Finding your dream job is not always a linear path. Getting there is a journey full of experiences that can act as stepping-stones toward realizing what you are truly meant to do. Just ask Lauren Bohl White of A White Cake. As one of New York City’s most sought after wedding cake designers, Lauren creates magnificent desserts for couples to enjoy on their special day. Just one look at Lauren’s jaw-dropping creations and it’s hard to imagine her doing anything that doesn’t involve baking stunning cakes and sweets!
We’ve had the pleasure of working together with Lauren on many weddings. So we were especially excited when she agreed to be interviewed for Bride & Blossom’s Women Paving the Aisle series. To our surprise, we learned that Lauren had a career as an interior designer before starting her business. Here, she talks about her decision to go back to culinary school, what goes into to making her dazzling floral adorned wedding cakes, and how she stays creatively inspired.
Baking and being in the kitchen is often tied with memory. Looking back, are there any special experiences from your childhood that led you to pursue a career as a master cake baker?
I was lucky enough to grow up a few blocks from a grandmother who knew cookie and cake recipes from memory, and with a mother that baked six loaves of whole wheat bread in a batch. I didn’t have store brought bread until I had lunch at a friend’s house and was in amazement at how soft and thinly sliced the sandwich slices were!! They definitely taught me to be comfortable in a kitchen from a very early age.
You went to college for interior design, earned a degree, and worked for top firms in New York City and Washington DC. What made you give up your successful design job and go back to culinary school?
I’ve always loved food and being creative. Interior design and interior architecture allowed me to do designs at a much larger scale. I had a couple of projects back to back with intense design and deadline schedules that made me realize that I did not want to spend the rest of my life beholden to deadlines and projects beyond my control. I was also living with a good friend from college who had gotten a degree in architecture but ultimately came to NYC and went to ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) for culinary and culinary management. He really was a sounding board for my career change decision. When I decided to do the pastry program and culinary management program at ICE, I knew I wanted to get into a food career, but I didn’t know where that would lead.
As a culinary student, did you have any teachers or mentors who really inspired you?
I can honestly say that I really loved what all of my chefs and instructors brought to their classes and learned something different from everyone. Every time I color fondant or buttercream, I can hear Chef Jeri in my head saying “don’t make it garish!”
When did you know that cakes were going to be your specialty? Has your background in interior design been useful in creating beautiful sweets?
When I started the final cake section with sugar flowers and I started making things, I discovered that I really loved making flowers and exploring cake design possibilities. My background in interiors definitely helps form color theories, patterns, and proportions, and aids my ability to sketch out cakes and talk about design concepts of the wedding with clients. It really is amazing how well the two professions mesh together.
Dessert and celebration go hand and hand. The wedding cake is especially important in this sense because it carries so much symbolic meaning. How does it feel knowing your cakes represent one of the most special moments in a couple’s new life together?
Making a couple’s wedding cake is a joyous thing at the end of the day. It can be high pressure with one shot to get it all right. But all and all, it’s so much more rewarding than stressful.
You’re known for your exquisite designs that are rich with detail and stunning floral motifs. How can a bride use her cake’s decorative elements to reflect her wedding style and personality?
Every couple is different in what they like and what they want for their wedding cake. Some want simple and elegant, some want over the top. I think it’s always great for the couple to think about the overall feel for the wedding. Is there a concept or theme? Colors they want to include? Invitations or flower arrangements to pull ideas, patterns, colors, decorations from? Bridal party colors as cake accents? Are there any thoughts for cake toppers, new or family heirlooms? There’s lots of different ways to pull in a couple’s style and personality, that’s really what makes the design process so fun!!
We’ve had the pleasure of working together on the same weddings. The cakes that you made for our brides Mary and Jessica were gorgeous, but very different in terms of style and decoration. Can you share the creative process behind designing each cake?
