Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tufted Billow-Weave (TM) @ Icing Inspirations

Hello Cake Peeps!

Last weekend, I took a day off of work and gave myself a much deserved long weekend!  What did I do with my downtime?  Why, improved my cake repetoire of course!  I hopped on a train after work (aka the train ride from hell pt 1) and made my way to Kitchener ON to spend time with my BCF and take a class at Icing Inspirations.  The class- Susan Trianos' Tufted Billow Weave (TM) technique.  I met Susan last year when I took Ron Ben Israel's sugar flowers class.  Susan teaches at the Bonnie Gordon school of Cake Decorating and is an amazing artist.  She also came up with her trade-marked technique that has led her to win many awards, including most recently, Cake Walk: Wedding Cake edition.

Susan is an amazing teacher.  The class went by so quickly, but I left learning so much!  I will post a pic of my class cake soon - I just want to finish a few things on it.  One of the best things from the weekend was that Susan has given me the OK to teach the technique - so stay tuned to the blog and my website for the class announcement!

I am in the middle of a crazy holiday season (aren't we all?) and will try to post a longer post soon.....including a review of Sharon Zambito's 2 new sugar flower dvd's!

Until next time,
Happy Caking and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Favorite Things

With the lack of Oprah's favorite things show this year and Christmas right around the corner, I thought I'd share with you all some of my favorite things!

First up, James Rosselle's cutters and veiners.  I especially love the rose petal veiner - so easy to use and gives a really cool look to my rose petals.  You can find the line of James' products at Icing Inspirations - click here

And speaking of celebrity products....I have a new obsession with Marina Sousa's molds available here and here.  The bead molds are awesome and the button molds work really well with chocolate!

Also at the top of my list is the line of lace molds by Earlene Moore, found here and here.  They make your cakes look so elegant, and are insanely easy to use!

If you know me, then you know I am a dust ADDICT!  I love em all - discos, lusters, shimmers and especially petal dust!  I love the way dusting gives my sugar flowers a realistic look.  My favorite brand of petal dust is Crystal Colors.  I get them from Icing Inspirations (click here).  There are so many shades to choose from, they're food safe, and since I use so much, I can even get them in large pots!

Lastly, my newest favorite thing - was the talk of this year's ICES convention, and also the topic of a recent blog post - the line of Get Sassie products.  You can find out all about their products by reading my post about it, here.  I can't wait to get my sassie sticks and my sassie gun as soon as it becomes available!

I hope you've enjoyed reading this post, and above all I hope I have given you all some new ideas to add to your wish lists.

Until next time,
Happy Caking!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Hi Everyone!

Sorry it has been so long since my last post!  I have been super busy teaching and working on my cake empire =D  Speaking of the cake empire, my "Winter Flowers and Foliage" DVD is available for pre-order (24.99 incl S& H in North America) as are my 2 MBM Xclusive border molds, available here

I am looking forward to the next month flying by!  I am anxiously awaiting my trip to Kitchener to see my BCF (Best Cake Friend) Chrissie of Icing Inspirations and Too Nice To Slice!  I am going there to take a class with Susan Trianos to learn her tufted billow technique!  CAN'T WAIT!!!!

I am also starting to plan my course schedule for next year.  If there is a class in particular you want, please let me know!  And don't forget - I do travel to teach!!!  A few weeks ago, I was in beautiful Carleton Place Ontario where I gave my Winter Flowers class, and just last weekend, I co-taught Brides & Bling with Suzanne Charbonneau of Savauri Sugar!  It was a fun filled, packed day with a very talented group of students!

I hope to have some new tutorials and oother fun stuff up soon!  In the mean time, check out the Cake Art Academy where you can take cake classes online!  I have viewed a few of the vids already and love 'em!  It
helps fill the sugar void between classes!  I am bummed however that I will not be taking the upcoming Orchids class with Ron Ben Israel when he returns to Toronto at the end of November!  I hope my students appreciate that I am not cancelling to go to Ron's class!  ;)

Until Next Time
Happy Caking!

Friday, September 30, 2011

This weekend at Canada's Baking & Sweet Expo.....

Unless you live under a rock, all Canadian sugar enthusiasts know that this weekend is the Canadian Baking & Sweet Expo in Toronto. My BCF Chrissie has a booth there this year and she is unveiling a lot of new things for her store Icing Inspirations! Seeing as we're best cake friends, Chrissie has given me exclusive inside info which I can now share with all of you! And since you are all amazing followers of my blog (and possibly unlikely to attend the expo), Chrissie and I have an EXCLUSIVE OFFER for you! More about that later!

So, if you follow me online, you know that Icing Inspirations is my first (and usually only) stop online for all my cake decorating needs! Chrissie and her staff (which includes her husband Justin) offer the best customer service I have ever experienced! Their shipping is very reasonable (and fast) – they regularly have free shipping Tuesdays – you can sign up for their newsletter to keep up to date! What makes them exceptional at what they do, is that Chrissie only stocks products she enjoys using and they are extremely knowledgeable about their products! They are also the leaders when it comes to innovative display ideas! From hanging cake stands to picture frame stands, they are sure to be able to help you wow your clientele!


Now on to their booth at the expo! They are launching their couture line which includes T-shirts (hoping to see pics soon). But they are also unveiling some new products and classes, so let's get started!


Chrissie brings in the best local and international cake talent out there! Her classes are so popular that they sell out insanely fast (may have something to do with the way they make you feel welcome in their shop and the spacious class space!). In 2012, Icing Inspirations will be hosting 3 classes with the talented Rick Reichart (2 in June and a newly added 3rd class in October), 2 classes co-taught by Food Network champions James Rosselle & Marina Sousa, 2 sculpting classes with the beautiful and talented Karen Portaleo, and these classes being advertised online for the first time on my blog:

Sculpted Puppy Class with Courtney Clark – September 17th & 18th, 2012
9am – 5pm $450 + HST

In this adorably fun class students will learn to sculpt and carve a fun puppy dog cake.  Learn techniques to add true realism to your creations. Courtney is the master of clean fondant work and will share tips and tricks of her perfection. For fun we'll finish this adorable little puppy up with a fun little costume...perfect for the festive fall season.

All required tools and lunch will be provided each day


Beyond Sugar Flowers 2 with Diane Phillips – August 13th-15th, 2012
9am – 5pm $695 + HST

Back by popular demand! The new revolution in cake decorating. Diane's September 2011 class was met with great amazement! The reviews and blog posts have been pouring in. People are in awe of what can be done with this amazing medium. A craft that will revolutionize the world of sugar flowers. Students will learn to create beautiful clay pieces that can be used not only on cakes but are durable enough to be used as bouquets, hair pieces and much more. Flowers learned and created will include David Austen style roses, apple blossoms, dahlias, cosmos, hyacinth, hipericum berries, dogwood, parrot tulips, gloriosa lily, succulents, bird of paradise or heliconia, orchids, snake grass bamboo and time permitting a few additional flowers.
All supplies and tools provided for use in class. Lunch ill be provided each day.

Spaces are limited and the class will sell out fast! Don't miss your chance!

Chrissie is also working on getting another cake celeb up to Canada in 2012 as well, and Morsels By Mark will be sure to get you the exclusive details as soon as they are available!!

New Product Line:

One of the hottest items shown at this years ICES convention were the new edible glue products by Get SassieSassie Sap and the Sassie Stick! Chrissie sent me a set to check out and I love them! The Sassie Sap sets up and provides a long work time where you can dab the back of your gumpaste decorations, and the position and re-position them on your fondant covered creations!

