We spoke to Choccywoccydoodah, the UK’s craziest chocolatiers
‘I guess it’s kind of a Mecca for people who are a bit crazy like us’
After finishing a bottle of gin one night, the two owners of the Chocolate Shop, Christine and Christine, decided they wanted to change up the café they started in London 23 years ago. They came up with the idea of a café where everything on the menu was chocolate, and Choccywoccydoodah was born. Having not changed the secret recipes for 23 years, the shop and café has been in Brighton for almost three years now.
We caught up with chocolatier Dan to tell us how long each creation takes to make and which celebrities they’ve baked for.
How long does it take to train someone to be an expert chocolatier?
We have a three-year training programme which is unique to us as a business, so there’s no formal qualification at the end of it. We work with chocolate in a very different way to any other chocolate business. Our baker uses a hand-operated whisk, nothing electric. We pride ourselves in the fact that we make everything, or as much as possible, by hand, with the exception of using a microwave to melt chocolate. You can stare at a bowl of chocolate for as long as you like, but it’s never going to melt.
What do the teams in the studio do?
The kitchen is a constant hive of activity. We have Jim the Baker and he has a set of helping hands in Vlad who’s generally there to wash up everything Jim uses because it’s such a quick turn around. In the bespoke team, we have five people: two flower girls and three bespoke cake makers. It’s quite a small team to turn out the 27 bespoke cakes we have to make per week.
As far as I’m aware, we’ve never turned down a cake because we’re busy. People come to us because they want us to make the cake. Sometimes we have to ask our bakers to work overtime, but we always manage to fit them all in.
What would you recommend to your customers?
In the café, our chocolate cake is what we’re best known for. We do a cake platter which is a slice of every cake that we serve. You see tables of two looking so shocked when it arrives because it’s a mountain of 10 slices of cake with scoops of ice cream in the middle.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
The most difficult part is trying to explain to people “we’ve been doing this for a long time, you just have to let go of the reigns a little bit.” They like us, that’s why they’ve come here, therefore they’re going to be happy with what we make. Someone that comes in with just a few bullet points of what they want is quite nice because we’ll never copy another design, like Frozen for example due to copyright and originality reasons, but there’s a lot of elements you can use like the colour scheme, frosted glitter, winter flowers and snowflakes.
What’s the price range of your cakes?
Our bespoke cakes start at £450 for our smallest cake which feeds between 40 and 50 people. As weddings are getting smaller and more intimate we’re finding it quite a popular cake size now. We do a six-tier cake which is about £3,500 which feeds between 300 and 400 people. Really the sky’s the limit. You’ve got a £450 starting price so you can take it as high as you like. If you want to be completely crazy, we’re the people you come to. Last year we had a £25,000 trio of 50cm tall Easter eggs, so that gives you an idea of how big we can take it.
What’s been the most challenging creation that you’ve made?
A couple of years ago, a customer called us the week of her father’s 70th birthday requesting a cake. She wanted a six-foot, six-tier cake, which is the biggest size we make. To create a six-tier that’s only decorated on the front, we’d normally allow three to four days, but she wanted it decorated all the way round: all white, lots of roses. We have to allow two days for baking: a day to bake it and a day for it to cool down. So bearing in mind we only had five days to turn this cake around, we had to get seven people on it to get it done.
Upon delivery, part of it broke. I was there for an hour with my repair kit, which consists of a few spare flowers, paintbrushes, a lighter and some chocolate buttons. In my time here, that was one of the most difficult cakes to get completed and to transport and then to arrive at this most amazing venue with a broken cake was awful.
Do you get starstruck by your celebrity clients?
We’ve made cakes for Rhianna, Adele, Tinie Tempah and Gary Barlow. We have celebrity clients that are happy to be associated with us and they’ll post on social media but then we also have clients who want it to be personal and private for them and we would never say that we’d worked together. I was probably most starstruck by Whoopi Goldberg. She commissioned a cake for her friend that was the Statue of Liberty but with her friend’s face on it. It was a struggle to bake and decorate it in New York because we couldn’t import the chocolate we use here to America so it had its difficulties.
After being surrounded by chocolate all day every day, do you ever get sick of it when you go home?
I honestly don’t, but I do eat a lot less chocolate now than I used to. When I first started here five years ago, Christine said you can eat as much raw product as you like because if you don’t know what it tastes like, then how do you know if it’s good or bad. So I took that very literally: I ate as much raw product as I liked. It’s a given – you start work, within six months you’ve put on two stone and after that you gradually slow down the chocolate consumption. We all still love chocolate, we just don’t eat it as much.