When it comes to making layer cakes, it’s all about the tiers — and not the crying kind, though beautiful, Pinterest-worthy layer cakes can occasionally cause some waterworks. Achieving those perfect tiers, however, can be tricky — making a layer cake isn’t exactly, well, a piece of cake. But with the right tools and an expert teacher, it can be. That’s why ICE + Wüsthof have partnered to present a new knife skills video demonstrating the proper knife and technique for splitting a cake into layers. Watch as ICE Chef Sabrina Sexton levels a pound cake into perfect tiers using a serrated bread knife (and don’t miss the stunning layer cake at the end).

Want to sharpen your culinary or pastry skills? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

The Center for Advanced Pastry Studies (CAPS) at ICE is designed for current industry professionals looking to expand their skill sets. These single- and multi-day continuing education workshops are taught by master chefs and critically acclaimed artists from around the globe. 

ICE is excited to welcome back Karen Portaleo to teach the upcoming CAPS course Carved Cake: Ballerina Pig on June 2. Karen is a celebrated cake and chocolate artist who creates fantastical cakes at Highland Bakery in Atlanta, Georgia. She has appeared on numerous television shows including Food Network’s Cake Challenge and Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and her work has appeared in various publications like Cake Central Magazine and National Geographic. Karen’s client list includes Sir Elton John, Usher, Jane Lynch, T-Pain, Demi Moore, AMC’s The Walking Dead, CNN and The W Hotel.

ballerina pig

photos courtesy of http://www.karenportaleo.com/

In anticipation of Karen’s class, we chatted with her about her work in the pastry world and what she has in store for students in her cake carving class at ICE.

You’ve worked as a jewelry designer, a clay sculptor and a set designer — what inspired you to enter the world of cake?

Originally, it was desperation that motivated me to begin working with cake. I was recently separated and a newly single mom. The prop and set design company I had run for 17 years was suffering from the effects of a bad economy and shrunken budgets. A friend opened a bakery and I decided to ask if I could decorate and sell cookies there. This would give me the flexibility to stay home with my young daughter. Initially they said no, but persistence paid off. Soon I was frosting cupcakes, then cakes and it all took off from there. I call it my accidental career. But it just goes to show: opportunity can show up in very unexpected places.

What would you say is your signature style when it comes to designing a cake?

I would say my style is whimsical and very sculptural. I rarely make tiered cakes anymore — I’ve paid those dues already! My work is often described as “dark,” but that’s not my general aesthetic. I think my work falls into the category of cakes that don’t look like cakes.

If you’re given “carte blanche” to create a cake, where do you look for inspiration?

Usually I’ve had an idea rolling around in my head and am just waiting for a paying customer. There’s not always a rational explanation for the inspiration. For example, I woke up a few weeks ago and thought it might be fun to make a Humpty Dumpty cake. While I wait for an event, I get to dream up all the details and structure to make the piece exactly as I want it to be.

Tell us about the most challenging project you’ve worked on recently

I recently travelled to Palm Beach to create a very large cake for a client. As is sometimes the case, I can’t disclose the name of the client or details about the cake. However, I can say that it involved 40 full sheets of cake, 120 pounds of buttercream, 110 pounds of fondant and 64 pounds of modeling chocolate. There were a number of challenges with this cake. For one, the structure was very complex. Also, when creating a huge cake, you still have to bear in mind that it has to fit through doorways and into a van. This often means that the cake is made in big sections and then assembled onsite. Every large event involves a bit of chaos in the hours immediately preceding it, so showing up with large cakes that need to be assembled can be stressful for everyone. That’s why a lot of planning goes into the structure, as it must all fit together well and quickly. Not to mention, the cake needs to be fresh, moist and delicious, so this usually means a few sleepless nights of mad stacking, carving and fondant work. Delivery is always a tense time and this cake, in all its pieces, had to be carried quite a distance over walkways, stairs and ramps. But one of the most challenging things about this cake is that for all the planning and hard work, I can’t share any pictures! Still, it was pretty fabulous.

