Happy New Year! I can’t believe 2014 is over. We said goodbye to last year (and hello to 2015!) with a glittery, fabulous, New Year’s Eve wedding cake at The New Haven Lawn Club. The cake featured black and gold edible confetti (learn how we create it in our Craftsy class for 50% off), a hand-cut monogram, and a custom art deco motif on the bottom tier. It’s always extra special when the actual design execution is as pretty as it is in your imagination, and a nice way, as Callan said, for us to end the year.
For the past few years, I’ve announced my design goals here on the blog (thinking that some sort of public proclamation would make me more likely to stick to them). I’m doing it again this year, but the goals are a little different this time around. As my business has grown and changed, my goals have also changed. So, rather than thinking of this as strictly cake design goals, I’ve included some business and personal goals as well.
1. Book proposal. I’ve always liked to write. In fact, I first became interested in cake design when I was working at a publishing company in Manhattan around 1993. It was my second job out of college and I thought I wanted to be a writer. (I was the receptionist at a real estate law publishing company. Not exactly the dream job for an aspiring writer.) Every day on my way to work I passed New York Cake. I was in awe of everything in there, and was inspired to take a class. I’m at the point in my career now where I feel like I can share what I’ve learned with others. There are many cake design books out there, but a couple of years ago I came up with a unique idea for a cake book. I already wrote the rough outline for my book proposal. I now have to get my ass in gear and finish it.
2. Texture. This is a repeat from my 2014 goals. I created some heavily textured cakes this year, like this chocolate painted cake I did for the cake blog and the embossed lines cake, but want to continue to play with texture this year.
3. Launch Elm City Sweets. As a kid, I didn’t know any other Ericas and always thought my first name was sort of exotic. Paired with my heavy, clunky maiden name, Klusner, it seemed somewhat incongruous. My husband’s last name, OBrien, felt relatively generic to my Jewish last name, and I took it as my business name months before we were even married. One thing I’ve learned about business that I didn’t know before (among other things) is that you can plan and predict but sometimes you’re wrong. It’s important to be flexible within your business, and to try out new ideas and see what sticks. I never thought I’d make cupcakes but now I make them every day. Instead of only doing custom cakes, we now do other baked goods, bread puddings (which I actually love making!), and have a line of pre-designed cakes. But calling all my baked products part of the Erica OBrien Cake Design line never felt quite right. So, I’m starting a new child company called Elm City Sweets. (Elm City is the nickname of New Haven, CT, where we’re located.) I’ve already designed the new logo. I hope to start wholesaling to local businesses this year.
4. Take classes. I always tout the benefit of taking classes regardless of your experience level. Two of the artists I’d like to study with this year are Wendy Kromer of Wendy Kromer Confections and Amber of SweetAmbs. Lucky for me they both have Craftsy classes now (Wendy has two classes,Lambeth Method and Dream Wedding Cakes; Amber’s cookie class just launched.) I’ve been obsessed with both of these artists for a long, long time. Amber isn’t too far from me in New York and I could see me taking a class from her (if only they wouldn’t sell out so quickly!) in the near future. Wendy is a little farther, but it’s still something I want to do. Below, a classic Wendy Kromer cake from Martha Stewart Weddings, an example of Amber Spiegel’s cookie art.
5. Invest in good paint brushes (and actually take care of them). You know when you accidentally leave your makeup bag out and your three-year old finds your good blush brush and then you catch her ramming the bristles as hard as she can onto the table causing them to spread and kind of tangle? That’s about how much care I take of my paint brushes. You definitely get what you pay for with brushes (my mom, the artist, will spend upwards of $60 on a single brush), and I’d like to make the investment in some better brushes. The challenge will be to make sure they don’t all end up covered in gold luster.
6. Bring back the buttercream! This is another holdover from last year’s goals. I’ve been predicting for a while that buttercream would make a comeback. It’s classic, beautiful, and a skill many cake artists, who started with fondant, don’t have. I’m always amazed at the response I get when I post a photo of a buttercream cake with piped flowers. Like this one:
Or even this one, a fondant cake with itty bitty piped flowers.
Making a centuries-old technique look fresh and new again is the tough part, but something I hope to accomplish this year.
Thanks for keeping tabs on all my goals! I’ll be sure to do a mid-year status update on my progress (sorry I didn’t do it last year) so you’ll know where things stand. As for you, dream big and have a wonderful 2015. Happy New Year!