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.


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 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.”


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!


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!

Award-winning ICE Chef Instructor and Master Cake Decorator Toba Garrett makes decorating look incredibly easy. She has been practicing the art of cake decorating for over 30 years and teaching classes for almost 20 of those years. She literally wrote the book on cake decorating with her book Professional Cake Decorating. Her book, Wedding Cake Art and Design, won the 2011 International Association of Culinary Professionals Award in the Professional Kitchen category. Her classes on decorating are incredibly popular with professionals and students, as well as serious-minded bakers.

Yesterday, she shared some of her decorating techniques and secrets in a demo for ICE students and alumni where she covered how to make a stunning Venetian mask entirely out of gumpaste. Venetian Masks are traditionally worn during the Carnival of Venice. They come in various colors with lots of gold details, relief work and lots of feathers. Chef Toba demonstrated how to mold a mask and how to airbrush and decorate it to perfection. She walked the audience through how to make two different masks with different techniques such as airbrushing, piping, painting with edible gold paint, and crafting details such as ribbons and feathers. More…

Last night, the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) hosted their annual awards as part of the professional organization’s 33rd annual conference in Austin, TX. This year, ICE President and CEO Rick Smilow took home the award for Entrepreneur or Business Person of the Year to recognize how he has contributed to the growth of ICE since acquiring the school in 1995.

ICE was established in 1975 by Peter Kump, but Smilow has been leading the school since 1995. Since then, Smilow has taken what was Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School and guided it to become the award-winning culinary school that is known today as ICE. ICE’s facility has expanded four times and changed the school’s name to reflect our growth during his over 15 years at the helm. Under Smilow, the school’s professional programs have significantly developed and grown and numerous alumni of the school have won awards from the James Beard Foundation, Food & Wine and the American Culinary Federation. In 2008, ICE won the IACP Award of Excellence in the Vocational Cooking School category, after previously winning in the Avocational Cooking School of the Year award in 2003. And in 2006, ICE was named a national School of Distinction by its accrediting agency, ACCSC. It was under Smilow that ICE launched our Culinary Management and Hospitality Management programs, and our recreational culinary classes and private cooking parties have grown to become the largest of their type in the nation. More…

Forget the dress. Forget the location. Forget the flowers. The real star of a wedding is the cake. Brides dream of elaborate, towering cakes that take hours of planning and preparation — not to mention the time it takes to actually bake and decorate the cake!

Award-winning ICE Chef Instructor and Master Cake Decorator Toba Garrett makes it look easy. She has been practicing the art of cake decorating for 30 years and teaching classes for 17 years. Her latest book, Wedding Cake Art and Design is a handbook for professionals, as well as a guide for students, serious-minded bakers, and even brides themselves. We spoke with her about the book, cakes and why she loves teaching.

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