Karen Portaleo

Karen with one of her whimsical creations

What would you say are the most important skills for your craft?

I think the skills I rely on most heavily come from my background in art. I went to art school and have had many previous careers in the visual arts. My grandfather was a pastry chef and I grew up in bakeries, but I have no specific culinary training. My reputation springs more from the visual aspect of the cake than the cake itself. That being said, I’m extremely demanding about flavor and quality. I encourage my students, especially those who are in culinary school, to spend some time in art classes as well. Understanding how to successfully sculpt a three-dimensional object, as well as a solid understanding of color theory, are a few really valuable skills in today’s cake world.

What new techniques can students expect to learn from your upcoming course at ICE?

In my course, students will learn to create a structure for a seemingly gravity-defying cake. They will also learn to make and sculpt with modeling chocolate, how to create “clothing” with fondant, painting on chocolate, painting on fondant and creating small details that add a higher level of visual interest to a cake. I encourage my students to get creative with the design of their piece. I will be teaching the skills, but I like my students to create their own design using their own vision. I believe that this encourages a higher level of learning and creativity, as students need to do a bit of problem solving on their own. I’m a firm believer that taking risks and figuring out how to execute certain details is an excellent way to really learn on a deeper level.

Because CAPS classes require individual attention to each student’s project, class sizes are limited — click here to reserve your spot today.


Alternative flours — like chickpea flour, banana flour and grapeseed flour — can add a nutritional kick and a tasty nuance to many everyday recipes. Though substituting your tried-and-true AP flour may seem a little intimidating at first, once you have a few recipes under your belt you can add these alternative flours to your regular cooking and baking repertoire. To help you get there, Chef Sarah Chaminade is sharing three new recipes that she developed for ICE and Direct Eats using alternative flours. First, Chef Sarah uses chickpea flour to add a sweet and creamy texture to her chickpea canapés. Then, Chef Sarah demonstrates how to make a gluten-free angel food cake using banana flour —with all of the lightness and none of the gluten. Then, she uses merlot grapeseed flour in her chocolate chip cookies to create a gluten-free and vegan take on the classic recipe. Watch the video below, and then scroll to get the recipes.

Chickpea Canapé
Servings: three to four dozen individual canapés, depending on the size of each

In Liguria, the region flanking Genoa along Italy’s northwest coast, farinata is a classic dish. Farinata is a thin chickpea cake typically cooked in a wood-burning oven. In Liguria, bake shops put signs in their windows announcing the time that the farinata will be ready and customers line up to buy it. It’s a perfect snack when eaten like a piece of pizza on waxed butcher paper. Farinata, just like pizza, can be stuffed or garnished with any vegetable, cheese or sauce.

Ingredients:

3 cups chickpea flour
5 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano, chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Optional garnish: dollop of creme fraîche, crispy prosciutto or micro herbs like micro arugula

Preparation:

  • Preheat convection oven to 450 °F (or 475 °F for a conventional home oven).
  • Combine chickpea flour and water with whisk until smooth — let sit for 1 hour to allow batter to thicken slightly.
  • Stir in remaining ingredients.
  • Pour the batter onto a silicone baking mat or a baking sheet lined with parchment. Spread evenly with spatula and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
  • Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut farinata into squares (5×7 or 6×8, depending on the size you prefer) and top with optional garnish.

* Recipe adapted from Ciao Italia by Mary Ann Esposito

Gluten-Free Banana Flour Angel Food Cake
Yield: one cake

1 10-inch angel food cake pan with removable bottom
15 egg whites, room temperature (note: it’s essential that they are at room temperature!)
1 pinch of salt
½ cup plus ¾ cup coconut sugar
1½ cups banana flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean
* Flavor variations:
Replace vanilla with zest of one lemon, two limes or half an orange, or replace vanilla with two teaspoons of cinnamon

