Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Stroll Down Memory Lane - 2010. Part 1

2010 marked our 5th year in business, and was a turning point for cakelava. We began having a larger presence in the media, and Rick received his first invitation to teach classes in the early part of 2010. He was shocked and honored when he was asked to teach in Canada the following year and excited to to share his craft. He always wanted be able to give back to other decorators, as his mentors had done for him and this was a perfect opportunity to do it.

Rick and his assistant Annie's "Spongebob Birthday Cakes" Challenge on Food Network aired in April 2010, on Easter Sunday. It was an Easter Sunday we will never forget! Despite it being a family holiday which prevented people from attending our viewing party, we still had more than 100 guests in attendance who were there to support us and cheer Rick on! Around the time the episode aired, the media was often at our shop, filming Rick as he was making cakes and doing interviews.

It was a very interesting year for us. Hawaii started feeling the effects of the recession around this time, and there were less "destination" weddings - non-residents coming to Hawaii - and those that did often had smaller guest counts because some of their guests had lost their jobs or they couldn't afford to take such an expensive trip. In general, I think it was difficult time for many people in the cake industry, and we knew many people who shuttered their doors, which is always heartbreaking. We had counted our blessings we had a solid reputation by that time and was still getting regular business. Maybe as not as much as before, but considering the time, we were extremely fortunate.

As I reflect on 2010, I think of that year as the "end of the innocence" - not that life was so easy in the previous years, owning a business never is, but it was the last year we would focus solely on making cakes for clients. Early in 2011, Rick started teaching and began receiving more offers for other locations. Our traveling started and would become a big part of our lives in the coming years. We also got an amazing book deal for "Extreme Cakeovers" with Clarkson Potter in 2011, and would then balance the writing of the book with cake orders and teaching gigs. I remember at particularly hectic times of our lives in the last couple of years that we would reminisce about the days when we would "just make cake." Now, we wouldn't trade the opportunities we've had for anything in the world, but it demanded a level of commitment to our business that we never imagined!

I have chosen the cakes below as a sampling of some of our favorite designs that year. There were so many more I would have liked to include but couldn't for lack of time. We hope you have been enjoying the retrospective!

Rick was excited to try out these shapes for Laura and Oliver's wedding cake. The couple was married at Lanikuhonua, a gorgeous outdoor location on Oahu. Rick handpainted their cake to resemble the beautiful graphic motif from their wedding invitation. I was really smitten by this cake and loved how stylish and unique it looked. Luckily, so did Laura and Oliver!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Stroll Down Memory Lane - 2009. Part 3

When I had the idea about doing a cakes retrospective for cakelava dating all the way back to our humble beginnings in 2005, little did I know how much effort would be involved with the writing and cake selection process. Was I crazy to think that with well over 1000 cakes in our history it would be easy to choose a representative sampling? Clearly, I didn't think about it, I was driven by the desire to look back and appreciate how far we've come, and to share some cakes we are proud of with new people who may not be familiar with the designs.

For 2009, I had an especially tough time choosing cakes to feature so I divided it into three parts. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed it.

Rick designed this beautiful wedding cake with wrapped layers and handcrafted cherry blossoms for an outdoor wedding at Kualoa Ranch in May. The cake was featured in a number of magazines and in the book "1,000 Ideas for Decorating Cupcakes, Cookies & Cakes". The gorgeous photo is by Frank Amodo.

In 2009, a number of our good friends were married and some celebrated significant birthdays with a cakelava cake. This sushi cake was made by Rick for our friend Melissa for her 40th birthday party and gifted to her by her boyfriend as a surprise. Like us, they are huge fans of sushi. Rick made and placed sushis all over the cake. A few years later, Rick would teach students how to make the sushis on a sculpted platter for one of his classes. This exquisite photo is by Robert Bruce Ayres.

We've adored this cake for years! I like the vintage look of the flowers and bands around the tiers, and the muted tones used throughout. The bride Krista sent us the custom made bird toppers, we thought they were beautifully made and so cute! I wrote a post about this wedding cake back in October 2009 that covers the cake, including the types of flowers, in more detail.

It's no secret. Rick has a great appreciation for Hawaiian tikis and has been including them in his designs for years. I love them too. We even chose "Tiki's Grill & Bar" in Waikiki to have our viewing party for the Food Network "Spongebob" Challenge. He made this sculpted tiki out of cake for a couple's 17th anniversary celebration. We were both really happy with the way the standing tiki head turned out, and it remains one of our favorites.

