Fernanda Abarca CakesMontrose, CA
Owners: Fernanda Abarca & Issac Abarca
818-669-3269 • www.fernandaabarcacakes.com
Twitter Handle: @FernandaACakes
Training: Maryland Institute College of Art – studied Illustration; Ringling College of Art and Design – Bachelors in Computer Animation; Self-taught sugar artist
Cake philosophy: Cake for me is an art form. It’s simply a medium to tell stories and bring life to characters.
What inspired you to become a cake decorator: I am a feature animation artist at DreamWorks Animation. I’ve worked for the company since 2006. As an artist, sometimes your creativity becomes stagnant, especially after doing the same thing for years. In 2010 I started a small family catering business and I volunteered to be in charge of desserts. I liked baking, but I wanted to be sure our cakes didn’t just taste good, but looked awesome as well. That was the first time I experimented with fondant. I quickly realized the possibilities were endless. I took all I had learned from my experience as an animation artist and from my illustration background and simply applied it to sugar.
How long have you been in business? We have been in business for two years. We officially opened our doors in January 2013, after a very successful gig for Dreamworks Animation’s “Rise of The Guardians” release party. It was the first time I took fondant and sculpted tons of individual characters for their event. It was the hardest and most rewarding experience I had been through in a while. The cupcakes where such a hit that we were later booked for upcoming releases including “The Croods”, “How To Train your Dragon 2”, and “Penguins of Madagascar.” Word quickly spread about our quality and soon we were getting calls to assist marketing campaigns at DreamWorks and Disney. Since then, we’ve made cupcakes for the Disney studio’s “Frozen” Oscar party, the Disney Music Awards, and most recently the world premiere of Disney’s Oscar Animated Feature “Big Hero 6”. The primary focus of our company is entertainment. We help entertainment companies bring their characters to life in sugar form for press, premieres, and studio events. It’s an extremely hard, but also a rewarding and fun job to have. I know firsthand from my animation experience the complex and oftentimes tedious hard work that goes into making these films, so I am honored these world renowned companies trust me with their “gems” for their important celebrations.
Signature style: I’m a sculptor. Most of my work is very detailed and I take my time to really bring out the proper likeness in characters. Whether it’s a two inch bust sculpture for cupcakes or a four foot tall cake, the details are always present. I look for ways to enhance the characters and present them in a unique and appealing way.
Strangest request: One time we got a request to make an adorable “My Little Pony” cake, which of course we were excited about. It was unusually comical however, when we learned the cake was to be made for a grown man. It may have been for a “Brony” party, but either way, it was strangely funny.
Favorite cake flavors and colors: I am a sucker for romance, and if you were to look at my cake collection you would never think it. I absolutely LOVE looking at beautiful romantic pastel cakes and often wish I did more of that. My biggest clients, however, are animation companies that target their films to children, so the cakes are always very, very colorful and fun to make. I am very careful to ensure color accuracy and I spend a lot of time designing and planning. Everything from liner and sculpture colors, to linen colors must be down pat before I even start the cake. My favorite cake flavor is definitely chocolate with salted caramel. It NEVER disappoints and it’s just simply delicious.
Favorite cake ever: Honestly, I don’t think I have a favorite. They were all in their own right super fun and each held a special part in my heart. I guess I can say it’s always my most recent cake. I like to raise the bar every time. I am always learning and experimenting so each time I create a new cake, I apply different techniques that makes the current one a little more successful than the last. I guess that in turn makes me fall in love with them just a bit more. “Hiro” for “Big Hero 6” was my last cake “crush” because he just turned out so freaking cute. But “Astrid” from our “How to Train your Dragon 2” cupcake series is definitely my other current “love”. She was simply so tiny and so full of fun details. Sometimes it’s hard to let go because I spend hours and hours on these guys, but when I see the reaction of the client I present them to, I remember why I do what I do and I am happy with that.
Most challenging project: My most challenging was our four-foot Toothless Cake for DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train your Dragon 2” release party. He was massive and planning for him took over 10 hours along with my husband and business partner, Issac, who created the rig (or structure) that held him together. Two brains are always better than one, especially when planning such a massive cake. Toothless was so big we had several challenges to figure out before we even started. We had to consider, for instance, how heavy would he become? How would we lift him? Would he fit through the door? What would be his maximum height in order for us to fit him in the delivery van? etc, etc.
Biggest cake disaster: My biggest cake disaster had to be Toothless’ wings. At the time I had never dealt with wafer paper and I assumed the wings would not be an issue if we left them for last and used wafer paper to make them. That turned out to be a huge disaster! We had five hours to go before delivery and had yet to put the wings on. When we did, however, the wafer paper started to shrivel up big time. We had to tear it all down and wire the entire wing and layer it with fondant. This added at LEAST 20 pounds to the cake and really messed up the wing design. On top of that, it had no time to dry. Lesson learned. I will never forget that heart attack!