The Cake Lady's Brutally Honest FAQ Not for the faint of heart or humour-challenged

Serious Stuff

Are your cakes nut-free?

Most of my cakes do not contain nuts or peanuts (my carrot cake is a notable exception, but it, too, can be made without [walnuts] upon request); however, since I do work with them on occasion, my kitchen is obviously not entirely nut-free.

That said, I make cakes for several clients who have these sorts of allergies and I, naturally, take extra care to have any nuts or peanuts stored away, etc., when working on these orders.

If anaphylaxis is a concern, however, I would recommend seeking out a kitchen that is 100% nut-free.

Peanuts


Do you make dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, and/or vegan friendly cakes?

I am able to make ANY of my cakes dairy-free upon request, though decorating options may be limited, as icing made without real butter does not have the same consistency or texture.

I also make an egg-free chocolate cake, with the option of also being dairy-free/vegan.

I also make a gluten-free chocolate cake, but it contains dairy and eggs.
Not intended as a "healthier" option, it is simply for those dealing with Celiac Disease.   #wheatisnotagmo


Do you use Rolled Fondant?

Dry Heave

Absolutely not! That stuff's nasty. No matter how pretty many of the cakes made with it are, almost no one actually likes to eat it, and I have a hard time believing those few who say they do, so what's the point? It's a 50ish year old, originally Australian, decorating hack that practically no one (okay, very few) on this side of the planet had ever heard of prior to 30 years ago, and now, suddenly no one knows how to decorate a cake without it. Bah!

Disclaimer:

Yes, I know it's a skill in its own right, and there are some truly amazing cakes made with rolled fondant, but again, if it doesn't taste any good...




How will buttercream icing hold up in the summer?

Inside, with the air conditioning on, and far from any windows streaming direct sunlight (which will reduce the icing to a puddle in very short order), and it should be okay to display most cakes for up to a couple of hours. They should be refrigerated until then.

Outside events are trickier but under a tent (again, protected from direct sunlight) and most cakes will be okay to display for a short period. Mid July and August extreme-heat conditions may change their life-expectancy drastically, but that would be true of any food served in that sort of weather.

Of course, in either case, sculpted cakes and multi-tier cakes are more vulnerable to the heat than straightforward round or square slab cakes.




Do you provide cake tastings?

Because my cakes are made only to order, I don't keep cake on hand for tastings. I do make my smallest cake (6-8 servings) available for sample at a reduced cost of $10 per cake, if required (saving you from hidden costs tacked onto the price of the final order).


How much notice do you require?

I have never had any specific deadline for ordering. If I happen to be booked for a weekend three months from now, I'm booked. If I am available to make a last-minute, emergency cake for this weekend, I will. But is two weeks enough notice? Generally speaking, sure, but I'm just one person so I can't make it a fast and steady rule. All I can say is that it's better to order sooner rather than later, when you can.


Why don't you list prices or have names or numbers to order your cakes from?

Prices are dependant upon the size of the cake, which may differ from any cake pictured, as well as its design.
Also, this site is provided as a portfolio of my work, rather than a catalogue. From the beginning my goal was to produce "one-of-a-kind" cakes. Of course that's not always possible in this business, but to me, nothing is more soul-sucking than to have to make the same thing over and over again. I'm looking at you, Thomas the Tank Engine.


So, then how are the cakes priced?

There are three basic guidelines I use to price my cakes:

Firstly, the size/number of servings.

Secondly, whether the cake is relatively plain (with or without an inscription); or if it involves a drawing or design on the top and/or sides of the cake; or if the entire cake is cut into the shape of the design (but still two-dimensional/flat, as if it was made using a giant cookie cutter); or if the cake is sculpted into a three-dimensional figure. The latter, naturally, being the most expensive option of the four.

Lastly, the overall intricacy of the design or level of decoration (whether a slab or shaped) and whether it requires additional elements such as fresh flowers, pillars, special fillings, and so forth.


Design Details

Do you make "gay" wedding cakes?

Of course I do. But it's been my experience that there's usually no difference between a gay wedding cake and a straight one. Except for, perhaps, the toppers; and these days, people tend to go without or supply their own. Methinks some folks just protest too much.


Have you made a cake like such and such before? Can I see a picture so I know exactly what it's going to look like?

It's literally impossible to put every single cake I've ever made onto my website (though I've given it the old college try with my massive retrospective), and despite the wide variety of things I have made, there are still a few novel ideas out there! Besides, I'm not an automaton, and I don't use moulds, so the cakes are always going to be a little different each time. But if you want the cake to look like a real, spotted, green caterpillar, I'll do my best to make the cake look like a real, spotted, green caterpillar. If the quality of the work in my portfolio does not impress or assure you that I will be able to satisfactorily execute your idea then perhaps another cake decorator would be better suited to your needs.
And that's okay.


Can you provide me with a sketch or drawing of the cake beforehand?

