Essex mum turns boredom baking into business loved by celebs, LEGO and McDonalds

An Essex woman who started baking because she was bored is now making cakes for celebrities.

Shelley Bakewell used to live in Hackney and worked as a window dresser until she got married and fell pregnant.

She moved to Harlow, Essex with her husband and decided to take up baking for something to do.

However, 10 years later and she now has a booming cake business where she works 18 hour days and makes dozens of cakes every week.

Shelley has even made cakes for celebrities and huge companies, such as Lego.

When Shelley first started baking, she had no idea that it would turn into a full-time job.

In fact, she had never even made a cupcake before.

Shelley explained: “I used to be a window dresser, a creative job.

“I got married, got pregnant and I was so bored. I was also really ill during my pregnancy so I wanted something to do.

“I watched an American programme about cakes and thought I’m going to try that.

“I had never baked at all in my whole life – that was about 10 years ago now.”

After falling in love with baking, Shelley started to build a business from it.

When we first started out, she was making around one cake per month as a ‘hobby’, but now makes around 20 per week.

Even as I spoke to Shelley on the phone, he had 11 cakes sitting on her dining room table waiting to be collected.

Shelley is now so busy that she barely gets any time to herself – or to even sleep.

She revealed that she bakes for around 18 hours a day, whilst also looking after her six-year-old and eight-year-old sons.

“All I do is cakes, I don’t see my friends,” Shelley said. “I am so grateful but exhausted.

“I have two kids so I have to sort them out along with baking, and then, once I am done, I watch baking programmes whilst making fondant figures and before I know it, it is 3am.

“I start the minute I get up. I don’t sleep or go to bed.

“I used to be able to have Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off as no one wanted cakes then. However, during lockdown, people have been wanting cakes of the actual birthday.”

Regular weeks are busy enough for Shelley, but when there is a special occasion, she is insanely busy.

For Easter, she made 140 boxes of cupcakes.

After an exhausting lead up to Easter, Shelley’s sons asked her to make some brownies on Easter Sunday and she just couldn’t say no.

Despite having created a booming business for herself, Shelley said she never even considered buying from a home baker in the past, and would always buy supermarket cakes.

Because of this, she is shocked by the number of people who come to her to order cakes for all occasions.

“It never stops surprising me how many people want to buy a cake from a home baker,” Shelley said.

“However, supermarket cakes are full of rubbish and they last too long. It’s not natural for a cake to last two months.”

Shelley said business has been really good for a few years now. However, since the first lockdown, she has really seen an increase in customers.

She believes there is a number of reasons for this.

“People haven’t been able to take people out for their birthdays,” Shelley continued, “so they have decided to buy a nice cake instead.

“I think it is also a social thing. When they order a cake from me they have someone to talk to.

“When they come to pick their order up, I’m outside with my mask on talking to them for half an hour.

“I feel like a therapist sometimes. I get to hear about all these things in people’s lives.”

Shelley has even told one of her friends that if she wants to see her, she will have to order a cake as she is too busy to socialise.

She said: “I used to find baking relaxing, but now sometimes it is a chore.

“But when they are finished and I see kids faces light up, I think ‘I don’t need sleep'”.

Shelley has made some incredible cakes.

From snakes to Harry Potter, pretty floral pieces to cakes that look like cars, she can do it all.

She told me all about her favourite bakes as well as the most common.

“My favourite of all time was a Beauty and the Beast cake,” Shelley said.

“It had a light-up rose on top and was all glittery.

“It looked like a wedding cake but it was actually for a baby’s first birthday.”

Shelley said this particular cake has been the most popular one online and is the one lots of people want to know how much it cost.

Luckily, Shelly does get to be creative often and makes countless unique cakes.

However, there are a few cake designs that she has seen time and time again.

She explained: “It’s always the latest thing that people want.

“At the moment it is Fortnite and unicorn heads. Do you know how many unicorn heads I have made…

“But Minnie Mouse is currently fighting her way through the unicorn heads and Peppa Pig is making a come back.”

Shelley isn’t always asked for pretty cakes. In fact, she has had a number of stranger requests.

She has even made a few cakes in the shape of an ‘excited’ penis – in Shelley’s own words.

There was one particular cake that she can’t forget when a wife asked for specific details to be made on one for her husband.

Shelly said: “When she came to collect it, her husband was in the car. I couldn’t look at him because I thought I know what his willy looks like.”

She has only had a few requests for rude cakes but doesn’t post them on social media because she is a ‘family-friendly baker’ and knows she has some young people look on her page.

Other odd requests include a cake made to look like a raw chicken which Shelley said ‘made her heave’ when it was finished.

However, there have been some cake requests that Shelley has turned down as she didn’t think they were nice.

One included a cake made to look like a pooing bum that someone wanted for a friend’s daughter’s 18th birthday.

“It was the most disgusting request I have had. They wanted tissue all around it too.

“It was about a personal joke but no 18-year-old girl is going to want that. I didn’t do that one.”

Not long ago, Shelley also had another request she turned down as it was very mean.

A young man asked her for a plain white cake with a cruel message on as a way of dumping his girlfriend.

Shelley refused to do this one too.

She likes to get unique requests, but won’t make a cake that she thinks is going to upset someone.

Shelley has become so well known for her baking that she has made a number of cakes for celebrities and huge organisations.

Model and presenter Katie Piper had a number of cakes for her family, along with some members of the TOWIE cast.

Shelley also made several cakes for professional footballer Jenna Schillali and drag artist Fanny Galore.

It’s not just celebs that like Shelley’s cakes.

One of the world’s biggest companies, Lego ordered a few cakes and even invited Shelley and her boys to their HQ for a day, which made her feel ‘like a celebrity’.

McDonald’s in Colchester had 300 cupcakes made by Shelley last year and she has also made some for her bounce fitness class.

You can see more of Shelley’s bakes and order from her on her Instagram page here or her website here.

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