Who Do You Love?

I know more cake decorators than I ever imagined I’d ever meet in a lifetime. I’ve seen many cakes…the good, the bad and the very ugly. There are some VERY talented people out there making cakes that are more works of art than they are desserts. There are a few that stand in a class all their own. One such cake designer is Debbie Goard, owner of Debbie Does Cakes, based in San Francisco.

The first time I saw one of Debbie’s cakes, I was mesmerized. I honestly couldn’t believe it was a cake. I’d never seen anything so detailed before. I remember rushing to show it to my husband and he was just as awed as I was. To date, her sculpted cakes top my ‘best of’ list. This is first of Debbie’s cakes that caught my attention:

My mouth dropped open when I first saw this Buzz Lightyear cake. It’s extraordinary!

When I thought about writing this post, I intended to showcase the work of some of my favorite cake designers, however, as I looked through Debbie’s work, I couldn’t limit myself to only a few of her cakes! I decided that in order to do her work justice, it would best to dedicate an entire post to show you exactly what makes her cakes stand out from all the rest. Rather than go into exactly why I am such a fan, I would prefer to just show you, as they obviously speak for themselves.

This Golden Dragon was designed as a cake topper. The detail is amazing!


‘Beautiful cake this is.’ Nuff said.

Admit it, you want some! Spam never looked so good.

I can almost smell this steak. This t-bone looks so appetizing.

I couldn’t help but smile when I saw this cake. Love the expression on this guy’s face. I’m thinking those are beignets on the plate. They look mouth watering and remind me of my many visits to Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans.

I’d love to own the real designer bag this cake was modeled after. Might be hard to tell the difference between the two.

How cute is this?? I’ve seen plenty of car cakes. I’m partial to pink and I like this particular car. so it’s a win-win for me. From a VW Bug to a DeLorean, Debbie’s done them all. Cakes, that is.

There are plenty of real dogs out there that wish they looked as good as this one. Incredible, isn’t it?

If gore is your thing, Debbie literally takes the cake. This is as good as it gets! I wouldn’t even attempt this, but it’s a cakewalk for Debbie Goard.

I’m not sure what this is, but it’s pure gore and I love it! And yes, it’s cake!

I wrote an entire post about scary head cakes but only one of them was scary for the right reasons (see for yourself and you’ll understand why). Needless to say, this cake is in a different category. It’s so real looking!

I’ve saved the best for last. Meet Chucky. This late 80’s iconic film character from the the movie ‘Child’s Play’ always scared the $@#%*&! out of me for good reason. He was supposed to be a little kid’s doll, but it turns out Chucky had a dark side! Doesn’t it look like he’s going to just leap up and stab you?

To see more of Debbie’s incredible work, visit www.debbiedoescakes.net. She has a great blog, too. And if you are like me and just can’t get enough, check out her Flickr page. Not only is Debbie talented, but she is a striking beauty, too. I love her sense of humor, but best of all, I like that she is so very genuine. Oh, and she plays the base guitar. And collects really neat stuff. She is one really cool gal, if I do say so myself.

Please Note: Many thanks to Debbie for allowing me to use her photos for this blog. Please respect the work of the artists who put their heart and soul into their creations and don’t publish photos that don’t belong to you without the express permission of their owner first.

Latest Creations

Yes, it’s that time of the year again. Bridal season is in full swing and we are busier than ever this year. It was hard to go back to keeping such a hectic schedule after having some time off at the start of the new year. I became way too spoiled and thoroughly enjoyed playing my guitar at all hours of the day and night, spending time at home, and most of all, SLEEPING for more than five hours on any given night. Yes, it was fun while it lasted. I’m back in the thick of it now.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of making a wedding cake for one of my close friends. She had a very large scale wedding with hundreds of guests and a reception that was in full swing for a solid 8 hours (not including the ceremony and other formalities). Yes, it was quite the party! Here’s a photo of the cake:

This cake was made to celebrate a young lady’s Bat Mitzvah. I’ve made this same design in many different colors over the years, but I have to admit, this has to be my favorite combination.

This next cake was for a wedding at Newton White Mansion. The bands, lace appliques and bow are all hand painted and all edible. Yes, the broach is real!

Often times, brides want their wedding cakes to have the same or similar design as that of their wedding dress. One way to accomplish this is to order the same trim that is on the gown and use it as an accent. On this cake, the beaded trim adorns the bottom edge of each tier.

