Molly Robbins is a featured cake artist who will demonstrate her extraordinary skills during the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) set for Sept. 17-21 in Las Vegas. She will appear at the RBA Bakers Center and teach an IBIEducate session, both on 3D cakes. Aside from her multiple seasons on “Extreme Cakes,” and notable clientele for her custom cakes, she also has a tool/product called Molly's Creature Creator and just opened her first retail bakery in Rawtenstall, England.
In advance of her IBIE appearances, Bake magazine reached out to Robbins to learn more about her amazing rise to the top.
Bake: How excited are you to be demonstrating your extraordinary skills at the upcoming IBIE?
Molly Robbins: Ah, I've done a lot of international shows. I do a lot of shows here which are amazing. I've done them for years. I've been to America once this year and I've been to Australia this year already, but IBIE I'm the most excited about. I've never been to Las Vegas, so I'm like, oh my, there's so much to see.
I don't know what to expect because I think whatever I expect, it's going to be more than that. The show itself just looks really cool. It's nice for me to come at it from a slightly different angle and you know, with the different scale of bakeries that that will be there. It's just huge. I think they do things really big in Las Vegas. And I think that IBIE is no exception to that. And I'm so excited.
Obviously, I'm going there as me, but also I'm going there as a bakery owner now – over the last couple of months. So, I'm getting like super excited just to learn stuff and see what I can pick up over there. I always think America is much more ahead of trends in terms of cake decorating. I think it always was.
It was the American scene that got me into cake decorating 12 plus years ago. You know the kind of shows like Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes, which is hilarious that I'm now doing a show alongside Buddy Valastro and Duff Goldman. I'm like, are you joking? It's insane. So, yeah, I'm excited to pick up some tips and just see what you guys are doing over there, because I think the stuff over there is just incredible.
Bake: You wear multiple hats as a business owner. Tell us more.
I have been making cakes for about 12 years and in different kind of iterations. Really, I've always worked for myself. I worked in just private studios up until now. And then now I've got the first kind of bakery shop that people can come in. That's the first time. So, this is a big one for me.
I'm always trying to better myself. Do bigger and better and learn from it. And if I've done a big one, I'm like, right? How can I go even bigger and better after this one? You're only as good as your last cake. I definitely believe that.
The way I wrote my business plan is the way I run my businesses. I want more than one stream of revenue coming in, so I have me as a teacher and speaker and me as Molly. And then I have me making cakes for bespoke orders. Then I have the product side of things that I do. I manufacture and make a lot of my own range of products that we sell, and then I have all my ambassador stuff. So, I kind of work with different brands and doing products and a bit of recipe development and things like that.
I needed somewhere that was big enough to have the space to do all of that. So, what we ended up with was this space in this town, which is a very small town (Rawtenstall, England). It's a town I was born and grew up in, but it's become a really amazing market town, and it's all the original stone buildings with the cobble stone. It's a beautiful little town. It has become real foodie town and kind of trendy. It’s a center for craft breweries and really amazing food. So this this place became available, it was a bakery for 100 years.
Bake: Tell us about your new retail bakery shop.
I jumped at the opportunity. We've got over 1,000 square foot. So we have quite a small storefront itself, but then it goes all the way back behind all the other buildings. It's been huge undertaking cause it needed to be completely renovated: everything, floor, ceilings, doors. Everything's brand new. But what it's given us is amazing. The store is called Molly’s.
I do what I do and I'm big on social media and I've done TV and things like that. There's still people every day that come in and didn't have a clue who I was or what I did. So it's given me that like extra. We need to make something that they can buy just kind of off the, you know, off the rack kind of thing. So we do the gourmet cupcakes and we didn't know what to expect and then you know, the first weekend we opened, we sold 800 cupcakes in a small town, and I was just like, Oh my God. So now it's like a full production we're doing.
It's a heritage protected street, so everything you have to use is the original store front, you can't change anything. but we have, you know, gone for it with the color we've gone really bright and bold. A kind of red and white, the pink and white stripe and everything, and we've had the old-fashioned sign writer come and paint the sign as it would have been, you know, 100 years ago. Everybody absolutely loves it and I love it and it's just it's such a beautiful it's like, it's like having a child. The shop. I just love it so much.
We're about half an hour away from Manchester, so it's a small town, but it's just off the end of the motorway, so it's quite easy to get into Manchester, which is obviously a huge city. And we advertise it. It's on the sign, it says cakes and then the other side says cute stuff because I just love, like, cute things and cake stuff. And we do all the work with brands, and we do like aprons like the 1950s vintage aprons and accessories and things like that. So it's a bit of everything.
