Monday, October 31, 2011

Recent Cakes

Gosh, it's been a long time since I've posted, been pre-occupied with so many other things lately, sorry! Here are some pics of fave recent cakes from the past couple of months.

This cake was so lovely in person and looked fantastic against the rustic stone walls of the Bella Vita Ranch in Stephenville, TX. The bride loved the way the ruffle detail mimicked her dress.

Proving that simple is sometimes better, with stunning with fresh blossoms clustered around and pearlized fondant bands at the base of each tier. This cake was delivered to a magnificent private estate in Dallas.

This abstract design was perfectly at home in The Modern Art Museum.

For the groom with everything, this cake was a copy of Cody's custom cowboy boots.

One of the heaviest cakes I've ever made and one of the loveliest too. Elegant ivory on ivory with just a touch of subtle bling in the brooches.

For the groom who fancies hippos.

 Kate's wedding at Colonial Country Club was classic in every way, right down to the buttercream-iced cake with pearls and scroll piping.

Brittany's cake is one of my all-time faves, I nicknamed the design "Coco" because it reminds me of Coco Chanel.

Brittany's groom, Andy, is a boat man.

Ahhhh, The City Club ballroom, the room that seems to have been made just to show off cakes. This photo doesn't do justice to the space which has mirrors absolutely everywhere, and spectacular lighting too. I love the whimsical nature of this cake.

A retirement cake for an XTO Energy employee. Joy was the second person ever hired at XTO, more than 26 years ago. The cake is a replica of one of the XTO-owned buildings that she renovated to award-winning status.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Not your typical Challenge post

The cast of "Extreme Dinosaur Cakes"

Bear with me cake friends, this is not the typical Sublime Bakery post. This is a story of illness and health, of hope and healing. And I promise a happy ending...

Imagine you are a bakery owner, cake designer, mother and wife. You are at the top of your game, highly sought after for your custom cakes, a regular competitor on Food Network Challenge, working on multiple book and TV projects, featured frequently in the press. Your children are happy and healthy, your marriage strong and loving. You are essentially living your life beyond your wildest dreams. Imagine then that you become quite ill, quite suddenly. Your once limber, strong, and capable body is wracked with pain, your joints stiff and rigid. Imagine feeling betrayed by your own body, unable to do the most mundane daily tasks much less work 60-90 hours a week to create the magnificent tiered and 3-dimensional cakes you've become known for. Imagine feeling that everything you had worked so hard for is slipping away, that your life as you know it, is over. Imagine the frustration, anger, and hopelessness. Imagine being told your illness is incurable. Imagine hearing from your doctor that the "good news" is that there will be periods of remission from the pain, and that the new drugs you'll take for the rest of your life are vastly improved over the drugs of old. Nevermind that these drugs will sometimes make you even sicker than you are now, or that some could kill you. The good news is you're less likely to become crippled, or die, than persons diagnosed 20 years ago.

Imagine you are me.

Nine months ago this week my body began to fail me. On November 19, 2010 as I stood in the High Noon studios in Denver, preparing to film my fourth Food Network Challenge of the year, I knew something was not right. As I assembled my T-Rex armature during "mise en place" my hands didn't want to work, they were stiff, tight and tingly. I shrugged it off and quietly berated myself for accepting two Challenges in one 30 day period, a decision I knew would likely lead to sore muscles, achy bones, and the requisite post-Challenge sinus infection or strep throat. But wasn't all that pain was supposed to come AFTER the Challenge? AFTER I carved a 5 foot dinosaur out of cake, not before? I didn't give it any thought until the next week, the week of Thanksgiving, when instead of getting better, it got worse. I didn't give it much thought until I realized that the pain was equally bad in the joints on both sides of my body, not just the right side as I would expect from overuse. I didn't give it much thought until I was much, much worse. Until the week before Christmas when I nearly lost my mind from the pain. Until I had to go to the doctor begging for pain meds so that I could enjoy a pain-free Christmas day with my family.

Bet you're wondering where that happy ending is, huh? Let's fast forward 5 months. It's spring, I'm still in physical and emotional hell, and I've finally gotten all my tests back. The Dr. confirms my diagnosis as Rheumatoid Arthritis. At the age of 42. RA is an autoimmune disease, it's basically a malfunctioning immune system. My immune system was attacking my own body. That's obviously not the happy ending, so hold on. She laid out my treatment options and wrote me several scripts. I asked about dietary changes I should make. She looked me in the eye and told me that "diet has nothing to do with it". I walked out of her office and began to cry. And that's when I knew. I knew right then and there that this doctor, no, NO doctor would give me a viable solution for fixing my immune system. I would have to find another way. If my immune system was broken, I figured, why not fix the damn thing?

