This week we met the talented Veronica Arthur who talked us through her techniques and romantic and whimsical style
When did you first start decorating cakes?
I started learning to decorate cakes in 1985 before Food Network and YouTube. It was much more difficult to self teach back then, that was back before petal dust was invented. The Wilton book recommended to use non toxic chalk to dust our gum paste flowers. I remember rubbing the chalk on paper and creating a pile of chalk dust then using that to tint the petals with.
Where did you learn your baking skills?
I am a self taught pastry artist and I also taught myself to decorate using Wilton yearbooks and Wilton wedding cake books. I must have inherited the baking gene from my Aunt Pepi, she’s a fabulous baker. When I first started out I used box cake mixes but I soon learned to bake all my cakes from scratch. I owned and ran a commercial all scratch-made bakery for 2 years and had to learn to laminate danish and croissant doughs by hand on my own. During that time I also learned to make macarons and they started to become very popular in my area. But due to health issues and not loving to be a slave to a business, I decided to close the doors to my bakery boutique and I’m very happy about that. Now I bake for personal enjoyment only and I’m loving it!
How did you become such a good artist?
There are many things I am not good or experienced at, such as, sculpting magnificent cake sculptures and all the crazy support systems that go along with that but I think the reason my work resonates with so many is because I am very passionate about my art. Having dealt with some emotionally hurtful issues most of my life, my art has become very therapeutic for me. An escape where I can tune out everything and pour myself into learning all the meticulous details. I put my whole heart and soul into what I do and I believe that love and passion is conveyed through my designs. Whether it’s my confectionery art or my photographic art, I believe God has given me these gifts to sustain me.
How would you sum up your style?
My style could be defined as romantic & whimsical. I adore nature and love the magical fairytale vibes. Now that I’ve learned more about photography it has been fun developing my own unique cake photography style which includes lots and lots of BOKEH as you can see in my unicorn cake pics. (Bokeh is a Japanese word meaning ‘blur’ and refers to the shimmering spots of light in a photograph.) So now that has lead me to racking my brains on how I can recreate ‘bokeh’ in sugar.
What is it that most appeals to you about sugarpaste modeling cakes?
Sugarpaste is such a great medium to work with because you can replicate just about any texture with it. From distressed weathered wood to delicate flowers and feathers. And it’s so easy to work with!
Where do you get your inspiration for creating new designs?
I get my inspiration from nature, fabric, interior design, nature photography, sculptures or still life arrangements. Many times my designs just come to me in my dreams but they are usually influenced by one of things I mentioned above after having researched online. My latest cake craze was influenced by the popular unicorn cake trend. What an adorable cake design it is already but I decided it needed wings! So that’s when I came up with the idea of making meringue wings. And oh how lusciously yummy they are! Since then, I have discovered I can pipe meringue into coral, starfish and roses which I used to decorate my mermaid unicorn and Valentine unicorn cakes. Developing new sculpt-able gingerbread dough and pastillage recipes and techniques has also inspired new cake designs which I’ve yet to create. It has long been my dream to combine my gingerbread and cake arts. Now I’m finally making it happen.
What’s your design process?
First I decide on the concept or theme and then go online and research. I look at fine art photography, sculptures or paintings. Then I look at Pantone colours and mood boards to decide on the colour palette. Then I sit and think and imagine. Sometimes I draw out the design and sometimes I just create a cake straight from my head.
What are your top tips for sugarpaste modelling?
- Be patient with yourself and practice, practice, practice!
- Watch lots of YouTube tutorials because they sure weren’t available when I was learning!
- Don’t be afraid to play and experiment. That’s how I accidentally invented my weathered wood technique and created my gingerbread pastillage and sculpting dough recipes and techniques.
Visit Veronica's Facebook page here