Cynthia Stroud may be new to this side of the pond but in the U.K., she is a baking beast. And it seems only fitting that the new competition series, Great Chocolate Showdown, is all about finding the next, well, HER. As one of the three judges, Cynthia knows exactly what it takes to go from home baker to champion chocolatier. Here are 10 things you need to know about the Food Network Canada newbie.
Cynthia Stroud was born in Onitsha, Nigeria, but after her parents separated, she spent the early part of her childhood in Lagos, living with her grandparents. Every year, she spent a couple weeks with her mother, bonding over baking. Cynthia baked her first cake when she was 8, and by the age of 10, she was living with her mother, which allowed her all the kitchen time she wanted.
Cynthia was 17 when she made her first trip to England. That day in 1999 was a fateful one as she knew within hours that it was where she was meant to be. She initially studied microbiology but in 2004, she moved to England to study for her MBA at the University of Buckingham. Not exactly the bustling streets of London, but the rural life called out to her — and she answered. Now, years later, her shop, Pretty Gorgeous Cake Company, is in Hertford, an hour north of the city.
The first baked goods she ever sold were Christmas loaf cakes at fairs. The good news? She sold out of them quickly. The bad news? She didn’t make a profit. She realized afterwards that for every one she sold at £15, it cost her £17 to make. That master’s degree in business administration sure came in handy later in life.
The Student Becomes the Teacher
Everything Cynthia has learned about baking is self-taught. YouTube is where she learned to hone her skills creating epic wedding cakes.
Talk It Out
Speaking of YouTube, Cynthia shares everything from her cake decorating skills to balancing her business with two children on her channel. She also started her own series Cynthia Stroud Meets in which she sits down with a variety of guests to discuss women’s issues.
By the Book
Cynthia has released one cookbook to date: Pretty Gorgeous Cakes, in which she shares simple steps and tricks to achieve beautiful and trendy cakes. The cookbook is aimed at both beginners and experienced bakers. Who better to share their knowledge about learning to create gorgeous confections than this self-taught, award-winning cake maker?
Pay it Forward
For the last several years, Cynthia has given back by mentoring underperforming female students in order to help them achieve their GCSEs (general certificate of secondary education). She also mentors students as they make their first moves in the world of business, and takes on young apprentices with no baking experience in an effort to help them evolve into professionals.
From Brit to BRITs
For nine straight years, from 2011 to 2019, Cynthia has had the honour of supplying the famed BRIT Awards with over-the-top themed cakes for their after-party. Her busy schedule filming Great Chocolate Showdown is what kept her from providing her creations to the BRIT Awards this year.
Speaking of honours, in 2017, she was awarded a medal of the Order of the British Empire and named in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for her services to both business and her community.
Cynthia’s mantra is “everything is possible,” an outlook which she has stood by from her childhood in Africa, to building an award-winning cake business in rural England.