Now for the happy ending... Fast forward another 3 months and I'm in my 7th week of freedom from the pain, swelling and stiffness without taking ANY medications. Not only that, but I feel better than I have in 20 years! I have tons of energy, my mind is clear, those cruddy chronic "issues" we all deal with are gone, my adult acne has even disappeared. My immune system is happy, happy, happy! After seven and a half straight months of absolute hell, I AM WELL. Am I cured? Nope. It doesn't work that way unfortunately, but I have found a natural approach that keeps my immune system in check. I radically changed my diet, I do regular acupuncture and saunas, I take loads of Chinese herbs and supplements, I juice daily. I've made changes to keep my life in better balance. I closed my storefront to relieve the stress that comes with running a retail business- full time employees, massive overhead, inflexible work hours. I spend more time with friends. I enjoy my kids more. I worry less. I remember to slow down and take time for myself. I work with the clients I want to work with and say no to the freakin' Bridezillas.

This natural, or "alternative", approach is more work than popping a few pills every day, but the side effects are all positive and they definitely won't kill me. I've been so amazed by what I've learned about wellness and diet in these past few months. I've always had a healthy approach to food but this has taken it to a whole new level. Food, the "right" food, is nurturing, it's healing, it's life-changing. I'm starting a new food blog, launching next week, where I will detail what I've learned, share recipes and resources, and hopefully offer a little inspiration to others who have been told "diet has nothing to do with it". It seems that almost every day lately I meet people who are struggling with their health, looking for better answers than those they've been given in the doctor's office. Today I met two of those people in the produce section of Central Market. One lady couldn't wait to share my story (and my email address) with her aunt who also suffers from RA and has been frustrated with her "nasty" medications that make her so sick. These are the folks I hope to reach with my blog.

So that's the story, or at least the first chapter anyway, we'll see what comes next. For some of you this probably answers some questions you were afraid to ask about why I didn't seem myself for a while, or why I closed my retail location so suddenly. I couldn't "go public" right away, it took some time to get to where I am now, but boy am I glad I'm here now!

And for the record, I'm NOT making excuses for my pathetic showing at Food Network Challenge "Extreme Dinosaur Cakes". Our problems with our poured sugar and subsequent inability to stay on the intense time line we had created would have derailed us anyway.

In closing, I owe a HUGE thank you to my husband Van, and my son Cade, both of whom had to use every last ounce of patience and love at their disposal to help me through those tough months of hell. I couldn't have done it without you!

As for what the future holds? I'm still doing cakes, I'm just a bit more "selective" about my commissions now. I'm also working on a book and teaching classes. I'm still doing all the things I did before, just in a more moderate and sane fashion. Will I go back to Challenge? Hell yes I will, I wouldn't miss it for the world!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Elegant Ivory on Ivory Damask Wedding Cake with Edible Brooch

I've posted my own photos of this cake before but this professional photo from Fred Egan is so spectacular I just couldn't resist putting it out there again. One of my all time favorite cakes!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Food Network Challenge "Stand Up Comedy Cakes"

My assistant, Dawn Parrott and I, with Judge Keegan Gerhard after a long day at Challenge

Can you believe it? It's that time again, time to tune in for our next Food Network Challenge. This time we not only have to race the clock and impress the judges, but we have to move our cakes to a legendary comedy club and present them to a live audience! If we don't get a good laugh from our "Stand Up Comedy Cakes" we don't get $10,000!

Tune in this Sunday, January 23rd at 8pm EST to see who has the funniest cake!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Food Network Challenge "Giant Wedding Cakes"

Our 7 foot 3 inch cake for the mystery couple Katie and Matt

Did you see Food Network Challenge Giant Wedding Cakes? It was a doozy! If you missed it, fear not, it will re-run, and you should definitely make sure you catch it. Don't worry, I won't give away the ending here.

So, the first thing you need to understand about Challenge is that it's all in the editing. They've got over 60 hours of tape to work with after all, and they only need 40-ish minutes for TV. The second thing to know is that it's a LONG day for all of us, cast and crew, judges, etc. We start at 5 or 6 am after VERY little sleep (I average 2.75 hours of fitful sleep before competition day) and it's go, go, go for 12 to 15 hours. Yes, I know, Challenge is only 8 hours. But in the finished product you don't see the set ups, the second and third takes on intros, the "hero shots", the false starts, the green room, makeup, etc. Trust me, it's hella long. The third thing to know is that everyone on Challenge has a role to play. Example: Kerry is the "mean" judge. That's her role, it's NOT who she is. Trust me on this. The fourth, and most important thing to know is that Challenge IS A TV SHOW. Let me repeat this. CHALLENGE IS A TV SHOW. It's not reality, it's reality TV, there IS a difference.

So, now that all that is out of the way, let me tell you how much I love Challenge. No, love is really not a strong enough word. I mean, people love chocolate and their dogs and even a favorite pair of shoes. Love is not nearly strong enough to describe how I feel about Challenge. Hmmm... well, truth be told, it's my drug. Seriously. I can't. get. enough. It's the most stressful, exciting, exhilarating, exhausting experience you can imagine. It's tense, nerve-wracking, and vomit-inducing. It's an adrenaline rush. It's non-stop madness. It's heaven. I adore it. I think about it day and night. I would make it my full-time, everyday-of-the-year job if I could. I know this makes me a little "sick", but hey, if there's a cure, I definitely do NOT want it!

