Hello, everyone! Welcome to our blog series: #CreativeQueens! Every few weeks we interview and feature an up-and-coming female content creator(s) in the video game, animation, and related industries!
This week our series returns alongside an interview with the wonderful Larissa, the Creator & Founder of "Magical Girl Cakes."
Hi Larissa! Before we start can you introduce yourself, tell us where you’re from and a little bit about Magical Girl Cakes?
Hey guys my name is Larissa, I'm 27 years old and I'm originally from Hudson Bay, which is a very small town in Saskatchewan, Canada. I'm a cake decorator and I've been cake decorating professionally for about 7 and a half years in Toronto.
I just recently moved to Saskatoon and I run "Magical Girl Cakes" which is my home-based cake business.
Let’s dive right in! How exactly did "Magical Girl Cakes" come to be and where did you start?
"Magical Girl Cakes" started as a fun way for me to flex my creative muscles and keep on top of my cake decorating skills during Covid. I was very lucky I got to work on Magical Girl in the house I grew up in because my mum had a massive kitchen with so much counter space, which was way better than my tiny little kitchen in Toronto.
I started with some very simple designs and then branched out into themed cakes based on some of my favorite characters. I posted all my creations on Instagram and was amazed at the response I got and how much people liked my designs.
"This was something totally new for me because throughout all my years working as a cake decorator I could never just do whatever I wanted."
Every design I came up with needed to be edited down to fit my boss's tastes and aesthetics. Another thing about working for someone else, every idea you had, any cake you designed and made with your own 2 hands was never truly yours, it was the "shops".
For every cake, I designed the owner got to take credit and sign their name at the bottom.
"So not only was it super cool that people liked my unedited designs but the also fact that I finally got to take credit for my work."
For the next 3 months, I had a blast working on Magical Girl Cakes and spending time back home but unfortunately, the fun had come to an end. I needed to fly back to Toronto and start working again. I ended up working 3 jobs while trying to keep up with Magical Girl, it was exhausting but I was making it work. I would do retail cakes during the day, teach cake decorating on weekends, do custom cakes for another shop then work on content for Magical Girl at night. Working 2 jobs back to back was nothing for me I'd done it in the past but this time I was really burning the candle at both ends.
When I came home for Christmas that year my dad could tell how exhausted and worn out I was and said I needed to cut back so I decided to cut out retail cakes and teaching. I thought I'd be able to handle creating content for Magical Girl and doing custom cakes but I was wrong. The shop I was doing custom cakes for started to get busier, working there was like cake decorating on extreme difficulty.
It took me just over a year and a half but I finally decided to call it quits...
I was no longer having fun, I was exhausted all the time, I wasn't taking care of myself, I had absolutely no life outside of work, and worst of all I was not getting paid what I was worth.
"I had worked as a cake decorator for other shops but this place was the last straw and I swore to myself that I would never work for another cake decorator again. I also decided that I would move closer to home and work on something that made me happy which was Magical Girl Cakes. "
As of now, I'm set up in Saskatoon doing cakes at home unfortunately, I needed to take up a part-time job to help pay for some new equipment. I'm slowly building up my client list and trying to make a name for myself here in Saskatoon. Sometimes I do question if I made the right decision to move closer to home but I was struggling in Toronto.
It was so expensive there and you don't get paid a whole heck of a lot as a cake decorator. Besides, I want something of my own and I don't think I'd be able to make it happen in Toronto.
Why did you pursue baking as a career? Was owning a small business like "Magical Girl Cakes" always something you had envisioned yourself doing since you were younger or was it more born out of a passionate hobby?
"When I was little I knew I wanted a job that would make me super happy, the same way SpongeBobs job made him super happy. It needed to involve something that I loved and the first thing I thought of was baking."
I had a strong love for baking and decorating right out of the gate and I've got my mum to thank for that. I remember her baking a lot when I was little and have many memories of her making chocolate chip cookies and baking cupcakes for me and my little sister to decorate.
As I got older I got more and more obsessed with it, I based so many school projects on baking and cake decorating.
In high school, I had recipes, flavour combinations, and cupcake designs doodled all over my binders. Throughout the years my dream job had changed but it's always been in the same wheelhouse.
"First I wanted to be a baker, then own a cupcake shop, then be a professional pastry chef, and then finally a cake decorator. I can't explain it but there's something about being a cake decorating that just feels right, I honestly can't imagine having any other job."
What is your favorite part about working as a baker? On the flipside, what would you say is the most challenging?
My favourite part about being a cake decorator is a tie between making figurines and pipping on cakes. I adore making figurines, especially bears. As for pipping one of my all-time favourite cake styles is lambeth. There's a lot of pipping involved and the end result is just magical.
"When I was small I thought these were the most beautiful things ever and liked to think of them as the princess of cakes. I can't help but feel giddy any time I get the chance to make one. "
I would say the most challenging thing about being a cake decorator is dealing with clients/customers.
"This is something that I feel many people will never admit but it's tough and as hard as you try you really can't please everyone."
I've had customers yell at me, tell me how much they hated the cake I just spent hours making, I've had clients talk down to me and I've had potential clients who felt the need to rant about how "ridiculous" my prices are.
Now I've had way more good interactions than I've had worse but it still weighs me down when I've had a less-than-joyful interaction with a client.
In summary, what’s your creative process like? How do you bring a cake’s design to life from the first moment you have an idea for it, to the moment you hold it in your hands and deliver it out to customers?
