Works of chocol-art! It’s a chocolate shop favoured by the stars, and now Choccywoccydoodah reveals how they can transform the stuff into almost anything
21:44 GMT, 20 April 2012
Kylie Minogue celebrated one birthday with a chocolate cake dominated by the Green Fairy she played in Moulin Rouge.
Boy George asked for something special for his 50th, and got a pink and yellow multi-tiered creation with a giant chameleon crouched on top, and a portrait of himself – all in chocolate.
And for a Vogue magazine party held in honour of Christian Louboutin, the 5ft-tall cake was topped with two chocolate legs wearing – of course – a sculpted pair of his distinctive red-soled shoes.
Chief designer Dave Ratcliffe and Lisa Sewards with some of the team's fabulous creations
It’s all in a day’s work for the team at Choccywoccydoodah, who specialise in creating designs which, in the words of boss and chief chocolatier Christine Taylor, ‘are quite, quite bonkers’, and are currently being featured on the Really channel. They made a huge Pirates Of The Caribbean-themed chocolate bar for Johnny Depp when his film was nominated for an Oscar. It was so detailed, that when they flew it to Paris to present to him it couldn’t be entrusted to the baggage hold and was given its own seat on the plane.
Their other sweet-toothed clients have ranged from prime ministers and members of the Royal Family to Elton John, Zoe Ball and Simon Cowell – ‘his mum likes our cakes, so he goes for feminine designs’, says Christine. Madonna is another regular customer, buying for friends. ‘She can’t eat chocolate herself because it’s against her Kabbalah beliefs,’ says Christine.
Choccywoccydoodah have a shop and bakery in Brighton and have just opened a branch off London’s Carnaby Street. They’ve just survived another Easter, their busiest time of the year, but the team had to work through the night to satisfy demand for their Sheepish Sheep – hand-decorated chocolate lambs with marshmallow fleeces.
Choccywoccydoodah specialises in
creating designs which, in the words of boss and chief chocolatier
Christine Taylor, ‘are quite, quite bonkers’
Chief designer Dave Ratcliffe, his
assistant Tom Robertson and baker Jim Thomas say their work is a
chocoholic’s dream. ‘I eat a piece of chocolate every day and I’ve not
got sick of the taste, even after 13 years,’ says Dave. It’s quiet and
industrious – they fill more than 7,500 orders every year – but there is
the odd tantrum. ‘Smashing cakes up happens,’ says Christine. ‘Most of
the team know exactly what I want. I either love it or hate it – never
in between. If I hate it, I smash it on the floor. But if I love it, I
really love it.’
We drank too much gin one night and
that’s how the idea came up. In the end I
came up with Choccywoccydoodah – the gin bottle was empty at this
For Christine, chocolate is magical
and she wants customers to experience the same fantasy. Like her shops
crammed with kitsch treats, Christine’s office is a treasure trove. Her
desk is dwarfed by a cake sculpture garden reminiscent of a mad hatter’s
tea party on a gothic film set. There are toppling cake towers,
sculpted stilettos and Edwardian boots and a magnificent bather on a
carousel horse. The key to these sculptures is a secret technique. ‘I
never had a business plan and still don’t. But I do work from recipes
handed down over three generations, so it was always about the chocolate
and I was on a quest to make it do what I wanted,’ explains Christine.
my team mould chocolate as if it’s Plasticine, and then let it harden
so that they can carve it into incredible forms. But the process is top
secret and everyone has to sign a confidentiality contract. Working with
chocolate is difficult. Tom’s been with me for five years and in the
past year has started to make some serious breakthroughs. Jim prides
himself on never using scales or electrical equipment. Manuals or
formulas just doesn’t work for us.’
Some of Choccywoccy’s craziest confections…
ELTON'S WEDDING CAKE
This extravagant tower was made for Sir Elton John’s nuptials to David Furnish in 2005.
The couple were said to have paid 5,000 for the pink and gold creation.
FABULOUS BAKING BOYS
When Boy George tasted the cake made
for his 50th birthday he said on Twitter: ‘It’s delicious! To hell with
the calories! Amazing, light, delicious!’
ZOE'S FAMILY FAVOURITE
Presenter Zoe Ball is a regular
customer, with this gingerbread house for her son as well as a cake for
her 40th party at Claridge’s.
This wedding cake made for a Dutch couple proved so popular a replica was made for the shop.
‘The best cakes have a strong theme, like Boy George’s,’ says Dave. ‘I love the fact we can be as crazy as we like – I’ve created a cat riding a bicycle and a pheasant on a rugby ball.’ No wonder their cakes have caught people’s imaginations. ‘We made two phoenix cakes for Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, and some of our creations featured in Tim Burton’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory,’ says Christine. The team was asked to come up with 20 giant sculptures for the film, including life-size animals made entirely from chocolate. ‘We couldn’t finish everything in time, so we piled the entire contents of our shop into a lorry and took it to the set.’
It’s a far cry from Christine Taylor’s original plan to open up a chocolate shop next to the caf she owned with her business partner, Christine Garratt. ‘We drank too much gin one night and that’s how the idea came up. She suggested the Chocolate Factory as a name but that’s what you’d expect from a former tax analyst! In the end I came up with Choccywoccydoodah – the gin bottle was empty at this stage.’
The two Christines stocked the shop full of Belgian chocolate but the night before the opening, they realised there was something lacking. ‘So we baked 30 cakes through the night. As the night drew on, the cakes became madder and madder – with cherries and Cadbury’s chocolate fingers sticking out all over the place. But they looked good and were the embryonic form of our trademark style. From there, the cakes and chocolates just got crazier.’
Now, they even have a racehorse named after them. ‘Choccywoccydoodah shares a stable with 22 other horses,’ says Christine Taylor, ‘so we made a creation for them all. We mixed 45lb of horse feed with molasses, polo mints and carrots – they had a delicious treat and it just goes to show: Choccywoccydoodah has a cake for all tastes.’
Choccywoccydoodah, Tuesdays, 8pm, Really. The third series starts in July on Good Food.