Ben Cullen - the Bake King of Hoole
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 February 2017
Hoole's Ben Cullen is taking the baking world by storm with his amazing bespoke cakes, writes Rebekka O'Grady
Tattoos, check. A funky playlist in the background, check. Camera set up ready to record for YouTube, check. I imagine that when I tell you I’m in the studio of Bakeking Cakecrafts, you will be surprised. Cakes probably weren’t the first thing that sprang to mind. But that’s exactly what cake baker Ben Cullen likes to do: break the stereotype that those who bake cakes are either your grandmother or the neighbour from down the road. Simply put, Ben is one of those people making baking cool.
The Great British Bake Off has certainly inspired people from all walks of life to get into the kitchen and bake, but you won’t find what Ben bakes in his studio in Shotton being judged by Mary Berry.
The 26-year-old from Birmingham who now lives in Hoole specialises in novelty cakes that are amazingly realistic, with his most famous to date being a caricature of the Liverpool Football Club manager, Jurgen Klopp, for his 49th birthday.
‘Unfortunately, he was on holiday when I delivered it, but last I heard was that he has it on his desk with a “do not eat” sign on it,’ explained Ben, who has since been approached by the club to bake a cake of Anfield’s new main stand.
Ben appeared on the LFC TV programme with the creation, along with Ellesmere Port’s Jay Hutton from Channel 4’s Tattoo Fixers. ‘The footballers thought I was with him because of all my tattoos, they didn’t believe it was me who had actually baked the cake.’
Ben started as a tattoo artist before going into graphic design – something he had studied at Chester University. It wasn’t until he created a cake for his dad’s birthday that he realised baking would be another creative route to explore.
‘I was tattooing at the time when a client came in with her mum who showed me a photograph of something she had baked. I couldn’t believe the Peppa Pig was made out of sugar paste, and I was wowed by it. Once I have something stuck in my head I have to try it, and that marathon themed cake for my dad was what started my love for it. It’s just spiralled from that.’
His friends and family from Birmingham think that Ben’s new career choice is quite funny, considering he had never made a cake before his dad’s birthday. However the baker is now a long way from phoning his mum up to ask for help with a recipe.
‘Some people still don’t believe me when I tell them, but a few years ago I wouldn’t have believed it either,’ said Ben, who officially launched the Bakeking Cakecrafts in 2014. He used his prowess as a graphic designer to create his own logo and branding, and regularly uploads tutorials and videos of his most recent bakes to his YouTube: Bakeking TV Baking Channel.
Here you can see the method and the magic that goes into Ben’s creations, which have so far included a range of very realistic looking fast food dishes, a tiger’s head and even a mob boss called Alfie – which won him a gold at Cake International for the second year running. His experience in tattooing has helped him with techniques such as airbrushing. His love of painting means that detail is very intricate.
However, the young baker wants you to know that it’s not only edgy cakes, like his tattooed Father Christmas, that he can produce.
‘I also love doing traditional style cakes for weddings and christenings. I enjoy the balance of baking both the pretty, classic styles, as well as ones that are sometimes an extension of my personality.’
On average Ben can complete four cakes in a week, but some take longer than others and he can often find himself working from 6am to 6pm.
‘It is hard working by yourself, especially as I’m a perfectionist. The baking industry is very cut throat, there’s a lot of games and money being made so you have to be deadly serious about what you want to do.
‘Long term, I would love to become the UK’s version of Cake Boss and I believe that this is achievable as I break the stereotype of who makes cakes.
‘I am hoping that YouTube will give me that further exposure and make the cakes a brand that are instantly recognised as mine. I want to be an artist who is known for creating them. This is my art now.’