Cake Decorator Spotlight - Danny Lane
Danny Lane is a Sugar Artist and Bakery Tech for Harp’s Foods in Arkansas. His talent and accomplishments clearly reflect Danny’s 30+ years of experience, although his energy, enthusiasm and passion rival that of someone half his age. The winner of two Food Network competitions “Sugar Dome: Dangers of the Deep” and “Christmas Classic Cakes,” Danny shares career highlights and lessons learned in this Q&A Guest Decorator Spotlight.
How long have you been decorating cakes?
I started out 32 years ago as a baker at a supermarket chain. I was offered the bakery manager’s position with the stipulation I learn how to decorate cakes. So I learned how just to get that promotion. Then I decided to focus on cake decorating because I liked doing it better. Now I’m a supervisor for Harp’s and I go around training other decorators and working with them to improve their skills. I also help set up stores and make most of the cake decisions for Harp’s.
That [fish cake] is a groom’s cake, too. The guy fishes a lot so I said I would make fish and put them on “ice” (isomalt) in a chest with an open lid.
What was the biggest “dream project” you got to work on?
My first Food Network cake, because it was something I never thought would happen. When I finally got the phone call, I picked a co-worker/friend to go with me. Building that cake— my Christmas Classics cake—it was just amazing to get that opportunity.
What was your biggest “nightmare” story?
I did a wedding cake for a couple and they insisted on picking it up because they didn’t want to pay for delivery. I had worked hard on it because they really wanted a big cake, and I generally don’t want people to pick those up. I’d rather deliver it so I know it gets there in one piece. But when the bride, groom and best man showed up, they threw the cake in the back of a junky pick-up truck and the bride got in the back and held it. I was mortified. I envisioned this cake coming back in a million pieces, but luckily they never called me so it must have gotten there in one piece.
I absolutely love this [butterfly] cake. The couple wanted purples with some blacks so we decided on marbling. They also wanted gold butterflies. I decided to do a butterfly overload with Cake Lace because it makes such a statement. This cake is one of my favorites.
What new trends do you see emerging in the cake decorating industry?
Where I live, people are getting really big into texture. They’re coming up with all different textures that they want on cakes. I’m having people ask, “Can you make every other tier look like a cable knit sweater?” Some of these textures were around before, but they seem to be coming back more elaborately now. I’ve also noticed people in my area wanting buttercream more than fondant. So then you’re faced with the challenge: how do I create certain textures with buttercream? Can I find a mold to do it? I’ve also noticed gold is making a comeback. Metallic gold, either painted, or in the ribbons, or flowers or other decorations.
Any final advice for your fellow cake decorators?
I tell new decorators all the time: “Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.” You’re never going to grow if you don’t try new things. I’ve had to do it many times. People have come to me with cake ideas and when I looked at them I was a little terrified inside because I’d never done it before. But I always tell them, “Oh, yeah, I’ll do that.” And I figured it out, because that’s how you grow. If you don’t try, you’re never going to know.
For this wedding cake, the couple wanted a sweetheart theme. The pink, orange and white colors created a light-hearted, fun kind of thing. The bride also wanted cherry blossoms on it. She gave me a bit of direction and then I went with it.
This black lab is a groom’s dog, and he loves his dog. He decided he wanted this as his groom’s cake so I had to build it. It’s made out of brownies, and the nose is made out of cereal treats.
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