Dessert Professional magazine proudly presents the Top 10 Cake Artists in North America for 2013.
The editors of Dessert Professional magazine are proud to present this year’s list of the Top Ten Cake Artists in North America, awarded to cake professionals whose dedication to their craft has ensured that the cake continues to be our premier celebratory dessert. The honorees include artists of varied backgrounds, from a super-talented amateur to professionals who gained famed through televised cake competitions to instructors in the field of cake decoration. Whatever their path to success, each of our award winners are role models for the industry, promoting and transforming our favorite symbol of celebration, the cake. Following are profiles of each of this year’s Top Ten Cake Artists.
- Mark Seaman
- Ellen Baumwoll
- Anne Heap
- Zane Beg
- Dana Herbert
- Lauri Ditunno
- Betty L. Van Norstrand
- Jan Kish
- Vivian Pham
- Kim Simons
Instructor, French Pastry School, Chicago2226 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL312-726-2419 • www.frenchpastryschool.com
Cake philosophy: Cakes are very personal creations for temporary enjoyment. They should reflect the personality of the person for whom the celebration is given as well as the personal signature of the designer.
Training: I took some pastry classes at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago before it became part of the Cordon Bleu. When I realized how little emphasis there was on cake decorating, I left CHIC to learn cake-specific skills from Nicholas Lodge in Atlanta and Stéphane Glacier at the French Pastry School in Atlanta. Through a long series of mini classes around the country, I essentially created my own learning program and trained myself on techniques for which I could not find open classes.
Inspiration: I picked up where my Grandfather left off. Grandpa Frei was a bread baker from Germany who owned a successful two-location bakery in my hometown for many years with two business partners. He had planned on specializing in custom cakes, studying Lambeth techniques. I eventually ended up with his Lambeth cake decorating book; the images in the book were so alluring that I had to explore the art.
How long have you been in business? I owned my bakery for nine years before turning to teaching.
Signature style: I am drawn to somewhat traditional styles with the addition of bold colors and botanically-correct gumpaste sugar flowers.
Most unique cake: I once had a bride come to a wedding cake tasting with a beautiful crystal monogram cake topper and a 24” silver cake plateau. She set them both on the table and said “Can you make a cake for 500 people that will fit between these two things?” An unexpected way to go about designing a cake, but it turned out beautifully.
Favorite cake flavors: Banana cake layered with white chocolate whipped ganache.
Favorite cake colors: Royal purple and gold.
Favorite cake ever: My favorite cake is a wedding cake that I designed for my best friend from college. The cake was truly a labor of love, tying together the tastes of my friend Adil and his fiancé Molly. The experience of making this cake was like no other in that I literally made it in the kitchen of the bride’s parents, whom I had never met before, with the assistance of a fantastic former student, Alexis. The cake featured Molly & Adil’s wedding colors, a custom stencil to tie into the invitation design, Molly’s mother’s homemade preserves from berries she grew herself, the Zoroastrian Faravahar symbol, and my gumpaste orchids. This cake was personal and professional at the same time.
Most challenging project: Tasha & Jed’s wedding cake. This cake was particularly challenging because it had to reflect and blend with the colors of the world’s largest Tiffany glass dome which graced the room in which the cake would be displayed. The bride wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted, giving me some direction insofar as colors and her tastes, but largely left me to create something to work with the rest of the room.
Biggest disaster: Having an employee knock over an entire flat of sugar tulips for the following day’s wedding. I can now crank out a standard gumpaste tulip with my eyes closed!
Greatest triumph: Winning gold medal honors at a national wedding cake show in 2007 with my six-tiered homage to Lucille Ball’s Hollywood Glamour days.
How has the cake artistry field changed since you started? There are many new technologies, like the cake Cricut, that help designers create elaborate displays for production with little effort. Also, the cake programs on various cable networks have helped consumers realize just how much can be done with cake, allowing cake artists to become more creative.
Where do you see the field of cake artistry going? Regional and national cake shows and competitions will continue to help artists push themselves to develop new techniques and new proficiencies. However, just as with fashion, I predict that we will see cyclical returns to traditional styles that feature more hand work and less bling.
Personal quote: “Perfection is not reality: strive for excellence.”
Bijoux Doux Specialty Cakes448 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217718-237-2271 • www.bijouxdoux.com | www.bettybakery.com
Training: Culinary Institute of America, AOS degree
Cake philosophy: They should reflect the desires and personalities of the client and surpass their expectations in design and taste.
