Maggie Austin’s star is still rising, but she already has a rich and fascinating life story. In this free video, we sat down with Maggie and learned what she did before she was a successful cake designer. We think you’ll be quite interested. Check it out, and also learn what inspires her, what she loves about teaching, and what lies ahead for her. Maggie teaches Fondant Frills, an online Craftsy class for cake designers and decorators looking to add even more elegance and interest to their cakes!
I trained all my life as a ballet dancer. So, when you train in something that specific, you just sort of have tunnel-vision. That’s all I did from the age of four after following my sister into the studio. Just intensive training. Summers were spent in intensive programs. It was a no sun, no fun kind of thing. I turned professional when I was 17 or 18, and I had a short but fantastic career that ended with an injury in late 2005. So at that point, I needed to regroup and look at my options for moving on. So I didn’t have any college education to sort of back me up. I turned professional right out of high school. So I was just sort of thinking about what interests I had that I could develop on. I was lucky enough to attend French Pastry School in Chicago, which is where I was living at the time. It’s a fantastic program. So I had just a brief, two-week session on wedding cakes, and I felt like I found a niche.
I think there are a lot of similarities between being a dancer and having any other artistic expressions. It doesn’t have to necessarily be cake decorator or designer.
I think my passion for cake design, I like to pull things from things that are completely unrelated to cake.
I think cake in particular is something, unlike a piece of artwork that might hang on your wall, there’s always this notion like, “this looks like a piece of art, but then I’m actually going to be eating it.” And I think there’s also something to the fact that a lot of our memories from childhood are tied to cake. We remember the smell of cake baking in the oven. You remember the birthday parties that your mom or dad decorated for you. Those are really tied to your emotions. So I think people do become emotional about cake in that way.
I love to teach. I did a little teaching when I was a ballet dancer, as well. So that’s really fulfilling to me. So I think that I would be teaching more in the future, trying to reach students in various parts of the world and see what new styles are coming up. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface design-wise. So I’m looking forward to new things in the future, design-wise.
I think I would really just encourage students to know that this is a lesson, this is a work in progress. Before you can express yourself artistically, you really need a solid foundation. So maybe you’re not going to have the exact same cake that I created, but I think that you will get a really good feel for the frilling technique. You will learn how to execute the sugar flowers. I will say that we hold workshops at our studio in Old Town, Alexandria. And I’ve had an old lady neighbor from down the street, and I’ve had a competitive cake decorator sitting side-by-side, executing our sugar flower. So just as what’s in our lesson about making the rose and frilling and all sorts of stuff, we go through the same steps in our studio. And really our results, they all look slightly different, but they’re all beautiful. And they’re all unique to each person. And I would encourage people just to give yourself that freedom to make it your own. Don’t place the flowers exactly where I place them. Feel free to put your own style to it.