Humans of Brambleton: Karen Cole – Karen’s Cakes

Posted February 17, 2015

Humans of Brambleton is our blog feature that focuses on one of the many interesting personalities who calls Brambleton home.

Brambleton's Birthday Cake Contest Winner Karen Cole of Karen's CakesAs an artist and a professional, what drew you to the Brambleton neighborhood?  Does living in Brambleton inspire your work in any way? I have actually only been doing cakes professionally for a year now.  We moved to Brambleton almost 10 years ago because we liked the look and location of the community and that it was full of young families.  Brambleton’s 12th Birthday Cake Contest is what got me started doing cakes.  Before the contest, I was just decorating cakes for our family and some friends.  I was looking for a challenge.  I have always enjoyed decorating cakes and the thought of a cake business had crossed my mind.

Have you ever baked and decorated a cake for a Brambleton-specific event or holiday?  How did the community culture influence your work? I entered and won both Brambleton’s 12th and 13th Birthday Cake Contests.  For those cakes, my inspirations were the town center and the community landscaping with its hills, paths and waterfalls.  I also incorporated the Virginia Love sign in my second cake.

What do you enjoy most about living in Brambleton?   I love that Brambleton is such a close knit community.  My experience has been that most people are genuinely friendly and caring towards one another.  This is always visible when a fellow neighbor has a hardship or tragedy.  I also love the conveniences of our neighborhood – the town center with the movie theater, shops and restaurants.  Our neighborhood has the feel of a small town within a larger suburb.  I can’t go anywhere without running into someone I know!  

Can you tell us about how you bake in your own Brambleton home?  What are some essential tricks of the trade or kitchen secrets you’d like to pass along to your fellow Brambletonians? I love having my own cake business!  It gives me flexible to work whenever I want and still be there to take my kids to after school activities or volunteer at school.  I’m still not sure whether it’s a good or bad thing to have cake around the house all the time!  

When I bake at home I am very organized.  I make all the fondant decorations and accents ahead of time, so it can set up and harden.  The day before, I make the cake, assemble and frost.  I leave any last minute details for the last day.  It also helps that I have two ovens to bake multiple cakes at a time and two refrigerators for storage.  I make all my cakes and frostings from scratch using quality ingredients and organic dairy products.

 When it comes to baking, always allow your eggs, butter and milk to come to room temperature.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember, but it makes a big difference in how smoothly your batter mixes together.  I also always add a frosting border to the bottom of my cakes.  It helps to hide any frosting imperfections at the bottom and gives the cake a more polished look.  Don’t be afraid to work with fondant.  If you can make shapes out of play dough you can do it with fondant! 

Anything else you would like to share about your experience living and working in the Brambleton community?  Do many of your customers also live in the community? My only source of advertising is a Facebook page I set up and by word of mouth.  I have some wonderful friends and neighbors who refer me to customers all the time.  I would say half of my customers live in Brambleton.

Do you have any tips for residents looking to bake for an upcoming event?  Or even just looking to bake and cake decorate for fun!? Start small.  Pinterest is loaded with ideas to give you inspiration on decorating just about any kind of cake.  If you are looking for cake and frosting recipes, there are plenty of those too.  Need step-by-step tutorials?  YouTube has helped me to improve my frosting techniques and make some of the more complex shapes out of fondant.  Just have fun with it!