Inspiration: I was fortunate enough to work with some extraordinarily talented people and they all inspired me. And I saw sugar paste flowers that Betty Van Norstrand made and I had to know how to do that.
How long have you been in business? Over 20 years!
Signature style: A lot of people think of me when they think of romantic and lacey, but in recent years, I have experimented with other styles and technology. I’ve gotten more streamlined and modern in my designs to some extent.
Most challenging project: To decorate an entire room of cakes to look like the place where My Little Ponies would have lived.
Favorite cake flavors: I came up with this cake for a special client of mine years ago and it is still a big seller. Hazelnutalmond cake with a splash of grand Marnier, chocolate ganache, mocha buttercream and a little raspberry preserve, topped with marzipan.
Favorite cake colors: In cakes, I like complementary colors, but it all depends on the event. Still, for weddings, white rules.
Favorite cake ever: I have a close friend who is an amazing digital artist. Since I started experimenting with edible printing in my designs, I thought I would use one of his pieces to wrap the cake in. It was awesome.
Biggest cake disaster: Early in my career I did not realize the impact of using caramel pieces in the cake filling for a wedding cake in the dead of summer. Car breaks down during delivery and cake starts to collapse. Had to return to the studio and resurrect the cake (which took five hours to make) in one hour.
Greatest cake triumph: Always the last one!
How has the cake artistry field changed since you started? Everyone is more educated about cake design and materials now due to TV. We used to have to explain to clients what rolled fondant was. Now they come in asking for it.
Where do you see the field of cake artistry going? It’s all continuously evolving to reflect current styles.
Favorite quote: “Life is the proper binge.” –Julia Child
Pink Cake Box18 E Main St., Suite 101, Denville, NJ 07834973-998-4445 • www.pinkcakebox.com
Training: French Culinary Institute, Pastry Arts
Cake philosophy: Cake in itself creates a celebration. Cake can denote love, affection, humor, nostalgia, remorse, accomplishment and the circle of life.... or quite frankly, it can just satisfy a hankering for some good chocolate. It should be a reflection of the person or people it is honoring and the event itself, while maintaining the aesthetic of the cake designer.
Inspiration: I have adored baking since I was a little girl. I have also adored creating some type of art, whether it was doodling in my notebooks or painting a watercolor. After leaving my job in advertising, I followed my passion and became a pastry chef. Soon after, I discovered cake, my ultimate medium.
How long have you been in business? 8 years.
Signature style: I would say the signature Pink Cake Box cake has clean lines, bold colors and a blend of sophistication and whimsy. Our topsy turvy cakes are very popular for their fun angles and bright palettes. I also like to design elegant wedding cakes topped with lush sugar flowers and intricate detailing. Most unique cake: One of our most popular cakes has been our 3D standing dress form cake, standing over four feet tall.
Favorite cake flavors: Well it depends on my mood! Stress demands chocolate cake with peanut butter filling! I also adore carrot cake with cream cheese.
Favorite cake colors: If it is not obvious, I love pink! Blush pink all the way to hot pink. (But I fully respect when customers do not share my love.)
Favorite cake ever: It may be a tie! I really love our animal cakes, especially the Yorkie. I also really love our manequin cake. Basically, I love sculpting 3D cakes and have fun with the creative freedom that they involve.
Most challenging project: For one of the cake shows we created a Legoland cake. It was well over seven feet tall, spun in different directions, lit up and incorporated a working water slide!
Biggest cake disaster: Easy. My first Food Network Challenge. Total disaster! I changed my entire cake design attempting to appease my assigned ‘assistant,’ who also happened to be the “client bride.” It did not end well....
Greatest cake triumph: Winning the Legoland Challenge.
How has the cake artistry field changed since you started? The biggest change is that everyone now knows about specialty cakes. With the addition of countless cake shows, the general public is aware and excited about what can be done with cake. This has challenged designers even more to create cakes that are new and original.
Where do you see the field of cake artistry going? I think cake artistry will continue to grow and develop. Technology is playing a role as more and more people are using it to not only spread the word, but also to develop designs!
Favorite quote: My grandfather’s mantra: “If you truly love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.”
The Sweet LifeOwners: John Doyle and Kira Baker-Doyle4950 Sunset Lane, Annandale, VA 22003703-750-3266 • www.thesweetlife.com
Training: I do not have any formal training in the culinary arts but did attend the Karachi School of Art College in Pakistan in 1986. As I observed and assisted Norman Davis and others in the art of cake decorating, I realized I could apply my skills and talent in an edible medium.