The Sassie people were also showing off their new creation – the Sassie Shot! This revolutionary sugar gun allows you to insert isomalt sticks and create beautiful sugar pieces with them. It looks and acts like a glue gun, but is 100% safe to use with isomalt (as you all know isomalt used in a regular glue gun may cause the gun to explode and cause serious injury)! The sugar gun will retail for $59.99 plus taxes and shipping.

The exciting news, is that the people of Sassie also have a line of Isomalt sticks available which they have asked Chrissie to launch this weekend! In addition to their already advertised 8 colours plus clear, they will have 32 new colors available:

10 Jewel Tones: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Pool Blue, Blue, Purple, SassiePink, Brown and Clear

10 Cloud Colours (these are really cool because they've got a creamy look to them):  Red cloud, orange cloud, yellow cloud, leaf green cloud, Christmas green cloud, winter blue cloud, blue cloud, lavender cloud, sweet pink cloud, black cloud, white cloud

10 Glitter Colours (YES! They have glitter running through them!!):  Sassie pink glitter, blue glitter, purple glitter, Christmas green glitter, shimmer glitter, gold glitter, yellow glitter, red glitter, black glitter, silver glitter.

They are a bit longer than other sticks available, and come well packed so they won't break in shipping. Chrissie actually told me this morning that one of the cases they received looked like a monster truck ran over it, and every single stick inside was still intact! Packs will be priced between $10 and $18 depending on selection. What is also cool, is they will be coming in variety packs like the Christmas combo pack or the Glitter combo pack. Icing Inspirations will be one of the first distributors to receive their new stock when it becomes available! Now here is where your EXCLUSIVE OFFER comes in! As a faithful reader of my blog, if you email Icing Inspirations and mention you read it on my blog, Icing Inspirations will put you on the list to get your very own Sassie Shot at a Morsels By Mark special price of $49.99 (plus taxes and shipping)! That is an incredible deal! The guns will be shipped on a first ordered first served basis though, so don't delay. This is a limited time offer and will end Tuesday, October 4th 2012 at 12:01 am!

That's it for this edition! Check back soon for more news and interviews from the world of cake. Visit my website for info on upcoming classes as well!

Until next time, happy caking!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Baker's Dozen - Edna De La Cruz

Hello Cakers!

I know I just posted a cleb interview, but this one has been a while in the making!  I talk continuously of having cake crushes, and I have been fortunate enough to interview yet another - the wickedly talented Edna de la Cruz!  Edna is probably best known for her gumpaste tutorials on Youtube and her amazing DVD tutorials (I have them all!).  This is being posted just as her latest DVD is being launched!  Visit her online store to see what I am talking about! 

Edna's latest DVD, now available!

I first learned of Edna through the Cake Central forums where she regularly would offer advice and chat with her fellow cake artists.  See what Edna has to say:

Morsels By Mark: How did you get into the world of cake?

Edna: I always wanted to learn cake decorating. My best friend was going to take a Wilton Class and I jumped at the chance.

MBM: Your flowers are beautiful! How do you go about developing the techniques you teach?

Edna: I try to make flowers easy to do. I try to reach beginners. I do the flowers many times to see what can I do to make it better and easier. Trying to find cutters and veiners that are easily accessible. I teach them so people can make pretty flowers for their cakes that look realistic. But I always tell them that for competitions they can make the flowers even more realistic. It's a matter of taking what I taught a step farther.

MBM: What made you decide to start the DVD series?

Edna: People started asking me for the DVD's. It was never something I thought of doing, but people wanted more information and details on how to make beautiful flowers and actually even how do I make my cakes. I did it for those who asked.

MBM: Your DVDs are great! What can we look forward to in the future?

Edna: I have a list of things people ask me to do. I usually need to find the best and easiest materials and ways to do the flowers. So the DVD usually comes after I gather all the info I need for my DVD. My DVD's are not about selling one way to do a flower, it shows options so people can achieve the flowers in different ways. Not everyone has the same materials or they have some things that they can use already. I dont do DVD's to try to sell materials. I do DVD's so people can learn to do flowers. And my goal is to give them options so they can choose what is easier for them to do.

MBM: Which is your favourite flower to create?

Edna: Roses are my favorite flowers..

MBM: Who would you love to design a cake for?

Edna: Oh..Good idea!

MBM: What is your favourite cake flavour?

Edna: I love cake! I love Key lime, Amaretto, and Rum Cakes.

MBM: What is the one cake decorating tool you absolutely can't live without?

Edna: My Celboard and Ball Tools are a must!

MBM: How much lead time is there in producing a DVD before it is available for sale?

Edna: It takes me a few months to film a DVD. I have so many things to deal with and filming does take more time than people realize. I have a family, a house and a son to take care of too. My days are crazy. And my emails too. Sometimes the only time I have to answer emails is at 1 am to 2 am. I keep trying but it's getting harder to answer all of them. I came back from ICES really sick and my inbox is packed. It can be overwhelming. But I do try my best to keep in touch with my cake friends. [Edna does reply to her cake pals often and timely - I know that for a fact ;) ]

MBM: How do you decide which flowers you will teach in the DVD?

Edna: People want for me to have the cutters available. Making sure I can get them for them is important for me so I make sure I can get them for them or at least they are easy so find.

The beautiful Edna!

MBM: It is no secret, you are one of my cake crushes! Do you have any cake crushes?

Edna: Thanks for the compliment! You are a sweetheart! I love Kerry Vincent for her passion and her drive to put the sugar world on the map. I love Colette Petters, Mike McCarey, but there are so many of them out there it would take me pages to mention them all.

MBM: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Edna: My inspiration can come from everything. I love fabrics because I started as Fashion Designer. But I see art in anything..

MBM: What piece of advice can you offer up and coming cake artists?

Edna: Some people have art already in their veins and things can be learned really easy. Others have the desire to learn but they feel they don't have the art. I always say, if you have the passion, it can be learned. Practice is very important. I still practice to this day, and never think you know it all.. The day people think they know it all is the day they stop learning, and there is so much out there to be learned..

Stay tuned for more to come in the next month or so....I have ALOT going on, including a review of Edna's latest DVD!

Until Next Time,
Happy Caking!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Baker's Dozen - Scott Clark Woolley

When I first began delving into the sweet world of cake design, I did a lot of research online (I still do!).  One of the ways I continue to learn is through DVD.  Some of the best DVDs for making sugar flowers, are those by Scott Clark Woolley.  Scott's lessons are straight forward and clearly laid out to guarantee success!  When you are done reading this interview, please head over to Scott's website and check it out!  He has everything you need to make beautiful works of sugar art!  Check out the interview:

Morsels By Mark: How did you get into the world of cake?

Scott Clark Woolley: In between singing and acting work from 1978-1987, I preferred selling deserts to local restaurants from my apartment, and then cakes privately, to avoid having to waiter for regular monies. As a kid I always loved making deserts for the family.  All my knowledge in the kitchen is self taught.

MBM: Your flowers are some of the most realistic out there. How do you go about developing the techniques you teach?

SCW: I sat down for ten years and studied each flower and its process thoroughly, developing my own way of working.  I never took a cake decorating class, and only two, one day classes with two experienced gum paste artists in 1988.  All the rest of the gum paste techniques I developed were discovered by trusting myself and delving into the art form deeply.

MBM: Congratulations on the re-printing of your book, "Cakes By Design" ! Any plans for a follow up book?

SCW: Not in my plans. With publishing, one gives up one's power and energy too much I found out. So all my focus is on creating a long series of DVDs on the subject of cake and gum paste flowers. That way, I get to decide everything and am totally in power.

MBM: Your DVDs are great! What can we look forward to in the future?

SCW: I am working now on "Holiday Flowers in Sugar," my DVD #7. Planned for the future are many DVD sets covering Spring, Summer, Fall, Aquatic, and more wedding flowers in sugar.

MBM: Which is your favourite flower to create?

