Chris Salzano, Tuesday 24 January 2017
The Tattooed Bakers aren’t your traditional cake makers – there’s no twee, cosy Mary Berry-style baking going on in the kitchen at their base in Merton Abbey Mills. This outfit has built everything from a sponge copy of artist Marc Quinn’s ‘Self’ to a life-size DeLorean car from the movie Back to the Future.
The Tattooed Bakers are couple Eddie Lebeau and Richard Amon who see themselves very much breaking the boundaries between art and food. “I think a lot of cake makers approach things as a cake maker, so they are almost limited – they are kind of restricted by what they know, thinking it has to be that way. Whereas we see things as a sculpture or a work of art and it can be made and we work out how to make it,” explains Richard, who studied fashion design at St Martin’s College before managing bars and a tattoo parlour.
Eddie, 28, studied art before working in retail, and although her father is a chef she’d never considered baking as a career.
“We made a cake for Richard’s sister of her beloved bulldog and we put it on Facebook and people were like, “you should do that as a business”. Rich bought the domain name two weeks later,” laughs Eddie.
Their first company Cake Doggy Dog – making bespoke cake portraits of people’s dogs – certainly made an impression, with several appearances on popular morning TV programmes. “It was around the same time as the Queen’s Jubilee. We made corgi jubilee-themed cakes that were shown on TV and then we just found it was too limiting,” explains Eddie.
“Then I had a baby,” Eddie continues. “Then we came back as the Tattooed Bakers and started doing all things weird and wonderful. Our name kind of sets us apart from traditional bakers – the GBBO, the pretty and pink, we are trying to be the anti-that,” stresses Richard.
Indeed, their unique take on cake means the Tattooed Bakers are in demand. From a 14-feet gingerbread house on the South Bank, to life-size rainbow-filled unicorns, there seems to be no limit to what they can create. “We try and make things that people don’t believe are cake,” explains Eddie. “That is our niche – things that seem uncakeable, to cake them!”
“A lot of people see a cake as a traditional-tiered wedding cake thing or novelty cake but we make things that are sculptural and a bit out there,” adds Richard. “We tend to come up with an idea and work out how to do it later... It’s never failed us yet,” adds Eddie with a laugh. Most of the couple’s clients are from the corporate or media world with the cakes used for events, but they are hoping to break into the wedding cake market. When we speak they are working on a wedding cake for a tattooist and a nail artist. “They wanted both their hands to feature in the cake so we have designed a topper with one of each of their hands. Then a tattooed-style heart and flying bottles of nail polish,” says Eddie.
“That’s the kind of thing we want to do,” explains Richard. “The alternative market rather than the traditional royal-iced thing. “It’s such a competitive market, there are so many people who do that element in that industry but not what we do, so that’s kind of our niche,” he adds.
Richard also runs a club in Wimbledon – The Tunnel – which the couple would like to become an alternative wedding venue in the future to go along with the alternative cakes they make.
Daughter Ophelia, three, must have amazing birthday cakes, I suggest. “Our plan was to make her a birthday cake the same size as her each year – we’ll try next year,” says Eddie. Often working to tight deadlines the couple have turned around a cake for Disney in 36 hours in the past, while the gingerbread house took three months in the planning and a month to build.
Particular highlights for the couple include making Mick Jagger’s 70th birthday cake and the Death Star from Star Wars. “The idea was to recreate the Death Star blowing up scene. It was basically a chocolate shell filled with grey sponge and they got an explosive expert to come and bore a hole into it, add some explosive and then blow it up – it was brilliant, so much fun.”
They never know what the next request will entail but Richard is hoping it might be for a J.K. Rowling character, he says.
The couple have also been approached by programme makers keen to feature their unique cakes and have been offered work in America, which they are considering. What is certain is that the Tattooed Bakers have all the ingredients for a successful future.