Meet Annabel ‘Cutter’ and Emily ‘Squidge’ Lui – the entrepreneurial sister duo behind the popular all- natural London bakery, Cutter & Squidge. We chatted with the sisters to learn more about how to create amazing bakes made only with 100% natural ingredients.
What inspired you to launch the bakery?
As children we grew up loving baking and spending a lot of time in the kitchen -in some respects, launching the bakery was inevitable! We were practically born in our parents restaurant, hiding under the table in the kitchen stuffing escargot with pungent garlic butter (this was the early 90’s!) and making gritty fairy cakes to scoff.
Annabel desperately wanted to become a chef but our parents tried to steer her in a more corporate direction which worked for a few years. Even whilst we worked in our city jobs we would always make extravagant desserts and cakes for friends and family so when corporate life became a bit too much, we decided baking was what we wanted to do.
Tell us more about your culinary background…
We were exposed to our parents making food from scratch with good old fashioned ingredients and elbow grease. Our father is king of throwing things in bowl or pan and hoping for the best, where our mother is the novelty and wedding cake maker. Neither of them had any professional training and we have learnt our skills from them – plus Mary Berry’s complete dessert book from 1995, trial and error and You Tube for the fancier skills!
What are the benefits of using all-natural ingredients?
Baking with all-natural ingredients gives as a fresher and lighter bake for sponges, cookies and fillings which is what old fashioned home baking tastes like.You can only get that result from using only natural ingredients. Using natural ingredients also allows us to experiment with flavours.
It is also important to cater to the increasing amount of people who want an indulgent sweet treat but steer clear of additives and artificial ingredients
Describe your baking philosophy in three words.
Fun – baking is and always should be fun. Innovative– anything goes, just try and make it, who cares if it goes wrong. We made blueberry honeycomb once that tasted like fish! Tasty -we are all about the flavour!
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
Going back four years, the proudest was that one crystal clear moment when we both decided to fully commit to our idea and launch Cutter & Squidge, realising that we had the drive and passion to take our baking from a hobby to a business with premises and staff.
If you weren’t bakers, which career would you like to pursue?
Neither of us started off as bakers – we both pursued very different careers out of university, Emily as a lawyer and Annabel in corporate finance. Essentially, by becoming bakers we’re pursuing the other career we always wanted and we’re able to transfer our corporate experience to the commercial side of the business and channel our creativity through baking.
Tell us more about The Biskie…
Annabel: Emily loves cake. Full Stop. Annabel prefers brownies and cookies, so the Biskie is a pure unadulterated combination of both! We spent 10 months in product development making everything from scratch and only using natural ingredients. The first test bake resulted in something we fondly call “tray poo” it was a bubbly molten mess of chocolate something which was burnt on the sides because someone forgot it was in the oven.
Emily was dubbed “Cream Queen” and was put in charge of creating our lightened buttercream filling. We dislike heavy sugary buttercream and created something with half the fat and sugar of a normal buttercream yet managing to retain all of the flavour. Even Michel Roux Jr couldn’t figure out our recipe!
What is your favourite midnight snack?
Annabel: Anything with caramel – when we were children we used to eat Maltose using a chopstick as a special treat. This is chewy sticky sugar, which is traditionally a Chinese treat.
Emily: Rice crispy cakes – secret ingredients: marshmallows and love! Make them slowly; let the chocolate, butter and marshmallow melt together over a low heat- they always come out amazing .
Do you have any tips for aspiring young women looking to launch their own business?
Work out what you want to achieve and don’t lose sight of that, it could be as simple as just being in charge of your own working life and destiny and being creative. If you don’t want to have the pressure of your own shop or employees, then don’t! Know what your limits are, you don’t want you dream to become your prison, what would be the point?!
How would you describe your style of baking?
Emily: I’d describe Annabel’s baking style as erratic”- she is a creative mess.!
Annabel: Emily’s baking style is: “a bit of this”- she loves to put a bit of this and a bit of that in her creations. Annabel likes to experiment with unusual flavours or flavour combintations and Emily is more of a traditionalist, pulling familiar flavours and using them in a new way.
What provides you with inspiration for recipes?
We make what we like and take our inspiration from something simple as a single ingredient that we love or makes us feel nostalgic. Sometimes we become obsessed with a particular dish and we try to re-create it in our own way. For example we love lychees (a childhood favourite) and yuzu (the oriental citrus fruit) so we created Dream Cake and Biskie recipes using them.
Do you have any role models?
Our mum and dad. They let us believe that anything is possible if you believe in it and work hard. They started an English/ Continential restaurant even though they are Chinese, so really showed us that you don’t need to follow the norm to be successful.
What food takes you back to childhood?
Annabel: Grilled pieces of chicken tikka with naan bread and yoghurt sauce. Our dad would come home from the restaurant with an Indian takeaway and would let us share it with him. Emily’s coconut macaroons- the first recipe she managed to master from the Mary Berry dessert book!
Emily: Black forest gateaux, our parents always used to make a huge one for our joint birthday party (our birthdays are 1 month apart)
What is your favourite spring recipe?
Annabel: As soon as it gets warm, we like to add a little zing to the menu. I am absolutely in love with yuzu and am using it in everything from cakes to salad dressing.
Emily: I will always be a big fan of raspberries, or any kind of berry really.
What’s next on the cards?
We have a very special project coming to our Brewer Street shop this summer. We’ll be launching in early June and cannot wait to share what we’ve got planned… stay tuned!
Find the duo on Instagram @cutterandsquidge