Jane was the winner of our recent Wednesday mini Challenge celebrating St Patrick’s Day, her entry a fabulous Leprechaun Cake was voted as the favourite.
Now you can read more about Jane and her business, Teatime Treats (a warning you may need some tissues! I did when I first read her article).
Tell us a bit about your background and your business?
Teatime Treats is the name of my business, my name is Jane Constantinou, and I am based in Warrington, Cheshire. I started cake decorating many many years ago, when my children where small! They were the proud recipients of all sorts of cakes for their birthdays, from Care Bears, pirate galleons, to rainbows, and rabbits!! I managed to make numerous wedding cakes, mainly for friends, or friends of friends, whilst juggling family life and part-time jobs. Then I decided to take a break, although I still dabbled occasionally. I have had many jobs over the years, from checkout supervisor, school dinner lady, police receptionist, plumbers merchant accounts office, post office clerk, and then have spent the last 5 and half years working for a local college as a communication worker with deaf students. Then 2 years ago, my job role changed, and while I had started cake decorating again part-time, I decided that I wanted more than my employed position could offer me. So, after attending a business course on cupcakes, I sat in the car on the way home and told my husband that it was “now or never!” and I went into work the following week, and handed my notice in! That was almost a year ago, and I’ve not really looked back!! As a young girl, I was always in awe of all 3 of my grandmothers (one was a step grandparent), as they were all of a generation who could knit, sew and crochet, so I suppose I follow in their footsteps with my artistic side of being creative , although I only recall 2 of them ever doing any baking with me. I still use my remaining grandmother’s recipe for pastry, especially at Christmas for mince pies!!
Tell us more about what kind of cakes you make and what training, certificates and qualifications you have or need?
I make anything from cupcakes for any occasion, be it a birthday, a wedding, a christening, or just because, birthday cakes, to Wedding cakes. I offer a consultation service, where I meet with the bride to be, (either on her own, or with the groom or a friend) and we have a chat about ideas, colour schemes, themes, anything to do with the wedding, and between us, we come up with a design for the wedding cake. I have made corporate cupcakes for a local private hospital. When I do fairs I also sell things like Rocky Road, caramel shortcake, iced sponges. I don’t have any formal qualifications for what I do, although I have done numerous courses on learning techniques, recently spending 2 days with world renown Lorraine Mckay and I am self-taught in some of what I do as well. I hold a current Food Hygiene Certificate and am registered with the local council, Environmental Health Office, something which you need to do, and also have insurance, which you need to be selling food items to the general public. I am also currently doing my NVQ Diploma in Professional Catering.
Where do you usually sell your cakes?
I sell some of my cupcakes to a local coffee shop and I do a number of fairs during the year, but I get a lot of my business through word of mouth and via Facebook. I have a lot of repeat customers, who also recommend me, so have a new client base from that.
Tell us about some of your favourite or most challenging cakes and what inspired you, is there a story behind each cake?
All of my cakes are my favourites and are all challenging in one way or another, especially the wedding cakes, as the bride is never really sure what she wants and by the end of our consultation, I have hopefully come up with a design that suits her wedding day, but here are 2 of my most favourite challenges to date.
In April 2011 I was approached by a work colleague, who asked me on behalf of a local council department if I would be able to make them a cake for a project they were doing. This phone call came on a Tuesday, I said yes, as I like a challenge, and the cake was needed for the Friday of the same week. I then asked what it was that they required, and was given a very bad photocopy of the Rugby League World Cup. This was what they wanted! They were putting a bid in to host some of the Rugby League World Cup 2013 games. After a few hours of humming and hahhhing, I decided the challenge was too much for me, but after some gentle persuasion from my husband, I decided to do something for them, but chose to do my own design. I called the guy in charge and asked if I could do my own thing and he gave the go ahead, as long as they had a cake for a presentation on the Friday!! Basically I had 2 days to come up with a cake that represented what they were doing. Finally, my idea started to take shape, in the form of a giant cupcake, with the local rugby league mascot coming out of the top. It also had the flags of the countries taking part, around the middle of the cake, along with a picture of the World Cup, and the logo of the World Cup, on the board. They also had a mission statement which I had to incorporate!! This all done, I headed off to the local town hall to help with the presentation, where I met the mayor, and a few other dignitaries, who were all involved in the project. They took the cake with them, along with their presentation when they went up to Leeds to present their bid!! In November, they found out that they had been successful, and the thing that keeps being mentioned about their bid, even to this day is the “wonderful cake” they were given!! From this came the opportunity to help them with their publicity campaign, so I was asked to appear on their posters promoting the bid. I found it an extremely enjoyable experience, but my boys were quite embarrassed by it, especially when their friends kept texting them to say they had seen me on the buses (the posters were put on local buses, in the train stations, council offices, some shops….) My daughter had a funny moment with her 2 young children when they were waiting for a bus, and the little ones shouted “Look mummy, there’s Nana!” pointing to the bus at the stop!! In fact, what they could see was one of the posters with me on it!! I have decided to give them a framed one for posterity!! Maybe I will even sign it for them!!
