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!
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?
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 http://www.sugaredproductions.com/ 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 Random.org 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 http://morselsbymark.weebly.com/ and check out the class section for info on how to register for my gumpaste shoe class!
Until Next Time,