Hi everyone!

I had the opportunity recently to interview talented sugar artist, Tami Utley.  Tami is from San Diego, CA, and last year she came to our classroom at Simi Cakes to teach.  It was so much fun learning techniques such as oriental stringwork, brushed embroidery, cocoa painting and gelatin bubbles and gems.  I will attach pictures below.  Tami specializes in sugar flowers and piping skills, and teaches classes all over the country, and is featured in many magazines and on CakeFu.com.  She also makes DVD tutorials and videos for Yummy Arts.  Check out her classes and her beautiful work at www.sugarartbytami.com .  She will be coming back to our classroom this November so make sure you stay tuned for details!! Enjoy!

Sidney- When and how did you get started in cake decorating?  Where you always artistic?

Tami– I started cake decorating in 1989 after my first son was born. I tried to make a cake for my husband’s birthday, like my mom did for me; it was awful!!!  I decided to take theWilton course and got hooked!  Especially when I saw the fondant, gum paste and foreign techniques.  I’d never seen anything like that before and I had to know how to do it.  Those lessons were hard to come by, and at that time, nothing was premade.  Fondant and gum paste had to be made at home, nothing was available premade.  Same with the tools and books, there were a few, but hard to get in my area.  Would I consider myself artistic? No way.  I’ve always done crafts, even as a kid, you name it and I do it. But I’m more like a craftsman.  I have an extremely hard time thinking up new ideas for cakes and projects, but at the same time, the freedom of expression is wonderful.  I really envy those that can do this as a full time job.

Sidney- Out of all the mediums you use and teach, which one is your favorite to work with?


Tami- Gosh, the mediums I like change all the time.  Right now of course it’s Gelatin!  What else would you have expected me to say?  I suppose gum paste flowers have always been a favorite of mine though.    My mother has such a beautiful garden, and I have a major brown thumb, it’s my way of ‘growing’ all the beautiful flowers I want.  And I get to visit my mom’s garden for the perfect specimens to make them.

Sidney- You write for magazines, teach, travel, film, decorate cakes, how do you find time to do all of this with a full time job?


Tami- I don’t take coffee breaks…ha ha…sorry.  I’m constantly on the go once I’m off my regular job.  I’m pretty organized and keep lists for what I need to get done.  The key is to have a realistic idea of how long something takes to do. Really, when you’re obsessed with sugar art, it’s all you think about.  No matter where I’m at I’m looking for new ideas, thinking up new classes and projects, and use every chance I get to plan (like when I’m sitting in traffic).  Since I’ve been teaching for over 18 years, I know what I need for my students so I can get it done ahead of time.  Usually every evening and weekend is filled with cake stuff.  I’m either prepping for videos or class, trying out new ideas, writing instructions or cleaning (yup, ya gotta do that too).  I couldn’t do this when my sons were younger, but now that they are grown, I have more free time.  And my family really helps out.  I don’t know how they really feel about the cake decorating, but they help when they can and at least feign interest when I show them something new.   I have to admit, sometimes I’m over extended.  But even when I try to relax and just sit, I find myself popping up and working on something cake related.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do all I want to do, or just sit and play with sugar, work on my website or do a blog.

Sidney- How did you get involved in working with Yummy Arts?

Tami- Yummy Arts was a happy accident for me. Michael first approached me after I did a demonstration for our Cake Show inSan Diego.  I was excited, but then didn’t hear back from him.  He approached me again the following year, I thought to myself, ‘yeah, sure…’ but he did call this time.  I went into his studio and filmed my first couple projects.  I was very nervous, but since I’d been teaching for some time already, it was just a matter of getting used to no feedback from a camera like you do with students.  We have a lot of fun off the camera and the people at YA are incredible.

Sidney– Your DVD’s are very informative.  How many hours go into filming a DVD?

