The Plympton mum turning cakes into works of art
PUBLISHED: 17:11 21 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:11 21 May 2018
A former personal banker was on maternity leave when she discovered a hidden talent for turning cakes into astonishing works of art. Words: Chrissy Harris | Photos: Steven Haywood
It started with a Gruffalo. Verity Malinowska was determined to make the special monster cake for her son Jack’s first birthday. Her gorgeous little boy had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis shortly after he was born, plunging the new family into despair during what should have been a happy time.
Cystic fibrosis is a life-limiting genetic condition that causes problems with breathing and digesting. Jack – a much longed for baby who arrived after months of fertility treatment – has to have constant medication to stop lung infections, regular physiotherapy and a special diet to prevent malnutrition.
“He loves the Gruffalo children’s stories and I thought I would try making him a cake for his birthday,” says Verity, a personal banker at TSB and novice baker who had previously relied on packet mixes and shop-bought buttercream.
“We had just come through the worst year of our lives,” she says, explaining how making a birthday cake seemed like a refreshingly normal mum thing to do. “It turned out really well and a neighbour asked me if I could do a unicorn for her daughter.”
More requests followed and Verity soon found herself at her dining table in Plymouth, sculpting ever more complex designs out of icing, including an incredible Game of Thrones-themed cake with life-like characters, Disney models and fondant replicas of people’s family members.
“Another neighbour wanted a cake with a figure of her husband on a paddle board,” says Verity, 31. “I worked from photos and in the end it really looked like him. Even I was surprised!”
Self-styled ‘cake-up artist’ Verity’s showstopping creations have attracted more than 1,000 Facebook followers and have even caught the attention of football players from Plymouth Argyle and Premier League Burnley FC.
The busy mum has now set up her own business and is inundated with requests, including her latest challenge: a three foot high Lord of the Rings-themed wedding cake.
“I’m not scared of taking something on – I will just work and work until it’s right,” says Verity, who spends her day with Jack, puts him to bed and then works on her designs until the early hours of the morning.
She sits at her small dining room table at her home in Plympton, surrounded by Jack’s toys and uses sculpting tools to mould intricate figures and scenes onto her cakes before painting them with a range of food colourings.
Each decoration can take up to a week to perfect but Verity says she enjoys losing herself in the detail of her new-found vocation.
“There is a lot of stress with Jack but if I’m down here working, I forget about everything and just focus on what I’ve got to do,” she says, before laughing at her food-dye stained fingers.
“You can get a bit lost in it all and I like that. Of course, it’s stressful if something goes wrong but I know I can sort it out.”
Stressing over a cake is nothing compared to what Verity has to deal with on a daily basis.
She shows me Jack’s medicine shelf, piled high with the antibiotics, supplements and other drugs the 21-month-old has to take every day. The toddler’s immune system is weak and he’s susceptible to infections.
He was also born with a blocked pancreas and can’t digest certain foods, relying on vitamins and supplements to boost his diet.
Today, however, Jack is bouncing around his living room, showing off his toy dinosaurs and inspecting the photographer’s lighting equipment.
“He’s amazing and it’s incredible that I can be there for him,” says Verity, who has left banking to concentrate on her business. “I love the fact that I can balance this with being a mum.
“I don’t want to be in that dark place any more. In that first year, I would just look at Jack and cry. What kind of life is that for him? It’s no good if I’m just moping about.”
Verity credits her computer engineer husband Paul with being her biggest support and helping her business grow by designing a website.
She has already received orders for 2019 and is constantly pushing the boundaries for what can be achieved with sponge and icing.
“I’ve only started and I’m learning as I go but I’m enjoying it,” says Verity. “I’m just going to see where it goes.”
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