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Interview: Meet Bernadette Kennelly, baking extraordinaire

With years of experience working in the baking industry and a number of awards under her belt Bernadette or Bernie as she is more commonly known has established herself as one of the leading wedding cake suppliers in the country. Working out of her home in Macetown, Navan her creations deliver on two fronts, being both beautiful and delicious. However, it wasn’t the career she had envisaged when she first started out.

“It started out as a hobby from a young age”, she says, my mother was my drive though, she really encouraged me. Once I realised I was more than an ordinary cake maker, I really got into it. Before I was a stock controller in a farm machinery company and baked as a hobby but once I realised there was a business in it I gave up work. As it turned out my first wedding cake was my own wedding cake.
Bernie has found that wedding cakes have changed significantly over the years in terms of style and tastes. “ The tradition used to be to have a white royal iced fruit cake, however in the past ten to fifteen years this has changed from the traditional fruit cake to more dessert type cakes with red velvets, chocolate biscuit cakes, lemon cakes all coming to the fore. Also, brides are matching the colour of their cakes to the colour of their bridesmaid’s dresses, but I sit down with them to discuss all of that beforehand.

As well as changes in tastes and styles, Bernie has to cater for changing dietary needs on an ever increasing basis.  Gluten free, dairy free and nut free cakes are becoming the new normal, which Bernie caters for.
“Special dietary requirements are becoming more and more popular, you have to always be prepared for someone to ask you is your cake nut free.
During the recession, the whole industry took a hit as couples looked to make savings on their weddings. “People stopped getting cakes made up for a while during the crash”, she says,  “but it’s picked up a bit again. They opted for smaller cakes or had family members make them up. There was always a cake provided but may not have been as big. In that time I was kept busy making corrections to cakes for local hotels.  They would ask me to fix a cake that had fallen or something like that. When I set up a cake I bring a lot of stuff to fix them. I always bring a cake repair kit. You don’t want an unhappy bride, that’s for sure!”
As well as glowing testimonials from happy customers Bernie’s talents have also be recognised by here peers as she has picked up numerous awards over the years. Those include the Business of the year Award at the Bride of the Year show at the RDS in 2018, a Merit in the Cork Sugar Show, a Gold Medal at the Irish Sugar Craft association award, as well as winning the Best in Bridal category at the 2014 Meath Style Awards.
Although it’s difficult to quantify how long your average cake takes to build, as they are done in stages, with different features such as sugar flowers taking up more time, Bernie reckons it takes “at least ten hours to make a cake from start to finish”. With countless cakes baked and many more set to come there’s little doubting that she has her 10,000 hours of expertise wrapped up at this stage!

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