Master sugar artist takes the cake

They have traveled from as far as Singapore, Canada, Germany and Kansas. For these travelers, Glendale can be the first California neighborhood they’ll experience; however, they are not here to see Glendale or even Los Angeles for that matter.

They make the trek for Kaye Hartman, a Glendale resident who, at 36 years old, is making a name for herself in the cake world as a master sugar artist. They come to learn her technique.

Hartman teaches cake decorating, baking and sculpting classes in her store at 308 S. Brand Blvd. She sells tools such as silicon molds, many of them under her own product line, Petal Crafts. The current name of her store, “The Cake Canvas” will soon change to “Cake Art Academy.” And as modest as Hartman is about it, word is spreading on her talent as a cake decorator.

Born in Makati, Manila, Hartman became infatuated with crafts at 17.

“Anything that I saw on Martha Stewart, I wanted to do,” she said.

She attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. But, before graduating, she took a two-week class in Las Vegas taught by Ewald Notter, a pastry chef of international renown. In the class, she met the head pastry chef of the Venetian Hotel who offered Hartman a six-month externship.

On her first day, Hartman was asked to make 3,000 mousse desserts and 1,500 chocolate decorations in seven hours. She cried with panic before fulfilling the order.

That experience and getting to work with eight other pastry chefs at the Venetian, helped Hartman adapt to working among pros.

“That’s where I get my speed,” she said.

Daniela Rodriguez of San Bernardino is a nurse who enrolled in Hartman’s cake decorating class, and most recently learned how to sculpt animated figures.

“I never saw myself doing that,” she said. “I’m totally stunned.”

Hartman attributes her own success to practice.

“If you’re interested enough to do it, you can make it,” Hartman said. “It’s not that hard. You need enough experience over and over and you’ll get it.”

In January, a cake of Hartman’s appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” A fan of the show, Hartman made a cake for DeGeneres upon learning that fans could contribute gifts to the popular host.

“Her birthday is Jan. 26. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I can make a cake for her.’”

The cake mimics a gift box with sugar replicas of Disney characters Nemo and Dori with DeGeneres’ cat and two cows amid a plethora of gum paste flowers.

When Hartman went to the studio to drop it off, one producer told her, “I think you should stay.” Soon enough, Hartman was sitting in the audience speaking with DeGeneres as the tape rolled.

“We’re going to put your information on the website because this is incredible,” DeGeneres said.

The cake sat on DeGeneres’ center table where it remained for the hour-long show.

When DeGeneres tweeted a picture of the cake to her more than 6 million Twitter followers, one, (@Casanova_USA) wrote: “That’s no regular audience member Ellen…someone’s got talent!”

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