alone know what to do with. From bone tools to lustre brushes it all looks a little daunting, but Rachel soon puts everyone at ease.
Rachel hasn’t always been a master baker herself. She originally studied Drama at University in Birmingham and then moved to London where she did some magazine production, freelance writing and worked for media company Emap. She then worked on big advertising festival Cannes Lions. It wasn’t until she was 23 that Rachel showed much interest in baking at all. “I literally went on a course on a whim about 6 years ago and then just got really obsessed with cupcakes. I just started baking and decorating all the time and going to classes and reading books. And then did more courses and started selling cakes. I was working full time and doing cakes on the side and it all got a bit crazy” says Rachel. So eventually she decided to pack it all in and leave the big city with her husband. She moved back to sunny Bournemouth, the town she grew up in, and set up her own cupcake school ‘Let’s Make Cupcakes’.
The first class was in September, and since then Rachel has been holding about two classes a month, most of which have been fully booked. “It’s been a pretty crazy year. I only left my full time job in London in May. So it’s been a bit of a whirlwind but I really love it. I’m having so much fun, and I would not go back to working full time now. Never”.
Rachel admits that starting up her own business hasn’t been easy though. “When you work for yourself, it’s really hard. I don’t think anyone tells you how hard. I had no idea, I thought it would be such a simple business to run as it’s not very many hours. But I’m working all the time and I never really switch off. But it is really enjoyable and I’d definitely recommend other people do it”. She’s now even looking to expand the business and hopes to hire a new teacher so she can hold more regular classes.
Something that sets Rachel’s classes apart from many others is the fact that she is not in the business of selling cupcakes. “I don’t have a problem helping people who are starting their own business and I’m quite happy to tell people things that professional bakeries might not want you to know”. Rachel’s class is full of incredibly useful hints and tips on how to make the perfect cupcakes, from how to make sure they don’t rise too much in the middle, to the best way to distribute the mixture into the cases. She is also happy to answer any questions and her friendly and laid back nature leaves her students unafraid to ask for help when they get stuck.
Today’s class consist of a varied range of students, from a WI member looking to perfect her decorating skills, to a student looking to learn the basics. “A lot of the time it’s women of all different ages who have done quite a bit of baking at home but they don’t really know how to decorate and they just want to get started in the right direction” says Rachel, “but then I’ve also had head chefs of big fancy restaurants and lots of teachers, people who are retired or people who are young and have kids they want to make cakes for. It’s really varied, which is really nice actually”.
After making the perfect cupcake base, Rachel then tells you how to make intricate and beautiful decorations. You learn how to make everything from scratch, including delicate roses, elegant lilies, and cute butterflies and hearts. It looks very tricky but is surprisingly easy when following Rachel’s demonstrations. Then at the end of the day, it’s time to assemble the cakes. You learn three different icing techniques and then are left to your own creative devices, designing your cakes as you see fit. You even get to take home six of your creations and, even better, you get to eat the ones that don’t fit into the display box provided!
There has definitely been a boom in the popularity of cupcakes in recent years and Rachel has several theories why. “They’re really indulgent and you don’t have to share them with anybody. I think that’s why people like them. They’re just for you. And also, there are just so many things, design-wise, that you can do with them and I think that really interests people. And I think they’re just cute as little individual cakes. But why they are quite so popular, I really don’t know. I initially thought that it might be a bit of a fad, but it doesn’t seem to be letting up at any point soon!”
The class at first seems a little pricey at first, costing ?89 for the whole day (10:30am – 4:30pm). However it soon becomes clear that it is worth the money as the day includes a delicious lunch in the hotel restaurant, a free recipe book with written instructions on everything you make in class and you get to use top quality tools and ingredients. Not to mention the invaluable expert advice from Rachel. She is even happy to help her students via email if they have any further baking questions when they get home. Plus, as Rachel says, “You can blow this amount of money going sale shopping but to learn some skills that will last you forever and you can use again and again is really useful”.
At the end of the class there is also a chance to buy some of the equipment you have used – which is sometimes hard to come by in the shops – so you can continue your baking and decorating at home. It truly is a fun day out and once your cupcakes are assembled it’s hard to believe that you actually made something so beautiful. Plus, if you can resist eating them all yourself, they’ll make perfect presents for friends and family.
For more information, or to book a place on Rachel’s next class, visit www.letsmakecupcakes.co.uk