Gamers have long been accused of being far too interested in cakes, so Play As Life decided to interview cake designer Debbie Goard. Goard runs Debbie Does Cakes, a single-woman cake company based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been featured by major media including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Food Channel, but one needn’t have to see her credentials because her cakes basically speak for themselves.
The interesting thing about Goard is that not only does she bake cakes that have a gaming theme, but she also plays some games herself, which shows that being a gamer has a broader meaning in this day and age.
Q. How long have you been designing cakes?
A. Ohhh… forever it seems! I think it’s my 21st year this year.
Q. Why did you decide to put your artistic talent into cakes?
A. Um, artists are poor (laughs)! I had been studying art and took a part time job in a bakery. I was only supposed to be doing counter work but when the decorator decide to retire they “informed” me that I would be taking her place.
I basically watched her for a week and then I was let loose. I can’t say I was great then but I was pretty good, and it was clear I had a knack for it. I have tried for years to get away from cakes but I keep getting pulled back in!
Q. Do you have any sentimental attachment to cakes?
A. Funny, if I had been asked this say, 5 years go I’d say definitely not, it’s just a job, but since I decided to open my own business, cakes have become my whole life. When you work so hard on something you tend to get personally involved.
Q.Your sculpted cakes are really impressive and your portfolio shows you’ve done cakes that look like the iphone, game consoles, etc. Do you get a lot of requests for cakes that have a tech theme?
A. Oh, I sure do! I’m in the heart of silicon valley really and I just read that it’s also been dubbed the “smart phone triangle” (laughs) so yes, being in the Bay Area I get a lot of requests for tech cakes. I have been fortunate to make the iphone cake for the team that designed the iphone and some tech cakes I have done are cake replicas of products before they actually hit the market.
Q. What are some examples of cakes you’ve done with a game theme?
A. The most notable example was when I was commissioned to make a giant cake for the release of Death Jr.
Q. What was the Death Jr. cake like? Did you get a preview of the game before it was released?
A. That was so much fun! I made a giant tombstone with the new Death Jr. Logo and I handmade all the characters from chocolate. It was very, very time consuming– the figures alone took me almost an entire week. Still, it was great, I loved working with the company and they sent me toys and comics to keep. I didn’t see the actual game beforehand though.
Q. Could you tell me the process of how you create a cake?
A. I always try to do a lot of research about everything I make and having an actual object to use as reference is invaluable. I’ll make full sized sketches and there’s a lot more math involved than I would like (laughs) since everything I make is made to scale.I consider myself an artist rather than a pastry chef. Still, It is a cake so somebody has to bake. I have formulated a few recipes with carving in mind. I use a dense pound cake . I always chill the cake to make the carving process less messy and a chilled cake gives me a longer work/ carve time to work with. Cake is an extremely fragile medium so you have to work fast. After the cake is carved, I ice with a thin coat of buttercream and cover with either modeling chocolate or fondant. Then I do further modeling of the covered cake and attach any “parts” that I have pre-made for the cake. You would not believe how far in advance you must start planning some cakes, often I’ve worked days on something before I ever see the actual cake. I use the airbrush so much that I keep 3 on hand just in case…. I would be absolutely lost without it.
Q. Do you know the gender ratio of your clients?
A. I’d say that women order more cakes but the recipients are pretty equally male and female. I make sculpted cakes only, so I don’t do any cakes with flowers or any such thing. I strongly prefer making cakes for adults or at least cakes that are not overly childish or sweet.
Q. For some reason game enthusiasts like to talk about (and eat ) cakes a lot. what is your take on this?
A. I’m not sure, maybe people who are in touch with their inner child are less inclined to swear off all sweets like so many adults have . Maybe it’s the whimsical nature of my cakes that appeals to gamers. Whatever the appeal I love it and am happy to get the chance to make them!
Q. When I first asked you for an interview, you said that you play the Wii but don’t consider yourself a gamer. Why is that?
A. Well, my Wii is mainly for fitness (too much of my own cake?). I am old enough (40) to remember Pong, so for me, video games meant Ms. Pac Man, Q-bert, and that bizarre game Burgertime! Then, my younger brothers were into Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog , perhaps torturing me with the theme music for hours on end! There are a lot of games I’d love to try for the wii, I love how interactive it is, but I haven’t ventured too far out yet.
Q. Have you ever played any cake games like Cake Mania ?
A. I have not, but I have heard about it, and it sounds cool. Cake Mania, huh? Sounds like a game modeled after my life!
[Editor’s note: All of the images in this article are copyrighted by Debbie Goard and may not be redistributed or reproduced without consent]