In south Dublin, hidden down a quiet side street, there is an absolute gem of a cafe. Filled with great food, friendly staff and the most delicious lemon slices you will find this side of Dublin, The Cake Cafe is the place to go with your friends, your mum, your other half or who ever else you can drag off the street! My ideal outing often involves sardines on toast, tea or wine depending on the time of day and of course a lemon slice or a slab of chocolate cake depending on the mood.
So recently when I heard that Michelle Darmody, owner of the Cake Cake was looking for sponsors to help self publish her first cookbook I didn't have to think twice. She was using Fundit.ie to source her sponsors, a crowdfunding website which allows people to help fund ideas which they think are really worthwhile. If you have never encountered it before, have a look, there are loads of creative events and ideas that need help with sponsorship. They aren't asking for a lot and really need help to get their ideas off the ground. By people preordering her book through Fundit, Michelle was able to completely self-publish The Cake Cafe Bake Book and do things in true Cake Cafe style.
The Cake Cafe Bake Book is a quirky, colourful, illustrated book all about baking. It is filled with recipes for lots of sweet treats including the infamous 'Lemon Slice' and lots of other practical information such as how to line a tin properly. The majority of recipes fill half a page which make them very easy to follow, to understand and ultimately to bake. Another fantastic thing about it is that the recipes have measurements in both grams and ounces so no having to work out the conversions in your head or on your flour covered phone! Another big plus is the empty pages at the back where you can add your own recipes or those pesky magazine recipes that always seem to get lost.
The Cake Cafe Bake Book is a definite must have for any baker and for only 18.99 it would make a fabulous gift this coming Christmas (sorry if that's too early for you, only 49 days to go!). Of course I had to make the Lemon slices but they were so good they were gone before I got to take a photo!! Michelle kindly took some time out to talk to The Purple Page about her cafe, her cookbook and all things cake.
Michelle you are the owner of the very successful and wonderful Cake Cafe on Pleasants Place, which is filled to the brim with all manner of delicious treats. Where did your love of baking come from? I grew up in a house that was always filled with the smell of baking. I was roped in to help my parents in the kitchen as I am the oldest of five children and there was always something to take out of the oven or to stir on the hob.
Six years ago when you set up the Cake Cafe did you ever envisage yourself writing such a book? I studied art in college and made quite a few artist books over the five years there. I have always loved collecting and to an extent making books so I guess this book is an extension of that. It could probably fit into the design section in a shop as much as the cooking section which is what I love about it. It is a workbook and sketchbook as well as a cook book. I left blank pages that I hope people will fill to make each book their own.
Do you feel that it was just a natural progression or were people just constantly pestering you for your recipes!? A bit of both really. We are constantly asked for recipes and I host baking classes where I share recipes so it was natural to start collecting them. I had a strong idea how I wanted the book to look and that came about naturally. I was also very conscious of getting the book printed in a fair manner within the EU rather than being out sourced. I eventually went with a great printer in Luxembourg.
Why did you decide to self-publish? What was the biggest challenge and what has been the best part about it? The biggest challenge was the amount of work involved. I set up a publishing company under the name of The Cake Cafe and set about writing. It was nerve wracking to think that publishers thought I was a bit mad and I did wonder how I was going to get the book to people. Luckily Thames and Hudson stepped in and have taken over the distribution. They are also releasing it in Australia and the UK
Do you have any advice for other authors who would like to self-publish? Give your self plenty of time, everything takes longer than you think. I would also say if you have a strong enough idea and really want to do it you will.
How long did the Cake Cafe Bake Book take from the initial idea to publication? Over a year.
I love the artwork in the cookbook and I think that since there are no pictures to go by it liberates the reader from what they think their end product should look like and allows them to bake freely. Do you agree? Yes I loved working with Niall and Nigel of Pony on the design of the book. I feel the lifestyle photography has been done so I wanted to try something different. I was lucky to have a close working relationship with such talented designers.
There seems to be an ever increasing number of people who suffer from food intolerances these days and indeed you offer a number of recipes in the book that are dairy free. Is this something you are very conscious of and that you kept in mind while writing the Cake Cafe Bake Book? Yes we get more and more people asking us for wheat free and dairy free recipes. I think it is very important to think of both when you are looking at baking.
Now for the most important question!!! Out of all the wonderful recipes in the Cake Cafe Bake Book what is your absolute favourite? The sponge cake. It still amazes me how three simple ingredients can transform so utterly. I think it is the simplest and purest way to see the magic of baking.