Blog: The Path to Mastering the Art of Cake Decorating | The French Pastry School

Blog: The Path to Mastering the Art of Cake Decorating

The Path to Mastering the Art of Cake Decorating
The French Pastry School |
March 7, 2010

Chef Nicholas Lodge and his Calling to Cake

His mother’s pastries, the bodice of a wedding dress, his grandmother’s patience, a Japanese Kimono, an unusual orchid, a painting in Australia, some fabric in Zimbabwe – these are a few of the elements that have shaped and inspired Master Cake Artist Nicholas Lodge’s many creations over the past three decades. Since emerging in the cake industry at age 17, Nicholas Lodge has gone on to become one of the most recognized artisans in his craft in the world. From the first cake he made at age ten for his parents’ anniversary to his first published book at age 18 to creating cakes for members of the Royal Family in England to opening sugar craft schools in Atlanta, Georgia and Tokyo, Japan, Nicholas Lodge has had a profound influence on the world of cake. Lodge’s influence will continue to grow in the fall of 2010 when he joins the team of Chef Instructors at The French Pastry School to teach in a new program all about cake: L’Art du Gâteau – The 16-week Professional Cake Baking and Decorating Program.

“I think the only reason I’m able to do what I do is because of my true passion for my craft and my patience. I feel that if you generally are passionate about the area of pastry that you love, that really comes through when you teach it.”

Nicholas Lodge has indeed come a long way not only as a cake artist, but also a teacher. Almost as soon as Lodge began practicing the craft in his hometown in Essex, England, he also began teaching it. When still a teenager, he gave a demonstration to his high school, located in Chelmsford, Essex as part of a fundraising effort for the home economics department, after having already published his first book. “It was a weird feeling with the principal sitting in the audience,” said Lodge. The principal had initially tried to dissuade young Nicholas from pursuing home economics studies, which he had to leave his all-boys school once a week in order to attend. Being the first male student to partake in studies traditionally reserved for girls caused some ripples. “Of course, my school friends were initially a little shocked that I was going to the girls’ school to study cooking, but then when I used to bring back goodies for them, cookies or pies or other things, then I wasn’t so bad.”

Demonstrating and teaching in a formal setting did not begin for Lodge until later, when he worked at Woodnutts, a top sugar art school in Brighton, England that was owned and operated by Elaine MacGregor, originally from Australia. MacGregor was a great influence to Lodge and to cake decorating in bringing rolled fondant techniques to England. At that time, about a few decades ago, that type of cake decorating was still “very foreign. Because traditionally in England, a wedding cake is always a fruit cake,” explained Lodge. “There was a real change where instead of covering a fruit cake with marzipan or royal icing … they covered the cake with rolled fondant. It had a very different look. And of course in the United States it was the same thing; we traditionally all used buttercream for our cakes, and suddenly rolled fondant became much more popular as an enrobing medium.” Rolled fondant gave a different look to cakes. “It had a much softer, not such an austere, formal look. People were really wowed in the difference in style. Fondant is very artistic in that you can change the colors; you can make it very contemporary, or you can make it very traditional.”

Lodge has perfected these modern techniques, but he is also a master of the traditional royal icing and piping techniques, and believes that cake decorators should become adept at those skills as well. “I still teach a lot of the royal icing techniques that I was taught when I went to school, because unfortunately, it’s a dying art. … It’s one of those formal elements that … should be perfected by a decorator,” Lodge explained.

“I still teach a lot of the royal icing techniques that I was taught when I went to school, because unfortunately, it’s a dying art. It’s one of those formal elements that should be perfected by a decorator.”

Lodge has embraced all of these types of decorating techniques and enrobing mediums, and helped to develop them around the world. After having published his first book, Sugar Flowers at age 18, he began his first five-month world tour. To date, Lodge has traveled to 26 countries to share his expertise – in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Perhaps the country outside of England or the United States that Lodge is best acquainted with is Japan. Nine years ago, Lodge began his sister decorating school in Tokyo, Japan. For the first seven years of the school’s existence in Tokyo, Lodge traveled there every five weeks. “I used to live in Japan approximately 18 to 20 weeks of the year,” said Lodge.

Years before his decorating school launched in Japan, Lodge completed a project for one of the oldest, largest shopping centers in Tokyo. He recreated a nine-foot tall cake that he’d originally made in England while working (and teaching as the Tutorial Manager) at Mary Ford’s School in Bournemouth, England. In 1981, “I worked with a team on one of Princess Diana’s wedding cakes,” said Lodge. He later recreated that same cake for display in the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo.

During his tenure with Mary Ford’s School in the early 1980s, Lodge designed many cakes for members of the Royal Family and celebrities. “I had also done some cakes for Sarah Ferguson – I used to teach in a village where she lived, and some of the other members of the Royal Family. … I got quite a lot of confidence then.” Having these distinguished clients solidified Lodge’s authority on the craft of cake decorating, but they were no more meaningful to him than any client. “Sometimes just doing a small cake for somebody’s anniversary that they’re delighted with – to me, that is just as exciting as doing a huge cake for a celebrity.”

These days, Lodge’s time is no longer devoted to producing cakes for individuals’ momentous occasions, but in teaching others how to create them. He enjoys working with people who have varying levels of experience and come from a wide variety of backgrounds. “You know, it’s amazing; some people who come through a [Continuing Education class] like at The French Pastry School, or to my school in Atlanta … they have a naturally inborn talent that they maybe didn’t realize they had,” said Lodge. “When you have somebody that is a bit nervous when they first come to class … and they create something so amazing, they can’t believe that they’ve actually made it themselves. That’s very rewarding.”
Students in L’Art du Gâteau program will have the opportunity to learn not only Chef Nicholas Lodge’s renowned techniques that have made him one of the world’s foremost authorities on the art, but will also gain an understanding as to how he has achieved such level of mastery and what makes him a great teacher. “I think the only reason I’m able to do what I do is because of my true passion for my craft and my patience. … I feel that if you generally are passionate about the area of pastry that you love, that really comes through when you teach it.” Lodge will continue to share, to inspire, and to influence the world of cake by not only sharing the methods of his craft, but in seeing those important qualities cultivated in each of his students.

© 2010 Lindsay Koriath - The French Pastry School

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