"Wow, I've never seen a cake like this, you have outdone Hollywood!"
Creating bespoke cakes for big celebrities is a certainly a sweet way of life, and one that Paz Singh Heer knows all too well.
The Indian baker from Wolverhampton is the proud owner of AB Cakes, which specialises in delectable eggless cakes with a creative edge.
Whether it is for a wedding, birthday, or special occasion, no cake design is too challenging or out of reach for this talented baker.
In fact, Paz is becoming a local hero in his own right after creating masterpiece cakes for some of the biggest names in entertainment. From Bhangra stars to boxing champions, Paz is the go-to baker for showstopping never-before-seen creations.
While Paz has been in the baking business for almost a decade, his celebrity clientele emerged when he was given the opportunity to create a wedding cake for Jassi Sidhu in 2012.
After a few more innovative creations for other Punjabi stars, the Indian baker was approached by boxer Floyd Mayweather‘s management to design a surprise cake for his 40th birthday.
Paz’s cakes are far more than just layers of sponge and frosting, however. The British Asian admits that he enjoys taking his bakes to the next level, whether this is with flashing LED lights or integrated water features!
In an exclusive chat, Paz tells us more about the baking business and how he came up with the incredible Predator-inspired cake that stunned Arnold Schwarzenegger!
Tell us how AB Cakes started?
AB Cakes was already an established cake business which I took over in 2008. The previous owners were family friends of my Mum who wanted to sell the business to her. At that point in time, she could not take it on due to time constraints.
However, in 2007 she convinced me to take up this opportunity. Mum was always keen for me to become a business owner.
Back then I knew very little about baking but I remember the talks she used to give me about being self-employed and owning a business which I could pass down to my own children.
My mum was the first Asian female driving instructor in the West Midlands 30 years ago so really knew about making something of her life. She taught me that it doesn’t matter that I wouldn’t fit into the typical Asian male business owner stereotype but that it would be OK to do something a bit different and out of my comfort zone.
She talked about how she broke down the barriers she faced in her career which inspired me to bite the bullet and take on the business.
At this point, I already had a degree in Marketing and Retail Management but went back to college to learn cake decorating. The lessons were three hour long classes full of females and I’d often get awkward looks from my classmates wondering what I was doing there.
I worked hard and got the relevant qualifications in cake decorating, but to be honest, I developed more valuable cake decorating skills learning on the job.
For the first cake you made for Jassi Sidhu, what was your concept?
It was pretty straightforward. Back then I hadn’t started any social media portfolios so I used photographs and magazine cut-outs to showcase my work.
I’d show a handful of examples to Jassi’s fiance and she chose a style she wanted.
How important is creativity for a baker like yourself?
It wasn’t as important in my early days as it is now. Back in the day clients would come to us with a picture of a cake they liked and we would simply create our version of it.
However, as years have passed, my regular clients tend to want something a bit different so being creative has become extremely important.
“Some people have given me complete freedom to be as creative as I want with a design – the celebrity cakes in particular. They’ve seen what I can do now so they’re buying into me as an individual for my design and creativity.”
I am often given very little direction in terms of specific details people want for their cakes. In these cases, it really is all about thinking outside of the box and meeting that desire to produce something a little different.
Any cake disasters you want to share?!
The one that stands out the most and makes me cringe so I tend to do quite a few sketches before I make it, but usually end up only deciding on the final design the same week that it is due.
Don’t ask me why, but certain design elements just tend to come to me during the strangest of times which are often in the early hours of the morning or in the middle of the night.
One of the biggest ‘disasters’ that springs to mind was when I decided to incorporate a fully working water feature to be built into a wedding cake. I had never done this before and started wiring this remote controlled LED water feature which also included bubbles. It was a height of four feet! There are no classes, books or tutorials on how to insert a water feature into a cake as far as I’m aware.
The plan was to deliver the cake to the venue the night before the reception so my brother and I load the vehicle with this cake complete with this huge water feature sticking out of it. As we deliver it I was too concerned about it all being wired correctly and holding shape that I didn’t think about the logistics – every time the van moved the water spilled out of this feature.
It was a very painful 30-minute drive watching the water spill out onto the bottom tiers at every red light at every junction, roundabout or turning. The bottom tiered artwork was all ruined and soaking wet. Luckily when we got to the venue we were able to salvage some of the cake and re-do other bits.
