Monday, July 20, 2009

Mike IS amazing

This past June, I had the pleasure of meeting and learning from my all-time cake hero, Mike McCarey, owner of Mike's Amazing Cakes in Redmond, WA. Luckily for me, I found out about Mike's two-day modeling chocolate course just in the nick of time as I was just about to register and book travel to the Cake Camp in Las Vegas. The minute I saw that Mike was teaching classes, I knew I had to clear my schedule and make it to one of his classes.

Now, I wasn't kidding when I said that Mike is my "cake hero". There are many cake artists in the industry that I admire and draw inspriration from but Mike's work is seriously jaw-droppingly AMAZING. The level of detail and realism in his cakes are incredible and definitely something that I strive to achieve in my own work. So you can see, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to meet and learn from the best in the business (literally).

I've seen all his appearances on the Food Network Challenges and even own his instructional DVD on sculpting car cakes and from what I can tell, he seemed like a nice guy but I was surpised by how down-to-earth and genuine he is. He was patient with those of us who needed a little extra help, answered all of our questions candidly, and even regaled us with some behind-the-scenes tales of the Food Network cake challenges. The class itself was organized, well-thought out, informational, and above all FUN, FUN, FUN!!!

Let me share with you a bit of what we learned in class.

Day 1 we learned everything there is to know about modeling chocolate (MC for short), including how to make it, how to store it, what chocolates to use, it's qualities and limitations, etc. We also learned about approximately 10 different techniques on how to use modeling chocolate in cake decorating. Below are 4 of those techniques (can't give away everything, 'ya know).

MC takes impresions really well - this one is an impression made from lace.

Unlike fondant, MC doesn't stretch much which makes it ideal for cutouts and scoring: MC is easily marbled:

And since it's tacky with moisture, appliques stick easily to it's surface.

Day 2 included a great many subjects but the main event was learning how to use modeling chocolate to, you know, model. In the below pic, Mike is showing us how to shape the body of the dragon on the lower left corner.We were encouraged to be creative so here's my slightly different dragon (sans pupils).
......and the finished cake.
I've really only skimmed the surface of all that I was able to sponge off Mike's two-day class but take my word that this class is MUST for any cake decorator looking to unlock the magical world of modeling chocolate. Not sure if there's any spaces left for his classes in Atlanta (Oct. 17-18 & 19-20) or Savannah (Nov 13-14 & 15-16) but it wouldn't hurt to check :-)
Having met my cake-hero, you seriously didn't think I was gonna leave without getting a picture with him, did you?
.....and Mike's assistant, also named Mike, who managed to be both incredibly helpful and adorable the entire time.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thomas the Train

So, a few hours ago I blogged about the amazing Thomas the Train cake photos I received from Huy Phan and already I've received complaints about the lack of behind-the-scenes photos in the post. Sheesh, you guys are demanding!.....and I guess I'm a pushover 'cause here I am, about to write another post on the construction of Thomas, lol.

When reproducing real objects in cake form, especially cars and such, I always strive to reproduce them to scale for greater realism. Unexpectedly, Thomas proved to be a challenge from the get-go. Why, you ask? Because there's so many versions of him and each version had differently sized. The infant toy model is short and stout (yes, like a teapot), the real train model of Thomas is slim and long, and everything in between was well, in between. After going through what seemed like a thousand photos (ok, it was more like 50), I found one that was a good representation of the most commonly-sized Thomas the Train.

I actually don't have too many in-process photos of Thomas because once I start decorating a cake, I tend to zone out and the next thing I know, well, the cake is finished. However, I do have two that you guys might be interested in.

One of the first things I do when I start a cake is to cover the cake board and build the necessary supports so that they have plenty of time to dry. The base of this cake is constructed from balsa wood covered in fondant.
Then I started carving Thomas, making sure to use cake for as many parts of the train as possible. Here it is crumb-coated with buttercream.
And then voila!, the finished cake.

Photo by Huy Phan

There, you guys happy now?

Lien Sanchez

What a difference good photos make

I often have mixed feelings about using cake as an art medium. On the one hand, I love the fact that it's edible art and that it serves duo functions as a centerpiece as well as a dessert. But on the other hand, I do feel a slight pang of sorrow after I deliver a cake, knowing that my art piece will most likely cease to exist by the end of the evening and that all I'll be left with are photos............which brings me to the subject of this post.

Photos, specifically good photos, are very important to those of us in the wedding industry (and I'm sure other industries as well). I often think back to when I was a bride researching vendors - I would search websites/magazines and read all the fantastic descriptions about a vendor and the goods/services they provided but ultimately, it was really the photos that convinced me to seek out additional information about that vendor. Knowing this, I've made it a point to try to improve my techniques in photo-taking (I hesitate to call it photography 'cause that would be insulting those who do actual photography, lol). My photos have gotten better over the last couple of years, due to a camera upgrade and some online tutorials, but I'm a far cry from being good. This was glaringly obvious when I made the below Thomas the Train cake for Huy Phan of Huy Phan Photography.

Huy was actually the wedding photographer for my own wedding almost two years ago. I stumbled onto his website and instantly fell in love with his photojournalist style. He's a very unassuming guy but you can just hear his passsion for photography in every word he speaks and of course, you can see it in his photos. Needless to say, we were estatic with our wedding photos and have since recommended him to numerous friends and clients who have also become fans of his work. So when he called in May requesting a Thomas the Train cake for his 5 yr-old's birthday, I was more than happy to oblige.

Without further ado, I'd present to you some of the photos Huy took of said Thomas the Train cake.

I was floored when I saw these photos. I compared the photos I took (which I thought were decent at the time) to his and literally grimaced. My husband tried to make me feel better by saying that it's silly for me to compare my amateur photos to Huy's professional ones but all I could think about was how much better my portfolio would be if I had professional photos for all of my cakes. *Sigh* I think I need to make time to take some photography classes...........Hmmmm, or maybe I can just move into Huy's neighborhood and trade cakes for photos. =^)

Update: Take a look at the construction of Thomas the Train here.

Lien Sanchez