The Talent of Jene Rylan Nato

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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.

 

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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.

mggg1-resizedMy 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 

30 Responses to “The Talent of Jene Rylan Nato”

  1. Wow. I did not know him, this is the first I have heard of him and here I am crying. How sad. His work and story above is such an inspiration. Its sad that he ended his life. So young. I pray for his entire family and friends. I am so deeply saddened by this. I know he will be remembered, just look at all of his work; wow, just wow.

  2. So sad to hear this. First off, I had no idea THE Rylan was so so young. His generosity, talent and knowledge far outstripped his years. He will be missed by people than he never even knew existed. My hope is that he is in a better place now and that he is finally free from the depth of pain that caused this unfortunate act. Somewhere up there, there is an angel holding a pastry bag…

  3. So sad to hear this. First off, I had no idea THE Rylan was so young. His generosity, talent and knowledge far outstripped his years. He will be missed by more people than he never even knew existed. My hope is that he is in a better place now and that he is finally free from the depth of pain that caused this unfortunate act. Somewhere up there, there is an angel holding a pastry bag…

  4. This is so sad! I loved following his blog after learning about him from Cake Central. I always looked forward to hearing more from him. Back in Jan 2010, I sent him an email with questions and he responded right away. I just looked up that email and am reminded how generous he was. We chatted back and for a bit and he gave me great advice. My opening comment to him was “I love your cakes and I’m happy to have found you.” Was a sad tragedy for any person to not understand their self worth. He was a good young man and he will be missed by all. My prayers go out to his family and friends left behind. Everyone brings so much to this life and what a tragedy not to know that. God bless all….

  5. I am so sorry about this. One has to wonder what kind of pain would cause such a lovely and talented young man to take his own life when he had so much more to offer the world. It’s a tragic loss to all who knew him…and those of us who wish we had.

  6. So sad to think that such an amazing young man would have such pain in his life. This is the first picture I have ever seen of Rylan, but his cakes have amazed from the very beginning. I only hope that he has found the peace he was seeking and my love goes to his family. I have lost a child and losing a child this way has to be so much harder.

  7. What a shock to see this post as I logged onto Cake Central. I don’t visit often and was not familiar with Rylan. Still, I am deeply saddened by the loss of this young man and the talent he possessed and shared generously. As the mother of a daughter about the same age, and someone who has known suicide in the family, I feel compassion for his family and friends. My sympathies to all.

  8. i am so sorry to hear. I do not know him but this is truly a tragedy. So talented. I pray this his family finds comfort in his memories. And may his work continue to inspire the rest of us.

  9. My prayers go out to Rylans’ family and close friends. I feel blessed just to have read this and to have gotten to know a little about him via CC. Such a wonderful talent beyond his years, I myself will learn from much from him. A young man who’s live was not lived in vain.

  10. My sincere condolences to Jene’s family, my heart breaks for your loss. What a sad loss to our community and to the world of cake decorating in general. I began selling cakes only a few years before Rylan began making his masterpieces. He truly inspired me, and after making so many one and two tier cakes, I decided one day to make a “Rylan-style cake” as a display cake for a bridal fair. He encouraged me to think big, and not be afraid of scale. This gave me the courage to make other large cakes – this time for sale! He will not be forgotten, as I am sure he was an inspiration to many more like myself.

  11. Wow reading his story has motivated me & shows me you can do anything if you want it bad eanough to see it through. Hate I didn’t get to meet him on here before his sudden passing . R.I.P Jene gone way to soon & so much talent. You will live on through the rest of us in the cake world it’s a awesome one too…Prayers sent to the families & everyone he touched.

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