The first thing that hits you when you walk into our Crouch End HQ is the captivating smell of cakes and cupcakes rising in the oven. You'll find butter creams in every colour of the rainbow and enough sprinkles to cover a small country. In the midst of it all, you'll find our owner Christina Charoniti. In this interview we asked her about all things cakes and why she decided to start Punk Cake!
How did you get into baking?
I've loved cooking and mixing ingredients ever since I was tall enough to reach the kitchen counter. I got into baking at 16 when I started making my own filo pastry for homemade spinach pie. I loved how the dough behaved and all the messy stickiness.
Then I started making cakes and treats for friends and family. There was a lot of hit and miss, but I loved it. I was going through phases of overcooking or undercooking things, and using my family guinea pigs.
When I finished school I attended a Tourism Administration course and after working as an apprentice in hotels I fell in love with patisserie, working with chocolate and all these sweet ingredients.
That's when I decided to attend a culinary school with a focus on patisserie for 2 years. I worked for a couple of years in Greece, mainly in fine dining restaurants and then I wanted to try sending CV’s to a few restaurants in London. After receiving quite a few replies I booked a one way ticket to London in 2009.
My first job was at 1* Michelin Star Tom Aikens restaurant in London from where I still carry experiences and flavour combinations.
Since then I've worked in fine dining establishments such as Le Pont de la Tour, where I was a Head Pastry Chef.
Why did you start Punk Cake?
I wanted to make something different and I wanted to take control over my life, my work and the items I was producing. I started Punk Cake so people can, at last, enjoy a fun cake, free from stereotypes, full of flavour and made with great ingredients. I wanted to make cookies that could have wonky shapes or cakes that are eccentric with a maverick streak.
Punk Cake is my way to express my culinary curiosity and creativity and make accessible great desserts and cakes for everyone, not just the few. It's a statement to the way food is produced and to the expectations people should have from desserts and cake. It's my way to freely create everything and anything that can be made as long as it's delicious and fun.
I once wrote this, which put things into perspective: "Being a chef is a culture, it's generations of memories and habits brought forward. It's about food impressions from childhood and the family table of joy. That is what I try to replicate. That experience you have as a child, eating something for the first time. That surprise and delight that is somehow unique until someone creates a new awesome plate of food that brings the same joy we felt when we were little. But now we are experiencing it with our adult circle of friends and our own families, exploring new flavours we didn’t know existed."
How do you come up with new cake flavours and recipes?
That's easy. I like food. I like flavours and especially bold and strong flavours. I create desserts that I like to eat myself.
I usually get fixated on an ingredient and I experiment with it a lot to see what textures and flavour combinations I can create. I've had a praline phase, a passion fruit phase, a pistachio phase (which keeps on going) and a raspberry phase. I have gone through a large dough phase and sourdough phase too. Sourdough doughnuts with pistachio are the best.
What motivates and inspires you?
The joy of offering and contributing to someone's special day and celebration. Getting positive feedback and learning how much people are enjoying our cakes. Creating something from scratch and becoming better every day. Learning new things and expanding my mind.
What do other people say is the best thing about Punk Cake?
That we make cakes that taste delicious, that are not too sweet. That we have great customer service and great communication. I also think that customers are proud to serve our cakes to their friends and family.
What’s the most popular cake from Punk Cake?
The Triple Hazelnut is the cake that people come back for. It is absolutely addictive. Customers just text me by phone, on whats app, instagram, and they tell me how insane this cake is.
What’s your favourite type of cake?
Profiteroles. They are soft with lots of cream and chocolate and the choux buns are filled with a different cream to the one they are covered with. They can be made with anything and they taste amazing. They can be made into a bowl or they can simply be plain, filled with cream and a crispy top. They can even be filled with ice cream and turned into ice cream sandwiches (choux bun transformers!). I love making them as much as eating them. I also looooooove ice cream in any form.
If it has to be an actual cake it would have to be a black forest cake. Because I love chocolate cake and I also love cherries. As you can see there is a pattern here; strong sour cherries with strong flavoured chocolate.