Category Archives: Special Occasion 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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A Steampunk Valentine


Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  I’ve been wanting to create a steampunk cake for quite some time now, and I finally got a chance to with this mini heart steampunk Valentine’s day cake.  The cake is a chocoholic’s dream: devil’s food cake, filled and frosted with chocolate buttercream.  The board is covered in a distressed wood finish fondant and the cake is decorated with fondant & gum paste decor.

This was a very mini-project, as you can see in the in-progress and detail shots below.

Here are a few detail shots of the gears, screws, and other metallic accessories.

This might have been my favorite part of this cake – the heart in the keyhole.  The mini heart is a little less than  1/4 the size of a penny.

Detail shot of the gum paste skeleton key & feather.


Just to give you an idea of scale, here’s the base cake with my favorite Sharpie marker.  Very miniature in comparison to most Sweet Element cakes!

And lastly, just because I think buttercream frosted cakes are simply pretty on their own, here’s the cake simply frosted in chocolate buttercream, before it got steampunked.

Gun Case Groom’s Cake


This rather interesting groom’s cake request came from a Virginia based bride who was planning a wedding at the Tappan Hill Mansion in Tarrytown, NY.  While we never actually met in person, I did receive a number of photographs of the groom’s gun & gun case from the bride to work off of.  While a number of people at the venue thought it was a rather unusual groom’s cake when I was delivering the cake, it made much more sense once I explained that the groom was a military weapon’s specialist!

As you might imagine, I felt just a *little* bit of pressure to get the gun “just right” since that was the highlight of the cake!  While my first attempt was a bit off, I knew I had created a rather good replica the second time around when I posted pictures of the hand sculpted modeling chocolate gun on twitter and I had a few cops message me back with compliments on the gun by model name and a few other cake artists asking where I purchased a gun mold!


This gun case cake was created of one of the most popular groom’s cake combinations: devil’s food cake, filled with peanut butter mousse, frosted in vanilla buttercream and decorated in a combination of fondant and modeling chocolate.  The gun is created of modeling chocolate and the clip and bullets are a combination of gum paste & fondant.

It was a pleasure to find this review of the cake on WeddingWire from the bride while on vacation a few weeks after the wedding!

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!

Notre Dame Bucket of Miller Lite Groom’s Cake

I delivered this groom’s cake to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx last Friday (pre-hurricane!) for a Miller Lite loving groom who graduated from Notre Dame.  Since the venue didn’t serve Miller Lite, the bride wanted to give this cake as a surprise gift to her groom as a consolation.

The cake was comprised of devil’s food cake, filled and frosted with Guinness buttercream and decorated in fondant, modeling chocolate, gum paste & isomalt.  The insides of the beer bottles were made of molded rice cereal treats.


It has been quite a while since I worked with isomalt, but now I think I am hooked on sugar again.  I really do think that isomalt creates the most realistic looking sugar ice, don’t you?

Be on the lookout for some new and interesting sugar techniques with isomalt from Sweet Element soon!

Summertime Cupcake Towers

Hello again!  It’s been quite a while since I’ve gotten a chance to get over here to the blog … so as you might imagine, there are a LOT of cakes to update everyone on!  To start out here are a few of the cupcake towers we delivered last month.  I’ll be posting a bunch of wedding cakes soon!

This first cupcake tower was made for a Sex and the City themed bridal shower at the Marina Grand in Staten Island, NY.  The cupcakes were chai cake with cinnamon honey buttercream, devil’s food cake with vanilla buttercream & almond cake with chocolate buttercream.  The top cake was a vanilla cake, filled with raspberry preserves, frosted in vanilla buttercream and decorated in fondant.  This was the first time I was able to use Bella Cupcake Couture cupcake wraps as well, which I think fit into the theme perfectly!


This was my favorite view of the top cake city skyline 😀

Close up of one of the gumpaste lipstick cupcake toppers.

Close up of one of the Cosmopolitan gumpaste toppers.

This next cake & cupcake tower combo was made for a Christening at the Brick House in Wycoff, NJ.  The cupcakes were devil’s food & vanilla frosted in either chocolate or vanilla buttercream and red velvet frosted in cream cheese frosting.  The cake was all vanilla, filled & frosted in vanilla buttercream and decorated in fondant.