By the time Rick had made the Tiki cake shown above, we were already in discussions with Food Network for an upcoming "Challenge" TV show they wanted to cast him for. When Rick found out they wanted him for "Spongebob Birthday Cakes", we both just about died! We were so excited for this particular challenge because we are huge fans of Spongebob Squarepants and it was a sculpting challenge - right up Rick's alley! For the competition which would take place in December, the competitors were asssigned one of the characters as their main character. Rick was given Spongebob, which we were both thrilled about! It was his first time on "Challenge" after numerous efforts to try and get out there to do them, and he had to compete against "Challenge" Veterans - Lauren Kitchens, Bronwen Weber and Kristin Davison - which added to the pressure!

In an ideal world, we would have uninterrupted time to prepare for such an important competition, but we had too many cake orders to fulfill during that time. Rick had very little time to prepare for his Challenge. He sketched his design, made Spongebob once, secured his assistant, Annie Welch, who he had worked when he was making cakes in Seattle. Once he was cast, we began noticing Spongebob EVERYWHERE, and took trips to Toys 'R Us to look at Spongebob items.  Many emails, and forms to sign later, we were on a plane to Denver to shoot the competition!

The photo above was taken at the studios where "Challenge" was filmed. The production company had just moved into a brand new studio and we would be one of the first to use it. After a very LONG day with what felt like an equally long deliberation by the judges, including a Nickelodeon representative, the competiton ended and we flew back to Hawaii. Food Network still airs the episode from time to time and I will leave the result of the competition a mystery, in case you haven't seen it. It was a nail biter and a very close competition, and so much fun to watch!

Rick and his assistant Annie Welch standing proudly next to their creation! The competition occurred shortly before Christmas and would be aired in April 2010. It was the third longest, most agonizing wait we've had in our cake career, the second being the casting for another Food Network show. The longest wait we've had, well, we are still experiencing it and have been for the past year and a half! The wait for the Food Network shows was agony, but multiply that intensity by at least ten, adding in excitement we can barely contain, and this is how we feel about the wait for our book, "Extreme Cakeovers". It will finally be released by Clarkson Potter/Random House in July!

The next posts will cover 2010, which was another great year for cakes and media, and a turning point for cakelava, leading us down some new avenues.

Since our Stroll Down Memory Lane started, a number of you have recognized your cake and it has meant a lot to hear from you! Whether we have made your cake or are just enjoying the view, we would love to hear if you have a favorite cake, or anything else you want to share with us about the cakes.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Stroll Down Memory Lane - 2009. Part 2

Yesterday we continued our stroll down memory lane, remembering a selection of cakes made at cakelava during the year 2009. If you missed it, you can view it here. A number of cakes shared in yesterday's post could be categorized into a common theme. Today's cakes cannot be categorized.  A great example of this would be the sculpted turtle hugging a cupcake, which Rick made for a wedding in June 2009, and is shown below.

It was one of our most unusual requests, a cute sculpted turtle hugging a cupcake. Rick and I were both intrigued by the idea when our clients told us this is what they wanted for their wedding cake. The bride and groom had a huge sweet tooth and had planned their wedding around a sweets and candy theme, which included sculpted giant cupcakes on the tables as centerpieces, which Rick also made. Their adorable turtle with a cupcake wedding cake was a huge success and circulated around the internet where the wedding was featured several times, including The awesome photo is by Stephen Ludwig.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Stroll Down Memory Lane - 2009. Part 1

I realized after the 2008 retrospective was posted yesterday, that I had omitted an important mention which was the start of my "Interviews from Cakeland" blog series. My first interviewee "victim" was Jen Yates of Cake Wrecks fame in August 2008. If you missed my interview with Jen, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 here. Little did I know at the time that I was the first in what would be a very long list of people who interviewed Jen and that Cake Wrecks would become very successful. My interview series is listed on the blog, and ended with Katherine and Sophie from TLC's "DC Cupcakes" in 2010, right before the start of their show.

As I scrolled through the cake photos selected for 2009, I realized that it would take at least two posts, like the year 2008, to offer a sampling of what happened that year. It was a crazy busy year from start to finish and ended in December 2009, with the biggest media opportunity we ever had. Rick and I flew to Denver where he competed on Food Network "Challenge" TV show for "Spongebob Birthday Cakes"!

