SPOTLIGHT ON – VICKI SMITH
Vicki Smith is just 26, and has been making seriously outstanding cakes as Incredible Edibles for three years now. She produced some of the most eye-wateringly brilliant stuff in CakeBomb’s jungle, and she was prolific too. So many of the edible flowers you see around the walls were hers.
Hi Vicki, tell us about yourself.
I’m 26 and live in Flint, North Wales. I have an art background, experimenting with life drawing, photography, textiles, ceramics and digital media at college. I love painting, drawing and creating gifts for people that they couldn’t buy in the shops. I love to see people’s faces light up when you give them that gift. It’s the same with cakes … even more so when someone says they can’t cut my work 🙂 It’s edible … take a slice … I have to hide when they do it though! That’s the best thing though … that it’s edible works of art that I’m making.
I started over three years ago now when I ordered a cake for my partner Lee and I didn’t like it. I thought I’d have a go myself and it turned out better than I’d expected. I slowly tested the water with other cakes for family then decided to go for some competitions. I have dabbled in Web design and ceramics but I’m now ready to get into the cake world. What’s better than art that you can eat?! 🙂
I’m looking at having a workshop in my back garden which my mum and dad are building at the minute. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without my family. I love them very much.
Did you like the jungle theme, did it give enough scope for creativity?
The jungle was very challenging but fun at the same time. I got the chance to try things I’d never tried before. Like the challenge of making a standing animal cake, figuring out how to make the support frame. Everyone has their own style, with me is creating realism and everyone always comments on the eyes and mouths on my work. I’m a big fan of the edible glazes. I either use PME or shell and shine.
You made two adorable snow leopard cubs, carved from your mum’s sponge cake, for Welcome to the Jungle, and one of those was the standing cake you just mentioned …
A standing leopard cub cake was definitely a challenge for me but something I’d wanted to try for ages so it gave me the opportunity. I had the help of my dad and tried to get involved where I could.
My main concern was getting the effect of the underbelly but getting it to stick. On top of the board was all cake. Even the head was on its own shelf support and was cake, with the front snout being Rice Krispie treats. It took around 70 hours to make both cubs. Texturing the fur inside and around the legs was very time consuming.
They had amazing blue eyes – how did you make those?
The blue eyes were fondant on sticks, which were then dipped into hot isomalt to create layers. I’d paint each layer,building up the depth. I added some Dinkydoodle iridescent blue colour to add a reflective glowing shine to the eyes. It’s hard to get eyes the right size as the more layers you build up the bigger they go. Then the danger is they become too big and cartoon like. I had to make a few pairs of eyes before I got ones that I liked!
The cubs were a really popular feature of the jungle, especially with the kids. You seem to have a knack for choosing a popular theme and executing it perfectly. Your award-winning “Oleg” cake was a good example of that. Who or what are your influences for your cake ideas?
I go for things I like. I try to go for cute things that will make people’s hearts melt. Also I take notice of things that are getting popular. Oleg is a really cute character and he’s also quite a new one on the Compare the Market/Meerkat ads. Those Oleg toys have really caught on – people seem to be selling their Oleg toys online to make profit as he’s such a wanted character. But mainly I just like him! My other hobby is keeping a marine coral reef and that is a big passion of mine. So I sometimes go down the fishy route as it’s something I’ll really enjoy doing. Duff Goldman is one of my biggest influences. He makes things you would think are impossible out of cake. He makes cakes move and smoke. I’d love to make a moving cake.
I’d love to do a collaboration with him in the future on a big project. His elephant and life-size car were amazing, and to top it he’s such a lovely down-to-earth guy.
You made some incredibly lifelike flowers and leaves for the jungle – what kind were they? What did you make them from?I made some large hibiscus flowers from wired flower paste and stamen centres dusted. I made some hibiscus wired leaf branches also from sugarpaste, and leaves from rice paper.
And lets not forget one of the most stunning elements in the jungle was the beautiful free-standing frangipani bush that you made. What was that made from?
The frangipani tree turned out fabulous. I’d never made one before. I knew in my head how I wanted it to look but seeing it when it came together was mind blowing. Even I didn’t know how it was going to fully turn out. The branch itself was plumbing piping and connectors that was covered in rice Krispie treats and melted dark chocolate. The leaves were wired rice paper that was airbrushed and veined with a home-made mould. The flowers were made as individual petals wired together. I’d dusted with edible flower scents but the strongest luxurious chocolate smell took over.
Your work didn’t stop each day when the show ended – you were making handmade moulds while staying in Manchester for the show to decorate the elephant, weren’t you? Are you drawing on your ceramics background here?
Yes, I’m into the mould making now. Anything to make it easier. My task for the elephant after spending a day underneath her, spraying the grey, was to work on the headdress. I wanted to make gold coins to decorate it with. And I knew we would need a lot. I’d taken my silicon mould kit to the apartment where we were staying and late at night I made some embellished coins from sugarpaste. As tools I used things I collected from round the house … bottle tops, pen lids, forks etc. I let the coins dry and quickly moulded them in the morning. I took these to the show and knocked out a load of coins! I then sprayed these gold and glued them onto the headdress, piping chocolate fudge to make it look like they were sewn on. I also blinged up the feathers made by Rose, Francesca and Dawn and placed them on the head of the elephant.
What was the most challenging thing about your involvement with Welcome to the Jungle in general?
Because I was in full-time employment, getting everything done was my biggest challenge. I was working solidly up until the show and even then going home and working through till 3 am to get the frangipani tree done. I had my mum and dad wiring leaves the day before.
You made some really brilliant insects. What did you make these from? Did their size and fragility pose any problems?
I made big moulds for the body parts for my jewel bugs. These were made from fondant with sugar droplet eyes. They were painted in edible metallic paints and then glazed. The legs were a bit fragile. The atlas beetles I made in stages. I made a mould to make a chocolate casing into which I put a alcoholic red blood which oozed out when cut (made from raspberry liqueur!). I then covered in fondant and embellished. It was sprayed up the legs were made from Mexican paste to make it stronger this was fine when placing on the edible leaf and the branch but the one on the spoon made for the baking shot with John white proved more difficult as the legs were hanging over the edge they would easily break off. I warmed liquorice and pushed into mould. Snipped to shape with scissors then sprayed and glazed. This meant they were flexible if knocked. The wings were painted gelatine cut to shape 🙂
What did you get out of the project?
I’ve made some lovely new friends and hopefully it will link me to future clients and work.
Of the others’ work – what was your favourite item and why?
Eleanor’s Loris was cute and I loved how she had a go at using the isomalt. We’ve all been able to challenge our skills. I also liked Rose’s peacock and Molly’s parrots 🙂
Who is your cake hero?
Duff Goldman. He follows me on Twitter … he’s lovely 🙂
What’s up next?
I’ve got big ideas for the next Cake International shows so watch this space!