Category Archives: Birthday Cakes

2012 – A Year in Review …

Happy New Year everyone! I’m hoping this is one of the last looooong round-up posts I’ll have, as one of my many resolutions for 2013 is to be more present here in the blogosphere!

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Before I begin the round-up of sweets, I thought I’d let everyone know why the blog was a bit quiet this year. I know I’ve broken probably every rule of a successful blogger, and was barely present blog-wise in 2012. For starters, I blame the ever addictive Facebook. Before the ease of being able to churn out quick posts on Facebook (mostly photos & mostly with my iPhone), I always felt the need to get blog posts together for every project to update everyone on what was going on in the world of Sweet Element Cakes. Then add in twitter (also slacked there in 2012 …), pinterest (still figuring it out),  flickr (almost up to-date), managing my own website (something I think I may finally give up this year), figuring out that having an intern isn’t neccesarily a good thing, getting audited (we survived & owe nothing – thank you to awesome accountants & my OCD about keeping all receipts!), getting into a minor car accident, dealing with a few not-so-happy clients for the first time ever, and oh, the million and one other things that I needed to do – like actually MAKE the cakes and deliver them (many times unexpectedly solo – more on that in future posts) – and I just got overwhelmed.

I’ve debated about how personal to be here on this lil’ cake blog, and I’ve been inspired this year by reading some very honest posts from cake designers I admire about the reality of our profession. None has struck home more than Mike Elder‘s blog, which I’ve found incredibly bold, very personal and almost therapeutic to read. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in a lot of the craziness that we cake makers & other creative types endure! It’s a catch-22 for me, because I think it’s important to put a positive front out there – especially in such a “sweet” business – but I do think that at times, especially when the going is rougher than expected, that trying to put on a super positive front on-line as well as here on the blog was just impossible. So, starting with this first not-so little post of 2013 – you’ll notice that things will be a bit different here on the blog! I’ll still post all the sweet stories behind my cakes & keep everyone updated on my latest projects, but I’ll also be opening up about the reality of running a one woman cake studio in the NYC metro area. So, buckle up – if 2012 was any indication of what 2013 holds in store – it’s gonna be a hell of a ride!

And now … onto the 2012 round-up!

I was extremely happy to have Sweet Element Cakes featured in the bridal press this year in The Knot, Brides, New York Weddings, both the NY & NJ editions of Contemporary Bride, and numerous blogs.
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And then there were the events … here’s a snapshot of the highs & lows of each.

sweetelement_nyc_glbt_expo2GLBT Expo High: Mr. Sweet Element & I were smart enough to bring along a few extra pairs of hands to help pass out over 6,000 mini cupcake samples over the two-day event.
GLBT Expo Low: My iPhone got STOLEN on the second day. 😦

jen_ramiBrides/bebe event High: Getting to design one of my favorite wedding cakes of the year inspired by a dress design by Rami Kashou.
Brides/bebe event Low: I think I said everything I could in this previous post.

sweetelement_table_jay_inbliss_mamIn Bliss Launch High: Getting to meet some awesome fellow cake designers & NJ wedding pros & also see the Montclair Art Museum for the first time!
In Bliss Launch Low: Getting to meet some not-so-friendly competition. (Unfortunately, the cake world isn’t all sweet y’all.)

thecreamThe Cream High: Having Mr. Sweet Element back from Belgium in time to go with me.
The Cream Low: Me being too totally wiped out from an all-night cake session & him from a crazy business trip and trans-atlantic flight to really enjoy ourselves. (We left with unused drink tickets – for shame!)

bridesstyleshopBrides Style Shop High: Finally getting to meet & have dinner with another cake designer & her husband. Always great to be able to talk to people that get it!
Brides Style Shop Low: Finding out that the cake stands for the cakes were too small to put my extremely fragile cake on which meant leaving it on it’s ugly “transport-only” cardboard board. Ugh.

sweetelement_openhouse_setupIt was also nice to be able to open the studio for a few events this year as well. We had a fabulous turn out for The Sweet Element studio’s 2nd anniversary party in May & our holiday open house in December. Hopefully I’ll be able to plan a few more open studio events for 2013!

