Trudy Nicholls is one half of the dynamic cake making & decorating team at Cherry Cake Company. She’s a talented cake decorating queen who specialises in bespoke cakes using creative fondant designs.
As someone who never uses fondant or moulding icing I wanted to chat with this lovely woman about her creations, business and decorating style.
How did cake decorating start for you, is there a backstory about how you got into creating such delicious treats?
My parents are both potters and I was raised in a very arty household. I also have a love of all things food, so cake art was the perfect job for me! It combines my passion with food with my passion for design, sculpture and painting. I also got into caking to make people happy – cakes are such a wonderful gift and are sure to put a smile on your dial!
What is your all time favourite cake flavour!?
Oh this one is easy! For many years I searched for the perfect spiced ginger cake. I tried hundreds of recipes and I have FINALLY developed a cake that delivers the perfect flavour – spicy, sweet and rich. It has spices such as cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper, and I pair it with a salted caramel cream cheese frosting – HEAVEN!
Can you give any top tips for aspiring cake decorators out there when it comes to using fondant in particular?
- Fondant is one of those things that just takes practice, practice and more practice. My top tips for covering a cake in fondant:
- Start with a smooth base. At Cherry Cake we use coverture chocolate ganache (a mix of chocolate and cream) under all of our fondant cakes. When the ganache ‘sets up’ (firms up) we apply the fondant over it. Getting a smooth finish with the ganache allows us to get nice straight edges with no bumpy lumpy bits when the fondant goes on. (I wish I could do the same with my thighs!)
- Hot knife the ganache before applying the fondant. This helps the fondant to stick to the cake.
- Use potato flour or corn flour to stop the fondant sticking to your work surface when kneading/rolling it out.
- Lift and place the fondant onto your cake in one movement, then start quickly smoothing down from the top of the cake, working all the air bubbles out.
- We use sterile acupuncture needles to pierce the fondant if we need to let air bubbles escape. These leave tiny holes which are easy to smooth out.
- Buff and smooth your fondant with cake smoother s (little plastic paddle-like things). This gives a gorgeous smooth finish.
- When you are happy with the fondant finish cake, decorate it to your heart’s content. Remember though, do not put your fondant cake in the fridge, it will ‘sweat’ when you take it out again.
What is the strangest cake decorating request you have ever had from a customer?
I am a real prude – so any dodgy cakes for hen’s nights make me blush and squirm. I usually avoid these cakes at all costs!
Have you got any tips or tricks for someone wanting to start-up their own cake baking/decorating business?
Make sure you get yourself sorted with the legal/council stuff. In order to legally sell cakes, you need to bake them in a registered kitchen or have a MPI ( Ministry for Primary Industries) approved Food Control Plan. Contact your local council for details.
Price your cakes properly. If you want to do this for a job, you need to decide your costs – overheads, ingredients, power, advertising, petrol etc etc. Factor in your time and your skill level. I speak from experience when I say working for $2 an hour is not financially viable for a business!
Stick with YOUR style. It is so hard not to compare yourself to other Cakers, both within NZ and internationally, however to keep the passion alive, your cakes need to show YOU. They are, after all, edible art J
Every baker has a cake disaster where something just hasn’t worked, what was yours?
Oh boy. Cherry Cake was lucky enough to be selected for Art Of Cake, a fashion-meets-cake event held in Shore City Mall. In accordance with our theme, Pop Art, and our charity (fundraising for Red Nose Day), we chose to make a life-sized Batman cake. We spend hours and hours sculpting Batman’s chest and abs out of modelling chocolate. We researched hot male bodies online (it was a tough job) and got him looking buff and perfect. Then we left him. In the sun. In a hot room. For an hour. BATMAN MELTED. Needless to say, there were tears and tantrums and a big puddle of melted chocolate.
Is there one particular stand out cake that you have made that makes you feel the proudest?
We are lucky enough to have made so many amazing cakes, for so many incredible people. For me personally, the cake that I feel the proudest of is the one that I made for my mum and her twin sister for their 60th birthdays. This cake is bright and hand painted and totally ME. It makes me smile and it made them smile.
You’re a pin-up gal who makes pretty cakes… you’re a girl after my own heart. Have you always loved pin-up/vintage styling?
Absolutely! Growing up around artists has meant that I have always been surrounded by colour, design, flowers and crazy cool stuff! I LOVE the pin-up style and I love all things vintage. I especially enjoy the way that my pin-up clothes, hair and style makes so many people smile. Young and old, men and woman, it crosses cultural barriers and socio-economic brackets – it is a happy, bright, FUN style.
Another reason I love pin-up, is that after having two sons, I found that the only clothes to make me feel feminine, confident and comfortable are pin-up clothes. They accentuate my good points but hide my bum and thighs perfectly J Also, being a pin-up gal is my way of keeping myself girly in a house full of boys.
I see you’ve entered a few cake competitions and placed with GoBake and Art of Cake, how do you come up with the designs you enter?
This is our first year working together as Cherry Cake and we have been lucky enough to place second in both the Go Bake Live Cake Off (open to NZ cakers) and the Art of Cake (Auckland wide). Kelley and I work really well as a team to come up with our concepts and cake designs. We both offer different skill sets to Cherry Cake and we have heaps of fun deciding on what to do. We love keeping things ‘on trend’ and we always keep a NZ element to our designs.
Have you got any exciting news coming up with your business? Where will we see you next?
Apart from our Christmas corporate range which is out now, we have lots of things planned for Cherry Cake in 2016. The most exciting for me is the launch of our LUXE range of cakes, which are super-duper gorgeous cakes, delicious and special. They feature macaroons, real edible gold leaf, and a selection of divine flavour combos.
So there you have it! If fondant is your thing, or you’re looking at potentially starting up your own cake making or decorating business – make sure you follow Trudy’s top tips above. Make sure you get in touch with these dames to organise a perfectly preened cake of your own!
Make sure you follow these ladies to see what they’re creating next!
Have you ever decorated with fondant before?