Kootenay Kitchen Confidential: Amy Cardozo, Crumbs Cakery
By Danielle Cardozo
When you think about a chef, you think of hot kitchens and dinner services, and open doors from lunch until midnight. But what about the chefs who work alone, don’t have a dining room, and whose most productive hours are between midnight at 7 a.m.? Welcome to the world of the pastry chef.
I took the opportunity to interview my sister, Amy Cardozo; owner of Crumbs Cakery Elk Valley. We chatted cakes, competition, and bridezillas. And while I’m just starting to warm up to the Baked Alaska, I have a lot of respect for the cake industry and those who rule it!
What made you decide to get into the cake business? I have always loved to bake, but I started making specialty cakes when I became pregnant with my fourth child. I craved cake on a daily basis. I don’t think a day went by when I didn’t want cake. There comes a point when you get bored of standard vanilla/chocolate frosted cakes, so I gave fondant a shot.
Is it a rewarding business? As cheesy as it may sound, the best part of the business is making people happy. I love seeing a genuine smile on their face when your customer sees their cake for the first time, or receiving feedback of how much a family member loved the cake. But it’s a tough industry. A lot of time and money goes into each cake.
So, how much time and money does go into a cake? What people don’t realize is that making a cake is so much more than just decorating a cake. There is time spent consulting with the customer, planning a custom design, shopping, baking, cooling, creating solid structures so your cake doesn’t fall over, making fillings, frostings, fondant, cake boards, packaging, and sometimes custom work like fondant or gum paste toppers or figurines. Don’t forget cleanup time. We’ve all seen what our kitchens look like after a baking spree! If you think you’re going to get into the cake business for the money, find a new industry really quickly!
So is the money aspect the most difficult part of the industry? I would have to say pricing cakes really is one of the greatest challenges. I’ve talked to many other cake artists who agree. As an artist it’s hard to know what value to place on your work. You want to make your product affordable to the market. However, you don’t want to sell yourself short. Also, I refuse to undercut the competition – it would be a disservice to them and there is no honor or pride in being the ‘cheap cake lady.’ It can become stressful, but the creativity I get to express makes it worth it to me.
What about brides? They have to add even more stress? Have you ever had a Bridezilla client? Ha ha no, I haven’t. I don’t think there is such thing as a Bridezilla. Weddings are a lot of stress and women go into that day in the hopes that it’s the only time its ever going to happen. If they want perfect, I listen to what their definition of perfect is. I think it’s all about setting expectations. I let them know everything that is in my control. I explain that which can be out of my control. Preparation is everything.
You say preparation is everything, so how do you prepare to make a cake? It’s all about giving yourself time. Time to plan, create, and sometimes extra time to correct. I have four children and am a paramedic in the Elk Valley. As a mom and a medical professional, organization and timing is everything in both of those jobs. I feel like all three jobs lend to one another when teaching me how to be organized and on time. My partner is a big part of my preparation! He’s my biggest supporter and always has my back.
So if you’re around cakes on a daily basis, you have to have a favourite. Which is your personal go-to cake flavour? It would have to be confetti cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. It must just be the kid in me; it’s always been my favorite.
Now of all the cakes you’ve made for others, which is the one you are most proud of? There are many wedding cakes that I am extremely proud of. It’s an incredible feeling when a bride tells you that the cake you made her was just another perfect part of her perfect day. But the one cake I am most proud of is the cake I made for my daughter’s last birthday. The look on her face was priceless and there’s no better feeling in the world than seeing your own child happy.
One last question. Why didn’t I get a birthday cake two weeks ago? You did, it’s in my freezer waiting to be baked. One Maple Pistachio Baked Alaska coming right up!
Ha..Ha… You’re hilarious.
While her sense of humor doesn’t quite touch mine, I’ll admit that her cake skills are far superior. It was really nice to sit down and chat to my sister about her passion for pastry. If you don’t have a special occasion to order a cake for, I do suggest that you check out Crumbs Cakery every Friday at the Sparwood Farmer’s Market, or simply check out her Facebook for occasional Cupcake Auctions!
While Amy’s favorite cake might be Confetti cake, I am partial to Red Velvet cupcakes. The taste of chocolate and buttermilk is a bit of an addiction for me! And so, I share with you, a recipe that I have coveted for many years now. If you make it, all I ask is that you do so with lots of love!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. 2. In a medium mixing bowl, sift all dry ingredients thoroughly with a whisk. 3. In a large mixing bowl, mix all wet ingredients thoroughly in your bowl mixer. 4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix until smooth and thoroughly mixed. Do not worry about over mixing. 5. Divide batter evenly into 12 cupcake tins (with liners) until filled 2/3 of the way (to avoid overflow as it bakes). 6. Bake in oven for 22 minutes.
(Hints: If you want really bright red cupcakes, use Wilton Gel Colour. You can find it at Nutter’s! If you have children with dye sensitivity, leave the dye out. They still taste the same! And to ensure that cupcakes bake evenly, I always turn mine at the halfway mark!)
I am personally not a frosting fan! I just don’t have a sweet tooth. But these traditionally go quite well with your favorite cream cheese frosting! Hope you enjoy them!
– Danielle Cardozo is a mom of three, entrepreneur, and shameless idealist. Whether it be creating it, sharing it, or writing about it; the culinary world is her ultimate passion. Danielle placed eighth on the first ever season of CTV’s MasterChef Canada, and has continued blazing her trail in the culinary world since. Danielle contributes her success to hard work and being stubborn, as she’s never believed anyone who has told her she can’t do something.