‘Sprinkle Cake’ is a term you have probably seen floating around the internet over the past week or so. You’ve probably even seen some of your favourite artists and social media personalities with square baking trays layered with white frosting, clad with rainbow sprinkles. The man responsible for all of that is Tiane Stewart, a 24-year-old chef and graphic designer-turned-baker from South London.
On a normal day, you can find Tiane on IG Live making anything from Pineapple Wings to classic Italian dishes with a Caribbean twist. His cuisine-disrupting cooking creatively shoehorns in his Caribbean heritage and, as a result, he is now a Jamaica Valley ambassador, using their seasonings in many of his recipes. After posting about his infamous Sprinkle Cakes and receiving orders from the likes of Dave and Ms Banks, he resurrected a baking trend and created a huge demand for the sweet rainbow treats.
Tiane’s nostalgia-inducing school lunch cakes with a twist have come at the perfect time—people yearning for outside and remembering the good ol’ days of freedom. An increase in online activity paired with delicious food images meant that Tiane exponentially grew his following. His Cooking With Bleach Instagram page has over 14,000 followers, many of which flocked to the page during the lockdown. The journey to becoming South London/social media’s new favourite baker has by no means been a straightforward one. Many have tried and failed to replicate Tiane’s tasty cakes, or gawked at the price and general hype. However, Tiane is unbothered and focused—he’s been cooking for years and this is only the beginning of his journey.
We speak about all things social media, food and motivation, via FaceTime.
“I definitely want a shop as an end goal, but for now, I want people to see the journey—I want them to see that I’m at my mum’s house, working in her kitchen.”
COMPLEX: Where did your love for food and cooking first come from?
Tiane Stewart: Cooking is my way to escape from the world. It’s my calling. It all started at university: I was cooking for myself more or less every day, and a lot of my friends started to come round with ingredients and ask me to cook for them as well. I started Snapping my friends eating my food, some of them were quite big on social media, and then more people wanted to try. So I started with live videos on Instagram, showing people how to make the dishes and people started to suggest sharing the ingredients in advance so they could cook along with me. I then started my brand, The Grub Club. We hosted a pop-up store in Shoreditch and it was a way for people who followed me to try the food they always saw on my socials.
Your dishes include an interesting mix of fruity and savoury flavours—where did you get this desire to mix things up?
I’ve got this creative instinct because I’m a graphic designer and my food ideas stem from design principles. I also try to do everything with a twist. For some people, cooking is quite tedious but, for me, it’s fun. I always ask myself, “What can I do to push the barrier? What can I try that nobody's tried before?”
How do you go from cheffing it up on Snapchat to becoming South London’s favourite quarantine baker?
Although it’s gone viral now, this moment is a year and a half in the making. I’ve been baking these Sprinkle Cakes for ages! I think it’s gone as far as it has because I put my own spin on it. Everybody says, “This is just a basic sponge.” But it really isn’t. I’m Caribbean and we season everything; my cakes are no different. People who order my cakes might order it for nostalgia but keep on ordering because it actually tastes good!
How did you get all of these well-known celebrities eating your cakes?
Dave sent me a DM asking about my cakes, I sent him my postcode and let him know the collection time. While in the middle of baking, I got a message from him saying he was outside and I was thinking, “Oh my days! He’s actually here.” I went outside and he was there, ready to collect my cake! With Ms Banks, we’d been following each other for a while. She saw I made a banana cake with Disaronno and mentioned that she liked it. I’d just seen her birthday had passed so I messaged her to ask if she wanted a cake and she said yeah! Since then, she’s come back for more.
So a lot of these people were following you anyway—how come?
I used to tweet a lot of mad stuff, a lot of jokes and banter back in the day, but I’ve had to change the narrative. I’m a brand and I have a product to sell so I had to mature and think about the way I spoke about things. I’m not that person anymore. As soon as I started getting serious about the graphic design work, I started to change my online presence; people are genuinely supporting my service and I don’t want to tarnish my reputation.
Banter aside, you’ve grown your cooking accounts exponentially. How have you managed to build a following from cooking?
Appearance sells, right? Having a graphic design background means that I can create food content that looks appealing. When the quality of your marketing and your graphics are on point, it adds more value to the product itself. Based on my cooking images alone, I’m still getting booked for graphic design jobs; I can’t always take them up, though, because the baking has pretty much taken over. I also look at what is trending. When Vapiano’s announced their insolvency, I did a King Prawn Alfredo tutorial on social media as a lot of people enjoy that dish. It’s important to capitalise on these moments.
How are your followers reacting to all of your cooking content?
Really well. Someone reached out to me a couple days ago to say they loved my content because it’s been helping with their mental health during the lockdown. And that’s the reason I do this: I want to have a positive impact on people with my content. I’ve also had people contact me, who haven’t cooked in ages, inspired by my recipes. A lot of the time, the food that I cook is not the food you’re going to find on your high street—it’s completely different. I’ve got people squeezing pineapples to make pineapple sauce.
What five tunes get you in the mood for cooking? Which artists really get you ready to chef up some good food?
The selection varies depending on the mood I’m in and, sometimes, it might differ depending on the cuisine. When I’m cooking Jamaican dishes, for example, I might throw on some dancehall; I guess it just gets me in the spirit. But then there are days where I might be feeling upbeat and I’ll listen to house music all day. Right now, though, I’d pick Davido and Summer Walker’s “D&G”, Juicy by “Darkoo”, “+44” by Lotto Boyz, Roddy Ricch’s “War Baby” and the new one from Fivio Foreign, “Wetty”.
Speaking of house music, you’re a bit of raver too. During a coronavirus-free summer, which festivals and parties would you be attending, and are there any events/concerts/festivals that you planned to go to but have been affected by COVID-19?
I actually host events myself. I was meant to have an event on April 26 in Kensington—my business partner and I had to postpone until further notice. But off the top of my head, I had plans of going to Black Coffee’s concert, Music On Festival, #Merky Festival if confirmed, and a cheeky trip to somewhere hot was definitely on the cards.
Once we’re out of lockdown, what’s next? How can people support you?
I’ve had so many conversations over the past week about investment, potential shops and YouTube. At the moment, my mother and twin brother are home from work because of the lockdown so it’s like I have six arms, but once things get back to normal it’s just going to be me. I definitely want a shop as an end goal, but for now, I want people to see the journey—I want them to see that I’m at my mum’s house, working in her kitchen. I’m not interested in rushing the process or starting to pay mad rent [laughs].
Any word of advice for the people looking at you and looking up to you?
Don’t look at anybody else’s grind and stick to what you’re doing! People always used to tell me, “Your time will come.” I used to ask them: “When is that time?” But things can change so fast if you’re just consistent.