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!


  1. Awesome interview mark, as always. LOVE Sharon Z. Fabulous!!

  2. Great interview!

    For my entry into the contest, I have to say I love the buttercream DVD, especially the bit about the impression mats. Fantastic work, Sharon!!

  3. My most favorite one (of many!) is the one on how to fill your cakes. I always had trouble with the "bulge" until I watched this amazing trick! (in the Flawless Fondant DVD) It has helped me so much - never again have I had that bulge! Thank you Sharon!!

  4. 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!

  5. One of my favorites is on her "Sheetcak!sing the gerber daisy mold and rolling the fondant on the mold itself.
    Thanks you!

  6. For me it was using the really stiff buttercream as the dam when you torte. I would do that but until I saw her do it my buttercream was NEVER that stiff - it clicked when she demonstrated that it is basically almost rolled it is so thick. That and the actual making of the buttercream. Never had such good results until my paddle was totally submerged. Oh man , it's hard to narrow it down. I think also just watching her smooth and level and the attention to detail. I have 2 of her dvds and they are amazing.

  7. I liked the lagniappe on stenciling on a cake. Love that little palette knife!

  8. I love Sharon, I have almost all her DVD's. I have learned a lot from all of them, but the one that I like a little bit more is the Topsy Turvy, how to use ganache!!

  9. Sharon's work has been invaluable to me. I can't thank her enough for sharing such great information! I would have to pull from the first video I ever purchased on buttercream - her recipe for one, and the idea of the super stiff buttercream dam.


  10. Learning your buttercream recipe and watching your video has definatly increased my buttercream skills. Thank you so much for being willing to share your gifts and talents with those of use who envy your work!

  11. I love all the videos I have of hers. My favorite is the buttercream dvd, that "little something extra" with the impression mat. I need a new DVD to watch!!!

  12. I am missing a few videos in the collection but of the one's I do have so far the Perfecting buttercream was when she showed how to get the perfect square corners and then also the impression mat "extra" - I guess I never really let my cake sit long enough before using the impression mat on it and with letting it sit for a longer period of time really lets you get a nice deep impression! :) Thanks Sharon for sharing!

  13. I would have to say my favorite is the bonus on the buttercream dvd on how to achieve sharp corners on a square cake. It made a huge difference on my square cakes.

  14. Pretty much everything I know about caking, I learned from Sharon's videos. My favorite extras have been the impression mat, square corners, and the technique for putting fondant on the cake board to decorate it.

  15. I own two of Sharon's DVD's and have to say I love the Totally Topsy Turvy the best. I especially like the bonus section on cutting and serving a topsy turvy cake. Keep up the great work Sharon!

  16. Love her Boxes and Bows DVD specially making the different style of bows! I also Love her Topsy Turvy DVD showing how to make those ribbon roses!!! simply Love her and I met her in person last year!!!!Good Luck to all of us!!

  17. I have most of her DVDs and love all the them. I have learned so much from them. I also love all her lagniappe, but my favorite have to be the cake pops.

  18. I've only gotten one of her DVDs so far, but it's what took my caking to a whole new level -- the Flawless Fondant. The whole thing, man, I just soaked it in. The stiff dam to prevent the battle of the bulge. And after watching it, my next purchase was the blue silicone mat!

  19. I have 4 of her dvds so far and my favorite lagniappe is on the buttercream dvd where she shows you how to get perfect corners on square cakes. After watching that DVD I got one of those bench scrapers that lies flat on its side and it has made a big difference when I ice my cakes.

  20. Love love love the buttercream basics DVD. That buttercream recipe is to die for!

  21. love the interview with Sharon, she is one of my favourites! I loved her demo of making sunflowers for her cowboy sheet cake. Paula T.