Nominated for two Cake Masters awards for the first time ever in her career - Isabel Tamargo is coming off her busiest and most successful sugar year yet! Learn more about this cake sculpting mastermind in this month's exclusive interview...
Brief history of your business and how you got to where you are today?
I really love creative pastry, but I admit I’ve always dreamed of being a good director and screenwriter. I was a part of the University’s Cinema and Journalism Department in Málaga and also studied Psychology. One of my biggest hobbies is sculpture, and I love to make pieces in polymer clay too. Since the very beginning, I knew I wanted to do cakes that do not look like traditional cakes. I wanted to make crazy pieces based on structure, realistic elements and human busts - so in 2014 I decided to create Tartas Imposibles to live out this dream. Currently I do not sell cakes, but instead all of my work is dedicated to collaborations, exhibitions or simply for practice. Right now I do a lot of traveling where I am a teaching sculpting to students all over the world - and I love it!
(Isabel working directly with a student in her "Corazon de fuego" master class - below)
(Isabel with her students in her "Butterflies" master class - below)
How were you first introduced to Satin Ice? When I started sculpting with chocolate back in 2014, I had to test a lot of different fondant brands. I’m very demanding with my materials and I have to admit Satin Ice is one of the best products I have used. It transforms my modeling chocolate into a very firm, elastic and handy paste - which is the most important thing for me.
Is there one project that stands out?
I love all my son’s birthday cakes because they’re very special to me and I usually dedicate more time to these projects! He is very tough and always wants the best cake of the year!! But the turning point in my career was the cake I made for my grandfather's birthday. It was my very first realistic bust cake - and since that experience a whole new world of ideas has opened up to me.
(Some of our very favorite bust cakes made by Isabel - below)
Signature style & inspiration? When I work on a piece, I’m very careful with all the details because I always want it to be perfect. I want it to convey feelings and sensations to the public - and this is something I am always very passionate about.
Favorite cake? What a difficult question… I love to make sculptures and bust cakes, but one of my favorite creations is the "Smaug Cake." I made this for one of my son’s birthday and it was a complete surprise to him! I remember we put the soundtrack of "The Lord of The Rings" on and he entered into the hall blindfolded. When he finally saw the cake - he went crazy and was full of joy!!
Most challenging cake to date? Without a doubt the most challenging cake was a the girl on the jumping horse - a gravity defying cake we made for the First Communion of an important Spanish businessman’s daughter. It took the team over 300 hours to make the piece but in the end we were so happy with how it turned out. It was an amazing and a very exciting challenge!
(The horse as seen from behind - below)
(Isabel and the horse in progress - below)
What tips can you offer to Satin Ice newcomers? The best advice is to be constant and a bit stubborn. In my career I started at the very bottom working in a little bakery where I had to make a lot of very basic cakes. I didn’t enjoy that kind of work so much, so one day I quit that job to make more complicated pieces at home. So the best advice I can offer is:
- Have fun while you make cakes and be very demanding in your work.
- And to constantly improve it is necessary to get the best materials and tools. Everything is easier when you use the right stuff to make your project and specifically, Satin Ice, has proven to be a very versatile and elastic paste for all my big projects!
Describe your cake decorating style in three words? Realistic, detailed and surprising!
What is a 'regular' cake decorating day like for you? Currently I am in a very stressful phase because I have a lot of very important projects that I have to combine with my teaching. I have courses that take up all of my weekends, and it's very exhausting because my courses are complex and last 12 hours each time. Overall I am very happy and proud of what I am doing. I love all the new people I meet along the way and enjoy learning new techniques myself. I usually work on collaboration and exhibition pieces on Wednesdays, so during the other days I have to prepare all my course materials as well as reply to Facebook comments and emails. I am in a really "sweet" place right now - but I really need a vacation!!
What is your creative process for making cakes? I sketch out all of my projects. I make all my own designs, but sometimes I love to surf sites like Pinterest, DeviantArt and CGTalk. For me those sites are a great way to find inspiration, but I always try to make something different and never try to clone another artist’s ideas. The first thing I do is think about the structure, and when that's determined I to carve and sculpt. And then I start to paint and texture - which is my favorite part! And that is when the piece really comes alive!
What is inspiring you this very moment? I have three hyperrealist sculptors on my inspire list: Ron Mueck, Sam Jinks and Tony Matelli. Their work is stunning; and I hope I can make something like them in the future. It's a dream of mine!
What is your favorite part about designing cakes? My favorite part is the sculpting process of course - where I build the volumes, make it symmetric and fill it with rich textures. Each new project is a new adventure where I can try out new techniques.
What is your favorite cake flavor?
Orange dark chocolate with hazelnut praline.
If you weren't decorating cakes, what would you be doing?
I think I’d be writing scripts and making shorts. I am a crazy movie buff, so I’m sure I would be watching movies all the time and writing a cinema blog! Unfortunately with all the courses and projects I am involved in I don't have much free time. But I try to watch 2-3 movies per week with my family.
Who would you love to learn from in the industry?
I admire so many people in the industry! I’d love to learn from Avalon Yarnes, Lizzo Marek, Karen Portaleo, Hajnalka Mayor, Calli Hopper, Natalie Sideserf, Timbo Sullivan... I love all their amazing work!
What are the big trends you are seeing right now in cakes? A bit after I started doing bust cakes I found that many cake confectioners were doing edible busts too. I am very excited to see that 3D cakes and human sculpting is growing little by little in this "sweet" world. I’ve also seen some useful techniques applied like crackle finishes, mirror effects, isomalt forms, etc... Art and pastry have gone hand in hand these last few years.
What do you aspire to accomplish with each cake? Well, it’s a bit difficult for a Spanish cake designer to find huge and interesting projects like USA or UK designers. I would love to help bring creative pastry to a new level in my country with my Spanish confectioner partners and properly introduce this amazing world of cake art to Spanish pastry. I would love to work big event projects with a team or be a teacher as part of a formal pastry education. These are all just dreams of mine right now - but who knows...
If you could create a cake for anyone in history (past or present): Who would it be and why?
What a difficult question! Well, there are many interesting characters but I think I would choose Queen's Freddie Mercury. Queen is definitely the best band in history for me and Freddie is my all-time favorite vocalist, songwriter and the greatest voice in the history of rock!!
What is the next "big thing" for you? I’ve worked hard this year and found out a month ago that I am a finalist in two categories in the Cake Masters Awards (Novelty Cake & Best collaboration)! This is a dream come true for me, and I can’t believe it!! In addition, I’m hosting a new public collaboration in December about animal rights and another private collaboration next year that I can’t talk you about yet. Yeah I know, I’m a collaboration nut!
Name: Isabel Tamargo
Location: Spain (Vasque County)
Education/Training: Cinema & Psychology Degree
Business name: Tartas Imposibles (Spain)
Cake philosophy: “There is no impossible cake nor challenge that can’t be successful with enthusiasm and determination.”