A few firsts for 2012:

1st Logo Re-Design! As with many other businesses, after a few years in the trenches, I’ve found that my old logo wasn’t really cutting it anymore and wanted to come up with a new design with more emphasis on cakes. My friend and fellow wedding pro, Meridith Desmond introduced me to 99designs.com – and I had a blast working on-line with a number of designers to come up with the perfect new logo!
Cherry1st delivery of a cake to a wedding reception on a boat! I was super happy to have Mr. Sweet Element with me on the delivery for this one as he had to literally leap from the dock/stairs to the boat with the cake. All along he thought driving the cake for deliveries was the most stressful part – HA! Luckily, everything went swimingly, and both bride & groom loved their groom’s cake! ;D
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1st wedding where the catering staff ate ALL the extra cake – including the TOP TIER! To add insult to injury, the catering staff also THREW OUT the custom acrylic topper that Mr. Sweet Element had painstakingly hand cut. Fortunately, the catering staff paid for a replacement top tier and topper, so there was a happy ending.
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1st Icing Smiles Cake for a special little girl in Newark, NJ. It was a pleasure to come up with a fun Yo Gabba Gabba design for her. Personally one of my favorite kid’s cakes of 2012!
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1st Open Air Market in downtown NYC at the Fulton Stall Market for the holidays. As the colder months are notoriously more quiet in the world of cakes, I switched gears yet again during the holiday season of 2012 and switched gears to creating artisan chocolates, cookies & other confections. After some thought about how to market those items – I thought that it would be a nice idea to bring a little bit of sweetness down to to the seaport in NYC, which was hit rather terribly by Hurricane Sandy earlier in 2012. Mr. Sweet Element & I braved the cold (& rain!) every Sunday before Christmas in December and got to meet a number of other really awesome vendors, a few tourists and many locals (& their pups!).
Sweet Element Fulton Stall Market

One of my goals for 2012 was to meet other solopreneurs & small business entrepreneurs in the wedding industry, and I’m happy to say that is one goal I definitely accomplished! It’s been nice to be able to grab coffee or lunch with other people in similar shoes in the crazy world of weddings & beyond. I was also lucky enough to be able to personally work with a few of the fabulous wedding pros that I met when Mr. Sweet Element & I celebrated our 11th anniversary in October with a weekend in NYC.  We kicked off the festivities with a super fun photoshoot in the meatpacking district with Meridith Desmond. And if you’re wondering why I look like I have a more flawless face than normal – I had my make-up professionally done for the very first time (yes, EVER – I did my own make up at my wedding!) by the fabulous Sharon Becker of SB Beauty.

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And lastly, here are some of my favorite cakes from this year:

Favorite 2012 Wedding Cake : Lichtenstein Inspired Wedding Cake
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Favorite 2012 Wedding Cake for the Media : Art Nouveau Peacock Wedding Cake
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Favorite 2012 Super Last Minute Cake : G-Shock Birthday Cake
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Favorite 2012 Sculpted Cake : Coca Cola Groom’s Cake
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Favorite 2012 Decorated Cupcakes : Boss & Minion Cupcakes for Bosses’ Day
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Stacked Books Birthday Cake

I had the pleasure of working with Encore Catering on this stacked books cake for a very special 60th birthday celebration at the Newark Museum in Newark, NJ last month.

The client had very specific requests on the book titles and stacking order, and wanted a classic book feel to the overall look.  I thought a marbled board would be a nice accent as well.  I have to say I’m pretty happy with the end result!

All the books were vanilla pound cake, filled with lemon curd, frosted in vanilla moussaline buttercream, and decorated in fondant.

It was wonderful to hear that the cake went over well, as I received the following note in an email from Encore Catering the following week:

“Awesome job on the book cake. The client was thrilled!”

 

Oh, hello there blogosphere!

Before the entire month of April goes by … I wanted to sneak in at least one post!  Like many months as a solopreneur, the month of April was one of ups and downs, unexpected opportunities, and a lot of lessons learned.

I’ll be posting in more detail about all of the below soon … but here’s a quick recap of all the goings on at Sweet Element this past month!

To start things off, here are a few of this month’s cakes!

This first cake was a vanilla cake, filled with dark chocolate ganache, and frosted in vanilla buttercream for a shabby chic birthday party for a very sweet one year old in Edgewater, NJ.

This sweet little red velvet birthday cake, filled with cream cheese frosting, and iced in vanilla buttercream was ordered as a surprise by a very sweet son. 🙂

These three wedding cakes were designed for a super fun modern Marie Antoinette themed wedding. I’ll be posting a lot more detail on these in another post next month!

Lastly, this fashion forward wedding cake was one of the two wedding cakes that were specially designed for the launch of Rami Kashou’s bridal line at Bebe.  I’ll be posting more on this event soon too!

There were a few more really fun cakes that I had the opportunity to make and would love to share, but I’m awaiting publication … so, as soon as I find out more, I’ll be updating everyone here too!

