From Cat Walk to Cake Walk: meet Alison Dunlop, founder of ARD Bakery

With a previous career in fashion, London-based Alison has switched her creative energies to patisserie and is shaking up cake design as we know it.

ARD Bakery is reimagining the wedding cake. ‘Peggy Porschen for Fashionistas’ comes to mind when I browse through her portfolio although you won’t find a single sugar paste flower on Alison’s creations.  The five tier cakes are not for the faint hearted and make a statement with bold colours and Bauhaus inspired modern graphics.

High tech and creative

Describing her style as graphic, fun, colourful and playful, Alison says, “Wedding cakes are a very different medium to fashion, but I use the same design process.” She believes this is what enables her cakes to stand apart from the mainstream, “My designs are different because I’m not approaching it like I’m designing a cake. I’m approaching it like I’m designing an object.  My client will give me a brief and I’ll take elements from that to create a pattern in my kind of style using graphics, sugar work and chocolate.”

Alison takes a high tech approach, “I design everything on Illustrator and use a 2D printer which prints out a very thin layer of icing to use on the cakes.” Alison is entirely self-taught, bar a recent two day chocolate course.  “I taught myself online from videos,” says Alison, who draws inspiration from Russian design – think domed churches in Red Square – and the modernity of the Bauhaus and Memphis movements.”

Modernity is integral to Alison’s work, not least in her marketing and use of social media, “I don’t think I’d have a business without Instagram,” she says. So much so, that the V&A Museum are currently featuring her work in the ‘Bigger than the Plate’ exhibition, running until October, “I’m in the section about how people are using food through their Instagram accounts because that’s been massive for me,” says Alison.

Becoming a mother sparked career change, “I began when I was on maternity leave, “says Alison, “It was just for fun and I could try things out without the pressure of having to make a decision.  From there, it grew organically. I made cakes for friends and family and posted them onto Instagram. Suddenly I had strangers getting in touch asking me to make their cakes.  So by the time I went back to work, I thought, maybe I can do this instead.”

It’s still early days for Alison, who has been trading for less than a year and describes everyday as ‘learning something new.’  Running her own business has brought a good balance between work, creativity and family life, “It’s so flexible, I can take on as much or as little as I like and be completely in control of my workload,” she says.

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