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350 °F.
  • In a very clean, dry mixing bowl combine egg whites and salt and whip to soft peaks. Gradually add ½ cup of coconut sugar. Continue to whip egg whites to medium peaks, being careful to not over whip.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the remaining coconut sugar and banana flour.
  • Gradually sift dry ingredients into the whipped whites, folding gently to be careful not to deflate.
  • Fold in vanilla extract and vanilla bean.
  • Pour batter into an ungreased angel food pan, spreading carefully to distribute batter evenly — do not bang the cake pan, as this will cause the batter to deflate.
  • Bake for 50 min, or until golden brown and cake springs back when lightly touched.
  • Remove from oven and invert onto a cooling rack without removing the mold.
  • Allow the cake to cool completely before unmolding.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Merlot Grapeseed Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: one dozen cookies

2 ½ cups almond flour
¼ cup merlot grapeseed flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup agave
1 cup 72% bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 325 °F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Melt the coconut oil in microwave or on stove top. In a medium bowl, combine all wet ingredients.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, mixing with a rubber spatula or spoon to combine.
  • Stir in the chocolate chunks, and allow the mixture to chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
  • Using a cookie scoop, scoop mixture onto your prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Let cool before enjoying. Because these cookies stay nice and moist, they taste great the next day too.

Master culinary or pastry arts with ICE’s expert chef instructors — click here for information on our career programs.

This St. Patrick’s Day, try your hand at an Irish-inspired sweet — no baking involved! Chef Sarah Chaminade shares her boozy take on cheesecake, with a buttery, chocolate cookie crust and a creamy filling accented by Bailey’s Irish Cream.

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No-Bake Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake
Yield: One (nine-inch) or four (four-inch) cakes

Ingredients:

200 grams chocolate wafer cookies
100 grams unsalted butter, melted
200 grams heavy cream
150 grams Bailey’s Irish Cream
10 grams powdered gelatin
500 grams cream cheese, softened at room temperature
150 grams sugar
50 dark chocolate pearls

bailey's cheesecake

Preparation:

  • Process the chocolate wafer cookies in a food processor until they resemble fine crumbs.
  • Transfer crumbs into a large mixing bowl and stir in melted butter. Mix until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of a parchment-lined cake pan or ring molds, and place them in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or with an electric hand mixer, whip the heavy cream to medium peaks and set aside in your refrigerator.
  • In a medium bowl, add the Bailey’s Irish Cream and sprinkle the gelatin over. Set aside for two to three minutes.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Over a double boiler or in a microwave, heat the gelatin-Bailey’s mixture slowly until gelatin is dissolved and liquid is smooth. While still warm, pour the gelatin mixture into the stand mixer bowl with the cream cheese mixture and mix together at low speed until combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the whipped cream, reserving a small amount of whipped cream for decoration (see next step).
  • Fill your prepared cake pan or molds with filling to the top. Using a piping bag filled with reserved whipped cream, pipe rosettes of whipped cream around the edges of the cake and top with chocolate pearls.
  • Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least four hours or preferably overnight before serving.

bailey's cheesecake

Master baking with Chef Sarah in ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program — click here for information. 

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.

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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.

 

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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!

By Chef Jenny McCoy

July Fourth-fetti Cake

As the Fourth of July approaches and we eagerly anticipate colorful firework displays and backyard barbecues, why not celebrate with a red, white and blue sprinkle-covered confetti cake? This delicious lemon-almond cake, filled with fresh strawberries and blueberries and layered with cream cheese icing, is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

The number of steps may seem daunting, and this recipe does take some finesse—but don’t let that stop you! They don’t call me “Chef” for nothing, so here are some of my favorite pro tips for success:

