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!