SCW: I enjoy creating any members of the Orchid family like the Cattleya taught in my DVD#1, or the Cymbidium, one of five flowers taught in my DVD#3 "Sugar Orchids.". And of course, my greatest challenge was the Passion Flower, each flower taking 3-4 hours to create. And too, butterflies are my symbol in life for personal transformation. So in sugar, they are a great pleasure to paint and sculpt.

MBM: Who would you love to design a cake for?

SCW: I am not star struck since I was in show business. I prefer working for more humble people who are not so desperate for attention and who do not generally demand as much.

MBM: What is your favourite cake flavour?

SCW: My lemon cake recipe in my book, "Cakes By Design" was voted by students at the French Culinary Institute as their favorite version of that cake in all the books in their library.

MBM: What is the one cake decorating tool you absolutely can't live without?

SCW: My quality chrome balltool. Throw away the horribly seamed, plastic balltool by Wilton, people!
It destroys beauty and sugar flowers. Wilton should be ashamed of its cheap plastic set which diminishes the art form. To describe how the Wilton industry can be greedy with its use of plastics, I reference the career advice given to "The Graduate" in the 60's movie....a man whispers in his ear, "Plastics!" That was to show how our society has reduced quality in everything by using plastics too much with only the almighty dollar in mind.

MBM: How much lead time is there in producing a DVD before it is available for sale?

SCW: I take about one year to create each one. I do all the camera work, scoring and editing myself. My latest, DVD#6, "Practical Tips before Starting a Cake Art Business" took two years to create and cost $30,000 worth of cartoon animations to illustrate everything I wanted said visually. I enjoyed too doing all the voices for the cartoon characters, including my evil character named, Gertrude Gautrocks, of "Gautrocks Unlimited." She is the consummate symbol of the rich, controlling, spoiled, East Side customer that I frequently had to deal with in New York City. The animation makes the DVD set entertaining as well as informative teaching how to win the power play that always occurs at cake consultations.

MBM: How do you decide which flowers you will teach in the DVD?

SCW: Not all flowers apply best to wedding and specialty cakes. I try to teach those flowers that I found very useful and practical in the creation of my cakes for three decades. Also the flower categories as described above will help select what goes into each DVD set. In the first one though, I chose the most important wedding flowers to get the series of DVDs going.

MBM: Any plans on teaching live in the future?

SCW: After twenty years doing that, I have closed my school, "The Academy of Cake Art," permanently. I then moved to a new house near Albany to create DVDs and sell gum paste products online.  A one time class is fine for learning, but the repetitive use of DVD lessons with all the steps in perfect order, makes it easier to learn and practice with me. In my DVDs, I don't just teach steps, but constantly adjust a viewer's technique, sharing as well, all the years of experience teaching those flowers in person.

MBM: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

SCW: Nature all around me.

MBM: What piece of advice can you offer up and coming cake artists?

SCW: Try not to focus on getting attention and fame too soon. When you are ready, Spirit will put you in the spotlight when your work is refined. That takes years to accomplish. If you rush too soon to a store front or wanting fame, it will be a flash in the pan. A wise "master builder," when forming his powerful pyramid structure, creates a firm foundation before moving upwards to the next level, otherwise, the structure will collapsed. Let go of ego gratification! Just love what you are doing and beauty will spring forth from one's hands eventually! The result will be timeless and an example for future generations of what commitment to one's art form can truly achieve.

Peace and Light of Creation,


Thanks Scott for such a great interview!  Be sure to visit Scott's site and see everything he has to offer.  To see trailers from Scott's DVD's:

See what people are saying about Scott's DVDs:

Check out Scott on Facebook:

Keep checking back - later this week I'll have a review of a new online store I stumbled across, as well as another baker's dozen with yet another of my cake crushes!

Until Next Time,
Happy Caking!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

DVD Review - Jennifer Dontz' Sensational Sugar Flowers Volume 2 - Cymbidium Orchids

Hello Cake Boys and Girls!

I know it's been a while, but life has been hectic!  My wife has returned from her 6 week business trip to India, I have been working on a few different projects, including a holiday flower dvd which is in progress as I write this, and what else?  Oh yeah!  I tried out for TLC's Next Great Baker, but didn't make the cut!  It's all good though, it just leaves more time to focus on growing my cake business! 

A few posts ago, I wrote about a recent class I took with Jennifer Dontz in Ottawa, Canada.  Over the past year, Jen and I have become friends, and I can honestly say she is one of the nicest people I have ever met - I consider her a true friend for life!  I picked Jen up at the Ottawa Airport, and Jen was kind enough to divulge to me that her next DVD would be coming out soon and that it was on one of the flowers we were doing in class -the Cymbidium Orchid!  Needless to say, I told her to hold a copy for me and as soon as the announcement was made that the DVD was out, I paid and she shipped!  Jen is great that way - her shipping is always reasonable (man can she pack alot in to one of those flat rate packages!) and fast!

My DVD came in the mail today, and even though I have a bazillion projects that need to get done before I return to my day job next week (yes I am on "vacation" this week), I needed to watch it right away.  Keep in mind it is sweltering here in Montreal, and I should have been by the pool, but I am an ADDICT!  I popped the disc in and kicked back with a coke zero to enjoy 97 minutes of sugar bliss!

In the second installment of her Sensational Sugar Flowers series (roses were first), Jen walks you through step-by-step on how to make Cymbidium Orchids.  Not only does Jen teach how to make them with wired petals, but she also shows an unwired method as well!  By the end of the DVD you have learned how to make the beautiful and much requested green cymbidium orchid.  I can vouch for the realsim seeing as we made them in class.  I actually brought it in to the office to give to my sister who had a fresh cut green cymbidium on her desk and you cannot tell the difference (except for a few days later when the live one is now mulch)!  Jen also offers up two different variations in an ivory cast flower and a pink version that uses her "berry" dust recipe (which she offers up on the DVD).

Along with the Cymbidium, Jen includes her techniques for making Ivy to use as a filler along side the flower.  She show in detail how to color the ivy to give it the variations required to make it look like real ivy!

The DVD is available on Jen's website, sugardelites.  She also offers two package deals - one that includes the cutters and veiners, and another for the Ivy!  All of Jen's cutters and veiners are great quality, they are my first choice whenever possible!  As you know, I have learned from some of the best in the industry, and I can tell you for certain, Jen's flowers are the most realistic I have ever seen!  This is because Jen used to work in a flower shop, and is familiar with the way the petals should look, move and feel!  She uses different pastes for different flowers to achieve the most realistic results!  The DVD is well priced and definitely a must have for all sugar artists.

And if you have the opportunity to tak a class with Jen, you get a quality lesson for your $$$.  Sign up for her newsletter or check the class page on her site for updates on when and where she will be teaching.  I am trying to get her to Montreal for fall 2012, so keep posted her for updates on that as well.

Jen and I in class, May 2011

That's it for now.  Keep checking back in the next few weeks, I am workking on a few new interviews and will also be posting pics and info on my Fall & Winter classes at Creations Gourmandes in Ste-Catherine Quebec, Canada

Until Next Time,
Happy Caking!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Incredible Baker's Dozen! Food Network Personality - Kerry Vincent!

Hello Cake Boys & Girls!

If you are a faithful reader of the blog, you are well familiar with the Baker's Dozen feature.  You all loved my last interview with Ashley Vicos.  I do also check my comments section to see what you have to say as well.  Imagine my surprise when I had a comment posted by the one and only - Kerry Vincent!  Kerry was teasing me and asking if she was not one of my "cake crushes".  I have Kerry as a friend on Facebook, but had never really had a conversation with her on there - I mean come on - it's KERRY VINCENT!  Anywho, I messaged her to see if it really was her or just one of my cake friends pulling my leg.  Low and behold, it was Kerry.

