Catherine Beddall took her experience as a graphic designer and put it to work creating beautiful and romantic cakes for all occasions. Read her exclusive interview here!
Brief history of your business and how you got to where you are today?
I’m a trained graphic designer, and worked in that industry for about 13 years. I started making cakes as a hobby when a good friend asked me to make her wedding cake - and that venture grew into a small part-time business. But, it wasn't until a few years ago that I made the jump into the cake and pastry world full-time. At that point, I left my graphic design job, enrolled in Algonquin College’s Baking and Pastry Arts program to build a good base in baking theory. Soon afterwards, I was hired to teach various courses in the program - which I love!
These days I’m busy making both wedding and celebration cakes for clients, while teaching a number of courses part time at the college. I also occasionally make specialty items like figurines and decorated sugar cookies for a bakery in Ottawa. Although, I don't miss my graphic design career, I am glad I have that training and experience because it has helped me immeasurably in all aspects of cake design!
How were you first introduced to Satin Ice?
I can’t remember who first introduced me to Satin Ice – but since that time I have never used anything else!
Is there one particular project that stands out as significant or that you are particularly proud of?
I’m very proud of the cake decorating course I developed (as well as teach) at Algonquin College. The class I developed is called Introduction to Cake Decorating, Phases 1-3, which is not part of the diploma program, but instead a general interest course open to anyone. It’s casual and fun and I’ve packed it with as much fondant tips and tricks as possible. I put a lot of time and effort into making it a success, and it’s been really popular! We use Satin Ice in the program of course – I constantly rave about it to my students!
(Photo below from roneade.com)
The other classes I teach include: Introduction to Baking and Pastry, (a required course for students in the culinary diploma program), Gum Paste Flowers, Almond Paste, (which covers figurines modeling with marzipan) and Specialty cakes, (which are all part of the Patissier certificate program).
My style is very simple and clean. I love bright colors, but I also love neutral palettes – they are equally gorgeous. Flowers are a huge inspiration for me, and I adore the romantic, pretty and elegant look when it comes to cakes. I also love ruffles, delicate piping and bows. I try to achieve a look that is the perfect blend of simple, striking and spectacular.
My current favorite is the stack of pancakes cake I recently made. I adore making food cakes and it was so fun to create this one. Food cakes are usually easier to make than they look and the results are realistic and amazing!
Most challenging cake to date?
I would say that my most challenging cake to date was the Thailand-inspired birthday cake – not because of the techniques involved, although it did include lots of intricate fondant work – but because I agonized over the design for so long. I wanted it to be original and fun, but classy as well. I remember struggling over the color combinations and design elements for days before I finally got it right. I ended up with a final product that I was really happy with, so it was all worth it in the end!
What advice or tips can you offer to Satin Ice newcomers?
Practice makes perfect. That’s what I always tell my students and I live by those words! Don’t get frustrated if something doesn't turn out the way you were hoping it would the first time – keep trying. Even with a product as great and easy to work with as Satin Ice, the only way to build your fondant skills is to practice, practice, practice!
For rolling out, I always use cornstarch – it works beautifully with Satin Ice. Oh, and if you live in a country with very dry, cold winters like I do, always make sure to wrap it tightly and store it in a well-sealed container when you’re not using it. If you don’t, you will run the risk of the outer edges drying – and nothing is worse than little crusty bits in your fondant when you roll it out!
Describe your cake decorating style in just 3 words?
Simple, clean, fresh.
If you weren't decorating cakes, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be working as a pastry chef somewhere. I’d love to someday get more experience in the patisserie world creating exquisite little desserts and pastries.
What is a ‘regular’ day like for Catherine Beddall?
My days are always different! I have a pretty irregular schedule. I teach on some days, bake and decorate on others, occasionally pull all-nighters, work on upcoming projects and of course, try to spend as much time with my family as I can.
What is your creative process for making cakes?
I’m a little bit unconventional that way. I never sketch out my ideas unless specifically requested by the client. I prefer to plan everything out in my head in detail and then get to work. Something about sketching feels restrictive to me, and for some reason, I can see color combinations and other design elements more clearly if I don’t put them on paper. Many wedding cake clients, understandably, want to see a sketch, but most of my celebration cake clients want me to “surprise” them after they’ve given me a theme, for which I’m very grateful… Creative free rein is the best thing in the world!
Who or what is inspiring you this very moment?
Flowers, nature, patterns, textiles and fashion continually inspire me. As for cake artists who inspire me, I’m a huge fan of Karen Portaleo, Sweet Disposition Cakes and a fellow Ottawa cake artist, The Cake Whisperer.
What are the big trends you are seeing right now in cake art?
I’m seeing a lot of naked cakes lately, and have gotten a few requests for them this season. Although they can be pretty, I’m definitely a fondant girl – so much more scope for creativity! For wedding cakes, metallic elements are huge right now, and ruffles and ombre are still very popular with my clients. For other celebration cakes - the sky’s the limit!
If you could create a cake for anyone in history (past or present day): Who would it be and why?
Without question, it would be Freddie Mercury! I’ve always been inspired by him and designing a cake for him would be a dream come true. I can’t even begin to imagine the creative possibilities!
Finally what is next for Catherine Beddall and Catherine’s Cakery this year?
I’m just a little bit obsessed with making gingerbread houses, and I want to get more into doing those this year. Though they’re obviously not covered in fondant, the decorations and figurines I use for the houses involve a lot of fondant work. I’d also like to continue teaching, which I really enjoy doing, and of course, I’ll still be taking cake orders! I think it’ll be an exciting year and I can’t wait for what’s to come!
Name: Catherine Beddall
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Education/Training: I received a diploma in Baking and Pastry Arts from Algonquin College in 2012, which was an excellent program, and decided to focus on baking and baking theory rather than decorating. Other than one very valuable weekend course I took with Robert Haynes on sugar flower making, my decorating skills are entirely self-taught, gathered over 15 years of practice and trial and error.
Business Name: Catherine’s Cakery
Number of Employees: just me!
Cake philosophy: This isn’t the most original answer but it’s the truth - a cake should always taste equally as good as it looks!