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Batter Chatter: Interview with Robin Koelling of Bittersweet Originals

There are cakes--and then there are the cakes you remember forever: perfect pink-frosted birthday cakes from childhood; Grandma's secret-recipe chocolate cake; dream-inducing holiday bûche de Noël. Cakes are very much connected with memory, and nobody understands this more than Robin Koelling of Bittersweet Originals. Her cakes have an instantly-nostalgic feel that you can't help but fall in love with; while she only works by special order in McPherson, Kansas, Cakespy predicts that her beautiful cakes are bound for a bigger audience! In an email interview, here's what we learned about life, cake, and what flavors rule in Kansas:

Cakespy: First off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started in cake design? Are you formally trained in cake decorating?
Bittersweet Originals: I would say "formally trained by trial and error"! My grandmother bought me a Wilton starter kit (with plastic decorating bag, a few tips, and little tubes of food coloring) for my birthday when I was eight. I was hooked! I've always made my kids' birthday cakes, treats for school events and holidays, but didn't really start thinking about it as a business until about a year ago.

CS: Do you work primarily by special order, or is there a retail location where individuals could sample your work?
BSO: I work primarily by special order and word of mouth. Sometimes I go out and about with samples of my marshmallow fondant decorated vanilla sugar cookies along with a business card and gift certificate and just introduce myself to people. Cakespy note: Although it is not a good idea to eat candy from strangers, we would probably eat a marshmallow fondant vanilla sugar cookie from Robin if she approached us on the street.

CS: What are some fun occasions you've done cakes for (other than weddings)?
BSO: Mainly birthdays I would say. I've also done decorated teacup and pocketbook shaped sugar cookies for a Mary Kay Cosmetics event, which was cool.

CS: What is the most important aspect in making a great cake?
BSO: Having a plan! That and not trying something on a cake before you've actually practiced it!

CS: Are you totally OD'd on cake, or do you still enjoy eating it?
BSO: I love cake. Actually I think it should be a food group. I have a habit of eating the cake first and saving the icing for last.

CS: Are you noticing an upward trend in cupcakes for weddings? It's all the rage here in Seattle.
BSO: Definitely! I think they're a nice departure from the traditional tiered wedding cake. With so many different, unique ways of decorating these days the possibilities are endless!

CS: What is the ideal beverage to accompany cake, in your opinion?
BSO: Tea, good coffee, or a light, not too sweet type of punch.

CS: What is your most popular cake flavor?
BSO: White almond sour cream or citrus.

CS: Do you have any cookbooks or bakers in particular who inspire you?
BSO: I like the Cake Doctor's cook book. I'm inspired by decorators like Kylie Lambert, and baker's such as Paula Deen and Martha Stewart.

CS: What are your most memorable baking experiences?
BSO: I like decorating cakes and cookies for my family's birthdays and events. It's just really satisfying for me to make something special for them that they'll enjoy.

CS: Have you ever had a cake get ruined en route to a delivery? What did you do?
BSO: I haven't had a cake ruined en route yet...knock on wood! I have however come back into the room to find my to youngest kiddos eating handfuls of cake!

CS: Do you have any guilty pleasure store-bought desserts? Be honest.
BSO: I love cheesecake, any kind. And I've been known to wait in a long drive through line of cars at Starbucks for more than one of their Cranberry Bliss Bars!

CS: What is next for Bittersweet Originals? Any goals or plans for the future?
BSO: I'd like to expand my business to make it full time and open a studio. Right now my primary job is in Health care, but decorating is a way for me to be creative and I love doing it!

To find out more, see her designs or to contact Robin about a custom cake order, visit bittersweetoriginals.blogspot.com.

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