From one girl boss to another meet Clare Ptak, founder of Violet – the East London cake company known for it’s delicious bespoke creations made using high-quality ingredients. Violet started life as a stall on Broadway Market (which is where I first discovered them) and has since grown to include a cafe, podcast series and best-selling book. Clare and I share a love of good food made with quality ingredients and I wanted to discover more about where she finds inspiration and the rewards of running a business…
What was your initial inspiration to start Violet?
I had been a pastry chef in California and wanted to do my own thing when I moved to London. The timing was right because Broadway Market had just re-opened and i got a pitch and went for it.
What are the core values of Violet Cakes?
We feel that the best tasting food is made with ingredients that are sourced from farms, dairies and suppliers that practice responsible rearing, growing and manufacturing processes. So we spend a little more and make a little less profit, but we know that the long term benefits to society and the earth are worth it.
Your cakes are well known for being super beautiful, where do you find design and decoration inspiration?
In nature. All of the flavours and colours are there so we simply use them sparingly. I love the flower petals and blossoms and foliage that we use on cakes to look as if they have fallen onto the cake in a beautifully overgrown garden. That is the look we are going for.
What has been the most rewarding thing about starting your own business?
When someone in a small town in Kansas posts an Instagram picture of a beautiful cake they have made to one of my recipes. It’s wonderful.
From one girl boss to another, what advice would you give you other women wanting to start their own business?
Do it! Ask lots of questions to anyone who has done it before, don’t be shy and understand the financials.
What is your favourite part of working for yourself?
Making my own schedule.
If you travel a lot with your job, how do you balance work/home life?
I don’t travel that much for work since having my daughter almost two years ago, but I feel the bug coming back. It will be more challenging with a little one in tow or finding care for her but it is so important to travel for my work. We go to California every year to see family and that is great.
What are your future goals for Violet Cakes?
Not sure – at the moment just thinking about making thousands of mince pies for Christmas.
What do you enjoy doing to relax after a stressful day?
I love returning to a cosy home and doing bath time and bedtime with my daughter and then having a light dinner and if there is time, watching some good crime drama!
Talk us through your day in food: do you have time for breakfast in the morning? What is your favourite meal?
I start with a milky coffee and then have a piece of toast with salted butter. Ive been making my own wholemeal bread so that’s what I’m having at the moment but other times I buy a good sourdough from the local bakery.
Lunch is at 13:30 and is usually out at a restaurant or at Violet. I prefer to cook my own dinner. We make a lot of vegetarian food because my husband doest eat meat. We occasionally cook fish but its really about the veggies and of course a decent amount of pasta for quick weekday meals. My favourite meal is actually tea. Tea and cakes at 4:30 is the best meal in the world.
Where are your favourite places to eat out?
The River Cafe, Raw Duck and Lyle’s in London.
Chez Panisse and Zuni in California.
Faviken in Sweden.
If we came over for dinner, what sort of food would you serve?
Roasted fish over potatoes and leeks in a large earthenware dish.
Are there any specific ingredients/foods you couldn’t live without?
Vanilla, bread and coffee.