Continuing our new ‘local food heroes’ series, which highlights some Philleigh Way favourites, this month we interviewed Christine Hawker, our cake and cupcake tutor to find out what she thinks about the WI, Mary Berry, why she loves her ‘boning tool! and her thoughts on working with Philleigh Way!
In your own words, tell us about yourself.
My name is Christine Hawker, I have three grown up children and four lovely grandchildren. I live with my second husband, Dennis in the hamlet of Frogpool. My background is in farming, my first husband and I lived and worked on the Roseland for 27 years. After he died in 1999, I had to leave that life behind. I worked at Lakeland in Truro for over 11 years until I retired three years ago. I am a county cookery judge, I love spending time with my second husband Dennis and my grandchildren, I love the theatre and travelling, but my passion is Sugarcraft!
Who or what inspired you to start baking?
My Gran was probably my first influence and also my Auntie Gwen, both were very good ‘proper’ Cornish cooks.
Have you always enjoyed baking?
Yes I have. We had cookery lessons at school, I remember making my first Christmas cake at the age of 13 and I’ve made them every year since!
What inspired you to start learning all about sugar craft and cake decorating?
I had always enjoyed making birthday cakes and Christmas cakes for the family. I started baking for the local WI Market in the 1980’s and was asked by one of my customers to make a wedding cake for her son. I did it, but realised there was a lot I didn’t know. After that I did an 8 week WI (Womens Institute) home economics course and enjoyed it very much. When the tutor said she was going to run a City and Guilds course I decided to sign up. It was run over 2 years, one evening a week and one Saturday a month. It was a big commitment with a young family and a farm B&B to look after but it was the best thing I ever did. I owe so much to my tutor, Anne White!
Do you think programmes such as the Great British Bake off have helped make baking ‘cool’ again?
Yes I do, I think it has inspired younger people to have a go.
Do you think some people are still afraid to have a go at baking and if so, why?
Yes I believe there is the perception it’s far too difficult. But I think Mary Berry and bakers like her have helped to take the ‘fear of failure’ away.
What is your favourite cake to bake?
A Victoria Sandwich, I’ve made so many over the years I could do them blindfolded!
If you had to eat one cake for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
Probably chocolate fudge cake, or maybe saffron cake, but someone else would have to make it!
What is your favourite decorating tool/sugar craft technique?
My favourite decorating tool would have to be my ‘bone tool’. It was one of the first things I bought when I started learning Sugarcraft over 25 years ago. I use it every time I make sugar flowers to soften the edges of petals. It has worn down over the years but I wouldn’t change it! My favourite technique would have to be air brushing, so useful for shading flowers and cakes and for stencil work.
If you had a blank cheque, what piece of equipment would be your dream purchase?
I would buy a ribbon printer, I covet them every time I go to a trade show but I can’t justify the hefty price tag!
What do you love about Cornwall?
First and foremost its home! I love the seasons and the way the landscape changes from one coast to the other plus, the smell of the sea!
Aside from cake, what is your favourite Cornish food product?
Home-made traditional pasties, especially those made by one of my oldest friends, taken from the oven wrapped in greaseproof and a t-towel then eaten about an hour later. Perfect.
Favourite cookery book that you still turn too?
The Dairy Cookbook.
What is your favourite drink?
Cornish Orchards Elderflower Presse, or hot water.
Favourite day out in Cornwall?
There are lots, Golitha Falls in the spring is one, but my favourite has to be taking the train from St. Erth to St. Ives, the view is amazing. A leisurely stroll around the harbour eating an ice-cream, watch out for the seagulls! Then lunch in one of the lovely seafood restaurants, followed by a visit to the Tate Modern.
Favourite tearoom in Cornwall or place to go for a treat?
Swanpool, for a Quirky Ice-cream!
If you were on death row, what would you request for your last meal?
Roast Beef with all the trimmings followed by raspberry pavlova. (I would love to find out why I ended up on death row!)
Favourite place in Cornwall?
Why do you enjoy working with Philleigh Way?
It’s a family business run by lovely people who I’ve known for years. I like the Cornish aspect of using locally sourced products. It’s in a super venue that has a great atmosphere.
What’s the best bit about the classic cakes and cupcake course?
I get to meet really interesting people and I like being able to share some of the skills I’ve learnt over the years.
Christine teaches Philleigh Way’s Classic Cakes and Cupcake courses as well as demonstrating for various groups and organisations around the county. Christine judges at many village shows and events, as well as producing beautifully decorated cakes for weddings, birthdays and other celebrations from her home in Frogpool.
Read Christine’s favourite poem, ‘It’s only a sponge’ below
You’re ever so clever – I’ll get you to make
for my mother’s birthday a beautiful birthday cake
Only a sponge – that’s all I need
(‘only a sponge’, I thought, ‘only’ indeed)
Make it look pretty, she’d like it in pink
put one of those frills on – no – two frills I think.
Insert some ribbon and cover the board
remember to put ‘Happy birthday to Maude’
As for the flowers, her favourite’s sweetpea
and orchids and roses – well just do all three.
Mustn’t forget some embroidery things you know,
flowers and ribbons and birds on their wings
You’ll charge me ‘nine fifty’?
Well that’s a bit steep
It’s ONLY A SPONGE
and they’re ever so cheap!!