Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baker's Dozen with Cake Superstar Ashley Vicos!

Hi cake boys and girls!  Well - you asked for her and I got her!  That's right - Ms. Ashley Vicos agreed to do a baker's dozen with moi!  And I'm happy because I have now interviewed my tri-fecta of cake crushes - Lauren, Sharon and no Ms. Ashley!  The timing on this couldn't be better - well at least for our friends in the USA.  Ashley's new show, "Have Cake, Will Travel" airs this Sunday on Food Network USA (hopefully FN Canada won't wait forever to air it!).

Morsels By Mark: Congratulations on your new Food Network show, “Have Cake, Will Travel” premiering on Food Network in the US at the end of April! Unfortunately as I've mentioned to you, Food Network here in Canada takes FOREVER to air good cake TV! Thank you so much for taking the time out to do the interview, I can't imagine how hectic your world is right now! I know my readers appreciate it. When I put it out there that I was looking for suggestions on who to interview, you received a lot of the votes!   Let's get started, I know my readers are anxious to see what you have to say!  Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get started in the industry?

Ashley Vicos: I definitely have one of those cliche stories, but alas, it is the truth.................I got an easybake oven at the age of 5 & started carving my cakes into shapes that young.......By the time I was in middle school & highschool I made all of my own cakes as well as cakes for my girlfriends. I attended an academic college and got an unreleated degree, but made cakes on the side throughout school. By the time I graduated, I knew that all I wanted to do for a living was create amazing cakes; not have a 9-5 job inside a building. I stuck my diploma in a file cabinet and never looked back. Though I am totally self-taught, it is my love and passion and I have no regrets of the road I chose!

MBM: Where do you pull inspiration from for your designs?

AV: Inspiration can come from anywhere!!!! Because I do such custom work for VERY specific people and events my cakes have to reflect that personnel element! So, with my clients, most of my inspiration comes from them and their events. I create cakes that are intended to be a centerpiece & a focal point, so they have to match perfectly as well as be able to draw a crowd with a WOW factor!

MBM: You competed in Food Network Challenges and Ultimate Cake Off. How do you prepare for a challenge and do you get nervous about competing?

AV: Prepare??? what does that mean :)

I don't know if anyone can actually prepare for those challenges............all the preparation in the world could never prepare you for how crazy, intense, & exhausting on every level those challenges actually are. Additionally, those challenges are very expensive to compete in b/c of all of the structure, electric components, & sheer volume of cake. I have never totally practiced any cake I have done on tv, & some of them I have practiced NOTHING on at all...... The most that I have really ever done is practice some of the more difficult elements on a cake. For instance, on my Food Network Shrek cake, I did make 3 donkeys before hand. He is such an iconic character, I wanted to make sure that I had his features nailed!

MBM: You have a new show about to air on FN. How did that come about?

AV:  Perseverance! It is something that I have wanted for a loooooong time & I set it as a goal & never let a "no" defeat me. Like in most industries, there is always rejection, always the word no, always people that don't believe in you, etc..... What it comes down to is really how far you are willing to push yourself and stand back up when you fall. At the end of the day it was my dream and no one else' for me it was worth fighting truly is my passion and other's can feel that too.

MBM: If you were to describe yourself as a cake, what kind would you be and why?

AV: Well, you didn't say flavor; so I am going to go with what style of cake I would be.......I would be a 3D cake larger than life, yet very literal. You could stare at it for hours & keep seeing new things and lots of cool details, but you will never wonder what something is.........there is nothing abstract about me, & if you are guessing or making assumptions, you are thinking way too hard!

MBM: Along with Lauren Kitchens and Sharon Zambito, you are one of my cake crushes. Do you have any cake crushes?

AV: I think that we all have people that leave us in awe......The direction of my career changed when I was introduced to Earlene Moore's work; specifically her 3D grooms cakes......I saw a whole new aspect of the industry &decided that was the direction I was going to go!!! Mike McCarey is the decorator whose work still leaves me speechless even today. He is at the top of the game for me and still inspires me to push my own work further!

MBM: What is your favourite cake flavour?

AV: I don't know if I have a favorite cake flavor.......cake isn't my favorite dessert :) I am a creme brulee or tiramisu kind of girl!!!

MBM: What is the one cake toy you cannot live without?

AV: Going to sound weird, but I have a little tiny black palette knife that I cannot decorate without!!!! Second in line would be my set of miniature gumpaste tools!!

