Meet Lauren Kitchens, Cake Expert and Craftsy Instructor
Enjoy meeting Lauren? Learn more about her online cake decorating class, Cityscape Cakes: Intro to Modeling Chocolate.
Why do people love cake so much? Cake is charming, and it’s fascinating, and it’s sweet, and edible. And I don’t think anybody, at any age, ever loses the feeling of excitement when they see a cake. It’s almost like the Candyland game. When we were little kids, we would play Candyland. And it’s just remembering seeing the boardgame and all the little pieces and everything was edible and delicious and all the candy colors were so bright. And that made us excited. And I think that’s the same thing for cake. No matter what age you are, you will see a cake, and you’ll stare and you’ll go, “wow!” And it’s so rewarding to be able to make something that’s sweet and delightful and charming, and you can actually eat it. Cake is timeless and it’s fascinating, and it’s the perfect food.
When I was a kid, I would watch PBS and all the cooking shows on that channel. This was before the Food Network, before food was anywhere on TV; it was only PBS. And the French pastry chefs would come out with their piping bags full of merengue. And the stuff they would be able to squeeze out of those bags was amazing. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked; I wanted to get my hands on a piping bag.
I went to college to study film and art history. The whole time, I was making cake and I never put it together that I had been sort of training to be a cake decorator. I had no idea I was on that path. And after I graduated from college, I didn’t really have a direction, so I started selling the cakes I was making. I was selling them to family and friends and friends’ parents. And all of a sudden, before I knew it, I had a little business out of my parents’ kitchen. Then I got a job at another wedding cake bakery. There, I learned speed, I learned how to deal with more clients, and quantity baking, and all that good stuff. A short three years later, after college, I opened my commercial kitchen.
I started using modeling chocolate a few years ago. After I’d done my first Food Network Challenge, they had called me to do another, and I thought, “god, I really don’t want to struggle through all that sculpting.” I was using cake, and butter cream, and fondants, and I was having a lot of trouble getting the cake I wanted by using those sugar media. So I thought, “I’ve got to change my game here!” And I was watching Food Network Challenge, and Mike McCarey was using modeling chocolate to do his amazing cakes. And I thought, “I’ve got to get my hands on modeling chocolate; that looks fantastic!” And other people on Food Network were using it, as well. And I thought “this is fantastic,” because I saw them making little items that were just able to stand up and were ready to go. There were no supports in there, there was no drying time. So I called one of my cake suppliers in town, and I said, “Do you have a recipe for modeling chocolate?” She said, “I do.” So she sent it to me, and it took me about five times to make it before I got it right. And I have not stopped using it. I couldn’t make the cakes that I make now without modeling chocolate. It’s changed me a cake sculptor, and it’s even changed my wedding cakes. It’s just something I can’t live without.
With modeling chocolate, I am able to achieve gravity-defying cakes that are seamless, they look perfect, and it’s not because I’m necessarily the most talented person on the planet. It’s because I’m using modeling chocolate. The possibilities are endless. You don’t have to dry the pieces you’re working with, you just have to keep them cool. You can rub out any seam with the warmth of you hand. And you don’t need as much structure inside your cakes when you’re using modeling chocolate. It’s just fantastic, and it will really open you up creatively as a cake artist.
I love it when I look up at a student, and I’ve told them a technique that I do, and they just go “AH!” I love seeing a light go on, and it’s almost as if I’ve changed the way they’re going to do one little thing for the rest of their cake life. It makes me feel really good. It’s much different than working with a client who wants to buy a cake. This is different, this is more community.
When I think about myself at 65, 75, I honestly see myself carrying a four-tier wedding cake into a venue. I see myself teaching modeling chocolate sculpture to a group of students or a group of online students. I just don’t see this cake thing ending for me ever. And I think the reason it has such longevity is because it’s ever-changing, and it’s so much fun.