In today’s Student Spotlight, we’re bringing you Justine Campbell-John from It’s Not Just Cake
Her baking career began when she started making birthday cakes for family, then friends, then friends of friends. These cakes fired a passion for cake design, something she seemed to just fall into and wanted to learn and grow more in the industry. She loves the creative side of cake design!
What's your business?
Where are you from?
London, United Kingdom
What's your background?
I grew up wanting to be a Home Economist basically a food stylist, so I went to The Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Although I never ended up becoming one and after years working as a chef I went to work for my father who works in advertising, running a music production company in London.
I still run a music production company in London but cake design seems to be taking over my life and would say it is now the side job to cakes!!
What role does cake design play in your life?
I am constantly thinking of designs taking inspiration from everyday life. I love it when the customer give me free rein to do what I want. I am no where near where I want to be with design as the ideas I have I am still a way to being able to transform into a cake but I am slowly getting there.
How do you find working with buttercream in your climate?
I find it fine where I live. There really is only a couple of weeks when the weather in the UK is too hot and I have to work at night and chill the cakes super fast. DTC Buttercream works perfectly for me.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
I feel my biggest achievement so far is maintaining growth throughout the pandemic. By learning new skills, techniques and taking the time to practice them It’s Not Just Cake has grown in reputation, I now work with a number of event companies and wedding planners.
How has your business evolved since Covid-19?
It’s definitely gone from a side hustle to an actual business. I dropped my prices in the first lockdown, with everyone staying in the orders grew week by week until I was fully booked weeks in advance. Once I had the go ahead from my local council environmental health department customers trusted I could safely deliver cakes to them and their friends. Demand for my cakes has grown during the pandemic which, for any business, is a blessing. I also managed to use the lockdowns to learn new skills by taking online courses. DTC being one of them.
Where do you see the future of your business (or cake-making)?
I want to keep learning and find my style, I have it in my head I just need the skill set to turn the dream into reality. I am taking more courses in the next few months and by the summer I will be there. You have to keep learning !
Tell us a cake disaster story!
I have had a few! I have forgotten baking powder in sponges and thrown away batches of swiss meringue buttercream thinking it had curdled! (Thanks to the Buttercream Mastery course, I have no more mistakes here). But this was the biggest for me.
I made a tall two-tiered cake for a corporate client, concrete with stenciled detail and the corporate logo on the top. It was a rare day in London where it was over 30 degrees. I only have a Mini (type of car) so the aircon is not great. I boxed up the cake, set off for central London leaving the lid off the box. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the cake slipping off the board. Panicking I pulled over and lodge a palette knife under the cake and popped the lid on as I didn’t think there would anything I could do until I arrived. When I arrived at the venue the cake had indeed slid off the board. I managed to get it back onto the board and fix the bottom.
Thanks to the concrete effect you didn’t notice it too much. The venue staff then put it into the fridge, but the fridge was the cheese fridge! I was horrified when I was told the cake was amazing but the buttercream was cheesy. I was even more horrified when I worked out that I had left the cake on the counter to get the box but above the dishwasher. It heats up the countertop so no wonder that it slipped!
Do you have a favourite cake you've designed?
I have so many cakes I have loved. An elegant Christening cake with a stencilled rosary, an engagement for a couple getting married in Lake Como, the We Will Rock You cake I made for my mum’s 80th. Marble cakes… So many!
How about a favourite cake decorating style?
I mainly use buttercream. Don’t Tell Charles, of course. However the style of wedding cakes I would like to design use aged fondant.
Besides cakes, what other types of bakes do you enjoy creating & decorating?
I also love making more rustic cakes. For the Lake Como cake I made Tiny Peach and Almond Cookies from Letitia Clark’s La Vita Dolce. They made the cake for me just so pretty.
What made you decide to take an online course?
I have never taken any baking or cake design courses in the past. Cordon Bleu was over 30 years ago so you can’t say that I remember much from then and a steamed sponge pudding or an apple tart wasn’t cake design. I knew if I wanted to master cake design I had to learn more. But I also knew I had to find the right course for me.
I have taken course’s to improve my skills and felt that I got a much better understanding when doing the courses rather than just trying to learn from research and online videos. It is worth the investment in money and time to learn from someone who has taken time to put together a proper course / class rather than someone winging it in a video. I have had a few disasters!
I followed DTC for some time and loved the sharpness and simplicity of the designs and felt the courses would be the right fit for my style, or the style I am aiming for.
What DTC course have you enrolled in and how have they helped you?
What advice do you have for people starting out in their modern cake making journey?
Keep learning and practice, practice, practice. Find your niche.
I am still looking for mine but it’s so nearly there. If you keep learning new skills and taking the right courses you will get there. And now you will have the odd disaster along the way but that is ok. It’s learning.