A Take On Cake With Kara Andretta

Kara Andretta of Kara’s Couture Cakes is a fun, eccentric caking goddess. She has a global following of cake enthusiasts who wait in anticipation to see her next creation.

An Artist at heart, Kara has a remarkable passion for everything cake. Her unique flair reflects in her work, as she transforms blank canvases of fondant into jaw dropping masterpieces.

Kara has studied at the Culinary Institute of America, has filmed several tutorials for various online learning platforms and is recognised as one of America’s top cake artists. Kara caught up with Marianna’s Caking Me Crazy to tell ACDN a little bit about herself and her work, here’s what she had to say.

 Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you came to be in the caking industry and how long you have been doing it for?

I originally went to school for the fine arts, to teach children from kindergarten through 12th grade. I consider myself an artist first. Once I had my first son, I began indulging him in cake, inspired by some of the cake shows that were popular then like Ace of Cakes. I had a knack for it and someone asked why I didn’t just open my own shop. I told them I didn’t have the knowledge or experience to do that. I was then asked why I did just go back to school to learn. And that’s what I did.

It was really kind of a whim that I applied to The Culinary Institute of America just to see if I would get in. I had no real plan about how I would make that happen, loving 8 hours away and having a husband, each of us having jobs, and with two little boys, 4 and 18 months old. But we decided to just make go of it, packed up our stuff and moved. After graduating twice, including an internship with one of the world’s premier cake designers, we returned to my home town to focus on our family on furthering my cake career. I’ve been making cakes for 6 years. I have been an artist from before I can remember. I’ve always needed to create. My background is mostly in painting and additive sculpture.Degas Ballerina

What is it you love about using cakes and icing to express yourself?

People look at a canvas from the Renaissance with reverence and admiration. There is a silent respect for that art, as there should be. But art with food, with cake, creates an energy and awe in people that is hard to match. When people realize they
can then EAT the piece of art in front of them, they then have become part of the experience. They aren’t just a bystander. They become part of that incredible – edible – art.

As the global caking community is growing and becoming stronger, we are seeing a lot of emerging talent. As a cake artist do you find it challenging to come up with new mind blowing designs?

No. And I’ve discussed why many times privately and publicly on my blog. I never look at cake when I’m designing. Ever. Of course I see cake all the time, I’m a cakehead and I don’t think there’s a moment of any day that cake and sugar art isn’t on my mind. But when I have a task, and am searching for inspiration, I never look to cake or food in general for help. You can’t unsee it. It creeps into your designs because we as humans are products of all of what we encounter in our lives. Does every project end up being “mind blowing”? No, but they are always original and pushing boundaries. And once in a while those two things collide and something magical happens.

What do you prefer for covering a cake fondant or buttercream and  why?

Fondant. Hands down. I find I have so much more control over everything about the décor with fondant. Also, I’m not the gentlest or daintiest person in the kitchen. More of a bull in a china shop. I have fingers that get into things, and when it’s the side of a perfectly iced cake, just before delivery… no thanks. I need things that stand up to me in the kitchen.

Vincent's GiraffeWhat medium do you like to use when modelling?

Modelling chocolate has become my favorite recently. I wish I had explored it sooner in my career.

When planning a caking concept what inspires you? How do you determine your cake’s design and colour palate?

I’m inspired by the subtle things. I’m inspired by textures. I’m inspired by emotion. I try to create a feeling and convey a meaning in my designs. Color is generally the last design element I consider. I’ll have general colors in mind while working out an idea, but I don’t refine them or place them until I know what I want the piece to do. They need to enhance the design (when I have free reign) or be used harmoniously if they are chosen by a client.

You use some really amazing colours!! What tips can you give people wanting to mix colours, to come up with unusual shades that are not commercially ready for purchase?

Start with a pre-saturated fondant close to the color you want and tweak it from there. Starting with white and trying to get a deep fuchsia without it turning to soup isn’t likely. Know what bases are in each bottle of color you use: black is most often a red/purple derivative (which is why we end up with purple hands after coloring tons of black fondant!). Those bases affect how you’re able to alter and tweak colors.

You have been using a lot of wafer paper in your recent creations, what are your 3 best tips for working with wafer.

-Don’t use too much water, it disintegrates.

-When you apply water to make it curl, it will initially curl to the opposite side (not the side you applied the water) but as it dries it will curl back to the side where the water was on… Be patient.

-Know your climate. If you live in a dry region you need to take extra care to store your wafer in a sealed container or zip bag or it will dry out. It can become so brittle it will simply break apart. Likewise, if you live in a humid climate, it may make Wafer Love Ruffles and Painted Lace (1)working with paper easier, but you may also get them sticking together, so some silica gel packs may help with storage.

I love your wafer paper cake tutorial, how did this tutorial come about? Can you tell people a little bit about what they will learn from it?

That Wafer Paper Cake was a collaboration with Sarah’s Stands – A Cake Stand Company. Sarah had her new Summer 2014 line coming out and wanted some cakes to help promote them, so she asked if I would design a wedding cake around the Black Tue Affair cake stand. Work with Sarah’s Stands?!? Yes, please! I designed what felt like a contemporary, trendy, black tie style wedding. While I was making the cake I developed a stylized wafer ruffle tier but needed something more than just ruffles in there. I had been toying with the idea of text within ruffles for quite a while and this was the perfect project to try it on. Some of my progress pics yielded lots of “How’d you do that?!?” type comments so I decided to make another cake after the first and document it.  Everything you see on the lower two tiers are covered in my tutorial. You’ll be able to recreate them perfectly. There are over 130 detailed photos, in depth text to explain each step, tips, tricks, pro ideas, templates, patterns and resource links for tools that I use. The top tier with my edible gelatin sequins are on my blog as a free tutorial already.

