In today’s Student Spotlight, we’re bringing you Jeannine Nguyen from @sprinklehappinesscakes.
Jeannine studied Architectural Technologies, graduated and got a job as a designer and Architectural Technologist. Progressively, her role at work moved more into project management and so for the next twenty years, Jeannine put her organizational, time management and communication skills to good use. However, this meant that her creative skills had to take a back seat and that’s where designing cakes came in.
How did you get into cakes?
It was last April 2020 when I decided to make a cake for my mom’s birthday. It was too short notice to get someone to make it and stores would not have anything shelf ready that I wanted. I wanted a coconut and chocolate cake with alternating layers wrapped in coconut buttercream. I went online and looked up some recipes, read the reviews, printed them out and started baking the next day. Equipped with my mom’s 40-year-old Fox Run plastic piping set and an offset spatula I purchased years ago that sat in my utensil drawer, I made my first ever layered cake. It was 4 layers, wrapped in coconut buttercream finished with a chocolate drip and some swirls. I sent pictures to my sisters, niece, and admin assistant. They were impressed with the cake considering it was my first.
Soon after I made a cake for an employee’s retirement and again people were asking if I had tools and how many I have made. I thought wow, I like this and wanted to try making a few more. My older sister started asking me to make cakes for her friends and after that I started getting more requests from friends and family. I decided to post my work on Instagram with encouragement from my husband, kids, and sisters. About a year later I am here. I still have so much more to learn, and there is still so much I want to try and do.
Designing cakes helps with my mental wellness as the challenges from my day job can be at times overwhelming. It’s allowed me to unleash my inner creative beast that’s been locked up for over 20 years (since I completed school). I get to paint with buttercream and work with different mediums like I would on an art project. It allows me to focus on something creative, pretty and to bring happiness to others. This helps me balance things and because of it, I’m better at what I do during the day.
What made you decide to take an online cake course?
I was about three months into caking when I was looking for a list of things:
- One, a good chocolate cake recipe that would stack nicely without bulging at the bottom. The recipe I had at the time made the cake too soft, it couldn’t support the weight of the layers and buttercream so the bottom layer would always bulge out and it didn’t leave nice, perfect layers once you cut the cake. Not to mention, it was more challenging to cover the cake.
- Two, the best vanilla cake recipe. I tried a few and they were disappointing, too dry, too oily, not the right crumb etc.
- Three, I needed to figure out a system to scale recipes.
- Four, a good buttercream recipe that is not too sweet.
At the time I was using ABC (American buttercream) and tried a SMBC ( Swiss Meringue Buttercream) recipe, but it was way too sweet. Basically I was looking for a one stop shop, and without it, I would need to invest a lot of time searching on the internet, testing recipes, and doing some math. The thought of it was daunting and I’m a little bit impatient when it comes to things I’m excited about. I came upon DTC and I was floored because the style and designs are artistic and more in line with what I wanted to do. When I realized there were online course available, I was so like, “WHAT?!” Sure enough it was my one stop shop and the courses were exactly what I needed. Thank goodness!
What DTC course have you enrolled in and how have they helped you?
Let us just say I have all the courses now!
I do not know where to begin in terms of how the DTC courses have helped me. Remember those four things I was looking for? Well, I got those and then some with the DTC courses. In addition to that, I learned how to perfect sharp edges, work with isomalt, temper chocolate, and so much more. The tips and detailed information provide you with a strong foundation in which you can adapt and tweak to your liking. My work looks so much more refined and elevated. It gives me the confidence to try new things and experiment because I have a strong foundation.
I am so glad I found these courses early on; it would be such a shame to do this for years and realize there could have been a better way. I am so grateful!
What advice do you have for people starting out in their modern cake making journey?
Find some good courses and enroll early. If you really want to do it, think of it as investing in yourself and your growth. It will take a lot of guesswork out of the equation and you will be less frustrated. It will give you a strong foundation in which you can build upon. Learn from the masters, look at the quality of their work and how they execute. This will give you a glimpse of what level of detail and knowledge they can impart on you.
Find your style and try a few different things before you go and invest in things you may not need later (like sprinkles for me LOL). When I first started I thought it was the style I wanted to do, but later realized it was not. I now have more sprinkles than I would need in a lifetime and will never use them all. Once you find it, practice, practice, practice. With each cake you will get better, our skills will improve and your confidence will grow. Your prices should also reflect this.
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Check out Jeannine’s work
Any cake disaster story?
I had a cake order for an eight-inch red velvet with cream cheese buttercream. I made a smaller version before and it turned out good so I figured it should be fine. Well, things were fine until I went to wrap the cake late that night in the buttercream. I kept getting air bubbles and the finish was not smooth at all, it was bumpy and uneven. It was also late already, and I was tired. I had to walk away from the cake and come back to it because I was frustrated. On top of that I ran out of buttercream. I decided to call it a night and wake up early the next morning to make a new batch of buttercream to put over the existing layer.
With little sleep I got up bright and early the next morning to make more buttercream and decorate the cake. It was okay and a little better than the first layer, but still not to my liking. I finished the cake with swirls and sprinkles but my goodness the sides of the cake must have been so thick. The extra buttercream made the cake heavier, and my cake board could hardly handle it because it wasn’t the type I use today. I had to be extra careful to prevent a gap between the board and cake. I was able to salvage it, but I said to myself I do not want to ever be in this situation again. I needed to learn more on why, and properties of my ingredients.
Connect with Jeannine
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Courses Jeannine is enrolled in