Eighteen months and very little wisdom.

Just over eighteen months ago I packed my bags, threw all my money at Planet Cake, Qantas and The Merton Hotel and jetted off to Sydney, Australia.

Just like that, my cake decorating journey began and I had very little knowledge of what I was doing or what to expect. Looking back now, I really was in way over my head.

Here are five bits of wisdom that I’ve learnt along my journey so far…

1. Don’t get intimidated if everyone in a class is better than you.
You’re there to learn. So what if everyone else has more experience than you? Focus on what you’re doing, and do not compare your outcomes to the others. Only compare your outcome to what you started with – and have fun while you’re there!

Don’t forget to have fun in class! This Stand Up Guitar Class with The Cupcake Lady was exciting – REALLY exciting by the look on my face! Enjoy it! Photo also starring Kate from Vanilla Rose Cakery and Lauren from Cake Art by Lauren.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
My whole life I was always the quiet girl in class who kept her head down and got on with the work, no questions asked. It got me through school quite fine.

Cake decorating was another story altogether. I needed help. I had no idea what I was doing. Reading the notes wouldn’t get me through this time.

The teachers were busy with other students who were louder and more demanding of their time. The amount of times I almost gave up in tears because I couldn’t figure out how to do things is really quite embarrassing. The thing is, the teachers are there to help everyone. Just because you’re quiet, doesn’t mean you deserve any less attention than the others. You all paid the same for this class so make sure you get your moneys worth! Ask for help!

3. Make sure you have the right tools for the job.
You wouldn’t ask a carpenter to build a cabinet without the correct tools, so why should you be any different? I don’t mean go out and spend thousands of dollars on every single gadget you can find. But if there’s a tool you know you definitely need to get a certain effect on a cake, make sure you have it before you start. Don’t do what I’ve done many times and get halfway through a cake before realising ‘Oh shit… I don’t have the cutters to make the flower I wanted… what now?!”.

Acrylic Cake Scraper from The Cupcake Lady – an essential cake decorating tool!

4. Learn from as many people as possible.
When I started, I thought Planet Cake was the be all and end all of cake decorating. I thought they would teach me the best skills I could possibly learn.

They taught me a lot and the skills I learnt were invaluable, but then I did another class with The Cupcake Lady. She taught me new techniques and new skills. Then I did a class with Handi. He taught me new techniques and new skills too!

There are so many different ways to do things and not all of them will work for you. The techniques I now use to ganache and cover my cakes aren’t what I learnt from Planet cake. They aren’t what I learnt from The Cupcake Lady. They aren’t what I learnt from Handi. What they are is bits and pieces from each that I found worked for me. Experiment, practice, observe, and learn as much as you can from as many people as you can!

5. Focus on you.
I’ve only been in the cake industry for nine months now and I’ve seen some crazy things. Competition is one that will never sit well with me.

Unfortunately, like in any industry, you will face competitors that aren’t so friendly. You can’t really blame people. They’re trying to maintain profits and market share and support their families. They will want to check out your business and see what you’re doing and try to do one better. It’s normal and expected. Most business experts will tell you that checking out and keeping an eye on your competition is vital to your success.

You know what it can also do? Destroy your confidence. Waste your time. Ruin your creativity.

You can spend so much time looking at the creations of others that you feel like you can no longer compete. You can spend so many hours scouring Facebook to see what others are doing that you’re losing time that could be better spent on improving your business.

If you find yourself doing any of these things, it’s time to shut down the computer. Focus on you, your business (or hobby), and improving yourself. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing!

So, that’s my five lessons learnt in my journey so far! Yes, they’re cake decorating related and I know not all of you lovely readers are cake decorators – but I hope you can see how this advice can relate to other industries, and life in general.

What wisdom have you learnt so far in your career or life?

Montage: November 2013

Another month has gone by – holy moly! I actually cannot believe it’s December already. December is my favourite month of the year! Woohoo!

Once again I’ve created a video montage of my past month. This one features a little bit more cake than the last, and definitely more food in general! I had a couple of weeks off cakes to focus on my college application and used the spare time to soak up the sunshine, eat some delicious treats and celebrate! Mmm – mmm!

All filmed on iPhone but this month I took it a step further and edited in iMovie on my macbook instead of iPhone. This allowed me a few extra features such as speeding up certain parts! I like the new effects, but miss the convenience of filming, editing and publishing from the same device.

I know some of you have started your own monthly videos, how are you finding the process?

What the heck is a ‘Sugar Push’ anyway?

What’s in a name? A lot of businesses choose their names on a whim. A lot of blogs too for that matter! Cake decorators in particular often have very cliche names – a typical “Jim’s Cupcakes” or “Sweet Art”, “Sweet Creations”,”Sweet Confessions”, “Sweet Desires”, Sweet anything really!

Sugar anything is also proving to be a common one. Sugar & Spice, Sugar Couture, Sugar Avenue, Sugar & Slice, even simply Sugar Sugar!