MBM: Do you really decorate in your stilettos? I must say, you are probably the most fashionable cake artist I have ever seen!

AV: I decided looooong ago in my life that I was never going to change who I was in order to fit in or get further in life or my profession. People can love or hate me, my look, my red lipstick, my hair, my cleavage, whatever it is!!!! You can't please everyone and if you try to, you are the one who ends up unhappy. NO, I do not decorate cakes in stilettos.........that's just crazy talk :) Though I do very frequently have to set cakes up or do on location finishing touches wearing them!

MBM: What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

AV: My momma has given me advice my whole life...........& though I rolled my eyes a lot when I was younger, it worked because it has all stuck with me. The one piece of advice that she gave me that has benefitted me in every aspect of my life, business and career is "Always start off like you want to end up!"
I use that advice in every part of my life

MBM: Who would you love to design a cake for?

AV: There are a lot of people that I would like to design a cake for............usually only to be able to meet them in person :)  At the moment Enrique Iglesias is on my radar ;)

MBM: What was your favourite competition to do?

AV: I can honestly say that I have been proud of every cake that I have ever done, whether they won or favorite competition was probably Disney Classic Cakes, where I made the queen from Snow White because it was my first competition & still makes me laugh when I watch it or Ringling Bros because it was my first Big Win!!!

MBM: What advice can you give people reading this?

AV: Follow your passion, no matter what it is & don't let other people hold you down or bring you down!!!!
Life is way too short to live out some else's desire for your life, or work in a job you hate, or have an empty spot in your being that's unfulfilled.......

MBM: Ashley, again, I cannot express how grateful I am that you took the time to do this! Good luck on the new show – I'm sure it will be a smash hit! Hopefully we get it here sooner than later!  PS – Do you plan on teaching still? If so, any chance we can get you to come to Canada? Montreal is a gorgeous city, and I'm sure my wife would love to shop with you :)

AV: Yes, I still teach and love to teach. Though I have not been outside the continental usa yet, I have my passport and I'm ready to go as soon as opportunity presents itself because "I Have Cake,& I Will Travel" ;)

That's it for now!  Keep the requests coming.  Let me know who else you'd like interviewed and I'll do my best to make it happen.  We are still waiting on the winner of our Sharon Zambito DVD to contact me with their shipping info.  "Sharon" if you're reading this, contact me with your address.

Until Next Time,
Happy Caking

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

3 Days of Sugar Fun with James Rosselle at Icing Inspirations

I have mentioned many times that I would be studying with Food Network Challenge winner and sugar flower king extraordinaire, James Rosselle. I have spent an amazing 3 days honing my own skills and making new friends as well as seeing old ones. One of the highlights of this trip was finally getting to meet my BCF (Best Cake Friend) Chrissie – owner of Icing Inspirations and Too Nice To Slice and her husband Justin. Chrissie and I have been friends online for about two years, and it was great to finally get to meet her. She and Justin opened their home to me and made me feel very welcome (Thanks for the hospitality guys!!!). Now on to class. James has long been one of my idols in the industry, and on my wish list of instructors that I would like to learn from. Seeing as I was staying with my BCF, that also meant I was spending time outside of class with James. Not intimidating at all – right? RIGHT! James is one of the most real and down to earth individuals I have ever met. He is genuinely a super nice guy – and what you see on TV – is what you get – he oozes talent!!

                                                         James and I at the end of Day 3
Day 1: The first day of class with a new instructor is always intimidating. You don't know their style or expectations. James is really laid back and easy to learn from. His instructions are clear and concise. He spends a lot of time checking on students individually and offers constructive criticism and words of encouragement. Today, we worked on Cherry Blossom buds and centres, Orchid columns and throats, Lily petals and centres, Tulip petals and centres, and Iris centres. James took us step by step through each process and made sure we were comfortable before moving on. The day went by very fast and before we knew it, we were done for the day. What a feeling of accomplishment! I went home feeling exhausted but ready for the next day.