  1. Use some shortening to make the cake a brighter white, which also makes it easier to color. If you prefer butter, you can substitute the shortening with more butter.
  2. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl as you add the ingredients to your cake batter. This will ensure your batter is buttery smooth.
  3. If you want to customize the results, your cake batter can be flavored with a variety of extracts. One of my favorite combinations is vanilla and coconut extracts. Alternatively, if you prefer a plain vanilla cake, replace the almond extract with an additional one teaspoon vanilla extract, for a total of two teaspoons.
  4. I love to use a cardboard cake round to invert my cakes from the pans. It gives them a sturdy surface to fall on, which prevents the cake layers from tearing. Ask your local bakery for a few or cut out some rounds from a cardboard box.
  5. Don’t have a cake turntable? Not to worry! My favorite kitchen hack is to use the plate and wheel from a microwave to layer and frost my cakes.
  6. Instead of worrying about your cake layers sliding around as you frost the top and sides of the cake, try this trick—use a long bamboo skewer to hold everything in place.
  7. A flat, metal bench scraper (more often used for cutting bread dough) makes for amazingly straight sides on your frosted cake. If you don’t have a bench scraper, use a metal icing spatula, like the one featured in the video.
  8. Don’t worry about having a perfectly frosted cake for this recipe. As long as it’s relatively smooth, once it’s covered in sprinkles, it will be a showstopper no matter what!

One last trick: to make sure the cakes don’t stick to the pan, cut parchment paper into a circle to line your round cake pan. Here’s how:

Remember how you used to make paper snowflakes from folded paper in elementary school? Well, that same technique will now serve you well as an adult. If you enjoy baking cakes, that is.

For a round cake pan, simply fold a piece of parchment paper in half three times to make a triangular wedge of paper (kind of like a slice of cake—what a coincidence!). Turn your cake pan upside down and place the tip of the paper wedge directly in the center of the pan. Trim the wider edge of the paper wedge to the length of the radius of the pan, or the very edge of the cake pan. Unfold and voila! A circle of parchment paper to perfectly line the inside of your round cake pan. Check out this video on ICE’s Instagram feed to see how it’s done.

July Fourth-fetti Cake

Makes one three-layer cake

Ingredients

2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, softened

½ cup (4 ounces) shortening

3 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

3 large egg whites

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

½ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

Red food coloring

Blue food coloring

3-4 tablespoons red, white and blue sprinkles

 

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly spray three eight-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, egg whites, almond extract and vanilla extract, and mix until smooth.
  1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and stir together. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Add the milk and mix until combined. Add the remaining half of the dry ingredients, followed by the buttermilk and mix until well combined and smooth.
  1. Divide the batter evenly between three bowls and add blue food coloring to one bowl and red food coloring to the second bowl, mixing in and adding coloring in drops as necessary until the desired color is reached. Add sprinkles to the third bowl and stir until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the three prepared cake pans and bake until very light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for five minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.

 

Lemon-Almond Simple Syrup

Makes ½ cup

Ingredients

½ cup simple syrup

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 teaspoons lemon extract

 

Preparation

  1. Combine the simple syrup, vanilla extract and lemon extract and refrigerate until ready to use.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 6 cups

Ingredients

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups (16 ounces) cream cheese

6 cups powdered sugar, sifted

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

Preparation

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until soft and very smooth. Add the cream cheese and mix until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar and salt and mix until fully combined. Add the vanilla extract and whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days.

 

To assemble the cake:

Ingredients

1 blue cake layer

1 sprinkle cake layer

1 red cake layer

½ cup Lemon-Almond Simple Syrup (recipe above)

6 cups Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe above)

1 cup blueberries

1 cup sliced strawberries

1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups red, white and blue sprinkles, to decorate

 

Preparation

  1. Slice the tops off the cake layers to create a flat surface. Place the blue cake layer on top of an eight-inch round of cardboard. Use a pastry brush to lightly soak the blue cake layer with the simple syrup. Spread about one cup of the frosting on the blue cake layer and cover with fresh blueberries. Top with the sprinkled white cake layer and repeat by soaking the cake layer with simple syrup and covering with one cup of frosting, and top with the fresh strawberries. Place the red cake layer on top. Frost the tops and sides of the cake with the remaining four cups of frosting. Freeze cake for 20 to 30 minutes.
  1. Place the sprinkles in a large bowl. Hold the cake over a rimmed baking sheet and gently cover the sides and tops of the cake with the sprinkles by pressing them against the frosting and allowing the excess to fall back onto the tray. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to two days. If refrigerated before serving, let cake stand at room temperature for one to two hours before serving.