 I took it upon myself to muster the courage and ask her to participate in a baker's dozen.  You have requested her and until then, honestly I was a bit intimidated to approach her.  She said yes!  Instead of my usual e-mail format, Kerry requested we do the interview over the phone - ummmmm, OK!  LOL.  I spent almost an hour and a half with Kerry on the phone and we had an amazing conversation.  I am now happy to share the result with you:

Morsels By Mark: Hi Kerry! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. I know my readers will appreciate it! I guess the first thing everyone wants to know is, how did you get your start in the world of cake?

Kerry Vincent: It’s my pleasure thanks for the invite.

I travelled with my husband while he worked abroad and during and before my marriage I have lived in 9 countries. The travelling expat life led into cake!

I got started in the world of cake quite by accident! During this time I took classes wherever I was living to fill in time while my husband was travelling elsewhere. I've studied at the Cordon Bleu, taken classes in Holland, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mexico and the US. I took pastry classes, savoury, whatever was available it didn't matter! I would cater my own parties, but the desserts were my favourite and I became very well known for my spectacular dinner finales’ as I liked to call them, especially in diplomatic circles.

When I finally ended up in the US, a friend in an emergency had asked me to take over some of the catering at her son's wedding, so I offered to do the cake. I was familiar with rolled fondant but knew nothing about using it. I thought that would be the expected medium so was relieved to discover that my friend only wanted buttercream.

I knew I could bake a great cake and was a competent patisserie decorator but the rest was a foreign language. Immediately I started asking questions then took a five-minute crash course making buttercream roses at a local cake supply shop; the shop was empty so I just leant over the counter chatting with the owner as she demonstrated how to make a buttercream rose before I bought the equipment. I practiced a bit and told my friend that I felt I could do it. I baked everything from scratch and really thought this was a onetime deal. I did not count on being bombarded with requests from bridesmaids, one in particular kept asking, so I said OK for this one time, but then came more bridesmaids and the business grew from there – I bought books and taught myself. I took commission orders and baked in rented kitchens. It was a natural gift. But who knew? It was not the plan. I closed the business in 2001 and moved onto Challenge, which I love!

MBM: How did the OSSAS get started?

KV: The OSSAS started the superstardom of cake. In 1993, the first competition was the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show (OSSAS) Maxine Boyington and I were cofounders, started the event as a place for artists to come together. Later Maxine left to compete instead of organize. The Grand National Wedding Cake Competition, which I founded, was born in 1996 and it has exploded from there.

MBM: How did your partnership with Food Network (FN) come about?

KV: In 2002, FN did a special on the OSSAS. At the time they were looking for judges for a new show. Apparently they liked what they saw on camera and they contacted me asking if I would like to judge, and the rest is history.

MBM: How has Challenge evolved over the years?

KV: Over the years we have travelled less for Challenge, in the beginning it was city after city, but now we have a massive new studio with state of the art equipment. It has been an amazing transition, and as long as the ratings are there, may there be Challenge! It is tougher now and more formal than in the beginning. We started with catering tables and pipe and drape and now the stage is completely custom made.

MBM: Do you think cake TV is beneficial four our industry?

KV: Cake TV is fabulous for the industry. It has set a sleepy giant on fire! Cake decorators are having the time of their lives in this new atmosphere. Everyone wants to be a star. Contestants should not squander these magnificent opportunities! Challenge should be used to forward professional careers – it is free publicity!

MBM: People tend to think Challenge is scripted and you are told what to say. Is that true?

KV: Challenge is definitely not scripted. Anyone who knows me understands I ONLY say what I think. Winners are not pre-selected. I would NEVER join a show that did this. Each judge has their own score sheet, which they fill out separately from one another.

MBM: Why do you think Challenge has outlasted Ultimate Cake Off (UCO)?

KV: UCO was not successful, because it was a Challenge knock-off. Plain and simple!

MBM: The editors on Challenge tend to paint you as the “bad cop”. This is not your true character, right?

KV: I am definitely NOT mean, nasty or cruel. When I am making my comments, I am talking ONLY about the cake, and cake does not have feelings! What is not known is that I actually go around before filming starts and visit with the competitors to talk with them and let them get to know me and when it is over I visit with them all winner and losers to help them decompress.

MBM: It is great that we have started seeing Canadians on Challenge now. How did that happen?

KV: I am actually an advocate for Canada – there are many talented artists there and I helped get Canadians on, starting with Alexandria Pellegrino from Cake Opera Co. Mentoring and promoting the art is my mission in life. There are many talented artists in Australia and the UK as well; it is just a matter of distance and expense in getting them here.

MBM: What is your take on “borrowing” inspiration?

KV: Give credit where credit is due! This is true for techniques, design ideas and so on. For example I invented inlay in 1986, it is known as Vincent Marquetry. And I certainly don't mind if people use or show the technique, in fact I encourage it, but they should give the background and not claim it as their own!

MBM: The cake industry has come a long way over the years. Do you think the old school buttercream decorating will make a re-appearance, or is fondant here to stay?

KV: Everything old is new again! Buttercream hasn’t gone anywhere; there is enough room for both. Take Groom's cakes for example – they originated in Victorian England, and they are making their way into the mainstream again and have always been part of the deep south USA.

MBM: We still haven't seen Last Cake Standing in Canada yet, but I've heard it's different. How so?

KV: The first season of LCS was part of Challenge. This time around, it is own entity and has upped the ante - $100 000! Lots of twists and turns.

[MBM - I have seen LCS and it is a great season!]

MBM: What advice do you have for artists that would like to compete on Challenge?

KV: Know what you are doing, understand the fundamentals of your craft; be good at cake. Basic classes are NOT enough for one to be a competitor! Know and be honest about your strengths! Wait until the time is right and the skill sets are there!

There you have it - a better glimpse into who Kerry Vincent is!  If you would like to learn even more about Kerry, please visit: or scroll down and click on the cake story once there. Here's the direct link to the video: check out the May 21 episode where Kerry was featured on the Discovery Oklahoma 20th Anniversary show!

More interviews are in the works - keep letting me know who you want to see on here!

Until Next Time
Happy Caking!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Return Of James Rosselle

Hello faithful readers!  As you are all well aware, in April I spent an amazing 3 days learning sugar flowers from the Uber talented Food Network Superstar, James Rosselle!  Imagine my excitement today when it was confirmed that May 11-13,2012,  James will be returning to Icing Inspirations in Kitchener, ON.  But that is not all - James is bringing along a VERY SPECIAL guest - his BCF!  That's right cakers - James and Marina will be teaching at Icing Inspirations together!  And what a value!  For $895 CAD, here is what you get:

As we all know Current fashion trends are an endless source of inspiration for cakes and we’ll zero in on the glittery accessories that will make your cakes simply sparkle! We will explore the various techniques and mediums available to translate top trends into flowing fabric like haute couture confections. We will work with fondant, gumpaste, royal icing, gelatin, white chocolate, isomalt, sugar pearls, luster dusts & shimmering disco dusts! Techniques will include draping, embossing, in-laid design modern bows, knots, piping, hand painting, dry brushing, airbrushing and as a bonus you’ll get to make (and take!) your own custom mold! AND, of course.... they'll be dazzling gum paste flowers - all "blinged" up to fit perfectly into our newest bejeweled multi-tiered confection!

The price does not include taxes, but does include a catered lunch and all tools required in class.  Chrissie and the gang at Icing Inspirations went oput of their way to make us all feel like family and I was sad to leave!  Now the count down has begun!  Thanks to Icing Inspirations for making this remarkable class happen!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jennifer Dontz (insert high-pitched voice) ROCKS!

