Go behind the mythical cakes with The Americas Cake and Sugarcraft Fair global cake challenge winner Karen Keaney of Ireland. Learn how she got her start in the business and what plans she has for the future!
Brief history of your business and how you got to where you are today?
I always had a very keen interest in food and baking and in 2007 I left my job as a logistics/inventory manager and opened my own coffee shop. There I baked everything from scratch for my customer's daily.
It wasn't until my little girl's christening that I discovered my love for cake decorating. I made her christening cake in January of 2013 and I thought it was amazing - but it really wasn't!!! I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't even put it on a cake board - it was on a plate! Things quickly snowballed from there and playing with fondant reawakened my love for working with clay - something I had done as a student. In 2013, I decided to leave the coffee shop behind and make more time for my newfound passion, cake decorating, and Roses and Bows cakery was born.
How were you first introduced to Satin Ice?
I was introduced to Satin Ice when it was first launched in Ireland. I started using the gum paste first and I loved it for making figurines. I then moved on to the fondant. I particularly love the ivory shade for wedding cakes.
Is there one project that stands out as significant or that you are particularly proud of?
I am proud of all my competition wins for lots of different reasons, but if I had to pick one I think I would pick my Dead Pirates wedding cake. I took it to Hotelympia in the Excel in London in 2014 as part of The North West Culinary Team - and it won gold! It was my very first international gold medal! It went on to be published in "Out of Step Books Excavate' edition.
I love fantasy cakes, anything steampunk, gothic, mythology or magical!
Most challenging cake to date?
My live global cake challenge entry at The Americas Cake and Sugarcraft Fair this September. It was exceptionally challenging because I was out of my own kitchen, under a huge time constraint and not to mention live on stage! The judging was also quite intimidating! Was it worth the stress? Absolutely!! It was an amazing experience - one I will never forget and to win the competition was everything we hoped for and more. I always believe that you should push yourself and challenge yourself in your work. If you don't have a hunger for what you do - than I don't see the point in it. Competitions satisfy that need for me and I always encourage people to enter, no matter what level they are at. And if you don't win, ask for feedback and learn to take it with you to use to your advantage. I also judge competitions as a member of The Panel of Chefs of Ireland, and this is a very important part of the job for me.
Puss in Boots - my entry for Cake International in Manchester last February - he won gold!
What tips can you offer to Satin Ice newcomers?
Try to make cakes you love - its easier and more enjoyable. Learn by your mistakes and practice - a lot!
If you weren't decorating cakes, what would you be doing?
Probably still baking them!
What is a 'regular' cake decorating day like for you?
I don't have a regular day! My job varies so much from magazine tutorials to flying off somewhere to teach classes, filming tutorials or working on collaboration pieces. This all keeps it interesting for me too!
What is your creative process for making cakes?
It depends on the cake. If it's a competition cake, I may start with an idea, create a collage of images I like, analyze those to see why I like them and then take those pieces as inspiration to start a sketch. If it's a cake for a new class, I may start to work with just an idea and see where it takes me.
Who or what is inspiring you at this very moment?
Anything and everything inspire me! It could be a beautiful dress or a piece of furniture - there are just so many ideas around us every day.
What are the big trends you are seeing right now in wedding cake art?
Clean lines, sharp edges and metallic are still on trend and I think we will be seeing them again in 2016. I think more and more people are becoming adventurous with cake design - which is great to see!
If you could create a cake for anyone in history (past or present): Who would it be and why?
Walt Disney - he was such a visionary, an inspirational man and I would be negotiating a lifetime pass to Disney World!
What is the next "big thing" for you?
Next is Cake International in Birmingham where I will be entering a competition cake, and I also have a collaboration piece on display with Bakers Unite to Fight (to raise awareness of endangered animals). I will also be demonstrating at the Satin Ice booth throughout the show for the first time. After the show then I will be focusing on content for my first book and filming tutorials for my new Vimeo page.
Name: Karen Keaney
Business name: Roses and Bows Cakery
Facebook: Roses and Bows Cakery
Cake philosophy: Details are the key to a great cake!