I love my current website, and it has served me well, but it’s time to move on. I’ll soon be getting a new mobile-friendly site that will allow clients to place orders for cakes and cupcakes online. Hooray! And to that end we’ve created a new line of pre-designed cakes called The Classic Collection that will be available for purchase directly on our website for in-store pickup.
While we await the arrival of our new site, we needed a place to share our Classic Collection designs. What better place than right here? So bear with us until our new website launches. Until then, phone or email will have to do.
Here’s how it works: Choose your cake flavor, filling, and design. Call us at 203.200.0350 or email us at email@example.com. It’s that easy!
peanut butter buttercream
mint chip buttercream
cookies ‘n’ cream
And now, our Classic Collection. Each cake is available for as few as 10 guests and up to 40. We can customize colors, names or numbers.
We’re looking forward to sharing our new website soon!
I am a notoriously terrible judge of character. If I like someone right off the bat, they’re almost guaranteed to turn out to be some sort of sociopath. Every once in a while, however, I get lucky. And in the case of Callan, I got really lucky.
Over the years, I’ve been approached by countless culinary students looking to do their internships with me. Usually, their emails are very generic, and I always get the feeling they’ve just copy/pasted from one email inquiry to the next, replacing Insert Name of Bakery Owner Here with my name. But Callan’s email was different–sincere, heartfelt, flattering without being over the top. I liked her immediately.
Liking someone immediately is normally a red flag for me, a sure indicator that within a very short time she will turn out to be a freak, a serial killer, or both, but in this case it stuck. It quickly became obvious that Callan was not only talented, but also reliable, intelligent, resourceful, and an asset.
This is Callan.
Callan’s internship ended in May, 2012, and I hired her to be my assistant. Callan is everything I am not. Where I tend to eyeball things, Callan takes the time to measure. Where I want to jump headfirst into a project, Callan likes to plan it out. Where I like to rush things, Callan likes to take her time. Where I am inefficient, she is efficient. In short, she is a true gem, and a perfect balance for me.
I’ve always admired people who know from a young age what they want to be (read this post and you’ll know why), and Callan knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a cake designer. Here, a photo of young Callan doing something curiously cake-related.
Callan began entering cake competitions at age eight (eight!). Below, Callan’s first entry at the Durham Fair. (What? You’ve never heard of the Durham Fair is? Neither did I until I met Callan. The Durham Fair is to Durham, CT and all its residents what the Sundance Film Festival is to Park City, Utah, only without all the celebrities. And with a lot more livestock.) Although she didn’t win, she refused to give up, and entered a cake in the Durham Fair every year until her senior year of high school…when she didn’t win and then gave up, making that part of the story far less inspirational and happy ending-ish than I intended. Sorry.
I interviewed Callan for this post, and asked her a lot of the questions people frequently ask me.
Erica: What is your favorite cake you’ve ever done?
Callan: I did a Sweet 16 cake with butterflies and pink and black zebra.
Erica: Does it bother you when people eat the cakes you’ve put so much effort into?
[I should mention here that this interview took place a while back and Callan didn't really do much talking for the first year she worked with me.]
Erica: Are there any cake artists you admire?
[Really? Not one? Seriously? You can't think of any?]
Erica: So, do you watch the cake shows? [This is probably the question I'm most frequently asked.]
[Okay, so maybe this wasn't the most revealing, riveting interview. Journalism is, apparently, much trickier than it seems. Good thing I stuck to cake design.]
It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with Callan. I have enjoyed watching her learn and grow as an artist, and have come to rely on her in so many ways. (Those youthful hands in the DIYs I do for Project Wedding? They’re Callan’s.) I look forward to working together for many cakes to come.
Here are a few recent cakes that Callan gets all the credit for.
I love the subtlety of the ruffle on this cake.
Callan really perfected her chevron technique last summer. This navy and gold cake was a snap for her.
I love the movement of the octopus’ legs, and there’s something I love about the sea turtle in this under-the-sea themed cake.
Callan: You know how sometimes you ask me what I’d do without you and I answer, “Find someone else.”? The truth is, I have no idea. Thank you, Callan, for everything.
Whether you’re a bride, a cake-curious baker, or a cake design professional, there is a lot to know about fondant. There are many things I wish someone had told me when I first started so that I didn’t have to learn the hard way, and apparently I’m not the only one. I asked my facebook friends for their input, and they had lots to say. Here are my top ten (with lots of help from my facebook family).
