When I first discovered cake decorating in the summer of 2011 it had been a year since losing my mother to kidney cancer, a year and a half since losing my grandmother, and I had just been downsized from my job. I was in really rough shape. Most days I felt lost, most nights I jolted awake seeing my mothers face as she looked laying in the hospice bed… gone from this world. I sobbed myself to sleep for months after she passed and the world appeared as though covered in a grey film. The first few months I do not even really remember. At that point I began to explore the cake world, looking around at all the beautiful works of art and wishing I could make them. Then I found Icing Smiles on facebook and sat and read story after story of child after child battling terminal illness- many of whom never got to see their cakes or only lived a short while after. I cried for new reasons then. I made a promise to myself that I would work as hard as I could until I became good enough that Icing Smiles would ask me to make a dream cake for one of these incredible children. In August of 2012 they emailed me asking if I could make a dream cake for a young lady in Oviedo who was living with neuroblastoma and who liked to film make up tutorials on YouTube. My heart leapt in my chest and when they said they had also asked someone else but had not heard back I very fiercely said I will do it! This felt like the most important thing I had ever been asked to do in my life and I knew in my bones that I had to be the one to do it and no one else. I wanted to see what this child looked like and get to know her in some small way so I sat and started watching her videos. And fell in love completely with Talia Castellano. That afternoon I felt my heart crack and I cried so hard for this beautiful child with wisdom in her eyes and mischief in her smile who radiated joy even though she knew this disease would probably take her life. I was in awe of her. Eventually I found out that celebrity was fast approaching her life as the media showed interviews, blogs talked about her and people around the world really sat up and started taking note of this tiny firecracker with the face of an angel. I worked my heart out on her cake. It was the biggest I had ever made at that time, it had a lot of little things to be included that made Talia happy and all I could think about was if this turns out to be this childs last birthday I have to do everything I can to give her the best of me. She is celebrating her very existence. Her birth. Her life. This is the way all families should see their children- as a precious gift that we are not guaranteed to get to keep. Her party was incredible. There were gambling tables, candy and cookie tables, an Elvis, a photo booth, DJ, the works. As I waited, standing out of the way of the friends and family gathering, a hush fell over this huge room. A feeling of excitement. A buzz that I could almost feel against my skin. And I knew she was there. This tiny gorgeous girl in hot pink surrounded by all of her sweet friends. A crowd of happiness and support. The air in that room was just different than it had been before. She changed it. Just being her energy filled self. Talia moved from table to table, looking, touching, smiling, her friends right there with her. My husband and I were in the back by the cake table. I already had tears in my eyes seeing the reality of her. All of the reality of her. The beauty and the terribleness of what she carried on her shoulders. She was brought finally to her cake and her face lit up and it was all I could do to not sob. That is how I feel, now, remembering and writing this. She put her arms around me and I loved her like she was mine. She smelled so pretty and sweet and was so tiny and frail but her eyes were so big and knowing. She had seen and felt things I could tell. Felt them deeply. She thanked me so kindly and told me she loved her cake and then as the cameras started flashing, being the savvy young lady she is, she looks at me and says “Which side do you want to work first?” and it struck me as so funny that she looked so delicate and frail but oh no she knew exactly what to do and what she wanted. From the moment her arms went around me to thank me I vowed that I would stand witness to each of her days until there were no more days. I knew I could pray for her but that only God could ever save her. That she was something so special this world could not contain her. I stood back and watched her smiling and laughing with her friends. Before we left that night the song We Are Young came on and all of the kids were circled around Talia dancing and jumping and I fought the tears again. Because yes, that night, she was young, and she did set the world on fire. I play that song often and think of that moment when she had everything within her. The fire, the passion, the life, the energy, and the kindness. All that made her Talia. Every day for nearly a year I have followed Talia on her social media sites, watched her on Ellen, at the music festival, read news articles and interviews, watched her vlogs. Loved her. Wished she would be here forever taking over the world one heart at a time. As I bore witness to her journey I changed. I stopped jolting awake and sobbing so often, I stopped fearing so deeply that since my family has died one by one that I would be next, felt my fears and defiantly said I will do it anyway, felt ill and told myself if Talia can live, truly live, with this beast she lives with then I can live with whatever was making me uncomfortable. I slowly began to let go of my mother and all the other family I have lost in the last 3 years. I began to realize that whatever beast I live with I cannot let it define or break me. That I can use it as fuel. That I can look that beast in the eyes and say yes you may be fearsome and mighty but I am bigger and stronger and you will not keep me from feeling joy. I began to heal. Because of this little wise girl who never even knew what she had done for my heart and life. Talia earned her angel wings on Tuesday, July 16th 2013 at 11:22 am. And I hope she now knows how deeply I thank her for what she gave to me and how she blessed me without ever knowing she had. May God bless you, Talia.[nggallery id=31]
