I always get excited for the Dream Jobs posts. There’s something so eye-opening about learning what drives the creativity behind so many different types of jobs. Today we’re meeting a baker and cake decorator! Melissa Torres is the creative mind behind Cake Hero. Melissa makes organic, specialty cakes and treats for her clients, and each one is a feast for the eyes. As soon as I saw them, I knew I had to interview her for this series! We’re talking about how to think outside the box, owning your talent and — last but not least — cake. Enjoy! // susannah
1. How would you describe Cake Hero?
I made organic custom cakes, cookies, and treats! Everything is made to order, and I take great pride in going the extra step to make sure that my custom work is unique. I love making pretty and cute things, and I adore working with customers to bring their ideas to life.
2. What were you doing before Cake Hero? What inspired you to change paths?
I was working in offices (I still am, on the side…gotta love that health insurance!) and while I have a very food focused family with a lot of chefs, I never thought that I had inherited that talent in any way. I bought some themed cake pans one day on a lark from eBay, started decorating them for friends, got better and better, and eventually Cake Hero was born!
3. When ideas are scarce, where do you turn for creative inspiration?
The internet! Pinterest and Instagram specifically…they always lead me to an artist I didn’t know about, some amazing spread from a fashion magazine, or a fellow cake decorator’s blog. When I have a job and am not feeling particularly inspired by the task given me, I often look at what others have done (for say, a Minnie Mouse cake), and then try to come up with something that is NOT that. But seeing what other visual shortcuts people have used in their work and then removing those possibilities, it forces me to think outside the box.
Click through to read more about Melissa Torres of Cake Hero!
4. Describe your workspace.
I just moved spaces and my new setup is so exciting. I have a few stainless steel kitchen tables, and a giant Ikea Pax unit that I keep all my little cake gadgets obsessively organized in. It’s always important to work clean, especially in a food related business, but to be honest when I am in the throes of decorating, I often find myself in a forest of fondant and food coloring! I just try to take a step back here and there to tidy as I go.
5. What have been your biggest successes and challenges for Cake Hero?
I always think the biggest challenge for me was actually learning to think of myself as a professional cake decorator. At one point I worked at a bakery and I thought “Ok, now I can call myself a baker”, but then when I left the bakery I didn’t really feel that way anymore. Then I worked in a candy shop and I thought “Aha! Now I can call myself a sugar artist.”, but still, the feeling didn’t remain. I would do work for Vogue and still not feel like I had really made it.
So I think, it’s just all about you owning your talent and your skill, and knowing that if you are doing it then you ARE it. So I think that that has been one of my biggest challenges that has been turned into a success! Finally knowing that I don’t have to have my career look a certain way to know that I am legit. It’s hard!
6. What are your dreams for Cake Hero?
My dreams for Cake Hero are that people associate my brand with delicious sweets made with thoughtfully acquired ingredients, decorated in a way that is simple but exciting. Also can I please make a cake for Beyonce’s child? Or even better Solange…she’s the cooler one anyway.
7. Who do you look up to?
SO many artists and bakers and cake decorators! First, I have to credit my mom with playing with her food and I think planting the seeds for my eventual cake career… she used to take the extra pie crust scraps and cut them to look like fruit and put them on top of the pie, using the juice from the berries to paint them before baking. So pretty! For chefs, I love Dorie Greenspan for her unfussy and delicious way with food, and Sarah Magid, who introduced me to Ermine Frosting, the best frosting ever. A
s for cake decorators, Lael Cakes (fellow Brooklynite) has a way with flowers and gold leaf that will make you weep with happiness. Nevie Pie Cakes was one of the first to paint directly on fondant covered cakes in such a painterly and talented way and consistently kills it with romantic floral vibes. The Bake Monger creates baroque works of art with chocolate and dried fruit. I could go on all day.
Miss Cakehead creates morbid sweets — her life-sized Dexter cake got a lot of press. I love that a woman is making these cakes that are so gross but are also such works of art. Scott Hove is an artist that makes plaster cakes that have monstrous qualities, he recently collaborated with Banksy on Dismaland… his stuff is very creepy and cool.
8. Where and how do you love to spend your time off?
I’m lucky to have a ton of amazing friends in NY, so a perfect weekend is often spent with them. There’s always something to do in NY, so whether it’s hanging at an apartment with friends, doing karaoke, going to an exhibit or grabbing a bite somewhere — there’s a lot to keep me busy. So why is it that I spent three hours watching Sex and the City reruns the other day?
9. What resources do you recommend to someone whose dream job is your job?
The number one resource that got me started in cake decorating is Cake Central. It’s such a wealth of information. The first real cake I decorated I used the Frozen Buttercream Transfer Technique… fun and simple and impressive.
10. If you weren’t running Cake Hero, what would be your dream job?
If I weren’t running Cake Hero, I think a dream job would be to be a professional crafter, for Martha Stewart or someone. Or no! I have to dream bigger. Dream job would be to be Martha Stewart, but with less jail time and funner clothes.