And last but not least…the creepy groom’s cake. Yes, folks. I have gone where I have never gone before. This cake borders on being ‘Cake Wrecks’ worthy. This was the groom’s cake for my friend’s wedding. The groom is an avid hunter and has several ‘deer head’ trophies. I literally slapped this together at 11pm the night before the wedding. I didn’t think I was actually going to be able to finish it and hoped they wouldn’t mind when they’d notice it missing. Alas, I am not a quitter and I decided to at least give it a try. I’ve never done anything like this before. I really was clueless. I went to work and hoped for the best. I couldn’t really look at it much when I was done. Something about those glass eyes looking right at me. I don’t think I’ll be making another one like this anytime soon, LOL. The groom loved it and was quite surprised. It still creeps me out when I look at it. This is probably the closest I’ve ever been to a deer’s head, real or otherwise.

iPad Love

On March 12, Apple began taking online orders at 8:30am for the new, much anticipated iPad. By 8:39, my husband and I had placed our orders and thus began the three week wait for the devices to arrive. Thankfully, Apple delivered as promised and one of the two arrived today (the 3G versions won’t be out for another few weeks). I’d like to thank my IT guy for putting up with me, well lots and lots of things, the iPad being just one of them.

What can I say? I like my toys, and the new iPad is no exception. The screen is large and much easier to see. The finish is standard Apple fare, sleek and smooth. It’s obviously heavier than my iPod Touch, but considerably light compared to a netbook or a laptop. I am in electronic heaven! I can’t wait for my 3G version to arrive. It will be fabulous to have online access everywhere without having to worry about using a MiFi or an aircard. I love the portability of it.

So here it is! Fresh out of the box and newly synched! My 3G arrives in the next few weeks, but my IT guy is allowing me to fondle his in the meantime.

New iPad

Charlie Mars Guitar Cake

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing the talented, Mississippi born, Charlie Mars perform at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA. Given that I am such a big fan AND a baker, I couldn’t show up empty handed. I contacted Charlie via Facebook and asked him if I could bring along a little something sweet. For the record, Charlie prefers chocolate.

I always seem do things on a grand scale, so this would be no different. A dozen lame cupcakes just didn’t seem fit for the occasion although I really had no idea what I was going to do. I had seen a picture of Charlie playing his guitar taken during a radio interview at Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB). I knew instantly that his cake would have to be a replica of his guitar! With a little help from Lisa Michie, Executive Director of MPB, I was able to get my hands on some high resolution images she’d taken of that interview. I needed to identify the specific model of the guitar Charlie owned. All I knew was that it was a Martin Guitar for sure.

Having recently ordered a new Martin guitar of my own (still on the assembly line at the time), I contacted the company to see if they could help me identify the specific model in the photograph. Many thanks to a special someone at Martin Guitar (you know who you are!) who helped me out.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Michie, Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Mississippi Division

I wanted this to be the best guitar cake ever! It took about two days to complete, including one VERY late night (or should I say wee morning). I wanted the board to not only hold the cake, but to represent Charlie’s accomplishments and his journey as an artist.

Everything is edible, with the exception of the strings and the internal neck structure.

A few hours before the show, I saw Charlie walking through to the front of the cafe. I introduced myself and presented him with the cake. Not only was he surprised, but he was really taken aback by the gift. He was genuinely touched and very appreciative. He took a pic of the cake with his phone and emailed it to his girlfriend (the beautiful Mary Louise Parker, star of the HBO hit, ‘Weeds’). He wanted me to take a photo of him posing with the cake. Of course, I was happy to oblige!

Charlie sat down and looked at each photo, sharing little tidbits about each one. Needless to say, I was absolutely delighted!

I love Charlie’s smooth vocals, soulful music and poetic lyrics. And that southern drawl…oh, so charming!

A fun afternoon progressed into an even greater evening. Charlie’s performance was really wonderful! He performed alone, singing with his guitar or the piano, my two favorite instruments! He made everyone feel at home, easy and relaxed as if you were hanging out with a close friend. What I didn’t expect, was his great sense of humor. Charlie Mars is not only charismatic and charming , he is also very, very funny! I laughed like I haven’t laughed in a long time. At one point during the show, he mentioned the cake and invited the audience to share it with him after the show. At the end of the concert, he did just that.

Charlie took the knife and started cutting and serving the cake to his fans.

