Recently I had the pleasure & honour to be interviewed by the talented Bettina Schliephake Burchardt of Cake Pirate. Bettina is the talent behind Betty's Sugar Dreams - she has a whimsical style full of humour and charm. I've known Betty for many years via online cake forums and was happy to finally meet her in person a few years ago when she attended our first class with Ron Ben-Israel. After meeting her in person you can see why her cakes & figures are so fun - her personality is infectious!
Betty's questions are great - they really make you think and reading the responses from people like Ron Ben-Israel, Elisa Strauss, and Debbie Brown is quite informative & entertaining. To be included amongst such talent is an honour.
If you haven't already subscribed to Cake Pirate, I highly recommend it!
I asked Betty if I could share my interview with everyone, so you could all get a glimpse into my world.... here it is - and thank you Betty for including me!
1. when did you start cake decorating
Ok time to age myself I guess…. In 1994 I had dropped out of University and was being “encouraged” (lol) by my mother to get a job! I remember watching something on TV I’m thinking it was Oprah and there was something to do with cake decorating (very basic) on there and I said I want to do that! LOL! So I enrolled in a 10 day course at the McCall’s School of Cake Decorating and took the course. After that I got a job as a PT cake decorator at a large grocery chain. After working there for a year, I decided to go back to University and carry on with life. That was my start and I wouldn’t change it at all! Working in a grocery store gave me the foundation skills that everyone needs to keep up with this industry.
After working in offices etc for several years, I wanted to get back into baking. So in 2001 I went to George Brown College for their Baking & Pastry program. Shortly after graduating and working here and there trying to find my way, I got pregnant and so my baking/caking life came to a halt. It was not until our daughter was 2 that I got back into the cake world when my cousin “forced” me to make his wedding cake…..that’s when Flour Confections was born and I haven’t stopped since!
2. professionally or as a hobby
In 2004 I started Flour Confections as my business/career/obsession/life and it’s grown and changed so much since then!
3. self educated or trained
Both – I’ve had “professional” training in terms of a 10 day course and baking program as well as cake classes which I’ve traveled to take or hosted at our shop, but you are ALWAYS learning on the job. Some things you just have to learn on your own – making mistakes is the BEST way to learn – so stop being so hard on yourself – “perfection” is something you can strive for as it provides you with a goal or challenge to always do better, yet it’s something that is rarely if even ever truly attainable.
4. your favorite technique (flower making, piping etc.)
Ooo tough one – as you named in your examples 2 of my favourites! I do love flower making though, and I have to attribute that all to Ron Ben-Israel – he gave me the passion for sugar flowers and I’m constantly striving to do better each time I make them. My recent OSSAS wedding cake was to date my favourite in terms of the flowers I created and the arrangement – it was the first time I stepped back after I created the topper and gasped! Truly it was everything I saw in my head and more. And the praise I received from my flower mentor Ron was just the “icing on the cake”
5. technique you would like to master
You keep asking tough questions!! Funny enough I would love to master the flawless fondant finishes that Rebecca Sutterby of Sugar Creations can do! I really don’t know how she does it (I mean I do know as she tells me each time I say that to her) but I really am in awe of her fondant finishing and it drives me mental that I cannot seem to master that!
6. whose influence formed you
Over the years I’ve been influenced by so many artists and I admire tons of people for various reasons.
If I did have to choose just one person, I would have to say Ron Ben-Israel has had the biggest impact & influence on me – both in my work and professional life. He is perfection personified.
7. first book you got about sugarcraft
OMG I have no idea!!! I’ve had so many books for such a long period of time I couldn’t say which was one of the firsts! Cake Bible is one of my oldest baking books I would say, and looking at my bookshelf I would say any of these would be some of my first books on sugarcraft: The Icing on the Cake by Greg Robinson & Max Schofield, The Wedding Cake Book by Dede Wilson and Colette’s Wedding Cakes by Colette Peters – but believe me I have TONS more! LOL!
8. what is your favorite book
In cake or just book in general? Hmmm you know Betty you’ve made a pretty kick ass book – just wish my German was a bit better ;) Cakewalk by Margaret Braun is just a gorgeous book too.
