by Sharon Wee

When I first started cake decorating, sugar flowers never appealed to be because I was so impatient. I always couldn’t wait until they dried and would keep trying to touch them and end up breaking them. Plus I just found them so fiddly and hard 🙁 Over the years, I’ve learnt that I didn’t actually have the correct techniques, I was rolling my petals way too thick, and I was using a very bad brand of gum paste (also known as flower paste) – oops. Once I started learning the real tips and tricks behind working with sugar flowers, I started actually enjoying them more and really loving creating floral arrangements for my clients. The best part about sugar flowers are that you can create anything in any colour you want – no need to rely on what is available seasonally or at the florist 🙂

I won’t lie though, sugar flowers are incredibly time consuming but so stunning when done right. If you are selling your cakes, there is a fine balance between creating sugar flowers that not only look detailed and beautiful, but that also don’t take forever to come together! It’s an essential cake decorating skill and so I’m excited to introduce you to someone who not only specialises in creating sugar flowers but also in creating them for client cakes and in humid conditions as well.

Yumi Castrillo
Yumi Castrillo

My friend Yumi, of Piece of Cake by Yumi Castrillo, is visiting us very soon in February (10th – 13th) to teach us how to make her signature sugar flowers. I’m so excited to share this interview with you so you can admire all her stunning flower photos and also get to know her a little more.

She’s coming from the Philippines (where she teaches extensively) and I haven’t seen her since I last visited a couple of years ago so I’m eager to catch up and learn more about the techniques and tips behind her delicate and lifelike sugar flowers.

Could you start by giving us a bit of background on who you are and where you are based?

I am a cake artist from Manila, Philippines.

I specialise in Wedding Cakes that have clean lines, most of the time bare so as to highlight the sugar flowers that I make and decorate the cakes with.

How long have you been cake decorating? How did you get started?

I have been making cakes for 11 years.

I started by just wanting to make my daughter’s first birthday cake. And at that time, all I knew to do were cupcakes.

So I made her this tower of cupcakes for her fiesta themed birthday. Complete with a cactus plant on top!

Then friends started ordering and with each order, I had to teach myself to make layer cakes and bigger cakes until I was already getting wedding cake orders and I still didn’t know how to properly cover a cake with fondant!

I flew over to Singapore and took my very first fondant class with Sharon!

So my very first basics cake decorating class was with Sharon way back in 2012 🙂

You are best known for your beautiful and realistic sugar flowers, what made you specialise in this area?

In the first 5 years of my making cakes, I made all kinds of birthday cakes and wedding cakes, with or without figurines, or with characters and such.

To be honest, I struggled so much when I had to deal with character cakes or cakes with figurines. I felt like I was always fighting with them!

But whenever I would make cake decorated with sugar flowers, it would leave me relaxed and happy. So I decided, perhaps I can start taking sugar flower classes.

After taking my first international class for sugar flowers, I was hooked. I couldn’t stop making them. I lessened my birthday cake orders and slowly began focusing on making wedding cakes and building up my signature look: Clean cakes with beautiful sugar flowers.

Do you have a favourite project that you’ve made?

Perhaps not just one particular cake, but I do absolutely enjoy making naked wedding cakes or buttercream coated wedding cakes.

Like these:

True Blue Naked Wedding Cake
True Blue Naked Wedding Cake
Naked buttercream cake with flowers
Naked buttercream cake with flowers
Pastel Blush Birthday Cake with a Splash of Sunshine
Pastel Blush Birthday Cake with a Splash of Sunshine

You live in a very humid country – what is the biggest tip/advice you have for woking in humid conditions?

Because our humidity level in Manila ranges from 60%-85%, I always work with the air conditioning on.

Whenever I leave the flowers to dry, I keep good air circulation in the room by leaving the vent or fan on. Air circulation keeps the humidity level low.

But another thing that helps is by adjusting the gumpaste/sugarpaste recipe according to the weather conditions, which I teach the students how to do during class.

Do you remember a favourite moment teaching?

I started teaching sugar flowers four years ago.  And ever since my first class, I loved it.

I love sharing my craft with other people, showing them what I know.

I absolutely love it whenever I teach a beginner student, a student that has never touched gumpaste or fondant, and show the student how simple it can be.

Some students are intimidated by the idea of making textured wired petals, adding colour and dusts and wonder, would it hold together? Would it stay together?

I loved it when they started building the sugar flower on their own, and I would hear them gasp in amazement that it did hold together. That it did stay together. AND it’s beautiful. More importantly, that they made it entirely on their own. I think that would be my favourite moment.

What was the most challenging cake you’ve had to make?

It would be the biggest cake I ever made. I don’t get orders for big wedding cakes, I tend to cater to the smaller weddings that have very rustic and natural themes. So for me, the biggest cake I ever made was 5 Tier about 3 feet tall. But the challenge was not so much because I had to cover the cake with fondant, it was making all the flowers for the cake. For this cake with a lush cascade of peach peonies, I had to make about 60 full bloom peonies and about 100 peony buds along with countless blossoms and leaves.Took me about 2 weeks just to finish the flowers alone.

Cascading Peonies
Cascading Peonies

Another cake that took me a few weeks to make the flowers for:

Golden Wedding Anniversary Cake
Golden Wedding Anniversary Cake

How do you get inspiration for new ideas?

I like to be guided by nature. I think flowers are perfect in any form. How they are naturally coloured, the way the petals move, how they form as the flower blooms more and more as it develops. I can look at flowers and bouquets of them all day. Whenever I think of wedding cake designs, I go through gardening magazines and get inspirations and ideas from there.

Alstroemeria
Alstroemeria
Double Hibiscus
Double Hibiscus

Have you been to Australia before? What are you most looking forward to and what do you think you will miss most from home?

It’ll be my first time!

I’m excited to try out some local grub, it’s summer so there’s bound to be some barbie, right? 🙂

I’m a stay at home mum, I’ll be away from my husband and kids for almost a week, not something I do often, I’m excited AND dreading it at the same time.

But I think it will be an adventure for me, and I think for my family too — they’ll have to do without me, haha!

Japanese Peony, David Austin Rose, and Double Cherry Blossom flowers (Feb 10th/11th)
Majestic Rose, Phalaeanopsis Orchid, Monarch Butterfly – and more! Feb 12th/13th

Well that’s it! Hopefully you’re able to make it to class and learn from Yumi personally too. She’ll be teaching two 2-day classes on February 10th/11th and 12th/13th where you’ll learn a bunch of flowers and get to keep a set of cutters to make them later at home.

You can find more information on our website, simply click here for information on Yumi’s classes.

Some of Sharon's favourite tools

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