One of my favorite types of cakes are cakes made for babies or to celebrate babies who are soon to be born. I cannot get enough babies! Seeing as how I have had 4 of my own I think it would be best for me to leave the baby making to everyone else and stick to making baby cakes instead! This cake was to celebrate the upcoming birth of baby Reed Michael and his Mommy had chosen a safari animal theme. This is a very common theme and I really try whenever possible to create something that is not the same as what you will find on Google images for a given theme. I was given photographs of the babies bedding which was Lambs and Ivy Baby Cocoa and I just fell in love with it. It really brought me back to when my guys were little cuties and I was immediately taken with the bedside lamp which shows a lion, giraffe, monkey and elephant with some tall grass sort of playing peek a boo over each others backs. It was precious! The design for Reed Michaels cake uses the colors and patterns from this lamp and most of the animals. Multiple shades of green with rich chocolate brown are lush yet natural, fresh and eye catching just the way babies like things to be. This still is my favorite baby shower cake to date and I look forward to seeing baby Reed Michael as a 1 year old big boy very soon.
There are times when cake, to me, is just an outlet. There may be a picture in my head that needs to be brought to life. There may also be some healing that I need to do and art is a known therapy. This cake was pure therapy. It began with a painting in a local Thai restaurant which I found very beautiful. I took several photos and began to stew and simmer this idea in my head. No idea where I wanted to go with it or what it would end up being but it sat in my mind like a shadow and there were other shadows there as well. In my family there has been a lot of loss. Relationships that never were what I wished they would be. Family that I loved dearly but who seemed haunted and plagued by fear, anger, resentment. They didn’t seem to ever truly shake it. They battled between their love of God and desire to do his will and old bitter habits which, like beasts or demons, chained them down and trapped them in a never ending spiral that just couldn’t quite reach to God’s loving kindness or let them forgive themselves. My father is gone, my grandfather passed over 20 years ago, my grandmother passed 3 years ago and my mother passed 3 years ago. When I made this cake and went through this process less than a year ago my uncle, who was the last living relative that I had grown up with, lay dying and refusing to give up the demons which devoured his heart and led to habits which ultimately killed his body. I was angry, sad, lost, empty, furious. I have watched and loved these people who helped raise me one by one leave this earth. Watched them be unable to let go of all the negative which destroyed everything that our family could and should have been. Despite this they wanted so badly to love God and reach Him. In my mind I see them with arms outstretched, faces lifted, seeing the light of the spirit but unable to escape. Being caught in a spiral, ravaged by a beast. All within their own minds. As my uncle grew closer to death I went to a dark place inside myself and raged at the unfairness and helplessness- I cried and I tossed and turned at night. Then I vowed to never ever ever let myself forget hope, joy, beauty, the perfection of the simple moment that resonates through my heart when God whispers to me in the smile of my child, or in the scent of the earth in the evening after a rain in the moonlight with a soft Florida breeze blowing against my face. or the feeling I get when I give someone a cake and their eyes light up like a little child on Christmas morning. I vowed to never ever give up, never give in, never be chained by despair. Then I made this cake- just for myself- and much of that pain was gone.
It is always wonderful to celebrate major events with families all over central Florida. There are so many things we rejoice in like weddings, births, anniversaries and birthdays. We also should stop and celebrate the loved one who has worked hard for his entire life to provide for his family. He has earned a rest and a chance to pursue hobbies and things that work has kept him from enjoying fully. In this case it is golf. Our newly retired celebrant left the life of a tow truck driver to pursue his enjoyment of the game of golf. Well deserved, sir, well deserved! His loving daughter, Mandy, arranged this cake just for him and while I was there she let me see her sleeping daughter who was still in her tummy when I made her baby shower cake. She is an angel and she has the sweetest most gorgeous Mommy. It touches me somewhere deep in my heart to witness a family celebrating and an even deeper place in my heart when I get to witness the happy changes in their family over a longer span of time. They let me be part of the love they have for one another and that is just amazing to me.
