When she made her first cake at the age of 12 (and burned her fingers to the point of blisters), Bonnie Gordon surely never imagined Toronto Life magazine would one day call her the “doyenne of cake baking” and her creations “no ordinary confection(s).”
When she made her first cake at the age of 12 (and burned her fingers to the point of blisters), Bonnie Gordon surely never imagined Toronto Life magazine would one day call her the “doyenne of cake baking” and her creations “no ordinary confection(s).” We caught up with Bonnie Gordon to chat about creating, teaching (as the doyenne of the Bonnie Gordon School of Cake Design), and cake-making.
Did you ever bake growing up?
My mom never baked and was not much of a cook either so food did not figure prominently when I was growing up. When I was 12, I decided I wanted to bake cakes so I purchased a box of cake mix, brought it home and followed the instructions perfectly. What I didn’t realize was that I had to wear oven mitts to take the cake out of the oven and burned all 10 fingers tips when I eagerly reached inside the oven to take out my cake. I still recall staring at my fingers in amazement as bubbles formed on each digit.
|Bonnie Gordon, Toronto’s “doyenne” of cakes, runs the Bonnie Gordon School of Cake Design.
So your mother wasn’t an influence when it came to baking, but how did her work as a fashion designer influence your direction?
I began my career studying fine arts and working in museums so the wedding market didn’t figure prominently, though being raised by a designer I was very aware of my heritage and its influence upon my artistic growth. Once I decided to switch careers and focus on designing wedding cakes I took to it instantly and working with brides to design one-of-a-kind cakes really was cake couture!
You have a master’s in fine arts and worked in a number of galleries in both Canada and the U.S. – how much of an influence does your experience in the art world have on your cake designing?
My training in art history, studio art and art education as well as years spent working in museums contributed a great deal to my early development as a cake designer. I was fearless in my approach to working with fondant and food colouring as I saw it as a new medium for creative expression. My studies in art history provided me with knowledge as well the means to research specific aspects of architecture and decorative arts.
When did you start making cakes?
I began taking courses at George Brown in the mid-’90s when I decided to take time off from the museum field and pursue other interests. I quickly became hooked on cakes and began travelling to study with some of the top designers in the field.
Do you remember your first cake?
My first wedding cake was for my massage therapist. I had just completed a basic cake decorating course and when she told me she was getting married I immediately offered to make her cake. When she said yes, I was terrified but thrilled! Looking back now, I am amazed the cake turned out so well.
Do you have a favourite cake from your collection over the years?
I have favourite cakes from different stages in my development and evolution as a designer.
You’ve had lots of memorable moments over the years – you’ve made cakes for movies, for a multitude of magazines and TV shows. What has been the most memorable moment for you?
Standing on the set of (the movie) The Perfect Man, with Heather Locklear whispering in my ear, “I won, I won.” I had designed the winning cake for her character, an aspiring cake designer who had entered it in a cake competition. I was standing next to her surrounded by a large film crew and over 50 extras with the second-place trophy in my hand. She was a great sport.
When did you open the school?
I began teaching casually four years ago during the fall/ winter sessions as I was receiving many requests from individuals who wished to study with me. Over the past two years I developed a wide range of classes for different skills levels and interests and we will be moving into our new school early this spring where we will expand our current programming to reach a wider market.
Your focus now is almost totally on teaching – do you miss working regularly with brides/customers
I started out as a teacher: after graduating from fine arts I went to teachers college, so I am really going full circle. Mentoring the next generation of cake designers is very rewarding and where I see myself at this point in my career. I feel it’s very important to share our experiences and skills with others and I am continually thrilled by my students’ successes within the industry. My goal is to continue to design cakes – but not for clients, for my students.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I love the enthusiasm our students bring to classes and guiding them as they turn dreams and ambition into reality.
What do you tell your students is the most important thing to know about making wedding cakes/special occasion cakes?
Never lose sight of the fact that you are creating a cake that should taste as wonderful as it looks.
What advice would you offer to anyone looking to make it in the world of professional cake decorating?
Be fearless, be passionate and never stop learning.v
To find out more about the Bonnie Gordon School of Cake Design, go to www.bonniegordoncakes.com .
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