Friday, October 17, 2014

Sugar Artist Spotlight: Julie Tenlen!

You may have recently spotted Julie's unbelievably gorgeous Lakshmi cake as part of the Festival of Lights Cake Collaboration, but she has been creating beautiful masterpieces for years. Her passion for cake decorating is obvious to anyone who knows her...and she's not just a cake artist...she's a talented cookier too! :)

Julie Tenlen
The Sweet Life cakes & cookies by Julie
St. Johns, Michigan USA
Twitter: SweetLifeJuile
IG: thesweetlifebyjulie

Introducing Julie.......

***Tell us about yourself!***
I was born and raised and still live in mid-Michigan. I certainly consider myself one of the luckiest gals I know, married to my best friend for the last 33 years. Yes! I got married when I was 12! Geez, that still wouldn’t make me very young. We have 2 beautiful and successful, grown daughters and 4 of the most wonderful grandkids ever. Oh, and 1 more on the way! I’ve always been considered quite crafty and not intimidated to take on most any project. For many years, I was a professional seamstress and specialized in custom horse show clothing. As for other professions, I was a Playboy Bunny, a property manager and owed and ran a motel for 20 years while our girls were going up. A very large part of our lives until the girls went off to college, was owning and showing Quarter Horses. My hubby and I have always had a niche’ for home remodeling and are almost always in the middle of knocking down one wall or another. A as benefit of this constant home rehab, I am very fortunate and have a large cake studio in our home. 

***Tell us about your cake business!***
I began caking about 3 years ago, simply wanting to make cool cakes for our grandkids. Starting off slowly for the first year and a half or so, then got completely bitten by the cake decorating bug and jumped in full time from there on out.

***Where did you learn the art of cake decorating? ***
The vast majority of my cake decorating knowledge was obtained through online tutorials, classes and good ole’ research and trial and error. I can’t say I have had any true formal training, other than a couple classes attended. One with the Sachiko Windbiel of Mimicafe Union @ New York and another with Dawn Parrott. But certainly hope to attended more in the future.

***Do you have a signature style?***
As for a specific style, I really can’t say I have one. I love doing all types of cakes. From enjoying creating food replica cakes, just as much as elaborate fancy tiered cakes and feel I have to keep honing my figure modeling as well. So, I’m really kind of all over the spectrum.

***What inspires you?***
My inspiration comes from everywhere. Other artists, the seasons changing, the client’s needs. Truly inspiration is found in nearly everything.

***What is your favorite medium or technique to work with?***
My favorite medium currently would be modeling chocolate. Although, I have much to learn about this medium, as I am rather new to it. But without a doubt, I use more fondant than any other product at this time. 

***What is your favorite decorating tool?***
I’m going to tell you a couple items that I consider “My can’t do without tool”. First, a razor blade. I have several on my work surface at all times. Secondly, an extruder. I have the Makin Clay Extruder and my brother has retro fitted it to work with a power drill and that is truly a lifesaver for me. Another piece, (now that I have one) is my electric pasta machine. Whether it’s rolling out fondant and gumpaste for flowers or ribbons, or cutting thin, exact strips for many uses. It saves your hands and wrists so much stress. I use the Roma by Weston Electric Pasta machine.

***What decorating tool is on your wishlist?***
Anyone that knows me, knows this answer. The tool on my want list, a sheeter, a sheeter, a sheeter! Was that clear enough? ;)

***What is the best class or tutorial that you have taken?***
I can’t say specifically which class I would consider the best, as I have learned so much from every tutorial or class I’ve taken. I would say that is the benefit of being new to this industry, simply so much to learn. But, I can say I absolutely love the Craftsy classes and own many of them. That style of class works very well for me.

***What is your best tip or trick?***
Hmmm, tip or trick to share? So many things come to mind, but something that I discovered recently only out of pure necessity. When needing to attach thin strips of fondant or gumpaste, cut out and place on an inverted cookie sheet, make perfectly straight with a ruler edge and pop in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. When removed from freezer, the stripes will stay perfectly straight and the upside of fondant or gumpaste will become slightly moist from condensation and work as an adhesive to adhere to your project. 

***Who is your “Cake Crush”?***
Wow, who’s my cake crush? That’s a super tough question, as I admire and love so many artist’s work and for different reasons.
Pamela McCaffrey - Made With Love – I just love her simple, clean and elegance in all her cakes.
Calli Hopper of Callicious Cakes – her hand painting skills are insane!
Shawna McGreevy of McGreevy Cakes – all her work is wonderful.
Brenda Walton of Sugar High, Inc.. – her little figures are always so flawless and so darn cute.
Laura Loukaides Cakes – her food replica cakes are to die for! Which are always a big hit in our house.
Krazy Kool Cakes & Designs by Laura E. Varela-Wong– her cakes and figures are always so fun!
Nina Blackburn of Make Pretty Cakes – everything she makes is pretty!
Truly I could go on and on. So many talented artists, who’s skills I admire. 

***What is your best advice for a beginner?***
My best advice for a beginner. Well, how about 2 things. Always cover your boards. I have seen so many pretty cakes that are on naked boards and it just takes so much away from the finished results. Secondly, online research is your very best learning tool.

***What is your favorite cake/filling flavor?***
My favorite flavors change with the seasons. Red Velvet with cream cheese icing and pecans in the winter. Carrot cake and cream cheese in the fall and in the summer, I make a pineapple and coconut cake with whipped topping that is to die for! But, far too weak to use for a tiered, stacked cake. It literally barely holds together, but it’s sooo good.

***Are you currently working on any fun projects that you can tell us about?***
So many exciting new opportunities are coming in the near future. Very soon I will begin filming my first video tutorial and so thrilled to announce I will be working in conjunction with Satin Ice on this project. It will be for my Cowboy Hat and Buckle cake. It has been a highly requested tutorial and I finally will have time in my schedule to make this happen. So keep your eyes peeled folks! Another wonderful and exciting project coming up very soon for me, will be working with LorAnn Oils in producing some of their creations for their website and recipe development, among other things. 
And those are just a couple of the very exciting projects I am currently involved in, along with many others to be revealed soon. So stay tuned for these fun offers and creations!

Thank you Julie! It was a pleasure getting to know you better!

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