Saturday, May 17, 2008

Austin, I come!

Picture it...St. Helens, Oregon, December, 2006.

I've been a member of the online caking community Cake Central since October '06. I've marvelled at the amount of talent we have as cake artists all over the country, and the world! I see pictures of cakes done by amateurs and professionals alike, and grow more inspired every day.

During those first couple of months on CC, I started to see something I hadn't seen much of before. Sugarpaste characters as cake toppers. All edible, and completely handcrafted. These very personalized pieces captured my imagination like no other trend in caking has before!!!
The number of people on the forums of CC that either had MAD modelling skills, or requested help from those who did was incredible! How had I missed out on this trend? Portland's no "backwater" little town! Heh!

The work, and admiration thereof, from one member of Cake Central stood out above all others. Aine2, aka Lorraine McKay of Scotland. She's a self-taught sugar artist who has operated her own shop since 2004. The life and beautiful expressions of each of her creations are something to behold! To show you what I mean, see her work at these websites:

The moment I realized that custom figures was an upcoming, SUPER-hot trend, I decided I was going to jump on the bandwagon myself. I'll admit, I was terrified to even think about where to start. My past forays into hand-sculpting were limited to school projects from a very young age, to basic pottery in college. I was NO good. What had I thought, that I could do something as beautiful as Lorraine's work?

Cut to December, 2006. I'm working at the Oregon Zoo, and a coworker asks me if I was available to do her wedding cake. I accepted, and we began to plan what the design would be.
Then I thought about Lorraine's work, and asked my friend if she'd like sugarpaste figures of she and her husband-to-be as keepsake toppers. She loved the idea! I had to go about planning, practicing, and doing my best to create something memorable for their big day. OY!

I messaged Lorraine, asking her for any advice and help she could find time to lend to a beginner sugar artist like me. She was so gracious, and helped me every step of the way over the next 4 weeks, as I finished a step, took pics, emailed her, and waited to hear her opinions. It was a very nerve-wracking process for me, but I learned SO much! My confidence grew quickly, which just pushed me forward to the finished product. I was excited, relieved, and VERY grateful to Lorraine for all her assistance. On to more figures, and more learning!

A friendship grew between Lorraine and I over time after that. I'd be hired to do another cake, and would keep her posted, and show here what she started by taking me under her wing!

Cut to today...mid-May, 2008. Lorraine's popularity in the cake world has generated much interest in this trend of sugarpaste modelling. So much so, that she's begun creating print tutorials for sculpting a wide variety of vignettes and characters. She's also teaching workshops in her studio, and demonstrating before crowds as part of the British Sugarcraft Guild all over the UK. I'm SO proud of her!!

This popularity has been widespread, to the point where she's now been invited to the U.S. to do workshops in Austin, Texas! WOOHOO!!!! And thanks to my folks, who believe in me tremendously, they've given me an early birthday present. I'm going to Texas!!! Four days, just over a dozen participants, and LOADS of sugar, stories, laughter, and fun!

Bring on the caffeine (she and I are both coffee fanatics!), and the cameras to save all the little moments for posterity, and be ready for a deluge of tales from Texas!!! Stay tuned, y'all!!!

Geisha Birthday cake

One of my new coworkers' mother has a birthday this weekend, and I was asked to do an asian-inspired small cake. This is the sugarpaste character for the top.

The cake was a simple 6" round, covered in white fondant, with chocolate fondant branches and sugarpaste cherry blossoms. I will post pics of the finished cake this week.

I had a lot of fun with this project! I just got a call from my coworker today, saying that her mom cried when she was presented the cake! Is it a bad thing that I'm happy that she cried? :)

update 5/20/08: I saw the pics from the client yesterday. I think they turned out GREAT! I should be receiving them tonight via email. As soon as that happens, this post will be updated with full cake pics. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sugar...the Final Frontier

Ok, so I'm fully embracing my "geek" status with this post. Bear with me, please!

I'm a long-standing fan of most things Star Trek related. I know, I know...DORK!

I've collected memorabilia since the early 80's, and love to read many things about Gene Roddenberry's utopian view of the 23rd century and beyond. I'm amazed at the depth of detail the creators/writers gave to the Trek universe. After all this time, it's still....umm...fascinating!

I also love the look/feel/design of the shows and movies. So much so, that when Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan came out in 1982, I fell in love with the uniforms. How slick! I had one built in 1988, by a costumer from the Eugene Opera company. It was a hellish, expensive project. But the result was well-worth it.

Jump ahead to recent times...Deep Space Nine is my favorite show of all the series, and when Star Trek: First Contact premiered, with new uniforms again, DS9's uniforms were updated to those soon after. THAT uniform I really love.

