Welcome to Cake Decorator Spotlight Series!
Hi friends! As you may have noticed, I just launched a new blog template for the cake decorator spotlight series. I hope you find this cleaner and easier to navigate through. I admired her blog from afar in my early days of trying to set up my own blog in 2019, so I am honored to be featuring Whitney from Sugar & Sparrow, a self-taught baker & cake blogger who resides in Portland, Oregon for May’s Cake Decorator Spotlight. Read on to learn how she started making cakes and turned her career into blogging.
Interview with Sugar & Sparrow
It was a pleasure sitting down with Whitney to ask some questions and get to know her a bit better.
Check out what Whitney had to say in our interview:
Hi Whitney! Could you share a little bit about you?
I am the baker, writer, and photographer behind Sugar & Sparrow, a cake blog where I share approachable cake recipes and decorating tutorials for people of all skill levels. I also just published my first book, Anyone Can Cake, which is an all-encompassing guide on baking, building, and decorating perfect layer cakes. My greatest passion is teaching people how to make delicious cakes that look just as beautiful as they taste, regardless of their prior baking/decorating experience!
Aside from cake, I’m a wife, mother of two boys (one of which is due in June), an avid reader, a runner, and lover of the great outdoors. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and could easily see myself living here forever.
How did you get started with making cakes? What made you decide that being a blogger & content creator was something you wanted to do?
While I’ve had an interest in baking for as long as I can remember, it wasn’t until my early twenties that I became fascinated with cake decorating. I started watching this reality show called Ace of Cakes where the bakers would create super detailed fondant cakes and was just in awe of how artistic cake could be. It inspired me to head to my local craft store, purchase my very first cake decorating tools, and start practicing. I was instantly hooked!
I started making cakes every chance I got, mostly for friends and neighbors, and then they started telling their friends about my cakes and all the sudden there was demand. So I got my home kitchen certified, put together a quick website, printed out some business cards, and started taking custom orders for the next 10 years.
I learned so much in that time and perfected my recipes, but I was starting to get really burned out because I still worked a full time day job and cakes were taking over my nights and weekends. I’d also started sharing recipes and original designs on my Instagram page, which was growing. That’s when my husband suggested starting a blog. That way cake could still be a big part of my life, but I could work at my own pace and on my own schedule. I am so glad that I took the leap from cake orders to cake blogging in 2018!
What is the most significant accomplishment to date of your blog/content creation career?
Definitely publishing my first book! It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of doing, but never in a million years thought that I would get the opportunity. I had so much fun developing recipes, writing, photographing, and watching the book come together exactly how I imagined it! Seeing it in bookstores has been absolutely surreal.
Do you have a memorable cake that challenged you?
Two cakes instantly come to mind:
1) my very first wedding cake (circa 2007), which was a tiered cake covered in fondant with handmade gum paste flowers on top. I was such a beginner and did not realize how long everything would take, so I was up until about 3am decorating the cake. Somewhere in my delirium I had placed the tray of gum paste flowers on a chair and then ended up SITTING on it and breaking all the flowers! So I had to quickly remake them and by the time of delivery they were just dry enough to place. Everything turned out well in the end, but I learned a huge lesson about time management and planning!
2) A GIANT 8×4 ft. sheet cake that I made for a church youth group (circa 2010). It featured a very detailed scene of the band and pastor that I handmade out of gum paste. It took about a month to sculpt all the elements of the cake topper and was definitely the largest cake I’ve ever made.
What do you love/dislike the most about being a blogger/content creator?
Hands down, what I love the most is teaching people how to make cakes that they’re proud of. I get messages all the time from people who used my recipes and tutorials to make their very first successful cake and from people who are excited that they’ve gotten better at baking and decorating because of my content. It’s the reason I do what I do because I believe that cake has a unique ability to spread joy – both to the people baking/decorating and to their recipients, like a ripple effect of happiness!
The one thing that I dislike is the pressure to keep up with changing algorithms and things like that. Social media is ever evolving, and it can be a whole lot of fun but also really overwhelming when you let the pressure to “keep up” take over. I’ve learned to be okay with doing things at my own pace, making quality content vs. quantity, and prioritizing time with my family over getting posts together.
What are some of your favorite tools when designing a cake?
I love texture, so piping tips are always a win for me and palette knives are really fun to work with for more artistic textures. I also love lots of color, so I always have a ton of color gels on hand. My favorites are the AmeriColor Heavenly Seventy Kit and the Wilton Color Right Performance Food Coloring System (for custom mixing).
What are the classic cake trends that you currently love?
Lambeth cakes are always a lot of fun to do because they involve so much piping and you really can’t overdo it. They are the epitome of a classic cake trend.
Is there a baking/cake decorating technique that you would like to try soon?
I had a pavlova cake for the first time recently, so that is on my list of things to try asap! I’m waiting for berry season to kick off, so I can use super fresh strawberries and blueberries in between the layers. I’ve never baked meringue before, so I’m really excited to see what that’s all about!
Which one do you prefer photography or videography, and why?
I am self-taught with both, and there are things I love about both photography and videography. With photography I enjoy setting the scene, capturing details, and interactive/action shots like when I’m lighting a candle in the background or holding up a cake slice. With videography I love getting super satisfying footage, creating a scene around the focal point, and that I can more easily show how to do something. I have so much fun creating super detailed videos like the ones in my Cake Basics series on YouTube and making shorter videos for Reels and TikToks. All that said, I think I might have grown to love videography slightly more even though it takes so much longer to edit together.
Do you have any advice for someone who is considering becoming a blogger but is unsure?
I would say that if you’re wanting to become a blogger because you’re passionate about what you’re sharing, then absolutely go for it! If you’re doing it for the money, know that it’s gonna take awhile (like, years) to build your SEO, start earning ad revenue, etc. It’s such a fun and creative way to share content, but it’s definitely gonna be a side hustle for a bit before it can turn into a profession.
Whitney is absolutely correct. Owning a blog is a marathon; you’ll eventually get there with patience and dedication.
What are things you like to do for fun besides making cakes?
I love spending time with my family, going on hikes (which are plentiful in the Pacific NW!), running, making music with friends, and traveling to new places. I also just discovered a newfound obsession with gardening! It’s my first year planting seedlings for a vegetable/herb garden and have been absolutely captivated with watching the progress. I can’t wait to plant them outdoors and am crossing my fingers that it ends up a success.
If you could pick a favorite dessert to eat, cake or cookies?
Nothing beats a fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookie with a cold glass of milk, unless it’s a fresh out of the oven brownie with ice cream on top.
It’s the reason I do what I do because I believe that cake has a unique ability to spread joy – both to the people baking/decorating and to their recipients, like a ripple effect of happiness!
In this section, I am only going to share her images and links back to her blog for each cake tutorial. They’re all amazing!! I can’t choose a favorite.
Pastel Rainbow Cake
Blackberry Crisp Cake
Painted Buttercream Cake
Thin Mint Chocolate Cake
Spatula Painted Cake
Blueberry Lemon Cake
More about Sugar & Sparrow
Whitney, a self-taught baker, cake decorator, wife, mama, and homemaker living in Portland, Oregon. Check out her blog and social media platforms to connect!