Mich Turner MBE, Food Scientist and Owner, Little Venice Cake Company

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st March 2017

Mich Turner MBE is a food scientist and nutritionist, and founder of the Little Venice Cake Company.

Mich began her illustrious career at an early age baking her first wedding cake for her A level teacher at the tender age of 17. In 1999 she founded Little Venice Cake Company which has won her an enviable list of A list clients for her award winning designs. With Little Venice Cake Company she has produced over 10, 000 cakes for everyone including Gordon Ramsay, David Beckham and even the Queen.

Mich is also an international best selling author, TV personality and speaker for businesses and entrepreneurships.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Mich to find out how it feels to be referred to as the Michelangelo of cakes, why David Beckham’s cake was the most stressful to make and why you need patience to become a good baker.

carrot cake with orange cream cheese frosting and walnut praline

carrot cake with

orange cream cheese frosting

and walnut praline

Why did you decide to become a food scientist?

Although I’m a qualified food scientist and nutritionist, my practical career has always circled around cakes, bakes, sweets and treats. I was sponsored at University by United Biscuits and spent my industrial year working at McVities, looking after Marks and Spencer Christmas cake production, Jaffa cakes and biscuits. When I graduated, I worked as a buyer at Harvey Nichols in the bakery and patisserie department. I grew up working with and meeting a huge number of different pastry chefs as well as being myself a food chemist. I immersed myself in the world of bakery and cakes. I founded the Little Venice Cake Company in 1999, making cakes for lots of lovely people from all over the world.

I read that Pierce Brosnan called you the Michelangelo of cakes, how does that feel?

It’s lovely. We’ve made over ten thousand bespoke cakes for lots of high profile clients, celebrities and international royalty. I made the wedding cake for Pierce Brosnan fifteen years ago and we’ve become friends. I’ve made lots of cakes for him since then and we often have cake and champagne when he’s in town, which is wonderful.

It was lovely of him to say that. He sent me an email saying “you are the Michelangelo of cakes”, and I was so chuffed I asked if I could quote him – he was very gracious and agreed! It is lovely to be deemed an artist in what I still consider a scientific genre.

What has been your favourite piece that you’ve created?

It’s really hard. This year marks my thirtieth anniversary of making my first wedding cake. That was when I was 17. I was studying my A-Levels and my teacher asked me if I would make her wedding cake. Still today that would be the one that started it all so that has to be special. Ten years ago was the Queen’s diamond wedding anniversary wedding cake that I made and delivered to Buckingham Palace for her majesty the Queen.

Every cake is special because it’s made on that day for that occasion. But the truly special ones include my very first one, Pierce Brosnan’s wedding cake, the one for the Queen, the cake that I made for the movie Nanny McPhee because it was just so iconic and no matter how many times you watch the movie it’s always there. But also doing my own wedding cake on my wedding day.

I have so many stories and lots of memories, but my most stressful commission is undoubtedly the 48 hours notice I had to make, bake, deliver and transport David Beckham’s thirtieth birthday cake to Madrid. They loved the cake and the party was a huge success.

Info Bar

Signature dishes –

Carrot cake with cream cheese and caramelised walnuts

Lime and pistachio roulade with the creme chantilly

Lemon meringue chiffon with Italian meringue

 Desert island desserts –

Toscaner

Queen Elizabeth date cake

Lemon tart

Russett apple ice cream

Apple crumble

Have you got any future plans for Little Venice Cake Company?

There’s always plans because the business is always growing and developing. We granted our first franchise over to the Middle East two years ago, so that operates as a QA for services for the Middle Eastern clientele who are particularly fond of their sweet treats. The sweeter, the saltier, the more caramelised, the better. And they love BIG cakes! The first wedding cake we did over there stood over eight feet tall! The base tier alone was four foot in diameter and a foot deep which was a vanilla and pistachio cake. It was covered in thousands of petals and pearls. It took a team of 8 to work on and getting it around.

>>> Read more in the Pastry Chef series here

I have a brand new range of afternoon tea fine bone china that’s been produced in association with William Edwards launching later this year. 

And of course I have my new book Have Your Cake and Eat It. The book really brings together my style of baking that I do at home and I enjoy with my family which is all about bringing in, as a nutritionist, nutritious, delicious recipes that are healthier. You can see me recreating recipes from the book on Ideal World with a 24 hour marathon Pick of the Day starting at 9pm on Saturday, March 18 and I shall be live on Saturday Kitchen on April 15 (Easter Saturday).

