Interview #35: Jeanne Winslow of Jeanne Winslow Cake Design1. How or why did you get started in cake decorating… was it by accident or did you always have a passion for it? Cake decorating was a happy accident for me. After the retail company I was working for went out of business in 2009, my...
1. How or why did you get started in cake decorating… was it by accident or did you always have a passion for it?
Cake decorating was a happy accident for me. After the retail company I was working for went out of business in 2009, my girlfriend and I decided to take a couple of Wilton classes for fun to relieve the stress while searching for a new job. When I took the fondant and gum paste class it was like entering a whole new world. I started doing research on sugar flowers. My first purchase, outside the class, was Alan Dunn’s book, Sugar Flowers for Cake Decorating. I played around making sugar flowers and fondant cakes but it wasn’t until 2011 that I really started paying attention to detail.
2. Tell us a little about yourself, family, where do you live and what did you do for a living before making cakes if anything?
I currently live in Erie, PA although prior to coming here 4 years ago, I lived in New Jersey for 23 years. It’s been quite the adjustment. I am married to the most wonderful and supportive husband, the Mother of two and Stepmom to four; all wonderful children that are grown now. We have been blessed with 10 gorgeous grandchildren. Prior to making cakes, I explored a variety of different jobs over the years from EKG tech, Training Coordinator for an IT company and Retail Management, none of which gave me the satisfaction like cake decorating does.
3. What is the one tool you cannot live without and one you don’t have yet but really want?
This is a really hard question for me. There are so many that are my “go to” tools it is hard to choose, but I love my ball tool as I use it for so much more than thinning the edges of flowers. The tool I really want? A good camera and a lighting system (I know, I don’t want much- lol). I enjoy taking my own cake photos but I lack the equipment and knowledge to do it right.
4. How did you find cakes decor and what makes it a place you want to keep sharing on?
Cakes Décor was recommended by another caker a few years ago. I can remember being a little scared about posting my first cake but Michal Bula and the members were incredibly welcoming. I enjoy the positive atmosphere, the array of talented members and love the encouragement that those who are just starting their cake journey get here.
5. What part of making cakes do you like most and least?
I love when a design comes together. It is not unusual for me to change things part way through because sketches don’t always translate well into cakes. To be able to step away from a finished cake, watch the smiles and reactions of others is one of the most amazing feelings.
Honestly, the part about caking I least enjoy is the actual baking. I worry the whole time until those cakes are out of the oven and cooled. It’s a strange thing, I know.
6. Tell us one thing about yourself that many of us might not know already.
I love sports, everything from gymnastics to hockey. I played every sport a girl was allowed to compete in growing up, retiring from league softball at 52. I learned from those experiences the importance of competing against myself and not with others. This has been so valuable when making cakes and pushing myself to learn new techniques.
7. What is your favorite cake you have done to date?
I actually have two favorite cakes to date; The Mother’s Day Gift bag cake, which was also my first collaboration. Everything was edible and it has a special personal meaning. I will always be grateful to Eva Salzar for the invitation. The other is The Poppies for Marie cake. This started with me helping a friend learn to make sugar poppies. The flowers I made in the process needed a home. No plan, no sketch, just going with the flow, so to speak. I loved how that cake turned out.
8. Do you have a bucket list and if so what might one or two of those be and it does not have to be cake related?
I would love to take an extended vacation to visit art museums around the world. I have never had the opportunity to travel outside the United States so this would be a dream come true.
9. What would you say has been your biggest cake challenge to date and if you could have a do-over of it would you want to and what about it would you change?
This may sound a bit strange but every cake I do is my biggest challenge. I incorporate techniques and elements that I have never done before with each new cake. I have to figure out how to take an idea in my head and turn it into a sugar element while maintaining the integrity of the design. It doesn’t always work.
I would love to have the opportunity to re-do the wedding mask on the Venetian wedding cake. I would change the overall proportion of the mask, making it more luxurious in detail, as well as changing the wafer paper feathers.
10. What is one technique or sugar skill that you have not tried yet but really would like to learn?
Face sculpting. I am always in awe of those artists that just get this. It terrifies me.
11. Do you have a favorite flavor of cake that you make?
I love my chocolate cake but my personal favorite to date is gingerbread with latte Swiss meringue butter cream. A recipe I got from The Cake Blog.
12. Do you sketch your cakes or just wing it?
I would have to say both. I have been sketching much more these days but there is that side of me that wants or needs to “color outside the lines” that changes things that are never in my sketch.
13. What’s the best lesson you have learned while making cakes so far?
It is important to give back!
None of us are actually self-taught. We all gain knowledge from more experienced people whether it be from books, classes or the internet. From that, we develop our own aesthetic. I firmly believe in encouraging people as they explore their cake journey as well as supporting those who are already accomplished.
14. And one crazy one just for fun…If you were an ingredient that could be added into a cake what ingredient would you be?
No doubt about it – Coffee!
Thank you Shags and Jeanne for your time ;)
Some of Jeanne’s Cakes: