New Year, New Endeavors



I recently met up with my former assistant who attended The Art Institute of Orange County’s Pastry Arts program. She mentioned how every time she bakes, she still thinks of me and in her words, “how I would do it”. She said that even though she has taken courses, it’s challenging for her to get things “perfect”. She felt like she learned much more from me than she did in culinary school. She couldn’t understand how I learned to bake and decorate cakes without formal training. I was honored to hear this because I still think of my mentors in the cake industry, Chris Russom and Marjorie Chua, when I’m in the kitchen. For someone to think that about me, especially someone who has learned from chefs at a prestigious culinary institution is huge in my eyes.

So how did I do it?

My desire to become a cake artist sparked in 2006, a year after I got my degree in Electrical Engineering from UC Irvine. There was not an abundance of information on cake decorating on the web like there is today. I would watch the Food Network Cake Challenges and literally pause and replay every minute of the show, trying to understand what techniques the cake artists used so I could try the techniques at home. My mother was an artist and I took art classes throughout my life so I was pretty comfortable with the artistic side of cake decorating. I just had to learn how to work with a new medium. Baking was a whole different story…

I would love to say that baking came naturally to but the truth is, it didn’t. I had never baked from scratch prior to the day I decided to leave engineering and work for Christopher Garren’s Let Them Eat Cake to become a cake artist eight years ago. The reality of the glamorous cake industry soon kicked in and lets just say, it was not “a piece of cake” like you would think. I was thankful for the opportunity that Chris Russom and Marjorie Chua gave me but after about 3 months I realized it was not the right career for me at the time. I ended up going back to engineering but I did not give up on my dream of being a professional cake artist. I had a passion and a determination to prove to myself that I could do it. I had MANY frustrating moments in the kitchen early on and to be honest, I still do. I’m a perfectionist so I would take it to heart when I made a mistake but I learned to embrace the “mistakes” and use them as a learning opportunity or an opportunity to improvise and create something new. It took years of hard work in addition to trial and error that got me to the point where I am now and my culinary journey is nowhere near close to being over.

Looking back at where I began and how far I have come has inspired me to start teaching private and semi-private classes in baking and cake decorating (please click here to get more information). I also plan to continue blogging my journey so that all of you could join me and learn from my successes (and failures).

Wishing you a happy new year filled with joy and happiness. May you do what you love and do it often.

~ Rubina


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