We are in the process of manufacturing new bakeware tools which we are planning to launch in the autumn.

Where did you find the inspiration for the healthier recipes?

It’s really looking at nature’s harvest and things that you would find in your natural store cupboard, or be able to get hold of very simply but not quite know how to use. I use an awful lot of fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, root vegetables which are a great way of getting added fibre, added nutrition, locking moisture into bakes. This book is looking at ways of introducing dairy free and gluten free by using other types of grain like oats and polenta to give people the options. But also, just because you’re following a gluten free or dairy-free diet it doesn't mean that you want something that’s bland or boring. So it’s very much about celebrating the recipes.

Rose & Pistaccio Cupcakes
rose & pistaccio cupcakes

Are there any recipe books that you use as well for inspiration?

I was always a fan of Delia; hers have been the ones that I’ve had from year dot. I also enjoy the Cranks cookbook because I grew up down in Devon. It was all very much vegetarian whole food baking so everything uses wholewheat flour and raw sugar.

We had a lot of health food and whole food stores so I always aired on that side and tried to put extra ingredients in. You want to feel that you’re indulging when you have a cake. I do say in the book it’s not something that I advocate having cake for every breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tea. It’s important that it’s a part of a balanced diet. If you want to have a blondie, have a blondie but if you want to make that blondie more nutritious add prunes in the base and incorporate cashew nut butter and cashew nut on the top to give yourself a real boost of fibre.

Do you have a favourite recipe from the book as well?

It's difficult to choose just one because there are so many reasons to bake. The Pierce Brosnan carrot cake is always a favourite. The Queen Elizabeth date cake is a perennial in my family. It’s a great recipe because it’s all made by melting. You melt together the butter, the sugar at first, stir in the eggs and flour and the spices, and the grated apple. It’s all done in one pan so it’s quick to make you don’t have to get a mixer out, it bakes beautifully because it’s a melted method it’s guaranteed to be really moist and because we grow apples in the garden it’s a really good way of using really fresh ingredients and it’s one that all the family enjoy so its always gobbled up. But the chocolate truffle torte, I have to say, is particularly delicious because its made with ground almonds and dark chocolate. It’s a really indulgent gluten-free cake. 

But if I had to choose…oh my goodness, I don’t think I could choose just one recipe. Nougat is probably one thing I can’t stop eating. I’ve always enjoyed nougat, so again I have a dairy free, gluten free recipe made with orange blossom honey so it’s essentially a honey meringue that’s wrapped around lots of delicious fresh roasted nuts and dried fruits.

Skinnylicious Vanilla cake - photo credit to Peter Cassidy

skinnylicious vanilla cake

photo credit to Peter Cassidy

Do you have a favourite ingredient you like to work with as well?

Apricot and cashews are my favourite at the moment because I tend to suffer from low iron. Apricots have the highest amount of iron of all the dried fruits and cashews have the highest amount of iron of all the nuts. So I tend to incorporate these two ingredients into as many things as I can because then whatever happens then I’m getting the extra boost of iron that I know will help with hair, nails, energy, and good healthy blood cells which gives you the building blocks of all the functions for everything else that you do in your life.

What advice would you give to a young chef who was looking to emulate your success?

I get asked this question a lot and I’m beginning to meet a lot more of these younger bakers. I would say initially start simple but it seems they are really up for challenges and do like to push boundaries. 

I would say for young people if you have the patience to bake you can be a good baker. Patience is ensuring all different elements of baking, whether it’s buying fresh ingredients, weighing them accurately, or not rushing any of the processes before it goes into the oven. For young bakers, the advice would be to not hold back and to ensure that if you are trying something maybe start with something smaller and more simple and grow from there, because people will enjoy baking if they feel they had a success in their last bake. If you try something too challenging to begin with and it doesn’t work out it can put you off. So I would say start with simpler projects first.

*A question from our sponsors Callebaut:

What is your signature dish to celebrate Mother’s Day?

Mothers’ Day this year is March 26 which happens to be my mother-in-law’s birthday. No pressure. But I have two boys, so celebrating is trying to find a cake that I know they are going to enjoy as much as me or my mother in law. I would say it’s definitely the chocolate orange torte made with ground almonds and melted Callebaut chocolate. I put the orange zest in with the batter so you get this really wonderful intensely decadent rich chocolate orange tort and then I skim coat that in a chocolate ganache butter cream, put a drizzle of dark chocolate ganache over the top and decorate it with macarons.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st March 2017

Mich Turner MBE, Food Scientist and Owner, Little Venice Cake Company