We used to be referred to as bakers and then we became known as cake decorators and now we are known as cake designers. I teach at the French Culinary Institute in New York and cake design is a legitimate profession.
I don't follow trends. I make each cake for a particular wedding, or event.
I have a crusade against fondant, also shortening. There's no reason why wedding cakes can't taste good if you know what you're doing.
Pastry is different from cooking because you have to consider the chemistry, beauty and flavor. It's not just sugar and eggs thrown together. I tell my pastry chefs to be in tune for all of this. You have to be challenged by using secret or unusual ingredients.
In the past few years, we've been doing amazing stuff with desserts. Pastry chefs have been using herbs and spices in their desserts. So vanilla cake doesn't have to be just vanilla, it can have a little thyme. Or you could have a custard with a little lavender in it, which is just amazing.
Your best creative assets do not occur unless you do a mental shift. You have to be in a positive frame of mind because inspiration is fleeting. I walk to work for inspiration and to clear my mind.
When I celebrated my bar mitzvah, there was no cake. Today, there is no such thing as a bar mitzvah in the United States without a special cake. It can be even more complicated and expensive than a wedding cake, because bar-mitzvah cakes are often based on a particular theme.
I did a cake for the 60th birthday of Elton John, for Britney Spears' 27th birthday and for the 'Circus' album she put out - the cake had circus themes. I prepared a cake for a surprise 82nd birthday event for the architect Frank Gehry the cake was comprised of mini-replicas of his buildings.
The most successful person is the one who is most inspired. That is true in food and in life.
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