Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Texas Baker's Bill

The following statement was published on February 21, 2011 on Facebook to the general public regarding a newspaper article that ran in the Dallas Observer and the Houston Press on the week of February 15, 2011. An anonymous source in the article claimed that Lauren does not support home bakers and defines them all as "unsanitary." Neither newspapers contacted Lauren for comments nor were any facts checked before this article was published.

Read Lauren's statement...

It’s never a fun thing to have to set the record straight, to be misquoted or misrepresented.

But this is where I find myself. An article about the Texas Baker’s Bill was recently published in the Houston Press and Dallas Observer, which unjustly claimed that I do not support the bill. That claim was false and careless, and the newspapers have posted corrections. But too little, too late.

However, all dark clouds have a silver lining, and this event has allowed me to be open and honest about a very delicate issue that I have not thought much about in the past.

The Texas Baker’s Bill is a cottage food bill going through the Texas Legislature that would allow home cake decorators in Texas to operate legitimate bakeries in their home. This bill has not passed the House yet, but support for and against is strong. Many Texas cake decorators have asked my position on this bill and it’s time they knew how I felt.

Upon graduating from college, I was faced with the question all young adults must answer. Now what am I supposed to do? I have always loved decorating cakes, and so I began making cakes out of my parent’s home kitchen.

After a few years, with no responsibilities of marriage or children, I took the plunge and got a Small Business Loan in the fall of 2001. I opened my commercial kitchen/wedding cake boutique in Dallas in the Spring of 2002. I was the beneficiary of perfect timing and opportunity.

In today’s climate, it is next to impossible to get a loan for any business. And with the economy still in the grip of recession, it seems foolish to drop $100,000 to set up a commercial kitchen with no guarantee of success. This should not be regarded as laziness on the behalf of those who do not benefit from the luck of my timing.

Home cake decorators find themselves in a trap. How do I make an income and further my skills as a cake decorator legally? It’s frustrating. I’ve been there. But I had the means to legitimize my business without having to pass state legislation. Most home bakers do not. And for this, I am extremely sympathetic.

Honestly, I had not read the bill until five days ago. And I took no public position on the matter. At first hearing, I thought the bill was a demand for home bakers to slip past the rules without going through the difficulties I went through as a start-up bakery, or the difficulties I go through as a bakery owner today. But upon reading the bill and talking to people all over the state, I see now that it fairly gives home bakers a legitimacy that they deserve.

The bill would enforce several restrictive demands on the home baker. It forces the home baker to become licensed and to pay a yearly fee, as well as a get food manager’s license. The bill forces the home baker to provide proper food labeling for any product they sell, which is something that I am not forced to do. They are even required to label their product as “made in a home kitchen that is not routinely inspected by a local health authority.”

The bill restricts home bakers on how they can sell their product and to whom they can sell it to. There is also a large portion of the bill devoted to whistle blowing, stating that they may easily be held accountable to the state health department.

Seems fair, doesn’t it?

For those in the professional world who ask, why should we legitimize home-based food service? My answer to that is simple. Why wouldn’t we support a bill that legitimizes and regulates food products? This bill sets standards that any food professional would hold important. And, I can say for certain that the Baker’s Bill poses no major competition for commercial bakeries. Not only does the bill set drastic limits on who the home baker may sell to, it also sets income limits. A home baker could never take on the load of a large professional kitchen with its employees, payroll, marketing costs, etc. These home-based bakers do not pose a threat to the gross sales of large commercial bakeries.

Where the client choses to purchase baked goods is essentially up to the client. If the client feels that a home kitchen is unsanitary, they can choose a bakery to purchase product. In turn, if a client feels a commercial kitchen is unsanitary, then they can choose a home-baker to purchase goods from. It’s all about the consumer’s needs, and these consumers are protected in this bill. And there is plenty of business to be had by all.

I am, at heart, a home cake decorator. Home is where I found my passion and nurtured it. Home is where my roots as a bakery owner began. Fancy Cakes by Lauren is a successful small business in Dallas and I am in my 10th year as a proud owner. None of this would have happened if I had not started at home.

