Xavier Pelloux- award winning Patissier, explains how to bake a great cake.
And while this may add a few extra hours to the processes involved in making his Continental-style treats, he says the difference in the taste, texture and appearance is well worth going the extra mile.
Xavier’s training equipped him to execute every aspect of the pâtissier’s art, including creating stunning croquembouches and exquisite wedding cakes, all of which are finished to incredibly high standards.
“You have to be a maniac to do this – it’s all about the detail,” says Xavier, as he applies tiny pieces of gold leaf to a batch of French-style opera cakes. “Pastry is more about science than cooking. Everything is carefully calculated – every ingredient is weighed out to the milligram – and there’s a reason for everything we do.”
“Precision is very important and I think that’s what sets us apart. Everything we do is made by hand.”
Xavier’s quest for perfection starts with the ingredients he uses, such as responsibly-sourced sea salt from Anglesey, for which he makes the just over 400-mile round trip himself. At the same time he buys locally whenever possible, such as the freshly-laid eggs he gets from Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester.
“Everything in our products is made by us, whether this means making our own buttercream from English butter or separating eggs ourselves rather than buying in ready-to-use egg whites,” he explains.
“We get through at least 1,000 eggs every week. We buy locally as much as we can – we think it’s important to support the local economy – and I refuse to buy in anything that’s ready-made.”
“For me the ingredients are key and I always look for the freshest and best quality ones I can find.”
It took around three years to get the wedding cake business off the ground, but this aspect of the business was to prove to be just the tip of the iceberg when they heard in 2013 that the new Gloucester Services was looking to sell Continental-style pâtisserie.
Since then the bakery has gone from strength to strength, with Xavier and Bee taking on an apprentice and additional employees. They’re now planning a second kitchen to keep up with the demand and hope to take on a further trainee by the end of the year.
“We cannot keep up with the demand for the macaroons – as soon as we’ve made some there’s an order for more,” laughs Xavier.
“We’re now getting through five kilos of ground almonds a day. Sometimes I start work at 3am and finish at 10pm to keep up with demand, but I’m used to it: when I was a kid we always started early and I’ve never regretted it. It was a great way to acquire the knowledge and skills that keep me busy today.”