Aas preparations are made for a wedding, all eyes are on the centrepiece.
A tree of mouth-watering cupcakes stands tall on a linen-clothed table in the elegant dining room at Bradford’s Great Victoria Hotel. The towering creation has been made by talented cook Uzma Rafiq, whose skills in the kitchen are frequently called upon to help make a couple’s big day all the more special.
Tiered cupcakes are becoming more and more popular as an alternative to traditional wedding cakes and Uzma uses exactly the right ingredients to wow the bride, groom and guests.
“I love making cakes for weddings,” she says, “People are so excited and happy when they see what I have made – and that’s before they have even tasted them.
“Most couples want cupcake towers, which are seven tiers tall, with more than 75 cakes on them, and extra cakes laid out around the base.
“The cakes come in different designs and flavours so everyone can find one they like and they just pick one out, taking away the added pressure of a cake cutting ceremony. I tailor cakes to individual requests.”
Uzma has cooked from a young age and developed a love of baking cakes. “I’ve always baked for my family,” she says. “I love creating sweets and delicious desserts – you can be so artistic. I’m not a main course sort of person.”
Before setting up her business, Cupcakes & Cookies, her artistic flair led to her gaining a diploma in fashion design, but due to family commitments she was unable to pursue a career in the industry.
Instead, the single mum trained and later worked as a driving instructor. “I enjoyed it and I could fit it around my home life,” she says, “but I always wanted to do something that drew upon my domestic skills.”
Her interest in cupcakes was sparked while watching the TV show Cupcake Wars with her two-year-old daughter Sameya, who she describes as “a mini me.”
In her Bradford house, Uzma has a “home kitchen” and a “work kitchen”. “We were creating space downstairs for storage and thought this seemed like an ideal solution,” she explains. She was lucky enough to be given a smart second-hand oven by a local catering company. “I’d gone along to look at ovens and they gave me one – I made them a huge cake to say thank you.
“When you start a new business money is tight, so that made a big difference. You can go a long way with good contacts and nice people around you.”
Uzma uses only organic ingredients and makes fresh-to-order. “Making a traditional cake can be a long process, but with cupcakes you can bake one day and deliver the next.”
Edible decorations include butterflies and flowers. One bride, who married in Africa, wanted a central cup cake with an elephant on top. “It looked really good,” says Uzma.
She is called upon to create cakes for other occasions such as birthdays, christenings and graduations.
“I made pumpkin cakes for Halloween, with cakes coloured orange and black and decorated with bats. Women celebrating their birthday usually want girly cakes – pink and pretty.”
A collection of cakes in the England colours for a football fan was a hit at a local youth work event, and cookies for corporate events bear the company logo.
Uzma combines flavours to create delicious combinations for her cupcakes – there’s chocolate and cherry, orange and poppy seed, pineapple and coconut, and mango and lime among the many choices.
Red velvet – a smooth, creamy tasting, light chocolate cake made with buttermilk, with a traditional and distinctive red colour, is a favourite. “I also do butterscotch, cappuccino, carrot cake and many more, and will make cakes in flavours suggested by clients,” she adds.
One of the advantages of the home-run business is that Uzma can spend time with Sameya. “I have the best of both worlds,” she says.
Her parents are very supportive. They are thrilled that I have my own business and love my cakes, although my mum prefers a more simple dessert.”
Cookies – which like cupcakes, first trended in the USA – add another string to her bow. “Not everyone likes then too sweet, so I do a shortbread base and decorate it to a customer’s choice,” she says. The eyecatching biscuits are iced in delicate designs, with swirls, dots and hearts among the variations.
With the wedding ceremony only hours away, Uzma’s wedding cake – made up of chocolate and vanilla, alongside chocolate and strawberry cupcakes – is being admired by the groom Steve Lubbock, who is about to marry his fiancee Lisa Gower.
“It is perfect,” he says. “We wanted something a bit different from the traditional. We wanted to move away from cutting the cake and wrapping it in paper for people to take home and forget about. These are so lovely. They will definitely get eaten.”
Adds Uzma: “I love seeing people’s reactions, the excitement and pleasure on their faces – cupcakes bring out the child within all of us.”
For details visit cupcakescookiesbradford.co.uk, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or ring 07933 010416.