Cake philosophy: Although I admire a classic white wedding cake, I prefer to use bold, vibrant colors, non-traditional shapes and unique designs. I like to take the outside the box approach – who said you cannot do cake this way?
Inspiration: It was just about the time when rolled fondant was introduced to the United States. Norman Davis’s Cakery was growing and taking on more orders than one person can possibly fulfill. So I assisted him as needed, and this gave me the chance to use my artistic talent. This was around the same time that rolled fondant came to the U.S. full force. I realized I was becoming hooked – I loved it. I could not believe what I could do with sugar.
How long have you been in business? I have loved art all my life and started applying it to cake approximately 20 years ago.
Signature style: I suppose I would describe my signature look as fun and bold! Norman and I became a good team, as he would take on the more traditional classic cakes, I would take on the sculpted and specialty cakes. You know, the fun cakes! So, to summarize, ‘Go Bold or Go Home!’
Most unique cake: For me, the most unique cake I have worked on was for Patti LaBelle. I took her logo (The World of LaBelle) and turned it into a 3-D cake. The colors would not have been my choice of colors, but with purple, orange, gold it really turned out great. I only wished I would have used more glitter on that cake!
Favorite cake flavors: All flavors are my favorite – after all, it’s cake!
Favorite cake colors: I love bold strong colors – mix up the colors and see what you can achieve. This might be the newest trend!
Personal favorite: I would have to say the cake we did for the Griffith Observatory’s 75th Anniversary. It was for an episode of TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off, it was my design and it was spot on! For me, the techniques used and the design targeted everything the client asked for. Although we did not win, we had a winning cake. I know we did.
Most challenging cake project: We were asked to create a birthday cake for T. Boone Pickens and were given less than two weeks to design and work with the client. With only three days before the due date, I was made aware who the cake was for. We had to deal with four design changes, last minute overnight ordering and shipping of supplies and props and it had to feed over 1000 guests. We made our deadline; it all worked out and with no sleep, but Mr. Pickens had a great birthday cake and a great event.
Biggest cake disaster: Well, it was July and 102 degrees with humidity of 90 percent. I had a 4-inch penguin cake covered in fondant, and we all know that penguins do not like the heat! Well at least not in the Washington D.C. area. On the way to the reception it decided to do a strip tease! I yelled to Norman to pull over, which is not an easy thing to do on the major highways in D.C. traffic, but before the black fondant hit the white 2-tier base cake that the penguin stood on, I was able to remove the black fondant and saved the base cake. We called the reception and said we were stuck in traffic and we would be there as soon as we could. We went back to the shop and I sprayed the penguin with black chocolate and made it to the reception as the guests started to arrive.The customer did not know a thing. Now each of our cakes goes into an insulated delivery box that we make and teach a class on!
Greatest cake triumph: Other than participating and winning multiple competitions and earning the respect from many in the industry, our greatest accomplishment is being ask to work with and represent a number of companies. I believe that we, as cake artists, need to make our lives simpler and less stressful but without compromising the end results of a magnificent cake. We ask ourselves, how can we provide for our clients with a great cake without spending an excessive amount of hours on just one cake? Of course with that comes being properly compensated for the time and skills that went into creating that special centerpiece. Norman and I are working with companies such as Lucks, Sweet Art Choco-Pan, and Art Ways tools to design edible products and tools to expedite the cake decorating process for our clients. With so many unbelievably talented cake artists, we were chosen to work with Lucks to create a line of products within their catalogues. What a great honor it is. With these products you can present stunning cake and with fewer labor hours.
How has the cake artistry field changed since you started? Where do I begin to answer that? Everything from products, designs, traditions, well just about everything has changed, but what makes it great is the accessibility. With many great products within our reach and great tutorials and classes we can learn from the best with little effort. The internet and social media such as Facebook is such a valuable and easy way to look up new techniques, get inspiration and/or ask for help and get replies back so quickly. We have some major projects in the works that you do not want to miss out on. Great things are coming our way in the cake world!
Where do you see the field of cake artistry going? As in anything, new products, new techniques just about anything can change. One thing we all need is to be respected and appreciated for the work and talent we bring forth. It’s not just about eggs, sugar and flour anymore. Everyone wants more for less. How do we move forward, work together, create standards to live and work by. This is one of my long term goals, but we are going to make this happen.
Personal quote: “I might not be able to do your job but you cannot do mine!”
