Profile of a baking professional

by John Unrein
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Lia Weber
Lia Weber wears many hats as a cake decorator and baking ambassador.

LAS VEGAS — Glitter and gold mean a lot to the success of Lia Weber, who wears many hats as both the 26-year-old owner of her cake and sweets shop Made. By Lia and baking ambassador for AB Mauri North America, a leader in yeast and bakery ingredient products and solutions.

“Gold is definitely in. That’s the trend right now,” Ms. Weber told a tuned-in audience of cake decorators watching her demonstration during the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in Las Vegas earlier this fall. “About 90% of my wedding cakes have gold incorporated into them these days.”

 Ms. Weber knows what she is talking about because she has come a long way in a short time. The Florissant, Mo., native started her own business four years ago, prior to working as a pastry chef and lead cake decorator for several of the top retail shops and restaurants in St. Louis. She has a business degree, a baking and pastry arts degree, and attended culinary school in Italy. Two years ago, she rose to national notoriety after winning TLC’s Next Great Baker Season 4.

 Ms. Weber calls herself a perfectionist, which is a handy trait for a cake decorator. And yet during the IBIE show, where she gave tips and techniques for applying metallic accents and sprinkles to cakes, she revealed a notable emerging trend that decorators will want to know.

“Brides really like things that aren’t perfect these days,” she said. For example, “you don’t have to have a perfect line all the way around your cake. But make sure it still looks really nice with the design.”

Brushing on sprinkles is one of the simplest ways to dress up a special occasion cake, and it’s easy. Ms. Weber began her IBIE demonstration by applying colorful sprinkles to a cake covered in white fondant.

“You want to coat your cake in the piping gel so, that way, the sprinkles stick to the cake,” she explained. “It’s fun, but it’s messy. If you have buttercream underneath your fondant, make sure that the buttercream is cold. Otherwise, you will have indents in your cake.”

Applying edible gold leaf was her next demonstration, and Ms. Weber’s enthusiasm showed.

“Gold leaf is really one of my favorite ways to add gold to cakes,” she said. “It gives a really beautiful shimmer to your cakes.”

Ms. Weber said she enjoys working with both fondant and buttercream and recommends that when applying gold leaf to fondant, you have to add a little water first. Not so with buttercream. Just take your cold cake out of the cooler and start applying gold leaf.

“I like adding gold leaf to buttercream best because it gives more of a matte texture,” she said.

Gold leaf comes in a variety of sizes and costs about $50 for 10 sheets (enough to cover a 6-inch round cake), she explained to the crowd.

“That is a good upsell for your brides,” Weber reminded cake decorators about the importance of charging accordingly for your work. “Gold leaf is very flimsy and sticks to your fingers. But the overall look is so beautiful, it is well worth it.”

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