We recently caught up with Shayne Greenman from Mt Tamborine Wedding Cakes who kindly gave us an exclusive interview
Shayne will be appearing at the International Cake Show Australia in May 2018
Describe your style in a few words.
Sophisticated, Wild, Daring, Informed.
What motivated you to become involved in cake decorating?
At an early age my father passed away the day of my Mums birthday, I remember the year following I wanted to make Mums birthday really special and so my Primary school arts teacher Mrs Summers, secretly taught me to decorate a cake for Mum. It was a boiled fruitcake, diamond-shaped. It was all the rage back then and it was covered with rainbow coloured pastel daisies tiny to large all over it with an inscription in gold royal icing, my first ever cake. I was so proud to be able to surprise mum with it, I remember it just like it was yesterday, a very special moment.
I had just turned 7 years old, I kept going and went to private classes with Mrs Marj Summers. We are still great friends to this day – she was a great teacher. I learnt to be disciplined and practiced a lot, cake decoration is an art where you need to train your brain and your eyes. Your hands to eye to brain coordination needs to be fine-tuned and brought out into a tangible form using sugar like a sculptor uses clay. Many years of patient practice.
I’ve been practicing now for 42 years and I am still learning!
What’s your favourite way to decorate a cake?
I set the mood of creativity with classical music in the background, a good bottle of wine and I begin late at night when everything is still, and my mind is clear, and thought/ creativity is heightened. Sometimes I need to sketch and then plan a design for weeks and spend days beforehand preparing stands and internal support structures, then comes the baking and preparing materials and ingredients for assembly. It is a long drawn out process that sometimes can’t be rushed, but then sometimes I can work like I’m channeling some great artist from the past and get something well informed and magical and amazing pieced together within hours to a couple of days, it comes and goes in cycles.
What’s your most popular product?
My most popular products are my bespoke one of a kind wedding cakes. These are all individually designed and customised. They incorporate so many aspects of the Bride and Groom’s personal lives. I try and refine them so much that the cake is a reflection of the couple in every way right down to the intricate flavour combinations.
Quite often my cakes which I make for my clients impress them so much and make them so happy that they are brought to tears in a memorable and heartfelt way. That for me as a designer is the best gift I could ever hope to give for someone – to be moved by my creation.
What has been the highlight of your career?
Being able to represent my country Australia overseas on the world podium, to have a long-held dream to one day represent my country overseas and finally achieve this and to win a Gold medal and be recognised as a World and European champion at what I do, this is a humbling thing. The years and the hours of blood sweat and sacrifice just melt away after that moment.
There are many competitions that standout, but the biggest highlight has not happened yet – it is about to, but I just am not at liberty to tell anyone about it yet. That’s the thing – when you think you’ve achieved and it’s time to slow down, there’s always something more waiting for you just around the corner, what a wonderful industry I’m blessed to work in.
Do you have a baking or decorating tip for the home bakers?
Invest in a good oven, one with enough space for at least a three to four-tiered cake. Do your research and ask other friendly ‘cakers’ the brand they all use. A good oven is worth its weight in gold for a cake maker. You’ll thank yourself when your holding dinner parties and your friends start asking you to make their daughter’s wedding cake.
Also, a good tip for beginning decorators – gather yourself a repertoire of well tried and tested reliable cake recipes – ones that you know are no fail and explore the gluten flourless and vegan options because once the orders start to roll in so will the dietary requests.
Try these recipes out on friends and family and make sure they are edible and deliciously moist. There is nothing worse than getting served a piece of cake at a wedding that tastes like the heel of an old shoe. I’ve been at weddings where I’m embarrassed for them and the cake maker because I know they’ve forked out a bomb for the cake. I call this getting the absolute basics right from the start. There are a lot of brilliant decorators out there who cannot bake to save themselves and that’s a shame for them to not have that foresight.
Do you have a favourite cookbook?
Cook Books – Yes, many favourites! Because I’m a classically trained chef and adore nothing more than cooking for my close friends and family.
- Larousse Gastronomique: The World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia.
- The Provence of Alain Ducasse.
- Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course, all about gorgeous desserts.
- El Bulli: 1998–2002, Modern molecular gastronomy.
- Jacques Pepin’s La Technique
- Ma Gastronomie by Ferdinand Point.
- The Roux Brothers on Patisserie.
Do you have a favourite cooking tool?
Cooking Tool – Yes, my French oak pastry rolling pins which I bought on a trip to Paris from a little old antique store one day after walking around there. They are a different shape to a normal rolling pin and really wonderful for Puff pastries and all types of venoisserie pastries, and I cannot do without my Stainless Steel Surgical Scalpels, Tweezers and Scissors for very fine detailing in my work.
Who would like to have a slice of cake with?
With His Holiness the Dalai Lama – whom I am very fond of. I would love to make him a very special roasted walnut and peach dessert cake because I happen to know he is quite fond of both ingredients, these paired are sublime flavours. But I would have to practice and refine the recipe until it was absolute perfection, otherwise I’d have to hide in shame. Why the walnut thing? Because even though The Dalai Lama has been exiled from his own country due to China forcing him out of his own lands, he still is able to do small things to let his people know how much he loves and cares for them.
Who or what inspires you?
People who are selfless inspire me – they are my heroes, Doctors and Nurses and Paramedics healing the sick and injured, our Firefighters and SES workers and Volunteers, ordinary folk going about their jobs who step up unexpectedly and under the most stressful duress and sometimes horrific circumstances to keep people alive and safe. I guess what I’m trying to point out is that human kindness and that beautiful gesture of an outstretched hand to help one at their worst moment in their life. I think this inspires me above all else.
Do you have any plans for the future?
I have so much yet to do and achieve in my lifetime, most of the near future is mapped out and next year I will turn 50 years of age, so I feel the best years are yet to come and so I’m very much looking forward to that. I am also looking forward to a healthy balanced life of work rest and play in my garden. I live in the wonderful Gold Coast Hinterland Rainforest at Mount Tamborine, a hobby not a lot of people know is I hybridise rare and exotic orchids and have a burgeoning collection of all types of gorgeous plants. I also love my dog and my wonderful, understanding and supportive partner. I am a very lucky person indeed.
About Shayne Greenman
Shayne, who is originally from country Victoria, began winning cake decorating competitions at the age of seven. He is now a world champion artisan baker, pastry chef, chocolatier and sugar artist. He specialises in exquisite bespoke one-of-a-kind creations. His cakes have won Awards throughout Australia, Europe and the United States. His business is called Mt Tamborine Wedding Cakes.