Expert Interview Series: Lindy Smith of Lindy's Cakes About Cake Decorating and Sugarcraft
Lindy Smith is a best-selling author, international teacher, award-winning designer, and a shining star in the cake decorating world. The managing director of Lindy's Cakes recently sat down with us to talk about cake decorating trends, techniques, and tools...
Lindy Smith is a best-selling author, international teacher, award-winning designer, and a shining star in the cake decorating world. The managing director of Lindy's Cakes recently sat down with us to talk about cake decorating trends, techniques, and tools of the trade.
Tell us about yourself. What drew you to cake decorating and other forms of "sugarcraft?"
I have always been highly creative (it's in my genes), and over the years I have tried many crafts. When I discovered sugarcraft 25 years ago, I fell totally and completely in love with the all the possibilities that it presented. I'm still just as passionate today. Through cake decorating, I can use my artistic and design skills to bring moments of happiness to countless lives, whether through my books, my teaching, or my cakes themselves.
Regarding the craft itself, the draw for me is three-fold:
- Design - I am passionate about good design and love to be inspired by what I see in the in the real world. I strive to take these inspirations whatever they may be - a building, a printed fabric, a sunset - and create stunning, influential, first-of-a-kind cakes.
- Color - I am naturally drawn to color in all its myriad of shades, tones, hues, and combinations. The ability to experiment with color on my cakes excites me. Colors and color combinations are never static; they follow fashion and come and go like the tides. There are always new colors to use and color combinations to experiment with.
- Techniques - The cake decorating world draws its technical inspiration from many arts and crafts; and consequently, many different and varied techniques have been developed and adapted over the years. The consequence today is that when creating a design, the options are many and varied - and this versatility really appeals to me and draws me in deeper.
What are some of the current trends that you're seeing in cake decorating?
I am often referred to as an influencer and a leader in my field, and over the years I have certainly started and popularized many trends. My latest book Simply Modern Wedding Cakes definitely includes many of the latest techniques that are currently gaining popularity. A good example of this is the trend for using edible wafer paper to create cake decorations. In the book, I show my readers how to make a range of wafer paper flowers from simple punched 3D flowers through to delicate lifelike roses molded into shape using steam.
The newest technique that I've introduced is doodling on cakes. It is a technique that everyone seemingly wants to try. All you need is a small special tool called a fluid writer and some liquid food color. The technique uses a selection of basic strokes from which beautiful organic patterns in all shapes and sizes can be made. I am certainly hooked and can't wait to develop this technique further.
Finish this sentence: "The most importance quality for a skilled cake decorator to possess is..."
What do you notice about the people who enroll in your decorating classes?
Teaching is something that I love to do, and I've been very lucky over the years to have had the opportunity of teaching classes around the world, from Canada, Brazil, and Australia to Spain, Italy, Norway, and many places in between. My students are wonderful; they are passionate about their craft and have a huge desire to learn. We always have a thoroughly enjoyable time together; yet by the end of the class, they go home having learned all sorts of skills that will allow them to take their cakes to the next level if they so wish. I also, of course, learn from my students, which I love.
Do you have a particular cake decorating creation or sugarcraft exhibit that you're most proud of?
It is always my last! Cake design is a real skill and one that I believe is greatly undervalued. Anyone with basic skills can copy a cake or even take parts of different cakes and put them together to create a new cake not seen before, but it is quite another thing to actually design a cake from scratch. To start with a blank canvas and create a design takes inspiration, time, energy, thought, and a high level of skill. My latest cake will be the one that I've been living and breathing for the last few weeks; it is always in the forefront of my mind. It will always be the one that seems the most challenging, the most rewarding, the most striking, the most fulfilling, etc.
When decorating cupcakes and cookies, is there anything different in how you approach this task? Or is it the same as cake decorating but with a smaller "canvas?"
I take a very different, very organic approach when decorating cupcakes and cookies. I don't plan in the same way I would for a large multi-tiered cake; instead, I usually go with the flow. I decorate the cupcakes and cookies in ways that appeal and present themselves at the time. This allows me to make new discoveries, try radical ideas, and easily compare results.
I often use cupcakes and cookies when teaching, as students can try out and practice skills before moving onto larger cakes - it's less scary!
What are some of the decorating products and items that you might recommend for someone who wants to experiment with cake decorating?
Today, there are a vast array of products available, and it is easy to spend a small fortune on items you will never use. Do your research and think carefully about what kind of cake decorations appeal to you and buy these products accordingly. If you like intricate patterns, buy a few stencils or lace mats. If you like bright bold shapes, invest in a range of cutters. If you wish to make lifelike flowers, then treat yourself to some veiners. The choice is yours
I always tell my students that there is usually a balance between an inexpensive method that takes time and skill, and a quick but more expensive way that involves buying products. Molds are a good example of this; you can either model your own figures or animals or buy molds that do it for you. At Lindy's Cakes, we don't stock every product that is available to cake decorators. Instead, we stock quality products such as stainless steel cutters and professional food-grade stencils that are different and inspirational and make cake decorating a little bit easier.
What are the most frequently-used appliances, gadgets, or tools in your kitchen?
Whenever I travel and teach, I pack a small box of essential tools from my kitchen into my suitcase. These are my most frequently-used tools - the ones I wouldn't decorate without. In my box, you will find the following:
- Small non-stick rolling pin
- Smoother, with one flat edge
- 5mm and 1mm spacers
- Craft knife
- Dresden tool
- Round piping tubes
- Selection of cutters
- Possibly a roll out mat, depending on where my travels are taking me.
Check out Cilantro's selection of molds, decorating tools, and other bakeware today!