Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Interview - A Very Hoppy Birthday Cake

Can you believe this amazing cake?! 
I think this cake is fabulous!

The talented woman behind this extraordinary cake granted me a brief e-mail interview.
So, off we go.

What's your name?
Megan, but everyone calls me Meg.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I have been married for 5 years, and I have a 3 1/2 yr. old son. I live in downtown Hagerstown, MD, in the hills of Western Maryland.

Tell us a bit about the inspiration for this cake.
Octoberfest is a seasonal favorite among my husband’s friends. Two of them share a birthday, and this was his idea of a fitting shared birthday tribute to their love of beer.

What is this cake comprised of?
This cake is four batches of cake, yellow and devils food, stacked 8 layers high. It's filled and frosted with American buttercream, and covered in rolled marshmallow fondant. The fondant was then airbrushed, and overpiped in more buttercream.

How long have you been baking?
20 years, I started baking in middle school, cookies and muffins, and later moved into breads and cakes.

How long have you been decorating?
12 years

How did you learn your skill?
I initially took a class at the local craft store, and when I found out I loved it, ended up going to culinary school.

What was your first cake decoration project?
A Father’s Day cake for my dad. It was a tie, and it was so awkwardly sized, I only had room to write "Happy Fat Day".

What was your favorite decoration project?
I made 100 3 tier mini wedding cakes once. The bride wasn't a fan of flowers, and wanted to use peacock feathers as toppers on all of them, with coiled gold wire, and gold beads. It was a wild ride.

Have you had a decorating "disaster?"
LOL Yes, as a matter of fact. I made the cake for a sister of a friend of mine's wedding. She was very interested in cake decorating, and wanted to work with me on making handmade gumpaste flowers for her wedding cake.

The day I delivered the four tier cake covered in these one of a kind flowers, the caterer grabbed the cake out of my Jeep while I was getting my tool kit, and tripped, pitching the cake forward in it's box. The top two tiers were repairable, the middle was completely trashed, and the bottom front half was salvageable. The catering manager had the audacity to ask what "I" planned to do about it. She suggested I rent a dummy cake form a local bake shop, and buy sheet cakes to serve from the kitchen. Which was simply not an option.

In the end, I dropped it down to a 3 tier, and left them with the extra half tier to use for service, and I made another bottom, and was decorating it on site 20 minutes before the start of the wedding. The bride didn't even know what happened!

Are there any decorating "experts" you admire?I have recently become very enamored with Mary and Brenda Maher from Chicago's Cakegirls. I really love their style, and they seem like such nice people.

Do you make your decorated cakes from scratch or do you prefer to use a box cake, e.g. for consistency or other reasons?
It depends. For most of the everyday birthday and sheet cakes, I go boxed. They are reliable, and turn out the same every time. For sculpted cakes, and special occasions I make them from scratch. The box cakes tend to bake up rather fluffy, and when you need to carve them, they become flaky and crumbly. I prefer a pound cake consistency for those.

Is it difficult to balance the look of the outside with the taste of the inside of your cakes?
I personally feel that the taste is job one. The outside being pretty is secondary. When you see cakes being made on TV, you see that often times those cakes are baked a week in advance if not more, and they are able to spend days and days decorating them. My personal goal is to have the cake baked and to your table within 12 hours. That way it's moist and tasty.

What cake would you love to try someday?
My husband is a mechanic, and we keep talking about making a PT Cruiser and him taking it to work, so that's my next project cake. That will depend on me having some free time to make it.

Finally, what is your favorite cake to eat?
I am not a big fan of sweets, but if I have to choose, Devils food with white icing. I particularly like that in a cupcake with the nonpareil sprinkles on them, and I tear off the bottom of the cupcake and make an icing sandwich. That's extra yummy when cold. The sprinkles add a nice crunch dimension! you by chance have any pictures of the assembly of this cake - or, the inside?
I thought we might get some shots of the inside of the cake. But Hubby didn't take pictures after all, he was too caught up in the frenzy for cake! No, I don't have any pictures of the assembly of this cake. But, I do have some pictures of a pirate ship I made for a a sweet girl named Katie. (Pictures are below.)

Some follow-up questions:
Which school did you attend?
Baltimore International Culinary College, which dropped the "culinary the year after I started, to gear more towards "hospitality professionals"

Do you work with cakes or pastry as a career?I have, at a commercial bakery, and at several smaller mom and pop places. Currently I've been a SAHM for 4 years, but am returning to a cooking job next week!

If your answer to the above is no - do you sometimes wish you did?I do, and I don't. When I do it everyday, I start to resent it. When I'm not doing it everyday, my imagination can run wild.

Meg - thank you so much for letting us get to know you a bit.And, thanks for sharing 2 of your beautiful cakes with us.Now...for pictures of the Pirate Cake!Arr Mateys!
What is the most challenging project you've ever tried? 
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