 

Want to learn how to make tasty desserts with our ICE instructors? Get more information about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

 

Do you have what it takes to launch a creative career in cake decorating? Designed to serve both current pastry chefs and ambitious amateur cake enthusiasts, ICE’s Techniques and Art of Professional Cake Decorating is a 240-hour immersive course in this intricate craft.

Overseen by internationally acclaimed cake designer Toba Garrett, ICE’s cake decorating program spans the study of both historic and cutting-edge contemporary cake decorating methods. From delicate oriental stringwork to the British Lambeth piping method, Chef Toba will train students in the ornate styles that have earned her dozens of gold and silver medals in leading cake competitions.

Moving into more modern techniques, students will also explore such techniques as sugar work, hand-sculpting, airbrushing and even the hand-painting of cakes. Additionally, the program includes an exclusive multiday master class with renowned fashion and novelty cake designer Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes.

Click here to receive free information about ICE’s professional cake decorating program.

By Orlando Soto, Pastry & Baking Arts Student

On our first day of class in Kitchen 501, Chef Gerri Sarnataro shared several indispensable truths about the food industry. One of them really struck me as odd: “There’s always a back door.” Meaning, there’s always more than one way of doing things, especially in cooking. I thought this was ironic, given my initial perception of pastry: we follow recipes to the gram in an effort to deliver consistent results. But of course, Chef Gerri’s words rang true throughout the program, and never more so than in cake decorating.

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Professional cake decorating elevates the common, spongy dessert from ordinary to memorable. It’s an opportunity for the pastry chef to tune directly into the desires and expectations of a client. A cake is a canvas to delight the sense of sight, as much as the sense of taste. Not surprisingly, it’s the details make or break a cake. If you want to create flowers, for example, you aim to make all the petals, leaves and buds look like nature intended. Subtle color gradients and textures bring to life what was once plain, pliable fondant.

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But before you can begin to decorate your cake, you need a plan. A simple scheme for the tiers, colors and the placement or distribution of ornaments is essential. This plan is not only a powerful tool to help keep the decorator on point, but will also provide a preview of sorts, for the client. In the classroom, we presented our cake diagrams and planned the preparation of the decorating elements accordingly.

cakediagram

With a plan in mind, we proceeded to design our cakes. This was when Chef Gerri’s words echoed through the classroom. Yes, there is the way that we were taught to create a rose, but if you looked around the room, everyone was doing their petals just a bit differently. The diverse results would prove that there’s more than one way to translate an idea into a consistently beautiful product.

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In truth, cake decorating has been most challenging part of our program for me. I can’t sit still for very long, even if I’m working on a beautiful sugar flower. However, the words of Chef Chad stick with me: “I understand, Orlando, but a true Pastry Chef must be able to tackle any project.” As if he were predicting the future, one of my family members was so excited about the cake I was making, she and her fiancé signed me up to make their wedding cake a year from now (no pressure!).

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Several days later, we arrived at the end of our classes. We decorated our cakes and showed them in our final ceremony. As my class heads out to our externships with many skills at hand and lessons in mind, I can see that we have, individually, begun to find our culinary voice. Of course, bearing in thought that “there’s always a back door.”

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Click here to read more stories about Life as a Pastry Student.

By Carly DeFilippo

It’s not every cake designer who gets recruited by the likes of Martha Stewart, InStyle Weddings and Oprah Winfrey. Building on her former career as a photo editor/director, love of art and infatuation with chocolate, Kate Sullivan brings more than 20 years of creative innovation to cake decorating. This summer, ICE’s Center for Advanced Pastry Studies (CAPS) is thrilled to host an exclusive two-day workshop with Sullivan, highlighting such techniques as hand-painting and tie-dyed cakes.

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What was one of the most challenging cakes you’ve designed?

The most challenging request I’ve ever gotten might well have been for a Rubiks Cube wedding cake. The bride and groom were so great and totally wonderfully geeky about the whole thing! The cube was huge and balanced on one point, and I loved it when it was all done!

