Back in Something Sweet 53, I introduced you to Ana Remígio of Cupcakes & Dreams, well-known within the sugarcraft world for her stunning competition entries and stand out contributions to many of the most incredible international cake collaborations.
If you read the issue, you may recall that I had sat down with Ana, a native of the Algarve, in Portugal to discuss an incredible opportunity that she had just undertaken. As part of the annual dessert-themed festival in Lagoa in the Algarve, La 17ª Mostra do Doce Conventual de Lagoa, Ana was invited to exhibit a selection of her works within their own dedicated space, Sweet Art: An Exhibition by Ana Remígio.
Unfortunately, I was only able to squeeze a small portion of Ana’s exclusive interview into Something Sweet, so as promised within the issue, I thought I would share it in full with you all right here on Mr Baker’s Cakes: The Blog.
I hope you enjoy finding out a bit more about this incredibly inspiring lady and will share my absolute pleasure at the recognition her work is being given by both the culinary and art worlds .
Hello dear Ana. First, let me welcome you to Mr Baker’s Cakes: The Blog.
Thank you so much Rob, it’s truly an honour. Congratulations on the new look. I’ve always admired your work and your blog – it’s always a delight to read all about the cake world.
Ahhh… thank you (blush). Please also allow me to congratulate you on your recent gallery showing. I have so enjoyed looking at the photographs of it all online. You must be incredibly proud.
I must say I was thrilled when I was invited, but now I’m so, so grateful and yes, of course proud. It was an amazing experience. I only wish my mum could have seen it.
I’m sure many of my readers will already be familiar with your work, as you regularly contribute stand out pieces to many of the most beautiful collaborations, but they may not be so familiar with your journey into the world of sugar. Could you tell us a little bit more about how you started on your journey into all things cake and sugarcraft?
I really have no artistic background – my degree is actually in marketing – but I started playing around with cupcakes about eight years ago.
Atfer about a year, a friend asked if I could make a cake for her son´s birthday – a very simple shirt and tie flat cake – and then, six years ago, I did my first 3D cake. It was a white piano and after that, I completely got the bug!
I don’t call it my hobby. I call it my passion! It’s what I love to do…
You can clearly see that – it shines through in every piece that you create! Did you ever imagine that your early forays into sugar would lead to you being an internationally recognised award-winning sugar artist?
Not in my wildest dreams! Never! And I still have some difficulties in believing in that, if I’m honest. Sometimes, when I go through my living room and I have one or two pieces on the table, I stare at them and ask myself… ‘You made that? How?!’
But I am so thankful for the constant support from my family. Without them, it would not have been possible to get where I am today.
I have already mentioned that you recently held a gallery showing of many of your wonderful creations. How did that come about?
For the past 17 years now, Lagoa has been the host of a very delicate and delicious event dedicated to the conventional sweets and desserts, and their history. At last year’s event, I was invited to exhibit just a few of my pieces and, as the feedback was so good, this year they asked me If I would like to do a proper exhibition in the main gallery.
It was an absolute dream come true because I love that gallery and to fill it with my cakes…? What an honour!
If I’m honest, besides being completely blown away by pretty much everything you have ever created, I’m also incredibly impressed that you have managed to store so many of your works for so long AND in such good condition. Were there any that required some touch ups to get them display-worthy again?
Well, I must admit that some of them even surprised me! With most of them, I just needed to brish the dust away and they were like new again. Of course, there were some that had to be fixed, and some that needed finishing properly, like my T-rex. I finally got the chance to finish the mouth and add the lips that I had previously run out of time for.
My gremlin had to be repainted and, because his belly was entirely made from cake, my big guy from The World of Warcraft had to be entirely rebuilt.
I’m now sat here imagining that your home must be stuffed full of your edible creations?
Sometimes my husband asks me where can he sit to eat his meals, because there are so many cakes everywhere. We have also turned our basement into what we call the Cake Cemetery. After my latest pieces have spent some time upstairs, they get moved down to the basement and they stay there until they ‘die’.
Do you have any top tips for storing cakey creations that people might want to hang on to?
Keep them in a fresh, dark place. And I think the choice of sugar paste probably has something to do with it too.
I know you had many high-profile visitors come and visit your gallery installation. What was the reception like?
People were amazed. Most of them couldn’t believe that the exhibits were cakes. Here in Portugal, this more modern style of cake design is still not very well known, so they were really curious and it was a huge success.
I have already touched on how recognisable and – let’s be honest – stunning your works always are. How do you go about gathering your inspirations for your creations?
Thank you so much, Rob. Your kind words are truly appreciated. As you will have already noticed, I love fantasy pieces, reptiles and anything that gives me the chance to experiment with new textures and details. That is what I really love to create, but I also love to create bold wedding cakes designs too.
I would say that anything that is a little bit ‘outside of the box’ is a good way to summarise my work and my inspirations. Sometimes – when I have the time – I will spend a while searching the web and exploring what has already been done before within a chosen theme, so that I can ensure that my piece is completely different from what has come before.
And another stand-out feature of your creations is how perfectly and cleanly finished they all are. With some of the biggest cake decorating competitions in the world looming, can you share any top tips on how to achieve a clean and high-quality finish?
I must say that I am an absolute perfectionist. I always try to have a perfect finish, with no fingerprints, no visible seams and so on. If I’m covering a 3D piece, I will always try to ensure that the junctions or seams are in hidden away places, so that you can’t see them. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but then I will still take the time to apply a little water and use my fingers to smooth them until they vanish.
What would you say has been the most challenging project you have taken on in your career?
I would have to say my daughter’s birthday cake from last year – the life-size T-rex. I only had three days to study, plan and execute the entire thing. I spent 18 hours on the sculpting, two hours of smoothing, seven hours of modelling and covering, nine hours just to apply the texture with straws, six hours of dusting – it was a tough project and she never even got to cut it!
But luckily, I was able to clean it up and finish it for the exhibition and now it will be able to be a part of my living room decorations.
And I know this is probably a tricky question to answer, but what would you say is your favourite cake creation that you have ever made?
Oooh, that’s a hard one. There are so many!
The Gremlin will always be one of my favourites. And I love my Captain Carcharadon and my Christmas Dragon too. But I think at the moment, my absolute favourite would have to be my Alien!
Are there any cake projects that are currently languishing on your ‘wannado’ list that you would love to get to before the end of the year?
I do have a very long list. That’s why I always end up entering so many categories at Cake International – because I want to do them all! You will have to wait and see what I bring with me to Birmingham!
Oh, and while I’m there, I will also be on the main stage with my Portuguese girls, Sophia Fox and Sofia Salvador, battling and caking live as part of the Cake Off 2019! I hope that I will see you all there!!!
With a powerhouse of talent like you three ladies on stage at the same time, I don’t think I would be able to miss it!
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us, Ana! It has been a real pleasure. We shall look forward to seeing you back in the UK in November for Cake International – and the Cake Off of course! I’d say good luck, but I don’t think you’ll need it!
If you would like to see more of Ana’s awe-inspiring exhibition, then you can watch a YouTube tour of the gallery at this link. Don’t forget to also head over to her Facebook page to show Ana some love and keep up to date on all her latest creations. You can find it here.