Take a short walk from Wandsworth Bridge, London, and you will stumble upon a haven of all things cakes, pastries, teas, coffees and anything your sweet tooth desires. It’s not your run of the mill cake shop though. Cake Boy’s big, vibrant branding and warm, homely decor are the tip of the iceberg.
ike the shop itself, Cake Boy’s mastermind and creator Eric Lanlard refuses to conform to what one usually associates with a traditional French pâtissier. But that’s perhaps because Eric doesn’t in any way consider himself ‘traditional’.
Unlike many of Eric’s loyal customers, Eric’s love affair with all things pastry and cakes did not stem from a sweet tooth. “I don’t really eat cakes. It’s a bit odd but it was never about that. It was about the glamour, the shops themselves, the way everything is presented, the luxury beyond it.”
I was doing what I loved, traveling the world whilst learning a lot about discipline and being challenged to create on a military vessel.
Having completed his apprenticeship Eric’s first foray into the world of baking was not one immediately associated with “luxury”. Eric says, “I had to do my national service, I’m that old”.
He really isn’t, or at least certainly doesn’t look it. As with Eric’s outlook on life though he saw this as an opportunity. “I’d always wanted to travel so it was a triple whammy in many ways. I was doing what I loved, traveling the world whilst learning a lot about discipline and being challenged to create on a military vessel. It was a big eye opener in many ways.”
From there Eric wanted to improve his English so, as if it was the most normal thing in the world, he found himself working for the celebrated Albert and Michel Roux. It was only meant to be for a year, but ‘before I knew it one year became five years’. Within two years of working for the Rouxs, Eric was running a patisserie for them and, aged only 21, had 15 people working under him.
For me, the priority is the cake must taste fantastic and then if you can make it look good, that’s a bonus, but it’s all about the taste.
Since then Eric has taken his unique stylings and delicious cakes to a global audience. Having baked cakes for numerous A-list celebrities Eric prides himself on taste. So much so that he turned down the opportunity to bake a cake for a famous photographer from an even more famous model because it was too rude. For Eric it was not the sort of cake he wanted to be associated with.
But what Eric takes great pride in was creating an enormous wedding cake for a royal family in the Middle East. Had it been in England this wedding would have been on a scale similar to William and Kate. The cake required over a tonne of ingredients to be flown to the Middle East to conjure a cake over six meters tall and three meters wide.
But what Eric is most proud of is what happened the following morning. The father of the groom approached him to tell him how, at most similar weddings, everyone is talking about the size of the cake but at this one people were raving about the taste. It’s the greatest compliment you can pay Eric. He says, “For me, the priority is the cake must taste fantastic and then if you can make it look good, that’s a bonus, but it’s all about the taste.”
The rise in the popularity in baking has been a long time coming for Eric. He recalls when, twelve years ago, he and Great British Bake Off’s Paul Hollywood were both regulars on a show called Good Food Live. Whenever they appeared on the show they were both inundated with fan mail asking if they had books coming out but publishers and production companies were less receptive to their ideas. And then the financial crash happened, suddenly people wanted to entertain at home rather than go out, keeping the kids interested over the holidays had to be affordable. Eric says, “People started to remember their childhood memories of baking with their mothers, licking the spoon or the bowl, decorating cupcakes or brownies. People started to enjoy it and realised it’s not that difficult. Anyone can do it. It really triggered the craze.”
And then the Great British Bake Off came along. Given Eric is flying to the Middle East every two weeks due to a growing craze in baking over there, surely it’s only a matter of time before a Great Global Bake Off is commissioned.
Eric wants to see more and more people get into baking. So much so that, despite his celebrity status he still runs his own baking classes at Cake Boy. He’s even put all that navy training to use by designing an Afternoon Tea menu for P&O Cruises. Suffice to say Eric is baking up a storm.