If you could bake for anyone in the world, who would it be?

I’m so lucky on this one. I’ve gotten to bake for some really amazing people that I’m totally blown away by (with my family being at the head of that list, those are definitely the most memorable moments for me). Its kind of crazy—I’ve been completely tickled to make cakes for some rock and roll legends, masters of design, and famous artists. I’ve also gotten to present cakes to some truly inspirational kids in hospitals; they really take your breath away. The whole experience has already exceeded my own expectations.

Who are your mentors?

Colette Peters is the person who started me on the road to making cakes with her amazing books.

Photo courtesy of cakepower.blogspot.com

Photo courtesy of cakepower.blogspot.com

Where do you find your inspiration for design?

The cake inspirations come from everywhere; everything I see is fair-game. [But more specifically] definitely fashion, and I love going to museums & galleries. I’m particularly inspired by Alexander McQueen and other designers whose work is somewhat fantasy-based. I also love the other cake designers out there; the bar is continually being raised in terms of creativity.

What do you do when you aren’t creating works of art?

I enjoy as much time with my husband, son and dog as possible—I LOVE THOSE GUYS! I’ve also been working to learn all about 3D printing and possible food applications. My one big fat guilty pleasure is that I’ve also been obsessively binge-watching every episode of Parks & Recreation on Netflix recently.

Why do you enjoy teaching cake painting?

I think that, when I’m lost in painting a cake, it might just be the most pure experience of flow that I’ve ever had. I love the feel of the brush and textures of the colors as they move across the canvas of the fondant. Teaching new ways to transfer a pattern onto a cake and to bring that pattern to life is really rewarding.

To learn more about ICE’s Contemporary Cake Painting workshop with Sullivan, click here.

 

By Grace Reynolds

ICE alum Elisa Strauss is the owner of Confetti Cakes, a boutique cake design company. Strauss, named one of “America’s Top Ten Pastry Chefs” in 2008 by Dessert Professional Magazine, specializes in hand-sculpted and unique cakes that are best described as edible works of art.

Strauss’ creations have appeared on the Today show, Sex and the City, the View and Martha. Her cakes have also been featured in InStyle, Martha Stewart Weddings, Marie Claire, Seventeen, Elle, Vogue, Modern Bride, New York Magazine, BRIDES, Elegant Bride and The Knot.

This past month, Elisa graciously agreed to share her story with us, offering us a window into the world of professional cake design.

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Elisa Strauss with one of her cake handbag creations

What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?

I was a textile designer in fashion. I worked at Ralph Lauren in the Prints department and then at Frederic Fekkai designing handbags and hair accessories.

And what sparked your decision to attend culinary school?

I loved making cakes for people, I wanted to learn everything about pastry, cakes and chocolates, and how to turn it into a business.

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A sushi-inspired cake creation by Strauss

Where was your externship, and where have you worked since graduating? 

My externship was with Cheryl Kleinman Cakes in Brooklyn. My one regret to this day was not staying longer before I started my own business. I learned so much from her and her team. I continued to freelance in fashion before going full-time with my business, Confetti Cakes, in 2000. While I continue with my own business, I also work as a cake-consultant.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

My greatest accomplishment is seeing former employees and current students that I have taught and the success they have achieved. But I’m also proud of having written two books, my online videos with Craftsy.com and my Youtube Channel: ConfettiCakes, winning the “Extreme Cake Challenge” on Food Network and being named one of Dessert Professional’s “Top 10 pastry Chefs.”

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Doll house cake

What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from your time in the industry?

Everything takes longer then you think it will! And there is a wonderful community that revolves around food. You don’t need to be a chef or professionally trained to be involved.

Briefly describe a day in your current working life.

Every day is different, but I always start with a list and it usually doubles by the end of the day!

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Creative Cake

What might people be surprised to learn about your job?

That a lot of what I do involves the business side of things: PR/marketing, accounting and taking out the trash. It’s not all buttercream and sugar roses.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

I have so much ambition—we will just have to wait and see!