We live in a country of choices. We can choose who to vote for, what religion to practice, and we can make life choices that affect our families. The home baker has no choice but to work in the dark. They are screaming for legitimacy and need to be commended for seeking out regulation and guidelines under which they can be held accountable. The bill needs to pass not only for these important standards, but also for these people who dedicate their lives for the betterment of our art. And I am forever respectful of their struggle and efforts to get this legislation passed.

Here is my official stance:

My name is Lauren Kitchens. I am a Texas business owner and a professional in the food service industry. And I support the Texas Baker’s Bill.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Food Network Challenge:Spongebob Cakes


When Food Network called me for this round of Challenges I told them I was most excited about Spongebob. Spongebob and Extreme Holiday Cakes were the two shows they offered.

I really wanted to make a cake of Mr. Krabs. I lobbied hard for this. I emailed the producers messages from Mr. Krabs begging them to "Let Lauren make a cake of me... ARGH!"

Then the call came. I got it!

Now I need an idea.

Krabs is an opportunist. He wouldn't celebrate anyone's birthday. He would find a way to make money from the birthday. So, I came up with a "Krabby Birthday Meal..only $9.95"

This idea had more to do with Mr. Krabs' personality and I thought the judge from Nickelodeon would appreciate it. Well, he didn't. In fact, he became aggitated by the McDonalds Happy Meal comparision and called Nickelodeon during the first hour of the competition to see if this was an issue. I think they would have asked me to take the Krabby Meal away if the Challenge producers hadn't have stepped in to save my concept. Drama!!
A requirement of all of our cakes was to include the character and their location in Bikini Bottom.

I represented the Krusty Krab restaurant in two ways. By making the green, wood-planked floor of the Krusty Krab as well as a table, this solved my issue of location. Also, each Krabby Meal box was a small replica of the Krusty Krab, inside and out. My husband's brilliant idea!

Another requirement we all had was to represent Spongebob in our cakes. Hmmmmm..... How to do that without making a full-scale Spongebob cake? The Krabby Birthday Meal action figure!! Easy!

Plankton is Mr. Krabs evil rival, and just as nasty as Krabs. So I made sure to pay tribute to him as well. In typical Plankon form, he is using a mechanical device to steel the Krabby patty.

Mr. Krabs' body was entirely sculpted out of cake....From the top of his open mouth to his bottom. I designed the structure and had my contractor weld the structure out of metal.

The eyes, claws, and legs were made from solid modeling chocolate.
Modeling chocolate is an incredible sugar medium that allows you to make super clean work very fast. Plankton, his mechanical arm, the table, floor and all the little elements were all made from modeling chocolate.

Kristen Davison's "Sandy Cheeks" cake.

This was Kristen's 6th Challenge, but it was her first as the lead of her team. She did a great job. She is known for her small-scale character work. She's fantastic!!! Kristen and her assistant, the grand Richard Ruskell, beat me at my first Challenge, Disney Classics Cakes.

It was great to see them again! She made the glass dome and helmut totally out of poured sugar! Amazing! And her character work was spot-on

The Great Bronwen Weber made the "Patrick Star" cake. I was horrified to go up against Bronwen. No one has done as many Challenges as her. She is well versed in this arena. Her ideas are great and she keeps calm and finishes her work. Not many cake artists are sculptors. She is a great sculptor!
She had to represent several acres of jelly fish fields. She did this in a great way. With the triangle composition she easily created depth. There was so much great detail in this cake. It was amazing to be competing in the same room with her.

Rick Reichart from Cake Lava in Hawaii came in as a close 2nd with his Spongebob cake. Rick is amazing and he has an incredible siginature style that he easily casts on every cake he makes. This cake was colorful and alive. It was so stylish and creative. I honestly thought he was going to win. In so many ways, he did! Great job, Rick!!!