After a few slices, I offered to relieve him so he could mingle with his many fans.

My autographed copy of Charlie’s new CD, ‘Like A Bird, Like A Plane

All in all, it was a great evening for me as I was able to listen to one of my favorite recording artists perform live, I laughed and enjoyed myself, and was able to give the best gift I could possibly give to someone I admire. I did go a little ‘groupie’ and asked him if he’d be willing to part with his guitar pick. Without hesitation, he reached into his right pocket and handed it over. I couldn’t have been any happier! I will use it often as I enjoy my own new Martin guitar. I can only hope to play as well as he does someday!

I know…I know…so cheesy of me!

A few days ago, I received a lovely email from Charlie thanking me for the cake. It brought a huge smile to my face and made all those hours of work seem like seconds – and so very worthwhile.

If you haven’t yet heard of Charlie Mars, check out www.charliemars.com, his official website, tune in to XM’s The Spectrum (channel 45) or watch some of the videos we shot of him during last week’s performance:

Meet Me By The Backdoor (this clip is SOOOOOO funny!)

Listen To The Darkside

Opening for Charlie Mars, was the beautiful and talented Danni Rosner.

Washingtonian's Bride and Groom January 2010

I am pleased to announce that Clara’s Designer Cakes was recently selected as ‘One to Watch’ in the latest issue of Washingtonian’s Bride and Groom Magazine, the premier bridal magazine in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area!

Bride & Groom Magazine’s ‘Unveiled’, Washington’s Ultimate Wedding Showcase, will be held at the Mandarin Oriental on Sunday, January 24, 2010 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM. Tickets available online.

Ultimate Fun on Ultimate Cake Off!

How lucky am I to have been invited to assist on two back to back episodes of TLC’s ‘Ultimate Cake Off’ show? VERY! While I cannot reveal any of the details, I do have some photos that are safe to share with all of you. I can also say that it was a wonderful, albeit stressful experience. Creating such large cakes is no easy feat. It looks relatively easy on television. Competitors build cakes as tall as 7 feet all in an hour’s time! That’s the magic of television. In reality, it takes four people 9 hours that fly by in the blink of an eye.

One of the best things about being on this show was meeting and interacting with the crew that makes it all happen. From the producers to the production assistants, everyone was friendly, outgoing and fun. I really enjoyed meeting Margaret Braun, one of my cake idols, and Leigh Grode from Cake Divas. There is so much more to these two women than what we see on television. They were so warm and caring, always smiling and encouraging us at every turn, and very down to earth. The new host of the show, George Duran, was funny and endearing as well. He brings with him a fresh and positive vibe to the show. There is great camaraderie among the judges and host, a true pleasure to experience firsthand.

I’ve added a section at the bottom of this post affectionately titled ‘The Men of UCO’. It’s a little nod to the guys behind the scenes who make it all happen. There are many more, but these are a few who we interacted with the most for one reason or another.

I am not sure when the episodes will air, but I will definitely post it here as soon as I know. My sincerest gratitude to the lead competitors who invited me to participate and to the Ultimate Cake Off staff for making us feel so welcome.

Me, Wayne Steinkopf of Swank Cake Design, Jacinda Putnum of Cinda’s Creative Cakes and Chuck Hamilton of Swank Cake Design.

Cinda and I in the Blue Team kitchen.

Hanging out outside the studio.

Inside view of those fabulous windows.

In the evening, the windows are lit from the outside to maintain the ‘daytime look’ of the windows inside the studio.

Ester Siswadi, Jocelyn Jung, Beryl Ann Byrd of Just Fabulous Pastries and me.

We couldn’t help the photo op next to the UCO sign.

Leigh and I. She had me in stiches! I have to say Leigh has great karma. We were graciously treated to trays of goodies from her well known ‘Cake Divas’ bakery. Best chocolate dipped macaroon I have ever eaten in my life. And they ship!

Margaret Braun and I. What a delightful and talented woman. She exudes great warmth.

George and I. He definitely has that Latin charm thing going for him.

Ever wonder what the cameraman really sees?

The Men of UCO‘ is dedicated to a few of the guys we interacted with the most, who made us laugh and who stood out for one reason or another. These photos were taken with their permission, of course.

We probably drove this guy crazy running under his big ‘rig’ all the time. He is quite camera shy, hence the rear view.

This is ‘McDreamy Hair’. What a nice guy. I hope I didn’t embarass him too much by telling him about his new nickname.

