Have you ever looked at a wedding cake and wondered how someone was able to make such beautiful, delicate, and realistic flowers out of sugar? Well, Jacqueline Butler of Petalsweet Cakes knows exactly how. Jacqueline started her San Diego based wedding cake business in 2003, and since then, she has made a name for herself by creating elegant wedding cakes with her signature sugar flowers. Not only does she create some of the most exquisite floral sugarcraft that the wedding cake world has ever seen, but she can teach you how to do it, too! In our interview, Jacqueline talked to us about the art of floral sugarcraft and what we can expect to see from Petalsweet in the upcoming seasons.
What prompted you to shift your focus from wedding cake production to teaching floral sugarcraft, and how has the experience of teaching been different from your work in production?
I always enjoyed sharing my sugar flowers with my brides and other clients in person, but the more I posted photos of my work and stories about my creative process online, on my blog, and Facebook page, the more I received messages from other cake designers, pastry school students, and hobbyists who wanted to learn more about sugar flowers. Some were transitioning into making more wedding cakes; some had a small taste of creating sugar flowers in school and wanted to know more about the craft. But they were all asking for classes and hands-on instruction, so I started offering a few local classes, and I quickly fell in love with teaching the art form. I started with a few classes here in the U.S., and before I knew it, I had invitations to share my work at numerous international venues. Then it was just about saying yes and figuring out how to make it all happen! The teaching side of my business continues to grow very quickly!
It’s been an absolutely amazing experience to travel all over the world to teach an art form I love so much. Working with students from so many different backgrounds, who all want to learn something new, or hone their skills and add more value to their businesses, has been exciting and incredibly rewarding. It’s wonderful to be in a room full of other people who love the same creative process…and I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to share what I know. I find teaching and production to be a really nice balance for me. Sometimes I’m working with a lovely group of students, and sometimes I’m working on my own, pushing myself to create something beautiful and unique for one of my clients.
What are your favorite parts of the process of creating sugar flowers, and what parts are the most challenging?
My favorite part of creating sugar flowers is assembling petals and adding color and all of the finishing touches. The production process of making a lot of petals can get a bit tedious, but I always know it will be worth it in the end. I think the most challenging part of making flowers is coming up with something new or working on a flower that is new to me. I spend a lot of time making the same flower over and over again until it really makes sense to me, until it is representative of my brand, and until I understand it well enough to teach it. That process can take many weeks of practice, and it can sometimes be frustrating and challenging.
You create so many different types of flowers from sugar and they are all so delicate and beautiful! What was the first flower you ever attempted and are there any new types of flowers that you are anticipating creating?
Thank you so much! The first flowers I learned to make were little pulled blossoms that were modeled and shaped by hand and did not require a cutter or very many tools. They were a great skill to learn, and I continue to use variations of the same blossoms in my cake designs and teach them in my classes today. Early on, I also learned how to make several different types of roses, and it really helped build my confidence to try larger flowers, but I still find them to be one of the most difficult flowers to master.
Peonies and roses continue to be very popular with brides and other cake artists, so I will keep creating new variations of both for my clients and students. The adorable ranunculus is still a favorite right now as well, and I find myself working to refine my own version to fit Petalsweet’s style, as well as to make it easier to teach in the classroom. We work with a lot of classic wedding flowers, but I’m always looking for new ways to interpret them and make them work in modern designs.
What sources of inspiration do you look to when creating cakes and sugar flower arrangements?
I’m always looking at different textiles for inspiration. Paper goods, ceramics, fabric, paintings, artwork, greeting cards, and ribbon all have great design elements that can be translated into a cake design or a bouquet of sugar flowers. I do also love gardening books and flower arranging books, but I mostly use them to see how certain flower shapes can be used together. Most of my arrangements begin with a pretty color palette, and then I can visualize which flowers to use based on those colors. The rest of the design usually comes quickly once I know what flowers we will be creating!
Most of the sugar flowers you create are very classic wedding flowers like peonies and gardenias. What is the most unusual sugar flower arrangement you have ever made?
It’s true! Most of our flowers are modern interpretations of very classic wedding flowers in soft and romantic pastel shades. It’s what is most aesthetically pleasing to my eye, so I think that’s why I have incorporated them into Petalsweet’s style for so long. I feel I don’t know how to use bright and really vibrant colors very well, so I haven’t made too many unusual flowers. Tropical flowers are a great example. They are amazingly beautiful and have great details, but my tendency would be to try to tone them down and soften their look, which would not do them justice. In general, we stick to a softer palette because that is what we are known for, and our clients come to us wanting that look for their event.
If you would like to learn more about Jacqueline Butler, Petalsweet, and the wonderful world of sugarcraft, check out the following links:Pin It