OH, these are two favorites for different reasons! For Jessica, we really pulled in all of the ornate detailing of the Versailles Ballroom of the St. Regis. We gave two of the tiers accents of molded gum paste painted in gold along with the custom monogram and then did simple gold painted banding on the other layers. For the flowers, Jessica opted for fresh flowers, which we coordinated with you, Bride & Blossom, by sharing sketches for placement and delivery timing to have everything come together seamlessly! I know some bakers frown upon fresh flowers on wedding cakes, but it’s really a great budget-friendly alternative. And they can be so lovely!!
For Mary’s cake, we pulled the florals and colors from her invitations and the flowers you were using for the wedding. We really wanted to have a romantic spring garden feel. I love the pops of pink and coral small blooms and the greenery. The cake really tied in all the florals that you all were using in the ceremony and reception!
We can’t get over your sugar flowers! Which are your favorite blooms to make?
I love traditional blooms… roses, peonies, sweet peas, hydrangea….. I love making sweet peas and cut 5-petal blooms. They both can have so much personality!
You put so much time and effort into your cake designs. They look like works of art! How does it feel knowing that they are going to be cut up and eaten in just hours after leaving your bakery? Do you ever feel precious about them? Or are you excited about the joy they bring to others?
I love the fact that the cakes are going to be eaten and enjoyed at the end of the night. They are meant to be eaten and shared among the couple and their guests!! I take a lot of pride in the fact that our cakes taste as good as they look.
Do you foresee any wedding cake trends for 2018?
My head has been in California, we were just visiting, and stay-at-home mom mode for the last month. It has been really great to get away from the kitchen for a bit. But with that said, I think the textured buttercream trend is going to continue along with metallic details. I would love to see more dramatic flower colors and types, there are so many interesting flowers out there on the market. I hope clients let their florists get really creative!
Could you describe your dream wedding cake? What does it look like and what are the flavors?
Well, for my wedding cake, it took a village! We wanted the buttermilk spice cake with cream cheese filling. It was perfect for a November wedding!! My assistant baked and filled the cake in NYC. Gail Watson drove the cake tiers to Ohio and Ruth Drennan flew in from California to decorate the cake with her stunning sugar flowers and two gum paste gnomes hiding amongst the flowers on the cake. I had no idea what the cake would look like until I walked into the reception space in my wedding dress…. It was perfect!!! Gail and Ruth are two of the biggest mentors in my life, with cakes, and beyond. It was truly so special.
What advice do you have for our readers who want to start their own business?
Be ready to work really hard and to wear all the hats that you can within the business, but don’t be afraid to ask for help in areas you are unsure. Also, take care of yourself to not get burnt out.
What do you do to stay creatively inspired?
I don’t follow a lot of cake people on Instagram. I feel less creative when I look at cakes. I love seeing what florists are creating. And the work of fabric designers, interior designers, artists and painters, quilters, embroidery crafters, and graphic designers are really where I find inspiration.
You finally have a full day off? What would you do?
These days, I cherish a day off with my husband and toddler son. Our days off usually consist of a fun NYC adventure to a museum or a simple walk to the neighborhood playground to swing and then an early dinner at Prime Meats.
Do you have any exciting plans that you would like to share with us?
Well, yes, things are happening this year!! My husband’s job has presented us with the opportunity to relocate to Pittsburgh this spring. This move is kind of life coming full circle for me in some regard, my mom was from Pittsburgh and I spent a lot of time there growing up. Sadly she passed away January 2016 and our son was born in June 2016. Working full time all through 2016 really helped me put work and life into perspective. It’s a little bittersweet to come to terms with packing up A White Cake.
I’ll be entering a new market in Pittsburgh with all new planners, vendors and venues to get to know along with setting up a new workspace etc., but it’s exciting! And I was super lucky to reconnect with a colleague Nicolle Lugo who is taking over my other cake company, A Simple Cake. She’s talented and lovely, which has made it all easier knowing that the company will continue in good hands back in NYC! I think I’m most sad about not working with the vendors that I’ve worked with on so many weddings over the years. And I’ll miss making those future celebration cakes for clients that I’ve made wedding cakes for!