Interview by Carly Evans
Chef Kate Sullivan of Cake Power is New York’s pick when it comes to imaginative, sculpted cakes. Named one of the “Top 10 Cake Artists of North America” by Dessert Professional, the Brooklyn-born baker’s gorgeous cakes have appeared on The Martha Stewart Show, The Today Show and Food Network Challenge.
We caught up with Chef Kate to chat about her signature style and her biggest cake challenge in anticipation of her upcoming CAPS course at the Institute of Culinary Education. In Cake Carving: The Polar Bear Cake, participants will practice key cake carving techniques to create their own sculpted cakes.
You worked as a photographer at magazines such as Parenting and Smart Money — what inspired you to switch to baking?
Photography has always been a passion of mine and I loved working for magazines. My main job was to hire the photographers and produce photo shoots, but ultimately I had a craving to do something more hands-on.
What is your “signature” cake or dessert?
Most of my cakes have some sense of fantasy and animation, using bold colors and shapes. The designs and details are usually painted or sculpted by hand. As for wedding cakes, one of my signature designs is a simple tiered cake adorned with a cascade of peonies, dahlias and tiny white chocolate animals as well — bunnies, foxes and even alpacas (which I once added in honor of the bride and groom’s own alpacas).
I’m sure you receive all types of requests for cakes. What is the most challenging sculpted cake you’ve ever completed?
It’s hard to choose. One of my criteria for choosing a project is the excitement of not being quite sure if I can pull it off. One that comes to mind is a replica of the new Whitney Museum. The building is really complicated with angles going in every direction. The cake was for an art installation at the museum and they wanted an exact replica, down to the railings piped onto the balconies on the outside of the museum.
Have advancements in technology changed your craft over the years?
One of the requests for the Whitney Museum cake was that it be as architecturally correct as possible. I was able to find an amazing architecture student who researched the building online and scaled down the design for us with a computer-assisted program. Using the three-dimensional printer in our studio, we were able to print out a three-dimensional version of the building. Having a 3-D model to work from makes a huge difference.
What is one piece of general advice you would give pastry students?
These may seem contradictory but, in the beginning, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just play with your food and decorating supplies—happy “accidents” happen all the time. However, once you’re taking on a trickier project, a more precise approach using a 3-D model or figurine is the way to go. It’s also a good idea to make templates of your subjects scaled to size in advance to keep your sizing consistent.
Ready to try your hand at cake carving? Click here to register!