Have you seen January's Cake Central Magazine? We were delighted to discover a full-page spread featuring a gorgeous Secret Garden Cake including a piped royal rose cage inspired by Colette Peters' Vintage Cakes, Modern Methods class. We were so excited we just had to get in touch with the cake's decorator, Wendy Woo of Wendy Woo Cakes to chat with her about her beautiful cakes, her cake decorating experiences, and finding herself in an international cake magazine!
Like many others, we saw your cake in Cake Central Magazine, and we were so impressed. Particularly with your royal icing skills. When we got in touch, and asked you about it, you mentioned how your grandma made royal icing, but for a long time, you were too "chicken" to try it. Tell us more about your grandma's royal icing skills, and why you were, at first, fearful of it.
Well, first my grandmother was a huge inspiration to me and I grew up watching her decorate beautiful wedding and birthday cakes. She would allow me to come to her house and sit on the floor against the far wall and watch her decorate. My grandmother also worked for a candy company and she would make thousands and thousands of royal icing roses, flowers and other decorations for truffles and chocolates, so she got a lot of practice with royal icing and even at the age of 83 and legally blind she could make a perfect royal icing rose. I also have photos of cakes my grandmother made that have royal icing cages. These cakes were made long before I was even born, but I was never able to learn how she did it. As for being chicken, I think a lot of learning and developing skills in cake decorating is having the guts to try a new technique. Royal icing is so fragile and takes so long to get perfect and if you have done it wrong, your hard work that took hours to make can be gone in less than a second and I think that is what can hold people back from trying something new, just like it did for me.
On your website, you mention that you've had a love of cake for your whole life. But it's one thing to love cake, and it's another to create the stunning cakes that you've done. When did you start creating and decorating your own cakes?
My whole life I have grown up having custom homemade cakes on my birthday, I thought that was normal, so I have also been making them or helping make them since I was a kid, but it was something I did for fun, once in a while. It wasn’t until 2004, that I reached out to my grandma and asked if she would teach me how to decorate wedding cakes. She happily obliged and we spent months together practicing. She would teach me new techniques and send me home with homework. As I said before, she was in her 80’s and legally blind but she was still an amazing artist and we became great friends. In 2006 after making lots of buttercream cakes for my friends and family and they were getting more and more extravagant, my husband convinced me to be brave and order some fondant and just try it, I ordered 20 pounds of fondant and have been hooked ever since.
As so many of our crafters know, once you've learned the fundamental skills, you move on and start developing your own styles and ways of doing things. Tell us a little bit about your own unique style.
I think for me, rather than focusing on my own style, I have really tried to focus on the unique styles of my customers. I think as a cake artist it is my job to capture the vision of the clients and give them the cake of their dreams. That is why so many of my cakes are so different from one another. I focus on clean technique and making the cake as customized as possible. I have learned to stop being ‘chicken’ and try new things and that has made all the difference.
We've spent far too much time on your website, marveling at your cakes. There are some that are classic, some modern, and others that are wildly creative, and others still that are such fun "reproductions" of other things (for instance, the cake you made that looks like an entire fast food meal, complete with "fries" and a "drink"). What are your favorite kinds of cakes to make?
I love a challenge! So I would have to say that sculpted cakes are my favorite, the bigger and crazier, the better! I love making cake not look like cake! Don’t get me wrong, I also love making beautiful wedding cakes, but I love the wow factor and the look in people’s eyes when they realize what they are looking at is a cake. I also love the process of taking such common ingredients like flour and sugar and butter (and a few others) and turning them into a work of art. I find it fascinating!
Now, you're not just a very successful cake artist who has her own business (and some very impressive press), but you also happen to be a Craftsy student! There may be a perception out there that professionals are often on the other side of the classroom, meaning they're always the teacher. But, in reality, professionals will frequently continue their own education by taking classes. What kind of things were you looking to learn when you became a Craftsy student? What drew you to Craftsy in particular? And what things are you still eager to learn?
I have to say that I LOVE Craftsy! I believe in the cake industry there is always more to learn and always more than one way to do things and Craftsy is the perfect platform for beginners and professionals. The decorating classes on Craftsy are taught by world renowned cake artists that I have looked up to and studied for years and it is amazing to watch them work and to see their techniques. I also was drawn to Craftsy because I loved that I could have the class for life! I can go back and watch parts of the class over again and really study what is being taught. I think it was Thomas Edison that said “ I haven’t failed, I have found 1,000 ways that don’t work”. With the classes on Craftsy you have taken talented professionals that have put in thousands of hours of practice and trial and error and that are willing to share what works so that the students don’t need to waste their time. I see Craftsy as a springboard into the world of sugar art! I know for myself as a professional I don’t plan to ever be done learning or to ever be “good enough”, there is always room for improvement and I assume most professionals would agree. I have learned so much and improved a lot since starting my Craftsy classes. For instance, I started structuring all of my cakes differently after watching Richard Ruskell’s Topsy Turvy Cake Class and my cakes have improved immensely. They are sturdier and much easier to transport. And we can’t forget the royal icing cage that got this conversation started! I loved learning from Collette Peters and her knowledge and expertise inspired me to try a technique I had been scared of for years and now the first cake I had attempted with that technique has been published in Cake Central magazine! I am eager to learn anything anyone will teach me about sugar art and plan to continue taking classes on Craftsy!
What inspires you in your craft?
What inspires me is that it’s fun, it’s creative, and there is always room for improvement! I love what I do! I love the design process with clients to design their perfect cake. I love creating the cakes and watching as everything comes together and my favorite part is seeing people’s reactions when they see the cake for the first time! I am grateful every day that I can have a job that brings joy to other people’s lives.
Are there any cake artists who have been an influence or inspiration to you?
I don’t know that I could name all of the cake artists that have inspired me over the years! It all began though with Collette Peters. Shortly after I took the leap into the world of fondant my mom bought me two of Collette Peter’s books and I soaked in the information like a sponge and still refer back to them frequently. Another cake artist I have always looked up to is Bronwen Weber, she is always so happy and full of excitement and I love how well she transitions from elegant, gorgeous wedding cakes to crazy sculpted cakes and back again. I love Marina Sousa’s use of texture and her innovative and gorgeous designs. I would love to spend a day learning from Lindsey Sinatra, her artistry inspires me every time I see her new cakes. And we can’t forget my cute grandma that has inspired me throughout my life. I think of her every time I turn on my oven and pull out the buttercream, she continues to inspire me every day.
Lastly, what would you say to someone who looks at your cakes and says "I love those, I want to make those," but who feels they'll never be able to?
I would say, buy some fondant, make a cake, take a Craftsy class and get going! Be willing to make mistakes, but even more importantly be willing to try! As a beginner you don’t need tons of fancy tools and there is even a free class on Craftsy called Modern Buttercream by Joshua John Russell that gives you all the basics on how to begin, and don’t worry, at least your mistakes taste delicious!