1. Fondant can be refrigerated. I had one of those I’m-never-making-another-cake-again cakes several years ago on a blazing hot day in Malibu, CA. After that, I started refrigerating my cakes. You can read more about it here (it’s tip #4). I’ve heard that some cake artists use humidity controlled fridges, but I’ve yet to find any. I do try to keep my cake fridge at the warmest setting to minimize the difference between the fridge temp and the air temp, thereby limiting the amount of condensation (or “sweating”) that forms when the cake comes out of the fridge. Sweet Cakes by Rebecca notes that condensation can help be prevented by boxing the cake and wrapping the box in saran wrap.
2. Keep colored fondant out of direct light. Any kind of light. Even electric light can fade your fondant. Jasmine Clouser Couture Cakery had this to say: “Coloring fondant lavender is tricky. If you put it in the sun at all it will turn blue. Keep your cake and decorations in a dark place or covered it if there is any lavender or purple. When the cake is out at the reception keep it out of the sun. Using precolored fondant is better than using gel when it come to purple.” Excellent advice. I would add pinks to list too.
3. Fondant won’t make an imperfect cake look perfect. They say that to truly understand digital photography, you have to first understand film. The same is true of cake: to truly understand fondant, you must have a basic understanding of buttercream cakes. Skillfully covered fondant cakes are deceptive: the fondant looks so impeccably smooth, many people assume that (1) it’s easy and (2) fondant is all that’s needed to get that perfect finish. But fondant won’t make a bumpy, lumpy, lopsided cake look any better (and might even make it look worse). It is absolutely critical to have a smoothly iced cake with a level top and plumb (straight up and down) sides underneath fondant. Take the time to learn this skill if you haven’t already, and your fondant cakes will look a lot better.
4. Fondant is not ideal for all designs. Fondant’s gummy property makes it great as an icing, but terrible for certain design work. Because it won’t hold it’s shape, vertical or horizontal lines, sugar flowers, and the like are very difficult to execute with fondant. At the shop we use three methods. We either add tylose to fondant to stiffen it, make a 50/50 mixture of fondant and gumpaste, or ditch the fondant altogether and use gumpaste.
5. Fondant tastes better than you might think. Many of my brides who say they’ve heard fondant tastes horrible are usually pleasantly surprised by the taste. I always share with them that my objection to fondant is not necessarily the taste, but rather the gummy texture of the fondant with the crumb of the cake. However, since fondant firms up a bit, it is easy for guests who really don’t like it to peel it off, and for me, you can’t beat that perfectly smooth look of fondant, so it’s a trade off that’s well worth it.
6. It’s (sometimes) easier to cover a large cake than a smaller one. Many people are intimidated by larger cakes, but when the sides of the cake are smaller in proportion to the diameter of the cake, it’s actually easier. Think about spreading a flat sheet on a mattress. The sheet lies flat and a little hangs smoothly over the sides. Now imagine taking that same bed sheet and trying to smoothly cover a broom stick. It would be virtually impossible due to all the draping. In this analogy, the bed sheet, with it’s large surface area and relatively short sides, is the larger cake while the broom stick, with its very tall sides and relatively small surface area, is the smaller cake. Basically, a cake that is taller than it is wide is more challenging to cover than a cake that is wider than it is tall.
7. Fondant will be affected by temperature and humidity. When fondant is cold it tends to stiffen. When it’s warm it gets soft and droopy. When it’s humid, sticky. The best way to combat the changes? A temperature controlled room definitely helps, and shortening or cornstarch can decrease the stickiness, but a lot of it comes with practice. Unfortunately with this one there’s no easy way of avoiding it. Just remember that if your normally cooperative fondant turns to into a big droopy mess, it’s probably the weather and not you. Try not to get too frustrated, take brakes if needed, and remember that it’s all part of the process.
8. Water and fondant don’t mix. You must be absolutely vigilant when working with fondant not to get any water on it. Water droplets will dissolve the sugar in the fondant, leaving small pock marks on an otherwise perfectly smooth surface. I always box my cakes for transport, just in case, and I always instruct brides getting fresh flowers on their cake to communicate to their florist that the flowers must be absolutely dry before being place on the cake.
9. It’s expensive, and you get what you pay for. Do yourself a favor and stay away from the cheaper, more commercially available fondant. It’s harder to work with, is more elastic (in the worst way), and has a shorter working time because it dries so quickly. Satin Ice is the industry standard, but there are also other brands that are excellent. Kristin Sabol Kirkpatrick shared on facebook that “not all fondants are created equal! Just because someone swears by a certain brand, doesn’t mean it is the best choice for you!” Some fondants (like Carma Massa Ticino Tropic) are actually formulated for humid climates. The specialty fondants are definitely pricier, but if you calculate all the sleep you’ll lose over fondant that sweats, cracks, or bulges, it’s well worth the investment.
