Colette Peters Interview
(Colette’s Cakes)

She’s a cake maker, an author, and artist and a teacher.

She’s traveled all over the world creating cakes for such celebrities as Bette Midler, Joan Rivers, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Pacino, Eartha Kitt and Robert Altman.

In 1998, she was asked by First Lady, Hillary Clinton to create three “Sugar Scenes” for the Red Room, the Green Room, and the Grand Foyer, as part of the White House Christmas decorations. She was then asked to create decorations for the White House 2000 Holiday Season.

She’s appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the T.V. Food Network, CBS This Morning, The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Discovery Channel, CNN and Lifetime Television.

Her cakes have been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Town and Country, Brides, New York Magazine, Food and Wine, Pastry Art and Design and Victoria.

As if you didn’t know, we are speaking about the one, the only-----Colette Peters.

Q – Well, Colette, I think Congratulations are in order. You won the Food Network’s Best Wedding Cake Competition in 2004.
A – I just won another one too.

Q – On the Food Network?
A – Yeah. It was in 2005, but, it was just on a couple of weeks ago.

Q – There’s probably not much money involved in that, is there?
A - $10,000.

Q – And the recognition, publicity for you.
A – Well, I mean, that’s not why I do it. I do it ‘cause it’s fun. I don’t really do it to get a title. I don’t really do it to seek publicity. I do it ‘cause I like it.

Q – Colette, I would guess there are quite a few cake makers out there who are doing pretty much what you’re doing, but none are as well-known or as celebrated as you are. Why is that? Is it because of the books you’ve written, or are the cakes the real stand-out?
A – Well, I mean, I’ve written five books. A lot of these other people, whoever they are, have not written any books, so, that’s part of it. The books I’ve been writing since ’91 have become learning tools for all future cake decorators. I’ve been around for a long time. I think that’s part of it.

Q – How did you go from studying painting and working for Tiffany and Co. as a designer to becoming this famous wedding cake designer? How did you know you could succeed?
A – Well, my boss, John Loring was writing some of the Tiffany books, sort of the coffee table setting books. He asked me to do some cakes for a couple of books, because he knew I did cakes for people in the office, people at work-----birthdays, stuff like that. So, he asked me to do a couple of cakes for a couple of his books and then when I did, they were sort of unusual and ground-breaking. This was back in like the mid 80’s. Cake decorating wasn’t very much of a Big Deal back then. When I did those cakes for him, I started getting recognition, just from people buying his books. Somebody actually approached me to write a book on cake decorating before I even had a business. (Laughs). I was doing it as a hobby. So, I kind of took on that challenge and decided I would write a book. About half-way through trying to write the book, and having a full-time job, and sort of doing cakes on the side, I realized I couldn’t do it all, so that’s when I left Tiffany’s and started a business on my own, not that I knew I would be real successful, but I figured with a book I could probably last for awhile. So, that’s what happened.

Q – Wasn’t there always this need for Special Occasion Cakes and Wedding Cakes from the Rich and Famous?
A – It wasn’t just rich and famous. Anybody. Nobody knew me, so I did cakes for friends and people I knew, and word of mouth kind of thing. Everybody was looking for something, not just the rich and famous.

Q – Why didn’t the art of wedding cake design get as much attention in the 1980’s as it does now?
A – There weren’t people really doing it. There were 3 people as far as I knew, in the country making sort of elaborate cakes.

Q – Sylvia Weinstock being one of them?
A – Yeah.

Q – You actually teach a cake decorating class?
A – I teach a lot of them, all over the world.

Q – Are these seminars that last a day or 3 days?
A – Well, I mean, I travel all over the world. I go to Sweden. I’ve been to Alaska. All over the place. So, they have to be more than a one day class. (Laughs). I do week long classes, ten day classes. They’re always different. But, I have regular classes that I teach in Orlando, Chicago and New York. I teach all over the place.

Q – You’re affiliated then with a Baking School?
A – Well, they’re all different. I teach in Chicago at Wilton. I teach in Orlando at a pastry school. I teach in New York at my own school. People invite me to come places too that aren’t even schools; they got a bunch of people together and want me to teach them.

Q – Do you think someone can really be taught how to do what you do?
A – Yeah. Of course. That’s why I write books and teach. (Laughs). I teach techniques and then people can do whatever they want with them.

Q – Colette Peters cakes are different from the rest because…..
A – It’s an artistic style. It’s like saying Leonardo and Michaelangelo were both good, but they were just different. A lot of artists are also teachers.

Q – Each cake you make is unique?
A – Pretty much, yeah.

Q – So, when you made cakes for Al Pacino and Joan Rivers, you had to sit down with them…..
A – No. I never met them. When you do things for famous people you rarely meet them. It’s usually their secretary or business people, or party planners, their chefs, their caterers-----who call you. They tell me what the occasion is. The only person I meet with kind of regularly is Bette Midler. I just did her 60 th Birthday cake. I did her 50 th Birthday cake and other things.

Q – How labor intensive is it to make one of your cakes?
A – Well, it depends on the cake. I mean, it it’s real elaborate, we might spend a week making flowers for the cake and the day decorating it. Since every cake is unique, it’s really hard to say how long a cake takes ‘cause they’re all different.

Q – Do you travel with your cakes?
A – Sometimes. Sometimes I just ship it, by itself. Other times I go with it. It kind of depends on what people are willing to pay.

Q – If you don’t fly with the cake, how can you be certain it’s treated right?
A – I can’t. I tell them if I don’t go with it, I can’t guarantee it. I mean it’s insured by the airlines, but, they’re taking a risk, ‘cause how can I possibly insure that it’s gonna get there if I’m not with it. If something happens to it, I’m not there to fix it. So, that’s a risk they’re taking.

Q – Your cakes were featured in the Clinton White House. How’d you get that assignment?
A – They were doing Christmas decorations. Mrs. Clinton saw my Christmas book somewhere. I don’t know how she got it. She liked it and so they called me to come and talk about doing decorations for the White House, and that’s what we did.

Q – What an honor!
A – I actually did it twice, in different years.

Q – What new challenges are ahead for you? What can you do that haven’t done in the past?
A – Well, that’s a very good question. I’m always trying to think of new ideas and techniques. I’m actually in the process of coming up with some new products for cake decorating that have never been made before-----hopefully a new aspect. I’m always trying to come up with new things that haven’t been done before.

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