Cake chick très chic!
Christy Vega-Gluch, cake artist and owner, Phoenix Cake Company
How did you decide on a career as a “cake artist”? I started out at Smitty’s bakery as a counter girl when I was 19 years old. I worked my way up to the decorating position by the time I was 22 years old, and I haven’t stopped since. Most of my experience has been in mass production operations, where it’s all about speed and maybe “some” quality. It wasn’t until I opened my own cake supply/custom cake shop that I started to see cake decorating as an art form – edible art! I come from an artistic family, so my transition from mass-produced cakes to individually designed cakes was a natural one.
What do you need to learn to be a cake decorator? Years ago, cake decorating was primarily done with piped, butter cream frosting, but, nowadays, decorating a cake has turned into a true visual art form. Instead of using acrylics or oil colors, we paint with food colors and vodka; instead of sculpting in clay, we use fondant to create 3-D designs. There are many different skills that one can develop in cake decorating, such as gum paste flowers, hand-piped scroll work, 3-d sculpting, hand painting, and the list goes on. It’s a fun, but stressful, job and definitely challenging! Along with the custom cakes and pastries, we also hold cake decorating classes through our sister site, Creative Cake Chick.
How do you get inspiration for your designs? I find inspiration for our custom cake designs from several places. I research fabric swatches, wedding dresses, flowers, etc., and sometimes I come across an idea when I least expect it, maybe a greeting card in a store. I also find a variety of textures and colors in the best source of inspiration – nature. Along with finding different themes that I can translate visually, I am always looking for new techniques. While I try to be on top of the latest trends, I believe that, in order to be at the head of your field, you have to do what you do best and not worry so much about the competition. It’s easy to mimic someone else’s work but much more difficult to develop your own sense of style or maybe an innovative way to execute a cake design by using an unconventional tool or new method for the application of fondant or butter cream.
Career highlights: It’s been an up and down ride but a learning process as well. We have taken a few different paths since we opened in 2006. We helped open two cupcake bakeries and have done numerous cakes for wedding venues here in the valley. We appeared on TLC’s The Ultimate Cake Off in May of 2010, created a custom cake design for pop star, Rihanna, and were among the top 30 semi-finalists for The Next Great Baker, seasons 2 and 3. We have also done “how to” cake segments for The Valley Dish and the Sonoran Living TV shows.
Future professional goals: We are currently working hard on establishing our retail bakery and are working on several cake decorating tutorials and other media projects.