9. your favorite color
I don’t discriminate! LOL! I love so many colours for so many reasons I couldn’t just pick one!! I’m partial to pink (obviously) and I love grey …
10. where are you getting inspirations from
Everywhere! Art, fashion, designs, wallpaper, textiles, architecture, Google images! LOL!
11. favorite cake you created – (please send a pic)
That I’ve created???!!! Yikes!
One of my favourite sculpted cakes was my Taz that I made in a secret rush for Scott’s birthday! As soon as he left the shop I got to work and turned it out in record time! Made by altering up the Cake Bones set by Browen Weber & Francois Long, frozen cake tops and left over buttercream, it turned out pretty darn sweet! I kinda wish we didn’t have to cut it!
For wedding cakes hmmm I would say a toss up between my last 2 entries in the Grand National Wedding Cake competition – I love both for different reasons.
12. for whom do you dream to do a cake and what will it look like
My daughters wedding cake – how it will look I have no idea as she is only 10 and who knows what her tastes will be – but I can’t wait to find out! Ok maybe I can wait…cause I hope it’s at the very least 15 years from now and I don’t want to know what I will look like 15 years from now!!!!!
13. a design you wish to transfer into a cake
Hmm that’s a tough one! Ummmm……. (think think think)!
I’m gonna have to say Art Nouveau – something with a Mucha feel to it – it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but I love that style so much I guess I’m avoiding it for fear I wont do it justice.
14. a cake, made by another decorator, you admire (please give a link)
Again with the just one option??!!! I admire so many different artists for so many different reasons, it’s near impossible to choose just one!! But I will say that I do love Rebecca Sutterby of Sugar Creations work/style. She has a whimsy to her designs, they are always perfect in execution and she has a way of tying in so many elements in one cohesive design. One that always brings a smile to my face is this cake: Link to flickr
15. 3 tools you can't work without
Just 3?? Small palette knife, turntable, Google images – and for those who know me well a close 4th would be pressure – I do some of my best work under pressure!
16. your favorite flavor
If it’s cake, then a good old chocolate cake. But if it’s dessert then crème brulee is up there for me! I recently had a PB&J crème brulee where they had a peanut butter custard and raspberry compote on the bottom – that was pretty heavenly!!
17. where will you be in 10 years - visions
On a beach, in Hawaii, with a drink in each hand! Haha!
Oh you mean in life & work?!! LOL! Man I really don’t know! If you asked me in 2004 when I started Flour Confections if I would ever be anything more than a side cake business I would have said “ya right”. And if you asked me 5 years ago if my husband Scott would leave his career and become my cake business partner I would have said “ya right”! And if you asked me 3 years ago when we expanded the business to a retail & online sugarcraft store if I would be shipping around the globe, having a staff of 12 and constantly needed more space for inventory I would have said “ya right”!
So not really sure what to say in 10 years time as it hasn’t even been 10 years since I started this business and it’s changed SOOO much. I’m not much for planning so let’s just see what the future holds…
18. if the 10 golden rules for cake decorating existed, what would one of them be:
Oh good question! So many to choose from but probably this: Always strive to challenge & improve yourself. You can always do better and take each mistake as a learning lesson for next time – modesty in your work is a great quality – it is after all just cake. And to quote Genie in Disney’s Aladdin “ Beeeee yourself”!
19. a cake decorating no-go
Crying – there’s no crying in cake (but I’m sure I’ve shed a few!) And fingernails! – the thought makes me icky! Oh and Lick & Stick! haha
20. who would you like to answer these questions too
Just one person? I would love to see so many people answer these questions hmmm……I think Michelle Wibowo, Bronwen Weber, Debbie Goard, Kate Sullivan, Wendy Kromer and Elizabeth Falkner (pastry chef & chef) would all provide some awesome answers! Ahhh I keep thinking of more people!!!
Thanks Lisa for taking all the time to answer these questions!
If you want to learn more about Lisa and Flour Confections, please visit her website: http://www.flourconfections.com