Now the best bit about this story is that this was my own wedding cake! On my big day, my brother and cousin had to do more damage control and cover up any bit of icing that wasn’t quite right. They did a great job on it as I still get told by family and friends that it was the best wedding cake they have ever seen.
When baking for stars like Floyd Mayweather, Jazzy B, Kele Le Roc and Arnold Schwarzenegger how different is your approach?
My approach is actually completely different with different artists. The design brief is always minimal and I guess I’m conscious that I’m expected to create a masterpiece. 90% of the time I never start the brainstorming during the bakery opening hours. I just can’t seem to focus fully with the everyday demands of running the shop.
With Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cake for example even though I had grown up watching Predator multiple times I just felt like I had to watch it again before I sketched a single design.
For most birthday cakes I often Google images with the client to get ideas, however, for the grand celebrity cakes I don’t do this simply because I want to create something that is completely unique and I don’t want my creativity to be influenced by an image I’ve seen online.
My approach is also heavily influenced on the fact the celebrity cakes will be presented in front of a large number of people or on a stage so I have to take into account how effective it will be to someone standing at the back of the room as well as the celebrity who will be cutting it.
Creativity also has to be higher due to the nature of the client and the expectations they will have, so I try to make designs different to what’s been done before by incorporating water features, wiring LED flashing lights and lasers through the cake.
Eggless cakes have taken off in a big way. What’s your view on them?
Yes, it’s a massive part of the cake industry, especially within the Asian market where we are seeing franchises in most major towns and cities.
AB Cakes have been making eggless cakes from the very beginning. My view is that people want them not only to cater for the few people that cannot eat egg but also for those have allergies and intolerances too.
There is a clear demand for them.
What are the strangest cake design requests have you had?
To begin with, I used to be taken back by people requesting cakes for their pets. But after making cakes for nine years now this doesn’t feel so strange. In fact, it’s a great reason to celebrate a pet.
I must say I’ve had some pretty wild Hen party cake requests, but to date, the most unusual has to be a divorce cake request.
What makes a great cake in your opinion?
In my opinion, a great cake is a one that puts a smile on the recipient’s face. I’m a strong believer in traditional freshly baked methods as opposed to mass-produced cakes made or decorated in one hour.
A great cake should be made from start to finish bespoke for that certain individual in mind. It doesn’t have to be huge or multi-tiers but more so the design should be unique and personalised to celebrate that particular occasion.
How much cake do you eat a day?! And what are your favourite cakes?
Believe it or not, despite having a double chin and carrying holiday weight for a decade I don’t eat cake daily.
Naturally, I have to test batches of the cakes. However, about once a month I’ll get cravings and will eat the off-cuts straight from the oven when they’re still warm with a slice in one hand and freshly whisked almost ice cold fresh cream on the other.
I will then go all in with cream piped on almost five times the height of the cake. Now and again I will even experiment, my new favourite is chocolate cake with a mixed fruit jam filling combined with a layer of peanut butter spread and fresh cream! Yum!
I have also combined fresh cream piped like a tower on Maltesers. Don’t tell my doctor! Generally, I like toffee filling with fresh cream and bananas.
What would you say to budding Cake Bakers out there?
I would say try to understand the processes of baking in depth. For example, what part each ingredient plays in the role of creating a cake, whether it be a raising agent or gelling agent.
Sometimes I wish I had started baking years ago but my particular strength organically grew as a designer and experimenting on the job.
I would say don’t be scared to be different and offer something that isn’t available in supermarkets.
Traditional methods of baking prove to be a great blueprint but with food science and technology labs creating new products means a possible profitable future trend could be around the corner.
Egg substitutes is a clear example of that right now but there could be the next big thing.
What are your ambitions as a baker?
I would love to earn the right to be labelled Cake Boss UK. I’m personally inspired by Buddy Valastro but would love to be the British version of him with my own twist.
The dream would be to put my efforts into one masterpiece a week allowing me to focus on that one piece and to get the reaction Arnold Schwarzenegger gave me when he said in front of a 1000-strong audience: “Wow, I’ve never seen a cake like this, you have outdone Hollywood.”
As the popular saying goes, ‘Good things come to those who bake’, and Paz is a perfect example of how determination and a touch of creativity can bring you unimaginable success.
Find out more about Paz’s delectable range of eggless cakes on his website, AB Cakes, here.