Lauren and I have been best friends since 7th grade. We instantly hit it off as friends, shared a lot of the same interests in music and art, were total tomboys, and our birthdays are 2 days apart. It’s hard to believe it has been 19 years since we met in geography class!
We first learned how to decorate cakes when we were 16 at our first job at Dairy Queen in Mentor, Oh. We did the basic decorating – and when I say basic, I mean airbrush stencils, shell borders and the few occasional icing roses. We had always been artistic, so cake decorating came very easily to us, and we caught on to the basics pretty quick.
When we got older, we both decided to go to art college. Lauren attended the Pittsburgh Institute of Art for special effects and movie make-up, and I attended Columbus College of Art and Design for Fine Art. We worked part time at various bakeries to support ourselves during art school, and to be able to buy books and art supplies.
When we graduated from college, we found it difficult to find jobs that we liked, and that paid decent wages. Into our early 20’s, we continued to work at various bakeries as cake decorators. It was something we were becoming better and better at, and it wasn’t a high paying job, but it paid the bills.
I had just gotten married, and realized what a difficult time it was to find a bakery that could do creative cakes in Cleveland. This set off an idea between Lauren and I – what if we started our own business? A custom, artistic cake shop in Cleveland? We could do it. We were super hard workers, had a lot of experience in the field, but had no idea how to start a business.
We started by doing cakes out of our houses for a couple years, just through word of mouth from family and friends, and slowly built up a reputation for creating beautiful, delicious cakes. Our first business cards (that we printed off of my computer at home) had our cell phone numbers as the contact for our bakery. Before long, they were ringing off the hook! This was all while we still worked full time jobs at a bakery. We would get home from our 8-10 hour day and then start our cakes for our own cake business at night. There were many all-nighters, and lots of caffeine. We charged so little for custom cakes back then, and were probably spending more on the supplies than we were making on the cakes! We had one oven, two refrigerators, and three small kitchen aids that we made all of the cakes and frostings out of. We had to deliver every cake we made to our customers, and the busier we got, the more that became a problem. We knew it was time to open a shop, and so I turned to my oldest brother for help.
My brother Joe had owned his own business for years, so he was willing to help us get started by helping us get a loan, and get structured. We kept working out of my house while our kitchen was being built, and in March 2007, we opened our doors. We started with just Lauren and I, and now employ over 12 employees. 4 years into it, it’s still really hard sometimes. There are still many late nights, and grueling weeks during wedding season, but to actually set a goal, and follow through has been one of the most gratifying experiences of our lives. To know that at age 27, we successfully started a small business, and during one of the worst economic times in our country, have sustained a small business, is pretty awesome.
What’s it like filming the series for WE tv? In a nutshell, insanity!!!!!
Well, we have had experience filming television shows before. We have competed on the Food Network challenge several times, and thought, “Oh well, this isn’t a competition, and they fly out and come to us to produce this show, we’ll do our thing, make the cakes, so it can’t be that hard, right?”
Not only did we have to make three amazing wedding cakes that were extremely detailed in a 5-6 day period, we had to run a business (we have two retail locations, and it was filmed right around Christmas), attempt to be funny and clever on film AND we had to look good on TV (without a makeup artist, and little sleep). So all of that combined sent us into a whirlwind of stress and anxiety. However, in the midst of all the craziness, we managed to push through. We had a blast with the film crew and made some of our best cakes ever!
I think the biggest obstacle for us is that we were one of the only bakeries asked to film two weeks in a row. Being in Cleveland, there is a definitive line between when wedding season starts and stops. April through November, we have wedding cakes every weekend, but once winter hits, no one really plans a wedding in Cleveland. So the fact that we could even find 6 wedding events to film in December, was a feat in itself. It just so happened that all of those events fell mid-December, so that meant two grueling weeks of filming with no break in between!
One of my favorite recollections is, there would be a time of day during filming, right after lunch when everyone in the room would get loopy -the camera guys, the sound guys, even the field producers… there was a lot of laughter, and at times, we found ourselves saying things that we hoped wouldn’t make it on air for fear of our mothers scolding us… we felt really bad for the editors who had to sit and listen to everything we talked about, the dirty jokes and all-around inappropriate comments (sorry, Mom).
So overall, there were some good times, some moments we wanted to pull our hair out, and some pretty spectacular cakes!
Kate and Anthony were a super cute couple that were having their wedding in December with a Winter Wonderland theme. Kate came to us and wanted a really awesome cake that incorporated silver, whites and lots of sparkle! She also made it very clear that she did not want a “gaudy” cake, so we had to make sure that the cake was kept very clean and elegant without being too over the top.
Lauren sketched out an idea that incorporated intricate piped snowflake designs on a 6 tier cake with a large separation in between the layers to look like ice crystals. That was difficult enough, and then she added these “dangling” snowflakes to the sketch that we had no idea how to make. I have to admit, I looked at her like “Really? Dangling snowflakes? You had to go and suggest dangling snowflakes?”
We looked at the sketch and started to come up with a plan of attack. It took us awhile to figure out how we would suspend these snowflakes, how to stack the cake so that you didn’t see the fasteners we used to support the dangling snowflakes.
Matt and I began to fondant all of the layers on the cake, and it took us a good 4-5 hours since the layers were so large. Lauren started working on the snowflakes, and the snowflake topper. We decided to use fishing wire inserted into the snowflakes so that it would be clear, and almost invisible to give the illusion that the snowflakes were falling down the cake. We realized that the dangling snowflakes would have to be decorated on both sides since when they hung, they flipped back and forth, so this added to the time needed to be spent detailing the cake.
This cake began to become a big challenge, not only with the time involved to stack and fondant the cake, but to create these intricate snowflakes that would hang from the layers. The week that we were decorating this cake, the news kept reporting that a major snowstorm was headed our way. This caused us some concern since this delivery was going to take about an hour, and our van wasn’t that good in the snow. Our general manager Karyn confronted Matt about putting the snow tires on the van, but he had no extra time since this cake required so much attention. So on top of all the stress of just completing this cake on time, we had the stress of a potential blizzard to travel through on the delivery!
We did get out some frustration when we used a hammer to pound the rock candy to create the ice layer on the cake. We wanted to create the illusion of one of the layers of the cake completely encrusted in ice, so we thought clear rock candy would do the trick. We used royal icing to adhere the crushed rock candy to the cake, and it was a little tricky and messy, but it worked!
Lauren and I piped the snowflakes with royal icing on the layers, in kind of an asymmetrical pattern down the front and back. Once the royal dried, we painted with edible luster dust to add the shine that Kate wanted, but made sure we kept the design simple and clean to prevent any “gaudiness.” It took us FOREVER, but once we were finished, the cake looked spectacular. It was really pretty, and perfect for her winter wonderland theme.
On the day of delivery, the weather cleared, and it finally stopped snowing. Knowing that we wouldn’t have any real issues with horrible road conditions helped with the stress level somewhat. Delivering wedding cakes is one of the most anxiety producing things to do, and we were grateful the roads were clear. I sat in the back of the van with the cake, just to prevent any issues if Lauren had to slam on the breaks, or swerve or anything like that. It took us awhile since we had to drive so carefully and slowly, but we finally arrived at the venue. It was a beautiful country club, and the cake fit perfectly with the decor of the room. We set it up, put the snowflakes in, and oh how they dangled! I felt bad for giving Lauren such a hard time since the cake turned out so stunning.
When you leave a cake at a venue, getting back in the van with no cake in it feels so good! You can hit the gas and go and not worry about a cake toppling over in the back. Lauren was so excited we were done, she peeled out on the way out of the country club!