Why are ingredients key to an unforgettable wedding cake?
At Zaza Marcelle we believe in the importance of good quality ingredients to make our cakes taste extra special.
Our core value is that whenever possible you need to shop local and organic. I say whenever possible because it’s not always the case: for example, getting local and organic sugar is near enough impossible. However: living in the beautiful South West region, we are spoilt with choice when it comes to milk, butter, eggs and flour (all that rain pays off!!).
During my training as a patisserie chef in France, I was taught about the importance of choosing the right ingredient. I remember our teachers talking amorously about how a particular butter or milk would make a difference to the consistency and taste of one’s creation. These are values that I now hold very dearly.
When I decided to set up Zaza Marcelle a few years ago, I knew that I wanted to use organic ingredients for 2 reasons. The first one is because I wanted my cakes to be free of nasty things found in some non-organic products. It would mean that my ingredients might be a bit more expensive than average but at least I knew they would have been manufactured with the respect of our planet in mind. The second one is because on a personal level, I mainly shop organic and local and it would have seemed alien to do any different for my business.
Now let’s get personal with the ingredients I chose and let me introduce you to some of my favourites. You will see that they all have something in common, run by passionate people whose are concerned about creating ecologically-friendly and sustainable products:
Naturally, I picked Yeo Valley for the butter. It has a proper rich creamy taste, it’s organic, and Yeo Valley has a reputation for treating their cows with lots of love! It’s probably UK n1 organic dairy brand and luckily enough for us Bristolians, this family farm (that apparently has farming roots traced back to the 1400s!!) is here in Somerset! I don’t think I need many more reasons really…
My free range eggs used to come from Somerset too, from Dan and Briony Wood, who created with a network of farmers across the south west sharing the same farming philosophy The Traditional Free-Range Egg Company. Unfortunately, they "went into administration" last April, which really saddened me.
They were making quality free range eggs for a clientele looking for quality and sustainable products, all the while providing more and more jobs opportunities for the people in the local area. Their “girls” as they call them, got to enjoy green pastures and live in a flat deck system which means that unlike mass production systems where hens are stuck all together in multiple levelled houses as to reduce labour costs and increase the amount of birds (No, thank you), these girls get an easy access to freedom and fresh air (yes, please). I do hope that they get to come back on the market really soon! In the meantime, I am on the lookout for egg producers with the same philosophy and quality of products so I have been trying a few different ones and will update you when my choice is final ;)
No cake without flour, right? Then again, not so far from Bristol, is another family business. Started in 1978, Doves Farm mills traditional flour and has also revived ancient grains. All of their products are grown organically with the aim of reducing the pollution of our soil and environment. What I love the most about Doves Farm is the high quality of their products and how dedicated they are about making a change in
right direction in term of environment protection.
In pâtisserie and cake design we use couverture chocolate, which has the specificity of containing a higher cocoa butter percentage than eating chocolate. That way it is more fluid and makes it a preferred choice for working and tempering. And in term of UK made couverture chocolates, the choice is not very wide (not to say non-existent)… But fortunately, who needs quantity when you can have quality? When I found out about Montezuma’s chocolates, I was thrilled! A Brighton based chocolate company created by Helen and Simon (a couple in business and in life), ex-lawyers converted to the love of chocolate and driven by the need of making their trade not only eco-friendly, but to go above and beyond when it comes to pay the right price to the Dominican Republic and Peru co-operatives of small plantations they work with. And indeed, they are proud to say that their partners do get a price for their cocoa above the price of the market. Montezuma has consistently grown since their debuts in 2000 where they would temper chocolate in “only a kitchen sink sized machine […] to become arguably Britain’s most innovative chocolate brand with a reputation far bigger than our actual footprint” [Quoting here Helen Pattinson, Co-founder with husband Simon] I think it’s important to remind everyone that the mass industrialisation of chocolate is becoming a real threat to the future of chocolate as most farmers are getting old and the younger generations just prefer avoiding the trade as it is a really hard and wearing job that doesn’t pay well, so buying less, but supporting companies like Montezuma not only makes sense in term of health, but it also ensure that we help maintaining a fair life for the farmers communities all around the globe (and of course the chocolate trade doesn’t disappear. Can you imagine your life without chocolate? I know I can’t…)
I have been using Tate + Lyle for a while in term of sugar, but I got a bit frustrated with them as it is quite tricky to find their Fairtrade range when you buy your raw material in bulk. And then I found Billington's. They specialise in high quality unrefined sugar, which means that all their sugars are naturally loaded with intense flavours and it does make quite the difference in a recipe. The other reason why I was attracted to that brand was that they source their sugars ethically. Their sugar mainly comes from Mauritius where they work closely with the island's Sugar Syndicate, ensuring that their product is traded fairly and revenues distributed equally to the thousands of small cane growers. Now of course, my sugar budget increased quite a bit as organic sugar isn't cheap, but at least, I know that whoever was at the beginning of the chain of the bag I purchase gets rewarded rightly for their hard work!
Now, I do not run a coffee shop or a cake boutique where coffee is served, but I do use coffee quite often (more than you would think, as I also use it as one of my secret ingredients…) in my creations. And when I do, this is the brand I use, and now I am not turning back! Girls Who Grind Coffee is (as you might have guessed by the name…) an all-female coffee roaster company started by Fi and Casey, an Australian and an American (in that order) who met here in Somerset and now run together that brilliant roasters, sourcing their coffee from female producers and farmers, making sure to tell the story behind each and everyone of them. I must say, before I got too excited and jumped to buy 10 kilos just because I loved the concept (and their design is just… Waow!!), I have decided to buy one bag, give it a go. I went for the Dr-Congo from Idjwi Island, Lake Kivu as the description said “Bright and syrupy, milk chocolate, floral, tangy marmalade, R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”, hard to resist. And when the envelope came in enclosing the precious delivery, you would not believe the smell that came out of it… And I hadn’t even opened it yet! It was, for me, the smell of coffee as I dream about it! That was it, I was sold!
To get their products:
This is just a list of the main ingredients I am using, then there are so many others, and I am still on the lookout for what is best out there and unfortunately not all of it can be made in the South-West (Personally, I am not sure I would want lemons or almonds from Wiltshire…) so when needs be, I must say, like everybody else, I do with the best available options! But be assured that I will indeed always opt for the best option, as I strongly believe, more than ever, that using the right ingredient is the key to making a cake taste fabulous. Leave the industrial mass-produced and tasteless ingredient aside and come and taste flavoursome chocolate, milk or eggs instead.