Elisa Strauss Interview
(Confetti Cakes)

Before she was old enough to write her own name, Elisa Strauss was in her grandmother’s kitchen baking and decorating cakes.
These days you’ll find Elisa Strauss in her own kitchen, the business she created, known as Confetti Cakes.

Q – Elisa, in your wildest dreams did you ever think you’d become a cake designer?
A – No way. Never. I actually went back and spoke at my school last year at convocation and kind of said that exact thing. I was an Art major in college but I just never thought I’d be doing the cakes. That’s definitely a strange thing.

Q – What were you hoping to do with your Art degree?
A – I went into Design. I always loved to design objects. Because I loved to paint, it seemed that textiles was the natural progression. So, I did that for awhile at Ralph Lauren. Then I was sort of immersed in the fashion industry. So, I went to Frederick Facai and designed hand bags and hair accessories. But, it definitely wasn’t my passion. I always baked with my grandma. I just picked up a book one day and started doing these sculpting cakes. But, the reaction I got from people. Every cake was different, so, it sort of came to me.

Q – When you worked for Ralph Lauren, you were designing clothes for men and women?
A – I was designing the textiles to go on clothes. So, if there was a floral print, I was the one who was painting it basically.

Q – Then someone asked you to design a birthday cake for Mr. Lauren. How did that happen? Why didn’t they go to the cake shop down the street with a request like that?
A – Yeah, by that point I had been doing enough cakes that it was sort of known in the department I was doing this as a hobby. I had done enough cakes that they could kind of see I could do the sculptured cakes. They trusted me. They paid me for it, so that was good. (Laughs). They wanted to do something special. It was his 60th birthday. The Vice-President was the next office down from where I worked so she knew I was sort of doing it.

Q – What was the shape of the cake? I believe you put that information on your website.
A – It was in the shape of his sports car, his Bugatti, one of his favorite sports cars.

Q – That was really your ticket, your entrée to design cakes for the rich and famous wasn’t it?
A – I mean, it wasn’t that immediate, per se. But, it definitely helped me. People at Ralph Lauren would talk about it, and got me into other circles. It was really the luck of press that came along. I had a friend who had a friend at Time Out Magazine. He was a freelance writer and one thing sort of led to another. They wrote an article and it’s really been the press that’s helped me sort of launch the business over the past few years.

Q – You had so many requests to make cakes, you had to leave Ralph Lauren and open your own kitchen?
A – Pretty much.

Q – Are you able to name names of the people you are making cakes for or not?
A – I prefer not. There’s definitely some celebrities in there. Most of my clients are just regular people that really want amazing cakes for their loved ones.

Q – I assume you have people working for you.
A – Yes.

Q – What are you looking for in a potential employee? Do you have an apprentice program?
A – Yeah. Most people definitely intern with me. As you can imagine it’s not just a regular pastry kitchen. You need to have a pastry background so you understand the medium I work with. You also need to have an artistic inclination, which isn’t always self-evident. We’ve asked to see peoples photographs before they start of previous work that they’ve done. A lot of it is just an attitude, a willingness to learn. Those types of things. It’s a combination. I don’t take on that many people because it is a very small custom shop and I still do a lot of the work myself.

Q – Do you travel with your cakes?
A – I don’t. I’ve done a few things with the Food Network or cake competitions if I have to travel, but, there’s so much business in New York that I don’t ship my cakes. They’re too fragile. We’ve delivered cakes hours away, in Boston and Pittsburgh. Places that we could drive to. Since 9-11, it’s been very difficult to get cakes on planes.

Q – You have a shop. You have a website. And now, you’re writing a book?
A – I am. I got a deal for actually 2 books. So, I’m working on the first of the two. We’re getting ready to shoot all the photographs of the cakes. And then I’ll be writing all the recipes.

Q – You are one busy woman!
A – Yeah, it’s been real busy. (Laughs)

Official website: confetticakes.com

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