It is time for another interview on my blog. This time I sat down with Jen Comfort of She Takes The Cake.
Actually, I let her answer my questions over email, but I did force her to let me come over to her new shop to take her picture, and let me sample a little cake. I hope you enjoy these interviews as much as I have been enjoying the process. It has really been fun to meet some of the other wedding vendors out there as well as do some different types of photo sessions. If you missed the first interview I did check it out here: http://genphotos.com/blog/?p=1053
Now onto the interview!
Thanks for agreeing to be a guest on my blog. I’ve just spent a bunch of time looking over your website and my mouth is now watering–everything sounds and looks so good.
Perhaps you could start off by telling everyone a little bit about your business.
I’ve always considered myself creative, even went to school for graphic design, but the business started really by accident. Would I recommend doing it the way I did…no! But I love it and often wonder now what I would even do if I weren’t creating cakes. I did a cake for my oldest daughter’s first birthday almost 10 years ago when I realized I wouldn’t be happy with a cake from someone else or the store. So I jumped in with both feet and it was a hit. Pretty soon, folks starting asking and it wasn’t long before I realized I was pretty good at it so I kept going, absorbing as much as I could from photos, websites, books, etc. I haven’t taken any actual classes and have no culinary training except for having a mother who is a terrific cook and baker. I have always been the type that learns by doing, so it was no surprise. She Takes The Cake (TM) was born out of this. It’s grown from a few cakes for friends into the business it is today. I provide stylish and trendsetting cakes and desserts to clientele all over central New York. If you need a cake, you can go anywhere – but if you WANT a really different, delicious and unique cake, you come to me. In addition to the cakes, I create cookies and I even create edible stationery with Erin from Bride Design. You can’t get this unique product anywhere else in our area. She Takes The Cake is a woman owned business and currently it is just me at work on the cakes. I’ve had plenty a helping hand from family and friends, but I try to manage the business in a way that allows me to do the orders I love and still have some time to be with family. It’s tough, but like I said, I have no idea what else I’d be doing! It has grown to the point of needing a second showroom and soon I’m sure I’ll be taking on an intern or two.
What are you up to today? Today I’m in the showroom. Mondays from 9-2, clients can find me in the new space in Manlius where they can come in and browse photos and ideas and place their orders for their cakes. While I’m here I usually catch up on paperwork and of course take emails and calls for new and current orders.
What’s your favorite part of your job? Making people happy and the interaction I have with my clients really is very enjoyable for me. Of course I love the artistic aspect of designing and decorating the cakes very much, but knowing someone will devour that cake when I’m done makes it worthwhile. I especially love it when kids get that wide eyed look when they see their cake for the first time, or when a bride sees her cake and realizes it’s better than she ever imagined. I wish I could be there for that part more often – seeing everyone enjoy the finished product.
Do you have a favorite wedding cake–flavor/design? Can you believe I don’t eat cake very often? One flavor I will still eat for sure is my White Almond cake with a special Raspberry Citrus Schnapps’ Syrup I make to soak on the cake layers, then I fill it with homemade lemon curd and raspberry filling. It’s one of the most popular flavors I make and I just love the tangy lemon curd. As far as design goes, I like to do anything different, I don’t do your grandmother’s cake here. I would have to say though, that designs with subtle carving on the tiers and decor that mimics textiles is my favorite design style. A lot of my brides have me do a cake that is inspired by their gown.
What was your wedding cake like? I wasn’t making cakes then, but I did take some ideas to the baker when we ordered it. It’s funny how styles and even my own preferences have changed since then. My cake had pillars and I sort of stay away from pillard cakes now. But it wasn’t traditional even though it was pillared. A small tier with a topper (gasp) was set inside the pillars instead of on top of them. And it had a little detail on the borders of the cake. Gosh, if only I knew then what I know now. I would have paid my baker a lot more for her time, and I would have done something a little more daring. Cakes have come a long way!
