When the pandemic hit Katie Briggs (52) from Hout Bay in Cape Town, was forced to close her guesthouse but she rolled up her sleeves and got baking. Now she’s getting attention for her wonderful cupcake art which has given her a new income and passion. This is her story.
was only in late 2020 that I discovered the amazing world of cake artists on Instagram.
Some overseas artists, like British woman Jane Taylor, have been doing it for
many years and have really refined their techniques.
In November 2020 I attempted my first cupcake bouquet. It was far from perfect – but after seeing how much my friends, and also my first customers, liked the bouquets, I was determined to turn it into a business.
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I ran a guesthouse in Hout Bay for a long time. Then the coronavirus pandemic arrived in 2020, and unfortunately like many similar businesses, I had to close my doors.
I’m divorced with three sons – Thomas (22) and 17-year-old twins James and Oliver. I had to do something to earn an income.
Then I started baking for the volunteers who were distributing food parcels in Hout Bay.
I watched videos of Jane and other artists to train up myself. Later I also bought their tutorials to download so I could watch them in my own time. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I spent hundreds of hours practising the techniques.
Flowers were part of my upbringing. My grandmother, Lily-Jane, did the flower arrangements at her church in England.
was never really interested in what she did. But since starting with the
cupcake bouquets, I have learnt so much about flowers. Now it feels like in a
way I’m continuing her legacy by working the way she did, although I’m using
cupcakes not real flowers.
I draw a huge amount of inspiration from her. My grandmother’s history with flowers is also why I named one of the bouquets Lily-Jane. Later I also named some of the other bouquets after women in our family, as well as good friends.
Customers have a choice of 30 cupcake bouquets.
The Lily-Jane and Annabelle bouquets are the most popular. They also depict my personal favourites, roses and proteas. Lily-Jane consists of roses because with it I pay tribute to my years growing up in England, the rose being a national symbol of England.
moved to South Africa in 1994 to work in marketing. After I got married I didn’t
want to return to England. After I got divorced, my ex-husband didn’t want to
move there either, so we agreed to raise our sons in South Africa.
My sons are South Africans and this is our home. Thus the choice of proteas for Annabelle. Annabelle is my second name, my first name is actually Katherine, but I didn’t want to call the bouquet that.
I’m the first cupcake artist in the world to make proteas using buttercream icing. It was a surreal experience when I got it right the first time, although it wasn’t looking anything as pretty as it does these days. I use buttercream icing because it gives you the smoothness you need for pressing out the different types of flowers. For the protea alone I used four different piping bags to be able the copy the flower’s shape.
In my range of 30 bouquets you have choice of two sizes. One with 12 cupcakes and one with 19. It takes me two to three hours to make the small bouquet, and the bigger one can take up to six hours.
I only do two to three orders a day because I do it all myself. From preparation to baking, to decorating and delivery. I want to be involved in every aspect of the work. I deliver them all myself because I want to see the joy when the 90-year-old grandmother of a customer who placed an order from overseas opens the door and gets the surprise.
received orders from everywhere in the world. I even have a regular customer in
Australia who often places orders for his family here in Cape Town whom he
hasn’t seen in two years because of the pandemic. Others have placed orders
from as far afield as the Netherlands, Germany and Canada.
You’re not only paying for the art but also for my time. When I started with the bouquets and reached out to Jane she told me that many artists underestimate the time they spend creating their bouquets or cakes. Then they charge less than what their creations are worth.
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My bouquets have also got the attention of film director Uga Lisa Carlini. She had a scene from her recent Netflix movie, Angeliena, rewritten to include some of my bouquets. That was an overwhelming experience.
Although the business has grown a lot since I started in 2020 I still want to keep it exclusive. I’m not dreaming about expanding in terms of having a franchise, because that would take away the personal involvement.
What I would like is a proper studio. I want to be a mentor and help others who are interested in this art to start their own businesses.
At the end of the day it’s not about just baking and flowers. I’m spreading joy.”