When Boy George needed a fabulous birthday cake for his birthday party in 2014, who could his friends call to ensure it would have just the right level of beauty and pizzaz? Please meet Sarah Fortunato, award-winning confection & cake artist, and instructor of Pastry Arts at George Brown College. With a background in fine arts from Ontario College of Art and Design, her portfolio includes a replica of “Toronto City Hall” which was featured on the cover of Spacing magazine. Thank you Sarah for answering a few questions for us, and for writing such a beautiful Foreword to The Fun of Baking Bread!
Can you tell us about some of your favourite cakes?
The largest was an eight tier wedding cake, full of hand made sugar flowers. My favourite cake to date was for my brother-in-law's birthday a few years back: a Technics 1200 MK5 turntable, complete with his favourite record – Illmatic! That was cool.
In your opinion, what is the difference between art & design?
The difference between art and design lies in function, process and final product.
Art functions as visual/spiritual stimulation and it is the product of an ever changing process: the artist begins with a vision but this morphs during the process and often the final piece barely resembles the initial plan.
Design functions as a creative solution to a pre-existing problem. The designer is presented with a specific requirement and although the process of problem solving may resemble the artists process, the final product of design remains a constant.
Could you please tell us about a few highlights from your trip to Italy this year?
Italy is an inexplicably beautiful, artful and delicious country. My husband and I traveled to 7 Italian cities and we cannot wait to return. Highlights include our drive down the stunning Amalfi coast where the simplicity of a Margherita pizza brought me to tears. We continued crossing the country by car, happily getting lost in the mountains and and exploring Matera, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.
That southern leg of our tour ended in the tiny town of Cassamassima, Bari to visit my family where we enjoyed the freshest (also tear-inducing) burrata, gelato, olives, and seafood. The much needed family time also included wonderful kitchen sessions where we made focaccia and orecchiette, a pasta native to the region of Puglia.
What is Flødeboller - is it the cutest confection ever? How can we get us some?
Besides being one of my favourite words to say, flødeboller is a Scandinavian chocolate covered marshmallow cookie originating in Denmark. They are available throughout the city and often sold as 'cream buns' or 'teacakes'. For the curious mind in pursuit of a recipe, it is also something we teach in the Chocolate Confections class at George Brown College. The snappy chocolate exterior gives way to a soft marshmallow siting atop a crisp marzipan cookie – and the flavour variations are endless!
How do you stay inspired and happy?
We often forget that it is unrealistic to be happy all of the time, it is a fleeting emotion after all. So, on a day-to-day basis I try to practice gratitude and contentment. That said, the thrill of solving problems in the kitchen, studio and beyond provides great pleasure and leads me to believe that in my case, inspiration and happiness are often linked.
My love for surrealism motivates me to tap into my subconscious (through music and visual art) to find inspiration which allows for the exploration of my quirky ideas.
Mozart once said “Music is not in the notes but in the spaces between” and keeping that in mind, to stay inspired and clean up my mental desktop I like to stroll through the park and stare at the clouds.
Who makes your birthday cakes?
Funny enough, I much prefer birthday pie (peach raspberry!), and it is my husband who always hooks it up!
Thank you Sarah for taking some time to talk to us! Learn more about Sarah at her website, Cocoa Fortunato.