Name: Michelle Sohan
Location: Trinidad & Tobago
Education/Training: BS. Agriculture, MSC. Food Technology
Business name: Bakery Treatz
Cake philosophy: "Life is short, eat dessert first!"
What is the history about your business and how you got to where you are today?
I had never baked before and then I had a very serious accident at work. At the time, I was doing my Masters part time and we had a bake sale at the university. My sister actually baked the cakes and I carried. I got such great reviews and was asked if I take orders - and out of the blue I said, “I do!"
So the marriage started and J and I began from home - using the oven my mom had since she was married that could only hold 2 8” pans! Then she moved me out of her kitchen, and I set up a little area in my house and was catering to several restaurants and private clients. Bakery Treatz was officially launched in 2003 and in the beginning we were doing a lot of frosted cakes - even the wedding cakes were frosted. Almost every cake had classic piped borders, swags and the fountains! There were very few fondant cakes, but we made our own fondant back then - and boy oh boy, that was a challenge! Not only to my poor mixer, but it was not very friendly to work with either! Then we got cable TV and people were seeing Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes. Because of those show people started asking if I could do all those crazy designs! That’s when all the fondant action started here!
How were you first introduced to Satin Ice?
I was introduced to Satin Ice in 2007, at one of the cake conventions. I remember watching Mercedes Strachwsky doing all sorts of amazing folds and cutouts - which I never could do with my own fondant. I did go back with an overweight suitcase filled with Satin Ice!
Is there one project that stands out as significant or that you are particularly proud of?
My very first competition in Virginia at the National Capital Area Cake show in 2014 where my partner was Zane Beg of The Sweet Life. I was totally intimidated when I was prepping! I stopped and looked around and there were all the artists I had only seen on cable TV - I was in awe!
What is your signature style?
I love making free hand swags, creating textures with bas relief and piping! I love piping - especially henna!
What is your favorite cake and why?
My Indian Minions! I was asked to do a bride and groom minion wedding cake, and of course, my mind is never happy to just copy what has been done already. So I created the first Indian minions - all dressed in East Indian wedding attire and with the traditional alter made with colored rice and pitcher! It went crazy, until I started getting messages from different parts of the world to ship them!
Most challenging cake?
I had to do a castle cake inspired by a similar design in Indonesia. It took over 49 hours to complete - and had to be transported in two vehicles! I had all the angels and fountains made out of gum paste and fondant. The hardest part was cutting up the cake for the clients!
What tips of advice can you offer to Satin Ice newcomers?
You just have to work with Satin Ice fondant and develop the feel for it! I’ve had such great success using it, and I live in a high humidity and temperature country!
Describe your cake decorating style in just 3 words:
Energetic, imaginative, fun
(Putting on the finishing touches!
What is your creative process for making cakes?
I like to sketch, and also to create a sequence in design and execution.
What is a 'regular' cake decorating day like for you?
Oh gosh, there’s never ever anything regular at all! I get up almost always to messages that start with, “I need a favor,” which is always someone forgetting to order a cake. . .
I do work with a schedule, but Trinidadians are always last minute - so I have to cater for the last minute orders. I do believe my customers think I am some kind of magician though. If you could only see the requests that come in for the same day!
(Traveling with one of her finished cakes)
What is your favorite part about designing cakes?
I had my fiancé join me a few years ago, and I really enjoy getting his input and views in design - because it’s so easy to get stuck in same styles. He is the reason why I stepped up my game! He never lets me get comfortable! He does become annoying at times - when we don’t agree on something… but I always value his input.
(With her partner and cake from the Americas Cake Fair Live Global Cake Challenge in 2015)
Favorite cake flavor to make?
A coconut sponge cake with freshly grated coconut baked into it and then layered with a passion fruit mascarpone.
What is inspiring you this very moment?
Watercolor paintings and sculptures.
Who would you love to learn from in the industry?
Ron Ben-Israel, Maria Castro, Gabriel Castillo, Fernanda Abarca to only name a few! I would love to learn from everyone! The industry is so dynamic, and we've had so many amazing cake artists creating new techniques daily. Not everything will be applicable where I am, but to understand the techniques is so important. We just never stop learning! I always try to take classes when I am at the shows, and some of my fellow cake friends would always be amazed when I show up to their class as a student. Having a real live experience with one of these artists would be irreplaceable versus watching them on video.
(Michelle with fellow Artists of Excellence Ron Ben-Israel and Jorg Amsler)
What are the big trends you are seeing right now in cakes?
Textures - and that’s what makes Satin Ice even more instrumental to me! I find it so easy to create fabric textures, bas relief and so much more.
What do you aspire to accomplish with each cakes?
I want the finished cake to be valued for the love and time that I put into it! I try each time to add one more element, so it’s never the same, and always create that wow factor!
If you could create a cake for anyone in history - who would it be and why?
I would love to do a cake for Oprah Winfrey! She’s been an inspiration in many ways, through her childhood struggles, and successes as a female entrepreneur.
(Photo from The Hollywood Reporter)
What is the next "big thing" for you?
My competition in Milan, Italy at the Cake Designers World Championships in October! Yikes! I am panicking all ready - how did I get myself into this one! Fingers crossed!