Thank you Penny Stamps

It was a big weekend for the University of Michigan.  In case you haven’t heard, the basketball team played in the NCAA  Division 1 Final Four and National Championship for the first time in twenty years.   Perhaps with less national pomp and circumstance, but no less worthy, is the celebration of  the re-naming of the School of Art & Design to Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.

Penny Stamps and her husband E. Roe Stamps have been instrumental in positioning the school to become a national leader in art and design education.  Their generosity is particularly poignant to our own Heather Leavitt, Sweet Heather Anne‘s owner and head decorator. Heather not only is a graduate of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, she also was a Stamps Scholar.  Much thanks to the leadership and generosity of Penny Stamps, Heather’s time at the University of Michigan sculpted who she is as an artist today, laying the foundation for Sweet Heather Anne‘s signature artistry.

In celebration of the re-naming  Heather created a cake (and accompanying cookies and macarons) to commemorate Penny Stamp’s enormous impact on the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.

Sweet Heather Anne. Corporate Cakes“Creating this cake was such an honor.  When I was in art school, my thesis involved creating cakes as edible monuments to local farmers and food producers.  Now that I am a local food producer, it was amazing to have the opportunity to create an edible monument to Penny Stamps and the art school.  I feel like I’ve really come full circle.  It was awesome to see all of my Professors, and celebrate Penny, and everything she has done for the school and the arts. ” -Heather

Penny W. Stamps.School of Art & Design. University of MichiganPenny W. Stamps. School of Art & Design. University of MichiganPenny W. Stamps. School of Art & Design. University of MichiganPenny W. Stamps. School of Art & DesignPenny W. Stamps. School of Art & Design

Many thank to Abby Rose Photo for the gorgeous images above.

Cake, Art, Univeristy of Michigan, Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design

Edible Monument to Tantre Farm, part of Heather’s thesis project at the Stamps School of Art and Design in 2007.

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Buttercream vs Fondant

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, or even thinks about it much, but fondant has gotten a pretty bad rap for itself.  It’s not that I don’t understand why, I do.  At its worst it can be a thick gummy paste with a strangely chemical after taste, at its best it is what I call marshmallow-flavored  Play-Doh.  And this is how the buttercream versus fondant debate usually starts.

There are a few points that I always like to make.

The first is that you’re not losing buttercream but gaining fondant.  Every fondant cake has a layer of buttercream underneath the fondant.  We try to make the layer of fondant as thin as possible (typically about an eighth of an inch) that way guests who don’t prefer fondant are easily able to remove their fondant and push it to the side. .

Secondly, because event cakes are typically large, and are serving lots of guests, they are cut differently from your typical home cake.  Instead of the typical pie wedge the cake is cut in concentric circles and then thin slices.  What this means is that most guests will be served interior slices of cakes, which will have only a thin layer on the top.  And in case my description made no sense, perhaps this diagram will help.

How to cut a wedding cake

What the decision really comes down to is a decorating decision.  Buttercream is delicious.  Here at Sweet Heather Anne all busttercream is Swiss buttercream, made with brown sugar and vanilla bean paste.  It makes for a lovely ivory tone with flecks of bean.  Not ideal for a white on white ultra modern affair, but definitely wonderful.  Fondant also receives color better than buttercream, and allows us to make that perfect color match more so than buttercream.   Fondant in all its sugary glory is a tool that allows us to achieve a desired aesthetic.

Buttercream cakes are delicious and stunning in their simplicity.  Check out some of our most recent…

Buttercream Cake by Sweet Heather Anne

photo by Abby Rose Photo

Buttercream Wedding Cake by Sweet Heather Anne

photo by Adrienne Fletcher Photography

Wedding Cake by Sweet Heather Anne

photo by Abby Rose Photo

Buttercream Wedding Cake

photo by Jess + Nate Studios

Chrysler Building + Jenny Packham=Wedding Cake Inspiration

I am so excited to share the photos from Lindsay and James’ wedding at the Colony Club Detroit.  There are so many things about this wedding that I am excited share, it makes it hard to know know where to start.

Lindsay and James live in New York City and love the Chrysler building, its art deco architecture inspired much of the aesthetics of the day.  Wanting the cake to fit with the day, we took literal inspiration from the Chrysler Building, making the top of the building the top of the cake.  The middle two tiers incorporated elements of the bride’s gorgeous gown, Astrid by  Jenny Packham. We tied it all together with architectural elements of the Chrysler building on the bottom tier. Sweet Heather Anne wedding cake at the Colony ClubI love this shot of Lindsay next to the cake, she and James look so happy, and the inspiration her dress served is so apparent.Sweet Heather Anne wedding cake at the Colony ClubSweet Heather Anne wedding cake at the Colony Club

Lindsay wasn’t the only one to have the day’s apparel memorialized in cake.  James loves shell toe Adidas, and for the wedding wore the very special Adidas “Diamond” Original Superstar–60 Year Anniversary Shell Toes.  Lindsay wanted to commemorate his love by creating the shoe out of cake.  We captured all the details including the diamond trefoil on the laces.