These are all great names for a cake business, and yet when I say my business is called “Sugar Push” I often get a raised eyebrow or a blank stare. The reason? They usually don’t understand what I say!

The front of my business cards, designed by The Parchment Place

I was attending a cake class and was chatting to a fellow classmate about our businesses. She attempted to find me on Facebook after class and couldn’t because she thought I’d said my business name was ‘Sugar Bush’… SUGAR BUSH?! I think I need to work on my pronunciation! Yikes!

However, once we’re both on the same understanding that my name doesn’t relate to the Australian outback, a shrub, or something far worse… people often still have that puzzled look on their face! So, it’s time for me to explain what the heck a sugar push is!

Prior to sharing my cake creations, I knew I wanted to work under an alias that I could turn into a business later on down the track. I didn’t want to pick a typical name like ‘Taryn’s Cakes’ because it’s just not really me. No matter what I do with cakes, my business, my blog – I want them to express who I am! Is that a bit conceited? Probably!

I spent a good few months brainstorming ideas and nothing really grabbed me. I was just starting out with my cakes, but at the same time I was going to swing dancing classes twice a week. Cakes and swing dancing consumed my life both at the same time and both with an incredible intensity! It was at the end of a late night of brainstorming names that I got frustrated, gave up, and headed over to YouTube to watch swing dancing videos. Swing dancing tutorials. Lindy hop moves. The ‘Sugar Push’.

A ‘Sugar Push’ is a very basic swing dancing move.

Thats me! And this headless guy! Thank you to a student from the University of Adelaide for this photograph.

So simple, and yet it was the name that grabbed me! There was no doubt in my mind that it was what I’d be sticking with from that point onwards.

Both cake decorating and swing dancing took hold of my life and turned it right upside down. They took me way out of my comfort zone and led me to experiences, people and achievements that would not have been possible otherwise. For me, they went hand in hand. One couldn’t have existed without the other.

So that’s what’s in a name! Go forth and spread the word so I don’t have to deal with confused faces and the ‘Sugar Bush?’ ‘No – Sugar Pppppush!’ conversations!

Do you have a business or blog? What is your name and why did you choose it?

On top of the world.

This weeks blog post is a little late. This weeks blog post was meant to be about my love/hate relationship with red velvet. This weeks planned blog post has been postponed due to exciting events of this week.

Here’s a brief recap of my week…

Monday
I finally received all the documents I needed to submit my application to Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Art to attend their Confectionary Arts Diploma Programme and so I eagerly sent off all my bits and bobs including an enrollment contract, application essay, resume, portfolio, references, and more!

Part 1 of my Portfolio submitted to Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Art

Tuesday 

Tuesday I was more than surprised to hear back from the college so soon! The wonderful Registration Officer at Bonnie Gordon College, Mary Ann, confirmed they had received my application in full and would like to schedule a phone interview with me. SUCCESS! 

Wednesday 

Wednesday my interview time was confirmed to be Thursday morning at 7.30am. This was actually Wednesday afternoon at 4pm in Toronto. This is when the butterflies took hold of my stomach and my brain became scrambled with overwhelming thoughts of cake and interview questions.

Part 2 of my Portfolio submitted to Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Art

Thursday
My interview was this morning. By 7.30am I was sitting anxiously on my bed staring at my phone like it may grow teeth and launch itself at my throat! By 7.35am I was willing the phone to ring. At 7.40am when it did ring, my hands were shaking so much I almost dropped it!

My nerves were wasted though, as Mary Ann was so lovely and told me everything I needed to know about the programme, which made me even more excited about the prospect. She also asked a lot of questions and the interview went for approximately 25 minutes. Our conversation ended on a fantastic note.

I was accepted.

I was accepted.

I WAS ACCEPTED, I WAS ACCEPTED, I WAS ACCEPTED, I’M GOING TO COLLEGE, I’M GOING TO TORONTO, ALL MY DREAMS ARE COMING TRUE!  

This is the part where I flail a bit and then go skipping through fields of flowers, and running into the ocean, and dancing around fountains.

A huge thank you to the wonderful people who wrote references for me, to everyone who has ordered a cake from me (which is helping to fund this adventure), and to everyone else who has simply stood by me since my journey in cakes began, or encouraged me to strive for more.

Woohoo! Time to celebrate!

“Cake Decorating? How did that happen?”

Recently I’ve been running into a lot of people from my past. Isn’t it strange when that happens? Of course, it’s inevitable when you live in a tiny city like Adelaide where everyone knows everyone!

Sometimes you just get the casual wave as you pass each other in the street, and others you stop and share the expected small talk. How have you been? What have you been up to lately? Wow – it’s been such a long time!

The most common question for me – “Cake decorating? How did that happen???”

It’s not a surprising response. After high school I studied Hospitality and Event Management and post study I worked in business administration – so how did I end up baking cakes every weekend?

Could you believe that it began back in high school? In my final year of school (2007), one of my major projects in ‘Food & Hospitality’ was an event cake! This was my first introduction to cake decorating and I learnt the very basics of decorating with chocolate.