I have just returned from a great trip to Ottawa for 4 days.  Thursday, I gave a gumpaste shoe class to a group of students including my good friend Lorrie Gauthier of Eat Dessert First.  It was a lot of fun and the creativity that oozed from the students was phenomenal! 

The following day was an early one!  I was up early from sheer excitement - excitement of knowing I was about to embark on 3 days of sugar flowers with Jennifer Dontz!  My faithful reader will remember I took a 2 day class with Jen last year and she was also my very first interview in Baker's Dozen.  This time around, we learned the magnolia, peony, cymbidium orchid, moth orchid, lily of the valley, pansy, and the Jen Dontz creation - a blood orange lily!  I haven't completed my flowers just yet (just need to steam em) so pics will be posted later.  But for now, here's a pic of Jen clowning around and giving my bottom a squeeze:

Jen is so fun to work with!  I can't wait for her to return!  On a plus side - not only did I learn amazing techniques and meet some new sugar friends, I also was invited by back by Lorrie to have a DVD launch class when my first ever DVD launches this fall!  How exciting is that?  Here's a pic of me and Lorrie in class:

All in all it was a great weekend.  I have a lot to do while my wife is away on a 6 week business trip to India - including planning the dvd, tons of orders, and today, I have been re-organizing my cake studio!

Until next time,
Happy Caking!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baker's Dozen with Cake Superstar Ashley Vicos!

Hi cake boys and girls!  Well - you asked for her and I got her!  That's right - Ms. Ashley Vicos agreed to do a baker's dozen with moi!  And I'm happy because I have now interviewed my tri-fecta of cake crushes - Lauren, Sharon and no Ms. Ashley!  The timing on this couldn't be better - well at least for our friends in the USA.  Ashley's new show, "Have Cake, Will Travel" airs this Sunday on Food Network USA (hopefully FN Canada won't wait forever to air it!).

Morsels By Mark: Congratulations on your new Food Network show, “Have Cake, Will Travel” premiering on Food Network in the US at the end of April! Unfortunately as I've mentioned to you, Food Network here in Canada takes FOREVER to air good cake TV! Thank you so much for taking the time out to do the interview, I can't imagine how hectic your world is right now! I know my readers appreciate it. When I put it out there that I was looking for suggestions on who to interview, you received a lot of the votes!   Let's get started, I know my readers are anxious to see what you have to say!  Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get started in the industry?

Ashley Vicos: I definitely have one of those cliche stories, but alas, it is the truth.................I got an easybake oven at the age of 5 & started carving my cakes into shapes that young.......By the time I was in middle school & highschool I made all of my own cakes as well as cakes for my girlfriends. I attended an academic college and got an unreleated degree, but made cakes on the side throughout school. By the time I graduated, I knew that all I wanted to do for a living was create amazing cakes; not have a 9-5 job inside a building. I stuck my diploma in a file cabinet and never looked back. Though I am totally self-taught, it is my love and passion and I have no regrets of the road I chose!

MBM: Where do you pull inspiration from for your designs?

AV: Inspiration can come from anywhere!!!! Because I do such custom work for VERY specific people and events my cakes have to reflect that personnel element! So, with my clients, most of my inspiration comes from them and their events. I create cakes that are intended to be a centerpiece & a focal point, so they have to match perfectly as well as be able to draw a crowd with a WOW factor!

MBM: You competed in Food Network Challenges and Ultimate Cake Off. How do you prepare for a challenge and do you get nervous about competing?

AV: Prepare??? what does that mean :)

I don't know if anyone can actually prepare for those challenges............all the preparation in the world could never prepare you for how crazy, intense, & exhausting on every level those challenges actually are. Additionally, those challenges are very expensive to compete in b/c of all of the structure, electric components, & sheer volume of cake. I have never totally practiced any cake I have done on tv, & some of them I have practiced NOTHING on at all...... The most that I have really ever done is practice some of the more difficult elements on a cake. For instance, on my Food Network Shrek cake, I did make 3 donkeys before hand. He is such an iconic character, I wanted to make sure that I had his features nailed!

MBM: You have a new show about to air on FN. How did that come about?

AV:  Perseverance! It is something that I have wanted for a loooooong time & I set it as a goal & never let a "no" defeat me. Like in most industries, there is always rejection, always the word no, always people that don't believe in you, etc..... What it comes down to is really how far you are willing to push yourself and stand back up when you fall. At the end of the day it was my dream and no one else' for me it was worth fighting truly is my passion and other's can feel that too.

MBM: If you were to describe yourself as a cake, what kind would you be and why?

AV: Well, you didn't say flavor; so I am going to go with what style of cake I would be.......I would be a 3D cake larger than life, yet very literal. You could stare at it for hours & keep seeing new things and lots of cool details, but you will never wonder what something is.........there is nothing abstract about me, & if you are guessing or making assumptions, you are thinking way too hard!

MBM: Along with Lauren Kitchens and Sharon Zambito, you are one of my cake crushes. Do you have any cake crushes?

AV: I think that we all have people that leave us in awe......The direction of my career changed when I was introduced to Earlene Moore's work; specifically her 3D grooms cakes......I saw a whole new aspect of the industry &decided that was the direction I was going to go!!! Mike McCarey is the decorator whose work still leaves me speechless even today. He is at the top of the game for me and still inspires me to push my own work further!

MBM: What is your favourite cake flavour?

AV: I don't know if I have a favorite cake flavor.......cake isn't my favorite dessert :) I am a creme brulee or tiramisu kind of girl!!!

MBM: What is the one cake toy you cannot live without?

AV: Going to sound weird, but I have a little tiny black palette knife that I cannot decorate without!!!! Second in line would be my set of miniature gumpaste tools!!

MBM: Do you really decorate in your stilettos? I must say, you are probably the most fashionable cake artist I have ever seen!

AV: I decided looooong ago in my life that I was never going to change who I was in order to fit in or get further in life or my profession. People can love or hate me, my look, my red lipstick, my hair, my cleavage, whatever it is!!!! You can't please everyone and if you try to, you are the one who ends up unhappy. NO, I do not decorate cakes in stilettos.........that's just crazy talk :) Though I do very frequently have to set cakes up or do on location finishing touches wearing them!

MBM: What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

AV: My momma has given me advice my whole life...........& though I rolled my eyes a lot when I was younger, it worked because it has all stuck with me. The one piece of advice that she gave me that has benefitted me in every aspect of my life, business and career is "Always start off like you want to end up!"
I use that advice in every part of my life

MBM: Who would you love to design a cake for?

AV: There are a lot of people that I would like to design a cake for............usually only to be able to meet them in person :)  At the moment Enrique Iglesias is on my radar ;)

MBM: What was your favourite competition to do?

AV: I can honestly say that I have been proud of every cake that I have ever done, whether they won or favorite competition was probably Disney Classic Cakes, where I made the queen from Snow White because it was my first competition & still makes me laugh when I watch it or Ringling Bros because it was my first Big Win!!!

MBM: What advice can you give people reading this?

AV: Follow your passion, no matter what it is & don't let other people hold you down or bring you down!!!!
Life is way too short to live out some else's desire for your life, or work in a job you hate, or have an empty spot in your being that's unfulfilled.......

MBM: Ashley, again, I cannot express how grateful I am that you took the time to do this! Good luck on the new show – I'm sure it will be a smash hit! Hopefully we get it here sooner than later!  PS – Do you plan on teaching still? If so, any chance we can get you to come to Canada? Montreal is a gorgeous city, and I'm sure my wife would love to shop with you :)

AV: Yes, I still teach and love to teach. Though I have not been outside the continental usa yet, I have my passport and I'm ready to go as soon as opportunity presents itself because "I Have Cake,& I Will Travel" ;)

That's it for now!  Keep the requests coming.  Let me know who else you'd like interviewed and I'll do my best to make it happen.  We are still waiting on the winner of our Sharon Zambito DVD to contact me with their shipping info.  "Sharon" if you're reading this, contact me with your address.