Are there any trends this year in wedding cakes? This year, everyone seems to be downsizing. Smaller cakes with more personal elements are being ordered. I think there will be a continuation of couples wanting unique and spectacular cakes, but we have to find creative ways for them to be able to get what they want without breaking the bank. That can be difficult, but once a client figures out their priorities, I just make it work for them. Of course, now and then a big cake with tons of wow factor is required. A big trend right now I’m seeing in color is black and white with an accent color that really pops. And metallics; mostly silver.
I see that you also do birthday cakes–are these mostly for large parties or do you ever do kid birthday cakes? You can get any kind of cake you want from me. Kids’ cakes are always fun to do, but usually it will be for larger party. I also do cakes for corporate events like business anniversaries or grand openings. You name it. There’s always an occassion for cake!
What are your favorite online resources for brides? When I have a bride that needs actual planning info, I often will refer them to the website of a vendor I know personally, but for general planning questions, the site I send them to The Knot – I direct them to the message board area where they can ask other current brides for help. I find that this type of word of mouth help is really great for them. Other than that, you’ll hear me tell them to put a specific search string into Google to find the info they’re looking for.
What types of questions do you ask couples who are not sure what type of design they want for their cake? I like to have them show me at least 3 things they love and one they hate. And it doesn’t even have to be about cake ! Inspiration comes from anywhere. I like to get to know couples a little to see if we click before they order and usually this amount of time and chatting will give me a clue as to what they might like if they’re not sure. I prefer to design for my couples. We’re not picking a cake number out of a catalog here, the more personal the better. When the couple and I click, they also get very comfortable and they’ll say they like something or a personal joke or story between them and there is always a way to incorporate that. Like teddy bear pilot and copilot nick names for each other – a couple I’m working with now is having that incorporated into their cake; they weren’t sure how to add that in without the cake going in a juvenile direction; this is where I help them see their vision. It will be a lot of fun to make that one!
Do you have a favorite photograph in your house— If so, what is it of? My favorite photos in my house are of my kids. I have two daughters, both beautiful and both very talented in their own way.
Oh, and what is this open house I hear of? The open house is next week! I’m launching the new showroom at 8195 Rt 92/Cazenovia Road in Manlius on March 30th through April 5th. I’ll be here from about 9-4 or so each day. If you call ahead that you can’t come until 5, I can stick around. I’m making lots of my desserts and will have info on hand about what you can order, as well as info from some of my favorite event and wedding businesses in the area. I hope that a few of my favorite vendors will stop by too to chat with people. This showroom is a second location for me and I’m very excited to have a stylish location where clients and I can meet to discuss their cakes. My licensed and inspected kitchen is still located out of town, so having the space in Manlius will make it really convenient for clients to come and meet with me or place and pick up their orders without having to drive out into the country where it can be easy to get lost if you’re not sure where you’re going. We’ve been driving it for years of course, so it’s old hat now, but I love this new location. And it’s cute too!
Finally, I just love those last page Proust questionnaires at the end of the Vanity Fair magazine. I won’t give you the whole interview, but here are a few final questions.
What is your greatest extravagance? Hmmm, that’s hard. Honestly, I would say the gorgeous furnishings I just purchased for the showroom.
Which talent would you most like to have? I can without hesitation say that I wish I was more tech savvy.
Who are your favorite writers? I like John Grisham. Sadly I don’t make time very often to sit with a good book.
What is your most treasured possession? I have no idea! My most treasured anything is my family, but I don’t think that’s what you’re asking. I do have a piece of furniture that my grandfather made, he made the most incredible things – both functional and for decor – and this piece was one of the first things he made. So, while it’s not perfect, it’s perfect to me. I can see the beauty in it even though he saw flaws. He has lost most of his sight over the last few years so he’s not creating anymore. I think I will never let go of that big, bulky piece of wood!
Thanks again Jen for agreeing to be on my blog and especially for being such a good sport that you let me drag you outside for a few pictures despite the fact that we almost got blown away by the wind. I ended up thinking this series was pretty cute–notice how she is holding on to her hair.
Find out more about She Takes The Cake at her website and blog–or just go on over and visit next week during the open house.