First ever decorated cake – fantastic photography by my teacher – It did say ‘Birthday’, I swear!
(Seventeen years young and full of concentration!)

I loved it! My results weren’t great (embarrassing to look back at now!) but the sense of accomplishment I felt when my cake was finished was something I’d never experienced before.

Cutting a long story short, I didn’t touch another cake for four years until curiosity got the better of me and I signed up for a short cake decorating course at a local TAFE. A couple of hours each week I went to classes and well… I gave up! Cake decorating was not for me. No way. I didn’t like it. I wasn’t learning anything exciting. That was the end of that.

Until a year later when my job in administration became all too much. The corporate world was a political, bitchy minefield. After getting fed up with all the drama I impulsively booked flights to Sydney and a two week course at Planet Cake.

First day of the Foundations week at Planet Cake! (May 2012)

A full on two weeks full of illness (vomiting in the Planet Cake bathrooms on my second day is a good claim to fame, right? Real smooth Taryn…), stress, crazy emotions, and having to leave the course a day early to fly home for an emergency – it was hectic!

However, within 2 weeks I went from barely knowing how to cover a cake in fondant to knowing how to ganache, get sharp edges, stack two tiers, three tiers, and even a triple barrel cake! While these skills needed a lot more practice to get right, having stepped way out of my comfort zone and being drowned in this new knowledge was the best thing I could have done to kick start my new career.

The alias ‘Sugar Push’ was created shortly after and the cakes haven’t stopped since!

Have you ever had a dramatic career change? Or have you found a passion that gives you this same sense of achievement? Leave a comment to share!

Montage: October 2013

I’m not going to lie, I am friends with some pretty damn amazing, talented and creative people.

This is not an outrageous claim that my friends are the “BEST FRIENDS EVER” or anything like that. It just so happens that whether it be in cake decorating, photography, paper crafts, hair & makeup, fashion, etc… I know some incredible people!

One of these talented ladies, Natalia Chippillo Photographer, recently started filming snippets of her life and combining them into a sort of monthly montage of memories to look back on. They are amazing!

Feeling inspired, this guy and I decided to test it out during a day in Sydney and found that it could very easily be done all on our trusty iPhones. Now I am challenging myself to film as much as I can for these monthly recaps, which is no easy task.

Anyway, enough chatter. Here’s my October…

All filmed, edited and published on the iPhone with the help of iMovie. I hope you enjoyed this quick look into my world! I highly recommend this for anyone who… well, just anyone in general! It’s a lot of fun!

Looking back I’d say my main themes for this month were sunny weather and lots of buttercream!

If you did a recap of your past month, what would the main themes be? Leave a comment and let me know!

The adventure begins.

I first came across the Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Art back in November of 2012.

Lori Hutchinson, aka The Caketress, had just been to my tiny home city of Adelaide to teach a one off class at The Cupcake Lady HQ and I was dying of jealousy that I hadn’t been able to attend. So naturally I decided to make myself feel even worse about the situation and did some research into Lori to find out more about her career, quickly discovering the college where she studied.

After thirty seconds on the Bonnie Gordon website I knew this was where I needed to be. It’s on the other side of the world. To complete the Confectionary Arts Diploma Programme I’d need to be away from home for four months. There wasn’t even many photos of what their students did at this stage. It made no sense whatsoever, but I still knew this was the place for me.

Why? I’d studied at Planet Cake in Sydney, Australia. I’d taken an endless amount of classes with The Cupcake Lady. While these were both fantastic (especially The Cupcake Lady – my favourite teacher!) I knew I wanted something more full time. My only option back home was a Patisserie course at the local TAFE. I’d been to this TAFE previously (Adv Dip of Hospitality Management) and I’d seen the patisserie students in action. These courses prepare students for work in a bakery. It is a trade school.

The Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Art is primarily an arts school.

While TAFE just teaches patisserie skills, Bonnie Gordon teaches these skills, with business, with photography, with staging and presentation, with marketing, and more than anything else – encourages creativity.

The college provides a variety of courses aside from the Diploma Programme, including Designer Cake Certificates, Bakery Essentials, Chocolate Essentials, and speciality skills like Haute Couture Cakes and Parisian Macarons. Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? (I bet it tastes like heaven too! And smells… mmm!)

That was my exact thought and the reason I have been planning to attend since that first day in November that I found their website. This hopefully starts my adventure. Hoping to say goodbye to home for four months and leaping way out of my comfort zone to travel over 10,000 miles to pursue my one passion – cake!

Well… and pastries, and cookies, and macarons, and petit fours, and ice creams and…

Photos courtesy of Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Art – Diploma Programme

Okay, just sugar in general!

This will be my little place on the web to track the progress of my college application, and if successful, my future confectionary adventures. If I am accepted into the college, while Sugar Push will obviously not be taking any orders while I’m away next year (don’t worry, it would just be a short hiatus!), I’d like to keep all my lovely supporters informed and up to date with how my skills and style are progressing.

Wish me luck as I become a nervous wreck and battle my college application!