Creative Careers Crafting Custom Cakes
ICE alumni reflect on cake decorating techniques, trends and businesses.
Three graduates of The Art of Cake Decorating and Pastry & Baking Arts at ICE's New York campus describe their distinct styles at East Coast cake studios.
In 2014, Nevia Giles (Pastry, '14) left a 13-year career in utility consulting to pursue her passion for Pastry & Baking Arts at ICE. She baked for her friends and family as a hobby and had already designed a wedding cake for her sister, when she was compelled to express her creativity on a larger scale.
"The most valuable thing I learned at ICE is that there is more than one 'right' way to do something and value can be found among the differences," Nevia says of her time in the program. "I learned three mixing methods for making Italian meringue buttercream and found all the methods had similar results. For me, this translated into being open to new ideas, being creative and seeing established tools and techniques in new ways."
Following graduation and an externship at Kate Sullivan's Cake Power in New York, Nevia opened Platinum Cake Designs just outside of Atlanta in Decatur, Georgia in 2015. "All our cakes are made from scratch and all our decorations are handmade," she explains. "We specialize in making unique, beautiful and delicious cakes that fit our clients’ style and taste."
The business has evolved in four years, working with fondant, buttercream, wafer paper, gumpaste, sugar and gelatin. Lately, she's following new marbling techniques, fault line cakes, varied textures, stenciling patterns and metallics. "I like fun and challenging projects with brilliant colors," Nevia says. "A little glitter, glam or sparkle can really elevate a cake to the next level."
In 2018, Jeanne Long-Richardson (Cake, '18) also changed careers, enrolling in The Art of Cake Decorating after a stint in accounting. She'd decorated cakes at Costco and Whole Foods and elected to study under Chef Toba Garrett after winning ICE's #CulinaryVoice scholarship. "The most valuable thing I learned at ICE was the English Lambeth, Australian and Oriental string work methods. They are extravagant over-piping techniques, so precious in fragility and method that they require great patience, a steady hand and time," Jeanne says. "It was an exceptional experience and an honor to learn such elaborate skills from a master artist."
She returned to her home in Maryland to work as a pastry cook at the Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C., until devoting all of her time to Marie Josephine Cake, where she offers daily pastries and custom cakes online. "Having a home-based cake studio works best for my style of work," Jeanne says. "I find inspiration by consistently visiting museums and studying the work: the brush strokes, the sculptures, the colors. I take elements of my client's personality and I blend these to create unique pieces."
Jeanne uses whole ingredients and seasonal flavors, even sourcing fruit from nearby farms in Virginia. She's influenced by fine art, history, current events and other cake artists, and layers flavors for taste and visual effect. She's garnered a loyal clientele and plans to expand her work this year.
Unlike ICE's many career changers, Natalie Dionisio (Pastry, '12) knew she wanted to run a pastry business since her first job at a bakery when she was 14-years-old. Natalie enrolled in Pastry & Baking Arts in 2011.
"ICE is where I honed my skills and realized my true passion: cake decorating," she says. "ICE also taught me the importance of fresh ingredients."
Natalie has been hosting dessert decorating parties since graduating in 2012 and realized her dream on Sept. 15, 2019, when The Cakery debuted in Stamford, Connecticut.
"The Cakery specializes in custom cakes, cookies, cupcakes and more," she says, emphasizing that detailed wedding cakes and drip cakes are her favorites. "I love to sit in front of a cake for hours and perfect all the details, and at the same time, I love making a messy rustic cake."
Pursue your passion for Pastry & Baking Arts or The Art of Cake Decorating at ICE.