Susan Carberry has a knack for taking whimsical and cartoonish themes and turning them into a topsy turvy cake adventure. . . Read the exclusive interview about how she won Ultimate Cake Off with a roller skating themed spinning cake!
Brief history of your business and how you got to where you are today?
Before starting my business (The Cake Cottage) eight years ago, I was the lead designer for another bakery and teaching classes both locally and across the United States. I left that position to start my own cake supply store and to focus on teaching, which is what I love. Since then I've been lucky enough to travel all over the United States and internationally teaching thousands of students. I've also done over 100 instructional videos for various websites and now offer classes, cake supplies, gourmet cupcakes and some specialty cakes at The Cake Cottage.
How were you first introduced to Satin Ice?
Satin Ice came on the scene just at the right time for me. I had been using another rolled fondant from another manufacturer for many years. When my current fondant changed for the worse, I was in search of another brand. It was at that time that Kevin (Satin Ice CEO & Founder) had started producing Satin Ice - I tried it and fell in love with it. I remember demonstrating with Kevin years ago at the beginning stages of Satin Ice to help promote the fondant for a local bakery supply here in California. There was so much excitement about the new product and that excitement continues to this day with students that have never tried it before. I have tried many fondants since then but none compare to Satin Ice's silky smooth feel, flexibility and consistency.
Is there one project that stands out?
I have done many fun cakes for customers, videos, TV shows, magazines, classes, etc. But my biggest cake decorating project was the show cake for the 2010 ICES Convention in San Diego, CA. I did not want the cake to be boring so I needed to think big and outside the box. I decided to highlight all San Diego's attractions and historic landmarks all on a tiered cake that stood over 13 feet tall and had a 8 x 8 ft. base.
The cake was fun and interactive with the local sea life running amuck in the streets of San Diego, along with moving parts, such as a Sea World splash zone, the San Diego Trolley, an earthquake area and a rotating surfboard. And of course the entire cake was made with Satin Ice!
Signature style & inspiration?
I find inspiration all around me. Almost anything can be part of a piece of sugar art - a building, a ceramic ornament, a fabric pattern or even wallpaper. I love to create cakes that either tell a story of that have a sense of humor to them - and I would say those two things make up my signature.
My favorite cake design is also the most requested class that I teach - Garden Critters (below).
Most challenging cake to date?
Most challenging cake was for Ultimate Cake Off on TLC. It was over seven ft. tall! Learning how to construct a roller skating mascot (that spun) standing on one foot skating away with the trophy was definitely a challenge - and we won!
What tips can you offer to Satin Ice newcomers?
Not all fondants are the same. Some are grainier; some have no elasticity, etc. Satin Ice is definitely a good choice for newcomers to the fondant world - just be sure to knead your fondant well before rolling it out. Another tip for new users: Purchase your darker colors rather than coloring it yourself. This little tip will save you time, frustration and money in the end.
If you weren't decorating cakes, what would you be doing?
If I weren't decorating I would be on the streets... (lol just kidding). I would love to be a designer for theme park attractions, movie sets or even theme restaurants.
What is a 'regular' cake decorating day like for you?
We prep most of the cake recipes the night before so luckily I do not have to get up at the crack of dawn. I usually arrive at the shop around 8'ish (that's a big 'ish'), and start the cupcake baking and decorating process. This usually takes two hours, which is perfect because we open at 10 am. The rest of the day is never typical. It ranges from, helping customers, prepping for classes, returning calls and emails, scheduling new classes, creating new classes, attending local Chamber of Commerce and City events and even decorating cakes.
What is your creative process for making cakes?
My creative process... Well, luckily I have a very creative mind. Once I have an idea I can keep adding to it. It's usually all in my head. I am not a person that sits down and sketches something out. Probably because I am terrible at drawing... I will however jot down the ideas on a scratch pad for future use.
Who is your favorite cake artist in the industry and why?
Mike McCarey for his creativity and downright talent.
Do you consider yourself to be a cake trendsetter? If so, how and why?
I hope that my work inspires people. I try my very best to help where I can. And honestly I just want my work to bring a smile to people's face. Whether it sets a trend I have no idea - and it’s not important to me. What is important to me is that they look at it and say - “ I want to do that!”
What do you aspire to accomplish with each cake?
Joy and laughter. I work hard on my cakes and I’m often asked, “Doesn't it hurt you to see people cut into one of your cakes?” The answer is no - that’s the point. It’s edible art. The joy comes in the reaction of the crowd, clients and fans. I also hope to inspire the fans to step out of their comfort zones and try something new.
What are the big trends you are seeing right now in cakes?
Trends in cakes are always changing. As far as weddings, I'm still seeing the rustic, shabby chic the most in this area along with cupcakes and dessert tables. Elephants seem to be the number one baby shower theme for boys or girls. And although I don't do them, Super hero cakes for kids.
If you could create a cake for anyone in history (past or present): Who would it be and why?
Who would it be and why? I'd have to say it would be for a child through Icing Smiles. I've had the honor of doing three cakes for them and they have been the most rewarding experiences in the cake world for me to date. It's wonderful to be able to bring a small amount of joy to a child and their family during such a difficult and stressful time in their lives.
(With Peggy Tucker (below) and one of their Icing Smiles cakes)
What is the next "big thing" for you?
This is a great question because I've been trying to figure this out myself (lol)! I'm toying with a few ideas and still working on my custom silicone molds and cookies cutters. So I'll have to keep you posted on this.
Name: Susan Carberry
Location: Murrieta, CA, USA
Education/Training: Basic decorating classes and cake club functions.
Business name: The Cake Cottage
Cake philosophy: Think outside the box and look at everything around you for inspiration. Everything you see can be a turned into a piece of edible art.