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A Fresh Batch of Cake Drawing Tips
Cake Designer and Baker Frances Quinn shares some creative tips to help you start sketching delicious cake designs.
Many thanks to Great British Bake Off designer, The Big Draw ambassador and our guest baker Frances Quinn for sharing her creative cake design expertise for our Design a Cake Drawing Challenge this October! We hope her ideas will inspire you to draw your own unique and delicious cakes, whether you are drawing digitally with a tool like Concepts or using a traditional sketchbook and drawing media.
Visit our Design a Cake drawing challenge page to find details about how to participate in the challenge for a chance to win a tasty set of prizes, including a signed copy of Frances' Quinntessential Baking cookbook!
My name is Frances Quinn, and I am best known for baking and winning the Great British Bake Off in 2013. However, my background is in design. Growing up, I loved art and drawing and always wanted to be a children's illustrator. My parents had an independent bookshop, so Quentin Blake, Judith Kerr and the Ahlbergs were my heroes.
I studied Textile Design at Nottingham, with a focus on print and illustration at Nottingham Trent University, during which time I interned at Orla Kiely, Red magazine and Liberty’s, to name but a few. I then travelled and worked for design companies in Vancouver, Canada and London, UK.
Before going on the GBBO, I was working at Joules as their baby toddler designer. Since then, I have published my first book, Quinntessential Baking, with Bloomsbury, and have worked with a diverse range of clients, including the Tate, Design Museum, Sony Music, BBC, Fortnum & Masons, M&S, Cadburys, Yeo Valley, Sipsmith, Bloom & Wild, and Nike.
You can see several thematic elements drawn here in the sketchbook - the blue color, the graphic experiments, even the shapes of the blueberries - that became part of the final "Matisse" cheesecake pictured (created for the Tate British Art Museum).
How did you fall in love with baking, and how did you discover a connection with design?
I’ve always loved baking. I’m the youngest of 5, so food was always a big part of life growing up. The kitchen was very much an extension of the living room, to play, explore and eat in. I also have very fond memories of my Sylvanian family's bakery, and me and one of my brothers making extra cherry bake wells and pastries from fimo! Looking back, it was probably getting the job at Joules that really elevated my love of baking to a new level, as I began to put recipes on their blog and create bespoke bakes for colleagues' birthdays and the launches of new collections.
My Secret Squirrel cake and concept was actually created whilst I was at Joules, long before the Bake Off. One of my colleagues, Susie, was nicknamed Squirrel. Whilst she was expecting her son, we named the bump Secret Squirrel, and I created the cake for her last day before leaving for maternity leave. That’s where the idea was born, and Hugo, the original Secret Squirrel, is now 10! It was actually my colleagues who encouraged me to go on GBBO and who placed multiple application forms on my desk.
Although no longer at Joules, I’m still designing, but now with food rather than fabric. As a clothing designer, my sketches and mood boards always included food in the same way that my bakes and sketches always had elements of graphic and textile design within them. Being creative is at the heart of who I am, but my medium is now edible, and my ideas are being combined with ingredients.
How did you get involved with The Big Draw?
I was a big fan of The Big Draw before winning Bake Off, but it was actually winning Celebrity Pointless that really kickstarted the relationship! I named The Big Draw as the charity I’d like the winning cash prize to go to. Since then, I’ve continued to support and work with the organisation, from creating Big ‘Big Draw’ cheesecakes to producing illustrated recipes and sharing my creative process and sketchbook work.
A visualized recipe for a Giant Jaffa Cake.
A cake is such a delicious idea, but how do you get an idea like "cake" out onto a piece of paper?
I encourage you to think outside the baking box, bowl and kitchen. For me it’s as important to be inspired by both the ideas as well as ingredients going into my bakes. I find starting with a theme, key ingredient or word can help trigger an edible design.
I start by ‘drawing’ on my imagination. My creative process always starts or ends with an idea, design or concept that I find easiest to express. A lot of my cakes and bakes contain chocolate, so I often create mini chocolate bar collages, using the wrapping and foil from the actual chocolate bar itself. I will then draw in and around the collages.
I love including the utensils and tools I use in my bakes to illustrate my designs. I have got very familiar drawing whisks, sifts and spoons! Playing with scale and line also helps give the designs more character, together with using a mix of black line and block colour.
Sketching up designs and pairing them as collaged elements helps to feed my appetite! I really encourage you to incorporate different textures, colours and written info into your designs to help bring your ideas and cakes to life.
An incredible variety of sketches exploring a "Shard" cake.
Do you have any simple tips for drawing cakes that you can share, to build our confidence in drawing?
I would encourage you to think about the shape and proportions of your cakes. Play around with experimenting with the size of the elements in your design, and the line work you're drawing with. A thick brown line can create a quick and effective chocolate filling or topping on a cake. If it’s a cupcake, then why not draw a few to get familiar with drawing out the shape. You can then work into and over the cake itself via your toppings and decorations.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You can always refine your finished design, but initially put pen to paper and draw on your imagination. Maybe see your first drawing as a mood board of shapes, doodles and colours. It can also sometimes help to draw something in front of you, whether that be a cake in real life or from a photo. But remember it’s your design, so it shouldn’t and doesn’t need to be identical but individual to you.
What are the essential elements of a good cake design? What does a cake design look like, and how do you approach outlining what goes into - or on top of - your cake?
After drawing out my design, I love incorporating colour and collages into my designs. I think that is where my background in textiles come in. I encourage you to layer up textures and techniques to highlight those seen on cakes. You could even create a swatch of different colours and textures to represent the different cake sponges and fillings to then play around with on the page, from a buttery yellow shade to create the appearance of a victoria sponge, to an inky deep raspberry for the jam inside.
Don’t worry about having to be too precise and neat, either. Instead of being intimidated by a blank page, fill it with marks, colour and text to bring your ideas to life. Even putting down bullet points with the type of cake, flavours, colours and theme can help create a list you can work and draw from. I’m constantly drawing arrows and asterisks on my illustrated recipes and designs. As well as providing information, they also help fill the page and spaces between the artwork, which in itself becomes integral to the look of the design.
It can also help to just start by writing the type of cake you’re designing on the page. Whether it be at the top, middle, or down the side of your page, having something to work from helps. For example if designing an apple cake, then drawing an apple at the centre or next to the word Apple Cake will instantly provide a visual.
I love creating illustrated ingredient and shopping lists, too. I find that by drawing out little sketches and doodles of everything from butter to vanilla pods can help get me started. Also, once you’ve drawn it once, you can then refer to and replicate it within your other designs.
Photo credit: Ian Wallman
Frances Quinn is the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2013. Having studied textile design at Nottingham Trent University, she worked at design companies in London and Vancouver, and has most recently worked for Joules Clothing as their baby/toddler wear designer. Combining a love of design and baking, Frances produces unique and unforgettable bakes. Enjoy her recipes and sketchbook on her website and social.
Cover Photo - Prune Panda Scones by Frances Quinn
Interview by Erica Christensen
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