Cake is a pillar in the world of desserts but one easily toppled with overly sweet, bland or novelty offerings, it’s surprisingly hard to find a cake that’s as delicious as it is beautiful. Happy Hour Cakes is one of the finest in the capital, steadily making its name in the niche of bespoke alcohol-infused cakes.
Edible works of art with a playful boozy twist is what the brand is known for. Infusing cakes with alcohol (and sometimes teas!), Sarah Hogan, a self-taught moonlight baker, came up with the idea as an answer to London’s growing obsession with bottomless brunches. We sat down with the bubbly founder to find out about her journey towards creating the tipsy treats and their exciting plans for the future.
Founder of Happy Hour Cakes, Sarah Hogan
“I’ve always enjoyed making cakes as a creative outlet,” says Sarah Hogan. At first, she started off making different flavoured brownies at bake sales with her good friend Claire at university. Together, they went on to sell at market stalls and ran occasional pop-up events across London. In 2017, Sarah decided to take her passion for baking further.
“There’s something here that I’d really like to explore further. I just felt the urge to do it. If I create this brand, and I find my way as I go along, it will bring more joy in my creative work,” says Sarah.
After juggling her full-time graphic designer career and cake making, Sarah made the decision to go freelance to truly focus on the brand. She describes her decision to go freelance as “just the right thing to do”.
Speciality Alcohol Infused Cakes
The idea for the brand name and its unique direction came from wanting to repurpose large amounts of high-quality alcohol.
“We had all these expensive booze left over and my housemates were thinking of throwing this all out. I just thought to myself, we can’t be doing that! I think I can bake with this! And then I started spiralling off with ideas, ‘how about [the brand name] Happy Hour Cakes?’ ”
Soon after, Sarah created her signature pink gin and tonic cake which remains one of her best selling sweet treats online with her loyal fanbase.
Perfecting An Art
Before creating the current range of cakes, Happy Hour Cakes started off experimenting with different markets. Hen dos are the perfect market for the brand’s boozy cakes. “At the time, we were saying, if you have a favourite cocktail, we can make a cake to match that. But that became reinventing the recipe every single time. I also got carried away with the decorations!” says Sarah Hogan.
“I was trying to do absolutely everything. I needed to lock things down and decrease the menu to have more control over the business. It’s been a four-year process, I started off with a hugely complicated process for a self-taught baker and its been about simplifying things.”
In an effort to streamline their practice and find a unique decorative style, Sarah spent the last few years testing different recipes, methods of baking and decorations. From individually icing and garnishing each cake with fresh fruits, Sarah turned to chocolate tempering with the influence of her brother.
“My brother is a chocolatier by profession. Having access to the chocolate world, seeing the amazing process that he goes through to make a final product and the artistry behind everything there, has been inspiring,” says Sarah.
“Chocolate tempering is still quite a complicated process but it’s now become a bit of a meditation for me. I have to go into it with a good mindset, if I’m hungover, it’s not going to happen! I try not to make cakes when I’m hungover but at the start, I was definitely living and breathing the brand!” says the bubbly founder.
Already busy fine-tuning the amounts of alcohol, the botanicals used in the syrups and the levels of sweetness, Happy Hour Cakes also takes a lot into consideration when it comes to sourcing ingredients. “I try to use the best chocolate and source good ingredients, that are sustainable, making sure people get paid along the way.”
Happy Hour Cakes has perfected both the taste and styling of cakes to create some of their most iconic treats.
Edible Works of Art
Discovering the art of chocolate tempering, the handmade cakes created by Sarah Hogan are both vividly eye-catching and delicious. Like a miniature canvas, each cake is topped with a layer of chocolate that is carefully painted using fast-drying cocoa butter paints.
“It’s different every time,” says the founder about her cakes. “I use cocoa butter paint which you have to temper. I then batch mix this to make sure I have a lot of the same colour I made.” The unique blend of paints is what gives the cakes its vibrant brush-stroked tops that the brand is now recognised for.
Enjoying a sizeable following on social media, Happy Hour Cakes’ Instagram account is filled with aesthetically pleasing sweet treats and documents some of the cake making process.
Not short of stylishly hand-painted cakes on their curated feed, Sarah takes inspiration from her career as a graphic designer and the artists she admires.
“The best part of my job for me is painting the chocolate, it’s so therapeutic! When I was living in my houseshare, my housemates loved doing it as well!” says Sarah.
Teatulia and more…
Recently partnering with Teatulia Teabar in Covent Garden, this is just the first of many places you will be able to try Sarah Hogan’s artisanal cakes. Happy Hour Cakes were approached by the organic tea brand to create a line of tea-infused cakes using Teatulia’s quality tea leaves.
“I’ve been able to grow more holistically with them [Teatulia] because they know me and now I know the team. There’s a lot of flexibility in the way that we work which is nice,” says Sarah.
The partnership has sparked the founder’s creativity and opened up a world of possibilities for creating a new range of cakes.
“I’m always on the lookout for new things. We’ve just developed a new vegan brownie. It’s also really interesting to see what new products out there, especially in the vegan world,” says Sarah.
The brand’s main focus will be on supplying to wholesalers across London and corporate events. However, the brand still offers wedding cakes and will occasionally accept creative projects.
Since our interview, Happy Hour Cakes has created delicious Vegan Amaretto Cherry Brownies as well as a wider selection of booze-free cakes that taste just like the real thing! Uncompromisingly delicious and sparking joy, try the cakes at Teatulia Covent Garden. Or, learn how to make the boozy treats with the founder herself, at Happy Hour Cakes’ latest workshop.
Looking for more delicious bites in London? Try out dim sum, the Chinese way to brunch.