Baker Spotlight: Meet Tara Kelliher
Behind the Sugar: Blog Edition
Today we are excited to share our interview with the talented Tara Kelliher of HotCakes by Tara in Shawano, WI who donated a cake for 7 year old Dominic.
Having complete creative freedom over a cake design is typically a Cake Artists dream come true! Letting your imagination go wild, sketching out your design until your hearts content, pushing yourself to the limit, working late into the night, then pulling it all together to make a grand masterpiece to WOW everyone is typically how the process goes. But, for a passionate Cake Artist who has a mission to put a BIG smile on a little child’s face it’s all worth it! Suddenly all the worry melts away and you find a space of contention knowing you’re doing this for a family that almost never gets to celebrate any birthdays, a family that spends more time in the hospital than out, and a child that just wants to feel ‘normal’ for one day.
For Sugar Angels like Tara proving a dream cake for a special celebration is a real privilege. “I’ve really gained a new outlook after working with these families. I think I have gained a deeper appreciation for what I am able to provide with cake. I also love how inspiring this whole process is. I only have one opportunity to make this kid feel like the most important kid on the planet and possibly even a little reprieve from what they are struggling with,” said Tara when asked what she has enjoyed the most about volunteering with Icing Smiles. To date she has donated 3 dream cakes, but the one that landed her our January Baker Spotlight was the awesome superhero cake she provided for 7 year old Dominic!
In order to make Dominic’s cake, Tara thought about the superhero theme and comics came to mind, specifically the art in comics. This ended up being her main inspiration. She talked to Dominic’s mom and she told her his top 4 characters. Tara found images of each his favorite superhero’s and printed them out to the exact size she wanted them to be. She used the printouts as templates to cutout pieces of fondant. She painted each fondant cutout with gel colors thinned with vodka. Before anyone asks, don’t worry, the vodka evaporates! LOL!
Tara then made 4 background panels using the same painting techniques. To create the frames for each scene, the board, and pieces for the top she did a cracked fondant technique she learned from Cake Artist extraordinaire Liz Marek from the Sugargeek Show. She also made a little superhero topper in Dominic’s likeness out of modeling chocolate! “If given the opportunity to design a cake myself, I typically try to think as far outside of the box as possible,” she said.
Tara wanted Dominic’s cake to stand out and wanted all 4 characters to be represented equally. This is why she chose a tall square cake design. The square cakes were baked, stacked, then covered with chocolate ganache. Because square cakes can be tricky, the ganache allowed her to get nice sharp corners and edges. After the cake was chilled and firm, she applied a layer of shortening and started to apply the dried panels. She finished the cake with Dominic’s name, age, his milestone, and of course, him as his topper!
Even though Tara is self-taught and has only been decorating cakes since 2012, she contributes her skills and expertise to being an artist at heart and taking lots of online classes. Her current favorites are the Sugargeek Show, Craftsy, and The Paul Bradford Sugarcraft School.
Tara learned about Icing Smiles from a post on Facebook and accepted her first call to action in July 2014. “I was really struck by the whole concept. These families are dealing with so much! Providing a cake for a special celebration is really a privilege and I wanted to have the chance to participate. Working with Icing Smiles and the families has truly been a blessing in my life, both professionally and personally,” she said.
Thank you Tara for bringing a BIG smile to Dominic’s face! We are excited to have you as a Sugar Angel and look forward to seeing more “smiles” from you in the future!