Until Next Time,
Happy Caking

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

3 Days of Sugar Fun with James Rosselle at Icing Inspirations

I have mentioned many times that I would be studying with Food Network Challenge winner and sugar flower king extraordinaire, James Rosselle. I have spent an amazing 3 days honing my own skills and making new friends as well as seeing old ones. One of the highlights of this trip was finally getting to meet my BCF (Best Cake Friend) Chrissie – owner of Icing Inspirations and Too Nice To Slice and her husband Justin. Chrissie and I have been friends online for about two years, and it was great to finally get to meet her. She and Justin opened their home to me and made me feel very welcome (Thanks for the hospitality guys!!!). Now on to class. James has long been one of my idols in the industry, and on my wish list of instructors that I would like to learn from. Seeing as I was staying with my BCF, that also meant I was spending time outside of class with James. Not intimidating at all – right? RIGHT! James is one of the most real and down to earth individuals I have ever met. He is genuinely a super nice guy – and what you see on TV – is what you get – he oozes talent!!

                                                         James and I at the end of Day 3
Day 1: The first day of class with a new instructor is always intimidating. You don't know their style or expectations. James is really laid back and easy to learn from. His instructions are clear and concise. He spends a lot of time checking on students individually and offers constructive criticism and words of encouragement. Today, we worked on Cherry Blossom buds and centres, Orchid columns and throats, Lily petals and centres, Tulip petals and centres, and Iris centres. James took us step by step through each process and made sure we were comfortable before moving on. The day went by very fast and before we knew it, we were done for the day. What a feeling of accomplishment! I went home feeling exhausted but ready for the next day.

                                                           James taping some stamen
Day 2: The second day of classes was chock full of activity! We finished the petals for our orchids, iris petals, and cherry blossom petals. We also worked on our foliage for the orchids, irises, lilies, and cherry blossoms. James also had us cover a cake dummy and adorn it with textured butterflies. We also learned one of James' tricks for covering a cake board to make it look extra special! I also learned a new way to roll fondant that was super easy and now will be the new way I do it! Chrissie and Justin being the super great hosts that they are, arranged a fantastic class dinner at a local restaurant. It was great to be able to socialize with James and everyone outside of class as well.
                                                     James with my table-mates and I

                         Me, James and my BCF (Best Cake Friend) Chrissie (owner of Icing Inspirations)
Day 3: The final day of classes was another busy day! James had us taping and dusting flowers all day long, then had us arranging the flowers in an arrangement on top of the cake dummies we covered yesterday. I felt bad for James today since he had to listen to all of us complaining about our braking Iris petals! He also had to spend quite a bit of time on one student in particular as shown in the picture below. Just kidding Lorrie – you know I love you like an older sister – a much MUCH older sister! All in all we had a fantastic class! Thank you again to our hosts Chrissie and Justin – your classroom is the best I have ever learned in – so much space to move and create, and your hospitable attitude made us all feel welcome and like one of the family! I also want to thank Stephanie of The Little Mushroom for the amazing catered lunches! Last, but definitely not least, I want to thank James for a Rooting great class! I am one exhausted caker, but am looking forward very much to my next trip to Icing Inspirations for another class!

                                                       Lorrie getting caught goofing off!

                       James helping Lorrie - AGAIN!  (In all honesty, Lorrie is very talented and
                                                      capable, she's just alot of fun to bug!)

                                                              My almost finished project

That's it for now!  I'll be back with more interviews and reviews very soon!

Happy Caking!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sharon Zambito DVD Giveaway Winner!!!

Hi everyone!  I have had an action packed weekend here in Kitchener (New post to follow soon).  I did howvere take time out to have our winner picked and instead of using, I asked my BCF Chrissie`s daughter Emma to pick a number.  Out of the 20 eligible entries, she chose #3.  Our winner Sharon says, "Sharon is awesome in every video that I have, and I have several. One of my favorite Lagniappe segments is the one on cake balls!!! Thanks, Sharon!".  Congratulations Sharon, please e-mail me your details and I'll get the disc out to you as soon as I receive it!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Baker's Dozen with the Sensational Sharon Zambito - plus Giveaway!

Hello Cakeland!  I know it's been awhile, but teaching has been keeping me busy, not to mention entering a cake on a competition where the design had to be based on a ball gown (I'll post once voting is done).  I have also been trying to squeeze out cake orders and get ready to leave to study 3 days with James Rosselle and finally meet my BCF (Best Cake Friend) Chrissie Boon of Icing Inspirations and Too Nice To Slice fame!  In the mean time, I am extremely happy to bring you an interview with one of my favourite cake artists and someone who was highly requested by you, my readers.  This guest is well known for her informative and entertaining DVDs and also for being falsely "bleeped out" on a popular cake competition show (the things producers will do for ratings!).  If you haven't guessed yet, it is the one, the only.....Sharon Zambito! 

Morsels By Mark: Hi Sharon. Let me start by first saying thank-you for taking time out of your busy production schedule to do this interview! You are one of the people I gravitated towards on message boards, and then for DVD's in my search for knowledge. You are very insightful and always helpful!

Sharon Zambito: Thank you very much, Mark, for those kind words. I am honored and happy to do this!

MBM:  Let's get started! What got you into the cake industry?

SZ:  Like many folks, my initial interest was to learn how to make simple cakes for family, and my future children. I was always into arts and crafts, and have tried my hand at many things. At the time I was about 22 and newly married, and took a beginner class at a local cake shop with my older brother. (Yes, he is cool like that!)

MBM:  Correct me if I am wrong, but like me, you are pretty much self-taught right?

SZ:  Well, I personally don't like to say self taught, because I feel like I learned everything from someone, somewhere. Whether it was in a formal class, or a magazine article, a video, or just chat on a message board, most of the skills I have learned were introduced to me by other generous decorators. But in the sense that you asked the question, other than one beginner course, I have no real formal training. A lot of trial and error and some informal classes, workshops, books, and lots of help from other artists.

MBM: What do you like about the cake industry?

SZ: The cake world has provided me with some of the very best, truest friends I have ever had in my life. These people and experiences have enriched my life in ways I never thought possible. I love the sense of community and sharing that we have. And I just soak in the creativity and excitement that being exposed to other artist's and their work provides.

MBM:  What do you dislike about the industry?

SZ:  I don't like the "class warfare" that sometimes pops up. Pastry chefs vs cake decorators, scratch vs boxed mix, shortening buttercream vs cooked meringues. That sort of thing. I don't like seeing us fight among ourselves over such things. I think we all have our place, and we are all equally valid and valuable. I would rather see us all on the same side, promoting the art and profession of cake.

MBM: It's no secret, I have admittedly said it to various people, you are my “cake crush” (I'm a sucker for a southern accent). Do you have any cake crushes, and if so, who are they?

SZ: LOL, you are funny. BTW, what accent? But seriously, my cake heroes are the folks who have been around for years, some decades, working on the front line of cake decorating. The pioneers if you will. The guys and gals who have been sharing information and techniques through demos, classes, published articles, and free advice, without gaining recognition or riches for it. To name a few those would be: Earlene Moore, Betty Van Norstrand, Kathy Finholt, Rebecca Sutterby, Susan O'Boyle Jacobsen, and so many more.

MBM: What is your favourite type of cake to create (celebration, wedding,....)?

SZ: Oh man, that is like asking who my favorite child is. I truly do love all kinds of cake. I love weddings, I love fun party cakes, and sculpted stuff too. ( except vehicles; I hate doing vehicles, LOL). I enjoy doing simple sheet cakes and old fashioned piping as well. It is that variety that keeps the job interesting and stimulating. But if I have to pick just one, I will say wedding cakes. I am just a sucker for romance.