                                                           James taping some stamen
Day 2: The second day of classes was chock full of activity! We finished the petals for our orchids, iris petals, and cherry blossom petals. We also worked on our foliage for the orchids, irises, lilies, and cherry blossoms. James also had us cover a cake dummy and adorn it with textured butterflies. We also learned one of James' tricks for covering a cake board to make it look extra special! I also learned a new way to roll fondant that was super easy and now will be the new way I do it! Chrissie and Justin being the super great hosts that they are, arranged a fantastic class dinner at a local restaurant. It was great to be able to socialize with James and everyone outside of class as well.
                                                     James with my table-mates and I

                         Me, James and my BCF (Best Cake Friend) Chrissie (owner of Icing Inspirations)
Day 3: The final day of classes was another busy day! James had us taping and dusting flowers all day long, then had us arranging the flowers in an arrangement on top of the cake dummies we covered yesterday. I felt bad for James today since he had to listen to all of us complaining about our braking Iris petals! He also had to spend quite a bit of time on one student in particular as shown in the picture below. Just kidding Lorrie – you know I love you like an older sister – a much MUCH older sister! All in all we had a fantastic class! Thank you again to our hosts Chrissie and Justin – your classroom is the best I have ever learned in – so much space to move and create, and your hospitable attitude made us all feel welcome and like one of the family! I also want to thank Stephanie of The Little Mushroom for the amazing catered lunches! Last, but definitely not least, I want to thank James for a Rooting great class! I am one exhausted caker, but am looking forward very much to my next trip to Icing Inspirations for another class!

                                                       Lorrie getting caught goofing off!

                       James helping Lorrie - AGAIN!  (In all honesty, Lorrie is very talented and
                                                      capable, she's just alot of fun to bug!)

                                                              My almost finished project

That's it for now!  I'll be back with more interviews and reviews very soon!

Happy Caking!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sharon Zambito DVD Giveaway Winner!!!

Hi everyone!  I have had an action packed weekend here in Kitchener (New post to follow soon).  I did howvere take time out to have our winner picked and instead of using, I asked my BCF Chrissie`s daughter Emma to pick a number.  Out of the 20 eligible entries, she chose #3.  Our winner Sharon says, "Sharon is awesome in every video that I have, and I have several. One of my favorite Lagniappe segments is the one on cake balls!!! Thanks, Sharon!".  Congratulations Sharon, please e-mail me your details and I'll get the disc out to you as soon as I receive it!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Baker's Dozen with the Sensational Sharon Zambito - plus Giveaway!

Hello Cakeland!  I know it's been awhile, but teaching has been keeping me busy, not to mention entering a cake on a competition where the design had to be based on a ball gown (I'll post once voting is done).  I have also been trying to squeeze out cake orders and get ready to leave to study 3 days with James Rosselle and finally meet my BCF (Best Cake Friend) Chrissie Boon of Icing Inspirations and Too Nice To Slice fame!  In the mean time, I am extremely happy to bring you an interview with one of my favourite cake artists and someone who was highly requested by you, my readers.  This guest is well known for her informative and entertaining DVDs and also for being falsely "bleeped out" on a popular cake competition show (the things producers will do for ratings!).  If you haven't guessed yet, it is the one, the only.....Sharon Zambito! 

Morsels By Mark: Hi Sharon. Let me start by first saying thank-you for taking time out of your busy production schedule to do this interview! You are one of the people I gravitated towards on message boards, and then for DVD's in my search for knowledge. You are very insightful and always helpful!

Sharon Zambito: Thank you very much, Mark, for those kind words. I am honored and happy to do this!

MBM:  Let's get started! What got you into the cake industry?

SZ:  Like many folks, my initial interest was to learn how to make simple cakes for family, and my future children. I was always into arts and crafts, and have tried my hand at many things. At the time I was about 22 and newly married, and took a beginner class at a local cake shop with my older brother. (Yes, he is cool like that!)

MBM:  Correct me if I am wrong, but like me, you are pretty much self-taught right?

SZ:  Well, I personally don't like to say self taught, because I feel like I learned everything from someone, somewhere. Whether it was in a formal class, or a magazine article, a video, or just chat on a message board, most of the skills I have learned were introduced to me by other generous decorators. But in the sense that you asked the question, other than one beginner course, I have no real formal training. A lot of trial and error and some informal classes, workshops, books, and lots of help from other artists.

MBM: What do you like about the cake industry?

SZ: The cake world has provided me with some of the very best, truest friends I have ever had in my life. These people and experiences have enriched my life in ways I never thought possible. I love the sense of community and sharing that we have. And I just soak in the creativity and excitement that being exposed to other artist's and their work provides.

MBM:  What do you dislike about the industry?

