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!



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Hello everyone,

Anyone who is interested in learning more about Pulled and Cast Sugar can check out the May/June edition of the American Cake Decorating Magazine for my 4 page Tutorial.  You can learn to build a beautiful sugar garden with a few tricks to making sugar and isomalt work for you.  Let me know what you think of the article!

We had a wonderful time teaching the Isomalt Class Series up in Jacksonville last weekend!  Thank you Jane and Patrice for hosting us and inviting us back in the fall to continue with advanced classes.  I included a few pictures of Patrice’s Masks.   Patrice will be teaching her Celebration Masks at the ICES Convention in North Carolina in August!  She is amazing.  You can see a  few of Simi’s custom molded sugar pieces fit very well with the blue mask.

We are very excited the Florida ICES Day of Sharing is next Sunday 6/26 here in Melbourne!  If you would like to register for a wonderful day of learning, networking, and cake fun go to http://www.flices.org.  I’ll be giving a demo on sugar work along with other very talented cake artists you won’t want to miss.

Keep Life Sweet!