Desserts by Dana1901 North Dupont Highway, New Castle, DE 19720302-721-5798 • www.dessertsbydana.com
Cake philosophy: First and foremost before you get into the art of being a cake designer, the cake has to taste good. That’s #1. Once you get that squared away you have to pick an EXCELLENT fondant. There are only a few out there. I use Fondarific because of its superior taste. From a standpoint of design I lean toward the modern designs or concepts, however I am always open to any challenges so, whether it be classical or modern, we embrace all types of cakes. Cake is truly a shared art meaning we all learn from each other. Styles. Flavors. Techniques. Thus, modern frequently can meet classical at a midpoint in the road.
Training: BS in Hotel Restaurant Management from the University of Delaware; BS from Johnson and Wales University in Culinary Arts; AS from Johnson and Wales University in Pastry Arts.
Inspiration: I think it was my love for food, art, and color that drew me in. I am trained extensively on the culinary side as well. Many people don’t know that. A love for both resulted in my book, Sweet and Savory Union (Desserts by Dana, 2011). But back to cake – I love the idea that you can create anything if you just truly think it through and consider the whole picture, cake, flavor, structure, and the finishing.
How long have you been in business? 10 years, but it seems just like yesterday that I started this thing out of my home, and it has grown to what it is today.
Signature style: My signature style is definitely modern designs. I love color and pop. Bling, too. In terms of flavor, I love to play with the palate. So whether I am taking you back to when you were a kid and making an orange creamsicle cake, or being a little savvy and doing a pink champagne and strawberry cake, or taking you to my sweet and savory side and giving you red velvet and bacon, I am a kid in a candy store when it comes to flavor. I think this is what attracted James Beard to me and why I am part of the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour.
Most unique cake: Our most unique request was a life-size car cake that was done for the Delaware Auto Show. We replicated a Fiat.
Favorite cake flavors: Red Velvet with Bacon, Southern Lemon, Death By Chocolate, Creamsicle
Favorite cake colors: Red, Black, Pearlized White, Subtle Pinks and Blush
Most challenging project: Our most challenging cake project had to be the life-size car just due to fact that we built in live in front of everyone and there was no hiding, no turning cameras off, etc. The next challenge was the massive size of the cake and the amount of baking involved. It was a great undertaking and we did it with a staff much smaller than some of the other lifesize car cakes that I have heard about. There were thousands of eggs, hundred of pounds of flour, sugar, butter, etc used. Once the baking was done, it was the onsite management. Making sure everyone knew what they were doing and fixing any problems as they arose. It was a great success but in such a challenge like this you learn a lot by being in the fire.
Biggest cake disaster: My delivery guy turned over a cake that we spent ALL day on. Five-tier Betty Boop themed cake. It was HOT!!!! I was at an awards ceremony and get a phone call: “Hey I think you need to come back to the shop.” I was like, “Why?” And he says, “I had an accident with the cake and don’t think I am capable of fixing it.” So I leave the awards function and I am thinking, ok a little touch up and I will be back on the road. Well the whole cake was destroyed. Talk about upset!!! I was livid. So basically we had to make this new cake in about an hour and a half to two hours max. I had each person take a tier and focus on that one tier to rebuild this cake. We got it to the venue right as the doors opened. So in some way thanks to Cake Boss Buddy for throwing our cake off the roof in Next Great Baker – I knew just what to do to make it happen..
Greatest cake triumph: I would say outside of life-size cars, my greatest cake triumphs were on TLC’s Next Great Baker. Working under such stress and showing myself what I was capable of. Winning didn’t hurt either, but it was really about the hunt. My other triumphs I would have to say were being on Food Network and WeTv and just sharing with the nation what I love so much.
How has the cake artistry field changed since you started? When I first started in cakes, buttercream was a preferred medium because of taste. I can say that now, due to the leaps that fondant companies have made in addressing flavor, pliability, resistance to cracking, yield etc., fondant cakes have truly stamped a foothold in cakes today. So over the last 10 years you have seen a huge shift in cake designs due to shows on the Food Network, TLC, and WeTv.
Where do you see the field of cake artistry going? That’s probably the toughest question. Cake artistry is stretching further and further due to tv and other media. We will still see crazy cakes out there and they will continue to challenge us as artists. I live for that. I still see a very strong connection with fashion from a design standpoint, though. As fashion evolves, so will the wedding cake industry.
Quotes: “All things are possible to him that believeth,” and “In your pursuit of excellence be unselfish and allow the talents of your teammates to shine through and rise to their peaks. Only then can you say WE won. Success and life are about more than just one person. It’s about uplifting us all!”