SZ:  I don't like the "class warfare" that sometimes pops up. Pastry chefs vs cake decorators, scratch vs boxed mix, shortening buttercream vs cooked meringues. That sort of thing. I don't like seeing us fight among ourselves over such things. I think we all have our place, and we are all equally valid and valuable. I would rather see us all on the same side, promoting the art and profession of cake.

MBM: It's no secret, I have admittedly said it to various people, you are my “cake crush” (I'm a sucker for a southern accent). Do you have any cake crushes, and if so, who are they?

SZ: LOL, you are funny. BTW, what accent? But seriously, my cake heroes are the folks who have been around for years, some decades, working on the front line of cake decorating. The pioneers if you will. The guys and gals who have been sharing information and techniques through demos, classes, published articles, and free advice, without gaining recognition or riches for it. To name a few those would be: Earlene Moore, Betty Van Norstrand, Kathy Finholt, Rebecca Sutterby, Susan O'Boyle Jacobsen, and so many more.

MBM: What is your favourite type of cake to create (celebration, wedding,....)?

SZ: Oh man, that is like asking who my favorite child is. I truly do love all kinds of cake. I love weddings, I love fun party cakes, and sculpted stuff too. ( except vehicles; I hate doing vehicles, LOL). I enjoy doing simple sheet cakes and old fashioned piping as well. It is that variety that keeps the job interesting and stimulating. But if I have to pick just one, I will say wedding cakes. I am just a sucker for romance.

MBM: Not only are you a talented artist, you are a phenomenal teacher and have developed a successful online store. What made you decide to go into DVD production?

SZ: Thank you for that; you are too kind. Going into teaching and the DVD business was a path that was not planned; it kind of just happened. After being on the Internet message boards for many years, I started to get asked to go to days of sharing for small cake clubs to demo my icing technique. That lead to folks asking to have it on video. After a while, I decided to give it a go, and see what that would be like. I had no idea that it would be such a success. I am so very truly blessed to be able to do two things I truly love: cake decorating and teaching. I am really a very lucky girl.

MBM: What is the one cake toy you cannot live without?

SZ: Bench scraper. The end.

MBM: What is your favourite flavour cake?

SZ: Chocolate!!!!!!

MBM:  Tell us a bit about the newest DVD – the stack of books.

SZ: This one is actually a scaled down version of the cake I made for my son's actual high school graduation a few years ago. I try to make DVDs on the topics people ask to see, and this one had a lot of interest, as you can make book cakes for so many different occasions. In this one I show you how to make a 3 stack of books, the wood grain board, an edible frame and diploma, the grad hat, and edible business cards. My son Daniel even makes a cameo appearance. It was a fun one to shoot.

MBM: How do you juggle your busy cake-life with being a mom and wife?

SZ: Not very well, hahahaha. I am not the greatest housekeeper. I don't cook very often. My husband does all the laundry. In fact, he is very good about picking up my slack. I handle almost all of the stuff with the kids. Then my business. And the rest just gets done when it gets done. I live in a state of organized chaos. Ok, just chaos.

MBM: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

SZ: "Strive for excellence, not perfection."

MBM: What is the one thing you'd like all the readers to know about you?

SZ: That I am very messy. Lots of folks write to me, commenting on how neat my kitchen is and how clean I work. That's just TV editing, LOL. I am a very messy worker, and pretty messy in general. The cake work has to be clean, but my environment is a train wreck. LOL

MBM:  Again, thanks so much for taking time out for me. I really hope we can get you here to Montreal next year for a Jenbito class! You'd love Montreal – we have fleur-de-lis everywhere :)

SZ:  Thank you for asking me. It was my pleasure! happy caking everyone!

To check out Sharon's work or to purchase her DVDs and the tools used in them, head over to Now, the fun part!  Sharon has kindly given me a copy of her new Booksmarts DVD to give to one lucky reader!  It has been shipped to me and will be here soon!  In order to win, you MUST leave a comment on this post telling Sharon and I what your favourite piece of Lagniappe is from one of her DVDs!  The winner will be chosen by in one week's time (April 11th to be exact).  I never said it was going to be easy - this is a contest for true fans!

Keep your eyes peeled next week for updates from James' class in Kitchener Ontario.  I also hope to have more class info up soon too.  For now, if you live in the Montreal or Ottawa areas, head on over to and check out the class section for info on how to register for my gumpaste shoe class!

Until Next Time,
Happy Caking!