When it came to starting her baking business, self-belief was one ingredient that Sinead Morris struggled to source. Fortunately, her family had no shortage of faith in her.
“Sometimes, if you have someone to believe in you, if you don’t have the belief in yourself, it’s trusting in them that helps to just go for it,” reflects the mother-of-five.
“It’s like my husband, John, had the belief in me that I could do it and maybe I don’t have the belief in myself, but he encouraged me and I listened to that and I took that step then. And it’s maybe just taking the step and I suppose just following your heart and your passion… and you don’t know where it will lead you.”
For Sinead, that has meant overcoming more than a couple of hurdles along the way to run Daisy Bakes from her home in Caherhayes, close to Abbeyfeale in West Limerick, while raising Eli (12), Caleb (11), Aaron (nine), Nathan (seven) and Sarai Daisy (five).
Family has always come first for Sinead, who met her husband, John, at just 19 when she moved to Dublin after school to study childcare. They got married three years later.
“Thesis, final year show… and planning a wedding,” smiles John, who was studying fine art at the time and now runs his own photography business and teaches in the local VEC.
Eager to leave the city, however, the couple relocated back to the southwest, where Sinead got work providing home help for children with special needs.
She was overjoyed to find out she was soon expecting her own baby; but unfortunately she developed a condition known as hyperemesis, which saw her hospitalised for three months with severe nausea and muscle wastage, with her weight plummeting to just over five stone.
“I found out I was pregnant on a Friday and on Tuesday I was in hospital,” recalls Sinead.
“I was in and out of hospital for all my pregnancies and it was harder as the pregnancy went on and you’d be thinking, why did I have five children? But I always felt and I’ll tell you, it’s like they were inscribed in my heart.”
With five young children, Sinead had her hands full as a stay-at-home mom, but as a creative outlet for herself she began attending classes at DecoBake in Limerick.
“But you don’t think anything will come of it,” she recalls thinking at the time.
Indeed, when her brother asked her to make his wedding cake, her immediate reaction was that she wasn’t up to the task; until John encouraged her to go for it.
“My thinking was: ‘I can’t, I can’t’,” she recalls. “And I suppose he’s the type who would say: ‘You can Sinead, just do it’.”
As a surprise, John registered the name Daisy Bakes and set up a business Facebook page for Sinead, such was his belief in her ability.
“When you begin to do one, two, three, four cakes – your confidence grows and you begin to push yourself – and the internet is great. God bless Google is all I’d say.”
That wasn’t the only challenge to the fledgling business. While the Morrises moved into their own home this year – complete with a state-of-the-art kitchen and studio for Sinead – the project was stalled for several years after the recession made a dent in their finances.
That meant that the family of seven spent years renting a tiny two-bedroom house, with Sinead creating most of her early cakes in a galley-style kitchen with a workspace no bigger than a coffee table.
Indeed, the area was so tight that Sinead feared she would not get approval from the HSE for Daisy Bakes.
“I was thinking to myself: ‘We are never going to get the HSE in that house, it’s not possible’, but we did,” she says.
“We had to move the washing machine out into the little tiny hall, but we did that and John made more work space behind the couch. And we got it.”
The family is very much looking forward to spending Christmas together in their new home. Although one person who will be missed is Sinead’s mother, Hannah Marie, who died just before Christmas in 2015 after suffering a stroke at just 58 years of age.
“I love Christmas, but Christmas the last few years have been very different and I suppose you just have to find your own way again,” acknowledges Sinead, who credits her family’s shared faith for helping them to cope with the huge loss in all of their lives.
But no doubt her presence will be felt this Christmas as Sinead continues to count her blessings on her journey so far.
Investment-wise, the couple estimate they put about €2,500 into Daisy Bakes the first year, between training courses, insurance and cake decorating tools, but as word of mouth spread, Sinead soon found herself in demand for weddings, christenings, communions, birthdays and other celebrations.
“People who get married, you’ll do their wedding, you’ll do the christening, you’ll do their child’s first birthday, their second birthday. That’s the way it goes,” she explains. “And then come the relations, because they’ve all tasted it and love it.”
Ingredients-wise, she swears by Odlums flour, unsalted butter and local free-range eggs from nearby Mountcollins and Tournafulla, along with speciality ingredients like Callebaut couverture Belgian chocolate, decorated in her signature style.
“My style is less is more and I love the simplicity of a cake. I love maybe one flower. I don’t overcrowd a cake, I don’t decorate the cake to capacity; I just have a very simple, clean, kind of elegant style,” says Sinead, whose celebration cakes generally start from €100.
And having completed the SuperValu Food Academy programme, her Daisy Bakes “chocolate bites” are also available in her local SuperValu in Abbeyfeale, in handcrafted timber boxes made by John.
Christmas, of course, is a busy time for the business, with 20 wedding cakes to complete throughout the season this year, as well as special festive products such as Christmas cupcakes and chocolate biscuit cake puddings. However, Sinead still prioritises time to bake and make with her own kids, whether it’s traditional mince pies and Christmas cakes as gifts for family members, their own honeycomb ice-cream for Christmas Day and Christmas cookies.
“I feel so blessed and so lucky that I have the best of both worlds,” she reflects.
“To be home with my kids as a stay-at-home mom and then I have my baking for myself, and for all of us.”
For further information, find Daisy Bakes on Facebook, or call 087-7527580.