Tami-    I film about 7-8 hours each time I go into the studio, and do 3 projects.  However, there are days of prep before filming.  Usually 4 or 5 days for me, only because several pieces usually need to be made in advance because of drying time.  And because a lot of things I have in my head, don’t come out when I actually ‘do’ them, ugh.  I also only get to prep on weekends I’m not teaching or evenings, so it takes longer.  I also do research on the internet, like looking up real flowers to make sure the gum paste one is correct.   A DVD needs to be at least an hour film time after editing, so shooting time is usually 2-3 hours minimum for a DVD.  It depends on the project and how many ‘takes’ to get it done right.  My Lambeth cake DVD’s take much longer, since there is a lot of repetition, those are about 4-6 hours filming (over 2 days) with a lot of the repetition edited out, don’t want to put the viewer asleep.

Sidney- Do you prefer teaching classes to making DVD’s?

Tami- Making the DVDs take a lot of work, and a lot of prep, I’m exhausted after a day of filming. But the editors can remove goofs and Scott (our cameraman/director) is so much fun to work with.  Classes take less prep, but if you goof, you can’t do it over…so it’s a toss-up. I would say I prefer the classes though.  I love the interaction with my students, and seeing the finished projects. I make so many new friends teaching.  Also, the more questions and feedback I get, the better to improve my teaching skills. This is very important to me.

Sidney– We enjoyed learning about gelatin bubbles in your interview on CakeFu.  How do you prepare for a long distance online interview?

Tami- Well….CakeFu was my first long distance interview, and I was very nervous.  It was a little hard for me to hear Amelia as my cell phone reception is shaky in the house.  I hope I answered her questions completely without being too talkative (I do get carried away sometimes).  She was very nice and I can’t thank her enough for having me as a guest.  I really didn’t know what to do to prep other than how I normally teach and drawing on that background.  I’ve taught the bubbles for a couple years now, and I can usually guess where the students will want clarification.  But since you just never know what someone will ask, it’s a little scary.  And sometimes you just have to say, ‘I don’t know’.   The bubble pictures and blurbs underneath were done ahead of time, and I had all my notes on the points I wanted to make, so that was about all I could do.  I have to say… I’m uncomfortable talking about myself, so the beginning part where she asks about your accomplishments and background were the hardest!!!  (www.cakefu.com)

Sidney- Congratulations on teaching at the ICES Convention.  What are you teaching?  And where else can students find you this year?   

Tami- This year I’m very excited to be demonstrating at ICES in Reno, Thursday August 2 at 9 AM.  I’ll be demonstrating the gelatin bubbles, gems and the ‘glass’ slipper.  I’ll also be teaching in Pennsylvania (near Reading) in July and of course back to Florida in November (woo hoo!!).  I teach 1 Saturday a month at Do It With Icing, in San Diego and of course do videos/DVD with Yummy Arts.  I will have an article coming out in ACD hopefully this year on the Gelatin Slippers.  I’m not a photographer, so hopefully the photos are good enough for print.  I also do an occasional tutorial for Jennifer Dontz.  She has a newsletter she does monthly from Sugar Delites and is gracious enough to let me submit tutorials.  I just did a chocolate wrap tutorial for the February newsletter and will do another tutorial when time permits.  Those are free and anyone can sign up for them.  If anyone wants to have me teach in their area, just contact me through my website www.sugarartbytami.com

Sidney– What haven’t you tried in cake decorating that you would like to explore?

Tami- I’ve tried just about everything.  But there are many things I haven’t really worked in enough to feel confident in them.  Nirvana is one, I’ve done lots and lots of run sugar, but not a structural one like Nirvana style cakes. Another is cake structures, you know, those 3 foot tall structures that defy gravity.  They look like people, animals or stacks of dishes… I really want to do those.  I don’t own an airbrush, although I’ve tried them, it would be nice to use one consistently.  And of course I want to be more proficient in pulled and blown sugar, so get readySidney, I’ll be coming to you for lessons!


Here is Tami’s website:www.sugarartbytami.com    Check out her amazing tutorial online and her beautiful work and then come take a class with her in November here in Florida!

