Clayton chef finds surprise success as buttercream sculptor | Arts & Culture
There’s spectacular cakes, and then there’s the art that Chef Rebecca Wortman creates with buttercream frosting and sugar pieces. Using the common cake topping, Wortman makes sculptures that have captured the eye of the confectionary world in just a few short months.
“I wanted to do something different,” said Wortman of her sculptures. “And it’s turning out to be good.”
Wortman was a student in the professional baking program at Spokane Community College and was required to compete in the Washington State Sugar Artists Cake Show as part of the course. Wanting to do something a little different, Wortman opted not to bake and decorate a cake, and at the suggestion of her instructor made her first buttercream sculpture.
She won first place.
After graduation, Wortman headed to a convention in Kentucky armed with a stack of self printed business cards, and a small photo of her winning buttercream sculpture.
“I started getting call backs and since then its just exploded,” said Wortman. The convention lead to sculptures at charity events, the Buttercream Ball in Maryland and the Chicago Fine Chocolate Show where she recreated Michelangelo's Pieta.
“She always draws a crowd whenever she’s working on stuff like that,” said Wortman’s husband Rafe. A crowd that included the editors at Dessert Professional Magazine, who have named Wortman one of the Top Ten Cake Artists in North America for 2014. The nod will be printed in the magazine’s April issue.
The success has come as surprise to Wortman, who entered the professional baking program towards to the end of 2011 because she enjoyed it and thought it would be a good way to utilize her G.I benefits before they expired. Her sculptures look like she’s been carving for years, but the Greek pillar she created for the cake show was the first time she’d ever even tried.
“I’ve always known that she’s a great artist,” said Rafe. “She’s blessed with talent and she’s enjoying it and that’s a great combination.”
A combination that’s taking her to a huge stage this weekend. Chef Rubber, a company that makes specialty supplies for artisan chefs and cake decorators, has asked Wortman to showcase their products at the Catersource Conference and Tradeshow in Las Vegas. Wortman will share the stage with the Food Network Cake Champion as well as chefs from Mandalay Bay and Caesars Palace.
“I’m so new in the industry, and they’re putting me with these giants,” said Wortman. “It’s an honor.”
In addition to creating the Chef Rubber logo out of buttercream, Wortman will also be making a chocolate buttercream dragon for Barry Callebaut, and is working on a harlequin themed sculpture. The sugar pieces for the sculpture are so elaborate that she had to make them ahead of time and ship them to Las Vegas. Wortman is hoping the layers of bubble wrap used will keep the sugar masks in one piece.
Locally, Wortman has made wedding cakes here and there for friends, and was asked to create a cheese sculpture for the grand opening of the Total Wine & More in the Spokane Valley, something else she had never done. The mother of two lives in Clayton and is working hard to get her name circulating with local venues and event planners.
“I’m just trying to stay local as much as possible,” said Wortman. “It’s just amazing what you can do with buttercream, and people like new stuff.”
Not only does Wortman create works of art, but the pieces are completely edible. Fruit, cookies, and other treats can be dipped into the sculptures. Think of it as a cousin of the chocolate fountain, but prettier.
The last six months have been filled with surprise and excitement for Wortman, who is now quickly working to establish a business. Her website, www.imaginesomethingsweet.com, launched just today.
“I never thought I’d be here, and I’m just excited to keep going,” said Wortman. “I just want to keep giving credit to SCC.”
In addition to her website, you can see more of Chef Wortman’s sculptures by visiting her Facebook Page, I.S.Sweet or on Twitter @ISSweet007.