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Only the curious will learn…

An ambiguous title, I know, but I do love a good quote. And I feel it perfectly sums the conversation my pal, Vicky Teather of Yellow Bee Cake Co and I were having earlier this week about some of the amazing classes that we have been lucky enough to take during our time in cake.

I had featured this amazing creation that Vicky created during her recent class with Carla Puig in last week’s Something Sweet 19 and, of course, I have rhapsodised-a-plenty about my experience learning from Carla earlier this year.

But actually, I have been very fortunate in that, since I started my blog just under a year ago, I have been invited to take part in some truly amazing classes with some fabulously talented people and thanks to the generosity of these wonderful individuals, I have been encouraged to really push myself out of my comfort zone and try some new things that perhaps I wouldn’t have tried at home on my own. As a result, I have been able to add skills and mediums to my repertoire that can’t fail to enhance my own creative projects.

Wafer paper flowers with Dragons & Daffodils Cakes by Rhianydd Webb

During our aforementioned conversation, Vicky and I got chatting about our dream class – the class that, if we could take any class with any artist, who would it be and why. It really got me thinking, because there are so many amazing cake and sugar artists out there right now, pushing the boundaries of sugar every single day.

A huge consideration, when looking for a class of course, is the individual taste of the individual wanting to take it. I think we can all have different motivations for taking classes – whether it’s because we want to add a new product or skill to what our business can offer or simply because we are a fan of the artist in question’s work and want to spend some time ‘learning at the hands of the master’, so to speak. As an enthusiastic amateur, I definitely fall into the second camp!

My first class experience taught me one very important lesson though. I went into it thinking that I was going to create a perfect replica of the piece originally created by the tutor and, after struggling a little to keep up during the class (due to my own perfectionist tendencies), I was initially disappointed with my finished piece. However, I have since come to realise that when one attends a class, we aren’t there to produce a beautiful cake or sculpture (although that is a nice bonus), but rather to learn the skills and techniques to allow us to replicate one later at home – after a bit more practice of course!

I think that when you allow yourself to have that mindset and take the expectations and pressure off of yourself, you are guaranteed to have a much more enjoyable learning experience. After all, as I teach my pupils at school, mistakes are opportunities for learning – we only fail at something when we give up trying.

But I digress… The question I guess I am trying to pose – inspired by these ramblings – is, if you could take any class with any artist, what would you want to learn and from who?

Avalon’s amazing sculpture of AHS’s The Countess

As I say, I have been thinking about this for a few days now and, because I am totally going through a bust phase at the moment, I would probably look to one of my favourite chocolate bust artists. I absolutely love the work of Corinna Maguire, Avalon Yarnes, Carla Puig, Marta Hidalgo and a lot more besides and, having already been lucky enough to learn from Carla, I think my next dream class (today at least) would be with Marta Hidalgo of Peccata Minuta, who I originally discovered when we both took part in Isabel Tamargo of Tartas ImposiblesSweet Summer Collaboration in 2016.

There is a real sense of drama to Marta’s work and it never fails to capture my imagination. If I was to put myself on the spot and force myself to choose one of her designs? It would probably have to be the incredible teen vampire that she created for last year’s Sugar Spooks 2017 – although her previous Sugar Spooks piece for the 2016 collection, Aquelarre is an incredibly close second!

I just loved the juxtaposition of the traditional elements of vampire lore with a very cheeky looking young lad and the level of detail Marta was able to capture within the design was incredible!

So yes, I think that would be my dream class, but how about you?

Feel free to let me know in the comments or over on Facebook of course…


Incidentally, if you would like to take a class with Marta, she is currently touring with her Little Jester, Baroque, Snail Fairy and Unicorn Elf classes. Her next UK class will be the Unicorn Elf on 26th-27th September at The London Cake Academy. For more information, check out the Facebook event here or visit the London Cake Academy websiteUnfortunately, the classes are during the week, so I’ll be at school, but I cant wait to see all of the student’s amazing results!

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Dare to Dream…?

As someone who already has a full-time job that they love – well, most of the time anyway – and who only dabbles in cake for fun, albeit a lot, I always find it really hard to return to ‘real life’ after spending any sort of period of time exclusively in the ‘cake world’. Whether it’s going back to work after a cake show weekend or even, like in this case, just going back after spending the school holidays playing at being a full-time caker and cake blogger, it always seems somewhat jarring to suddenly just be Mr Baker-Gall the teacher again.

I think, if I’m honest, the contrast between cake, where creativity is celebrated and respected – at least for the most part – and education where, as I’m sure most people realise, we are gradually being buried under more-and-more bureaucracy and where opportunities for creativity are gradually being eroded away, is what is possibly the most difficult aspect for me to reconcile myself with.

A recent Guardian headline…

Inevitably, it does make me wonder, every now and then, if I could do this full time – whether I could ever give up my other passion to concentrate on this one – but I do think I would miss the joy that comes from working with young children. I’ll be honest though, for me one of the biggest considerations are the financial implications – I don’t know if I could ever leave the security of a monthly salary to head out into the unknown.

Quite honestly, I don’t think I could ever just make cakes to order. A lot of my enjoyment within cake artistry comes from the freedom I have to create what I want and I think that would soon vanish if faced with a never-ending order book of 8” round cakes every week.

*whispers* I do have a Rolls Royce model of my cakey dream though, but you can’t tell anyone.

Sometimes, I daydream about opening a little cake decorating supplies shop with an attached teaching space to host some of the amazing teachers and tutors that I know, while continuing to write my blog – and perhaps making a few awesome sculpted cakes on the side.

I adored my recent visit to Zoe’s Fancy Cakes in a little village on the outskirts of Leeds…

For me, just making cakes would never be enough – a huge part of my enjoyment within cake is about celebrating the amazing artistry we get to see every day, the travelling to meet some of the wonderful talents that make up the industry and obviously writing about it all right here. I’m not sure I will ever find anyone who wants to pay me to do that!

But, as always, the ‘coming down to earth with a bump’ of returning to work got me thinking about those people out there who perhaps WOULD love to make a living from cake decorating and who would like nothing more than to make cakes to order.

I wondered if we put our collective heads together, we could help them figure out just how they could make that not insignificant step and give up their guaranteed income each month to follow their passion.

For that reason, I would love to hear from those of you who have already done it. What advice would you give those people who are thinking about following in your footsteps? What do you wish you had known in advance? What helped you along the way? Are there any pitfalls to avoid? Sadly you see too many people burn out in this industry, but let’s just see if we can’t come up with some essential advice to help the next generation of cake artists navigate their way into this fabulous industry and not lose sight of their passion along the way…