Spotlight on Pastry Chef Megan Cooper
I know I'm not the only one that's guilty of spending way too much time on Instagram watching cake or cookie decorating videos. There's something about watching a beautiful creation come together that I find quite soothing...it also obviously increases my craving for sweets. One of my favorite "beautiful creation" accounts is @_the_bake_house. Let's get real for a second, although we love watching these beautiful creations come to life, at times I find myself thinking, "this is a bit much, maybe she didn't need to add all those pearls to the top layer of that cake". Then I find myself feeling guilty for judging the work of an extremely talented person. However, I have never felt this way about any of the creations I have seen on The Bake House's Instagram. I saw a cake on there that I thought would be perfect for my wedding...then I remembered how single I was and had a good laugh. This shows how much I love the creations of The Bake House's head pastry chef, Megan Cooper. They're the perfect combination of classic and trendy.
After doing some research I learned The Bake Shop is part of Heartwood & Co, "a multi-functional space that houses a beauty department, event space, and a bakery", located in Victoria British Columbia. This made me sad because I realized the chances of me tasting a cake in Canada was very slim but a girl can dream. So I did the next best thing...reached out to the head pastry chef and part owner, Megan Cooper!
Continue reading to learn more about the amazing Bake House.
What sparked your interest in baking?
I've always been interested in baking since I was a child. I used to create menus at home and make food and desserts for my sister and her friends. (best younger sister ever...)
Do you remember the point in life when you realized you wanted to make a living as a culinary artist?
Well to be honest it wasn't an easy decision, I didn't know what i wanted for quite some time, I was confused that everyone around me just knew exactly what they wanted to do. I felt so much pressure that I just jumped into university right away. I was creative, so I felt like going into a Visual Arts degree was the right choice. About a year and a half into it, I wasn't loving my degree and couldn't see much of a future in what I was doing. My dad actually suggested that I use my cooking/baking skills and my mum took me to The Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and I instantly knew (my mum quotes that "she could see my eyes light up when we walked through the kitchens of the school"). Once I graduated from Culinary School, I worked as a baker/pastry chef for a couple of years. I didn't feel inspired by any of the work I was doing, I felt exhausted and restricted by other people (it makes sense to me now that I was meant to do something of my own). So I left he baking world and decided to take on an internship at Native Shoes and then to Livestock as customer support, these jobs were amazing and taught me so many life skills. However, something still wasn't right for me and I felt incomplete. I was longing for something more creative and something that was mine. I moved back to Victoria and began working part time helping my sister with Heartwood & Co and making custom cakes and desserts on the side. It was then that everything clicked and just took a turn for success for me. I felt so much support and drive, I felt inspired again. Now I am a business owner with my sister, Kerryn Pepperdine, and Jen Li. When we moved into our new location, I started a new area of the business, The Bake House at Heartwood & Co and The Space at Heartwood & Co.
Who or what inspires you?
Other cake designers, with social media being so accessible, I'm able to watch and be inspired by bakers from all over the world. Also, my business partners, Jen and Kerryn. They probably inspire me the most. I know it's surprising. But we motivate and push each other to do things that we never thought we could do. I also think that fashion and beauty inspire me as well. With Heartwood & Co being such a versatile business, housing a salon, a bake house, event space, and an academy. I'm inspired by so much beauty and support every day.
There is a light and tropical theme to your work, how did that theme come to fruition?
I'm not too sure actually. I think that growing up with South African parents. My mum would make this no bake cheesecake with passionfruit pulp on top. She would also make pavlova a lot and I think I was always obsessed with those flavours. I also spend a lot of time down in Costa Rica. And I think that has a big play in why I like light fruity flavours. I think that bright colours and clean design make you feel fresh and uplifted. That's why my website and Instagram go along with this theme.
Has your style evolved over time?
I think i'm only coming into my own style now. I definitely am sticking to the style of beauty that's imperfect. My cakes are all unique and different in their own way. I love using natural ingredients and florals. I think you could say my cakes have a feminine touch.
What is the most challenging part of your line of work?
I think the most challenging part is not eating all of the cake.. .seriously. I have a hard time baking and not dabbling in it. On a more serious note, my biggest challenge now is steering away from custom cakes. I have just created a set menu that my clients can order from. I can customize it to a certain extent, but financially it makes more sense to have a set menu.
What is your favorite aspect of running The Bake House?
Making people happy. I think that's my favourite aspect of Heartwood & Co as a whole. We are in the business of making people happy.
Have you ever experienced a creative rut or do your clients keep you inspired?
Not with The Bake House. The only time i've ever been in a creative rut is in school.
What has been your favorite project or creation so far?
One of my favourite projects was making a cake trio for a baby shower photoshoot. They gave me all the creative reigns on that one and It was bright, fun, and whimsical. I loved it.
What is your favorite flavor combo for a cake?
I love my gluten free lemon raspberry cake with lemon curd. I also really like my Chocolate Strawberry Rose Cake. It's layers of chocolate sour cream cake filled with dark chocolate ganache, fresh strawberries, and strawberry rose icing. It's a hit.
Do you have a favorite pastry?
You think I would say cake... but i'm a savoury lover. Ham and cheese croissants all the way.
What is your ultimate goal with the Bake House?
My ultimate goal is to just oversee it and hire bakers to take over my creations. So I can spend more time on wedding cakes and creating new designs and cakes.
Any last words?
I think my words of wisdom would be to just do what makes you happy and if you work hard enough you will be successful in it. Also, if you don't know what you want, then try everything until you figure it out, you won't regret it. You'll probably learn more along the way.