The photog. He set my D200 to the correct light settings inside the studio. So good natured. Photogenic, too.

Ah….the ‘front/back’ audio guy. We all enjoyed his sense of humor as he placed our mics in the front and our battery packs in the back. I wonder how many granny panties he sees in his line of work.

This was our team producer on both episodes. He was hilarious, kept us laughing, clapping and he smelled really, really good. I had to remind myself that I am old enough to be his mother. LOL. (Photo courtesy of Beryl Ann Byrd).

This was our coordinator galore. He is a master multi-tasker and a very sweet young man. He has the patience of a saint and then some.

What an extraordinary and unique experience! I am very grateful to Wayne Steinkopf and Beryl Ann Byrd for the opportunity to be a lead assistant on their respective teams. Much love to my fellow assistants, Chuck, Cinda, Jocelyn (my new BFF) and Ester who were a pleasure both to meet and work with. And last but not least, kudos to the amazing cake decorators that make it to the UCO stage. I felt honored to be in their company.

'I want a dinosaur cake, Mommy'

What kind of cake does a cake designer make for her son when he asks for a dinosaur cake? Well, my son Max got a huge surprise when I presented him with a 32″ tall brontosaurus for his 4th birthday last weekend. This year, he had suddenly become aware of his birthday and the usual customary celebrations. He began asking for a dinosaur cake months in advance. I promised him I would make it for him even though I’d never made anything like that before. I certainly had my work cut out for me! I knew I had to do whatever it took to please my biggest fan.

The end result? A birthday cake that barely fit through the doorway! Of course, I affectionately named him ‘Maxosaurus’ after my son. The cake was complete with dinosaur sounds, too! Needless to say, my son loved it and it was a huge hit at the party. I’m not really sure how I’m going to top this one next year!

Here’s a home movie clip:

Mamma Mia! Dats a bigga car!

This past weekend I attended the Retail Bakers of Amercia convention in Charlotte, NC. The highlight of the event was the construction of a life-sized race car crafted by none other than Buddy Valastro and his crew from Carlo’s Bakery. The Hoboken, NJ bakery is the backdrop for TLC’s new reality show ‘Cake Boss’. Buddy and his employees, along with dozens of culinary students from Johnson and Wales, worked around the clock for four days to create one of the largest cakes I have ever seen.

By the time the doors opened to the public on Sunday at 11am, the building process had been completed. The cakes were stacked,  iced and asstembled with an internal support structure and the entire car had been draped with fondant. In reality, all it needed at that point were the decorative details. I was pretty disappointed that the attendees were not able to see the car in the making. In my opinion, that would have been the best part. The car was complete with an engine made of edible components that was placed under the hood on the front of the car.

This was the first view of the car as RBA members and attendees entered into the convention hall floor.  As you can see the car was pretty much fully constructed at that point.  Many of us would have liked to have seen more of the initial construction phase.

Sometime during the day on Sunday, the front passenger side of the car felt apart.  Buddy was gone for most of the day and had left word to all of this assistants NOT to touch the car or do any further work on it until he returned.  That didn’t happen until an hour before the convention day was over.  In true Buddy fashion, he promptly repaired the the car when he arrived, and he saved the day.

Here you can see the chunks of the cake that had fallen over.  There was no support in place for the cakes on the sides of the car.  They were pretty much just stacked and held together with icing.  On the right of the photo you can see the motor, which was then placed into the large front cavity of the car. 

Here is a view of the rear of the car.

Here Buddy goes right to work to fix the side of the car that had taken a turn for the worse while he was away.  Of course, everywhere that Buddy goes there was a film crew in tow, so watch for this on an upcoming ‘Cake Boss’ episode.

Here’s what’s REALLY going on!  There are camera crews all around Buddy while he is trying to repair the damage on the side of the car.  Buddy and his crew are definitely immune to all the camera people constantly surrounding them.

This is the view from under the hood with the edible engine in place.

And Viola! It’s finished!

In true ‘Cake Boss’ fashion, Buddy and his team get the job done!

The team would not be complete without the famous Carlos Bakery Truck! It was parked right outside the entrance to our hotel. As we sipped cocktails after a long day, we watched Carlo’s two main guys ask for directions to the highway that headed north to New York. I couldn’t resist taking a photo, which permission, of course. I asked the guys if they minded all the intrusions from the clamoring public and they responded, ‘Nah, it don’t bother us’ (cue in heavy De Niro accent).  Love that!

