WFH - Nichola Ferron, The Black Rose Bakery - "Everyone needs awesome cake in their lives!"
WFH is not a rude abbreviation! For those of you wondering if I've gone mad, it stands for 'working from home' and represents a new series I'm running on local folk that are setting up their own food & drink enterprises from home.
I say 'local' but Nichola Ferron's journey has taken her a long way from home. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, cooking providing an escape from an unstable family life. She would religiously watch cooking programmes on television every week.
In adulthood she worked in a 'proper' job but then decided enough was enough - one day she 'borrowed' her mum's car and made the ridiculously long drive to Seattle to enrol in culinary school, using the car as a temporary abode as well.
And now she creates truly spectacular "American style cakes with a French twist," she tells me, in her kitchen in Tonbridge whilst nonchalantly moulding sugar paste flowers. And this isn't a professional kitchen or even a very big kitchen but with her numerous fridges, work station and culinary implements stored wherever possible, it works for her and goes to show that if you want to realise your dream, the small issue of 'space' shouldn't stop you.
The Black Rose Bakery cakes are true 'showstoppers', an edible reflection of this music-loving ex-model's exuberance: multi-layered, using locally sourced ingredients & fresh fruit, the flavour combinations are unusual and enticing, abundantly decorated with the likes of caramel drizzle, fruits dipped in gold leaf, meringue kisses & award-winning sugar paste flowers.
Her signature cake is the hand painted stained glass wedding cake which is simply exquisite; Nichola uses the allegory of an haute-couture gown to describe her cakes, she is preparing them for a catwalk show - they must be perfect. I was treated to amaretto and chocolate sponge with vanilla buttercream, drizzled with caramel and hazelnuts. (Yep, it's a tough job.)
Nichola's infectious ambition and energy mean that her journey has certainly not finished: this cook with a conscience is aiming high but isn't forgetting her roots - she wants to help others along the way, just as she was helped back in Brooklyn. She would like to open her own premises next year, employing young apprentices, to showcase her cakes and to share her skills with others, offering sugar paste flower making classes and the like. And in the meantime, look out for her 'popping-up' around Tonbridge (offering us savoury, as well as sweet, treats) and going for gold at Cake International in the wedding cake and sugar paste categories (only bronze last year!).
Nichola is inspiring, incredibly positive and a great advocate of working flexibly. I'm sure as a little girl she didn't imagine herself in a kitchen in a town in Kent, England but that's where her journey has brought her, so far. Once you've tried her cake, you'll be pretty pleased it has.
Black Rose Bakery has kindly offered one of her cakes as a prize in the "12 days of Feastmas" competition I'm running in December. If you're bored of the fruit cake, marzipan, royal icing Christmas cake combo, make sure you're watching Eat Around Tonbridge on 1 December!
If you'd like to meet Nichola, she can be found at the monthly Tonbridge Farmer's Market (the next is 13 Nov); alternatively, you can find her on FaceBook, Twitter @BlackRoseBakery, Instagram blackrosebakery and at her very own website!