Baker profile: Rosie Alyea
From pretty sprinkle-dipped meringues to double-chocolate birthday cake, Rosie Alyea has taken baking and decorating to a whole new level. As a professionally trained baker and the blogger behind Sweetapolita, her one-of-a-kind dessert recipes and decorating tips are sure to inspire creativity in bakers of all levels. With the launch of The Sweetapolita Bakebook, Rosie shares her must-have baking tools, where she finds inspiration and how she gets her daughters involved in the fun.
SAH: When did you first discover your love of baking?
While I’ve always loved to bake and admired anything cake-related, it wasn’t until I became a mom that I dove into the world of baking and cake-decorating full swing. I spotted a cake-decorating book (Confetti Cakes by Elisa Strauss) one day while browsing the book shop, and like a rolling pin over the head I was struck—I just knew it was what I was meant to do. I immediately signed up for courses at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionery Arts in Toronto, and away I went.
SAH: Where do you find your inspiration?
Some days I wake up to discover that I can’t go another day without tasting a certain flavour combination or texture, and so the experimenting begins. Other times, I seek out new ideas, usually inspired by candy-coloured hues and often taking cues from retro desserts and memories of childhood trips to bakeries and sweet-shoppes.
One thing I quickly discovered was that it was pretty much a dead-end for me to use others’ cake designs for inspiration for cake, because it would limit my own creative vision. That’s not to say that I don’t learn from others, because I am always amazed and inspired by the array of talented confection designers out there. If I find an artist’s cake really inspiring, I try to observe things like technique, use of colour and scale, or overall mood and feel, and then apply to my own designs in a completely new way.
SAH: What are your must-have baking tools?
Some of my must-have baking tools, aside from my most-loved basics (listed in question #6), are a candy thermometer for making perfect Italian meringue, lollipops, saltwater taffy, and so much more; a fondant rolling mat for not only rolling perfect fondant but for rolling cookie dough and more; and a stand mixer—having the ability to walk away when the mixer has to run for several minutes is a must when trying to bake efficiently.
SAH: What baking item are you obsessing over right now?
In addition to my cake-stand collecting obsession, I am currently hooked on cookie cutters of all kinds. I love to shop on Etsy for handcrafted cutters from all over the world. My latest purchase included a sardine and cat head cutter to celebrate our new Ragdoll cat, Crumbs.
SAH: What would your advice be for beginner bakers?
My advice is to bake as much as you can—the difference between even my first cake and my third cake was remarkable. Practice really does make perfect! That said, I also believe it’s incredibly important to go easy on yourself. We all have baking fails, and there is always a willing recipient ready to eat and enjoy them. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, then it’s time to let your imagination run wild!
SAH: What are the essential items a beginner should have in their toolkit?
When I first started baking and cake decorating, I felt that I needed every tool on the market, but I soon realized that the ones I use most often are those I had from the beginning: a cake turntable, quality cake pans, a long serrated bread knife for slicing cake layers, straight and offset palette knives for frosting, a few large star piping tips and pastry bags. It’s amazing how many different cakes you can create with this same array of tools!
SAH: We love your Instagram account! Are there any specific accounts you love/are obsessed with?
Thank you! I love Instagram. Some of my favourite accounts are The Cake Blog, Handmade Charlotte, CocoCakeLand, jennyeveryday, and Katherine Sabbath, but there are many!
SAH: What is the best way to get kids involved when baking?
Well, with two very creative little girls, I soon realized that having them crack eggs or sift flour wasn’t going to cut it, so I decided to embrace their imaginations and enthusiasm by having them actually take part in the baking and decorating process. This is where my “interactive” cake and cookie design ideas from The Sweetapolita Bakebook were born—things like edible chalk to colour on chalkboard cake and cookies, doodling on treats with food markers, painting cakes, and cutting and pasting their own edible paper drawings onto a cake turn kids into bakers and cake decorators. Not only do these super-fun activities keep them happy and busy for hours, but sparks their creative sides.
SAH: What is your all-time favourite thing to bake and decorate?
I would say layer cakes have my heart. They just do! I love the challenge of taking something so classic and playing with flavor combinations, texture, height, visual wow-factor and colour.
Love to bake? Check out these delicious recipes from The Sweetapolita Bakebook!
Simple and splendid chocolate cake
Vanilla sugar cutout cookies
Italian meringue buttercream