Kerry's Comment and Salute....
At the end of the day at Face the Judges, Kerry stood up and saluted my work. She claims this cake was the best cake she has seen in Challenge.
For the record, I don't agree. But, it was the most moving statement I have ever heard from any cake authority and I was not expecting her to say anything close to this. It brought me to tears and I can only hope that my next Challenge cake will impress her all over again. The preasure is on!

My bakery girls....
Ashleigh Foster. My right hand man. At the time we shot this Challenge, Ashleigh had only worked for me for 2 months. After I hired her and saw her abilities, I asked her to come to Challenge with me. She did an amazing job! I was so proud.
Karie Snider (In the green hoodie). I love Karie. She was part of this Challenge team. The three of us worked constantly for 6 weeks straight tweeking and perfecting this cake. I work side by side with these two artists everyday. I love my cakey girls!!!!

The party.....
The day after we shot the episode the winning cake did actually go to a suprise birthday party for 7 year-old Demetrus.

So cute!!!! I love his mom, Mindy. She was our judge and so excited to see all the cakes and experience the procces of shooting the episode.
I wanted to please her just as much as Kerry and Keegan.

With an eaten head and half of a claw gone, Demetrus went straight to opening birthday gifts.
Happy Birthday, Demetrus!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Food Network Challenge: Newlywed Cakes

Newlywed Cakes…….?

The first thing I thought when Food Network asked me to do this Challenge was, “What is a newlywed cake?” I asked the producers to elaborate. They wouldn’t. In fact, they told me that Newlywed Cakes will be a challenge with a mystery client, a mystery assistant, and a twist in the judging.

No, no, no…. I’m not the right girl for this Challenge. I need time to plan and practice. I can’t jump into the bottomless pit of mystery. No. I will not do this challenge.

That was my stance until the producer of the show called me again the next week and talked me into it, telling me it will be a fun show with a lot of interaction. Ok. I’ll do it. So back to my question…What is a newlywed cake?

I thought about what it meant to be a newlywed. When I was a newlywed we had gifts and moving boxes, packing peanuts and wrapping paper…It was all over our new home. Pictures of our honeymoon, and after the long wait, our wedding portrait. This is a common story among many newlywed couples and I’m going to turn this into my blank canvas in order to tell a story of this mystery newlywed couple.

Many times in mystery challenges cake designers bring stacked tiers that look like wedding cakes. They fill up the sides of the tiers with items made to please the client. A lot of these cakes turn out great. But I love to sculpt. That’s what I do best and it’s what I bring to Challenge every time. If done well, a sculpted cake can score high points, too.

So, instead of planning on stacking round tiers and placing objects on them I came up with another plan. Essentially, my approach was very similar to what the other decorators where doing with their cakes…. Items of significance….anything on this cake that can personalize a newlywed couple. I just chose to present these items in a different way. I needed to stand out in order to win.

The morning of the Challenge was when all the missing parts came together. Each contestant got a newlywed couple. The theme was revealed… “Each cake should represent your couple’s new life together.” The husbands are our assistants and we were to design our cake together. The wives were banished from the studio all day. The cakes would be placed 4th through 1st. The 1st place cake must be identified by the wife as her cake in order to win.

The couple I got were Trey and Mandy. Trey was a great assistant. Funny and smart and very eager to win. I asked him what he thought a newlywed cake was. He was just as baffled as I was at the mention of this. I told him my idea and that I needed him to fill in all the blanks, choose the color palette (preferably his wife’s favorite colors), and make all the key design choices, including what items are in the boxes, on the scrapbook and how it’s all designed.

It was important to me that I keep the theme of this cake “newlywed.” Meaning that I wanted Trey and Mandy represented as a married couple. The theme was “their new life together” so Trey and I worked hard to make sure that all the items on the cake were post-wedding, not from when they met or anything before their wedding.

