Not just a Royal baker — an interview with Claire Ptak
Claire Ptak is a passionate baker, food writer, podcaster and local favourite amongst London foodies. Her delicious innovations, like her egg-white cookies, have gone viral across social media, earning admiration around the world.Take a glance at her Instagram account and your mouth will start watering — think pastel icing, three tier cakes and swoon-worthy cast-iron pans. We were lucky to have a chat with Claire between her exciting projects to talk entrepreneurship, lock-down baking and, of course, cakes.
We're very familiar with your work — your bakery, Violet Cakes, is north of our London office. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for those less familiar?
I'm Claire, a Californian living in London, a mother of one amazing little girl and an entrepreneur. I started my small business as a market stall, then a few years later we made the wedding cake for the wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Megan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
I've written five cookbooks and I'm starting a new business that will be a very exciting direct to consumer brand which I'm launching early next year. I love ingredients, travelling and baking in any oven — in any part of the world.
We know cast iron is having a moment, but why is Crane your top choice in a crowded market?
I choose Crane because it looks beautiful in my kitchen. I love the smooth clean lines. Sometimes something is designed so well it just makes you feel good to look at it. But when it is also a pleasure to use, then the designer has really achieved something.
If I could only pick one piece, I'd choose The C1. It's a beautiful casserole pot that's made in France, showcasing the best manufacturing and design techniques. Cast-iron cookware has real longevity and I love using traditional materials when working in my bakery.
You’ve recently invented a brown sugar Victoria sponge! What was the first recipe you developed using Crane Cookware?
I have always loved to make crumbles and cobblers in the crane cast iron pots. The C2 is perfect for making a quick pudding and putting straight in the oven, whereas the pans are ideal for dutch babies and pancakes. You could even make a giant version of my egg-white and sea salt cookies in a quality cast-iron pan, like those made by Crane.
Many of us have recently taken up baking as self-care during lock-down. What do you like to make when you're taking a quiet morning to rest and recharge?
I always love to bake with fruit that is in season. I love little cakes with ancient grain flours and roasted fruits laced with vanilla, chamomile or fennel pollen. I'd really recommend by summer spelt cake to the Bombinate community. It doesn’t need to be made only in the summer though, I just liked the alliteration when I was coming up with the name. It can be made at any time of year with the best fruit of that particular moment.
Bombinate Tip: Eat seasonally by making the most of what is at its best. In autumn try ripe blackberries, gooseberries and rhubarb. When the warmer weather rolls around, dive into peaches, berries and apricots.