Cake Alchemy943 Park Place, 3rd floor, NY, NY 10007212-255-0584 • www.cakealchemy.com
Training: A.O.S in culinary arts from Culinary Institute of America; Certificate of Baking from Culinary Institute of America; Sugar and Chocolate from International School of Confectionary Art; Sugarpaste flower classes from International School of Sugarcraft (Nicholas Lodge); Private lessons with Betty Van Norstrand; Pastry Arts Instructor at the French Culinary Institute for 7 years
Cake philosophy: Detailed perfection from the inside out. Cake Alchemy confections are the epitome of elegant chemistry, fusing flavor, design and ambience to create edible works of art. Using only the finest ingredients and handcrafted detailed decorations, we ensure that each cake appeals equally to both the discerning eye and palate.
Inspiration: Desserts make people smile!! My grandmother is my true inspiration, watching her create everything from scratch, putting all of her love into it and seeing the reaction when it was devoured. It makes me happy to make others excited with unbelievable cakes!
How long have you been in business? Four years as Cake Alchemy; four years with Cake Atelier; 22 years in the pastry industry.
Signature style: I am most known for pulled and blown sugar decorations as well highly detailed sculptures and design. My style is modern vintage with a flair and everything beautiful!
Most unique cake design: A steampunk vintage cameo-style cake.
Strangest request: An 18 year old girl asked for a life size cake version of herself.
Favorite cake flavors: Vanilla with salted caramel is my favorite, a close second to the bacon stracciatella with maple syrup buttercream (a cake we are making next weekend for a chef). Favorite cake colors: Gold, because I am an alchemist, and we turn common items into gold. The same color with different mediums so you achieve an unique aesthetic: sugar, chocolate, fondant; gumpaste; shimmer, matte, etc.
Favorite cake ever: My most recent cake is usually my favorite. Right now it’s The Ultimate Kiss, which combines sugar, sculpture and detailed design to an extreme level.
Most challenging cake project: Giant King Crab cake upsidedown with its legs in the air and baby crabs crawling all over. The challenge was supporting eight crab legs which were two feet long up in the air. Anytime I create a cake that is out of my comfort zone it makes me nervous, trying to figure out structure, engineering and electrical – things not taught in culinary school. Biggest cake disaster: With Hurricane Sandy we had lost power for the week, with two cakes for the weekend. I had to walk in each day (a one-hour walk) to then take a cab to get dry ice, which was almost sold out, to save the product. Thankfully, power came back Saturday and the wedding was still on, even though the venue was not available and the coupled got married at his law firm.
Greatest cake triumph: We delivered a cake to Fire Island in the summer; it was a sculpted, structurally challenged design with sugar work cascading down the front. The cake was driven to the ferry (a two hour drive), then transported on the ferry (30 minutes) and wheeled on a cart for a quarter of a mile. The temperature was 90°F. The cake made it there in perfect condition.
How has the cake artistry field changed since you started? People are steering more towards a cake being an expression of themselves, very personalized, which is why being a cake artist can be so rewarding when you achieve that result.
Where do you see the field of cake artistry going? I feel cakes are becoming more a work of art and there is an expectation of quality taste as well as aesthetic.
Personal quote: “To be successful you must always try to improve, whether it be in execution of cakes, sales, or just yourself.”
Training: Various classes and demos throughout the years, but mostly self-taught.
Cake philosophy: Baked from scratch, neat work and to be creative. Inspiration: Irene Miller, an adult education teacher in buttercream technique.
How long have you been in the business? 50 years.
Signature style: Flowing, floral arrangements.
Most unique cake: The reproduction of Cinderella’s Castle for Walt Disney World’s 15th Anniversary Celebration with Chef Albert Kumin.
Favorite cake flavors: Chocolate and spice cakes.
Favorite cake colors: All colors, leaning toward the warmer colors (usually pastels).
Favorite cake ever: A large oval tiered cake with miniature rose bouquets introducing double-sided embossed ribbon.
Most challenging project: The giant reproduction of Cinderella’s Castle for Walt Disney World because it required the engineering skills to accurately reproduce this complicated structure.
Biggest cake disaster: I once had a cake hit the side of its box while avoiding a traffic accident.
Greatest cake triumph: Receiving two Gold Medals and 2 Silver Medals at the World Culinary Olympics in Frankfurt, Germany for cake and pastry displays.
How has the cake artistry field changed since you started? It has become more colorful and more interesting shapes. Also, rolled fondant allows the use of painting skills.
Where do you see the field of cake artistry going? As far as the imagination allows.
Personal quote: Be yourself. “Neat and clean to the eye, tasteful to the palate.”
