Most cake designers are used to the idea that their work is ephemeral, but it takes a rare person who is willing to spend months designing a cake, only to watch it be thrown on the floor. That's the challenge cake designer Nancy Linstead tackled while working on Well Done.
I took Nancy's cake decorating class during my pre-production research, and it quickly became apparent that we needed the help of a seasoned professional on set. We were thrilled and greatly relieved to put the cake construction of Well Done in Nancy's capable hands. She called in fellow designer Tray Post and Jodie Vandervort to create the film's most memorable edible characters.
(Today's post is the second half of Nancy's interview, covering her projects outside of Well Done. To read about her work on set, scroll down to Part 1. I have included images of some of Nancy's cake portfolio.)
Q: What is the most ambitious cake you've made to date?
Nancy: I made a tiger for a 21st birthday party based on the movie The Hangover. In the movie a bachelor party in Vegas gets out of control, and in the morning a tiger has inexplicably turned up in the bathroom. The design was adapted from Cake Central and took three months to research and develop.
I sculpted the tiger's head out of styrofoam. It took three attempts to get it just right, and I made two versions of the body. I used sunflower and mushroom colored petal dust with a corn silk powder puff to get the right velveteen color effect. The Tiger has a fondant washcloth and a shot of tequila. I also made a two-tiered birthday cake to be served with the tiger.
Q: Both of us have gluten issues and I know many people with other food sensitivities. How do you deal with cakes when you have a gluten issue?
Nancy: I am a celiac, and I actually wear a dust mask when working with wheat flour. I am especially sensitive to special diet requests and regularly teach a "How to Bake Gluten-free" class at Do It with Icing (decorating supply store and hub for cake decorators in San Diego).
I will be giving a lecture on gluten-free baking at the ICES (International Cake Explration Society) convention later this summer and launching a blog this fall to help other decorators understand this issue.
In addition to gluten, I have researched several sources for natural dyes- beets, carrots and blueberries, for example- that some cake clients prefer over artificial colors.
Q: What is your favorite cake flavor?
Nancy: Dark chocolate icing with chocolate cake.
Q: When did you bake your first cake?
Nancy: When I was seventeen I baked a cake for 60 people in my high school band. I had no icing bags or metal tips, so I rolled a cone out of wax paper and cut a small hole at the tip to get the same effect as an icing bag and tip.
Q: Making cakes can be a high-pressure job. You seemed so calm through this process. Have you ever lost your cool?
Nancy: Definitely, I started swearing in the kitchen with my first cake at seventeen! My mom says she'll never forget the colorful language that came out of my mouth over that cake.