Prior to the months before we were in communications with the Producers of "Challenge" and began preparing for the competition, Rick was making some of the best cakes he has ever done!  It was the year he made his first standing electric guitar, and sculpted a burning firehouse.  He sculpted a Serenity spaceship from the Sci-Fi film "Firefly", a Little Einsteins rocket ship, a bulldog, a Toilet!, a life size tire for Lex Brodie tire company, a P-3 airplane, and with the help of his assistant, a large composition featuring Spongebob and a bunch of his friends! In between the cakes, there was a feature in Your Wedding Day Magazine (YWD), a fundraising calendar for American Cancer Society, and a 50th birthday cake for Ala Moana Center, one of the biggest outdoor malls in America! It was time for cakelava to Go Big or Go Home, and we went for it, in a BIG way!

 The year started with a photo shoot with Stephen Ludwig for a 2010 fundraising calendar for American Cancer Society's "Relay for Life" which Rick was invited to be a part of. Rick and I were so excited to be able to give back for such a worthy cause. The creation of this cake was quite precious to both of us. Each cake designer was asked to design a cake that was inspired by a song, and Rick chose a song by Hawaiian artist, Israel Kamakawiwaole and the song was "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", which you may be familiar with. It is a gorgeous rendition of the classic, and celebrates the beauty of Hawaii, with its abundant rainbows. Rick painted a stylized land/ocean scene on the cake and dedicated the cake to my Aunt, who has been battling cancer for a number of years. Being able to give this art piece that we had such an emotional connection to was one of the most special experiences we had that year!

January 2009. It was Rick's first standing up guitar, made as a groom's cake for a couple who flew in from Baltimore. We hadn't done too many upright sculpted cakes and Rick was excited to take on the challenge. We were both happy with how the guitar turned out. For their wedding cake, the couple went with a traditional and elegant cake with beautiful handcrafted  tropical flowers.

A couple of months after Rick made the standing guitar groom's cake, he made a stacked drums wedding cake. The drums were done in a similar green to their wedding colors.

I remember Lena and Mike well. They bucked the traditional wedding cake idea and went for a sculpted burning firehouse with cusom figures of themselves in a fun pose. They were a fun loving couple and Rick was determined to convey this in the cake. He made a handcrafted custom figure of the couple with Lena tossed upside down over Mike's shoulder, a way that he used to carry her. I love this photo, taken by Dave Miyamoto!

We both adore this cake! It was a time consuming design for Rick to make because of the artwork, but it was so pretty in person and couldn't have been more at home in its environment.

We're big fans of the MINI Cooper, and enjoyed being able to make one in Rick's favorite color - orange! There is a fun back story for this cake, which you can read about here.

In Spring of 2009, Your Wedding Day (YWD) magazine released the issue with a feature called "New Ecclectic Hawaii". We were honored to be asked to do a shoot for YWD and be part of an awesome team of wedding professionals which included blufotographica, Finishing Touch, Yvonne Design, Emi Ink, Rachel Robertson, and Les Saisons. Rick designed the cake around the theme, which combined modern, tropical and Indian themes and included yellows, silver, white, black and bright pink. The result is shown above, captured beautifully by blufotographica.

We saw some themes gain popularity in 2009, like the "animals" theme - jungle animals, farm animals and the Noah's Ark animals. It was the first tine Rick had made a sculpted barn or a Noah's Ark filled with animals. Both cakes were done in all cake and the animals were handcrafted edible pieces. We both remember when he made all the animals for the Noah's Ark cake. There were animals peeking out of every open crevice, 360 degrees. The Ark suddenly felt much more massive when it was home to so many animals!

The start of the jungle/safari theme cake requests. It remains one of the most popular kids party themes and Rick has made many variations. This design is one of the most difficult jungle cakes he made, with each piece made and handpainted and the animals have a more realistic appearance than others.

Another jungle animals cake, done differently than the one above, but just as cute! All decorations are handmade.

Then came the Monkeys themed cakes. We have made so many of these, in different sizes, for twin children with two monkeys on top. We love them all!

The Sci-Fi/geeky cake theme was another trend we noticed in 2009. We adore the Sci-Fi cakes! More Millennium Falcons (above), R2-D2, the Death Star, a Star Trek Communicator, and "Serenity" ship from Firefly. All shown below.

