When Cake Central Magazine was taking its first steps, Rylan was always there with a beautiful cake to share with us, and in issue one of volume three, he was our spotlighted cake-maker. We asked him then to tell us what cake-decorating meant to him, and we’d like to share his words with you.
After graduating from high school in 2007, I landed work as a caregiver in a group home. Working 12-hour graveyard shifts, I never really had the time to do anything but work. However, I did find time for one hobby, which was collecting limited edition sneakers. In fact, I was living paycheck to paycheck, just trying to support my sneaker addiction. You are probably thinking I’m insane and wondering what sneakers have to do with cakes, but as odd as one might think cake conventions are, there is a parallel world where “Sneakerheads” (sneaker collectors) unite.
A little less than three years ago, I was on YouTube searching for the latest sneaker trend. For some reason I stumbled upon a short video of a lady named Mayen making a fondant cake for her son. Soon after checking out the rest of her cake videos, I was totally hooked. I wanted to decorate cakes too! That was the day my journey began.
I had never heard of fondant until that very day. Don’t get me wrong— I did know what flour was, as I had learned the basic knowledge of baking from my mom (thanks, Mama!). We actually owned a coffee shop back then, and my mom would bake the best treats— so good that customers would come back for them. But I was never really interested in baking. I would help her bake here and there, and I kind of liked baking but never loved it.
Mayen, along with the community of people on YouTube who shared their cake videos, were very helpful in answering all of my questions. After learning the basics of cake decorating, I finally decided to get my supplies— definitely one of the biggest investments of my life. My goodness, shopping for cake supplies was interesting! I saw things I’d never seen before. A cutter for a cymbidium orchid? Heck, the only cutters I’d seen before were hearts and circles. C’mon, stencils for cake? I thought stencils were for walls! I was so amazed with the variety of tools I found, and at last my shoe obsession turned into a cake addiction.
For my first cake I decided to make a four-tier wedding cake with brush embroidery details and gumpaste roses. I’m the type who loves a challenge; I never want to take the easy way out, but it was a nightmare! Not only did my fondant keep tearing, but the whole cake was more crooked than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I also underestimated the time it would take to make the roses and had to sacrifice the brush embroidery details. In the end, the cake didn’t turn out exactly as I envisioned, but it was definitely worth the try. Thanks to my competitive spirit, I didn’t give up. My second cake was for my brother’s first birthday and was four feet tall. Again, the cake didn’t turn out exactly as I pictured, but it was a lot better than my first attempt. That alone was a success.
After caking for a little under a year, I finally had the guts to join my first competition in March 2010. I traveled from Las Vegas to San Diego with my dog and a long-time friend. When I finally got there, I felt like going back home and crying under my pillow. There were so many beautiful, elaborate cakes and mine seemed too simple. But to my surprise, after the competition was over I found out that I had actually won Best of Show! It was so unexpected, and that was the day I felt all my hard work had finally paid off.
I believe simplicity is my strength. I always want something clean, fresh, and unexpected. I make sure that the bands are always straight, the board is perfectly round and the fondant is silky smooth. I will admit that my cakes are never perfect, though. Sometimes I let my imperfections go (and it feels like ants are eating my brain), but many times I see the flaws a few weeks later after looking at the photos. Of course it bothers me that my cakes aren’t perfect every time, but I know there is nothing I can do about it. It is just a part of being a cake maker.
My journey as a cake decorator has taught me so many things. Learning how to decorate cakes has made me appreciate my mom’s recipes a lot more, especially the recipes I use for my own cakes. I also have found that cake decoration has made me more creative in the kitchen with other desserts. I guess it all started with the cake scraps and excess filling I had to throw away. Eventually I learned to make use of the scraps and filling by mixing them together and making cake balls. I’m telling you— people love them. After turning scraps into cake balls, I began making cupcakes with leftover batter. Then the extra ganache eventually turned into chocolate truffles and bonbons, and the list went on and on. Using leftovers and scraps has taught me to develop my own recipes and try out new ones. I have to say, I actually enjoy baking now, and I’m a lot more passionate about it than I was before. The kitchen is definitely hotter than ever.
I continue to grow as a cake decorator, and I see learning as an endless process. Because I have never taken any classes, I am looking forward to taking some in the future. As for now, I don’t think I have plans of selling cakes anytime soon, as I can barely handle the stress of creating a cake. Most of the time, I stress over the smallest imperfections. Even the ribbon on the edge of the board can irritate me.
In terms of my family, my mom and dad have been very supportive, and I am so thankful to have them. My dad is an awesome woodworker, and he helps me by cutting my boards and building stands for my cakes. Hey, this could possibly become a business in the future; you never know.
I still cannot believe I am actually doing this. I began with a simple dream of decorating a homemade cake and never thought that watching a two minute video on YouTube would change my entire life.
Originally Published In Cake Central Magazine V3I1