Published: March 26, 2020 | Updated: March 26, 2020

Bonita savours success as national award is the icing on the cake for her new wedding venture

Bonita Elms receives the award for Large Wedding Cake of the Year at The Cake Professionals’ 2020 awards from Bake Off: The Professionals judge Cherish Finden. Picture: Noah Werth.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Winning awards is a piece of cake for Bonita Elms – and her business is just eight months old!

The talented mum-of-three only launched her wedding cake business – Bonita Bakes – last July and she’s already won national and regional contests.

Her latest success came when she scooped the Large Wedding Cake of the Year category at The Cake Professionals’ 2020 awards.

More than 150 cake professionals, and their supporters, travelled from across the UK to attend the awards at the Reading FC Conference and Events venue in the Madejski Stadium.

Entrants were from registered UK custom cake businesses and all cakes entered had to be genuine commissions, enjoyed by clients in the past year.

Bonita, 54, said: “It was such a shock when my name was read out.

“I just didn’t expect it and was quite overwhelmed.

“I entered the awards because I thought it would be a confidence boost, not only for me but also my newly hatched wedding cake business.

“Little did I even think that I’d end up winning!”

Bonita has always loved baking, citing her mum and grandmother as early influences.

But her passion really kicked into action when her daughter was born more than 21 years ago followed soon after by her two cake hungry sons, now aged 18 and 17.

She vowed on each one of their birthdays to create a special themed party cake.

As the years rolled by the designs became increasingly elaborate as Bonita stretched her self-taught skills.

Her cake creations were also attracting the attention of family and friends for their birthdays and celebrations too.

“You name it, I designed it. Everything from The Simpsons through to a Dalek-themed cake,” she said.

In 2012 Bonita joined a new cake shop business in Canford Cliffs.

For the next five years, she further built up her skills, meeting new clients and helping them design special celebration cakes.

And then, last summer, she officially launched Bonita Bakes from the kitchen of her Southbourne home.

Working closely with The Mumpreneur Collective, founded by Erin Thomas Wong, and. in particular, its online facility, The Cocoon, Bonita has got off to a flying start.

“I’ve taken part in various events, had several commissions and, of course, won the awards,” she said.

As for where she gets the inspiration for her designs, Bonita said: “An arty mind never stops designing and creating and I think that’s probably true for me.

“I’m based close to Bournemouth’s sandy beaches and the Dorset Jurassic coastline alongside the natural beauty of the New Forest.

“This has inspired me to reflect these local elements in my wedding cake designs.”

Bonita’s award-winning wedding cake, pictured left, based on a sea theme, was a case in point.

And forget the old days of just a plain fruit – or sponge – cake.

Now each tier can be a cake in its own right.

Bonita said: “You can have three different flavours.

“Perhaps one tier could be a fruit cake with brandy buttercream, then a carrot cake with spiced buttercream and, finally, a chocolate fudge with vanilla buttercream.

“I work closely with the couples to get exactly the look – and taste – they’re seeking.”

Costs start from £300 upwards and include a cake-tasting session with Bonita working on designs up to a year ahead of the big day.

So what impact will the current coronavirus crisis have on Bonita’s business?

She said: “It will have an effect but I’m going to use the time carefully so that when things start up again – and they will with a lot of pent-up demand – I’ll be absolutely ready.

“I’ve turned a hobby into a business and, of course, it has to pay its way but, ideally, I’m looking for one or two commissions a month. That should be more than possible.”