I haven’t had a ‘Mummy (or Daddy) Plus’ here for a while so thought it was about time I introduced another one…!  Back in November we met Mummy Plus Melissa Hanks, who, aside from being Mum to two children under five and having a part-time ‘day’ job, is also a qualified Sport Massage Therapist, Pregnancy Massage, Reflexology Practitioner, Fitness Instructor and Cake Maker. Wondering how she manages it all? So did I! Pop back to her interview to find out… Be sure to come back now!

This week’s Mummy Plus, who is based in Dublin, Ireland, also makes cakes…  Beautiful, delicious cakes that are also low sugar (or even sugar free), wheat and gluten free and full of natural healthy ingredients. That’s right, cakes that are good for you! And they do taste great, honest – I have sampled a few! They are perfect for any occasion and adaptable to any dietary requirements.  Karen Mullen set up Fine Fettle Cakes in 2012, following the birth of her son, Bobby. Prior to this, Karen worked at St. Vincent’s hospital in infection control, while she was studying for her Naturopathic Herbalist qualification, which she completed just before she got married in 2010. Karen fell pregnant with her first child, four-year old Amy, immediately after the wedding.  After Bobby was born Karen found juggling part-time work, childcare and a fledgling private practice didn’t quite work for her family so she decided to quit the day job, combine her qualification with her natural artistic talent and love of good food, and Fine Fettle Cakes was born!

So, you’re a qualified Naturopathic Herbalist. What exactly does that mean?
The belief behind naturopathy is that your body has the ability to heal itself; our job is to find the tools to do this using natural means.  I use herbs, nutrition and look at lifestyle – it’s a holistic approach. There are so many applications, I could talk about it forever! But a good example would be if you get a headache, then rather than treating the pain I’d look at the reason behind headache and fix that, then the headache will go. A common cause of headaches is simple dehydration so I’d recommend drinking more water instead of taking a tablet, as the latter works on your liver, creating a toxic environment that your body then has to deal with on top of the dehydration.

How did you come up with the idea for Fine Fettle Cakes?
I love baking, design and nutrition.  Since having the kids I’ve been at home and I wanted to do something that I could manage from home that interested me.  I make all kinds of cakes as well as desserts and a range of breads.  The reason for specialising in healthy cakes came about when I started to realise how little choice there is out there for people with food intolerances and for those who just want a tasty cake without all the sugar and fat, so that they can indulge more often without the guilt! They are also great for kids parties as they don’t get that sugar high that makes some kids so hyper.  The parties we’ve catered (with around 20 children) do seem to be calmer for having less sugar!

Easter cake - wheat free fruit cake - low sugar

A low sugar, wheat free Easter cake…

How does running your own business compare to what you were doing before?
It’s completely different but I do find myself thinking of how I dealt with certain areas, such as marketing, in previous jobs.  Working in a pressured sales environment at Dell computers was great training for all the pressured multi tasking I have to do now.

What are the biggest challenges you face now?
I’m very time poor so it’s always a challenge to get everything done!  I also find I want to experiment more with new ingredients but the costs for multiple bakes using really good ingredients such as spelt flour really add up, especially when it’s not to sell and as a family we suddenly have six carrot and seaweed cakes to eat!

The award winning cake! Contains no sugar, dairy or wheat.

One of your cakes won an award last year. Tell us about that.
The carrot and seaweed cake won a prize at my husband’s work in a blind taste test. It was also the only one with no sugar, wheat or dairy in either the cake or the ‘icing,’ which tasted like cream cheese but was made of a lengthy list of healthy ingredients including cashew nuts!  This recipe has also received recognition from Paul Kelly, one of Ireland’s top pastry chefs.

Who or what inspires and/or motivates you?
My family definitely does, especially wanting to make them proud.  A lot of my motivation is also internal; I want to feel I’m doing the best I can with my time – something worthwhile that’s also enjoyable.

How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
It’s difficult but it is getting easier now that my youngest is over two. I’m also blessed, they both get on so well they will happily play in the playroom for a couple of hours with their toys so long as I’m around.  Our kitchen and playroom are open plan which works well. I find if I can keep the TV off most of the time they play much better too. It also helps to have playdates and planning, so that there are definite times of the day when they have 100% of my attention. Getting out with them as much as possible is important too…  It doesn’t always work so well but that’s the plan!

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
When my husband comes home at about 6pm I usually stop working and once the children go to bed we either chat or watch TV and go to bed early.  Finding quality time as a couple is difficult. We have started doing ‘date night’ this year to make sure that we have at least one date a month.

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
I’d definitely still bake!  I love it, especially coming up with new recipes and designs, but I’d do it in a much bigger nicer kitchen!  I’d also have a cleaner, not a nanny though, I just prefer to be on top of looking after the kids myself.  They are small for such a short time I don’t want to miss out.

If you had to describe your children in just three words (that’s three words each!), what would you say?
Amy – vivacious, caring, smart
Bobby – sweet, stubborn, much easier! ( I know that’s 4)
Ellen (my husband’s 18 year-old daughter) – strong, smart, lovely

And finally…

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy Plus…’ in no more than 40 words.
Wife, baker and cleaner, stepmother to teenager and very very busy!

Towering inferno – One from the decadent range!

Fine Fettle Cakes is based in Dublin and delivery can be arranged to anywhere across Ireland (a delivery charge will apply). If you mention Mothering Mushroom when calling, Karen will give you a 20% discount on your order. If you like the sound of Fine Fettle Cakes but it’s too far away for you (unfortunately delivery to the UK is not possible at the moment), be sure to go and like the Fine Fettle Cakes Facebook page and pass it on to your friends (especially those based in Ireland!).

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for recommending Fine Fettle Cakes and will not receive any commission should you make a booking. Read my full PR and disclosure policy for more info.