Interview #47: Violet Lin Tran from The Violet Cake Shop™Violet’s: CakesDecor Profile | Facebook Page | Website | Pinterest 1. 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 was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Canada at the...
1. 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 was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Canada at the age of two. I can understand conversational Cantonese and Mandarin but am very rusty at speaking it so tend to answer people in English even if they ask me something in Chinese. I am a mother of two (11 y/o boy and 4 y/o girl) and married to my high school sweetheart. We first started dating when I was 17 and have been together now for 29 and a half years, married for 17. You can do the math to figure out my age lol. We live in Markham Ontario, Canada which is just outside Toronto. I am enjoying being a full-time mom at the moment but can’t wait until my daughter starts school this fall so I can have some me-time.
My work experience before cakes is very limited. Since 14, I helped out at my parents’ jewellery store, part-time. I worked as a server for a few years to help with tuition. After graduating University, I worked full-time at the family business for three years until my parents retired, then I went to work at Bell Canada, the country’s largest telecommunications company, as a Senior Manager in several roles within the Marketing, Incentives and Channel Liaison departments, for over 8 years. I decided to leave the corporate world to start a family. The long hours, intense stress, constant turnover and office politics was just not conducive to family life and I wanted to be a hands-on mom.
2. How or why did you get started in cake decorating… was it by accident or did you always have a passion for it?
I was never much of a sweets person so had never been much into eating or baking desserts. In 2007, I decided to bake with my son as a fun activity we could do together. We started with cookies and other treats kids love, and then eventually got into cakes. In my search for great recipes, I found an online cake decorating community and discovered a whole new world. After a few months, I got brave and decided to make my husband a fondant covered cake for his 40th birthday and immediately fell in love with the artistic side of the decorated cake.
3. Is there one tool you cannot live without and one you don’t have yet but really want?
The one tool I love is my herb mincer which I use as a strip cutter because it has a row of small metal wheels that are about ¼” apart. I use this tool on 90% of my cakes. It also makes super easy strips for quilling which is a technique I love to use. The one tool I wish I had but don’t, is a sheeter. It would save so much time in rolling out fondant and would make it easier to get perfectly even thickness.
4. What part of making cakes do you like most and least?
The parts I love the most are the designing stage where I come up with the look I want to achieve (the vision), and the execution stage where the design comes to life (the decorating). The parts I like the least are basically anything in between lol! I find the rest of it (baking, icing, ganaching, making fillings, ganache, fondant etc.) very tedious and I just want them out of the way so I can start decorating already ha-ha-ha!
5. Tell us one thing about yourself that many of us might not know already.
Well, I have an unusual allergy that I did not even know existed before it happened to me. I actually have an intolerance to UV rays from the sun and will break out in hives and small blisters and welts all over my body (even in areas not exposed) if I am in the sun without a hat and high level sunblock on. I first realized I had this condition in my twenties when I went on vacation to a tropical locale and got what I thought were a ton of bug bites after a round of golf. It was weird because we were using bug repellent and my husband (fiancé at the time) did not get any at all. Some looked like blisters or burns which were not consistent with bug bites and they mostly were not super itchy. I even have reactions when it’s not super-hot out or when I’m completely covered up, as long as it is very sunny. So now I try to stay out of the sun and can’t really enjoy tropical vacations anymore because it’s worse when it’s very hot.
6. What is your favorite cake you have done to date?
Gosh, this is always so hard for me to answer. I like different designs for different reasons and some days I hate a design I once loved, just to end up loving it again (I know, so fickle right, lol?) My favourite at this very moment is probably the cake I just did for my daughter’s 4th birthday (Tsum Tsum Mickey with Rainbow V-Petal ruffles). She told me everything she wanted it to have but I had to put it together in a cohesive way. I wasn’t sure I could do it well because she was very specific…yes, even at 4 she is very clear about what she likes and doesn’t like, lol. It turned out colourful, cute and fun and I was able to use my V-Petal ruffle technique with a rainbow colour scheme which made me a happy caker because I’d been wanting to do that.
7. 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?