Jan Kish La Petite FleurP.O. Box 872 Columbus, Ohio 430851-614-848-5855 • www.jankish.com
Training: Cordon Bleu, London and Paris; Cordon Rose, NYC; L’Acadamie de Cuisine, Washington D.C.
Cake philosophy: There is a French term that when translated means “window licking”, and to me this translates to “it has to taste as good as it looks”, or perhaps even better than it looks! Since we eat with our eyes first, and if lucky enough to smell what we see, then the follow-through has to be that it not only tastes fabulous, but also that the texture appeals to the palate. A cake invites at least four of our senses to table and hopefully satiates each of them to the maximum.
Inspiration: My Hungarian heritage nurtured a passion for gourmet foods, both creating them and eating them. And also within this gene pool exists an artistic element. In 1980 these two elements merged with Rose Beranbaum’s Dotted Swiss Cake on the cover of Bon Appetit and “Jan Kish-La Petite Fleur” was born. This was the collision that cemented my fate to cake! How long have you been in business: 33 years...OMG! Now the little ones that I made christening cakes and first birthday cakes for are getting married and I am making their wedding cakes – it’s a little scary.
Signature style: I only seem to be able to come up with terms to describe what I do best. My favorite description is “anal retentive”, for everything I do has to be spot-on and very detail oriented. The shop can fall down around me, but every cake that goes out the door has to be perfect – at least this is what I aim for. For the most part they are elegantly crafted, sharp, and romantic in look, using mixed techniques of art and poetry. But some events call for funky, so the trick is to create the design to match the event and listen carefully to what the client wants and intentions are.
Most unique cake: I guess I would have to say my “English Boxwood Garden Cake”. The “uniqueness” comes in the shape of the cake, for I designed the cake pans to match the gardens at Oheka Castle on Long Island (which I have since had patented and now sell). The shape heralds from the formal English Gardens of the 18th century. But now, having said this, there are three other cakes that are rather signature designs for me, The Priscilla Bow Cake the large Chihuly Cake and the Ultimate Cheesecake Cake.
Favorite flavors: Our White Swan Cake with English Lemon Curd, Vanilla Butter Cream Icing and Raspberry Reduction won the Best Tasting cake on TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off, so I would say for our clients, this is one of the favorite cakes. For me, I love our Fresh Coconut Cake which consists of multiple layers of cake filled with lemon curd and iced with a light meringue covered with fresh grated coconut. It’s a challenge in time and energy but worth every bit!
Favorite cake ever: After 33 years it’s hard to pick just one, so I shall pick two. The first is the Limoges Box cake which was originally done in a soft coral color. “Victoria Magazine” called and said they were doing a Limoges inspired cake story and wondered if I had any ideas. In 1976 I bought my mother a Limoges box in Paris in the Place de Madeleine. It was a beautiful oval box with a soft coral color with a white leaf pattern overlay. This box became the inspiration for my mother’s redecorating of the living room. This tiny little, elegant box became bigger than life and was the perfect fit for the magazine. It was then done in a moss green for InStyle Magazine, and then again in Wedgwood blue for The Today Show on NBC. I think this little box has wings! Another favorite is my western style cake that is fashioned after tooled leather. I learned how to tool leather so that I could tool chocolate. I was able to bring to this cake one of my favorite things in life, which is an oak tree, for oaks are known for their strength and longevity. What better way to represent a new life together in marriage than an oak tree? So, the design that was tooled into the chocolate panels are of oak leaves and acorns.
Most challenging project: Again, there have been many, but right on top had to be The Philadelphia Flower Show. We were asked to participate by Ed Lindeman, the head of the flower show. As far as flower shows go in the U.S., it’s like God asking you to come to the table – how can you so no? The cake had to be “herbaceous oriented”, meaning all the design properties needed to revolve around herbs. I designed a cake where each tier was covered with a different herbal flowering plant, starting with violets and ending with poppies. All the decorative elements had to be made of sugar. Now that I think about it, it was an upright herbal garden. It was transported from Columbus, Ohio to Philadelphia in parts, and was assembled on sight. The flowers were incredibly fragile, and putting it all together was like open heart surgery (I should have included bleeding hearts!). Time consuming but doable, the problems started to present themselves when all the displays were being installed. When all the LIVE plant material, and earth and mulch arrived, the humidity began to rise to a rain forest capacity. It took a day and a half to get our display in place, busy beavers everywhere, flowers blooming, trees growing, snipping, clipping and misting to perfection. I wanted to put my cake in a bubble to keep it free from debris and water, but no such luck. As the opening of the show approached, an amazing thing began to happen and my blood pressure soared to new heights! The blush orange sugar poppies I had made were semi-closed, but still with the black centers visible for a bit of dramatic effect (and yes, everything had to be botanically correct, of course). As the humidity level rose even further, the poppies, I kid you not, began to open! I was a heart attack waiting to happen. All I could imagine were all these poppy petals lying around the base of the cake with only spent bloom pods left standing to show for themselves. They took on a life of their own and opened to perfection, and miraculously....stopped at just the right moment! How much more real could they become? Someone indeed other than my hand had a hand in this creation! To my delight from that point on all was stable. The next adventure for this masterpiece was judging. As you might imagine, the best of the best were there to scrutinize every inch of the displays. When they got to ours, one of the judges was outraged that we had used silk flowers. They tried to explain to her that they were sugar, but she was not convinced. In the end I guess, they had to walk her “literally up the garden path” to let her feel for herself that they were actually sugar. Well, when all was said and done, we won “Best In Show”! Incredible! At least that’s what I thought. Lucky me!
