Founder of Sugar Flower Cake Shop, Amy was recently crowned as one of America’s top pastry chefs, by prestigious Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine. She’s also joined forces with online learning platform CakeMade, to share her decorating knowledge with cake enthusiasts from across the globe.
Marianna’s Caking Me Crazy enjoyed Amy’s courseModern Elegant Sugar Flowers so much, that we decided to chat with her to find out all about her sugary journey.
How old were you when you realised you wanted to be a cake decorator, was it from a young age?
I think I was maybe 30… so, no, it wasn’t from a young age. I’ve had previous careers as an actuary and as a high school math teacher. It was when I was a teacher that I started experimenting with cakes in my summers off and free time, baking birthday cakes for my five nieces and nephews.
How many years have you been in the Cake Industry for and what changes have you seen over that time?
My shop has only been open for just over three years. I’ve unfortunately seen cake industry friends come and go. (This is a TOUGH business!) I’ve also seen a tremendous change in what my business looks like — I started just as a custom cake shop and have added teaching cake decorating classes to our repertoire. The classes are now as important to my business as actual cake production is. Running a successful business takes a lot of adapting and the process has just been fascinating!
Sugar Flower Cake Shop specializes in sugar flowers and buttercream icing, so we wanted to showcase my unique talents. Specifically, we wanted to look at a class that had sugar flowers that
wasn’t already widely available on YouTube. Everyone has a video on how to make a rose, but a Juliet rose with all of those folds is kind of unique. I don’t know many other cake designers willing to tackle that flower and I wanted to share my techniques with them!
What are you hoping people will take away from this class?
I hope they can gain more confidence in working with sugar flowers and with buttercream. Most cake designers rely on fondant to get their finishes super smooth. I love showing people that the same look can be achieved through buttercream.
Absolutely! There are a TON of things you can do with buttercream that can’t be done with fondant like the textured pattern I demonstrate in the CakeMade course. I really hope other cake designers will embrace it more!
What do you think is one pitfall that people encounter when creating sugar flowers?
I think the hardest thing about creating sugar flowers is getting them to look realistic. In nature, nothing is ever perfectly round or smooth or whatever. Us “type A” cake designers want everything to be perfect and have a hard time (sometimes) with making things look natural. We have to embrace the “mess” and not get too caught up in creating the perfect details — they will just happen.
What do you enjoy most about sharing your knowledge with your students?
I am self-taught, so I really enjoy teaching my techniques, as they are different from everything else I’ve seen online. I don’t get caught up in buying a lot of different cutters, preferring to multi-purpose whatever I can. I think most beginners appreciate that.
I think clients come to me for a reason. They usually want something simple and elegant. I’m not an avant garde cake designer, so I don’t need to constantly reinvent myself. My “wow” comes in creating something that is beautiful and since I rely on nature as my inspiration, it’s fairly easy to walk through a park or garden to be inspired for what’s next.
Do you have a creative process you follow when designing a cake from start to finish?
Each one of my wedding cakes is designed for the individual couple I’m working for. I sit with them in a design consultation and we go through the other decor elements they have picked out for their reception. I will ask how they met or what’s important to them and sometimes that provides inspiration. We also look at the invitation, the dresses/tuxes, the centrepieces, etc. to see what elements can be tied together within the cake design.
Is there one cake that you get asked to create a lot?
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked for something “simple and elegant”, I would be a very rich girl.
The cake we made for a wedding at the Central Park Zoo. It stood eight feet tall when we were done. Each tier of the cake was presented on its own tree slice. We custom made the stand (my dad helped me to construct it and even provided the tree parts from his backyard!). It took a couple hours for all of the pieces to be reassembled after we delivered them to the zoo. We usually don’t get to see our couples on the day of their wedding, but we heard the groom shout, “That cake’s AWESOME” as he and the bride whizzed past on their way to take more photos.
What is your most popular cake flavour with your clients and what’s your favourite flavour?
Our most popular flavor of cake is champagne cake. It’s basically a regular white cake, but we use champagne instead of milk. Since we deal with a lot of weddings, it’s super festive! For the outside, hands down, it’s our NYC honey buttercream. This is our most local product. Andrew, from Andrew’s Honey, maintains beehives all over NYC rooftops and keeps his honey separated by neighborhood. He supplies us with honey from the Highline (an elevated park in the Chelsea area of Manhattan). The park is just a few blocks south of our shop.
As for my favorite cake, my birthday cake last year was a pistachio cake with strawberry buttercream and cream fillings, plus NYC honey icing wrapped with a thin layer of ganache.
(1) Work through the “mess”. There seems to be a point as you are decorating a cake where things just don’t look right or something is totally messed up. Don’t stop there. Keep going. Look for places where you can cover up a mistake — can you see exposed cake through your buttercream? That’s a GREAT spot for a sugar flower!!
(2) Allow the refrigerator to do the work for you. When working with getting buttercream smooth, it DOES NOT happen on the first time you put icing on the cake. It takes TIME and patience. Time is the more critical element. Set a timer! Work on icing your cake with buttercream for 20 minutes. Put it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Then, work on it again for 20 minutes. Keep going. Trust the timer and step away from the cake when it’s time!
What is the most important skill you think every cake decorator should have?
The ability to allow yourself to make a TON of mistakes! It’s only in the making of mistakes that your skills can grow.
Thank you Amy for sharing your caking journey and tips with us. We wish you all the best as you continue on your caking path. We’ll be keeping an eye out for your next online class!
Don’t miss out on seeing all of Amy’s stunning cakes! Follow Sugar Flower Cake Shop on social media at the following sites:
Blog post written by Marianna Saran of Marianna’s Caking Me Crazy
As a former news journalist and mother of two, Marianna Saran has taken her passion for writing and cake decorating and transformed herself into a new aged cake journalist. She loves to blog about her cake and cookie creations and tries to push herself to explore new mediums of decorating, even though some are quite intimidating at times. Interviewing renowned cake decorators from across the globe gives her a spark of inspiration as she hears their stories. It reminds her that in life all you need is love from your family and friends, a cookie in one hand and a piece of cake in the other! Sit back and enjoy the journey as you follow Marianna on a roller coaster of sugary creations! Check out what else Marianna is up to at her Blog and on Facebook