Monday, July 16, 2012

Interview: Erin Lombardi, Sweet 'Nacks

The Semi-Organic Mom's Note:  My interview series with moms who I admire continues today with the amazingly talented cake maker Erin Lombardi!  I've eaten her cakes--probably far too much of them--and they are positively delicious.  I'm serious.  I want her to make the one for my upcoming 30th.

1. How and when did you become interested in cake decorating?

My grandmother was a cake decorator in my hometown of Albany, NY.  She took care of me when I was little (5-7yrs old) while my mother was at work, so I watched her create her cakes everyday. My grandmother Betty was very passionate about her baking, which I believe taught me to feel the same way, igniting my passion.

2.What attracted you to it?

Not only did my grandmother introduce me to the art of baking cakes she patiently taught me the basic skills of baking. My favorite treat growing up as a child was her cakes, which made me even more interested in learning how to create them.

3.Do you have a favorite cake you have decorated?

Yes, the cake I created for my daughter's first birthday party. My grandmother always made the cakes for family occasions, however she passed away a few months before Elynn turned one. I was quite devastated that my grandmother wasn't going to bake Elynn's first birthday cake so I decided to step up and attempt it myself.  This was my first attempt at a professional style cake to feed the public so I kept it somewhat simple. The cake was a success, very girly with real flowers and edible butterflies.
This is that cake. I  ate some of it.  It was ridiculously good.

4.What was the most difficult cake that you have made thus far?

I would say my most challenging cake was the "barnyard" cake. This is the biggest and most intense cake I've created to date because it had to feed 50 plus people, including a 3D barn sitting on top for the children.

5.Do you have any other interests/hobbies?

At the moment my love of travel is somewhat suspended because I am consumed with raising my two daughters. I have traveled to foreign countries and throughout the US since I was 5 years old. Hopefully within the year  I will be visiting Hawaii, and shortly following that, Italy!! I love all things. Wine tasting, yoga, fishing, movies, bowling, swimming, cooking, etc. I'm always excited to do something new.

6.How do you manage to get things done with kids around?

I usually run my errands to the cake supply store with the girls. Other than that I try to use my time wisely and bake during naps, early morning and evenings. Kids and cake are a dangerous combination, if they see it they want it!

7.Where do you look for inspiration?

I usually look online for inspiration. I try to make my cakes as realistic as possible when I am recreating a character such as Elmo, or The Veggietales. Of course with anything artistic your imagination plays a huge role in inspiration.

8. What is your favorite part of cake decorating?

My favorite part of cake decorating is seeing the final product and when the customer sees it for the first time. The excitement from my customers is what pushes me to do bigger and better cakes each and every time.

9. Have you taken any classes, or are you self-taught?

I took a few culinary classes in college, none specifically in cake decorating. I am predominately self-taught with the help from my grandmother, my mentor.

10. Where is your workspace?

Sweet 'nacks is a small in-home bakery.

11.  Do you have any advise for someone who is interested in cake decorating?

If it tastes good no one will care if it looks good! Haha! Making a cake that tastes as good as it looks is the real challenge.

12. Where did your business name come from?

My daughter Elynn called ALL food and mealtime "nacks." I thought it was cute how she couldn't fully pronounce the word snacks yet, so I decided that would be my special way to incorporate my family into my business name.

13. How long does it take you to make a cake?

That depends on the size and technicality of the cake. Typically a cake that will feed 30 people with an average level of difficulty will take me approximately 4 hours.

14.  Where can we find you?

Sweet 'Nacks on Facebook!

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