Food allergies often call for creativity when it comes to replacing ingredients and adjusting recipes. For Senior Decorator Sue Matusiak, her son’s dairy allergy led to a career in cake decorating.
“I had to be able to make his birthday cakes, and I knew how to make the cake and the icing with substitutes, but I didn’t know how to decorate, so I took a class,” she said. “It was a Wilton class at a local cake shop. One thing lead to another and then I became a Wilton instructor.”
During one of the Wilton instructor meetings, Matusiak learned that Wilton was looking for people to work in their decorating room. She has now been with Wilton over 29 years, and the variety of projects always keeps things interesting.
“There isn’t one person who only does one medium,” she said. “Everybody does a little bit of everything for buttercream, fondant and gum paste. Every day is new and different because of all the projects we do.”
One of Matusiak’s most memorable experiences involved a window display for Bed Bath & Beyond in New York City in 2012. The display included approximately 400 cupcakes assembled to look like the New York City skyline. Matusiak didn’t know the large display would be affected by something more massive: Hurricane Sandy.
“The cupcakes were all sugar molds decorated with royal icing, and they had already been shipped out to Manhattan,” she said. “Hurricane Sandy hit the day we were supposed to fly out to New York, so we delayed going out there for another week.”
Matusiak and Decorator Mark Malak planned to arrive one week later. At first, they were concerned about finding the cupcakes, which had not yet reached the Bed Bath & Beyond store.
“Eventually, we found out that they were at a trucking company where they were holding on to them once the hurricane hit,” she said. “Luckily, the cupcakes were not damaged and the display ended up looking beautiful.”
It took the Wilton decorating team two weeks to decorate and pack all 400 cupcakes. Matusiak and Malak spent eight hours setting up the window display in New York.
Matusiak hasn’t been hunting down shipments of cupcakes recently, but she continues to stay busy with ICES – the International Cake Exploration Societé, an organization founded for cake decorators to share their talents and craft. Matusiak serves as secretary for the Illinois chapter and volunteers for many of the ICES conventions. She has noticed changes in decorating styles over the past few years.
“People are definitely more into flavors and fillings, and it’s very specific types – flavors are more specialized,” she said. “As far as design, cakes are not as ornate as they were in the past. They’re very sleek and modern but still absolutely beautiful.”
While Matusiak has noticed less intricate piping techniques on cakes, she’s noticed more flowers – both gum paste and fresh. Flowers are a favorite of Matusiak’s, both on and off cakes.
“My big thing is my garden of flowers,” she said. “I’m very heavy into flowers, and when I’m not at work, I’m in the garden.”
Her favorite type?
“Probably the day lilies,” she said. “I have about 25 different daylilies, mostly in the back of the house. The front of the house I try to keep simple.”
There have been many changes at Wilton during Matusiak’s tenure, but the one thing that has not changed over the years is her love of sweets.
“The sweet tooth is still strong,” she said with a laugh. “I love chocolate, I’m a chocoholic. Just smooth, plain chocolate – the best you can find – is my favorite.”
All of the incredible cakes and sweet treats you see from Wilton come from our amazing decorating team! The Wilton Decorating Room creates about 2,600 decorating projects each year. These projects are used for photography for packaging, Wilton publications, Wilton.com, social media, in-store signage, Wilton course photography and more. Check back each Tuesday to learn more about one of Wilton’s decorators and what it’s like to create and decorate cakes and sweet treats every day. This is post 4 of 7.
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