I was also extremely fortunate to get to know a number of fabulous folks in the wedding & event industry this month, including fellow cake designers, photographers, event planners, florists and make up artists.  I even got to make wedding cakes (yes, you read that right – cakeS!) for a super sweet make up artist ~ who had an awesome wedding at the Loew’s theater in Jersey City, NJ!

I was so excited to finally have a few professional headshots taken by the lovely Mikkel Paige in SoHo, which is one of my favorite neighborhoods in NYC.  The most amazing thing to me about these shots was that they were taken after I had only gotten four hours of sleep, having stayed up to the wee hours to finish cakes for a last minute shoot (more on that shoot coming soon too!).

And last but not least, here’s a glimpse of some of the much needed *fun* that Mr. Sweet Element & I got to enjoy this month!

Clockwise from top left: Mr. Sweet Element & I on the beach in Asbury Park – my first time there!; Traditional ice cream cake from Parm in SoHo, NYC – worth every calorie!  The sandwiches were so good (& I was so hungry), that I never got a photo.; My first Yankees game of the season in the Bronx.; Nagle’s ice cream parlor in Ocean Grove, NJ … can you see a theme here? 😉

March Madness!

It’s been a flurry of activity at Sweet Element this March, but I’ve finally been able to catch a little bit of computer time to share what we’ve been up to here in the land of sweets!

We started the month off with a very tall, very chocolate wedding cake for a wonderful couple who had their wedding at Battery Gardens in lower Manhattan.  Ilona & Allen were having a black & white NYC themed wedding, and loved the concept of having a unique chocolate buttercream cake decorated with a stunning silver NYC skyline, some graphic red fondant hearts and the iconic “I ♥ NY” logo in the center of the cake.  This cake was all red velvet, filled with cream cheese filling, and stood around 27″ tall!

Keeping in the NYC theme, we created this fun Jets jersey groom’s cake for another wedding at ‘Cesca, on the upper west side of Manhattan the following weekend.  The jersey was customized with the groom’s name and the couple’s wedding date in place of the player’s number.  The cake was a rich vanilla cake, filled with dark chocolate ganache, frosted in vanilla buttercream and decorated in a combination of fondant and gum paste decor.


We also created a fun Baby Einstein themed cake for a 1st birthday party in NJ.  This cake was a devil’s food cake, filled and frosted in vanilla buttercream.  The baby blocks on top were decorated rice cereal treats made with white chocolate in lieu of marshmallows in order to get nice edges.  All decor was made of fondant & gum paste.

Next up was prep for the 19th GLBT Expo at the Javits Center in NYC – which involved a LOT of baking: 6000+ mini cupcakes!  I am happy to say that I definitely had help this year in the baking department: BIG thanks to Mr. Sweet Element, fellow pastry chef LP & Remo – our newest intern!  I don’t know how I would have gotten through it all without you!

The GLBT Expo took place on St. Patrick’s Day weekend … which meant that Mr. Sweet Element and I celebrated our 1st date anniversary working the booth!  After last year, we realized that we definitely couldn’t do it alone, so this year we enlisted the help of some fabulous family and friends.  I don’t think I could give a big enough *THANK YOU* to Kim & Susan for all their help!  We were also very happy to share our booth with Nancy Swiezy Events, who created a gorgeous floral display for the table.  If you are ever looking for a fabulous florist or wedding planner – definitely give Nancy a call!

Here are a few snapshots from the show (last two courtesy of my cousin Kim, as most of my photos were STOLEN!***)

Kim, me & Susan all set up and waiting for the crowd to head in on Saturday.  Pistachio, Almond, Red Velvet, Confetti, Coconut & Vegan Chocolate mini cupcake samples, a few display cakes, a gorgeous floral display and little moo cards filled up our table!

Mr. Sweet Element, me & Kim ready to take on the onslaught of tasters!
Mini cupcake closeups and a shot of our back rack filled with boxes of cupcakes and display cakes.

***The weekend was fabulous … until I realized that someone swiped my phone!!! Definitely a downer to a great weekend, but luckily I was able to get a new phone late on Sunday at the AT&T Times Square store, who had reps at the Expo and were extremely helpful.  I’ll definitely be going back there for any phone needs in the future, as I’ve never received better service at any other store.  I thought it was incredibly sweet that the rep who I talked to at the Expo personally called me later that night just to check in to see if I was ok and had everything squared away.

So, new iPhone acquired, but many contacts and photos lost as I hadn’t synced it in a small eternity.  Needless to say I’ve already set up my new one and all my other devices on iCloud with “Find my iPhone/iPad/etc.” installed!

Happy New Year!

The first of anything is always a little daunting, don’t you think?  It’s taken me a few days to figure out how I wanted to start off this year on the blog, and I finally thought that I couldn’t think of a more fitting first post for 2012 than a little look back through our favorite 2011 moments in cake!