Now, we are off to Virginia for the National Capitol Area Cake Show (www.cakeshow.org) this weekend and, of course, after that is the FloridaICED Cake Competition in Ocala, Fl (www.floridaiced.com) March 31 and April 3!! We are so excited.  If you are interested in attending there are still spots open in the demos!  Hope to see everyone there!

Until next time, Keep Life Sweet!



Email: info@simicakes.com

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Simi Cakes

& Confections, llc

Just a quick note to let you know I have a tutorial on CakeFu.com on Carving and Decorating the 3D Dog Cake.  Here is the link:  http://www.cakefu.com/how-to-make-an-easy-3d-dog-cake/

I’ll be teaching the 3D Dog Cake in Ocala and Palm Bay in the upcoming months and it’s really great fun to carve this huge dog and see him all put together.

I look forward to writing upcoming articles on all things sugar!  Don’t forget to check out the bi-monthly CafeFu Master Series at http://www.cakefu.com and sign up for their training’s.  Thanks Amelia and CakeFu!

Enjoy and Keep Life Sweet,





March 1, 2012

Simi Cakes
& Confections, llc

    We had an exciting and productive trip to Austin, TX, for “That Takes the Cake” Show and Competition!  I did demos all weekend at our vendor booth and met so many wonderful people from Texas and around the world (Hannah from Singapore-we can’t wait to see how our Isomalt works there!).  I got to try out wonderful products in our molds from Satin Fine Foods, Icing Images, Get Sassie, Cake Play, and disco dusts from Cake Carousel.  We were lucky enough to meet incredible sugar artist Peggy Tucker and her fashionista sister Sally who create tailored chef coats.  We are measured and can’t wait for them to come in!  The cakes in the show were phenomenal!  The theme this year was the Renaissance and it didn’t disappoint!  I’ve added many pictures of cakes at the bottom for you to see.  There were huge dragons and castles as well as upright motorcycles and gelatin paintings. Next year the theme will be “Wings”.  There were great classes, it was awesome  to get to meet my favorite stars in the sugar world, enjoying the beautiful cakes, and shopping at over 60 vendors.  Thank you to Jennifer for a great show, to Kyla for inviting us and then getting us a microwave and chef torch and I love your special energy, and thank you to all the incredible volunteers who worked  with a smile to make sure we were taken care of at all times.  It was a huge amount of work and we know how many hours went into putting it on and it was a huge success!  And a very special “Thank You” to our beautiful new friend Brenda Byrd for all your help and driving to get us to and from the show with all our supplies.  You are truly the kindest angel and we will see you in Reno!  We can’t wait to come back next year for the show!http://thattakesthecake.org/index.php/main/
            Now we are so excited to get to the Florida ICED Cake Competition in Ocala!  It will be March 31 & April 1 at Circle Square Cultural Center in Ocala, FL.  If you haven’t heard, this years theme is Masquerade Ball!  I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!  Have you gotten your registration in yet?  There will be divisions for Masquerade Ball Theme, Accessories, and Edible Images Cakes.  There will be 4 categories for each division: Youth, Novice, Advanced, and Professional.  There will be celebrity judges, great demo classes, live challenge, cakes, vendors, kids corner, and so much more.  The prizes are huge!  You have to check them out at www.floridaiced.com .  We hope to see you there!
    In my next blog I’ll be interviewing Tami Utley after her tutorial on CakeFu!  Tami will be back at Simi Cakes in Florida in November and we’ll have all the details soon.