MBM: Not only are you a talented artist, you are a phenomenal teacher and have developed a successful online store. What made you decide to go into DVD production?

SZ: Thank you for that; you are too kind. Going into teaching and the DVD business was a path that was not planned; it kind of just happened. After being on the Internet message boards for many years, I started to get asked to go to days of sharing for small cake clubs to demo my icing technique. That lead to folks asking to have it on video. After a while, I decided to give it a go, and see what that would be like. I had no idea that it would be such a success. I am so very truly blessed to be able to do two things I truly love: cake decorating and teaching. I am really a very lucky girl.

MBM: What is the one cake toy you cannot live without?

SZ: Bench scraper. The end.

MBM: What is your favourite flavour cake?

SZ: Chocolate!!!!!!

MBM:  Tell us a bit about the newest DVD – the stack of books.

SZ: This one is actually a scaled down version of the cake I made for my son's actual high school graduation a few years ago. I try to make DVDs on the topics people ask to see, and this one had a lot of interest, as you can make book cakes for so many different occasions. In this one I show you how to make a 3 stack of books, the wood grain board, an edible frame and diploma, the grad hat, and edible business cards. My son Daniel even makes a cameo appearance. It was a fun one to shoot.

MBM: How do you juggle your busy cake-life with being a mom and wife?

SZ: Not very well, hahahaha. I am not the greatest housekeeper. I don't cook very often. My husband does all the laundry. In fact, he is very good about picking up my slack. I handle almost all of the stuff with the kids. Then my business. And the rest just gets done when it gets done. I live in a state of organized chaos. Ok, just chaos.

MBM: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

SZ: "Strive for excellence, not perfection."

MBM: What is the one thing you'd like all the readers to know about you?

SZ: That I am very messy. Lots of folks write to me, commenting on how neat my kitchen is and how clean I work. That's just TV editing, LOL. I am a very messy worker, and pretty messy in general. The cake work has to be clean, but my environment is a train wreck. LOL

MBM:  Again, thanks so much for taking time out for me. I really hope we can get you here to Montreal next year for a Jenbito class! You'd love Montreal – we have fleur-de-lis everywhere :)

SZ:  Thank you for asking me. It was my pleasure! happy caking everyone!

To check out Sharon's work or to purchase her DVDs and the tools used in them, head over to Now, the fun part!  Sharon has kindly given me a copy of her new Booksmarts DVD to give to one lucky reader!  It has been shipped to me and will be here soon!  In order to win, you MUST leave a comment on this post telling Sharon and I what your favourite piece of Lagniappe is from one of her DVDs!  The winner will be chosen by in one week's time (April 11th to be exact).  I never said it was going to be easy - this is a contest for true fans!

Keep your eyes peeled next week for updates from James' class in Kitchener Ontario.  I also hope to have more class info up soon too.  For now, if you live in the Montreal or Ottawa areas, head on over to and check out the class section for info on how to register for my gumpaste shoe class!

Until Next Time,
Happy Caking!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Guest video tutorial for Decorate The Cake!

Hello cake boys and girls!  I am excited to say that I now have less than 1 month until I fly to Kitchener, ON to lear from James Rosselle.  In the meantime, I am keeping myself extremely busy teaching and caking.  Something else that has been keeping me busy has been my responsibilites as a product tester for Decorate The Cake (featured in a recent favorite places here on the blog).  This time, I have done a video tutorial on making sugar peonies.  Please check it out by visiting Decorate The Cake's blog.

That is it for tonight.  I have to finish getting ready for tomorrow's class.  It is a great group of students that I'll be teaching, and I want to make sure they get edumacated properly!

Until Next Time,
Happy Caking!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mold Making Fun - Online Store Review - Decorate The Cake!

It's been a while since my last post - but hey, Lauren Kitchens is a tough one to follow!  Today, I thought it's time for a new Online store review.  It's no surprise that Decorate the Cake is one of my favourite online stores.  If you are a faithful reader of my blog, you also know that I have recently joined forces with DTC as one of their product testers and guest bloggers - a job I take very seriously (especially since it is ALOT of fun!).

The owner, Melissa, makes all of the molds and veiners to order!  Her floral veiners and molds are the most realistic I have ever seen and used - probably because she uses real flowers and leaves to cast her originals!  Her customer service and response time are out of this world!  I have never been disappointed with anything I've ever received from DTC, and they often offer free shipping on orders over $100!  DTC works with many sugar artists to bring you molds and veiners that they use in their instruction.  Whenever possible, DTC is the place I go to ensure my students get good quality tools!  In fact, students that will be taking my upcoming high heel class, will not be going home with just their creation, but with a DTC heel mold as well so that they can make more shoes!
That's it for today.  I'm off to work on macaroons.  There are also more interviews and contests on the way.  I like getting feedback from you guys, so keep the comments coming!

Until next time, Happy Caking!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Another Guest Tutorial at Decorate The Cake's Blog by Yours Truly!

Hello fellow cakers!  As divulged last week, I have been working on another guest tutorial for one of my favourite online shops - DTC!  A special thank-you to Brian of FoamStudio for the ultra fast shipping of the former so that I could complete this project!  Check out the tutorial here:

Until Next Time
Happy Caking!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

You asked for her, and here she is......Baker's Dozen with Lauren Kitchens!

Hello cake boys and girls!  At the end of my last post, I asked you who you'd like to see interviewed.  One of those names that received many votes was the beautiful, the talented....Lauren Kitchens!  Within hours of putting the idea out there, Lauren replied and we got the train moving!  She is amazingly talented and we are so lucky to get to pick her brain!

Morsels By Mark: Lauren, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. You are amazingly talented. Where did you learn the trade?

Lauren Kitchens: Thanks so much, Mark. I’m not from the pastry world. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Film and Art History. Throughout college,  I was making cakes and trying to find direction and inspiration beyond the Wilton world. Don’t get me wrong, Wilton has brought cake decorating to the mainstream by making tools and classes available in every city for decades, but I was looking for challenging work to push me. This was about the time when the Internet was starting to boom. But there was still no cake on-line, and certainly no cake-TV.   I was able to get my hands on Colette Peters’ first book. That book was breathing with inspiration and imagination. For a lot of us, she guided cake instruction and decoration into the next generation.

MBM: Who are your inspirations in the cake world?

LK: I am inspired by any cake artist who is able to blaze their own path. Whether it’s Ron Ben Israel with his consistently mind-blowing perfection, Mary and Brenda Maher and their strong artistic presence, or Anne Heap with her delightful style and brilliant mass-marketing…. The list goes on and on.  I continue to be inspired and impressed with cake sculptors. These are the ones who excited me and make me want to be a better artist. Karen Portaleo, Debbie Goard, Roland Winbeckler…. Love them all. Mike McCarey has been the most influential for me as far as setting the bar. His work has changed the way I look at cake decorating and what is possible. He continues to influence the cake world and keep the bar raised to untouchable heights.

MBM: If you were to describe yourself as a cake, what kind of cake would you be and why?

LK: Hmmmmm. Not topsy turvy, not a traditional tiered cake either. Geez, Mark, it’s always hard for me to be introspective. Ok… I will throw the question back at you. If you were to describe me as a cake, what kind of cake would I be?

MBM: You would be a Ron Ben Israel wedding cake - beautiful, yet classic and elegant.  Well structured and awe inspiring!  (Yeah, it wasn't a hard question ;) )
MBM: You are well known for competing on the Food Network. How do you prepare for such a competition?

