All images courtesy of Just Fabulous Pastries
The Fabulosity continues. Part 2 of our interview.
Sasha Reichart: We saw the Surprise Birthday Cake Challenge you did. That was some feat to design a cake for someone you previously never met before under such pressure. Did you formulate design possibilities in your mind prior to meeting the boy, and then did they change after meeting?
Beryl Ann Byrd: That was our first competition so, as they say, ignorance is bliss. We didn’t even attempt to guess as to who the person might be and went in with absolutely no preconceived ideas. We noticed, however, that all the other competitors arrived with ideas that could be adapted somehow to whatever the situation might become. That was really smart. During the 5 minutes we were each given to interview the little fellow, I just listened to all of his answers and then my assistant and I proceeded to design a cake which incorporated almost everything he said he was interested in! Some of the other competitors asked VERY leading questions skewed towards the designs they had envisioned such as “Do you like exotic animals”, oh, just happen have a safari theme cake plan complete with gorilla molds and everything! Or, “do you like parrots” oh, just happen to make amazing sugar parrots! No, no, don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not being a sour grape. We should have been as prepared but, it was our learning experience. Having only 30 minutes to design our masterpiece was the scary part.
Sasha Reichart: The winner of the Surprise Birthday Cake Challenge was selected by the boy whose birthday cake you made. Was it more difficult to have your work “judged” by a kid than the panel of Food Network’s judges?
Beryl Ann Byrd: Not at all. He was diplomatic far beyond his years and had really nice things to say about our cake. Except that we didn’t put in the moat that we had shown in our original drawing. Sheesh. We had every single thing but the freaking moat!
SR: Who are your top five cake designers, or people you draw inspiration from in your field?
BB: My idols are: Margaret Braun, Colette Peters, Ron Ben-Israel, Elizabeth Faulkner, and Polly Schoonmaker. That was tough. If you read the Links page on my website, you’ll see that I admire many MANY designers. But you MADE me pick!
SR: I know, that was a tough question. Your idols are some of our favorites as well. Let’s talk about cake styles. Do you prefer making one type of cake over another?
BB: I like designing completely original creations. I don’t care how difficult they are the first time but sometimes I know I would NEVER EVER want to make them again.
SR: What about your top three favorite cakes you made? I know it’s incredibly difficult to narrow down, but do you have favorites?
BB: I think the Faberge Cake, the Fender Stratocaster tableau, and the most recent Grand Versailles. So much detail and they were just FUN to create.
SR: They are just beautiful! Three of the categories you have listed on the Just Fabulous Pastries website, under All About Weddings are Exquisite Cakes, Extraordinary Cakes, and Extravagant Cakes. How do you decide if a cake is an extraordinary cake, versus an exquisite cake or an extravagant. I’m not sure I would know the difference
BB: Only the cost. But thank you!
SR: Tell us about your Fabulous Blog, The View from the Top of the Cake.
BB: I started my Blog because I’ve always wanted more of an interactive outlet to be able to share, well, whatever I want to share. People see your website but it’s static and doesn’t really project the real “you”. It focuses more on your work because that’s what it’s supposed to do. It’s a selling tool. Whereas the blog is whatever you want it to be. Want to talk about the debate over whether cakes should explode or not? Want to know how I accomplish a certain technique? Want to brag about your latest accomplishment? The Blog is the place where anything goes. Although, I do try to keep it “family friendly” just in case my Dad reads it!
SR: What are some of the blogs you read regularly?
BB: Quite honestly (and sheepishly), I don’t have much time to read them. There are so many! But I’m planning some downtime in the very near future so I’ll probably get to research them a bit. Oh, gotta say, Annie’s Blog, Confessions of a Burnt Out Pastry Chef is at the top of my list. Her irreverent humor just cracks me up. But my Dad can’t read it.
BB: I have become less of a hands-on person and more of a designer so I gotta give a HUGE shout-out to my super talented staff for interpreting my sometimes off the wall ideas. The pink sports car with Betty Boop and Hello Kitty is beyond adorable.
And one of my favorite wedding cakes of all time was the Greek Wedding with all the saints and gold scrolly stuff and starburst jewels. I was really proud of that one. And no, I wouldn’t want to make it again!
SR: Those are some fantastic cakes! What do you do when you aren’t making pastries?
BB: My business is basically my life so even when I’m not working, I’m subconsciously analyzing things that would make a great cake. Maybe I’m reading a fashion magazine (by the way I LOVE fashion design) and a piece of fabric draped, pleated or ruffled a certain way, or a fabulous Pucci print, a jewel encrusted bracelet or chandelier earrings, some incredible handbag with detailed metal hardware, Louboutin heels-they all beg to be translated into a cake. Shelter magazines like Elle Décor or House and Garden might offer beautiful carpet patterns, passementerie (braid, cord, beading, tassels), wallpaper designs, architectural detail. There’s an ad for some china pattern, I don’t even remember what it is but it’s a stack of cups and saucers in various beautiful patterns and I want to make a cake that looks like that! I know, it’s kind of demented but I truly love design for the sake of design. Don’t worry. I always make SOME part of the cake taste incredible.
OK, I love surfing the Net. Great TV shows like House, CSI (the original of course), Daniel Boulud’s After Hours, Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, Food Network Challenges and (duh!) Ace of Cakes. Movies. Playing with my cool cat Mr. Brown.
SR: What’s next for Just Fabulous Pastries?
BB: Right now, I’m living in the moment because one never knows exactly what the future holds. Whatever happens is supposed to happen and we will accept, hopefully with grace and dignity, whatever that might be. Cryptic enough for you? Stay tuned. And thanks Sasha and Rick for inviting me into your world! You guys are awesome!
SR: I love your answer about living in the moment. That’s all any of us have, really, and we should embrace that concept rather than fight it. Hey Beryl, you’re pretty awesome yourself! We look forward to your next fabulous cake!
END, Pt. 2
** Our next interview will occur in two weeks – we have a business to run after all. You won’t want to miss our interview with Rebecca Sutterby, owner of Sugar Creations in Kansas. Rebecca is an award-winning cake designer who’s been in numerous magazines and, like Beryl, has competed in the Food Network Challenges. Take some time to get to know Rebecca and her beautiful cake designs on the Sugar Creations website. **