Adidas Shell Toe 60th "Diamond" Anniversary CakeAdidas shell toe groom's cake

And to put both cakes in the broader context of the Colony Club is breathtaking.  Many thanks to Blaine Siesser and The Shooting Gallery for the gorgeous images.

Sweet Heather Anne wedding cake at the Colony Club

Celebrate Spring in Style

I love Easter because it means that spring is coming.  After a long winter of bitter cold and lots of snow, the pastel colors and green buds add welcome cheer and a reminder of what is to come.

We are so exited about spring, and welcome you to celebrate with us Sweet Heather Anne style.  Thursday March 28th we’ll be teaching our Easter Cookie Decorating class.  Students will learn our signature cookie decorating techniques, leaving with two dozen decorated cookies and the skills and recipes for dozens more.

Sweet Heather Anne Custom Cake Boutique

The Dessert Counter will be featuring gorgeous treats perfect for Easter baskets and celebrations.  In case you miss the class we’ll be selling our decorative sugar cookies in dozens and 2-packs.  Our Easter cake is 6-inches and serves 8-10 guests.  It features lemon cake layered with lemon and raspberry curds and covered in a light pink vanilla Swiss buttercream.  All topped with our adorable Easter banner.

Sweet Heather Anne Custom Cake Studio

Packaged for gifts in boxes of 5, our pistachio and blood orange French macarons  are beautifully tied up with a ribbon.Sweet Heather Anne a custom cake boutique

Our chocolate cake pops with pastel drizzle, packaged in 2-packs, will brighten up even the dreariest of days.

Sweet Heather Anne a custom cake boutique

Last, but certainly not least, carrot ginger is back!  It will be making a limited time appearance at the Dessert Counter in the form of cake-in-a-jar.  Come and get it before we sell out.

Many thanks to Abby Rose Photo for the gorgeous images.

Wedding Cake Design: Inspiration

When clients come to the studio for cake design appointments I always ask that they bring along  photos of the aspects of the wedding that are most important to them.  The great thing about cake design is that the cake can be as personal as the client would like.  Often couples will bring photos of other cakes they like.  While that is helpful, it’s even more helpful to see your colors, patterns, and other design elements from the wedding that you love.  That is what helps us to design a cake that is personal and enhances the event design.  We’ve drawn inspiration from all kinds of sources, everything from stationary, to florals, and even the bridal gown.

The gown was the exact source of cake inspiration for Maureen and Derek’s recent wedding at the Colony Club in downtown Detroit.  Maureen’s gown was Monique Lhuillier‘s Hyacinth.   The top tiers of the cake mimic the texture on the bodice of the dress, and similarly the bottom tiers are inspired by the gown’s skirt.  The cake isn’t so literal that you think immediately of a dress, but it does have the a similar  *gorgeous* look and feel, keeping the design of the evening cohesive.  And of course the inspiration can come from anywhere, so don’t hesitate to bring us that scrap book you’ve been putting together since you were five.Wedding Cake design based on gown

Wedding Cake at Colony Club

A big thank you to Robert Bruce Photography for sharing the cake image.

Meet Heather

I thought it might be nice to take some time to introduce you to the Sweet Heather Anne team.  I’m going to a blog entry about all three of us, but we will start with Heather since she is the owner and namesake of the business.  She also is going to be doing a Culinary U workshop at What’s Cooking Detroit this coming Saturday (March 2nd), so if you like what you hear you can check her out there–be sure to ask her about her love of spoons.   Carla HallMichelle BommaritoJohn Somerville of Lark, and many others will also be there.

Heather’s love for cake design stems from an education in art, a passion for food, and a childlike refusal to believe that there isn’t anything she cannot create.  While attending the University of Michigan School of Art and Design, she packed up her paintbrushes to study abroad in Florence. Though she had hoped that immersing herself in the realm of the Italian masters would rub off on her artistic prowess, she found herself more interested in the perfect foam atop my cappuccino.

Upon returning to the States, her new-found passion for food seeped into her art making. For my art school thesis, I dedicated myself to forming the same connection to food in Michigan that I had experienced in Italy. After working with food producers and artisans in the Ann Arbor area, she created a series of edible monuments to honor each one.

Before opening Sweet Heather Anne, she took time to carefully refine my craft: developing and refining her palate with Eve Aronoff at eve the restaurant and braving the Food Network’s Last Cake Standing as an assistant to Courtney Clark of Cake Nouveau.  As owner and cake designer at Sweet Heather Anne,  she loves what she does, and looks at each new cake as a challenge to create something beautiful that will make your day extraordinary.

Glimpse into the Sweet Heather Anne kitchen, and check out Heather in action: hand-painting a cake topper, decorating cookies, and making royal icing.

at work

Heather at work

Heather at Work

Move over Cupcakes, the Cake Table Has Arrived

I really love cake.  I love looking at them, eating them, baking them, and perhaps most of all, creating them.  The layers of cake filling and buttercream offer so many opportunities for creating complex flavors.  And that is why I love cake.