"Sometimes it's very easy to bring an idea to life other times it's a lot of trial and error. "
When you have the cake in front of you all bets are off and you start fiddling and redoing things, things you thought would look great but instead end up looking like trash.
Another thing I struggle with from time to time is remembering that a design that looks great on paper doesn't always look great in real life.
There have been a couple of times where I've gotten a little too carried away with a sketch and didn't think about how the design would transfer in real life.
I remember I wanted to have a big tulle bow on the back of a Sailor Moon cake and I loved the way it looked in my sketch but it looked absolutely awful in real life, it did not fit with the rest of the design.
As someone who really holds an appreciation for manga, games, and anime, we must ask you! What are some of your personal favorite manga, games and/or shows that you would say have inspired you the most in your confectionary career?
Well of course Sailor Moon is at the tippy top of that list there's no doubt about that. I was very young the first time I saw Sailor Moon and it took my breath away. Everything about Sailor Moon is stunning from the original artwork to the manga and anime, it's truly magical and just embodies everything I want my cakes to be.
Sailor Moon is my girl but some of my other favourite anime include Princess Tutu, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Cardcaptor Sakura and Princess Jellyfish. When it comes to manga I love girly shojo manga my favourite series being Skip Beat!
I'm also a huge video game girly and I do have designs tucked away that I'm itching to create based on them. My all-time favourites include Bayonetta, Alice Madness Returns, Avalon Code, and Jeanne D'arc. One design I'm super excited about is this all black Bayonetta themed wedding cake.
My fingers are crossed that I'll finally get to it this year.
What advice would you give to someone who dreams of venturing into starting a creative small business or wants to pursue baking as a profession?
I don't have any advice as far as the business portion goes because I'm still learning about that myself but I do have some advice for people that want to get into cake decorating.
"The first bit of advice is very obvious and that is practice."
Start with the basics like cutting, filling, and masking a cake then work your way up to a more complex skill like pipping. If you are itching to make gumpaste figurines I suggest starting with simple animals first before heading straight into humans. Animals are easier to create and help you learn how to make all your basic shapes.
If you are ever unsure of where to start you can always look into cake decorating classes/courses, in-person classes are great but if you can't find any in your area there are some really good online ones out there. I personally really love Liz from SugarGeek she's got some amazing tutorials and has tons of videos for beginners and intermediate decorators. I also adore Anges from Crumb Avenue she's got some great tutorials for super cute figurines that I think are great for beginners.
What’s your favorite cake/creation of yours that you’ve created and what was it inspired by?
Oddly enough one of my all-time favourite cakes is not Sailor Moon themed.
It actually happens to be a Star Wars cake and I'm definitely not a Star Wars girly but I loved this cake regardless. When I was working at another shop they had asked me to make a baby Yoda display cake and I was super nervous about it because at that time I was not very experienced with sculpting.
I was terrified of working on it and spent hours looking at various reference photos and videos before I even started. It took me about 8 and a half hours total but I did it I made a super cute little baby Yoda.
I'm embarrassed to admit this but I cried a little when I finished him because at that time I really didn't think I was capable of pulling off something like that. Especially because I was trained more as a wedding cake decorator and sculpting was never something I got to do a lot of.
"That cake really made me realize how far I've come as a cake decorator and that I need to have more faith in my skills."
What would you say was your most challenging recipe to complete and what made it so difficult?
The most challenging thing for me, baking wise was French macarons.
I was obsessed with them in high school and would make them all the time but I could never make them just right. Macarons are a very tricky cookie if your kitchen is too humid or you over-mix your batter you're done.
Lucky for me I got 3 months' worth of heavy-duty macaron training at the first bakery I worked at. There was a time when I could crank out perfect macarons but I’m a little rusty now because I switched my focus to strictly cake decorating.
Do you have any specific achievements, benchmarks or milestones for Magical Girl Cakes that you’d like to share? For example, are there specific products that you perhaps haven’t made yet that you’d love to create in the future? Would you consider having a physical location or owning a chain of stores as a goal (or, likewise, do you prioritize staying more independent)?
Oh, there are so many cakes that I haven't made yet in fact, I'm going to do a series this year where I try to get through them all. Ever since I started Magical Girl Cakes I've had this list saved on my laptop. Anytime I had an idea or a cool concept for a cake I'd add it to the list and that list has been growing since 2020.
I've got everything on there from Studio Ghibli-themed cakes to SpongeBob, to Princess Tutu, to Black Butler, to Pokémon just everything I love but in cake form.
"I packed all those ideas into a big jar and every week I'm going to randomly select a few and make them. I'm super excited to get started on it and to find out what's going to be my first cake of 2023."
One thing I want to do for Magical Girl Cakes is to be more present on my social media.
I've been bogged down with work then moving then more work and just have not had the time to make content. I really do miss it, it's super time-consuming but so much fun to make content based on my work.
"Ideally, I'd love to be making more videos of me cake decorating and at some point have a studio set up for Magical Girl."
I would never want to open up a physical store just because the amount of money I would need to pull that off is ridiculous. Plus it would mean I’d have to hire a whole team to help me run it and I have trust issues :)
And finally, what does baking and Magical Girl Cakes mean to you on a personal level? How has it impacted your life?
"Magical Girl Cakes means a lot to me because it reignited a spark in me that I thought I’d lost."
When I first moved to Toronto I was so excited to learn new things and finally make cakes on a professional level, I had wanted that for so long but each shop I worked at wore me down little by little.
I still loved cake decorating but I was not doing good mentally and I was not taking care of myself because I put everything into my job, it was so frustrating putting all that effort in for someone else’s business.