Sorry, no. I use original artwork (photos, logos, cartoons, etc.) and my own imagination to work from so I generally don't need to sketch it out beforehand, and hence don't have such available for others to view. Further, I don't like to limit myself to whatever may be in a sketch, having been drawn long before the making of the actual cake, and of course I don't want my unfinished ideas to be used to take to other bakers. Similarly, I do not send out "work in progress" shots or photos of the cake before it's picked up.

"But what is your brand X running shoe-shaped cake going to look like?" It's going to look, to the best of my ability, like said brand X running shoe.


Can you get accurate colours if you're using buttercream icing?

It's true that food colouring, when mixed with real butter and its slight yellow hue, can produce a slightly different colour than when mixed with the all whiteness of royal icing, "buttercreams" made with vegetable shortening/white margarine, or rolled fondant. HOWEVER, despite what some alarmist, rolled fondant-favouring bakers will tell you, most colours are going to be close enough to avoid any sort of cognitive dissonance or mental distress in most emotionally healthy individuals.




Is it okay if I send you a picture of another person's/bakery's cake either to copy or for "inspiration"?

*RANT ALERT*
That's a complicated question. Grab a drink and have a seat...

Back in the Pre-Internet Ice Age, clients often referred to bridal magazines (ohhh, Martha Stewart) for wedding cake ideas - "can you make this one?" — and it was one of those things that wasn't entirely cool but most decorators would do anyway. Myself included. My portfolio is full of many such wedding cakes, either copied from or inspired by others. (Which is why I can't really complain when I see others having copied my ideas...*coughKlimt'sTheKissinweddingcakeformcough*...highest form of flattery and all that, besides.) I've always rationalized it, in part, by noting that I'm making them my own by eschewing the rolled fondant most of them were originally made with. (Flimsy, I know, but hey, everyone's got bills to pay!)

But now there IS the Internet and now everyone wants "a cake that looks just like that one" with no room for interpretation or creativity, even if it's "I want a cake that looks like a puppy" or "I want a cake that looks like this cartoon character".

3D cakes and character cakes are my specialty. Please don't send me other people's figural cakes. I work from original photos or original artwork.

Would you ask Picasso to paint a portrait in the style of Modigliani? No, you'd go to Modigliani. So if you aren't fond of my interpretation of a subject matter, or don't see a pic of it in my portfolio and can't trust from the calibre of my work that I'd do a decent interpretation of it, by all means go to the baker who makes the pale blue Tiffany box cake the way you like it.

Honestly, it was almost easier (for customers) to be creative before the Internet came along. People came up with their own ideas instead of just wanting the same Louie Vuitton purse cake that everyone else is already getting. Though, now that I think of it, that run on teddy bear cakes lasted a really long time...

Drama

The point:

If you're looking for a cake shaped like a "thing", I'm looking for a picture or photo of that original thing, be it an animal, a car, a cartoon character, etc., most of which I can source myself, unless you're looking for something super specific.

Sending me a picture of another person's sculptural interpretation of whatever that thing may be is, honestly, the fastest way for me to ignore your email, and without any regrets. (And I fully realise that I am probably triggering all the contrarians and other smartasses in the crowd, as we 'speak'.) But after thirty years I think I deserve to be a little fussy at this point.

tl;dr?

Okay, short answer: Wedding cakes, a grudging okay with the caveat that it won't be exactly the same. Otherwise? Please don't.


The birthday girl/boy/anniversary couple have 26 different interests and hobbies. Can you represent them ALL on this one cake?

Okay, you'll see several examples of this in the Kitchen Sink section, but honestly? Less is generally more!


Can you make a slab or tiered cake and cover it with sculpted rolled fondant figures?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: Sure, I can make figures with marzipan (delicious...pricey, though, and nut allergy alert) or in some cases with buttercream (stability alert, especially in summer), but honestly, too often (not always) that's just a new take on old skool supermarket cakes covered with plastic decorations. Meh. My whole M.O., my whole raison d'etre has always been: "the cake should be the thing".

I have also occasionally worked with gumpaste to make flowers and bows. Sometimes mistaken for rolled fondant, the finished product is more like edible porcelain (and, like rolled fondant, has about as much flavour), but because it is labour-intensive, it tends to be cost-prohibitive for most. It is also not suitable for vegetarian or vegan diets. FYI, I have yet to work with Isomalt, making gems and such.


Could you write "Happy 30 year anniversary" on the cake....

OMG, NOOOooo!
I know practically everyone says it that way now, including journalists and advertisers who presumably took English in university and should know better, but that wording is entirely redundant. It is, simply, "Happy 30th anniversary". (Or whatever applicable number.)   #grammarnazi


Do you use transfers or silk screen?

Silk screening is for T-shirts and Andy Warhol.

Do you use airbrush?

Air brushing is for old photos and pimping your ride.


Other Orders

Why isn't Red Velvet cake listed here? Do you make it?

