Tanya Ross is a self-confessed self-taught sugarcraft-aholic! Since being bitten by the bug, she has turned her talents to creating some stunning novelty cakes, and is making a name for herself in the Irish Sugarcraft field. I caught up with Tanya in between her getting orders finished and preparing for this year’s Dublin Sugarcraft Guild competition.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where are you from?
I am currently based in the centre of Ireland in a little town called Moate, but am originally from Cape Town, South Africa… I will never take good weather for granted again!
What first got you interested in Sugarcraft?
I’m not sure exactly when my sugarcraft addiction started, I have always enjoyed decorating cakes (Although up until about two and a half years ago I was only using buttercream as I was terrified of trying sugarpaste for the first time!) and trying out new techniques. I have been playing with sugarcraft now full time for just over two years, and I believe that I have the best job in the world!
What would you say is your area of specialty?
Ooooh, that’s a tough one! I don’t know about specialty, but I love doing novelty cakes and carved cakes, you get to try new things with them…but I really enjoy the wedding cakes too, so I guess I’m happy to play with most techniques and love being asked to do something a bit different from the norm.
What areas would you like to learn more about and improve in?
I always want to learn more and there is always room for improvement, but if I had to pick one thing specifically to learn right now, I guess it would probably be sugarwork, I love using isomalt and would like to learn more about blown sugar work. Oh and chocolate work….and structures for extreme cakes…oh and…..erm I am thinkimg I don’t really have a straight answer to this question 😉
What classes have you attended, and what classes would you recommend to others?
I am mainly self taught, but love going to classes, my first class was an Introduction to Sugarcraft class in the Athlone Institute of Technology with the very talented Sharon Sweeney of Cannaboe Confection. My next class then was a flower class with the very talented Betty Broderick of Athlone Sugarcrafters and I try to take classes whenever I can since. I have been lucky enough to meet some of my cake heroes and have done a few classes with them, I have been truly lucky!
Where do you get your inspiration and ideas?
Different places really, mostly from listening to the customers that usually triggers something. Sometimes you start off with one idea and it takes on a life of it’s own and evolves into something else.
Whose work has inspired you?
Wow, so many artists to choose from, my Facebook newsfeed is more about cakes than friends and family most of the time….does that make me a bad person 😉 I love Karen Portaleo’s work, and Alan Dunn and Kelvin Chau and Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes and Sharon Wee and and and….oh dear, another question I can’t answer!
What do you find the most challenging aspect of your Sugarcraft?
The most challenging aspect is fitting it all in. I make plans and work out time scales with good intentions and then get carried away and the schedule goes out the window! It’s always finished on time, but usually that is because of sleep deprivation….well something has to give!
What is the one tool that you couldn’t do without?
Are there any other tools/gadgets etc that you would recommend for someone just starting out?
A good sharp knife, a good rolling pin and modelling tools (ball tool etc.) will get you going, I sometimes have to remind myself that I really CAN live without the latest gadgets, no matter how cool they are! (I’m not always very convincing and because of this I have some lovely cake toys 😉
What are some of the awards that you have won over the years?
I entered my first competition nearly two years ago and I was convinced I wouldn’t win anything, but wanted to do it for the experience. I was shocked and delighted to be awarded two silvers and a best in class. Since then I have entered a few more and have been awarded golds which is a great feeling!
My favourites seem to change all the time, I may be guilty of getting a little too attached to some cakes as I am making them! My falcon cake is special to me as it was a first and I had such amazing feedback on it at the show. But I also loved doing the horse head sculpture and the isomalt peacock cake and my current favourite is my 3D elephant cake which is a recent one. (next month’s answers may be different again 😉
What is your proudest moment/achievement?
Wow, again I am stumped. At the moment is would be having my elephant cake featured in this month’s issue of Cake Masters Magazine. Being asked to teach sugarcraft would be up there in my proud moments too without doubt!
What is the strangest request for a cake that you ever received?
Well I am not sure I can share the very strangest ones on here as it is rather embarrassing. But there are some other wierd ones too, like a barefoot with bright red nail varnish on the toes, wearing an ankle bracelet and with a stiletto heeled shoe next to it on a cushion…..I will leave the conclusions up to you!
I have also just finished a flying pig cake which was a little unusual too, but great fun to make.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
As clichéd as it sounds, just to have fun, don’t bog yourself down with technicalities and enjoy trying new things. Learn from the people you enjoy being around….caking should be fun and not a chore! I promised myself that when I stop enjoying it I will stop caking, because I am sure it shows in the results.
Have you got any tips or secrets that you would like to share with our readers?!
Have fun and don’t be afraid to try new things. As for a secret…….. I’m terrified that one day people will realise that I make things up as I go along!
Can you give us a link to your website so that we can have a look at some of your work?
You can come and visit me on my Facebook page Novel-T Cakes
Thanks Tanya for giving us some of your precious time! We look forward to following your work and seeing what you come up with next!