Archive | April 2015

Book Review/Interview:  Artisan Cake Company’s Visual Guide to Cake Decorating by Liz Marek

Recently, one of my “cake daughters” wrote her first cake decorating book. While she is the master of social media and openly shares her life’s ups and downs with her friends on Facebook, I felt like we could all get to know her and this project better. 

When you dive into the book, you will find actual guidance on support for figures and cakes. Most decorating books on the market do not focus on this info. The part that I thought would be a “must read” for people is The Elements of Cake Design”. As a judge at most of the major cake shows in the U.S., I will tell you that most cakes rise or fail at the design stage. Take her lessons to heart and you can be creating more visually impactful cakes!  

Here is my interview:
1.  What was your favorite project in the book? It’s hard to choose but the owl was my favorite. He was just so cute I wanted to smoosh his widdle cheeks! 

2.  What was the hardest part of writing the book? Writing a book was so much harder than I expected! Coming up with ideas was easy but then practicing the project, working out the bugs, taking photos and writing it in a way that could be understood by even a novice was very hard and I went to bed many-a-night with a migraine from thinking too hard lol

3.  What decorators influenced you or inspired you as you were learning decorating? I loved and still love many decorators I looked up to when there was no fb and only flickr haha. I used to devour photos from karen portaleo, debbie goard, mike mccarey and melody brandon from sweet and saucy. All very different from each other but each had something special that I wanted to achieve in my own work. Creativity, clean work and beautiful details. 

4.  How did you get started decorating? I started by doing. I watched a few episodes of Food Network challenge and Ace of Cakes and got the bug. No youtube tutorials existed yet so I just winged it. My first cakes where not pretty at all lol

5.  What is your biggest wish for your book? My biggest wish is simply that people find my book useful and that it is used. It is not placed on the shelf to gather dust but the pages are worn from use, dog-eared and stained with batter. I want this book to be a tool, not a decoration for a book shelf. 

6.  What did you learn yourself as you wrote this book? I learned that I take way too many photos of my cakes haha I also learned that I work best at night and that I cannot sleep until a project is done. 

7.  Who is your target audience for the book? My target audience is beginner to intermediate cake decorators who need help getting beyond the basics or advanced decorators who need some inspiration to take their ideas to the next level. 

8.  Do you hope your daughter follows in your footsteps someday? I hope my daughter feels passionately about whatever she chooses to do in life and I hope to help her find that passion no matter what it is. I did not find my passion until I was almost 30 years old and spent a good portion of my life thinking I wasn’t good at anything. I want my daughter to be inspired every day and try everything until she finds the thing that makes her happy. 

9.  Tell me about juggling your bakery business with writing a book. Writing a book while baking cakes for clients was a nightmare. There was never enough time in the day to get everything done. I still do not know how it happened. I also was 9 months pregnant and approved my final draft of the book the week I went into labor. I joked that writing a book was more complicated than having my baby and definitely more painful haha. But def love my book like she was my own baby. 

10.  How many copies have been sold so far? We have sold over 4 thousand copies since December 2014 and counting! The book is getting great reviews and the publisher is talking about another book but I’m not sure I’m ready for that lol.

You can buy Liz’s book on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Artisan-Companys-Visual-Guide-Decorating/dp/1937994694
   
    

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Learning to Breathe

SugarZen

I grew up in a trailer park. We never had a lot, but I rarely knew I didn’t have it all. I loved the place, especially the pool. I learned to swim in that pool, watching the other kids. I was like a fish. I swam as often as I could, practiced holding my breath under water and swam as though I had no fear. Put me in a lake and I was just as confident. I always considered myself a good, strong swimmer.

What I did not realize until I started really paying attention to the Olympics and until I started training with a swim coach for a triathlon is that I was only a recreational swimmer. I never took classes at the Y or with the Red Cross like many children, so I never learned the fundamentals of swimming. The lack of those basics never would have bothered…

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Book Review/Interview: Cupcake Envy by Amy Eilert

Recently, I shared with you my list of “must have” books (https://sugarzen.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/ruths-favorite-sugar-art-books/).  At that time, I promised that I would be reviewing some of the new books on the market.  I’m excited to bring you the first of several today!

cupcake-envy-book-review

I first met Amy Eilert at CakeLove in Vancouver, Canada.  I had heard of her from an appearance on Food Network, but really didn’t know much about her.  I have to say, it was love at first sight!  She has this adorable husky voice that wraps itself around you and makes you want to hang out with her all day.  She exudes joy.  When I heard she had written a book, I knew I wanted to share it with you!  j

This book features what she lovingly calls “cakelets”.  They are NOT cupcakes.  They are precious mini cakes that you create, often as you learn to do carving.  For many newer decorators, carving into a cake is a frightening experience…they just can’t see the design within the sheet cake.  Amy makes it easy.

amy

I sent her a list of questions that I thought might help you get to know her and her book better.  Here is the interview:

  1. What was your favorite project in the book?

I’d have to say the grocery bag themed design called At the Market. This design is a paper grocery bag cakelet with sugar sculpted groceries.  This would make an awesome cakelet for your favorite food fanatic.  You could can customize the grocery bag with any items this special person loves to cook. I would fill my grocery bag with eggplant, french bread, potatoes, and of course, cake!

