How do you pick out a custom cake designer in a crowd? I was waiting for Tessa Lindow at a busy coffee shop, worried that I would have to resort to disturbing strangers to find her, but then a sweet smiling face emerged and I knew it was her. It didn’t hurt, too, that she was wearing a Johnny Cupcakes T-shirt. Find out more about Lindow’s shop, The Frosted Cake Shop, at www.thefrostedcakeshop.com.
Have you made any cakes for celebrities?
I did a birthday cake for Jon Brockman from the Kings. They call him the “Brockness Monster.” I did a cake that was purple and silver that was shaped like the Loch Ness monster.
Describe your most interesting cake.
So far, I’ve had two human organs. One, I did a liver cake. A wife had ordered it for her husband; it was a celebration of his first birthday of his new liver transplant. I also did a cake for an event called Celebration of Life. It was a human heart.
Tell me how you opened the store downtown.
I opened the new shop mid-February. I have a lot of family support. There’s no way I could have ever done it without them. My mom helps with the dishes and organizing. My dad helped me with the finances and contracting with the electrical and plumbing. My brother does a lot of the marketing. My fiancé does deliveries with me. I couldn’t do any of that without them. More than anything, they’ve been very supportive. Before that, I rented the kitchen out of Old Soul.
You’re getting married soon. Have you thought about your cake?
Actually, I’m not doing my own cake. We have about 240 people coming to the wedding; I have a big family. … I thought about the different ways I’d be able to do it, see who could help me, but most of my family is going to be involved in the wedding. Everyone around me is saying, “Don’t do it, don’t do it to yourself.” Ginger Elizabeth [from Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates] is doing my cake. We’re going to do a dessert bar.
Were you the type of kid that liked to cook and bake?
When I was a little kid, I was not allowed in the kitchen. My mom would tell me not to get in the kitchen, because I made such a mess. I grew up not wanting anything to do with the kitchen. Now, it’s such a surprise to her that I own and run a cake shop.
When did you start baking?
I was forced to cook for myself in college. And in between classes there wasn’t much on television during the day except for the Food Network. That inspired me to bake. When I graduated, I really had no plans, so I moved in with my brother and tried to transition into regular life, work 8-to-5 as opposed to college life with my friends. I probably whined about it a bit too much. All I wanted to do was bake. So, my mom was like, “Why don’t you just try it, and you can stop whining about it.”
Did you go to school for cakes after that?
I never went to culinary school. I graduated UC Davis in 2006 with a communications degree. After that, I worked for the county in their communications office. It wasn’t really for me, so I decided to drop everything, and that’s when I started working at Freeport Bakery, out of nowhere, to see if I could like it. There wasn’t very much room to move there, so I started to do stuff from home; that’s where I started to do custom work. I took some classes. I went out to New York and studied with Elisa Strauss, the owner of Confetti Cakes in New York. I also went out to Chicago to the French Pastry School with Nicholas Lodge. A lot of it is self-taught; a lot of it is experimenting.
How can someone order one of your cakes?
Call or e-mail me. It’s only custom cakes right now and usually by appointment only. My website is www.thefrostedcakeshop.com. When people come to me, they can talk to me about their cake and I’m the one that’s listening to their ideas and actually making it. You’ll be one-on-one with the person that’s hands-on with your design.
What are the non-obvious differences between your cakes and sheet cakes from the grocery store?
I try to use fresh, real ingredients. If you see icing on a cake that’s pure white, [it’s] not necessarily made with butter or vanilla, because butter and vanilla aren’t white. People wonder why my buttercream isn’t white. It’s because I use real vanilla, real butter. Everything’s fresh. Everything’s made to order, nothing’s ever frozen. Except for fillers like flour and sugar, I don’t have the ingredients until I have an order. If someone wants strawberry filling, I go and buy strawberries.