The Marshmallow Maker

Kirstie Allsopp says they may be a life changing discovery, Selfridge’s stock them and champagne house Veuve Clicquot has an ongoing tie-in. Marshmallow maker Murphy Williams’ little luxurious puffs of perfection are quickly becoming the darlings of the confectionary world.

The message was “Meet me at Port Eliot. I want you to taste some new flavours”. Never one to pass up the opportunity to visit one of Cornwall’s stateliest of homes and indeed to sample something new, I met Murphy Williams, creator of Cloud Nine Marshmallows, sitting on a bench outside the Victorian Orangery.

She hands me a bag. “Try the double raspberry ones, the ones that look like jewels” she enthuses.  As my teeth sunk through the scarlet, gooey marshmallow, a gorgeous smack of tart raspberries hit my taste buds. Up until that particular gourmet moment, my idea of a marshmallow had been a sickly pink and white blob burning on a toasting fork. Perhaps it was time to think again.

At the beginning of 2013 Murphy had what she calls her “light bulb” moment. She was mulling over ideas on how to channel her creative side when she came across a recipe for honey and lavender marshmallows. “I was completely stunned at the idea. I had always been a champion of homemade cooking and loved creating pretty sweets and cakes and when I found this recipe I realised marshmallows were a blank canvass. You could put anything in them: liqueurs, chocolate, fruit. The combinations were endless”. It was then and there that Murphy decided she would make a luxury, grown up confection and Cloud Nine was born.

“That evening a girlfriend came for a drink and all I wanted to talk about was my new idea, I was totally excited and knew it would work. So the very next day we made the first batch of marshmallows”. Murphy confides that her first attempts were disastrous. “I used too much food colouring, they were too sweet and within a couple of days my Pepto-Bismol pink creations became as hard as rock”

By day two, the kitchen in the farmhouse Murphy shares with her partner Louis, son of the Earl of St Germans, and their two children on the Port Eliot estate at St Germans, became a science lab. “With each flavour you have to use a slightly different technique”, explains Murphy. “For two months I experimented but I knew it would work. I just had to find ways that would produce the perfect, all-natural marshmallow. These would be my own creation and I was determined mine would be the best”.

It’s not difficult to find Murphy’s creative roots. Her father is the poet and author Hugo Williams, elder brother of actor Simon and her mother is the French singer, writer and former tightrope walker Hermine Demoriane. Whilst living in London before moving to Cornwall, Murphy worked as a journalist for well-known publications such as the Oldie, Vogue, GQ and Esquire as well as writing features for the Telegraph, “We moved here ten years ago after our first child Silver was born”, explains Murphy. “She arrived five weeks early while we were looking after the main house and neighbours left cottage pies and apple tarts on the doorstep to help us out. We felt a huge sense of community in the village and decided to stay permanently”. Murphy smiles contentedly, “We’ve never looked back. Cornwall is such an inspiring place to be”.

But had Murphy’s new direction challenged the notions of the bland marshmallow and created an artisan product? It wasn’t long before striking flavours such as Gin and Tonic, Madagascan Vanilla and Lemon Meringue emerged from Murphy’s
kitchen and after trying them out on friends and family it was time to put them to the real test. “I wanted to try them on the public so asked friends Lil and Jo Lanyon who run the Long Gallery in the village if they would sell a few bags. This also coincided with annual opening of Port Eliot to the public and before I knew it, visitors where loving my marshmallows and snapping them up.”

Murphy takes her inspiration for flavours from puddings and desserts she loves, experimenting with combinations such as ginger and vanilla, pear and cinnamon, spiced cranberries and chocolate and even French violet liqueur decorated with real crystallized violets which are “terribly fiddly” to make she admits. With Cloud Nine Marshmallows now available locally at well-known locations like the Eden Project and St Michael's Mount, nationwide in retail outlets - Selfridges puts in a regular weekly order -and farm shops and delis, the online store is booming too, sending little ‘luxurious puffs of perfection’ as far afield asDubai, New Zealand and the States. Her website even has a theme song written by her husband Louis called Marshmallow World.

But meeting the people who love her products at festivals and food fairs is the real thrill for Murphy. “Selling direct is fun” says Murphy. “I love making my marshmallows so don’t want to lose my connection with the people who enjoy them”. Murphy describes her marshmallows as ‘quite feminine’ so it’s no wonder women especially are falling for their charms. “They’re catnip for ladies” laughs Murphy. “Sometimes I feel a little like Juliette Binoche in the film Chocolat. Women come to my stall and confide in me about their love lives and I try to guess which flavour they might like and I usually have a clear idea of which one they’ll choose!”

With Cloud Nine’s reputation spreading seemingly worldwide, Murphy has picked up some industry awards too, bagging a Taste of the West Gold award for her marshmallows. There’s a recipe book in the pipeline, she’s experimenting with dried cornflowers and most recently Channel Four's Sunday Brunch called in some Cloud Nines for their tasting panel and they come out as the clear favourites. “Growing a local business here in Cornwall, every week more and more exciting things happen”, says Murphy. “It’s been a really great ride so far”,