"Giant Wedding Cakes" was my second Challenge, taped back in May. I filmed my first Challenge, "Paranormal Cakes" in January of this year. Two weeks ago I competed in my third Challenge, and next week I will do my fourth. That's right, it's my drug, and I need it frequently, 4 times a year at minimum. Unfortunately, Challenge goes on hiatus from May through September, so as you might expect, the summer is hell for me.

The "Love" carving on one of our tree trunks

And now, some frequently asked questions, answered:
Q: What do they do with all the cakes?
A: After the beauty shots and close ups, they throw them out. It's a TV studio after all, not a licensed commercial kitchen. Trust me, you wouldn't want to eat these cakes.
Q: Do you tape in New York or Los Angeles?
A: Neither. The production company for Challenge, High Noon Entertainment, is based in Denver and that's where Challenge is filmed.
Q: Is Keegan a big teddy bear and Kerry a meanie face?
A: Not exactly, and no. While Keegan is a very kind and approachable person, and yes, a bit of a teddy bear, he is also an accomplished pastry chef and has a critical eye and palette. He's a tough judge, but his role on the show is somewhat "softer" than Kerry's. Kerry has decades of experience in cake and sugar art and has forgotten more about such art in the last 5 minutes than I will ever know in my lifetime. She knows her stuff and she tells it like it is. She is not, however, mean. Or cruel, or unfair. Her Challenge role is much more one-dimensional than her true personality. Remember, it's reality TV, NOT reality. Both Keegan and Kerry are much more than what you see on TV.
Q: Do they provide your tools and materials?
A: No, we bring everything with us except the kitchen itself, the kitchenaide mixer, and the fondant sheeter.
Q: Is there still a live audience?
A: No. The new set does not have room for a live audience. But if you're really, really nice, or give me a lot of money, or are a member of my immediate family, you just might be invited to be in my VIP section next tiem.
Q: Why do you always make such big cakes?
A: Why not? Seriously, I think Challenge is always about going big or going home. I never play it safe cuz that's not fun nor does it make for good TV. I'm an over-achiever and a glutton for punishment. I also believe that the height requirement should be met with cake and not rice cereal treats, styrofoam, wires, blah, blah, blah... it's a cake competition after all.
Q: Is Claire really that skinny or do they use smoke and mirrors?
A: Yes, she really is that tiny. I know. But don't hate her for it, she's really nice too!
Q: When you go to Challenge do you get to meet Bobby, Giada, Ina, and Paula?
A: I wish. Especially Giada and Ina, J'adore!!
Q: Did you really want to "whack" Bronwen at Giant Wedding Cakes?
A: Haha! Of course not. I wanted to win. But that whole story line made it a much more interesting show, right? It's TV, remember?
Q: Did Gio really build a 6 foot cake without a center support?
A: Yes, he did. But he will never, ever, do it again.
Q: Did Donna run into some trouble?
A: Hell yes she did. Her airbrush malfunctioned and that was a very big problem because she intended to airbrush her WHOLE cake! Also, and you didn't see this on the show, her assistant Marina (the gorgeous blonde) cut her hand VERY badly and had to leave the set for quite a long time. They do NOT stop the clock when someone gets hurt. This upset their entire time-line and definitely caused Donna major stress. Don't worry, I'm betting she'll be back to kick some major cake booty and when she does I hope I'm nowhere to be found, cuz she's got mad skillz!
Q: Do you always cry on Challenge?
A: So far, yes. What can I say? I'm emotional.

The waterfall representing where the couple was engaged,
and an apple tree representing their wedding venue.

Me and my staff in downtown Denver outside the amazing REI store.
Denver is SO cool
, I want to live there when I grow up!

Does this one really need a caption?
Ok, it's me and Kerry after Giant Wedding Cakes Challenge

That's it for now. Gotta go and plan my time-line for next week's Challenge. Wish I could tell you the theme but that's classified info. Suffice it to say that I will, once again, make a VERY BIG CAKE! Hah!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Black and Ivory Wedding Cake with Bows and Brooches at Buttons Restaurant

Oh how I love this cake! I know you're tired of hearing that every cake is my favorite, but seriously, I can't help myself. I get kinda attached.
Latoya and Lee were so wonderful to work with. Latoya knew exactly the style she wanted to convey and she trusted us to "do our thing", LOVE THAT!

We used a pale ivory base fondant which is really nice and warm with the black in contrast. Sometimes pure white can be a bit jarring with black and this tone was just beautiful.

I hand cut the "brooches" and dusted them with silver disco dust which catches the light so nicely and gives a more subtle bling than inedible rhinestones.

Buttons Restaurant provided the perfect "cool and stylish" backdrop for the reception.

All the fabulous photos are courtesy of Candi Coffman Photography.

Elegant 7 Tiered Ivory, Pink and Gold Wedding Cake

This cake was a true labor of love. Seven tiers of varying heights with lots of design details: quilting and pearls, damask stencils, piping, tufting, painting. We delivered this towering confection to The City Club in downtown Fort Worth. It looked stunning in the room with it's mirrored walls and harlequin window treatments. Tami Winn Events and LeFleur Couture outdid themselves with the room decor and the fresh flowers on the cake.