The "Serenity" cake has an interesting story, which you can read about  here.  It was one of the most difficult shapes Rick had to create and though he is a Sci-Fi fanatic, neither of us had seen the movie, which made making the cake that much more difficult. 

It was our first dimensional Candy Land board game cake, and we set aside a substantial amount of time for this party. At the time we were still making custom cupcake towers and our client added on a candyland themed cupcake tower to go with it. I still remember the week this cake was done. We had a bunch of cakes requiring a lot of artistry, and I don't know how Rick got through it all. Every time I turned around, he was making decorations or painting them, and our kitchen looked like one big colorful art explosion. The cake below was made that same week. Yes, that is, in fact, a dog with a scuba mask on.

The last cake in this post was a striking leopard print with bright pink daisies design and became very popular after it was posted. We loved this cake and it sure made its way around the internet! It will always be one of our favorites and the colors really came together. It was one of those cakes you are sad to deliver because of all the work that went into it, but then you see the expression on the client's face and it's all worth it! 

I hope you have been enjoying seeing the cakes as much as we have liked re-living some great memories! In the next post, we will continue with 2009.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Stroll Down Memory Lane - 2008. Part 2

Continuing our 2008 retrospective of selected cakes... Part 1 can be viewed here.

The majority of the cakes below were made in the latter half of 2008, starting with the first cake in the group, which Rick made for the very popular 8-8-8 (August 8, 2008) date. We saw the numbers trend start on 7-7-7, then 8-8-8 and so forth. On 8-8-8, we had a news television camera in our shop who documented the crazy wedding trend while Rick was working on the cakes. It was exciting but always stressful to have to create under those circumstances. The cakes turned out great, and a pretty blue cake with gardenias is shown above.

It was Rick's first "messy" cake. Prior to 2008, we didn't know what a "messy" cake was. It was an idea that our client came to us with. She asked Rick to design a cake that looked messy to have at a kids party where there would be arts and crafts for the kids. Our client gave Rick free reign on the design and after giving it some thought, he decided to approach the messy cake from the perspective of a child, imagining how a child might decorate a cake.  I recall Rick mentioning that it was a tough design for him to do because he needed the cake to look "messy" but didn't want it to look ugly, like a wreck, and it needed to be done right. He made an extremely colorful cake for Maya and it was such a hit that the following year our client returned to get another "messy" cake! That next messy cake was done in pretty pastels.

I remember this cake well. The bride was from New York and asked for a much smaller version of Rick's and my wedding cake, but done in blue, like one he made a couple years earlier. This cake incorporates many of the decorations that cakelava has become known for - the dimensional palm trees, Hawaiian tiki, and the bamboo covered tier. The cake looked stunning in person and has been a requested design overy the years by brides wanting a Hawaiian tiki themed cake.

This lovely sophisticated animal print cake was one of our favorites from 2008. The bride worked for a prominent videographer in the wedding industry and had become a huge fan of Rick's cakes after shooting them at weddings. I still recall the letter she sent us asking Rick to make her cake. She was incredibly excited and hoping we would be available. She expressed her desire to have a cake that was very unique and didn't take itself too seriously. She and her fiance wanted a fun cake that their guests would swoon over. Rick selected a cake on a pole for them to give them the drama factor they wanted which also worked great for their black and white color scheme. He painted the three different animal prints by hand on the cake, adding feathers and a soft boa, and columns of black and white delicate beads on the bottom of the tiers and placed it on a porcelain cake stand. The couple was ecstatic with their one of a kind design and used a sword to cut into their beautiful cake! Visionari took the gorgeous photo!

The "Makenna" cake was an instant hit when it was posted on our website. If it wasn't for the size and cost of the cake, Rick would have made this exact cake numerous times. The Makenna cake fed well over 200 people, so the design was very specific and worked best for a large guest count, which not everyone has. From the perspective of the person communicating with the customers, it was a challenge for me to explain that this design wouldn't look the same with a guest count of 50. The proportions would be different, the number of tiers would be different and the squares shape wouldn't translate the same for smaller guest counts. We were really happy with the cake, and most importantly so was the client. The colors and fun polka dots theme was a fun one to design around!

