'Extreme Cakeovers': Become a Decorating Expert

We chatted with Sasha and Rick Reichart of cakelava about cake décor and their book

'Extreme Cakeovers'

Want professional-grade cakes? Pick up this book!

For the average home baker, cake decorating doesn’t necessarily come naturally. And when cake experts like Rick and Sasha Reichart of cakelava tell you that creating a cake like the masterpieces you see on the extreme decorating shows is actually a breeze, you may be inclined to erupt into a series of uncontrollable laughing fits. But, really, these two are not all talk and they have a book to prove it. Extreme Cakeovers is like the mecca of cake décor, teaching your how to turn store-bought cakes into a gorgeous masterpiece.

"We were inspired to write Extreme Cakeovers because we wanted to bring cake decorating — which can be technically challenging and intimidating to people — to a more accessible level for the average person," says Reichart. "We identified what we felt were the obstacles in cake decorating that would prevent someone from being able to make a beautifully decorated cake, and started addressing each one of these. The biggest obstacle being the lack of cake decorating experience and the cost of the specialized baking and cake decorating supplies."

To steal some of her expertise and learn more about the road to creating Extreme Cakeovers, check out our fun interview with the cake guru and pick up a copy of the book today!

Tell us a little bit about your journey to cakelava.

Sasha: Our journey to cakelava started in Los Angeles when Rick was working for a well-known cake design company and I was cooking professionally in restaurants. He had spent many years working for other people and wanted to follow his dream of opening his own custom cake shop. At the time, there were very few people in Hawaii making custom cakes, and I had family on Oahu, so we made a huge leap of faith, and left our jobs and moved to Oahu to open cakelava. I was interviewing for sous chef positions at the time, but made the tough decision to support Rick's dream and run the business side of cakelava. Since I had marketing and PR experience in addition to culinary, I felt I had the right skills to make that transition. We opened in 2005, and cakelava was well received by both customers and the media from the beginning. Rick developed his own style and we had an anything-goes approach to cakes. We've been very lucky to have had so many amazing opportunities, including being on Food Network, teaching cake decorating all over the world, and one of our proudest accomplishments, writing Extreme Cakeovers and working with Clarkson Potter publishers, which was a dream come true for us!

Do you have any favorite decorating tools?

Rick: My favorite cake decorating tools are not necessarily designed for cake decorating, but rather tools that artists use, like paintbrushes and my airbrush.

Although I do own specialized cake decorating tools, I find many of them aren't necessary and what I use is actually very basic.

Do you have any favorite projects from the book?

Rick:This is a tough question! Well, we spent significant time designing the cakes, and love them all, but yes, we do have some favorites: Sushi Platter, Roller Skate, Zombie, Ray Gun, Robot, Race Car, Banana Split, Game Console, and Dutch Windmill. But, we also adore the Volcano, Cheeseburger and French Fries, Snowman...

Which projects are perfect for kids?

Rick:Judging from the feedback we've received, kids are making a wide variety of cakes in the books. The Zombie, Motherboard, Aloha Shirt, and Day of the Dead cake have all been made by children. Almost any cake in the book, except for maybe the Bustier and the Stiletto, are perfect for kids. Try the Robot, any cakes from the "On the Move" chapter, the Caterpillar, Aquarium, Roller Skate, or any in the "Holiday Fun" chapter.

There is a lot of carving in this book… any secrets you can share for doing it well so ingredients aren’t wasted?

Rick:We did include a number of sculpted/carved cakes in Extreme Cakeovers because they have a big "wow" factor and really impress party guests. There are plenty of tips in the book to help the reader with the carving. Our best advice is to follow the recipe, which gives step-by-step instructions how to make the cuts and work as slowly as they need to. We encourage the reader to use the "Tools and Techniques" chapter to learn the wedge-cut technique, used in several of the cakes. We kept the carving at a basic level and require no freeform cutting. The carving largely uses straight line cuts or a template (such as following the curve on a dinner plate).

What is the biggest mistake you think home bakers make?

Rick:Not reading the recipe or familiarizing themselves with it prior to making the cake. Home bakers also tend to use more frosting than is called for, which can result in a less smooth surface.

How can you fix a cake emergency?

Rick:This question is complex because there can be many different cake emergencies and each requires a different approach. In terms of the cakes in Extreme Cakeovers, if the cake surface is accidentally marred, you can smooth out the frosting and reapply the candies. If a wrong cut is made, sometimes it's just a matter of using some frosting as "glue" and putting the pieces back together again. Almost anything can be fixed!

Tell us what details make a cake really pop.

Rick:The smoothness of the frosting and the decorations. Color contrast and textures also makes a cake pop. We have used plenty of both in the book!

Any special décor variations for cupcakes?

Rick:There are many decorating ideas in the book that could also translate to cupcakes. We encourage the reader to be as creative as possible, whether they are working on a cake or cupcakes.

If you could design a cake for anyone in the world, who would it be and what would you design?

Rick:Truthfully, there isn't a specific person I'm wanting to design for. There are many designs I would love to do, and it is a matter of what opportunities come my way. It would be amazing to make a cake for President Obama or George Lucas. 

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