Is there one cake that you get asked to create a lot?

Actually no. I stay away from having books with my cakes in them to show undecided clients. Each cake coming from my kitchen needs to be couture, specially made just for that client. I talk with them and design from their ideas and our conversation. If you look through my cakes, you’ll see that there aren’t any two cakes that look alike. I pride myself on that.

Dragon Portrait

What has been your most challenging cake?

My She Dragon cake. Her structure was able to move so the pressure I would normally apply as I’m decorating, though it may be minimal, made her bounce. It was funny for a while, but after close to 1,000 individual little scales hand placed… I
was no longer amused. She was successful as a design, and learned a bit about how I would change that structure for similar designs in the future, though.

 What’s your favourite cake you have made to date?

CuPig. He charms the pants off of me still. He’s cheeky, with that sly little curled up grin. He was meant to be fun and entertaining (Cupid as a pig, hence CuPig) and I feel like I accomplished all of my goals better in that cake than I have in any other cake to date.

Can you please let us all in on your trade secret to keeping your fondant looking clean and crisp, without picking up every little piece of dust or fluff around?

Ugh! Dreaded fibres and bits of EVERYTHING that’s floating in the air! First, wear light colored (preferably white) simple clothing. Nothing fancy, or fuzzy,  plain white tee shirt. If you’re wearing jeans, keep your hands off of them. If you remotely Front Slicesuspect that you may have unintentionally touched them, step away and wash your hands. Dry your hands only with white paper towels and use a fresh one each time you wash while handling fondant. I clean my work surfaces first with soapy water, then clear water, and then I dry them with white paper towels. And once they’ve sat for a couple minutes for all residual moisture to evaporate, I take a dry white paper towel to dust it off one last time. Also, never open your fondant buckets or containers on that surface. Do it somewhere else. Those buckets collect dust and fibres from the air as well and will cause you problems. Lastly, wash your hands one last time before touching the fondant. This all seems crazy elaborate and timely. But for the aggravation it saves, it’s worth every last step.

What words of wisdom can you give to all the beginner cake decorators out there?

You can always improve, and if you keep pushing yourself, you will! Any cake for you, your kids, your friends, go outside your comfort zone and do something amazing. Those orders where people close to you are willing to give you some latitude are the ones where you can stretch what you know, try a technique you’ve been wanting to, and strut your stuff! Boldly try something that makes you a bit uncomfortable.

Do you think international cake decorators have a different approach to execution when making cakes, compared to the cake decorators in Australia? Is there anything you have noticed that they do different?

I think stylistically each region has its own way of making cakes and much of that has to do with what we know cake, the edible thing, to be. In the US, we love our buttercream, and the more between the layers the happier we typically are. That limits some of our approach to covering and the way we build and handle our cakes. Ganache filled and coated cakes are common in Australia and it allows a broader range of techniques to covering and achieving a certain fondant look, like those sharp edges. We’ve adapted in the US and have developed ways that make it easier to achieve that very sought-after look. But again, it’s been dictated by what people expect to see on the inside of the cake.

What is one of your most loved cake decorating tools, that you have created yourself? What is it used for and how can readers make their own at home?Spoon Board

I love my spoon board for sugar flowers. It costs maybe a dollar to make, but it helps in shaping so many of my flower petals, especially my roses. A cardboard rectangle from a shipping box, a little bit of hot glue, and plastic spoons cut off just at the handle and you don’t have to worry about spoons sliding around the table as you work. You can also easily pick this us and relocate it very easily and safely without damaging your petals.

What do you forecast the next big trend in cake decorating will be?

It may be a niche audience, but I see special effects, small and large scale, becoming popular. There is an increased amount of innovative decorators picking up steam and gathering a following. Teaching these techniques is beginning to pick up and I’m already starting to see people giving modified versions of special effects a go on their own projects. It’s going to get exciting!

Do you have any new tutorial, classes, events or touring on the cards? If yes please can you share any secrets about them with us?

I have two classes coming out with SugarEd Productions late this summer (US summer) which will break down my well-loved Glitz and Glam Wedding cake. I’m shooting another class with another online school all about wafer paper (and that’s all I can say about that for now *wink wink*). And in February I’ll be teaching at Cake Fest in Louisiana, USA, with an amazing line up of international cake decorators. There will be bunches of tutorials coming later this year as well that will be available on my blog and YouTube channel.

Will you be heading to Australia to teach any time soon?

Australia is one of my destination spots for cake and adventure! I don’t have any plans currently, but I will jump at the opportunity when the stars align. I’m hoping 2015 will bring new international opportunities for teaching and travel.Super Cake Moms

Thank you Kara for sharing your story and caking tips with us. We wish you all the best as you continue your caking journey. We look forward to seeing all your new tutorials and online classes in the coming months!

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

Leave a Reply

Join Our Newsletter
Stay up to date with the latest news, industry events and discounts!