A Cake for Austin Scarlett

Living in New York, you never know who you'll run into.  New York City is one of those equalizing places where you run into people who you never thought you'd meet in a million years.  This, my friends, is one of those stories.

It all started a few months ago.  It was a regular day.  I was at NY Cake (a staple in the city for any baker or cake decorator) and all of a sudden, I saw someone I recognized.  Let me begin by saying I always think I see famous people and it is very rarely true that I actually see who I think I do.

So I walk up to this gentleman and ask "Were you on project Runway?"  He kindly replies, "Yes, but that was a lonnng time ago".  I, out of nowhere, get a feeling of bravery and say "Would you mind if I gave you my business card?  I would love to collaborate with you someday if the opportunity arises.  He graciously took my card and went on his way.  And that was the end of it.  Or so I thought.  I went on living my life, thinking nothing more of my encounter. 

Fast forward to mid-October.  I get a random email from Austin Scarlett's business partner asking if I would like to collaborate with Austin for the launch of his new wedding gown collection!  I re-read the email over and over just to make sure I wasn't hallucinating and that it was really true.  I was mostly floored that Austin kept my card, had an opportunity and actually thought enough of me to contact me.  And this wasn't just a cake for a birthday party... this was the opportunity to make mini cakes for the gift bags at his show and to create a large cake to be displayed along side his dresses.  In the email, his business partner said that it wasn't a large runway show but rather a smaller parlor presentation during Bridal Fashion Week with over 150 editors and publications from the wedding industry attending.  This. Was. Huge.  The other huge thing was that the presentation was going to be held in the historic Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station, which is special in itself because it is the centennial celebration.

So I immediately called my husband to tell him the good news.  His first reaction was, "Wait, when did you even meet him?"  I proceeded to tell him the story and he was so impressed with me for just putting myself out there and marketing myself (New York is a tough, saturated market to break into folks!)  I arranged to go to Austin's studio.  After emailing back and forth with Austin's business partner, Alison, I realize that it was a week out from the launch of the collection and none of the dresses are actually finished!  This was not totally surprising to me since I did watch his original season of project runway (and being an artist myself) I understand that creative types always work right up until the last second.

I arranged to go down to the Austin Scarlett Studio on a Thursday night.  The studio was located in the heart of the garment district.  If you've never been to the garment district, imagine the most beautiful beading and lace and fabric in every window as far as the eye can see.  It is amazing.  I was in heaven and I wasn't even to the studio yet!  I finally get to the studio and there were at least 8 people working feverishly, but the mood was surprisingly light and fun.

Austin came right up to me and introduced me to his team.  Then, Austin then did the most flattering thing... he introduced me to his sister and then out of the blue pulls out my original card and starts bragging about MY WORK to his sister!  You always hear about famous people having big heads or being cocky but Austin was just so genuine and kind.  I wanted to make an amazing cake for him before, but now, I wanted to make an kick-ass cake that he would be proud to have at the launch of his new collection.

Austin then showed me around his studio.  He showed me each of the dresses in the collection and let me take photos for reference.  I know the dresses weren't completely finished, but I was still floored.  Austin and his team do truly breathtaking work.  Austin then showed me his inspiration board and took the time to talk to me about his work.  With a week left until his launch you'd think he would have rushed me out so they could have gotten back to work, but no.  He really took the time to make me feel welcome and invited me on this journey with him and his team.  (Can you tell I'm like Austin's #1 fan now?!)

Before I left I asked him if I could have a few fabric swatches to match the textures and colors of his dresses.  I was expecting the kind of swatches you get from the fabric storea 2"x2" square of nothingness....  But much to my surprise he brought me a bag, FULL to the brim with different fabrics!

I snapped a few photos on my way out and left with my head full of ideas! I couldn't wait to get home and start sketching... Actually, I take that back... I believe I started sketching on the train ride home!

Sometimes translating an idea into a beautiful cake can be difficult.  People come to you with a kitchen sink kind of idea for a cake... You know, I want the cake for my husbands birthday to have all of the things he loves: golf and poker and the newspaper and video games and running shoes and this and that.... And it is up to the cake designer to edit, scale back and make a cohesive cake.  This was not one of those situations.  The whole time I was at Austin's studio I couldn't help but think how easy his designs would translate into cake.  My sketch came together on the subway ride home from Austin's studio.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do and couldn't wait to get start. 

I decided to use of one of the most memorable dresses as inspiration for the main cake design.  It was full of light fluffy ruffles, as far as the eye could see.  The other design I was drawn to was almost feather design with sequins.  It was truly breathtaking and a design I couldn't stop thinking about.

For the gift bag desserts, we decided on 2.5" mini cakes.  The cake itself was a delicious fresh lemon cake with raspberry perseveres and vanilla swiss meringue buttercream covered with a high quality fondant.  I didn't want to make the mini cakes too complicated because I knew I was going to be making A LOT, so I end up creating a small fondant appliqué matching the design of the large cake with sugar draqee and sugar pearl detail.  We finished off the mini cakes by placing them in clear boxes with a Katherine Sprules Cake Designs sticker.

The day of the show came quickly but we couldn't have been more excited!  As I mentioned before, the show was held at the Campbell Apartment at Grand Central Station.  The study is beautiful and grandiose with dark wood paneling and a gorgeous bar and fireplace.  The show was fabulous and understated all at the same time.

The models stood along the perimeters of the room while a photo station was set up at the back of the room, complete with lights and decor.  It was really interesting to watch because although there was a full photo station in the back of the room to take brilliant photos with perfect light, people were also invited to walk up to the models standing along the perimeter of the room and snap photos and take a closer look at the fabrics and details.  Most of the editors and press were snapping photos with their iPhones, which I found kind of funny... but made sense.  Gotta love the convenience of the iPhone!  If you don't believe me check out the instgram hashtag #austinscarlett

The dresses were beautiful, the setting was intimate and cozy, yet extremely sophisticated.  Austin found me out the crowd, gave me a kiss on the cheek and a warm hug and told me how much he loved my cake.  He said it was perfect and he was so happy with my interpretation of his designs.  Phew.  We snapped a photo in front of my cake (he certainly is a snappy dresser!)

When the show was winding down I went up to the dressing room take a look at the dresses I might have missed and much to my surprise the dress I had modeled the detailing of the cake after, didn't even make the final cut!  Oh well, Austin still loved the cake and it was a great opportunity for my work to be seen by the main stream wedding market. 

The show was a complete success and I was really happy to have met Austin Scarlett and his entire team.

So what's the moral of my story you ask?  Take a chance.  You never know when you'll meet someone who will take a chance on you.

Check out my instagram feed at @ksprulescakes