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PURSE STRINGS: A SWEET DESIGN : Wiles Magazine

PURSE STRINGS: A SWEET DESIGN

If you’ve ever seen reality shows like “Cake Boss” or “Cupcake Wars” you know that plenty of time, talent and, sometimes, a pinch of drama, goes into creating the stunning and scrumptious cake designs we love to sink our teeth into.

 

But what doesn’t always come across onscreen, is just how much dedication and love these skilled artisans put into every morsel.  We recently caught up with Joeleen of Granada Hills, California’s A Sweet Design Custom Cake Studio to learn about what it’s really like to run a high-end bakery.  From multi-tiered celebration cakes to delectable red velvet and turtle cupcakes (our personal favorites), she shared with us how, even in dramatic, high-pressured situations, her love for what she does easily makes up for all the madness!

 

Wiles:  DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A CHEF WHEN YOU GREW UP?

JOELEEN: I’ve always loved baking.  Baking is such a science and it’s so fun. I Love home-style yummy tarts, and pastries with crème filling. At 22, I decided to go to culinary school – though, I thought I was going to be a savory culinary chef at the time.  I was classically trained at the California School of Culinary Arts, Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, CA.  After graduating, I went to NY on a grant and hopped between several different bakery kitchens. I connected with as many as I could and I found that I really loved creating cakes and pastry.

 

Wiles: HOW DID YOU TURN YOUR EDUCATION INTO A VOCATION?

JOELEEN: When I came back to Los Angeles, I researched bakeries from all over LA County. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to work at a bakery in Pasadena. Unfortunately, the owner didn’t have any openings, so I worked for free.  She was such a lovely, amazing person, and I had a lot of respect for her as a female small business owner.  A woman’s kitchen is a private, personal space, and yet, when I would show up every day, she’d say “come on in.”

We baked the cakes from recipes that were hers.  I  learned how to create 3D creations and wedding cakes and honed my decorating skills. It was a special treat to work with someone who was so talented.  And, ultimately, she hired me!

 

Wiles:  DESCRIBE THE ARTISTY OF DESIGNING A CELEBRATION CAKE.

JOELEEN: It’s really a wonderful, collaborative process.  As a baker, your primary goal is to create a perfect cake every time so that the artists have a wonderful canvas to create with.

Filling a cake is a beautiful part of the assembly of a cake, because you’re creating what will eventually be a slice of dessert. The filling has to be both delicious to and in proportion. And the artists put add the design and creative touches to bring the entire process to fruition.

 

Wiles: WHAT MAKES ‘A SWEET DESIGN’ DIFFERENT FROM ITS COMPETITORS?

JOELEEN It’s our flavors. I have a sort of pastry chef mentality that demands that our flavors have to be spot-on. I want our flavors to bring back memories of the important moments in life – like birthday cakes remind us of when we were kids.  Our S’mores cakes should remind our clients of camping – from the very first bite. Our goal is to trigger positive emotions from just the flavor. To that end, we’re constantly taste testing, and re-vamping recipes, if necessary.  Our brand yells amazing flavors!

We have a fantastic Rainbow cupcake that we’re offering beginning this month. After all, school’s back in, so we wanted to do something fun.  We also have a great chai latte cupcake and Key Lime Pie cupcakes for the fall season.

 

Wiles: HOW DO YOU AND YOUR TEAM MANAGE THE PRESSURES OF RUNNING A DEADLINE-DRIVEN BUSINESS THAT OFTEN INCLUDES CLIENT EMOTIONS?

JOELEEN: Running a client service-based business is a huge responsibility.  Some clients rely on us, completely, from the beginning; and other clients have a very clear vision of what they want and they want to be involved every step of the way. Over the years, we’ve developed a solid reputation. Clients know that we will re-bake, re-fill or re-ice a cake if it didn’t come out perfectly. Cake must exceed clients’ expectations, which means it has to exceed our expectations. Meeting deadlines are critical – absolutely critical, and yet, we know that mistakes happen, things can fall, and when, you have to re-do a cake 2-3 hours before delivery, then everyone has to come together and get it done. All the drama and the pressure you see on reality shows is really there. It’s usually fun, and sometimes, it’s crazy.

 

Wiles: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF THAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW PRIOR TO OPENING YOUR BUSINESS?

JOELEEN: I learned that I can always keep going.  It doesn’t matter what or who trips me up, I’ve learned to focus on my employees and our clients, and the goal I’m going to achieve for them – whatever it takes. No matter what the occasion, the cake is almost always the most important part of the event. I have learned that I can always keeps going and I always keep going.  I’ve got a team of amazing artists who are really strong people. Sometimes you just want to walk away. But, we help each other stay positive by focusing on our clients who put their trust in us.

 

Wiles: DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS WHEN DEVELOPING NEW FLAVORS OR DESIGNS?

JOELEEN: From the start, we ask a lot of questions, then, we start sketching. We make our sketches dimensional so that clients can see the vision and direction we’ll take as clearly as possible. Designing a celebration cake is a process, and we like to assure our clients that we’re here to realize their vision and follow the creative process from beginning to end.

 

Wiles:  WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER YOUNG CULINARY ARTISTS WHO MAY BE FEARFUL – PARTICULARLY IN THIS ECONOMY – OF STARTING THEIR OWN BUSINESS?

  My advice is to get as much experience as you can before jumping into it. How important it is to have pro bookkeeper, accountant, in place. You do have to do some business research regardless of how passionate you are, always remember your passion and your focus because when times get hard, you have to repeat that to yourself. If I didn’t want this every day, we wouldn’t be here.

 

For more information about A Sweet Design, please visit: asweetdesign.info

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