Award-winning cake decorator Rosalind Chan Has made baking cakes an art form. Drawn to baking from a very young age, coupled with a keen eye for detail and colour, Rosalind Chan aspired to pursue her childhood interest when she grew up. When the opportunity came up 13 years ago, Chan turned her passion into a profession and set up Rosalind's Cake Artistry, specialising in teaching cake decorating and sugarcraft.
“From the age of nine, I already had a strong interest in baking and cake decorating, a passion I shared with my mother. She was my mentor; from that young age, I was the one responsible for all the baked goodies during festive seasons. I always stood in awe of my mother who was a very keen cake decorator. When I saw what she could do with a piping bag, I knew I had to learn to be as good as her,” said Chan in an e-mail interview recently.
Chan never forgot her childhood dream when she furthered her studies overseas. When she took up secretarial and business studies in Britain and then, a BA from the American University of Sarasota through an affiliated British night school, she continued with her hobby and sold cakes to earn pocket money.
“While I was living in Britain, I took up various courses in cake decorating and joined competitions. I actually only started professionally in this business (teaching) after I immigrated to Canada 13 years ago,” said Chan, whose impressive credentials include an advanced Wilton Method instructor certificate, masters diploma in cake decorating from the Wilton School in Chicago, advanced Australian Method diploma, diploma in Lambeth Method of cake decorating, and numerous certificates in sugarpaste, chocolate and advanced cake decorating techniques.
The 43-year-old mother of three has conducted cake-decorating courses for people from various walks of lives ranging from homemakers and professionals to pastry chefs in countries such as Canada (Toronto), Japan (Tokyo), China (Shanghai, Harbin and Guangzhou), Singapore and Malaysia (Ipoh, Penang and Kuala Lumpur). She has appeared on Canadian radio and television, and is a member of the British Sugarcraft Guild, Canadian Society of Sugar Artistry and International Cake Exploration Society. She has also won numerous local cake awards from the Canadian Society of Sugar Artistry, including one for her sugar creation of an eagle, perched on a log, ready to take flight.
“However, my most memorable achievements were when I won the Wilton Method International Instructor of the Year award for 1997, and when I was inducted into the Wilton Hall of Fame in Chicago the same year.
“The Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionary Art (Chicago) has been the world leader in cake decorating education for generations. It was in 1929 that Dewey McKinley Wilton first began to teach the now-famous Wilton Method. It started with age-old cake decorating traditions, enhanced by constantly developing and ever-refining creativity,” said Chan, who has taught her art at Durham Board of Education (adult night school), Lewiscraft, Bulk Barns, and Michaels & Loblaws Marketplace, all in Toronto, since she moved to Canada.
The cake artist, who makes it a point to conduct cake-decorating courses at least once a year in Malaysia, teaches the various techniques she has acquired, including the Wilton Method using butter cream and royal icing, the Lambeth Method (old English overpiping), gumpaste/ sugarpaste flowers, non-toxic cold porcelain flowers using cornstarch and the Australian Method.
“It's really quite easy to pick up skills in cake decorating. You just need to have an interest in this art coupled with a bit of creativity. Patience plays an important role as well as most of the finer works of cake decorating often involves very delicate, intricate and time-consuming pieces.
“All it takes for one to succeed is a love for cake decorating together with the right instructions and techniques,” Chan added.
Does she miss anything about Malaysia? After all, she travels back to Malaysia at least once a year.
“Yes, I definitely miss the local food very much and tuck in as much as I can whenever I'm back. I also miss my childhood friends and hope to meet up with them this time around.
“For this year's visit home, I will be conducting two cake-decorating courses, namely the Wilton Method – Levels 1 to 3 – and Exotic Sugarcraft Flowers. Time permitting, I hope to meet up with some friends and chat over a meal of my favourite Ipoh hor fun, satay and of course, laksa!”
Chan, who is currently writing a book on cake decorating, also hopes to establish a school in Toronto to help aspiring cake decorating instructors to achieve their dreams.
“I'm working on setting up a full-fledged local cake decorating school affiliated with North America where a student can have the options of learning the finer techniques of cake decorating, become a certified instructor and be able to teach and spread the Wilton Method in their own hometowns or pursue it just for the fun of it on a personal basis.”
And what gives her the greatest joy in her work?
“I guess for most people, it would be the compliments received on their work or cake pieces, but for me, it is the joy of seeing my students' faces light up when they graduate with their masterpieces. The appreciation and fulfilment that I get from my students are beyond words.
“To be able to successfully teach a person that has totally no experience whatsoever in cake decorating and who can't even hold an icing bag correctly on the first day of the course, and then seeing them put together their final three-tiered wedding cake complete with their own hand-piped decorations on the final day, and the joy on their faces when they complete their pieces, is a highly gratifying experience for me.
“I love teaching more than I love selling my cakes, and the appreciation that I receive from my students beats it all. Students who have interests in this art sometimes do not have the financial means to pursue this course abroad in the Wilton School in the United States. They are just so appreciative when I can bring this course to them locally, and they graduate with an internationally recognised Wilton certificate.”
To potential cake decorators out there, Chan had this to say: “If you have a dream or a hobby, pursue it, achieve it, you never know where it may lead you some day!”