OH MY!  While most people drooled over the life-sized car, I must admit that the highlight of the event FOR ME, was a demo presented by the trendsetting and forever talented,  Ron Ben-Israel.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that the Cake Magnate himself would be demonstrating his ‘Sexy Lace’ technique.  I had been admiring this particular design for some time (along with countless others, of course).  Much to my delight, I’d be seeing it made first hand.  Not only was the demo informative,  but Ron always provides as much entertainment as he does education.  That combination of talent and humor wins Ron Ben-Israel big points in my book.  Oh, and those fabulous frames he’s always sporting are as fashionable as his edible creations.  Assisting Ron was my friend Minette Rushing from Savannah Custom Cakes.

Executive Pastry Chef Richard Cusick from Barry Callebaut’s Chcolate Academy in Chicago demonstrated how easy it is to make beautiful and delicious chocolate masterpieces.  I really enjoyed this demo, especially tasting the samples!

While the lighting in this photo is rather unflattering, I couldn’t help but include a photo of my two favorite people, Julie Bashore and Norm Davis.  Both are quite talented and respected cake decorators who are great fun to chat and hang out with.  Norm is a hoot!  He definitely kept me laughing for two days straight.

On Monday evening, we were all invited to Ashley Vicos’ Ultimate Cake Off viewing party.  Here are a few of the attendees from left to right”  Eileen Calder from Ashley Bakery in Charleston, Lily and Melissa from Once in a Blue Moon Bakery in Carey, NC, Kathy and Terry Tuttle from Maryland, and my buddies Lucia and Rob Byers from Cakes in Style in Rockville. Kudos to Chuck Hamilton for doing such a great job with all the party planning.

All eyes were fixed on one of a dozen large flat screens, watching every single moment of the competition.  The competitors on this particular challenge were Ashley Vicos, Mary, Mary Moi-Hochstetler and Roland Winbeckler.   As you probably already know, Ashley Vicos and her amazing team took home the $10,000 grand prize!

Ashley Vicos and her team of assistants in the Ultimate Cake Off competition (from left to right):  Debbie Barronton from Cakes by Debbie, Ashley Vicos from Sweet Ashley’s, my friend Wayne Steinkopf from Swank Cake Design (not pictured,  Alexis Sturgeon from Rosebud Cakes).

I want to give a huge, warm-hearted THANK YOU to my friends Wayne and Chuck from Swank Cake Design for their gracious hospitality and friendship. I would also like to thank Ashley Vicos for a fun and entertaining evening (the girl definitely knows how to work a crowd!), and to all my cake peers (you know how you are) who make every gathering delightfully unforgettable.

Daily Candy!

Thank you to Daily Candy for selecting Clara’s Designer Cakes as the featured baker in their Fall 2009 Wedding Guide, Washington, D.C. Edition. Check out Daily Candy’s stylish blog for the latest tidbits on what’s hot and trendy anywhere in the country!

Daily Candy 2009 Fall Wedding Guide


Recent Cakes

Here are a few of the cakes that have been keeping us working late into the night these past few weeks.  This is the busiest we’ve ever been, but it has also been the most challenging and fun as well.  With a variety of cake styles and designs in the works, we have our work cut out for us! Despite the extra long hours, we are really lucky to do what we love. I am grateful to everyone that helps me bring my ideas to life and to my loyal customer base who keeps presenting me with great challenges!

This whimsical topsy turvy cake was created for a 30th birthday celebration. I made a topper for the cake, not shown in this photo. It was a glittery number ’30’. Happy Birthday Margo! Original design by Sharon’s Cake Art.

Red roses and gems adorn this elegant wedding cake.

Red roses and gems adorn this elegant wedding cake. The center tier has a beautiful stenciled design hand painted in silver.

Here’s the perfect groom’s cake for a major Redskins fan.  This huge cake fed 150 guests. The cake sat on a board that was 30″ wide. Not visible in the photo is the texture on the cake which resembles the textured pattern on a real jersey.

This was the perfect wedding cake for Carolyn and Jason, a couple who are major fans of the Super Mario Brothers game.  The characters are all made of sugar.

These 175 colorful cupcakes were the perfect treat for a beautiful outdoor wedding.  Each cupcake was adorned with handmade sugar flowers.  The fresh flowers on the cupcake stand were the perfect touch!