It also is the same reasons I don’t love cupcakes.  I do apologize to those of you who love cupcakes, I know there are a lot of you out there.  The cupcake simply does not provide my ideal cake to filling to buttercream ratio.   For those of you laughing, I dare you to do a side by side taste test, you will quickly realize the ratio’s importance.

Cupcakes so far have been integral to the recent dessert table trend.  I do get it.  Dessert tables are great for so many reasons: enhancing your decor and overall theme, getting guests up and moving around after the meal, and others.  Which is why I’m so excited about the next step in the dessert table: the cake table.  It gives you all the beauty of a dessert table, but with cakes instead of cupcakes.  I am obsessed.

Last wedding season we did a few cake tables, one of which you can read about here, another was a rustic cake table for Taylor and Anton who married at Misty Farms.  We decided to keep the cake table simple, so as not to interfere with Misty Farm’s rustic feel.  The simple buttercream cakes look so at home there. I just want to eat them, don’t you?

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Many thanks to Amanda Dumouchelle for the gorgeous images.

“I Love You More than Michigan Loves Football” (+ other fine details)

Ann Arbor is home to so much talent, wedding industry included.  As our business has developed I have been amazed at the power of community among Ann Arbor’s wedding professionals.  And it is such a wonderful experience to be amongst such a talented group.

Amanda & Chad’s wedding was so much fun, in part because so many of us were involved.  Abby Rose Photo (our next door neighbor and lunch buddy) took the photos, Stacy at The Gown Shop did the dress, and we did the cake and dessert table.  Amanda also had a very specific vision for her wedding (fun!) and was totally involved in the planning process.  She and her mom had the most impressive binder and organizational system.  I don’t know if they’ve thought about planning weddings, but if they have watch out!

Judging from the photos all that work was worth it.  Amanda and Chad had a beautiful day full of gorgeous details and personal touches. (Be sure to make it to the end of the photos, the signage in the last photo totally makes the cake display, I can’t stop loving it!)

Sweet Heather Anne Metro Detroit Wedding CakesMetro Detroit Wedding Cakes, Sweet Heather AnneMetro Detroit Wedding, Sweet Heather AnneMetro Detroit Dessert Table by Sweet Heather AnneMichigan Football Helmet groom's cake by Sweet Heather Anne

Warm Up with Sweet Heather Anne Classes

I know I’ve written previously about my dislike of winter.  This year I’ve been making a more conscious effort to take a positive view of the biting cold and dark nights.  For one, it is a great excuse for sleeping in and staying at home.  I’ve been busily crossing items off my long to-do list, including remodeling my bathroom.  Winter, I’ve decided, is a time to focus on what’s important.

Here at Sweet Heather Anne winter means less large special event cakes which frees up some of our time for fun classes.  This winter we have some great classes scheduled.  The classes offer anyone interested in beautiful and tasty desserts to come, learn new techniques, and take home some tips from the pros.  This year’s class schedule covers a variety of cake and cookie decorating techniques, including all of the techniques pictured below.  Sweet Heather Anne

Cake Classe at Sweet Heather AnneSweet Heather Anne Cookie ClassCake Class at Sweet Heather Anne

For more information on how to learn any of these fabulous decorating techniques visit our web site or give us ring at 734.913.2025.  Private classes also make great birthday and bachelorette parties, as well as showers. We are looking forward to seeing your smiling face in one of our classes.

A Romantic Meadow Brook Hall Wedding

Denise & Jonathan married at Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester.  If you are even remotely interested in history, architecture, or art and haven’t visited Meadow Brook I would highly recommend.  You will find it fascinating.  Meadow Brook was the home of Matilda Dodge Wilson, wife of John F. Dodge who was co-founder of Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company.  Built in the late 1920s Meadow Brook was modeled off of English country homes and is particularly known for its grand scale, exceptional craftsmanship, and detailed architecural work, all of which make it a gorgeous setting for weddings.

Denise wanted a stunning and romantic wedding.  Check out her and Jonathan at their head table, and the elaborate floral and lighting work that went into the table itself.

Wedding Cake by Sweet Heather AnneWedding Cake by Sweet Heather Anne

We decided to pull inspiration for the cake from Denise’s dress because it was truly stunning.

Cake by Sweet Heather Anne

The cake featured a cascading ruffle mimicking the gathers in the bottom of the bride’s dress.  For a little bit of extra interest two tiers of the cake drew on the blush pink and lace of the decor.

Wedding at Meadow Brook Hall

The overall effect was stunning, as you can see in Denise’s priceless reaction.

Meadow Brook Hall WeddingMeadow Brook Hall Wedding

Many thanks to Elton Anderson for sharing his gorgeous images and Emerald City Designs for their event design work. And of course lots of warm wished to Denise & Jonathan for years of happiness.