I make it upon request, but only under extreme duress. Granted, it's beautiful to Instagram, and people who like that "flavour" seem to like mine, but personally, I hate the stuff. Bleh. LOL It's a milquetoast non-flavour. So. Bland. So basic. Not enough cocoa to be considered chocolate, and too much to be vanilla. It's like a Harvey's milkshake. Hey, if you don't believe me, listen to Trevor:



P.S. I don't make the roux buttercream it is traditionally paired with. As popular as it is, cream cheese icing isn't an authentic topping for red velvet cake. But if I have to make it, I can ice it with that or with my standard buttercream.


Do you make cupcakes?

Only if my schedule allows.
But I don't overload them with 3 inches of fake buttercream icing floof like so many of the cupcake shops do. I don't really do 'em super fancy either - more of a homestyle look - so they tend to be cheaper than those others, but they also taste better.

Do you make tarts, squares, or cookies? Or savoury items?

Only upon special request, and again, schedule permitting.

Special Orders



Will you decorate a cake I provide?

I only work with my own product to assure that the texture, consistency, flavour, weight, and moisture level of the cake are all compatible with my icing and decorations. (I learned that the hard way!)

Will you use a recipe I provide?

I only work with my own recipes.


I'd like to order a Thomas The Tank Engi...

No.

But there are pictures on your...

No.


Do you make macarons?

Aren't those over, YET? Sorry, no.
Macarons jumped the shark when Disneyworld started selling Mickey Mouse-shaped macarons.
Macarons are more basic than wearing flower crowns whilst drinking pumpkin spice lattes at Coachella.

Seth Meyers Ya Burnt

(Same goes for cake pops. SIDE BURN, cake pops.)

Further: Macaroons VS Macarons

Contrary to what most listicles and memes will tell you:
THEY clap ARE clap THE clap SAME clap THING clap
Even if one looks at Wikipedia, which lists them as separate entities, one can see the overlapping origins.

Macaron is simply the French spelling of macaroon, now popularly used to distinguish it from the once ubiquitous "coconut macaroon".

Look at really old cookbooks and you'll notice that the "coconut macaroon" was always JUST ONE of MANY VARIETIES of macaroon. Just as there are now many types of macarons, there were once many types of macaroons.

BUT it just happened that the "coconut macaroon" became such a popular variety of macaroon that the coconut version became synonymous with macaroon, and people eventually dropped the adjective, coconut, altogether. Because: inherent human laziness/expedience/adaptation. Hence the necessity, now, for the use of the French spelling to distinguish the reemergence of the original plain macaro(o)n (again, I blame Instagram) as well as myriad other new variations, from the ever popular (and frankly, far more interesting) coconut macaroon.

(Maybe that's why they eclipsed all others in the first place, eh?)

The More You Know


General Inquiries

What's the difference between banana cake and banana bread?

Traditional, non-yeast-leavened sweet breads (not to be confused with sweetbreads....bleurgh) or quick breads, like zucchini, pumpkin, and banana, as well as old skool, homemade muffins, have FAR less sugar in them than regular layer cakes and cupcakes. Recently, however, there have been some "best banana bread ever" type recipes floating around — and from the venerable New York Times, no less — that have practically the same amount of sugar as banana cake.

Fake news!

I'd like to order a carrot cake because it's healthier.

None of my cakes are "healthy"! They are meant for special occasions!

Carrot cake (or banana cake, for that matter) is not any healthier than any other variety of layer cake just because it contains a veggie (or fruit). They have just as much sugar and fat.

Traditional quick bread and muffin recipes are marginally healthier than cakes and cupcakes because they contain significantly less sugar, but that is likely not the case if these baked goods are purchased from the supermarket or fast food outlets.

Side rant...

Have you noticed commercial scones are getting sweeter and sweeter and fluffier, too? They're not supposed to be like muffins! Stop it!

Follow up... Is it skAWN or is it skOWN?

Both are correct. The pronunciations just come from different parts of the UK.


Is it "Frosting" or "Icing"?

Short Answer: It's an American thing vs a Canadian thing.
More specifically:

Icing
Icing
From the 1970 Dictionary of Gastronomy (7th edition, 1962 orig.)


What is your favourite cake to make?

Something that hasn't been done before.

What is your least favourite cake to make?

Sailboats, luxury bags and boxes, and certain chidren's characters.


Do you derive inspiration from The Cake Boss, The Ace of Cakes, Cake Wars, etc.?

SIGHHHHH

*WARNING: EXTREME SNARK ALERT*

I started out long before those shows were on the air, and as other artists and artisans who work in other mediums have observed, so-called reality TV shows have only cheapened their respective arts, and further, have brought me customers who suddenly now "know" how to make cakes and wish to educate me on the process. While often technically impressive, an over-abundance of rolled fondant, Rice Krispie square filler, air-brushing, reliance upon too many elaborate, non-edible armatures, and overly busy designs cluttered with sparklers and gewgaws is not "cake"-decorating. Supports and accoutrements are one thing but if there are more of those than the cake, itself, well...


Can you make me this really special, unique cake in two days time and give me a significant discount (or provide me with free samples) because I'm going to give you lots and lots of repeat business and references?

Colbert Rolling Bird


Are you worried that people will be offended or put off by this FAQ?

Get Out!



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