Biggest cake disaster: At the time this occurred I also had two restaurants and a catering business and stress was the name of the game, while dancing on the head of a pin. I had a reception in progress for 350 and I needed to deliver another wedding cake to a different location. Having picked up the cake from the shop I was driving down the freeway and had just safely passed an accident on my right hand side. Getting through the accident traffic was a bit dicey and I exhaled a big sigh of relief as I approached the exit ramp. Fine, all going well until I was halfway up the exit ramp and an emergency vehicle was coming down the ramp right at me! Well you can imagine who had to yield. As I turned the SUV to a sharp right to miss the EMT truck, so did the cake in the back. Five tiers laid themselves down, and the only one remaining totally in tact was the anniversary tier. No time to go back for a redo, I headed for the reception site. Thank goodness for fondant! It totally saved the day along with the graciousness of the wedding couple. When I arrived I humbly carried in the unscathed top tier and we found a pedestal cake stand on which to place (it it did need a little more height after all, it had shrunk a bit). The wedding couple had not arrived yet and I brought in the rest of the cake which was still serve-able but not presentable (this is where the “thank goodness for fondant” comes in, for it protected the cake from breaking apart). Now, back to the other wedding to make sure all was going as planned. Yep, in good shape, now, back to the other wedding to face the music, funny that the name of the event space was the “Music Hall”, and I felt sure that I would be in for some pretty fancy dancing. Upon entering the back of the facility the wedding couple came up to me, and I was fully expecting to be pelted with tomatoes, and they asked me if I was okay! Can you imagine that, how sweet were they that they were more concerned about me more than their wedding cake! And they were both lawyers, I could have been so slammed! But instead I was blessed with two great new friends and faithful clients!
Personal quote: “One can always have cupcakes, but you can only have one wedding cake!”
San Jose, CA
Cake philosophy: Life is short – eat dessert first. Cakes make everyone happy. As a cake artist, we are there for everyone’s “most important day,” whether it’s a wedding, anniversary, birthday, or just because it’s a Friday. My goal in life is to make people happy, or affect people in such a way that it impacts their life. I believe cakes/pastries are one of those simple pleasures everyone needs.
Training: I went to the Professional Culinary Institute in San Jose, CA – it is now owned by The French Culinary Institute. Although I learned a lot about baking and assembling cakes and pastries, I am self taught when it comes to cake decorating.
Inspiration: This may sound odd, but I am inspired by beautiful things. I always had a passion for baking, but never knew how much I loved cake decorating until I combined my artistic skills with my knowledge of baking. I love art – anything that makes you stop and wonder how did someone create this or even come up with it. I just love creating edible works of art, the type that could be in museums.
How long have you been in business? About 4 years.
Signature style: If I had to pick a word, it would be ‘intricate’. I do a lot of cake decorating by hand, rarely do I use any type of molds. It is very meticulous and ornate.
Most unique cake: It would probably be my most recent one I made for a competition, which was inspired by an Indonesian Headdress.
Favorite cake flavor: I love gianduja feuilletine mousse cake, or anything that has to do with hazelnut.
Favorite cake colors: I love any combination of colors with gold or silver.
Most challenging project: Any competition cake – they are the most intricate, ornate and time consuming cakes to make.
Biggest cake disaster: This small two tiered cake I made for a divisional cake competition. I put the cake into a box that would fit through the TSA scanners, but apparently a part of it was caught inside and in order to remove it the TSA workers had to roll it around. I remember the horrible sounds of sugar flowers being crushed, all of my hard work broken. Then on top of that, the worker picked up my box and turned it upside down, ruining anything that could have be salvageable.