LK: That’s a difficult, energy sucking, expensive stress machine that I take very seriously, maybe too seriously. Challenge is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Giving birth was easier for me!  In order to succeed it’s vital to have an acute knowledge of the techniques you are bringing to the show, but you have to be organized! If you don’t know how to organize your plan of action, or your kitchen set-up, your timeline or your assistant’s duties,  then you can’t succeed well on that show no matter how talented you are. The show is set up for you to fail because that’s good TV.

     The one thing that is most valuable for me in preparing for a Challenge is to do a timed run-through at my shop. My assistants and I get everything ready, we even arrange our worktables into the layout they have on set. We start the clock and give ourselves 8 hours. I never finish the cake in 8 hours the first time, but at least I know how to tighten up the timeline before we leave for the actual competition.

MBM: What is your favourite flavour of cake?

LK: Any chocolate cake with sea salt caramel and toffee. A little ganache won’t hurt either. I like ‘em dark and a little satly!

MBM: I have to say, I have a small cake crush in you. Do you have any cake crushes?

LK: Mark, you’re such a dork! (MBM: sounds like I'm interviewing my wife!)  That’s sweet.  I have a huge crush on Kate Sullivan in New York. Each of her cakes are precious pieces of art.  Paris Cutler of Planet Cake in Australia. I love her style. And she has managed to turn her cake boutique into a successful school as well.  Wayne and Chuck at Swank Cake…I will look through their Facebook cake portfolio every week to see if they’ve posted new cakes.

MBM: What is the one cake toy you can't live without?

LK: The Ateco round cutter set and my I-wata airbrush.

MBM: You are one of the most popular celebrity instructors out there, especially for your "muppet" cake class - do you have any plans on releasing an instructional DVD on Muppetizing to reach a broader audience?

LK:  My plan for 2012 is to release my first cake instructional DVD. I know I want to focus on cake structure and sculpting because that’s what most decorators ask me about.  The Muppet class is such a fun class to teach, but the interaction that I have with the students would be lost with a DVD. Each student Muppetizes someone they know, so all of the Muppets at the end of the day are different. It’s just as much a caricature class as a modeling chocolate/sculpting class. The students wouldn’t be able to get their specifics needs met with instruction from a DVD. This class requires an intimate setting.  (MBM:  Note to self - try and get LK to Montreal :) )

MBM: What is your favourite thing about our industry?

LK: Facebook. It has become a strong avenue of communication and exposure. It is quickly building up our cake community. I have met many cake decorators and formed important business relationships and friendships through Facebook. It also allows all of us to post pictures of our work and, as well, ask for help. It is invaluable to our industry.

MBM: What is your least favourite thing about the industry?

LK: Yeah right, Mark. Like I’m gonna answer that one.

MBM: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

LK: “Challenge is either won or lost by the time you leave your shop.” – Mike McCarey

MBM: Who would you love to design a cake for?

LK: I would love to make for Andy Warhol. Just a stack of random sculpted cakes like a bike wheel, a cup of soda, a trashcan, and a bowl of cereal.  He would probably stand back and give a quite, “Cool.” He wouldn’t be picky, especially since he defined art as anything and everything around us. Even if the cake had some seams and dings he would say it’s art. Easy customer!

MBM: Do you have any advice for budding cake artists out there?

LK: Yeah. Keep making cakes. Make a cake for any one or any reason. Make a cake just to take a picture of it. And photograph all of your work. Nothing will help you more in your craft than practice. And there are so many resources out there for beginning cake artists. The Internet, books, DVDs, cake shows and competitions, cake TV…. It’s a good time to be a beginner!

Again, I want to really thank you Lauren for taking the time to deliver such a fun interview!  Even in written word your bubbling personality comes through!!!

Keep the requests coming guys!  I will try my best to get you the interviews you want to see!  Have something you want asked, let me know in the comments section and I will build it into that interview!  I have a few more projects in the works for other sites including Decorate The Cake and The Foam Studio.  Keep checking back here for updates as to when they are posted!

Until next time,
Happy Caking!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Baker's Dozen with a legend - Ron Ben Israel!!!!!!!

Hello cake boys and girls!

As many of you know, last November, I was extremely fortunate to learn from the Maestro of sugarflowers, Ron Ben Israel.  Not only is Ron a great mentor, but he is genuinely warm and friendly.  Ron was gracious enough to take time out of his VERY BUSY schedule to sit and answer a few questions, I hope you all enjoy the outcome!

Morsels by Mark:  Hi Ron. Thank-you for taking time out of your hectic schedule to answer these questions. I was stunned in class to learn that you had read the blog!  What drove you to a career in cake?

Ron Ben Israel: It was good to have you in class Mark, and to know that you scheduled your first teaching experience right afterwards.  It was all a chain of events that I never planned on. I started baking professionally in Toronto, ON, while I was taking classes on scholarship with Toronto Dance Theater.

When I moved to France to apprentice with another dance company, I continued supplementing my income baking "Les Brownies" that I learned in Canada. Eventually I ended up in NYC, and by "accident" met Colette Peters while shopping for cake pans. Soon after I took a class with Betty Van Norstrand who became my mentor and friend.  I was in a transitional period in my life, having to retire from dancing, and was able to use my previous art training and discipline in a new exciting way.

MBM: You have background in dance and are accustomed to performing for crowds. Do you get nervous before teaching a new set of students?

RBI: I don't get nervous in front of crowds at all; teaching is delightful for me, as I get to re-asses the materials and improve my methods. The self-doubt and anxiety is kept hidden from the public, and is reserved for uncharted styles and techniques.

MBM: What is your favourite piece of cake decorating equipment?

RBI: A sheeter. We currently have three - a large one for rolling fondant in the kitchen, and mid-sized one for long sugar ribbons, and a small one for sugar flowers.

MBM: You have designed cakes for some pretty high-end customers. Who would you like to design for that you haven't yet?

RBI: I would love to design and deliver a cake in person to the Queen of England.

MBM: Please explain your design process. Where do you go for inspiration?

RBI: Inspiration is everywhere - I talk to the clients about their event so that the cake design will be relevant to them. I start with the cultural background, and end up with the location and the time of the year.

MBM: What is your favourite aspect of the industry?

RBI: Making people happy!

MBM: What is your least favourite aspect?

RBI: When I can't make people happy...

MBM: What is your preferred type of cake to work on (ie Wedding, celebration,...)?

RBI: I am devoted to pretty, romantic, and chic cakes. I would probably never produce funky cakes if I didn't have a crew with such a twisted sense of humor.

Ron teaching how to make a fondant bow
MBM: Do you feel that the influx of cake based tv shows brings positive attention to our craft, or do they just provide our customers with unrealistic expectations (regarding price for size)?

RBI: I am so glad our profession is getting so much exposure on TV; I actually find that prospective clients appreciate more the time, effort, and talent that goes into making cakes.

MBM: Which is your favourite flower to create?

RBI: Roses and Cattleya Orchids. And hyacinth.

Ron and I in class
MBM: Seeing as your classes are so popular, would you ever consider coming out with an instructional DVD?

RBI: I would love to, I just need to find the time.

MBM: What is your favourite flavour of cake?

RBI: Candied Ginger. It's my own recipe, and so far nobody but myself like it.

MBM: What one piece of advice can you give the readers about the world of cake?

RBI: Practice at lot, and get exposure to teachers and professionals who can guide you

Ron has been one of my heros for a long time, and I am so fortunate to have met him and learned from him.  I cannot wait to take more classes from him in the future.  He continues to be a driving force in our indutry and truly is an inspiration! 

Stay tuned for our next Baker's Dozen.....Sharon Zambito.  Sharon and I will discuss her new DVD, and who knows - maybe there'll be something for one of my lucky readers!  I also want to know if there is anyone in particular you'd like interviewd and what you'd like me to ask them!

Until next time
Happy Caking!