It might seem a bit silly and maybe childish, but I have always loved Alice in Wonderland so would love to do a modernized version of that theme, in cake. I did an AIW cake once a few years back but at the time I did not have the same creative confidence or drive that I have now. I would do it SO differently now if I were to do it again.
I also would love to enter a cake competition one day just to have that experience under my belt but unfortunately there aren’t very many in Canada that I know of and I haven’t been able to find one to enter yet. When my daughter starts school, I’ll have more time to look into it.
On the non-cake-related front, I would also love to flip a house one day if I ever have the time, money and resources. I think it would be so much fun to design a whole house for profit, and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at interior design and updating old layouts.
8. 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?
I don’t think I’ve really challenged myself much cake-wise yet. Normally I try to avoid stressful cake situations and potential disasters because I already stress myself enough with even simple designs so I tend to plan things out to ensure I can do what I set out to do. I would like to try some more challenging designs and ideas but I need to think of a good one first lol.
9. Is there one technique or sugar skill that you have not tried yet but really would like to learn?
I would totally love to improve on my modelling skills and be able to create minute details and facial features. If you’ll notice, most of the figures I’ve done, although cute, are simple shapes with simple features. I can’t make a realistic nose or lip to save my life lol!
10. I love your designs they are always so very creative with texture, color and techniques, where do you get most of your inspirations from for your cakes?
Thank you so much!! I’m glad you think they’re creative because I strive very hard to be as unique as possible whether it’s with the techniques I use, the combinations of the elements, the composition, or the colour combos. I find inspiration everywhere and am always on the lookout for what might make a great cake design, but I have to say my biggest influence has to be home decor trends. I love the patterns and colours I see being used by top interior designers. I also love the modern feel and mix of textures they incorporate.
11. What is your most favorite ingredient to add into a cake?
I love to use sour cream. I find it gives cakes a very subtle, slight tang. It’s a nice contrast to the sweetness of most cakes. It also helps to give the cake more bite and makes it moist.
12. Do you sketch your cakes or just wing it?
I usually sketch up something just so I can visualize the composition and make sure it will work together the way I envision. I always consider different colour combos so I never colour them in, in case I change my mind, but I always jot down what colours I’m thinking of using. There are times I don’t sketch out the design if say it’s very straightforward, or I’ve done something similar before. Oftentimes the design will change from the sketch but it is a good guideline to use and helps me remember what elements I want to include.
13. For anyone just starting out what would be one piece of advice you would give them?
I would say to try not to compare yourself to others or feel that you need to do what everyone else is doing or do it at the same level or have achieved the same recognition, to feel worthy. So long as you try your best with every project, are constantly learning, and are making people happy with your creations (whether family or paying clients), you should be proud and not let anyone take anything away from it because of what they can do that you can’t. I find too many people expect to excel right away. Sometimes it takes years and lots of practice to achieve a certain level. I myself decorated cakes for over 5 years and made over three hundred cakes before I got any kind of recognition for my work. Only after I started exercising my own creative freedom did I start having my work noticed and published. But it was after years of hard work and learning and building my confidence and skills.
14. What’s the best lesson you have learned while making cakes so far?
The best lesson I’ve learned is to always give yourself much more time than you think you’ll need to complete a cake, especially if it’s the first time you’re doing a technique. You never know what issues might come up so you always have to add a buffer even if you think you won’t possibly need it. In the beginning, I often underestimated the time needed and would sometimes be working up until the very last second before a client arrived to pick up the cake. It still can happen but I am much better at time management now.
15. And one crazy one just for fun…If you could play a role in a movie alongside someone (Actress/ Actor) who would that person be and would it be a comedy, romance, Action etc?
Ha-ha what a cool question! Believe it or not but I have thought about this before but a long time ago lol so the answer has changed since then! So the answer now would be – alongside Brad Pitt in an Action thriller (ok maybe it hasn’t changed much lol ;)
- Part 46: Gulnaz Mitchell
- Part 47: Violet Lin Tran from The Violet Cake Shop™
- Part 48: Enrique Rojas from HaveSomeCake