The Showpiece Sorcerers—Karen Portaleo and Susan Notter at ICE

From by Institute of Culinary Education
The Showpiece Sorcerers—Karen Portaleo and Susan Notter at ICE


Cake designer Karen Portaleo and pastry chef Susan Notter first met in 2011 for the television series Halloween Wars on Food Network. Their inspired cake and sugar work earned them an incredible $50,000 prize, building on both chefs’ already impressive resumes. On October 18-20, we’re thrilled to invite them to reimagine the art of Halloween centerpieces in a Carved Cake and Sugar Showpiece workshop at ICE. We caught up with Chef Notter in advance of the class to learn what inspires her custom sugar work.

Karen Portalea Cake Susan Notter Sugar

How do you recommend students start pursuing sugar work?
Don't try to build a three-foot sculpture without knowing the basics. The foundational skills are the most important. Once students master pulling and blowing, they can then take those skills and continue to learn. Unfortunately, the trend in sugar education today is simply to get a piece done—to capture the moment for Facebook or Instagram. As a result, ensuring that students have retained core skills becomes secondary. I am against this style of teaching and prioritize students’ skill development over the fleeting accomplishment of completing a full sculpture in class.


Read on to learn more about Chef Notter's sugar strategy.