You wouldn’t guess this by looking at her work, but Mercedes Strachwsky, is in fact a self-taught cake designer – not one single cake decorating class under her belt. Now that you know, take a look through a picture gallery of Strachwsky’s cakes and you can’t help but be amazed at her talent!
Growing up in Colombia Strachwsky always had a love for the arts, spending most of her time sketching and painting. However her love for cakes emerged from a hobby, soon after marrying husband, Alex, who is an architect and pastry chef. Together with her husband by her side, Mercedes continued to develop her skills and with that her love for cakes grew stronger. Through the years as she continued to acquire new techniques, Strachwsky became interested in giving back to other cake decorators by sharing her knowledge through teaching – which she does all year long nationally and internationally.
Currently, Mercedes and Alex, along with their three children, Andy, David and Michael, own and run the Bake Me A Cake Pastry Shop. Since opening the doors in 2001, Mercedes and her husband work side by side, with Alex baking and Mercedes decorating.
While most days are hectic and spent decorating, Satin Ice was lucky enough to get to spend some time with Mercedes to get inside her extravagant world of fondant and cake!
Brief history of your business and how you got to where you are today?
The cake business really got started for me after moving to Orlando. At the time, I was already working with fondant and teaching classes on the side. It was just a few years after the show cake I made for the ICES (International Cake Exploration Societe’) Convention that my husband and I decided to start our own business. In 2001, we opened Bake Me A Cake, a small cake and pastry shop in the heart of Central Florida. My husband has always had a strong passion for baking and his dream of opening a small pastry shop coincided with my passion for cakes.
Creating one of a kind cakes and desserts was our goal for the bakery. At the time fondant, was not as popular as it is now, so I was one of the first in Florida to use fondant on cakes. Working with Kevin, (O’Reilly, Satin Ice founder), developing the product really got me to where I am today. I use Satin Ice for all of my cakes. It is a great product for any style of cake I need to make, including construction cakes, delicate flowers, 3D figures – it’s always perfect for simple and clean cake designs.
Over the years our customers really enjoyed the fondant cakes, including the flavor. Because of this the orders started coming in for birthday, wedding and one of a kind cakes and cupcakes. My 3D figures were a hit and the Central Florida community really grew to like them.
In 2009, my career took another turn when I won the Grand Prize at the Oklahoma Grand National Cake Show, the most prestigious wedding cake competition in the United States. Soon after that, I had many television appearances and articles, including a mention in Dessert Professional’s Top 10 Cake Artists of North America.
Mercedes with Sugar Master Kerry Vincent after winning the Oklahoma Grand National Cake Show in 2009.
Today, I enjoy teaching the most, but every cake that comes out of our bakery I still work on and give it the same amount of passion and dedication as when I first started. Everyone celebrates with cakes and I have always been able to take a traditional cake and transform it into art.
How much does fondant play a part in your business and its growth opportunity?
Fondant plays a huge role in our bakery. All of our cakes are covered with a thin layer of Satin Ice. And today, we are proud to say that we are 100 percent a fondant bakery. Fondant allows our cakes to stay moist longer and gives our cakes that clean and delicate look our customers are looking for.
I have always been inspired by nature and God’s creations – the colors, the plants flowers and trees. All of these are my inspiration for textures, designs and simplicities of each cake that I make. Overall my cakes are very clean, romantic and delicate and each one tells a story.
It’s very hard to choose because there are so many! I love every single cake I have made that has to do with nature. In the Orlando Science Center there is one of my cakes on display that I did over 10 years ago. The cake incorporates everything about Florida, including its nature and landscapes. Its very big 5 feet high and every thing on the cake I made free hand.
Most challenging cake:
It also has to be the Florida cake. On the cake all the corals had to resemble Florida coral as well as the manatees. I also had to make the beach, the Everglades and all of it was done by hand. This is one cake that stands out. While I was working on this, one night I dreamt that I was under the sea and it completely inspired me for the next day of work.
Most unique cake you have ever done:
It would have to be the Vizcaya Mansion replica cake. This cake I made for a wedding to resemble the actual Vizcaya Mansion. The cake consisted of beautiful close-ups of fountains and the landscape of the property. True story: En route to deliver the cake, I was making sugar roses on the plane. The only reason I was making the flowers is because I knew the cake was not going to be eaten. Everyone on the plane was gathering around my seat to watch. The flight attendants kept trying to get everyone to remain seated, but they all just wanted to learn from me! It was so funny!
What do you find most rewarding about cake decorating?
There are so many aspects. It’s rewarding to see the look on peoples faces when they see the cake for the first time. Throughout the years I have received so many letters from students that have taken my classes. A lot of time they will write to me about how their life has changed because of taking one of my classes. It’s amazing how people change when they start doing this (cake decorating). I get doctors, dentist and policemen that come to relax and have fun in my classes. Seeing all these students progress in their career and now open their own business is so rewarding for me. I have hundreds of letters to look back on and reflect on all the people’s lives I have changed. It feels great!
How were you first introduced to Satin Ice?
Actually, Satin Ice came to me. Kevin O’Reilly (Satin Ice founder) came to my house and told me that he was going to open his business. He (O’Reilly) has always been a good friend of the family, so I said I would help. Since day #1 I have been a fan of Satin Ice. It is fantastic! I love mixing the colors and it tastes really good. Overall for me it is the best brand because you can do anything with it.
It’s a wonderful product. I have tried it in a lot of different countries in different weather and conditions and it always works really well.
What is your best tip to share with other Satin Ice users?
From the beginning learn how to use Satin Ice correctly so you don’t run into any difficult situations later on. But if you do run into a difficult situation don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can always call Satin Ice directly or myself and I will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Once you learn how to use the fondant correctly, it’s so easy and you will become addicted to Satin Ice for all your business needs.
Is there any advice that you can offer to beginner cake decorators?
Tip #1: Be creative. Don’t be afraid to create your own style and always follow your feelings. If you want to do something or invent something do it!
Tip #2: Don’t work with envy or anger and always help other cake decorators. There is enough business for everyone and worrying about others taking your ideas will deter you from working in happiness.
Tip #3 – Is an important fondant tip. When people start switching from one fondant brand to another it is not good because then you never get completely comfortable handling one. The more you work with one, the more you learn how to handle and use it effectively.
Finally, describe your cake decorating style in just 3 words:
Clean, Romantic, happy
If you weren’t decorating cakes, what would you be doing?
I would be a psychologist. Love to help people and talk about their problems. Love to help people.
Name: Mercedes Strachwsky
Education/Training: I never took a cake decorating class in my whole life, but I have studied arts and have been involved in that. I have also worked with ceramics for many years and all my life I have had a passion for cakes.
Business Name & Location:
Bake Me A Cake Pastry Shop & Bakery
710 Orange Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida
Number of employees:
Bake Me A Cake is a family owned and operated business.
Website and Facebook page:
Don’t forget to check out Mercedes’ Artist of Excellencepage for more amazing cakes!