How a letter from a nine-year-old began a career in creating gorgeously Instagrammable bakes
PUBLISHED: 19:00 01 November 2019
Steve Adams 2019 07398 238853
Top cake creator Laura Grix has treasured a newspaper cutting from childhood. It began a career which combines artistry, baking, teaching and helped put right a generations-old family disaster
I first met Laura 22 years ago. She was nine years old and wanted to be a cook when she grew up. I was 31 years old and writing a series of newspaper stories giving children the chance to try out their dream job. Today she is 31 years old and in her dream job and I am still writing for newspapers and magazines which is pretty much my dream job.
Back in 1997 the Norwich Evening News was inundated with letters from children eager to be zoo keepers, cricketers, dance teachers, doctors, hairdressers, car mechanics, vets, Norwich City footballers, a wildlife photographer, a police motorcyclist, a chip shop owner, a racing driver, a magician and even a Spice Girl. As many as possible were paired with people already pursuing those careers (except the wannabe Spice Girl, who joined a Norwich girl band for a few hours.)
Little Laura Grix wrote to say she had begun baking with her mum, moved on to creating her own cakes and was keen to take the next step.
So I arranged for her to meet Norwich chef and restaurateur Femi, who had also grown up in Norwich dreaming of becoming a chef.
She still remembers the excitement of the day she cooked banoffee pie with Femi at his restaurant.
"It was the most incredible banoffee pie I have ever eaten to date, hands down!" she said. "And I was inspired by such a passionate, enthusiastic and creative chef and his team. I knew from that day on that I wanted to create the same warming vibe through cakes and especially now teaching cake workshops."
Afterwards her mum framed the newspaper feature - and it has accompanied Laura as her career took off.
Today Laura is one of the country's top cake decorators, has taught bakers and cake makers for Harrods, Fortnum and Mason, and Selfridges, worked at Claridges, and runs classes which attract students from as far afield as Japan and the Caribbean.
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She specialises in dramatic cakes with super-sharp iced edges, towering stacks of exquisitely painted works of cake art, and vibrantly-coloured, glass-smooth drip cakes. She has made celebration cakes in the shape of giant magnum ice creams and perfect cubes, or decorated with glittery edible fruit and flowers, or iced like a watercolour or abstract painting.
"It's a bit like sculpture," said Laura whose prides herself on her cakes being as delicious as they are beautiful. Her own absolute favourite is an eight-layer chocolate Guinness cake.
Now she is bringing Grix Cake Design back to Norwich, as well as continuing her London classes. She will be running cake classes at the Assembly House from January, ranging from a cupcakes and biscuits class for beginners to a three-day course on cake art covering anything from semi naked cakes to silver leaf, contemporary wedding cakes to spectacular birthday cakes and techniques from Swiss meringue buttercream to abstract art paint throwing.
Laura's very first job, not counting her day with Femi, was as a Saturday girl at the Cake Craft Centre in Norwich. She went on to manage the shop straight from school, alongside running her own wedding cake from her parents' kitchen. Eventually she decided to move to London for more experience and began sharing her skills in workshops and classes.
Cooking had actually been in Laura's family even before she asked for work experience as a nine-year-old. Her father was a confectioner for Nestle and her great great grandfather, William Grix, ran the Castle Hotel on Castle Meadow, Norwich, the Criterion, in the nearby building which now houses Moss Bros, and Grix's Grill on Tombland. He also catered for the Army on special occasions. "All the remaining beef from the event was brought back to The Criterion restaurant and sold cheap to the less fortunate, in baguettes for lunches called tuppenny roughcuts," said Laura. "And the gravy liquor was given to the poor for free to spread on bread."
However, there was no family restaurant for Laura to inherit. "He bet the Castle Hotel on a card game - and lost it," she said.
Now Laura is putting the Grix name back on the Norwich food map.
For full details of Laura's classes at the Assembly House, from January to June 2020, visit richardhughescookeryschool.co.uk
Were you one of the children who had a go at your dream job back in 1997? We would love to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org