Arts tower? It’s a piece of cake for architect Claire

Sheffield University Arts Tower
Sheffield University Arts Tower

AFTER training as an architect, Claire Kemp has decided to chance her arm at cake-making.

And one of her first commissions offered the idea challenge - a scale model of the University of Sheffield arts tower to help celebrate the return of the School of Architecture to the refurbished 20-storey building.

Claire Kemp and her cake in the shape of the University Arts Tower

Claire Kemp and her cake in the shape of the University Arts Tower

She used 91 eggs, 7kg of butter, 7kg of sugar and 8kg of flour, 6kg of icing sugar, 10kg of marzipan and 15kg of fondant icing to make the 80cm high cake to a scale of 1:100.

Claire, who used to work in the arts tower and met husband-to-be David there, said: “They came up with the idea and at first I thought they were joking.

“Cake decoration is always something I have done for a hobby and I decided to take the plunge. I’m trying to make it a full-time job. I’d like to combine my design background and cake decoration to make cakes that are bespoke and contemporary.”

The architectural researcher and designer, who has now set up Claire Kemp Cake Studio, prepared her structure for the party last Saturday to mark the School of Architecture moving back into part of the arts tower, which is nearing the completion of a £20m revamp.

The school has been based at the old law department in Crookesmoor during the work.

Claire, aged 29, of Moor View Road, Woodseats, put together eight tiers of vanilla sponge separated by buttercream and strawberry preserve and used plastic dowels inside the creation to ensure it did not fall over.

“It took me a week to actually make and decorate the final cake, although I did some structural testing previously to make sure it was going to stand up!”

More than 400 university staff, students, alumni, professionals and other guests attended the ceremony – on the same weekend as the Sterling Prize at the Magna Centre in Rotherham.

Pru Chiles, a lecturer at the School of Architecture, who has her own practice in Sheffield, where Claire was a student, said: “The cake certainly lived up to expectations and it made a dramatic addition. It was something special and just perfect.”

The size of the cake meant there was plenty to go around, even with some people having second helpings. “It was absolutely delicious,” said Prue, who described Claire as “an incredibly talented architect.

“She just decided she wanted a complete change.”

Claire said: “I have done wedding cakes for friends and I have anniversary and birthday cakes lined up. But I’d like to concentrate on the bigger bespoke cakes.”

The arts tower was Sheffield’s tallest building until the 32-storey St Paul’s Tower of apartments in the city centre. It was designed as part of a competition in 1959, and saw staff and students move in six years later. The following year The Queen Mother attended the official opening ceremony.

Now a grade II* listed building, with its renowned paternoster lift (although it was not in operation on Saturday to the disappointment of visitors), it was vacated to make way for a refurbishment programme that is designed to extend its life by 30 years. An official reopening ceremony is being planned next spring.

Certainly it is hoped the arts tower will last longer than Claire’s cake.

Its creator added: “I think the cake went down very well - literally! I was really pleased with the feedback.”