The big cardboard box tier at the bottom of the cake was to hold a large item that Trey and Mandy had bought or received for their new home. Trey chose their new dining room table.
The gift box was to hold anything that Trey thought Mandy would find significant. He bought her a diamond necklace after they got married, and he wanted me to incorporate her favorite flowers…calla lilies. Trey designed the box to match the kitchen bar in their home, which had a cool pressed letter design, and he wanted me to use the colors in their home…pink and teal. We created wrapping paper for the bottom box in the same colors to pull our palette together.

The scrapbook…. I wanted to use this for Trey and Mandy’s memories or wishes of the future. He chose their honeymoon on the beach in Mexico. Perfect!!!

The wedding portrait on top… Now, I had always intended on creating a wedding portrait of the mystery newlywed couple on my cake. I didn’t know that the cake would have to be identified by anyone until the morning of the Challenge. I had the portrait planned since I began to design this cake and the Food Network producers knew about this. Why they choose to edit this in the show as a “last minute” idea is beyond me. You can even see Trey using the stencil and pre-colored edible papers I brought to create the portrait.

No element on this cake was an after thought. It turned out that the portrait was a great idea because of the “identity” element in the end. Trey and Mandy are an inter-racial couple, but that really didn’t matter because each couple was really different from one another. One couple both had brown hair, one couple both had blonde hair, and one couple was a man with grey hair and a woman with brown hair. Each couple was very distinguishable from the next.

Trey and I had problems from the edible paper ripping, to the lid of the box sagging. But we finished on time and it was the first time in Challenge that I was able to finish a cake to completion. It felt great, and I felt lucky to have had Trey as an assistant.

I will never do another mystery challenge. Even though I won, I struggled with this one. There were too many variables, too many unknowns. I much prefer doing a character driven cake at Challenge like Mary Poppins or Elmo or Spongebob. Although the character challenges are technically more difficult and take longer to prepare for, I am able to create better work without the panic of the endless guessing games of mystery challenges.

Lauren Bozich's wonderful 2nd place cake. I loved this cake. Lauren is a friend of mine and a gifted artist. I knew she would be able to make a ton of different items for her cake and boy, did she. Every item on her cake is easily identifiable. She's a great artist and came close to beating me!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lauren is Teaching!

Muppets: 101 with Lauren Kitchens

9am to 5pm, Saturday January 30, 2010
$275 per student
at Cake Carousel in Richardson, Texas

In this fun, hands-on class, learn how to muppetize anyone, even yourself. Lauren will guide you step by step using the same techniques she used in Food Network Challenge to make a one-of-kind edible muppet.

You will build your muppet on a decorated fake tier while learning to sculpt with rice cereal treats and modeling chocolate as well as fondant work and airbrushing. All supplies included.

Visit http://www.cakecarousel.com/ to sign up!

Spongebob Challenge!!!

Lauren competed in her fourth Food Network Challenge called "Spongebob Cakes" celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Spongebob Squarepants cartoon.

Her cake..... Mr. Krabs!
The air date is April 4, 2010

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Food Network Challenge

Watch Lauren muppetize the judges while making her Elmo cake in
"Food Network Challenge: Sesame Street Cakes."

Watch Lauren's first Challenge... "Disney Classics Cakes."

Watch for Lauren's newest Challenge set to premeire January 10, 2010.
"Food Network Challenge: Newlywed Cakes"
See below for show details...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Food Network Challenge Newlywed Cakes

I shot my third Food Network Challenge called
"Newlywed Cakes"

This Challenge had a mystery theme, mystery client, mystery assistant, with a mean little twist in the judging.

Everything was revealed to us just one hour before the competition began. It was the most difficult Challenge I've done so far.

What a day!!

The episode is scheduled to air January 10, 2010.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Food Network Challenge Sesame Street Cakes

The begining of the day was wonderful. Here I am next to my Elmo armature getting ready to make the cutest cake I've ever made. My assistant, Heather, and I had all the kinks worked out during practice and nothing stood in our way of having a great day at Challenge...

