It was hard to miss the She Bakes Chocolate Benedict Cumberbatch Sculpture, lovingly nicked named ‘Chocobatch’ over the Easter weekend. It was created By Jen Lindsey-Clark of She Bakes and Tim Simpson and the team at Plunge Productions for UKTV Drama.
I managed to track Jen down to tell us all about it. She’s a busy lady, apart from being able to make Benedict out of chocolate, Jen also runs a wedding and event cake company, She Bakes, and sings with vintage harmony group, The Close Shaves.
When I contacted Jen during the course of this interview, one day she was busy tidying up ‘Chocobatch’ for his Westfield shopping centre appearance, another day she was making one of her signature Croquembouche for a wedding, the next she was dancing Lindy hop, and then catering for a tea dance. Jen is stylish, incredibly multi-talented, and such a lovely, warm and witty person to chat to.
How did you get into baking?
I have fond memories of sitting cross-legged on the lawn as a child making scrumptious mud cup cakes to feed to my teddies and, if they were lucky, my family. Reassuringly my taste in ingredients has changed somewhat but my passion for creating delicious treats certainly hasn’t.
How did you become a chocolatier, how long does it take to train?
I originally trained as a pastry chef in my twenties. I worked in fine dining in restaurants and hotels for a decade with some very talented pastry chefs and learnt from them and also went to Slatteries school of chocolate in Manchester to do various courses. That is where is fell in love with chocolate as a medium to create with.
It is very tricky at times, lots of science involved, it can be bad tempered and uncooperative rather like a small child. However when it is understood properly and you are patient and thoughtful with it wonderful results can be achieved. Also there is generally no waste. If it all goes wrong you can melt it all down and start again and there are always many enthusatic assistants on hand to volunteer as taste testers.
I set up She Bakes in 2010, providing elegant and delicious celebraton cakes to Sussex and surrounding counties. I specialise in chocolate cakes and croquembouche…
Can you tell us about the process of making Benedict out of chocolate?
Rather like making a large decorative celebration cake which is my usual line of work at She Bakes, I had to prepare all the components of the Cumberbatch separately before assembling him on site at the Westfield Shopping centre on Good Friday 2015.
The head was cast using a silicone mould created by Plunge productions’ lead sculptor and M.D Tim Simpson. The Body and legs were then sculpted and feet finished at the last stage. Buttons, collar, bow-tie were all individually made and then attached, the hands were also cast from silicone moulds made by the team and fitted with screws so they could be reattached easily on site.
Why did you choose Benedict?
Benedict Cumberbatch was chosen by UKTV Drama Channel the client that Plunge productions and She Bakes made it for. They did a poll with their viewers on the UK’s dishiest actor and Benedict won. Of course this meant that he needed to be made out of chocolate immediately!
How much chocolate did it take to make him?
It took around 40kg of chocolate to make Benedict. 40 kg of 35% cocoa solid Belgium Milk Chocolate .
How much would it cost to buy?
It would cost around £15,000 to have a replica made. The original would cost a lot more to buy now, as it has become a sought after piece of art. To some Cumber fans I think you could say it is priceless.
What do you plan to do with it now?
It was made for Taylor Herring, PR Company for UKTV. They have him in their offices. After he starred in their promotional film, they took him back to their offices to devour the rest I suppose?
Which part did you enjoy sculpting?
I enjoyed sculpting his hands and shoes. The head was expertly carved from clay by Tim Simpson of Plunge Productions, we then made a food safe silicone mould from the clay head and it was incredible to finally be able to fill it will melted luscious milk chocolate to reveal the chocobatch head once set. The finish was superb and the likeness amazing! We used the actor’s measurements and assessed images from red carpet appearances to help perfect Benedict’s look and create an accurate model even down to the smallest detail.
Which bit will you eat first?
I didn’t get to eat any of it…it was for a paying client! I do of course have to taste a few bits in the process and make sure it is setting well. The real chocolate buttons were very nice to make and tasted delicious.
Which would you rather lick ChocoBatch, or Benedict?
Neither…Chocobatch has been licked by a few too many already and the real deal is not really my type. He’s a great actor though , even if he can’t say penguins properly…Sweet.
How do you stop yourself eating as you make?
Now, tasting is totally necessary of course when cooking and creating for others to enjoy, just to make sure it is still delicious. I tend to try and think of the chocolate that is staring up at me ..melty..shiney, sexy, unctuous, as money…money that should be in my bank account as profit not in my tummy as naughty nibbles. Nigella has already done the dribberly, seductive, chocolate scoffing thing so it’s not part of my business plan for She Bakes. It does of course take a lot of will power and sometimes the chocolate wins, but everything in moderation and all that.
Did anything go wrong?
It was a bit stressful at times…when I had to put his chocolate head on in front of 300 shoppers at Westfield shopping centre…that was a little nerve racking to say the least! I am however used to working under this kind of pressure, creating and personally delivering wedding cakes is possibly one of the most nerve racking jobs you can have. No emergency braking please!
Thankfully everything went to plan and we got him there in one piece and looking gorgeous.
The only panic we had was when the crowds descended on Benedict and started to eat him! But by this time it was over to UKTV and associates to protect him. The security team worked tirelessly to protect ChocoBen and his bits and by the time it came for me to say goodbye to my special Ben I felt confident that the british public had had their fill and even the real Mr Cumberbatch would be happy with our efforts.
Why choose Westfield Shopping Centre to display him and not your home town Brighton?
The TV and PR companies chose where it would be displayed. I guess they wanted as many people to see it as possible and they thought somewhere near London would be good. However, Chocobatch is not my first choco sculpture, my previous creations have been Brighton landmarks, and were created with cake inside too!
I have weddings and birthdays to provide yummy sweet treats for, but chocolate sculpting ideas are brewing and it would be great to tackle another celebrity…maybe in dark or white chocolate this time or a combination of all three. Any suggestions would be welcomed…who would you like to see/smell in chocolate??
Thanks to Jen for taking time to have a a chat, it’s been fascinating to hear all about She Bakes. Get in touch with Jen via the contacts on her website if you are looking to commission a unique cake for an event.