We get the low-down on Violet Cakes owner, Claire Ptak, the cake maker chosen to provide the main baked-event for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Windsor Castle wedding
Words by Victoria Fell
Dalston, East London. Ridley Road market, dancing the night away at The Alibi or enjoying the summer sun on the McDonald’s roof terrace (yes, seriously): London’s E8 has never been boring. And now, with the news that Dalston’s own Violet Cakes will be making the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Wedding cake for their upcoming nuptials, it looks like this area of London really does have something for everyone (and that includes royalty).
Last week, Kensington Palace announced that the Violet bakery had achieved the pastry world’s Holy Grail and been chosen to create the cake for Meghan and Harry’s big day.
We also learned the cake’s flavour: ‘Prince Harry and Ms. Markle have asked Claire to create a lemon elderflower cake that will incorporate the bright flavours of spring. It will be covered with buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers.’
In the spirit of the Royal Wedding (and, let’s face it, our love of cake) we’ve got the lowdown on Violet cakes:
Where is Violet?
The bakery is located on a quiet side street ten minutes from Dalston Junction station. Don’t be fooled by the residential appearance – the street is v hip and is home to artisan Japanese homeware in the shape of Momosan, hyper-chic stationery from J. Glinert and gorgeous clothes from Retrouvé Vintage.
Who runs Violet Cakes?
The whole operation is run by Claire Ptak, a Californian pastry chef who came to the UK in 2005. She started the business baking at home and with a stall on Broadway Market before moving to a more permanent premises in 2010. Ptak is an old hand at the baking business: she is the former pastry chef at renowned Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, a job that pioneering chef and Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters offered her on the spot due to her talent.
Ptak told The Telegraph that she has ‘baked as long as [she] can remember’ and got her first job at a bakery at the age of 14. Her family are also bakers – she told CBS: ‘Well, my mother’s a great baker, my grandmother’s a great baker. And where I grew up in Inverness, just north of San Francisco, it’s rural, and we had wild blackberries and apple trees. And so there was a lot of emphasis on baking with fruit that was in season.’
Sounds like Harry and Meghan are in good hands then…
It seems there was a veritable meeting of minds between the Royal couple and Violet cakes owner Claire Ptak. In her Instagram post, she spoke about Harry and Meghan share so many of the same values regarding food provenance, sustainability, seasonality and of course, flavour!’
To be honest, we’d usually write this off as hyperbole, but given Meghan’s clear passion for food and sustainability whilst at the helm of The Tig (where she once interviewed Claire Ptak…), as well as the fact that Harry’s father Prince Charles literally set up an organic food business, it seems like a good fit.
Who goes to Violet ?
The better question is who doesn’t. Queues on Saturday mornings go around the block: The weekend after the announcement, the rush for cakes was so big that the bakery ran out of cakes for its weekend stall.
Royal wedding news or not, the café is always buzzing, whatever day of the week. Ptak noted in an interview with Grub Street that despite the fact that ‘tea-time’ with tea and scones isn’t exactly a thing in the UK anymore, ‘in our bakery, we’re actually busiest between three and five o’clock.’
What attracts these crowds? Well obviously the delicious cakes (more on those later), but Ptak also has a side-hustle: the bakery has made itself a bit of a cultural hub through Violet Sessions. These are the podcasts where Ptak chats ‘with interesting women who do incredible things, exploring culture, creativity, work and lifestyle.’
What’s the best cake at Violet ?
Considering the sheer variety of different treats available at Violet, it seems almost impossible to choose. Dairy-free, gluten-free and refined-sugar free cakes (Ptak really is a baking wizard) are available to order and there are tens of other options in the café itself. Ptak has previously said that the butterscotch blondie and cinammon bun are the ones that ‘fly out’, but here’s a sample of even more of what’s on offer:
Forget about betting on the dress or what song the newly-weds will enjoy as their first dance – we are all about the cake.