Greatest accomplishment: Wining the 2013 Oklahoma Sugar Art Show, Grand Wedding Cakes division. It has been at the top of my bucket list ever since I started cake decorating.
How has the cake artistry field changed since you started? Ever since Food Network started showing more and more cake challenges, more and more people are becoming cake artists. When I first started cake decorating, it was so hard to find certain cake decorating tools. I was mostly stuck with Wilton or anything that Michaels supplied. Now there is so much stuff available for cake decorating. I think Food Network and people like Kerry Vincent have changed the world’s view on cakes. Now more and more people want unique cakes. It is no longer a simple white wedding cake with flowers from the local florist, but a variety of colors and sugar work.
Where do you see the field of cake artistry going? Everywhere. Cakes nowadays are becoming bolder and crazier. They move, explode, shot of fireworks, things that you never expect a cake could do. They are bigger than ever, and this industry will only get bigger.
Favorite quote: “There are many people out there who will tell you that you can’t. What you’ve got to do is turn around and say ‘Watch me.’” –unknown Throughout my life I was raised with the mentality that success in life is by getting a degree and having a job confined in a cubicle. I have been told that I would fail in life if I decide to pursue my passion in becoming a pastry chef or cake artist. This quote has kept me going. I am where I am right now because I believe in my dreams and I am inspired to make them a reality.
Cakes by Kim Simons201-655-1158 • www.cakesbykimsimons.com
Cake philosophy: I like to combine my love and respect for nature and share some of nature’s beauty through my cakes.
Training: I do not have any formal training in the culinary field. My only training in art was in high school. I am one of the lucky people who have been gifted with a natural artistic talent!
Inspiration: Well one day, about 4 years ago, I start watching all these cake shows on TV and I said to myself, “I can do that!” So I taped the shows and freeze framed the shots to learn of all the products they used. I started to play around with the materials and found my true passion in the process.
Signature style: I like to tell a story with each cake. Every part of the cake has a meaning. I also love to push the limits of the cake and make things that look so real that someone may have to ask if it is real or sugar.
Most unique cake: I think my Snowy Owl Wedding Cake would be my most unique cake. The cake tiers were not stacked like a traditional wedding cake. I used the structure of a tree to create the tiers and further emphasize the show piece theme of the great outdoors.
Favorite cake flavors: I really don’t have a favorite cake flavor – that’s because I have a gluten allergy, so I’m the cake artist who cannot eat cake.
Favorite cake colors: I love color! I usually cover all my cakes with black or white fondant or gumpaste and then hand blend and paint all the colors on. This is where I have the most fun, blending multiple layers of colors to achieve a deep vibrant colors that you see my cakes and designs.
Personal favorite: I would say that my India Peacock Wedding Cake is my personal favorite cake. I accomplished everything I set out to do with the cake by combining nature’s beauty with symbolic meanings that tell a story. The cake turned out absolutely gorgeous. As my portfolio shows I love animals, but especially birds. The peacock represents beauty, prosperity, royalty, love, compassion, soul and peace. The various semiprecious stones symbolize love, protection and luck. The water lilies represents life and love. All the colors on the main cake was again created blending color on only black and white fondant.
Most challenging cake project: My most challenging project would be the All American Classic Edible Fashion Runway Competition. I was paired up with a fashion design student. We were competing against three other similar teams where each team had to design a summer dress and accessories. I then had to recreate the design and accessories using five different types of sugar products into a fully wearable sugar dress for a model to wear and walk down a runway show.
Biggest cake disaster: Maybe I should be knocking on wood but I haven’t had any big cake disasters!
Greatest cake triumph: My greatest cake triumph would be my first (hopefully not last) and recent appearance on the Food Network’s Sugar Dome. Even though our team was first to be voted off, personally the challenge of working with new people with unfamiliar disciplines, personalities, skills and completing the task at hand, under great pressures and obstacles, was a great personal triumph. I think my talent, confidence and effort shined throughout the demanding show. My other cake triumph would be my India Peacock Wedding Cake. Not only because it was my first cake to be featured in American Cake Decorating magazine, but because I was able to achieve what I personally set out to do with this cake and its use of color.
How has the cake artistry field changed since you started? I see more artists joining the field of cake and the skill level has gone up.
Where do you see the field of cake artistry going? Cake artists like myself will continue to push this medium to a higher level, maybe even to compete with other high forms of art.
Personal quote: “Be creative, have fun and do what you love!”