  1. What was the hardest part of writing the book?

Writing a book was such a learning experience for me.  I was used to teaching classes and writing tutorials however, writing a book is a completely different beast.  I was very fortunate to have a helpful publisher to walk me through the process.  One thing I had to keep in mind at all times:  Measure Everything!!!

  1. What decorators influenced you or inspired you as you were learning decorating?

I launched Cupcake Envy before the days of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  One place I was able to connect and find amazing cake artists was Flickr.  It was there that I was introduced to the insanely talented skills of Debbie Goard. Debbie’s approach to cake design was unique and her work so distinctive, it really inspired me to keep practicing.

Throughout my journey with Cupcake Envy, I’ve had the privilege to meet and work alongside such incredible artists/teachers. Norm Davis, in particular, has been a huge inspiration and a dear friend as well.

 4.  How did you get started decorating?

I started out stumbling into cake decorating unintentionally.  I was a NJ public school music teacher prior to relocating our family to NC.  I wanted to stay home and raise my sons and once they started school, I started making treats for their class celebrations.  I wanted to make something special for each child which eventually went from creating  cupcakes to mini cake design.  I like to call them Cakelets.  I would practice different techniques every night after the kids went to sleep.  It was relaxing and gave me a new outlet to be creative.  I wanted to get better so I kept my eye out for classes.  That’s when I took my very first class with Bronwan Weber.  After that, the fire was lit and Cupcake Envy was born.

 5.  What is your biggest wish for your book?

I have two wishes for this book.  The first wish is that people will find my book as a useful reference for creating fun mini cakes (cakelets).  I wanted the designs to be easy to create, fun, and approachable for anyone to do.

My second wish for my book is to inspire my sons to follow their dreams.  I always tell them that we are here to leave our mark, whatever that may be and to work hard for what you want.

6.  What did you learn yourself as you wrote this book?

I learned that I am a complete unorganized scatterbrain.  There were many times throughout the process that I said to myself,” you have no business writing a book!”

I learn that I needed to stop looking at the big picture and take it one project at a time.  I learned how to better utilize time and how to organize my thoughts so not to feel overwhelmed.

7.  Who is your target audience for the book?

The target audience for this book is broad.  I wanted the designs to be approachable for beginners.  Many people who have taken my class have never touch fondant before and they would leave the class with designs that excite them and that they are proud of creating.  I also hope the book, which focuses solely on mini cakes, provides seasoned decorators a fun option to add to their decorating arsenal.  A custom cakelet with coordinating cupcakes is a fun option for any celebration.  The guest of honor gets a special mini cake created just for them while partygoers can enjoy custom coordinated cupcakes.

8.  Do you hope your children follow in your footsteps someday?

I learned early on when I tried, unsuccessfully, to teach my sons how to play the piano that they are their own person with their own interests. The same can be said for Cupcake Envy.  I do hope I am a good role model when it comes to working hard and never giving up.  Those are the footsteps I hope they will follow.

 9.  Tell me about juggling your illness with writing the book.

I am not sure if people are aware but I was diagnosed with both Systemic and Discoid Lupus when I was 10 years old.   Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs.   As I grew up, I acquired a few syndromes and challenges along the way that has certainly changed my life.  I’ve had my share of difficulties and hospital visits that have certainly impacted my daily life as well as my family’s life.   I am so grateful for family and friends that have helped me through those tough times.  Sometimes it’s not just the physical setbacks but also the emotional setbacks that become the biggest mountains to climb. Ruth, you have talked me through my most recent episodes and your words gave me strength to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Thank you for being there.  I experienced 2 hospital visits during the time I was writing the book which delayed the release date but with the help and support of friends, family, and neighbors, the Cupcake Envy book is finally here.

In the end, I’ve learned that no matter the cards you are dealt, never let it stop you from reaching your dreams.

10.  Who was your first inspiration?

Early on, I became a huge fan of Colette Peters books, especially, Cakes to Dream On.

Even though I  mini cakes, Colette Peter’s book were a treasure trove of inspiration and decorating techniques.  I learned so much about cake decorating from her books.

11.  How many copies have been sold so far?

Honestly, I have no idea but I wish I knew!

amy cake 1

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Amy a little better!  Sometimes, we focus so much on the art form that we forget to SEE the artist behind the work.  If you are looking for a great book to introduce you to mini cakes, this is the one!  You can purchase the book at:  http://www.amazon.com/Cupcake-Envy-Irresistible-Cakelets-Little/dp/0804843686.