Sooo....I've decided to create a sugarpaste self-portrait of sorts. It will be me wearing the newer uniform, pictured here
And the figure will be sitting in the captain's chair, of the Enterprise-E, pictured here

I've already done a first 'run-through' of the figure in the uniform. It was not what I'd hoped for... BUT, having learned a lot in the process, I can now procede with more confidence.
On that note...I'm going to get back to it. I'll keep you posted as to how this progresses.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Joyeux Anniversaire Molly!

Last Saturday was the 18th birthday of the daughter of another of my coworkers. She's a fifth-year French student, a figure skater, and she loves her cat named Kirby. Her birthday had a Paris theme, and I suggested doing something other than the Eiffel Tower for the cake, since the E.T. would be prominent in the party's decor.

So, with all her "likes", and only a pair of photos, this is what I designed. The famed Paris cafe, Le Procope, is the backdrop for the topper. Molly is seated at a wrought iron bistro table with coffee and croissants. She's wearing her skate club jacket (no logo, since it was hidden by the chair's back), with her name on the breast of the jacket. it's the SMALLEST wording I've ever painted on anything! OY! Her beloved Kirby, wearing a yellow beret, sits under the table (presumably waiting for crumbs, or for a mouse to wander by..). And of course, Molly's skates, complete with lime-green fuzzy 'soakers' are within arm's reach, too.

The party was a fun one to help with, and the cake was a huge success!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Best wishes, Bryn!!!

Bryn, the receptionist at work, is leaving the zoo after 10 years.....

I was asked by my manager if I could make a cake for Bryn's going away party, but I didn't have time to do that much. I did offer to make a small keepsake topper for her, and the picture included was the result. Bryn, with her faithful friend Willie the Schnauzer. Willie's dressed in his favorite hat, and bandana, ready for the wilderness!

We're all going to miss her, but she's moving to eastern Oregon to follow her dream. Lucky woman! She'll be opening an animal sanctuary near the town of Mitchell. Stay tuned for more of Bryn's endeavors to help the animals! Kudos to you, Bryn, for all you've done for the Oregon Zoo, and may you have much happiness and success in your future!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Engineer Greg's birthday

I have the pleasure of working with some of the greatest people at the Oregon Zoo. We laugh, we kvetch, conspire, all as a part of a fun family of sorts.

For a fun surprise for a coworker and friend, another of the family hired me to create a birthday cake. The recipient of this cake is an engineer on our Zoo Train.

I designed the cake, and had a lot of fun (and a REALLY late night) finishing it. The "topper" if you will, is a sugarpaste (rolled icing) cut-out replica of the train logo, with a figure of the birthday boy in his engineer garb, also made from sugarpaste. It's all edible, with the exception of his wire glasses. It was SO much fun to do! My friend was so happy when she saw it. The birthday boy hasn't seen it yet, so I'm anxiously awaiting word on his reaction to it.


Ok, so this is my first real blog. I'd like to do this "right", but I've never done this before. Go easy on me, all right?

I'm Scott. I'm a 40 year-old self-taught cake decorator of 26 years (yikes!) Cake decorating has been a hobby of mine for a long time, and even a lucrative one for the most part. I've been to culinary school and trained as a pastry chef, but those jobs are hard to come by. So, I bake a lot, mostly just for friends, family and coworkers. I'm glad to do it for 3 simple reasons; one, the practice. I love trying out new ideas, techiques, and all; two, the smiles it brings to peoples faces when I arrive at work or a gathering with home-baked goods; third, and most importantly...I'm not tempted by sweets sitting around the house all the time! :)

I live in the City of Roses, Portland, Oregon. I've been a "transplanted" Oregonian since 1986, and I don't think I'll ever leave! The seasons change nicely here. It's easy to get from one place to another. Food, shopping, art, theater, nightlife, and the beautiful surroundings of the Pacific Northwest, all right here. I won't complain!

Currently, I'm working at the Oregon Zoo in Admissions. It's not what I'm "trained," nor went to school for, yet it's a GREAT place to work! It pays the bills (for the most part.) The people are fantastic, the zoo itself is beautiful, and getting more so all the time, and the animals....that's ANOTHER blog for another time (Animal Tails, coming soon!)

One animal I will talk about regularly is my pup. His name is Scharffen Berger. Yes, it's a mouthful. And yes, he DOES respond to such a long name! He was born a chocolate dachshund, but has grown into his wire-haired roots just a bit. He has short hair, mostly chocolate in color, but with the double-coat and lighter markings on his shoulders and haunches. He's SUCH a handsome boy! And GODS, is he ever smart!!! More on him later....

Ok, that's pretty much it for a start. How'd I do? I guess we'll find that out soon enough...