...Until thirty minutes after the clock started, Heather severely burned her hand with sugar that was heated to 340 degrees. Our judge, Kerry Vincent, was the first one to come to our rescue. While the producers were bringing us bandages and burn ointment and calling the peremedics, Kerry and I were wrapping Heather's hand. I thought for sure that our day was over.

I don't know how she did it, but Heather kept working! I thought I could just get the muppets finished and submit them for judging. Heather was responsible for the two large cakes in our peice. I never imagined that she would be able to continue such a huge job with that hand in such pain. There was no stopping her.

My character was Elmo and I designed the cake as a Sesame Street parody of Food Network Challenge. Sesame Street has always used parodies on their show to entertain parents and older siblings. It's a great idea and I thought I would pull this parody idea into my cake.

Elmo is the star of my parody cake, as he has just been named the winner of the Monster Network Challenge. He is standing on top of the judges table holding his winning cake in the air. His assistant, Goldfish Dorothy, has her gold medal around her fish bowl. The host of the show, Cake'in Gerhard (Keegan Gerhard), holds Elmo's medal in his hand. The two judges, Cookie Vincent (Kerry Vincent) and Patrick Cakestand (Partick Coston), look on with excitement.

Here you see me talking to the third judge, Carol-Lynn Parente, executive producer of Sesame Street. At that point, she was sold on my idea.

The whole set is very calm and quite all day.

I made Elmo out of rice cereal treats and red modeling chocolate. The fur was modeling chocolate that I pulled through a pasta attatchement on the Kitchen Aid mixer. I think Elmo took me two hours to finish. We were so behind with Heather's burn.

There's Patrick looking over our judges' table cake. I try hard to read him when he comes around my kitchen.

Keegan is looking at the cake after I got Elmo and Cookie on. He gave me a big smile!

I'm starting to work on my third muppet, Patrick Cakestand. For some reason I was able to finish him in half the time which gave me some time to help Heather catch up.

The finishing touch on Patrick was his uni-brow. The real Patrick hated this, but I told him that I gave him the uni-brow because his eye brows are the only hair he has on his shaved head. Plus, the uni-brow is a classic muppet feature.

On to my fourth and final muppet, Cake'in Gerhard.

The chef's coats were made from a wonderful and unusual sugar product called Sugar Veil. It is pure white and very shiney. I was able to cut the pieces from large sheets that I had made.

Heather and her burned hand....Still working with a smile!

With thrity minutes left, all four muppets are up and ready. Now it's time for Elmo's cake and poured sugar fish bowl (the cause of Heather's burn).

Rush, rush, rush.... Getting little details finished as best we can.

I had to climb a ladder to get Elmo's cake up. The entire cake stood almost 5-feet tall.

Here's the winning cake. Mike McCarey's Big Bird. It was incredible. I've never seen a cake that perfect in person. He deserved his win!

Mariane Carroll's Cookie Monster cake. So cute! I loved the chef's hat and the smiling stick of butter.

Roland Winbeckler's Oscar The Grouch cake. It was great. The sugar "trash" he made at the bottom of the cake was fantastic!

So, by now you know that we didn't win. But we got the silver medal. We were both so proud to have finished the cake, especially under those circumstances.

Our cake still makes me laugh.

The judges, both sets, posing with the cake.... Classic!

Here's Mike McCarey. Check out his website. You won't believe his cakes. http://www.mikesamazingcakes.com/

Here are Marsha and Roland Winbeckler http://www.winbeckler.com/
Marianne Carroll and Lauren Bozich http://www.whiteflowercake.com/

Here are Kerry and Cookie. A match made in Heaven!

Ahhh, the silver medal. Next time gold....?

Food Network Challenge Sesame Street Cakes, original air July 26, 2009 on Food Network.


About Me

Lauren Kitchens, owner and executive chef of Fancy Cakes by Lauren, opened her bakery in 2000 and quickly became one of the premiere cake bakeries in the Dallas wedding and event industry. Lauren has her complete cake portfolio on-line at www.fancycakesbylauren.com