At times, I really love my job, and this is one of them. I’m standing at one of the hobs of the workshops kitchen in Cake Boy, the cafe/ ‘cake lounge’/ high tech cookery school that 40-year-old French master patissier Eric Lanlard.
Cake Boy nestles underneath the designer flats in a luxury riverside development in Wandsworth Town, South West London, and Eric and his boyfriend Paul worked hard to develop the project. It’s paid off – it’s a beautifully designed space, and the staff are just as delightful. I walk in through the doors as they’re opening for the day, and I’ve been sat down with a smooth, spikey espresso in the stylish lounge area before you can say, “Black, no sugar, please.”
Eric is all Gallic charm, floppy fringe and easy smile. Being a timid baker, I’m not convinced that making a cake is going to be a relaxing way to spend the morning.
“Making a cake is relaxing, but you have to be mentally ready for it,” he affirms, grinning as he gently warms up double cream in a small pan.
Eric’s chocolate Sacher Torte with raspberries isn’t like a Viennese Sacher Torte – it’s a chocolate ganache cake with fresh raspberries in the centre. It can be made the day before a party or supper and it freezes well. You then just get it out on the side an hour or so before.
Eric uses, he tells me as he stirs, 68% dark chocolate from the Caribbean, from Trinidad & Tobago, Valhrona chocolate, probably one of the best. “That percentage of this particular chocolate works very well with the acidity of the raspberries, and it’s not too dark. When customers try the samples for the wedding cakes, they say, ‘Oh, I don’t want dark chocolate.’ They assume it’s going to be bitter. When they try it, they go (puts on a surprised voice), ‘Oh! I really like that!’”
Eric started cooking as a child in Quimper, Brittany. “All my family and friends remember that when I was a kid, everyone else wanted to be firemen or pilot – I wanted to be a pastry chef. In France people regard pastry chefs as more than ‘just a cook’. At first there were many disasters – I bought some professional books, and most of the ingredients in them you couldn’t get in a supermarket. At the time, I didn’t realise that you have to be precise with recipes. So I just went for it – and usually for the most difficult recipes!
“I chose early where I wanted to do my apprenticeship. I said, ‘It’s going to be The Le Grand Patisserie, the best in Quimper.’ When I was 10 we went along with my parents, but the patissier said he would only take me if I’d been to college and passed my exams. So, I started with him when I was 18.”
After travelling around to learn his trade and two years’ National Service, which he spent in the Navy, Eric decide his English needed improving, so came to the UK.
“I’d heard about Albert and Michel Roux, so I applied for and got a job with them. I was head pastry chef after two years.”
Cake Boy came about after having worked as a wholeseller for prestigious outlets such as Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols, the Richoux cafes. In 2000, he and his partner (both personal and business) Paul started Savoir Design, as more and more people came to them directly for cakes. In 2007, they bought their current premises, and Cake Boy was born.
“For 10 years, we’ve been swearing we’d never open a shop. We’d seen so many people go bust. In the UK, patisseries aren’t patronised as they are in France, but as we were looking around for premises, we came across this place, and thought… ‘OK, why don’t we open a shop?’ We wanted to open a cookery school as well, and this was the perfect set-up. We opened the shop in April 2007 after building the place from the concrete floors up. We designed everything. For the first month, everywhere was a semi-building site. Looking back, it was crazy – but worth it.”
Eric’s business is such a success that he has been attracting celebrity and high-end clients for a while now. And creating… the divorce cake.
“I think we did one divorce cake for someone as a joke… some lady at a party… In America, it’s one of the choices of celebration cakes you can have! I don’t think it’ll catch on here, though.” Well, we’re sure Madge and Guy would love one…
So, how did the Torte turn out? You’ll just have to get along to one of Eric’s workshops and try it out for yourself.
, a new 10-part TV series, launched yesterday, November 10th, 7pm, Discovery Travel & Living Channel, Sky 265, Virgin 275/ Ireland TV3, Saturdays, 10.30am
For a list of Eric’s fun cake workshops, visit www.cake-boy.com
by Eric Lanlard, Hamlyn Books, £16.99
Raspberry Sacher Torte
Heat up 250ml of double cream in a saucepan. Stir constantly until just before it boils. Pour it over 250gm of 68% or good quality dark chocolate, so the chocolate melts. Gently mix until everything is dissolved, smooth and shiny.
Line a 6-inch (15cm) cake tin with cling film.
Using three thin, plain chocolate sponge layers *, place one layer in the bottom of the tin.
Mix 100ml of sugar syrup and 100ml raspberry framboise liqueur. Coat the sponge with some of this mixture, followed by a thin layer of ganache. Cover the layer with fresh British raspberries, and pour some more ganache over them.
Cover with a layer of sponge. Repeat the procedure (sponge, liqueur syrup, ganache, raspberries, ganache, with no syrup on the top sponge layer) until the tin is full. Freeze for about 15 mins to set.
To decorate, remove the cake and place it on a platter.
Smooth chocolate glaze over the top layer, and arrange the remaining raspberries on top.
* Chocolate Cake Sponge - makes a 6" cake
175g (6oz) unsalted butter, softened
175g (6oz) caster sugar
3 medium eggs (beaten)
250g (8oz) plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
25g (1oz) cocoa powder sifted
2 tablespoons milk
Butter and line the cake tin. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well.
Fold the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder with the milk into the cake batter.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and bake in a preheated over, 180°C (350°F, Gas mark 4, for the time indicated above or until the cakes are springy to touch. Leave to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes before turning on to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Split the cooled sponge into three layers and then build the Sacher.
Chocolate glaze recipe
125g good quality dark chocolate pieces
15ml light corn syrup
In a basin over hot, but not boiling water, combine the chocolate, butter and corn syrup. Stir until all is melted and mixture is smooth. Then spread over the top layer of cake, keeping strokes smooth.