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Baking: It's Christmas at Karen Jayne in Fulbourn

Christmas without cake is. . . not Christmas. The festive spirit has already arrived at Karen Jayne Cake Design's HQ, as Alice Ryan discovers

Flurries of fondant snowflakes, drifts of glitter-dusted buttercream. . . It’s fair to say Christmas has come early to Karen Bain’s Fulbourn kitchen. This is the headquarters of her boutique baking brand, formerly Sparkles and now rebranded Karen Jayne Cake Design, and Karen is finalising her to-order festive range, spanning ribboned boxes of iced biscuits, which can be posted nationwide, cupcakes, brownies, blondies and treat selections, all artfully decorated on a snow-day theme.

“In all honesty, what could be better than having fun while baking? I’m in my element: I love getting creative and designing each bake. It’s a world away from my day job,” says Karen, who runs her cake business alongside her family’s Cambridge garage, Stepney Brothers Ltd, which she manages with brother Mark. “When you get lovely feedback from a customer, it makes all the late nights and early mornings worthwhile,” she adds.

An award-winning baker - beating entries from across the world to win a podium place, she took bronze at the 2017 Cake International competition for her cupcakes - Karen is known for her sugarwork and, in any normal year, she’s in demand for weddings. Covid has, of course, had a huge impact and seen Karen developing more lines like the festive treat boxes, which are “ideal for those staying in on the cosy winter nights”.

Karen has her Nana to thank for sparking her interest in baking. “My brother and I would spend every Sunday at Nana’s and, while the roast lunch was cooking, she and I would spend the morning baking for tea time. My favourites were her cheese scones and banana cake! I can still see her now, with her old-fashioned china bowl, wooden rolling pin and metal cutters that would turn the butter, eggs and flour into scrumptious bakes every time.”

Baking remained a hobby until a conversation with a friend about dream jobs inspired Katen to take a one-day cupcake course, “and basically the rest is history”. More training, including a seminal sugar flower course with Sutton Coldfield’s Tracy James of Cotton and Crumbs, followed. Karen’s business was born in 2011 and she renamed it Karen Jayne this year, to personalise the brand.

With her daughters, Bianca and Jessica, as chief taste testers, she developed her core collection of cake flavours, ranging from classic vanilla and chocolate through to cherry bakewell and strawberry milkshake. “The most popular one has always been luscious lemon, which is very refreshing at any time of the year,” adds Karen.

Using only the finest ingredients, including free range eggs, real butter and top-quality flour, “I believe you can definitely tell the difference in taste and texture,” she says, “and I would only want the best to be made and sent out to a client.”

Entrepreneurial spirit clearly runs in Karen’s family. She’s following in the footsteps of her grandad, who started Stepney Brothers Ltd in 1948 and passed the baton to her dad who, aged 78, “still helps out a couple of days a week, tidying the workshop and making the coffee”. And she’s leading the next generation by example, with daughter Jessica setting up her own hair and beauty business, Jessica Jade Hair and Beauty, alongside her day job.

“I believe every celebration is as unique as the people celebrating it, which is why I like to personalise my bakes,” adds Karen. “That sparkle in someone’s eyes when you arrive with their cake creation and you know they just love it at first sight? That’s the reward for me.”

Karen also offers cake making classes. To find out more and to order call 07590 928265 or visit karenjaynecakedesign.co.uk

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