Page 32 - Pastry & Baking Magazine

Pastry & Baking
North America
Cake Designer in Focus
Judges and editors have all said that I do not have a
recognizable thumbprint and I always dish up something new
and surprise them. I no longer compete, but was delighted to
participate in elimination rounds for Brides magazine when
they chose the most beautiful cakes in America for their biannual
spreads and have been fortunate to be chosen each time. The
involvement keeps me relevant. I was thrilled to receive a message
from wedding style director Maria McBride describing my 2011
cake as a “personal favorite of Brides editors... sexy, fashionable
and clever but most importantly it was meticulous.” McBride
also said that my cake design was “proof that the judge gives as
good as she expects!” referring to my work as a judge on Food
Network Challenge.
Being a cake-decorating pioneer, you’re credited with
inventing two techniques – Vincent Marquetry and pleating
rolled fondant. How’d they come about?
I always took risks with the mediums that I worked with, so I
experimented, if it worked, fabulous, if it didn’t, so what! I would
try something else or sometimes the initial thought took me
elsewhere or new things evolved that I did not expect. The
creative approach from the past had always been static with the
exception of gravity defying extension work. I wanted movement
and I wanted it floral, full color, not flat. People were creating
fabric effects in sugar, it was pretty primitive, but I figured a way
to create pleats and gathering and fantasy floral decorations as
well as a way to prevent the work from smudging, which was
the biggest concern when I added surface color. These techniques
have been duplicated worldwide.
Regarding Vincent Marquetry, in 1985 I was interrupted by
a phone call in the middle of making some flower paste
decorations, trapped by the length of the cord I couldn’t reach
the plastic wrap to cover my work to prevent it from drying out,
the call outlasted the paste, I had a couple of cutters in my hand
and instead of doodling I started randomly chopping into the
drying paste, suddenly it dawned on me that I could make inlay
so the Vincent Marquetry was born. I couldn’t wait to get rid of
the caller to busy myself in figuring out how to create designs
and style elements and finally making my first inlay cake topper.
Both techniques were recognized internationally and subsequently
documented by historical committees abroad in the eighties and
later in 1997 in my book Romantic Wedding Cakes, which was
published in 2001.
Describe the impact fondant had on the face of North
American cake decorating? Was it the game changer?
There is no question that rolled fondant and gum-paste were
game changers and turned cake decoration on its head in North
America. The United States was late into the game. Australians
took the medium to the United Kingdom (UK) in the mid
seventies Elaine McGregor was the first, followed by Hall of
Fame sugar artists Patricia Simmons and Marie Sykes in 1982.
Their first book tour around the UK pressed local artists buttons,
decorators were ready for a change from Royal Icing and they
came out of the woodwork in droves. England has always had
famous porcelain and pottery industries it wasn’t a huge leap
for them to begin working with gum paste.
I introduced commercial rolled fondant to the United States
in 1989. Sick and tired of making huge batches of fondant by
hand and burning out Hobart mixers in the process, I got in
touch with Bakels Australia and together with input from Sykes
Simmons talked Chairman Lex Kier, whom I met in Atlanta
GA, into setting up a factory in Little Rock, Arkansas. My husband
Doug became a director of the company and I worked with John
Busch (AR) on taste and flavor and inventing the new name
rolled fondant.’ In the Southern hemisphere the product was
always known as plastic icing, we knew that would never work
here. It was a hard slog for around 8 or 9 years before the medium
reached market acceptance but suddenly it jet-propelled when
the bridal magazines embraced the ‘new’ smooth bisque surface
and lifelike sugar flowers (a photographer’s dream) and the game
was on.
Mark Gibson,
Australian producer
Today Tonight”
traveled to
the US to