Claire Ptak on making perfect cakes and founding London's best bakery
Any Hackney native will be familiar with the sensation of walking past 47 Wilton Way and being greeted by the saccharine aromas emanating from Violet Cakes. Hidden behind a minimal white exterior, Violet Cakes has been consistently named one of London’s best bakeries; while its founder, Claire Ptak, has been hailed as one of the baking industry’s most exciting rising stars. Not very least because she baked what is probably now considered as the most famous wedding cake of the century: but rather for her authenticity and creativity. With several cook-books and an empowering female-led podcast under her belt — it seems that for Claire, there is nowhere to go but up. 
In conversation with Claire Ptak, we talk about her café’s humble beginnings in Broadway market, her upbringing in sunny California, her favourite London spots, and of course — that famous Wedding Cake. From the wonderful people that have inspired her, to the family that she has built at 47 Wilton Way, Claire Ptak proves that you can certainly find the Less Ordinary in the everyday — but only if you know where to look. 
When did you first discover your love for baking?
I’ve been baking for as long as I can remember. My mother taught me and so did my father’s mother. I loved everything about it. The measuring, the mixing, the smells, and of course tastes.
Growing up in California must have been something, and we heard that you got your first baking job at 14. How have those early days informed your culinary journey?
We always foraged for blackberries, huckleberries, and wild plums. We also shared apples, pears,  and backyard lemons between friends and neighbours — so these fruits very much informed our baking. My mom and one of her friends (called Banana) would buy 10kilos of chocolate as well. Totally casual. 
Lets talk about cakes. What is the ethos of Violet Cakes all about?
Violet Cakes is all about tasting as you bake, and really putting flavour balance first

Violet Bakery first started out a stall in Broadway Market, before you found your permanent home in Hackney back in 2010. 8 years down the line, what has changed for you and your business
I started the business alone and now we are 25 strong in the team. It’s really exciting to grow my own business; as all of the wonderful people that move through this place really inspire me. People in this business often complain that staffing is the hardest part. In some ways I agree, but in other ways it’s the best part. You build a family and community and people fall in love and make lifelong friends. We spend so much time at work, so it might as well be a laugh too. 
We’re all huge fans of the Violet Sessions Podcast! How did this idea come to be?
Thank you! Sorry for the delay in the next one! Things got so busy after the Royal wedding that I let it slip. But we will be doing it again soon. It started because I just wanted to have a hobby basically! I wanted to talk to women in other fields to see how they did it, how they made it. Thought it could inspire me and inspire others as well.
Do you have a favourite guest? Has there been anyone in the Violet Sessions that has been especially inspirational?
I love them all and am so grateful to all of them for taking the time to speak to me. Is there anyone you would like to hear on the podcast? I need to get the new guests lined up!

You baked, what is probably, the world’s most famous wedding cake. Could you tell us the story of how you ended up baking the cake for the Royal Wedding?
Its pretty well documented but essentially, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wanted a cake that was fresh and delicious and in line with their own philosophies of sustainability and seasonality. It was such an honour and incredibly exciting occasion to be a part of.
Now let’s talk about food in your neck of the woods. Where do you go out for a meal in Hackney?
Little Duck the Picklery, Brawn, and Salvation in Noodles,  It’s in Dalston, well technically Islington, but I eat there loads! Oh, and also P.Franco and Brat, they are both great. 
If we ever found ourselves in California, do you have any recommendations of places we should hit up?
I’m from the Bay Area, so these are my spots…
Rintaro Japanese for sure! I used to work with Sylvan at Chez. He is a genius, and Chez is such a special place. Zuni Cafe forever, Chez Panisse obviously, Pizza at Delfina, Pastries at TartineRamen Shop in Oakland, Boulette’s Larder for brunch

Are there any places in London that are in your hit-list that you haven’t had a chance to check out yet?
PEG on Morning Lane!
In what ways do you try to be ‘Less Ordinary’ with what you do?
I just try to be the best at what I do.
Interview by Hannah Tan-Gillies 

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