Blog: Bronwen Weber’s Incredible Career in Cake | The French Pastry School

Blog: Bronwen Weber’s Incredible Career in Cake

Bronwen Weber’s Incredible Career in Cake
The French Pastry School |
June 15, 2009

Bronwen Weber’s exuberant personality comes through every part of her expression, whether in conversation or in one of her amazing sculpted cakes. Her passion and joy for what she does is clear. Through making, decorating, and sculpting cake, she’s has found avenues for all her passions: artistic work, competition, and teaching.

Originally from Calgary in Alberta, Canada, Bronwen Weber has called Texas home for many years. Since the age of 14, Weber has been working in bakeries, perfecting her pastry and cake making skills. “My first job in a bakery was when I was 14, and I never got out, I’ve always loved it.” She started by making, decorating and filling donuts. “My first boss was a really hard guy to work for which really taught me a good work ethic, and if things worked out differently, and I worked somewhere else, I don’t know if I would have the same work ethic that I do now.”

“People want something crazy; they want something that moves; they want something they can drive around, or light on fire. You have to keep pushing the limits to impress people.”

Bronwen found inspiration in all of her employers and mentors along the way. “Chris Miller was fantastic, she taught me a lot. I worked with her at a place called Tom Thumb in Dallas. It was a high-end grocery chain. They had a huge bakery and 25 employees. They made everything from scratch. Chris taught cake decorating at the local college there, so she would take me with her and I would get to take the classes.” In the very early days of her career, however, Bronwen wanted to bake. “I liked the science of baking and I thought, I’m never going to make the cake [decorating] part because that seems like it takes forever, and then one cake and I was hooked.”  In her early twenties, Bronwen generally worked two jobs at a couple different bakeries. Little by little, she became involved in cake sculpting and competitions.

Her first cake sculptures were formed from round or square cakes. “I tried to put together whatever I could out of round cakes and square cakes – like that Chinese game, Tangram. Then I learned about support, and even that’s evolved. I went from dowels to wedding cake plates to PVC now. Just the support has evolved and changed the nature of cake.” Around the same time that Bronwen started experimenting with sculpted cakes, she also started competing.  “I found competition – maybe when I was around 25 – and then I was really in heaven because I found that I can make a cake for me instead of for someone else.” The first competition she entered was the Texas State Sugar Art Show. Being able to choose her own style and design, colors and taste, is the most gratifying part of competition for Bronwen. “My very first cake was a buttercream cake; it was square, and I had done several layers of icing on it so that it looked like a lion. At that time I thought, I spent a long time on this cake, I spent like three hours on it! Little did I know [laughs]. That’s not really that long.” The maximum time spent on a cake came much later in her competition experience.

For the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show in 2005, Bronwen spent 40 hours making a cake. “This competition was supposed to be the more traditional, but mine wasn’t. It was Indian inspired. I took a sari and went with it. I never thought it would even catch the judges’ eyes, but that’s not why I compete: It’s so I can bend the rules, maybe even change the trends. And I did win that one! I was very surprised.”

In addition to her regular competition experiences, Bronwen oversees the Frosted Art Bakery in Dallas, Texas. “I always say that the only thing you can count on in cake making is that nothing will go right. But once you accept that, everything is easier.”

Bronwen says that in this business, you have to be prepared to fix things when they go wrong. “I think that is the measure of a good cake decorator: Can you fix your mistakes?”

Bronwen tells of an incident early in her career. “My first week in Dallas – I had no idea how to get around – and I had a wedding cake delivery. And so we got terribly lost. So, the wedding cake’s in the back; it’s really hot outside; we get to the venue; we open the box, and half the side of the top tier is just missing – it’s at the bottom of the box. The bride and groom are standing right there, and I open the box and I just look at my assistant say ‘just smile, and put the lid on, and we’ll take it to the kitchen. Don’t stop smiling!’ [laughs] Because you never want to freak out a bride. So then we rushed to the kitchen, and fortunately they had a full-service kitchen, and we were able to fix it!”

“Taste is the most important element, because otherwise, why bother dressing it all up? It has to be spectacular on the inside, first and foremost.”

For the past three years Bronwen has been the Executive Pastry Chef and Manager of Frosted Art Bakery in Dallas, Texas. It’s a relationship that’s proved to be ideal for her. She’s able to be an integral part of the business, and still have the freedom to travel around the country to compete and teach.

Bronwen started teaching about 15 years ago and finds this aspect of her career the most rewarding. “I feel successful when my students are successful.” The challenging part about teaching is finding the best way to communicate with all of her students. “Everybody learns differently, so you have to adjust your teaching style.” Bronwen has come to The French Pastry School for two consecutive years to teach three-day long Continuing Education classes and appreciates the excitement and enthusiasm that she finds in her students, and the opportunity for a positive experience, even when problems occur.  “Catastrophes are part of learning too; it’s important to learn what not to do. That’s how I learned – I made every single mistake. Twice! [laughs] I always say that it takes five miles of piping to get it perfect, and maybe 200 cakes. You just need practice. That’s it, that’s the only answer. There are no short cuts. It takes a long time to learn to make cake. I don’t know where that term ‘piece of cake’ came from, but it does not apply.”

Bronwen Weber’s exposure to many areas of the cake business has given her a broad perspective on the industry as a whole, its progression over the last couple of decades, what people are looking for in their cakes, and where the trends may lead next. She sees a little bit of everything in the demands of her own customers. “I think in the future there’s going to be more crazy cakes, definitely more 3-dimensional cakes. People want something crazy; they want something that moves; they want something they can drive around, or light on fire. You have to keep pushing the limits to impress people. That’s the hard part.” Even with all the demand for “something crazy,” Bronwen also sees a growing demand for classic cakes “like from the fifties. People will take in pictures of their grandmother’s cake and we’ll recreate those which I love doing.”

She also has seen a change not only in consumers’ desire for visually impressive cakes, but also in taste. “Dessert in general is so popular that people are really improving their palates, and they’re realizing there’s more than just some cake mix out there. People’s expectations are increasing. Betty Crocker ain’t gonna cut it. She did serve us well, there was a time and a place, but it’s not now.  Taste is the most important element, because otherwise, why bother dressing it all up? It has to be spectacular on the inside, first and foremost.”

Another change that Bronwen has seen is the general excitement surrounding cake as the focal point, the highlight to an event. “People get excited about their wedding cakes. I remember 10 years ago, meeting with people, talking about their wedding cakes, and they’re like ‘oh, whatever you think, it’s fine, just make it white and pretty.’ And now, people are really taking a personal interest in it. People are putting cakes as their centerpiece for their celebrations, which is always exciting. They used to be in the background, an afterthought. Now they’re the focus! It’s so popular and it’s everywhere.”

Bronwen Weber has no plans to slow down. She will continue with her thriving business in Dallas, Texas, and travel the country to teach, compete, and inspire the world of cake with her passion and incredible creations.

© 2009 Lindsay Koriath - The French Pastry School