I’m sitting in a restaurant in downtown LA to interview Sarah Choe, owner and founder of SarieCakes, a bespoke cake making company. She tells me she’s been incredibly busy with events and orders these past few weeks, the latest was working LA Style Week and this doesn’t surprise me at all. When you think of cakes your mind doesn’t necessarily run to art or fashion but SarieCakes are certainly not your typical cake business. I met Choe in Beijing several years ago, before the idea of baking had ever occurred to her. Since then, in three years she has built her business up to become a wonderfully successful, (and in my opinion, one of the best) bespoke cake businesses around, specializing in fantastic artistic pieces that quite frankly look just too beautiful to eat.
Choe has always been artistic, she went to FIDM to study fashion, but dropped out after feeling the course wasn’t for her. She spent some time working for her father, then travelled to Asia for a few months before coming back to LA and decided she wanted to take some kind of course with her sister, “It was either going to be knitting or cake making” she tells me, “we went for cake making”. As soon as Choe began the course, she realized she had a natural ability for it, coupled with her knowledge of structuring and design from FIDM she realized she had stumbled upon something that might be a career opportunity for her. “My sister wasn’t quite the same,” she says with a smile. “We put a photo up on that website, where you post a picture of your version and then someone else’s that failed it. It was a rose cake design or something. We put mine up (Nailed it) and my sisters next to it (Failed it) she laughs, it was so funny. I wish I had kept that picture.” Needless to say, her sister didn’t continue with baking, instead now works as an interior designer, so creativity obviously runs in the family, just perhaps not baking!
After posting that picture, aside from having a laugh together with her sister, people began commenting on what a talent Choe had, which pushed her to move forward. Choe explains, “I met with Elin Katz from Rosebud, in Beverly Hills and I don’t know how, but I got the job to intern there.” Those in the industry all know Katz to be one of the most respected women in the baking world, with a huge amount of experience, she specializes in edible works of art that she lights to perfection and places her creations in front of stage like backdrops. Choe explains, “Before I got the job, Elin asked me to make a purse handbag, I had no idea she was going to ask me to do that, so it was scary.” As a complete newcomer to the industry Choe had no idea how well respected Katz was, “Later on when I realized how well respected she was in the industry, I felt so fortunate.” Choe says.
Sadly after Choe had spent just a few month of working there, Katz closed down Rosebud after 27 years of being in business, however this only pushed Choe to begin her own company. “I knew 6 months in that I wanted to start my own business” she says, “because Rosebud closed, it pushed me to do it earlier than I wanted, I thought maybe two years down the line, but I spoke to my mum and she really pushed me to do it. “
Sarah Choe, With Rosebuds owner, Elin Katz
Katz was also behind her starting her own company, telling Choe to “not let this talent go to waste.” Choe says passionately, “I never thought I would have my own business. But now it’s all I focus on.” Choe knows that she has found a niche, amongst her portfolio, (whilst working at Rosebud) is an eight-foot tall wedding dress. It took four girls a week to complete it.” The wedding dress wasn’t even the wedding cake, Choe tells me, “It was for the engagement party. The bride-to-be had already picked her dress and the cake was a replica of it. For this kind of project it takes more than just baking talent, “That wasn’t just cake, we had to carve the mannequin out of styrofoam, we had to measure it, get the dimensions right.”
Moving forward, Choe has her eyes set firmly on expanding her company, “I was even thinking that I could set up in Asia. But it could be hit or miss. In America we have cakes for everything. It’s a much larger market, we have a lot of parties and cupcakes are popular. In America they will also have birthdays for a 6.5 month olds and it’s a $4,000 cake.”
In just a few short years of being in the industry, Choe has a lot of stories to tell, She’s made a Louis Vuitton purse for one customer which cost more than an actual Louis Vuitton bag. Another that included making a Birkin bag for Sharon Stone. “It’s always a PA that comes to order the cake, so at the time you don’t know.”
I ask Choe what’s the longest time she has spend on making a cake and she says, “Everything has to be done in 4-5 days. Most people think they’re freshly baked but they’re not. It’s one day to bake and cool down. Then one day to put together, and set and carve it. It then takes another day or two to decorate. But you can’t take longer than 5 days because it just doesn’t taste good.” Any baking disasters, I ask Choe, “Oh, many! In my earlier baking days I made a cake and on delivery date it crumbled. At that time I didn’t know about putting dowels in the middle to keep it up. The delivery was that night so I had to make the whole bottom part again. I’ve also heard horror delivery stories, dropping the cake on the way to deliver it. But unless it’s a total disaster you can always fix it.”
I ask Choe if she is sick of eating cakes now that she makes them everyday, “ I gained ten pounds when I started this business, you have to try when you make cakes, especially in the beginning, but now I know, so I can just taste the frosting. But now, if I see cake or sweets I don’t want to eat it! When it’s my birthday, my friends ask me, where do we get the cake, do we order it from you?” she laughs. “ I just tell them, no cake!” My family are also sick of cakes because I give them left overs! I think they also gained weight!”
I ask Choe what her favorite part of her job is and she tells me, “It’s creative and I just have fun with it. It doesn’t feel like a job. The more creative the cake is, the more I learn. There is not one time you think, ‘ I’ve got this’ I do research and I find tips of something I never knew. I always write these things down. Everything is also about timing.” Choe is certainly continuing to learn, she plans on taking a carving workshop, so she can build more physical structures on which to lay her baked creations around. She also plans on taking more business classes to help further SarieCakes. I tell her I think it’s so fortunate that she stumbled upon this cake baking course with her sister, which has really carved our her future, “Yea, if we had chosen the knitting course, I don’t know what I’d be doing.” She laughs.
At this point, I thank Choe for her time, and as I do, our chocolate mousse from the set menu arrives, and true to her word, Choe dips her spoon in it, takes a small taste and sets it aside.
Below is a selection of just a few of Sarah Choe's incredible designs
For more information on Sarah Choe and SarieCakes, click: Here