Name: Elisa Strauss
Location: New York
Education/Training: Degree in Art from Vassar College, Degree in Pastry Arts from Institute of Culinary Education
Cake philosophy: "Measure the width of the door before you bake the cake."
What is the history about your business and how you got to where you are today?
After graduating from Vassar College, (and a semester away in Chicago at The School of the Art Institute), I worked in textile and fashion design at both Ralph Lauren and Frederic Fekkai. It was while working at Ralph Lauren that I was making cakes on the side, as a hobby out of my apartment, that I made my first sculpted cakes: a car, bath tub, handbag and stiletto shoe cakes (ahem, 20 years ago!) I realized I should go to Pastry school to fine tune my love of baking and the rest is history.
How were you first introduced to Satin Ice?
I feel like my friendship with Satin Ice began as soon as I discovered rolled fondant and gum paste. I like to tell my younger students that, “when I was a young designer we had to mix our own colors the old-fashioned way with our hands!” Now we are so lucky Satin Ice has so many pre-dyed colors in BOTH Fondant and Gum Paste!
Is there one project that stands out as significant or that you are particularly proud of?
I would have to choose two different ones. I have always LOVED the rolled Chocolate fondant…for its taste, color and consistency. I also LOVE Satin Ice’s gum paste (both the original white and the new pre-dyed colors) Often people choose to make gum paste from scratch or a mix and I find it never comes out correctly- it either dries too fast, too slow or it cracks, or it just doesn’t have the smoothness I’m used to with Satin Ice’s gum paste. I find the drying time, the smell and the consistency perfect for all my modeling needs from sugar flowers, sculpting figures to lettering and tiny details.
(Some our favorite gum paste creations by Elisa)
What is your signature style?
I think I’ve become known for my realism- getting every detail on a handbag, sugar shoe or the shine on a “piece of sushi” (made out of sugar of course) just right. But I equally love to paint textile designs or create a beautiful and elegant tiered wedding cake.
What is your favorite cake and why?
This is like choosing your favorite child! So many cakes provide challenges as an artist, business owner and employer to a staff that you must delegate to. But if I HAVE to choose I will pick one of my most recent cakes that I made for my son’s first birthday - not that he is my favorite child, just one of my favorite three! It is my favorite - not for the design - but for the challenge it posed. I can’t recall sculpting a person in 3-D. I am convinced that given more time, (and more babysitting help), or if I do it again, I will be able to get the likeness even closer to my subject.
Most challenging cake?
I have many of these too….it would either be the 6-foot tall sock monkey that I needed to make in Denver, Colorado in 8 hours OR the Victorian Cake we made for a couples wedding in the middle of a very humid and hot August where we needed to call in my friend who is an architect to help me figure out the angles of the roof (we didn’t have any aerial photos just front, side and back).
What tips of advice can you offer to Satin Ice newcomers?
Even when using all of the fabulous pre-dyed colors, try to mix two of them together to make your own hue- it will make your cakes look more original.
Describe your cake decorating style in just 3 words:
Clean lines, realistic & fashionable
What is your creative process for making cakes?
I believe strongly in making a plan... a timeline for the project, a list of all the things I need to accomplish from the prep, baking, sugar decorations, to packaging. Then I almost always make a sketch/template so I can see exactly what size I need to make the cake and sugar decorations and base.
If you weren't decorating cakes, what would you be doing?
Either a textile designer or a painter.
What is a 'regular' cake decorating day like for you?
Impossible to say: Some days I am baking, decorating, cleaning…and other days I am accounting, responding to emails, cleaning…always cleaning!
What is your favorite part about designing cakes?
Probably thinking about all the possibilities of what I want to make then sketching it out.
(Elisa on The Food Network)
Favorite cake flavor to make?
This has changed over time. I used to love just a simple vanilla cake but now I’m excited to make banana, red velvet, coconut…
What is inspiring you this very moment?
A lot of artists - I am loving the abstract of a painter named: Claire Des Jardins and I am also enjoying a lot of graph artists too! Another one of my favorites is Souther Salazar.
Who would you love to learn from in the industry?
I have SO much to learn…Karen Portaleo, Mike McCarey, Ron Ben-Israel and his entire staff (we love comparing notes on projects) just to name a few….
(Elisa with cake friend and fellow Artist of Excellence Ron Ben-Israel)
What are the big trends you are seeing right now in cakes?
If you look at my wardrobe you will notice that despite the fact that I worked in fashion; I am not too much of a trend focused girl. Although, I think I do gravitate toward color trends… right now I am feeling lots of Fuchsia, hot pink and lime green!
What do you aspire to accomplish with each cakes?
To make a cake and be able to explain to my students and friends how I made it…not just wing-it. I’d like to “grow-up” one day and feel more confident in my abilities as a cake designer.
If you could create a cake for anyone in history - who would it be and why?
My dad, he always LOVED the taste of my cakes (and cookies) and has been my biggest supporter- either delivering cakes for me, looking for dry-ice for a competition or flying to a cake competition with me. I don’t know what the cake would look like but it would be awesome.
(Elisa's Book - a must read!)
What is the next "big thing" for you?
I am just waiting for someone to call and ask me to do something. . .