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 😀

Veuve Clicquot Birthday Cake

Last Friday I created this Veuve Clicquot champagne bottle cake as a surprise for Jonathan from his boyfriend for a party in Hells Kitchen, NYC.  As a special touch, I created special personalized sugar labels with the birthday inscription & birth year.  As you might have guessed, Veuve Clicquot is Jonathan’s favorite champagne!

This cake was comprised of devil’s food cake, filled with peanut butter mousse and frosted in vanilla buttercream.  The exterior decor was a combination of fondant, modeling chocolate & gum paste.



Why Are Sculpted Cakes So Expensive?


Like many of my fellow cake designers, I have definitely noticed a large trend in clients requesting elaborate sculpted cakes for birthdays, groom’s cakes & other special occasion cakes.  With the prevalence of these kinds of cakes being featured on numerous television shows, I am not surprised that these requests keep increasing.  What does constantly surprise me however is that many of these clients are floored when they discover how much sculpted cakes cost.

So, I thought I would tackle that very question: “Why are sculpted cakes so expensive?”, in the second installment of the “Did You Know…?” series.

While I can’t speak for all cake designers, I know that I have a policy of pricing sculpted cakes on a by design basis at Sweet Element, meaning that each cake is priced depending on the level of design complexity, and never really by the slice.  While I give a guideline of pricing on my FAQ page, with sculpted cakes starting around $10-$20 per serving, that really is just a ballpark so that potential clients can see that sculpted cakes are indeed some of the most expensive cakes.

And here are the reasons why.  Sculpting cake involves a lot of all of the following things:

  1. Time
  2. Support
  3. Cake

Sculpted cakes typically take a lot more time than traditional tiered cakes to plan out as there is usually a fairly intricate support structure holding up all the funky shaped cake tiers together, that changes for each and every cake.  For instance, in the Gnome Cake above, steel rods, secured into wooden bases were used as support structure in the two legs to support a fairly top-heavy cake, which involved carpentry & a fair amount of construction to get just the inner structure completed before any cake was involved.


In addition to the time spent in figuring out the structural elements, there is also a fair amount of time spent on ensuring that the cake to be sculpted is carved to scale, so that the cake being carved really resembles the object it is being modeled on, which involves a LOT of measuring and an eye for detail that is much different from simply stacking wedding cake tiers so they are level.  Scale also plays a major role in the overall cost of sculpted cakes, since in most cases, the size of cake that a client envisions usually serves far more people than they need to feed, thus making “pricing by the serving” irrelevant.

What also surprises a lot of people is how much cake actually gets thrown away (or is left to make into cake balls) when sculpted cakes get made.  I often use the analogy of cake carving to sculpting marble or wood, which usually makes it easier for people to envision.  In order to get curves and dimension, these sculpted cakes start out a lot like blocks of cake and then slowly turn into objects by having pieces cut away.

So, with all that being said, if you have your heart set on a sculpted cake, but your wallet just isn’t cooperating, there *are* a few ways to cut down costs …

  1. Talk to your cake designer (that would be me!) & see if there is a less complicated way to create the 3D sculpted cake of your dreams.  Simplifying design = cost savings!
  2. Contemplate the idea of a more traditional sheet or tiered cake with 3D sculpted gumpaste or fondant decor instead of a full blown sculpted cake

Oh, and I probably should end this post by recommending that if you do order a sculpted cake – definitely pay the delivery charge & let your cake designer deliver it!  These are usually some of the most fragile cakes, especially as most of them need to be mostly assembled prior to delivery (unlike stacked wedding cakes which are usually stacked on-site), and require VERY careful driving to get them safely to their final destination!

Mr. Met Groom’s Cake

I love baseball themed cakes … and I’m considering this one the first of the 2011 season!  We delivered this peeking Mr. Met Groom’s cake this past Saturday to The Crystal Room in Staten Island, NY as a surprise to a Mets fan groom from his Yankees fan wife!

This cake was comprised of red velvet cake, filled and frosted with vanilla moussaline buttercream and decorated in fondant.  The Mets hat on top was made of rice cereal treats and decorated in fondant.