It has not been that long since I began this cake journey. As with any business it can take a while to gain momentum and really start to have a solid client base. You have to have patience, which I am usually short on, and faith, which I have an abundance of. In the beginning of a business, especially when that business is an artistic outlet that you need in order to not lose your sanity some days, it can be painful to hear the words “That price is too high for me” or “Someone else said they will do it for less” or even worse “I have never heard of you”. Being professionals we say “I understand, thank you for your inquiry”. On the inside we some days want to cry out “Don’t you see how good I could be if you only gave me a chance to show you?!” For many clients it can be about the budget. Or the budget can really hinder the ideal of the cake they will take home in the end. Or maybe they just do not trust you because they did not go view your work first. For many of those who design cakes it is mostly about the need to create and make people happy- the financial aspect is just to cover costs and let us call it a “job” when it is really something we need with all our hearts to do. Yes sometimes we become frustrated when we are not chosen but we know there is nothing we can do. Someone else will make that cake for a smaller price and in some cases the cake may not be what you could have would have should have made if only you had been allowed. Which we accept as it happens every day and we are all free to choose where we shop and who we trust. There is nothing, really, that we can do. Right? Well…. if you are like me and have trouble sleeping once a design is in your head with no way out but one and a fierce need to prove to at the very least yourself that yes you CAN rock that cake then you will make the design anyway. It doesn’t matter if the person who had never heard of you ever sees it. Sometimes we need to roar. There needs to be a touch of ego in art to drive you to better yourself and to seek self challenge. You let that ego do its job and then you let it go and resume worrying about whether or not you will ever be as amazing as you want to one day be. Enjoy the moments when you rock that cake or whatever else you rock in your life. Flex your muscles. Practice your art. It only makes you more “ready” when that special client calls you. And they will. Have faith in yourself and work hard and they will call. Never forget to sometimes roar!
Multi patterned cakes are eye catching and alive. They draw the eye to multiple places and bring an energy and action to what could be a static appearing object. I love mixing media, patterns, colors and styles to create a cake that can range from fresh to bold. Denise is a bride who had an eye for patterning and she definitely wanted a cake that captured her style. Her beautiful bridesmaid dresses ran the gamut of grey and were just gorgeous. In her cake design I wanted to not only mix subtle patterns with more bold patterns but also take the traditional and add a modern twist with the chevron style which is currently so popular. Denise’s final design captures her color scheme as well as drawing upon the pure elegance of the white hydrangea used in her ceremony. Her adorable cake topper was provided for me to place in point of honor atop the cake. There is just a hint of shimmer to the grey tier to catch the light and eye at her beautiful venue with touches of silver for elegance.
What an honor it was to be asked by a local women’s group to host a buttercream basics class at their monthly luncheon! This was my first time teaching and the goal of the class was to learn simple piping techniques but mostly it was to have fun and enjoy outstanding fellowship. These ladies were very eager to get started and they each dove right in trying different borders and flowers. The room was filled with laughter and everyone had a great time. Prior to the class the ladies enjoyed a light luncheon followed by my lemon cake with raspberry filling and white chocolate ganache. The theme for the cake was spring, feminine and soft colors. I chose a blush pink accented with brighter pink peonies, a simple textured ruffle border and gold beads for a touch of dazzle. Perfect for a spring day in Florida!
In my mind I pictured a woman who was alone, with a past, and hurts inflicted on her heart which made it hard for her to open up and trust in love. Much like myself I suppose. This woman seemed cold on the outside, icy, aloof, some thought her unapproachable. In reality her heart burns fierce and strong and bright like the sun. Or a deep red rose against the sparkling snow. Her heart longs for her one true love and one day he finds her. Her heart begins to beat for him. The one person who understands her, accepts her, cherishes her for all she has been, all she is and all she will one day become. This cake is not for the woman who has fallen in love for the first time in her youthful innocence. This cake is for the woman who has overcome, been shaken by life, yet still retains her passion and hope. The woman who has sat upon her icy throne until her Prince finds her and melts the snow with the kiss of his acceptance and devotion. There is always a happy ending… when you love.