    If you have an event you would like listed on the calendar please email us.  Also, please follow us on Face Book at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Simi-Cakes-Confections/121435164568456 and Twitter @simicakes!  And if you take pictures of your cakes/sugar pieces that you used our molds and equipment we would love for you to share it with us!
Tip of the week:  Never use water on your gelatin creations, it will dissolve!  Use more gelatin to glue pieces together, plus it adds strength and stability. 
Class Schedule
Additional Classes will be added soon.  Check back for updates.  If you would like to host a class in you area please email us at info@simicakes.com
March 4-Sunday-Ocala at Icing on the Cake with Sidney Galpern
10-12pm-      Henna Cakes-Learn Henna Techniques to decorate ornate cakes
12:30-5:30-   Topsy Turvy Cakes-Build a 3 Tier Topsy Turvy Cake with a Cherry Blossom Theme-5 hours
March 11 Sunday-West Palm Beach at Cakes Etc with Sidney Galpern
Advanced Airbrushing-Creating stencils and a dragon head
March 15-Thursday-Daytona Beach at Sweet Beginnings Cake Club 7pm Billows with Sidney Galpern
March 24 & 25-National Capital Area Cake Show Annandale, VA-Isomalt Demos in the Vendor Hall  http://www.cakeshow.org/March 31 Ocala-Florida ICED Cake Competition-

  www.floridaiced.comApril 1     Ocala-Florida ICED Cake Competition www.floridaiced.com

April 14 Saturday-Palm Bay at Simi Cakes www.simicakes.com
10-12pm-      Airbrushing 101
12:15-2:15-   Henna Cakes
2:30-4:30-     Elegant Chocolate Garnishes-Fans, Curls, Carnations.  Fun with a Pallet Knife and Tempering Chocolate the easy way.
April 27-29-Orlando-Festival of Chocolate  www.festivalofchocolate.com

May-TBA-Greensboro, NC-2 Day Isomalt Class Series with Sidney Galpern
Class 1-Cast Isomalt including gems and color
Class 2-Pulled Sugar Garden-Vines, swirls, leaves, roses, and calla lilies
Class 3-Blown sugar bubbles, hearts & apples and spun sugar bowls
Class 4-Advance blown animals-Dolphin, swan, and hummingbird
Class 5-Stained Glass Sugar
Class 6-Isomalt ribbons and bows
May 6 Sunday-Ocala-Icing on the Cake with Sidney Galpern

10-1pm-        Blown Sugar Animals:  Create Beautiful Dolphin, Swans, and Humming Birds-Advanced  Sugar Class
1:30-6:30-     3 Tiered Pillow Cake-Carve, decorate, and assemble a beautiful 3 tier pillow cake

May 19 Saturday-Palm Bay at Simi Cakes
-12pm-         Advanced Airbrush-Creating your own stencils and create an airbrushed fondant dragon head
12:30-5:30-     3 Tiered Pillow Cake-Carve, Decorate, and assemble a beautiful 3 tier pillow cake
June 3 Sunday-Ocala-Icing on the Cake with Sidney Galpern
10-12pm-       Fondant Dog Figures
12:30-5:30-    Carved Dog Cake-Carve, stack, and decorate a 2 foot 3-D dog cake
June 9 Saturday-Palm Bay at Simi Cakes
10-12pm-      Edible Origami and Gelatin Bows
12:30-5:30-   Topsy Turvy 3 Tiered Cake with a Cherry Blossom Theme
June-TBA-Lisa Menz of the Florida ICED will teach Sugar Veil Shoe at Simi Cakes in Palm Bay
Summer TBA-Isomalt Class Series-Tampa, Fl

Aug 4 Saturday-Reno, NV-ICES Convention www.ices.org
12:30-1:30-   Blown Sugar Dolphins, Swans, and Humming Birds by Sidney Galpern

Aug TBA-Gulfport, MS-2 Day Isomalt Class Series with Sidney Galpern

                        Class 1-Cast Isomalt including gems and color
Class 2-Pulled Sugar Garden-Vines, swirls, leaves, roses, and calla lilies
Class 3-Blown sugar bubbles, hearts & apples and spun sugar bowls
Class 4-Advance blown animals-Dolphin, swan, and hummingbird
Class 5-Stained Glass Sugar
Class 6-Isomalt ribbons and bows
Nov TBA-Palm Bay-Tami Utely returns to Simi Cakes in Palm Bay!
Keep Life Sweet!!
Sidney & Michelle