On the media side, last year started out with a bang as I discovered that Sweet Element had been chosen as a 2011 Pick for The Knot’s Best of Weddings!  I was also thrilled to have two cakes featured in Brides Magazine in 2011 and participate in two Brides events as well: one with Lord & Taylor and the Brides White Hot Style Shop! (belated post to come very soon on the Brides White Hot Style Shop!)  Sweet Element was also fortunate enough to be featured in Get Married Magazine, The Knot, and New York Weddings as well as a number of blogs.

The most popular blog post *by far* last year was an educational post that I wrote about why sculpted cakes are so expensive. My initial thought process behind the post was to educate clients on what goes into making 3D cakes, but I think I struck a chord with many other cake designers who feel the same frustration every time a client asks for a sculpted cake at a ridiculously low price. While I’m not big into how-to tutorials, I definitely think that there is a need for more posts “behind the scenes” in the world of real cake (and not overly dramatized for TV cake) – so I’ll be working on some more for 2012!

While we scaled back on the number of events we participated in overall, we went BIG with Sweet Element’s participation in the GLBT Expo at the Javitz Center in NYC, which was our first experience with a huge show and was definitely a highlight of the year for us.  Not only did we get to hand out over 6,000 samples in two days and meet a slew of great people, we also met some totally awesome guys, who I’m happy to say have turned into very dear friends, Shawn & Doug.  A few months later, when NYC legalized same-sex marriage, they asked me to make their wedding cake!


And since it seems like everyone is always curious to know what my personal favorite cakes are …. here are my picks for 2011!

Favorite 2011 Wedding Cake for the Media


Favorite 2011 Groom’s Cake

Favorite 2011 Special Occasion/Birthday Cake

Favorite 2011 Real Wedding Cake (Traditional)

Favorite 2011 Wedding Cake (Non-Traditional)

This last cake has extra special meaning for me, as the clients who I made it for loved it so much that they made their topper into their first holiday card! I was beyond touched when I received the card below last month.  Believe it or not, it’s the smallest little things like this that make all the late nights, cake conundrums, and all the incredibly difficult work worth every minute.


I look forward to another year of fun, fabulous and festive cakes in 2012!

Back from Blog Hiatus!

Hi everyone! I can’t believe it’s been over TWO months since I’ve posted an update here. So are you wondering what has been going on in the land of Sweet Element(s) in the past two months?

Well, let’s see … I had a bunch of last minute wedding cake orders, made a few fun birthday cakes and one very unique groom’s cake, had a cake featured in the Brides White Hot Style Shop in NYC, worked on a few upcoming press projects, had my Modern Love Wedding cake featured in New York Weddings, had *two* peony cakes featured in The Knot’s national winter 2011 issue, interviewed intern candidates, networked with some other fabulous wedding professionals, designed the Sweet Element holiday cards … oh yea … and Mr. Sweet Element & I went on a 2 week ROAD TRIP for our 10th anniversary!

So, as you can see … even though I haven’t posted … it’s not because I haven’t been BUSY!

Here’s a photo montage of many of the cake projects that I’ve worked on over the past few months.  I will definitely be posting additional details on all the projects below and new updates soon!

And here’s a montage of some of my favorite photos from our 10th anniversary road trip!  We drove through NJ, PA, WV, KY, TN, MI, AK, LA, AL, GA, SC, NC, VA, MD, and DE ~ so as you might imagine we spent A LOT of time on the road!  Of course, even while on vacation I still had cake on my mind (and pie apparently, as you can see by the photos below :D). I was lucky enough to get to meet with Minette Rushing & her staff at Custom Cakes in Savannah, GA (and am just realizing I took *no* pictures there – drat!).  I hope that I can build just as awesome a team as hers soon!

Yo Gabba Gabba Birthday Cake

This Yo Gabba Gabba themed birthday cake was delivered to a birthday party at The Learning Center in Manhattan this past weekend.  The cake was comprised of vanilla cake, filled with milk chocolate ganache and decorated in fondant and gum paste.  The characters were made of rice cereal treats and decorated in fondant.


Here are a few close ups of the characters individually.






Resurfacing!

Hrm, I could say that I was taking a 33 day blog hiatus to reflect on the last bit of my 33rd year, but the truth is that I haven’t been able to get much time to blog, catch up on twitter or tend to my website as much as I wanted in the past month!  When you’re running a one-woman cake shop and have a slew of unexpected last-minute orders on top of a relatively full calendar, kitchen activities & deliveries take over everything else.  Fingers are crossed that I’ll be able to find an intern or two to help out in the Sweet Element kitchen SOON!