10. I really like this tip from Oven Couture ~ Smallish Confection Perfection: Buy pre-colored fondant! You can spend a long time (and risk drying out) trying to get white fondant black, or you can just spend a little more and buy it. I vote buy it.
And of course, a cake! A ruffled heart cake inspired by Valentine’s Day.
I hope these tips are helpful to you. Feel free to share any I’ve left out! We always love to hear from you. Best of luck!
To register for the class, simply visit our website and follow the instructions. If you’d like to give the class as a gift–and what aspiring cake designer wouldn’t love a fabulous cake design class?–you can contact us to create a customized gift card.
We will also be adding a new sugar flower class in the near future featuring our dahlia and ranunculus, so keep an eye out for that class as well. And since sugar flower classes are quite small and tend to sell out quickly, you can contact us to request to be put on our notification list. We will email you as soon as we list the classes.
I can never predict when design inspiration will strike, but when it does–in the children’s section at Target, searching the internet for office supplies, driving on the 405 Freeway–I feel compelled to recreate it in cake almost immediately. Next thing I know, I’m racing to my studio to execute the design. Sometimes, but not always, I actually like the result.
Ruffle cakes are usually covered completely in ruffles. Why not, I thought, be more subtle with my ruffles, using them only as an embellishment? The first cake was inspired by the ruffle bibs popular on shirts right now, like this one I saw on Ruffles and Stuff.
The next ruffle cake started off sort of mauve. Note: Shades of purple fondant change and fade rapidly and unpredictably. Whenever I make a cake with any shade of purple, I always do a test strip in advance. (Roll out a small piece of fondant and allow to dry. This will give you a more accurate idea of what your purple-tinted fondant will look.)
I’ve always loved those rocks with words etched on them, and attempted (rather unsuccessfully) to make them out of fondant. (I’ll have to give this another try at some point.) I wanted this ruffle to be vertical, like the ruffles on the pillow below, but it needed something else so I added a ruffled rosette.
I didn’t know it when I created this last cake, but after searching endlessly on the internet for the image that inspired it, I realized that the inspiration actually came from one of my favorite shirts of my daughter’s when she was just born. Although it was a deep green, it had three small horizontal ruffles on the front, just like the top tier in the cake below.
This might surprise you, but I actually don’t like it when a client leaves the cake design completely up to me, giving me the artistic freedom to create whatever I want. I can’t speak for other artists, but I’ve found that this makes it almost impossible since there’s so much that inspires me. When the possibilities are endless–and so is your imagination–the task of narrowing it down and choosing a focus becomes very overwhelming. Instead, I like working within a conceptual framework and using my artistic eye to interpret the design in my style.
Event stylists and even the occasional client often provide an inspiration board–a collection of images intended to convey the mood of the shoot or event–and I find them immensely helpful. (I sometimes create my own inspiration boards. I’m not a graphic designer, so I copy and paste the images into Microsoft Paint. Someone more skilled would use Photoshop. There’s a board builder on Style Me Pretty, and I think some people are now using Pinterest in lieu of building boards.) Being very visual, working with inspiration boards is my favorite way to design. They usually contain a color palette, and many non-cake photos with prints, patterns, shapes, or other designs for inspiration (hence the name).
Below are several inspiration boards and the cakes they inspired. I would love to see how other cake designers would translate the images into cake. I just think it would be fascinating to see how different artists interpret same thing.
I get a lot of design inspiration from real-world objects. Combine that with my habit of roaming around aimlessly on the Internet and it seems I was destined to stumble across Etsy. I fall in love with lots of things I see there, like this pillow from PillowPallooza. And while most people who fall in love with a pillow think “I must have that!” my first thought is always “I must make that into a cake!” So I did.
This photo shoot was inspired by Oscar de la Renta’s Pre-Fall 2010 collection. It’s not so much that I was personally inspired–I’m no fashionista as anyone who knows me (or for that matter sees me) can testify–but rather Megan, the artistic genius behind Honey and Poppies was inspired. I’m kind of into ruffles, so I went with it. (She’s a bad influence on me.) And, I didn’t even argue that Pre-Fall would techinically be summer.
Below, the inspiration board Megan created.
First, I came up with some sketches based on the inspiration board.
Then Megan (frickin Megan) suggested changing it up a bit, so of course I did. (She’s mean.)
Rather than a single cake, I created a collection of cakes, just as fashion designers create seasonal collections. (I guess you could call this my Post-Spring collection, just to sound fancy.) And if that’s not enough, Megan created some pretty amazing cake stands out of flowers.