Interview #19: Debbie Brown
Lea Webster, owner of One Stop Cake Decorations, fell in love with Debbie’s work early in her decorating career. After Lea attended one of Debbie’s classes at a conference in 2011, she decided to do everything she could to bring Debbie to Penrith and share her incredible talent and attention to detail with local cake decorators. The class was a huge success and we have been fortunate enough to have Debbie visit us again this year. Lea invited me along to have a chat with her.
Debbie how did you first get started with cake decorating?
Because of my children, like most people I suppose. My first son Lewis wanted a birthday party for his 7th birthday so I was planning a themed party. My son saw a train cake in a women’s magazine and asked me to make it for him. I was a little nervous but enjoyed the process so much and it was the children’s faces at the party, their look of awe at all the candies in the train carriages.
How did you come to publish the first of your many fabulous books?
A local publisher saw some of my work and asked me to write two books, one themed as general party cakes and another as fun, slightly risqué type. Debbie Brown’s Party Cakes and Debbie Brown’s Saucy Cakes were then published a year or so later. They were so popular that I wrote Debbie Brown’s Fairy Tale Cakes soon after and then I was of interest to other publishers and started producing around one title a year.
*I believe you are taking some time from your very busy teaching schedule to write another book. *
That sounds incredibly exciting; can you tell us about the process in writing one of your books? I’m so busy travelling and teaching the craft at the moment it is difficult to find time but I do have plans to write more. The design process luckily is easy for me, it’s finding the time to actually make them, make all the steps and of course write up the text from notes.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere although I try not to look online or at other people’s work as I have a photographic memory so if I see something I like it tends to imbed inside my head and I find it hard to remove. I have always had a good imagination and can conjure up lots of designs quite quickly. This also comes with confidence and experience, knowing what will work in cake and sugar.
*What has been your greatest challenge? *
I have some very wealthy clients that ‘test’ me every year as they like to order huge sculptures.
What is the most rewarding part of cake decorating?
The children’s faces at the creation you’ve made for them.
Can you give some tips to people who have just started decorating cakes or would love to start?
Try not to run before you can walk of course and leave plenty of time for each project. Planning ahead is a good idea. Most cake decorator’s I know including myself have burned quite a few midnight candles, even staying up all night to finish a project.
Which one of your cakes is your favourite?
I don’t really have one as like everybody I’m critical of my own work and only enjoy the finished ‘image’, the good photograph that has been professionally captured.
What’s been the biggest surprise in all of this for you?
That I’m so well known in my field and highly respected. I never and will never take that for granted.
Do you bake, do you enjoy baking?
Of course, I’m still totally enthusiastic about baking and cake decorating, although I enjoy the decorating more.
What decorating tool could you not work without?
My small Victorinox paring knife, the blade is fine and just long enough. I don’t really use many tools.
Do you have any rituals or habits when you are working?
I keep stopping for a cup of tea!
Which of your achievements in Caking are you most proud of?
Many people tell me I started them in cake decorating, through the easier books like 50 Easy Party Cakes, which is my bestseller.
Which part of the whole process do you like the most….
The end result, when I have that new book in my hands fresh from the printers!
…and the least?
Signing the contract, then I know I have a whole book process to go through and mustn’t miss any strict deadlines.
You are a Cake Idol to so many around the world, do you have a Cake Idol?
I highly respect many, there is so much talent around, it’s quite amazing.
Lastly, what is the first thing on your Cake Bucket List?
I have new grandchildren arriving and I said I would write each a book. I can’t have them growing up and accusingly saying ‘You didn’t write me a book Nanna!’
Thank you so much Debbie :)