We sell accessories like cupcake earrings and things like that. It's just really cute things and fun stuff and we get kids coming in – oh my gosh, so many children coming in. It's amazing. They're coming after school. You get like a massive rush after school finishes. It was just really fun. It's really like I never thought I would do something like this and it’s just special. I love it so much.
Opening day was crazy, so I didn't know what to expect. We'd advertised that we were going to open at 10. And then at 9, people were just kind of crowding ‘round. And then the mayor came; she opened the shop officially. And we were like, oh my Gosh, and panicking like, oh, we need a ribbon.
I swear from the minute we opened to the minute we closed this small shop we were packed with people – and I mean packed. It has been 2½ weeks now, and it can hasn't really slowed down. I mean, we get a little bit quieter in the morning, and it's quite good because you get to do things like I still do in the orders and the cakes in the back. I'm amazed every time we put something new on. We do kits for people to bake their own. We're doing giant cookie kits where you make a pizza. It's like a pizza that is a cookie which looks like a pizza. People have gone crazy for those. Then I put those online people gone crazy for them online.
Bake: What are some highlights of tips and techniques that you will provide to attendees of your IBIE sessions?
So at IBIE, I'm going to be teaching a class. I'm doing a French Bulldog class, so it's using the molds that I designed and manufacture. It's basically like a universal 3D cake mold system. So you make a 3D cake in the shape of any creature or character. I'm going to be teaching a class using that to make a French Bulldogs, and I'm going to do a demo. That is going to be a tiger. And that's going to be all made from white. So I'm going to cover it, detail it, do it all in white and then completely airbrush it, cause I do my own range of airbrush colors, as well. I'm going to be airbrushing that and then I am doing a talk on that.
I always find it strange that people would be interested in hearing what I have to say and I find it quite nerve wracking and I get quite anxious, but then I always think you can always talk about something that you know a lot about. And for me, that's cake decorating and that's the artistry from making what I do. And I think in that respect, I have a lot to kind of give.
I came at it from an art background. In school, I studied art and then I studied special effects. I’ve worked in television and film makeup, and I learned a lot about. And molding 3D sculptures and also airbrushing were big parts of my degree.
Bake: What do you see as impactful decorating trends right now?
A lot of people go into cake decorating and learn the airbrushing, but for me I learned the airbrushing and it got me into cake decorating. I watched all your cool American TV programs and was like, I want to have a go at that. That looks so fun. I mean there's no magic solution. It's just word of mouth.
I've been doing cakes now for the same families for their christening, and then their wedding, and their baby's first birthday and 2nd birthday and 3rd. So that is really nice. It's really cool to be a part of people's lives.
You know you can have 100,000 followers on Instagram, but at the same time, certainly from a revenue perspective as well, my income and my name are rooted in the repeat customers and the people on the street or in this area or the people that e-mail and order the cakes. It's about them. And then I think that's the that there's no magic formula to it. You just got to do your best and keep doing it. And then if you get the repeat orders then great.
Bake: What do you consider to be your signature techniques?
I'm not really led by like Instagram trends and things like that, but you know I will always be asked 20 times a week about the buttercream cakes with drips.
You can't ever have enough color. I do mainly children's cakes, which is great because you don't have to be restrained. Kids see the kind of things that I can do, and they just want, like, a cake of a sloth. But then they'll want the sloth to have a mermaid tail and rainbow hair. I just love that kind of thing.
I always want to give somebody something that's a centerpiece. It becomes a cake in the middle of a table and everybody goes wow, this is interesting. And let's talk about it. And let's kind of celebrate that.
I'd rather be making a life-sized elephant because if you put your hand through it or put your thumb in it by accident, you can cover it up and there's a lot more room for error.
I guess in most parts of my business I've been inspired by children because children are the ones with the amazing ideas. But they're also the ones who are really interested in baking.
In all the years I made “Extreme Cake Makers,” I did something like 90 episodes. And specials and Christmas episodes. And it was sold to 65 countries and went to Netflix in the UK and it went huge. And what they didn't expect and what certainly I didn't expect was the appeal that had to children.
The creativity of it is so amazing now and it's so easily available like in supermarkets or whatever. So I want to be that kind of place where people go to and think I'm going to take my 8-year-old in and we're going to get the things we need to make an amazing cake. It’s going to have glitter, and it's going to have crazy things coming out of it.
It takes a long time to work out exactly where you want to be in the industry, but I think definitely, you know and my products as well, they're all kind of aimed towards even beginners like people that have never made a cake before can get, you know, one of my mold kits and they can make a 3D cake of a teddy bear. That's amazing. And they would never would have thought they could make it before so.
It's always been about the beginner and about kids and just making it really fun. I think it can get all get a bit serious in any field I guess, but in this one especially you, you know, like it's cake and it needs to be fun. You need to enjoy it. So I'm very much led by simple and enjoyable.