So, before the onslaught of July orders pulls me into the kitchen again, I thought I would share just a few of my favorite June cakes.

This first cake was one of the most unique wedding cakes we’ve made.  The bride & groom wanted to recreate their proposal story with their wedding cake, changing just a few details to make it special for their wedding day.


I love this inspiration photo that shows the pumpkin proposal that the groom arranged to be seen from the top of a mountain hike with his bride-to-be!

Here’s a close-up of the sugar bride and groom that were sitting atop the mountain of cake!  I adore the mini wire-rim glasses on the groom.

The bride also secretly ordered a NYC subway map groom’s cake as a surprise for the groom.  I couldn’t think of a better way to showcase both city & country than with these two cakes!

The mountain & barn cakes were comprised of red velvet cake, filled with cream cheese frosting, frosted in vanilla buttercream and decorated in a combination of fondant, modeling chocolate & gumpaste.  The subway cake was a devil’s food cake, filled with peanut butter mousse, frosted in vanilla buttercream and decorated in fondant.  Both cakes were delivered to the beautiful Round Hill House in Washingtonville, NY.

This next offset square wedding cake for a wedding in Edison, NJ was a fun challenge to take on, especially as our first gig with Pure Ambiance Events!  The bottom three tiers were banana cake, filled with peanut butter mousse & milk chocolate ganache and the top tier was vanilla cake filled with milk chocolate ganache.  All tiers were frosted in vanilla buttercream and decorated in fondant.  The manzanita branches were made of modeling chocolate and the orchids and delphiniums were handmade of gumpaste.

You might be able to tell where much of the cake inspiration came from by taking a peek at the beautiful room set-up by the Pure Ambiance team below!


This next wedding cake is a perfect example of how beautiful a cake with real flowers can be ~ great for the bride on a budget!  The cake was comprised of red velvet cake, filled with cream cheese frosting, frosted in vanilla buttercream and decorated in fondant with satin ribbon and fresh orchids.  We delivered this tropical cake to the stunning Le Club Avenue in Long Branch, NJ.  I really just wanted to go and hang out at the beach after setting this up ~ but alas, there were other orders waiting to be finished back at the studio!

This groom’s cake that we delivered to The Madison Hotel in Morristown, NJ, is definitely one of my most favorite cakes of June.  A last minute order, I was so happy I was able to fit this order into the books!  The bride had seen a photo online with Lego stormtroopers hoisting up a Lego Darth Vader into a pint of Guinness (concept originally from Kevin Pulton) and wanted that recreated into cake.  Keeping in the Guinness theme, the cake was our Guinness Chocolate Cake, filled and frosted with Guinness buttercream and decorated in fondant.  As this was a *very* last minute order, I had to make certain inner structures of the Lego guys from foam as all gum paste bodies would not have time to dry, but all the exterior portions are made from modeling chocolate, gum paste & fondant.

Here’s a side-view shot of the lil’ Lego guys 🙂

It’s unusual that I actually get to see my clients’ reactions at weddings as I usually set up before they get into the room, but in this particular case, when the bride slipped and mentioned that there was a surprise groom’s cake waiting in the ballroom, the groom just HAD to see the cake before the reception!  It was definitely a pleasure to grab this quick picture of very happy bride & groom with their pints of Guinness & their Guinness cake!

And last but not least, we made this chocolate plate Chicago Blackhawks birthday cake as a surprise for a huge Blackhawks fan in Hoboken, NJ.  The cake was devil’s food cake, filled with banana cream filling and frosted in vanilla buttercream.  The top decoration was all chocolate and the inscription was in fondant.


I always wonder how surprise clients react to their cakes, so as you might imagine, I love getting emails from clients with photos of happy cake recipients ~ especially when the cakes are a surprise!

Well, that wraps it up for now …  it’s back to the kitchen to get started on some very fun cakes for July!  Hopefully I’ll be able to get to blog more often this month 😀

Big Top Circus Birthday Cake

This cake was a last minute order for a very special little four year old as a birthday gift from her aunt.  We delivered this to a house party in Hackensack, NJ last Saturday.

The cake was comprised of vanilla cake, filled with strawberry preserves, frosted in vanilla buttercream and decorated in a combination of fondant & gumpaste.  The very tip top of the big top was made of rice cereal treats in order to achieve a more pointed look.

April Cake Catch-Up!

I love when a relatively quiet month all of a sudden turns out to be a super busy one unexpectedly!  This April was definitely one of those crazy months where I seemed to be inundated with last minute requests.  Here are a few of the Sweet Element projects that kept me busy this month.