Some cakes seem to appeal to just about every bride and at the time Rick made this cake, many brides were asking for the "Leslie R" cake. The bright orange and yellow sunset colors had great appeal and worked beautifully with the Hawaiian plumeria flowers and seashells on the cake. The cake has been featured around the world and even made its way into a book, "1,000 Ideas for Decorating Cupcakes, Cookies & Cakes". The couple have ordered many cakes from us, including a toilet bowl, one of our most unusual designs!

Rick has made two sculpted Buddha cakes. He made this Buddha for a very special friend of ours in honor of her birthday, which was celebrated at, of all places, a bowling alley! I wrote about the Buddha cake at the bowling alley experience in detail on the blog. You can read the post here. Rick made another Buddha cake with a more voluptuous representation, this time for an NFL player's vow renewal in 2012. You can view the other Buddha cake here.

 Rick was ecstatic about making the "Fillmore" VW bus cake! He is a huge fan of the VW bus and used to own one. He has great memories of driving his VW bus with his dog in the back. The Fillmore character was right up his alley because there was a lot of handpainting on the bus and it was a fun cake to sculpt. He had made the Lightning McQueen numerous times and also the Towmater, but had been holding out for Fillmore. Eventually, he got his wish! 

Students who have taken Rick's class in 2011 and 2012 will recognize this cake as the "hibiscus" cake. Rick designed this cake in 2008, when we were contacted to make the cake for a wedding that would be featured on a Mark Burnett TV show. Working with the event designer, Rick was given a color palette: sunset - red, orange and yellow - to be used throughout the wedding and to have the cake be a tropical/hawaiian theme since the couple would be flying to the island to get married. Rick made the cake which we then transported to Maui. At the time there was a ferry operating between the islands which made it possible for us to bring the cake. The sketch above is what Rick drew and presented to the event designer and she loved it. Little did we know then how much of a following in various media after we shared it. When it came time for Rick to choose a cake for his first "Discover Your Inner Artist" class, he chose this one, as we've had so many requests for it over the years! 

This cake was very unusual in that it was designed to look like the squares
had shifted slightly off-center, so rather than the tier going straight across, it slightly recedes at the halfway point. This was a gorgeous wedding that was featured in Style Me Pretty and a book. The couple used lots of pinks and oranges in their wedding and had the graphic floral motif found on their cake throughout the wedding. The beautiful photo was taken by Rachel Robertson. 

It was the first time Rick had made a cake with the tiers done in this way and it made for a dramatic presentation. This design has remained one of my favorites over the years. The floral vine pattern on the cake was inspired by the couple's invitation and is piped on the cake. 

This wedding took place in October 2008. It was at the time, one of the most extravagant, over-the-top weddings we had done and there was over 400 guests in attendance. The theme of the wedding was a racing theme, which was integrated into both the wedding cake and groom's cake. At the time, we didn't know what a sprint racing car looked like, and luckily the couple had one and sent Rick photos to work from. It was probably the most difficult car cake Rick had made. For the wedding cake, he decided on an ombre look with color gradations of purples, with a checkered pattern on the bottom of each tier. It was such a fun, spirited wedding that we will always remember!

The bride ordered this cake as a surprise groom's cake for her fiance. She requested a sculpted boat with a wooden deck and include the shell shown on the sail. Her fiance is a fisherman and asked for fishing poles and a marlin in the water. It was an awesome cake and a great compliment to the more elegant wedding cake with phalaenopsis orchids they ordered.

The Fantasia cake! It is one of our all-time favorite cakes Rick made at cakelava. The couple who ordered this cake were HUGE Disney fanatics, and I do mean HUGE! They had a completely Disney-fied wedding, with character centerpieces, a Sleeping Beauty castle at the guests table, and guess where they were headed to for their honeymoon? The Happiest Place on Earth, of course! Rick was given carte blanche on the design. They wanted a "Fantasia" theme cake but it was up to him which scene he wanted to make and how he would do the design. Rick chose the famous water scene and made the Mickey Mouse and all the brooms and buckets by hand. The shapes were wonky and the icing was buttercream. He gave it a painterly look. The couple adored their cake and we were sad to see it leave our studio. 

This unusual berry and gold colored cake with the concave shapes was one of the last cakes Rick made in 2008. The design was inspired by the bride's invitation, which featured a gilded etching of a floral pattern, which he added to the cake. The cake was about two and a half feet tall and looked beautiful in the room! 

Join us for the next post, when we look at 2009, which was a also a very busy year!

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