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Vendor Interview: Shannon Clarke of Starry Night Bakery

March 27, 2008

These vendor interviews are fun and I can’t wait for you to meet Shannon of Starry Night Bakery and Coffee Lounge. She is an amazing baker, her cakes rock and her coffee lounge is the largest and coolest in our area. I have known her for a couple of years and she is a very fun and creative person.

Shannon Clarke

Shannon and Chef
This is Shannon with Chef Roland Mesnier, Former White House Pastry Chef when he visited her shop.

 

How did you get started in the wedding business?

Cakes! Nothing says wedding like a good cake.

What do you do when you are not making wedding cakes?

Hahhahaha. There is not enough email space to send all of it 🙂 Starters…. I am meeting with future wedding cake clients, sketching cakes, making tons of various “other” cakes. (birthday, anniversary, showers, etc…)

Running the business. A lot of people do not know how much behind the scenes hours it takes to make a smooth running business. I do everything from paying daily invoices, payroll, making sure inventory is in and fresh, meeting with advertisers, sketching ads, drinking loads of coffee, trying to work in some friend time, fixing schedule problems, trying new products and researching them. Basically …. it is a lot to keep your sights set on.

How do you approach creating a cake for a couple?

I like to meet with the couple. I want their wedding vision, excitement & ideas. What colors, textures, shapes, themes they have going on before they even look at cake pictures. I don’t want them to pick someone else’s cake….. I want to create THEIR cake!

What inspires you?

Passion. Excitement. Laughter. Nothing tops it when a couple comes in excited about the wedding, not dreading it like some people do. To get the vibe from them and just run with is such a thrill for me.

What do you think sets you apart from other bakers?

I have a wonder woman complex. Sometimes it is a bad trait, but for the most part I use the force for good. That “ANYTHING is possible” attitude. I like a good challenge. Our cakes taste as good as they look!!! It sounds weird to say it, but it is true… a lot of places don’t have that balance. First and foremost… cake is meant to be eaten… we make it super tasty and wickedly gorgeous…. that is what sets us apart.

Your favorite cake flavor and icing:

Caramel Pecan Cake with Butterscotch Buttercream.

What is something most people don’t know about the process of making a wedding cake?

Something they don’t know… well it something that a lot of Pastry Chefs do not care to say… the more you do wedding cakes, the better you get at building them, the quicker the process becomes. Sometimes I can have a 4 tier cake iced and built in less then 30 minutes 🙂 I feel like I just let a HUGE secret out…. hahaha. The next set of time is spent decorating it. That is where your time adds up. Something you don’t know….. sometimes decoration is done in shifts to keep it looking fresh. Work on detail for 20 minutes… fridge cake… go do something else for 30 minutes then come back to it.

What website or blog do you frequent often?

Blogs…. Yours! Warren Brown from Cake Love & Johnny Cupcakes a clothing designer from Boston.

Website…. Google. I am a big time googler. Pics, spell check….. anything I need 🙂

What do you love about weddings?

When everyone is enjoying themselves. Seeing the final outcome. I get to hear about all the cool center pieces and handmade favors so being able to walk around and get a sense of what these people are all about is really fulfilling. Being a huge part of a couples major life experience is super kewl. You are forever in memories and pictures.

What do you hate about weddings?

When the people who have shelled out a lot of money are not enjoying it. It is such a buzz kill to deliver a cake and have the mother of the bride freaking out over small details (not with the cake of course !!!). I don’t like that people feel like they have to stress over a wedding. Pick good vendors and run with it people! Enjoy your day!!!

What is the coolest cake you have made?

Flapper Cake A 50’s flapper inspired cake. (click on photo to enlarge)

It was a 3 tier offset square cake. Each layer had pinstripes going in a different direction( to match the groomsmen tuxs). The border around the bottom looked like pearls that the flapper girls wore. (made out of hand rolled fondant and dusted silver) To set off the flapper style I tucked a bit of feathers into the cake…. just like the ladies wore in their hair. This couple was really open to ideas and wanted something original and gorgeous….. made my job really fun!

What is the craziest wedding cake story you have witnessed?

It was a catastrophe at a place I worked at before opening Starry Night. Wedding cakes were loaded into a walk-in cooler on Friday (all day we worked on 6 cakes). Late Friday night the head chef ran out of room in her walk-in so she placed a roast fresh out of the oven into the pastry walk-in. Short version… 6 Onion Roast Beef scented wedding cakes were born by morning. All 6 had to be remade, on a VERY short time table. I think I cried for 3 hours while I was working….. your body starts to take a toll after a Thursday and Friday push. Come Saturday….your body just tells you No! The forearm muscles cramp, the hand goes numb….. but I Love My Job 🙂 We recreated all 6 cakes and no one was the wiser!

What are you reading right now?

Anthony Bourdain, The Nasty Bits

What are you listening to right now?

Cyndi Lauper Greatest Hits

What would you do with $1 million dollars?

Pay off my debt. Take my family, friends, and employees on a really cool vacation. Donate more time and money to animal shelters.

One goal you have for 2008:

Keep it sweet and standing up 🙂 Both me and the cakes.

If my crew and I can have a couple of good laughs along the way….. all is well.

Open mic, final thoughts:

I would like to thank everyone who inspires and pushes me. Without you… well, you have no clue how hard it is to motivate yourself when you are really down in the dumps. Having great people around you is amazing. I have hit a point where negativity is just not a part of daily life. To the regulars, friends, coworkers…. thank you from the bottom of my sleep deprived, stressed heart 🙂

Dreams do happen, but you have to reach for it. You will never reach the fruit if you never go out on a limb!

Starry Night
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