Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sugar Artist Spotlight: Violet Lin Tran!

I'm so excited to introduce one of my very best cakey friends into the Sugar Artist Spotlight this week! Violet Lin Tran is not only a super talented and creative cake decorator but she is one of the most lovely and kind-hearted ladies I've had the pleasure of meeting in this crazy cake world...and that sweetness shows through in her cake style! Known for her intricate and clean work, Violet's cakes are one of a kind! Here's a little insight into the artist behind the masterpieces! 

Name: Violet Lin Tran
Business Name: The Violet Cake Shop™
Location: Markham, Ontario Canada (outside Toronto)
Facebook name: The Violet Cake Shop™

Twitter: @TVioletCakeShop or


***Please tell us about yourself!*** 
I used to work as a corporate Marketing/Incentives manager at Canada’s largest and oldest telecommunications company until the grind of the rat race just got to me. There was not much of an outlet for creativity in that field and after almost a decade of the old 9-5 (which really ended up being closer to 7-10 most days), I realized it was stifling me creatively and not what I wanted to do. Also, I was wanting to start a family and with the pressures and hours at work, it was just not happening so I decided to make a life change and quit the rat race to start a family. I’ve always been creative in school but never thought of it as a possible factor in the career I’d be in, so the cake decorating chapter of my life is a big surprise to me even to this day, 6 years after my first ever cake!
So now I’m a stay at home mother of two (a 9 year old boy I call “big monkey” and a 2 year old girl I call “lil monkey”) and do cakes on the side for family and friends and their referrals. Before my daughter was born, this hobby had grown to the point that I was doing 3-4 cakes a weekend and after 2 solid years of that, with no breaks, it was becoming a bit of a grind in itself all because I couldn’t say “no” to friends. I then took two years off and didn’t make any cakes save the ones for my kid’s birthdays and a few milestones for friends and I discovered that I need to pace myself or else it’s easy to lose your creative cake mojo. Now that I am taking orders again, I limit myself to only a few a month and allow time to concentrate on special projects and personal cakes. I do this so that I still have some creative freedom with my cake decorating otherwise I start to feel stifled because you are always doing cakes that other people want and fulfilling their vision and sometimes they can be VERY specific. 

***When did you start decorating?***
I made my first fondant cake for my hubby’s big 40th milestone birthday in 2008 and practiced on family cakes after that until I got my first paid cake order in 2009 for a friend’s daughter’s 1st birthday.

***Where did you learn cake decorating?***
I consider myself “internet or community taught”. And although I’ve never taken a class, I never say I’m self-taught because that implies I taught myself everything I needed to know through only my own devices and trial and error but that’s just not entirely the case even though there is LOTS of trial and error involved. There are certain fundamentals that you just cannot “know” on your own. You have to get them from somewhere and I found tons of information and tips from SO many places and I looked everywhere! If there were no YouTube, Google or cake community websites, I would be a total lost puppy! I also watched every cake decorating show that ever aired, even some of the “cheesy” ones and learned a lot from books and magazines.

***Do you have any formal training?***
Nope, no formal training although I did consider taking some Wilton courses about 1-2 years into decorating but at that point, I’d learned all of the basics that I needed, from the cake community websites that it just didn’t seem practical to take a course that would only regurgitate information I already had learned through forums and trial and error. Now, I would love to take some sugar flower, airbrushing and structural cake courses!

***Do you have a signature style?***
I find this a difficult questions to answer since I am always wanting to try new things and rarely like to do the same technique more than a couple of times. So personally I don’t think I have a signature style that is easy to define, but a lot of people have told me they can recognize my work from a mile away or that they like my “signature style” and I always wonder what that is lol. I do know that people tend to comment a lot on my bold and unusual use of colours and lately some of my more modern or geometric cakes have been quite popular. I also am asked to do a lot of kids cakes by friends because we are in that age group so some would say I am known for clean, fun vibrant kids cakes, although those are not my “thing”. I definitely enjoy designing and creating the more sophisticated, modern cakes.