Another challenge that I have had the pleasure of doing while being my own boss, was last autumn, when someone asked if I could make a cake, on behalf of the family, for the father of the family, who had been diagnosed with cancer. It was going to be his 65th birthday, and they wanted something special that represented them as a family, and it had to incorporate something that he used to say to his wife! I was presented with a piece of paper with a pencil drawing and some words on it, and I had to convert this into a cake for them. It was most humbling to be part of this special thing that had been requested and when I was putting everyone’s name in position on the cake, I shed numerous tears!! I called this cake “Around the World a million times!” because the gentleman concerned used to tell his wife, “I love you around the world a million times!”. On the cake was a world, with this written across it, then the whole family had their name in the shape of a heart around the outside. When the lady who had ordered the cake, came to collect it, she couldn’t stop crying, and as she said, “I honestly didn’t think our idea could be done!” I cried with her, then her husband came in, (the cake was for his father!) and he too cried, so all 3 of us were stood in my kitchen crying!! The cake was presented to the birthday boy at a very small and intimate family gathering!! Just before Christmas, I was given the sad news that the man had passed away, and I was given a photo of him and the family with his cake, on his birthday. I felt truly honoured that I had been able to be part of something so meaningful for a family who wanted to show someone just how much they meant to everyone!!
Where do you find your creative inspiration?
I find my inspiration for cakes from every where, books, the internet, fabrics, pictures, nature and by mainly talking to my customers. Someone might ask me if I can make a certain style of cake and I will say “Yes of course I can!” Then I start to think and my mind goes into over drive as I come up with some ideas. I ask for ideas on hobbies, interests, anything that might be of any interest to the recipient of the cake, and I will try my utmost to incorporate these things into the final design.
What motivates you?
My motivation comes from the sheer pleasure that I get when I present a finished cake, and the look of amazement that appears on the recipient’s face and how appreciative they are, that someone has done something so special and personal to them. Going into a wedding consultation with a blank canvas, and then to produce a creation that helps bring to life the bride’s dreams for her special day and knowing that I have been part of that special event , is what also motivates me.
What piece of equipment could you not live without or which is your favourite and why?
I certainly couldn’t live without my Kenwood Chef, it is an absolute godsend, which was bought for me, by my grandmother. My previous one was over 25 years old and then when it came to the end of its life, I was mortified!! They are so expensive, but my grandmother knew how much I would use one, so she treated me!! I will be forever grateful to her for that, because without it, I would have the muscles of Popeye, with the amount of icing that I make for my cakes! For the same reasons, it is also my most favourite piece of equipment!!
What are your goals/plans for the future?
I think my ultimate goal would be to open a cupcake café or shop, but in the mean time I need to concentrate on building up outlets to sell my cakes and a sound customer base with repeat orders. I would also like to sort out my website, which at the moment is extremely basic, but considering I have done it myself, with no proper knowledge, I think I have not done too badly!!
When you first started if you could have been given one piece of advice what would it have been and what advice would you pass on?
I would have liked some advice on how to manage my time a little bit more effectively, as I am always being nagged at by my husband for spending too much time out having coffee! Advice to pass on, “Use your time wisely and don’t go out drinking too much coffee!” Seriously though, if you are considering doing any sort of course to do with cakes and cupcakes, shop around and find a course that will offer you something a bit different, but something that you can market and will be able to sell. I did my business course, it was expensive, but I already knew the majority of what I had paid to be told! In fact, I was giving as much advice to the other students as the tutor was!
Where can we find you?
I can be found on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teatime-Treats/157316344305143
My web address is www.teatimetreatscakes.co.uk
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org