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Clare Francis decorates cakes in her adapted caravan (©AAH/Toby Phillips Photography)

Published 1st November 2020

Where do you go to find a Pennywise the Clown cake for a fan of the Steven King horror, It? Or a sponge cake version of Paddington, The Grinch, Slimer from Ghostbusters, or a relative’s beloved Citroen 2CV? Billingshurst cake maker Clare Francis has carved out a reputation for her remarkable sculptural cakes, made with an artistic eye in an adapted caravan.

“Most celebration cakes tend to be square or circular with neat edging, but I’m more comfortable with sculptural work,” says Clare. “Proportion is the most important aspect with my creations. I start with a square base and add smaller cuts of cake to build up the structure first. If the shape isn’t right, you can easily end up with a dog with a wonky nose or a character with massive ears!”

“With sculptural cakes, you need a concealed structure to hold the cake upright with all the features in place. They tend to look very strange to begin with, but when you add the icing and start to carve the distinctive features, the defining characteristics are gradually revealed.”


Scrumptious Cupcakes by Clare was founded seven years ago, after the birth of her third child. The hours offered by her former employer didn’t fit in with family commitments, so Clare considered other ways to make money. After buying a box of cupcakes for a child’s birthday, Clare decided to learn how to make them herself by watching YouTube videos. 

Initially, she made buttercream swirls, selling them to friends and family. But the business began to evolve when people started making requests. “I was asked to do a fondant covered cake. I hadn’t made one before but it went well and from there I progressed. I can bake ‘naked’ wedding cakes where layers of buttercream are exposed, but not the more elaborate celebration cakes with intricate floral decorations and ornate icing. That isn’t my style. I’ve become primarily known as a specialist of sculptural cakes.”

“I am part of a Facebook group of cake makers in West Sussex, which is a great platform for sharing tips. We can also direct clients to the right person if they’re looking for a certain kind of cake, be it cupcakes, wedding cakes or sculptural cakes.” 


Clare decorates cakes in an adapted caravan, bought during lockdown. “Everyone was buying wood cabins and the prices soared! So, we thought about caravans, as they’re insulated and already have electrics and plumbing. We bought a 1990s model on eBay, which my husband gutted, removing everything I didn't need. We re-upholstered the furnishings and added modern lighting, storage space and worktops too. It’s now my studio and gives me all the space I need to focus on work.” 

Like most small businesses, Clare has felt the financial impact of Covid, with cancellations for birthday and wedding cakes. However, she has continued to work and gradually orders have increased. “People ordered cupcakes as surprise gifts for parents or other relatives during lockdown,” says Clare. “It wasn't much money, but it was nice to be involved in something positive during what was a tough time for everyone.”


For the sake of convenience, the business name hasn’t changed. However, it is structural cakes rather than cupcakes that are now Clare’s main source of income. With many of her commissions being cakes of pets, the handover has become an important part of the job for Clare.“My favourite moment is when I present the customer with afinished cake!” she says. “Even thinking about it helps me to focus on getting all the features right. I use tools to carefully define the bone structure and create wrinkles, with light airbrushing helping to create depth and shadow. It’s technical work, but creating a recognisable appearance from a plain surface is what makes the job so exciting.” 

“I need to refer to Google Images a lot. When it’s somebody’s pet, I request head and body shots of the animals as they often have distinctive marks that can easily be missed from one angle. Some customers have cried upon seeing a finished cake, which is nice for me. Sometimes, they don’t want to eat them! When it’s a cake of a pet, people don’t want to cut the head off, so they eat the body first!” 

To contact Clare email clare492@hotmail.co.uk Tel: 07725 187886

Visit the website at www.scrumptiouscupcakesbyclare.co.uk