I have loved every single moment of planning and making this wedding cake. It has everything that I enjoy most- It is feminine, floral, detailed, and blush pink! There are times when we fall in love with the cake design and there are times when we fall in love with the clients. When the planets are aligned just right we fall in love with both. Carrie has a small son who was recently diagnosed with a peanut and tree nut allergy. For a baker this can be a terrifying thing. You dwell on the potential for microscopic particles to somehow make their way in to your cake no matter what precautions you take. It probably doesn’t even work that way under normal conditions but…. what if?! Yes, my head is always filled with those horrible what ifs. I knew I had to be beyond organized and have allergen safe cleansing protocols in place as I had never baked for an allergic client before. Carrie was so very wonderful. Between the two of us we called every manufacturer of every single ingredient that I would use in her wedding cake. She was an angel. She helped me not be terrified that I would hurt her child and in turn I felt a fierce attachment to them both. I prayed so often during this process because it is just that important. It was such an education and I truly admire the people who live with food allergies in a processed food world where factories are not generally safe. They cannot rely on a description of a food. They cannot rely on knowing what should be in their food. You cannot always rely on product packaging either. When you call manufacturers they often times do not know what else may be in the room with what you are serving. If you call back again and get another person you may get a different answer! So it is scary. I made a Google doc and shared it online with Carrie and every item was reviewed and verified. In the end the petal dusts could not be verified as safe as they are repackaged and we just could not take a chance on her sons well being so he got his own little chocolate cake that day and every other ingredient in his Mommys cake was safe just not those sugar flowers. When Carries cakes were delivered and I drove home… I was kind of sad. She is a really great person and her little one stole my heart before I ever met him. This is one of those cakes and families that I will always remember.
We are not supposed to play favorites with our children. We are supposed to love them equally. And we do. Really. We do. Maybe we let our 5 year old sleep in our bed. (coughs) Every night. That does not mean he is our favorite. Each of our children have amazing qualities that we adore. Yet face it when 2 of 4 are fighting, screaming and throwing things you might be more inclined, at that moment, to gravitate more towards the sweet, calm, quiet one who is happy. And then it changes and some other boys are fighting and a different one is “child of the day”. Oh, wait, we are here to talk about cakes not parenting, right? There can be similarities in fact. We fret over our cakes, baby them, fuss at them, pet them, love them, adore them, and sometimes they give us grey hairs and scare the bejiminy out of us. It’s true! But this cake…. aaahhhh… this. cake. Yes it was a fret and worry fest. Yes I had moments of yelling “Say my NAME!” and moments of almost crying with worry. Which is how I knew this would be my favorite. Ever. Or at least so far. Elizabeth, my beautiful bride, is a martial arts instructor. So is her husband, Martin. (Insert thought of “I so must make these two black belts happy!!” haha!) You would never really guess that her body is a weapon because she is so gentle, soft spoken, mannerly, and her eyes dance with light! I felt so very protective of her (Shh! Don’t tell her!) and she is more than capable of protecting herself I am sure. Yet… she is so sweet and happy! Elizabeth had the most gorgeous pinterest board filled with top of the line luxurious photos that made my heart sing. She wanted an Asian inspired design and she really liked my last dragon cake and she had peacock colored orchids!! She gave me her complete trust from the beginning. Complete design freedom. That is a cake designers dream. Or at least mine. I immediately connected with the images she had collected. Opulent, rich, decadent, exciting and bold. I have been ecstatic over this wedding for months. When it was finally time to make the cake… I started sweating it. Sometimes what is in our heads can be very intimidating. What if our result falls short of what we envision? What if we see magic but we can not make it reality? I shook for a few minutes then told myself “Yeah, so? What IF? What if I totally rock this cake and make the best thing I have ever made and Elizabeth loves it and I love it too?” What if. What if can go either way and you will never know which way it is going to go if you do not just leap. Attack it. Pour yourself in to it. I am never going to be perfect. Never. No matter what or how much I learn and grow. That does not mean that I will ever give up or give in or let fear of failure stop me from trying. Someone commented when I posted this cake to my social media sites that they had always been told that blue and green should never ever go together and that I had proven them wrong. That has been on my mind ever since. Peacocks, the blue summer sky with the deep green trees, a beautiful sparkling blue swimming pool in a green lush yard… of course it goes together. Follow what speaks to you. If you never learn the rules you never have to follow them. Trust your heart. That is what brings two people together to commit their lives to each other. It can make a pretty cool cake, too.