***What inspires you?***
Anything and everything! I once made a wedding cake that had decals on one of the tiers that was inspired by the backs of my dining chairs! Mostly I like patterns and prints, stationary, colours. I like to look through home decorating magazines too as those usually set the trends for what is considered hot in terms of colours and style, be it fresh and modern or vintage chic. And of course, cakes by other cake artists inspire me tremendously. Mostly it’s the colours they use that I fawn over. I guess I am a “colour gal” afterall lol.

***What is your favorite medium or technique to work with?***
I mostly prefer fondant. I cannot smooth buttercream to save my life and I cannot find the smooth sided Viva paper towels in Canada anywhere, to try that method. So buttercream eludes me because I don’t get to practice it. I am loving wafer paper recently though…so versatile and SO many possibilities!

***What is your favorite decorating tool?***
My herb mincer which I use to cut thin strips of fondant. It’s like a bunch of thin pasta wheels in one, spaced about ¼ of an inch apart.

***What is the best class or tutorial that you have taken?***
My favourite ever when I first started decorating and which saved my life at the time, was a YouTube video on how to make a Topsy Turvy cake by jsmith here (I recommend it to everyone!):

***What is your best tip or trick?***
To colour purple so it doesn’t fade when using gel colours, add in a some extra deep pink or rose to your purples and over-colour it or make it more purple than you want to end up with. There will most inevitably be fading with gel colours especially with exposure to any type of light, so if you have more pink than you want, it will fade but not to an unsightly blue but rather to a purple with a bit less pink. I have a whole post about it on my FB page here (again this is not the ONLY way or necessarily the best way, just what works for me):

***Who is your “Cake Crush”?***

Honestly, everyday it changes and I have SO many and there are different things I love about different artists. If I had to name my top three that are always standouts in no particular order (not that I don’t equally love all my other crushes) it would have to be Kristen Erich of Bliss Pastry for modern chic and unique style plus use of colours, Calli Penman Hopper of Callicious Cakes for her phenomenal hand painting and sugar flower skills (that lady can rock ANYTHING) and Tracey Louise Rothwell of Little Cherry Cake Company (T-Cakes) who has such a signature style like no other, totally love how she is able to incorporate quirky or cute into every cake!

***What is your best advice for a beginner?***
There is not only “one” way to do things. Try them all and develop your own way of doing something if needed. What might work for some, might not work for others and it’s best to do your research and find out all the different ways to do things before your throw in the towel on a technique or skill you are trying to learn. I for one often try something new at least 3-4 different ways before I settle on one that I really prefer. A perfect example is a simple bow - I have tried over 10 different ways to make them and there is one method I prefer now to all the others and it has become a combination of different ones I’ve tried. Another example is making a gumpaste peony - I used at least 3 tutorials before I settled on the method I now use which is again a combination of the ones I’ve tried.

***What is your favorite cake/filling flavor?***
Butter Pound Cake with ganache and my own swiss buttercream recipe

***What is the one decorating tool on your wishlist?***
Realistically, an electric pasta roller. Unrealistically, an industrial sized Somerset sheeter (one can wish right?)

***Tell us some other fun and interesting info about yourself***
Violet really is my favourite colour of all time although it’s not my given name. I was given the nickname by my Junior Kindergarten teacher because I had a Chinese name that she and the other students could not pronounce easily and she’d noticed my favourite crayon was the “Violet” one, so she asked my mom if it was ok for her to use that name in class and it stuck. I actually didn’t even realize it wasn’t my offcial name until I was getting my Driver’s License and had to show my Citizenship papers which only had the English translation of my Chinese name on it. I really wanted my license to say Violet so we had it added! Then I went home and asked my mom why it was not on my Citizenship and she told me the story of how I came to be called Violet! Funny but true!

I am happy to share the news that I will be filming a new series of videos of three of my most recent designs for Pretty Witty Cakes’ On-Line school in November, so you will be able to learn some of my tips and tricks there soon!

I would like to invite your readers to enter my giveaway to celebrate my 100K milestone that is currently running on my page! There are lots of great sponsors and prize packages!!! Here is the link:


Thank you Violet!
It was a pleasure to learn more about you!

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