22 Questions: Vendor Interview with Samantha Mayfair

Hey folks! Happy Wednesday! Meet our latest guest of 22 questions – the wonderfully talented pastry chef/cake designer, badass boss lady, our most recent east-to-west coast transplant, and one of the sweetest gals I know, Samantha Mayfair of Samantha Wayfair Cakes! It’s time for a vendor interview with Samantha Mayfair!

If you’re about to read this blog post, I must warn you: you will get some majorly bad cravings for cake. Or sweets. Or bread. So if you’re trying to shed the quarantine 15, be warned.

Feel free to read on to learn what inspires Sam as an artist, her words of advice for 2020/2021 brides, and find out which cake flavor she would choose to make a scented candle.

Hi Sam! Welcome to 22 Questions, tell us a little about yourself and your business! 

Photo credit: Meredith Black Photography

I’m Samantha, owner of Samantha Mayfair Cakes in Oakland, California! I specialize in creating wedding cakes and desserts with elegant flavors and designs. All of my cakes feature my signature handcrafted sugar flowers. I just moved to the Bay Area at the end of last year and I love it here!

How would you describe your design style?

My designs aren’t too trendy but I do like to incorporate modern elements. I also love texture on monochromatic backgrounds so that look pops up in lots of different iterations of my work.

Photo credit: Samantha Mayfair

What is your creative process? 

Great question! I tend to get an idea from something that’s not actually cake–maybe it’s a piece of art, or something related to the bride and groom’s wedding (an element of the wedding dress design or the overall color palette for the wedding), and then I think about ok, well what’s been? How can I make this unique? I noodle on it for a bit, draw up a quick sketch and I’m off to the races.

Photo credit: Jordan Keenan Photography

How do you stay inspired?

Just keep trying to learn new things and develop ideas you’re interested in. Even if the design or a technique doesn’t work out in the the first couple of times you’ll learn something that will make your next attempt even better!

What are some trends you’re seeing right now in cake artistry that you really like? 

Small cakes! This was trending a little even before COVID, but I like the idea of a small cake just for the couple and then additional cake or dessert for the guests. There’s nothing like a big statement cake, but I also think a small cake is sweet–and just because it’s small doesn’t mean it can’t pack a punch from a design perspective! 

Photo credit: Olivia Marshall Photography

I’m also seeing people choose lots of bold flavors for their cakes; lots of floral and herbaceous notes worked into the flavor profiles.

Is there a goal (big or small) that you aspire to achieve as a cake artist? 

Oh gosh, probably having my cake on the cover of a big wedding magazine like Martha Stewart. I would just keel over.

Any words of advice for those that are thinking about pursuing a career in cake artistry?

Practice and network! It takes a long time to find your style and your aesthetic—I’m still figuring it out—so don’t be afraid to push yourself and try new things. And get out there and talk to other people! Being in the kitchen all day can be really isolating but luckily the cake community is very friendly and supportive so don’t be nervous about reaching out to get to know people!

A lot of brides are beginning to plan for their weddings next year. What advice do you have for brides who are searching for a cake artist? When should they start? And what steps should they take to find the perfect one?

So, in a normal year, depending on if you’re getting married during peak wedding season, I would suggest reaching out to your cake maker 6-9 months before the wedding to get on their calendars. If you’re not getting married during a peak time, then I would suggest 3-6 months before. However, we’re living in unprecedented times so if you decided you’re throwing a wedding in just a couple of weeks I would say don’t hesitate to check with your baker on their availability because they are probably free!

Most of my brides tell me they find me on Instagram, which makes sense; it’s a real-time portfolio complete with reviews so they can really get a sense of what you’re all about. Instagram is a great place to start but definitely also check out reviews on sites like The Knot, and look at the website of the baker you’re interested in as that also probably contains things like important FAQ’s, contact information, and more. And, most importantly, if you’re working with a planner check with them! Planners are an amazing resource and can help guide you through a lot of these vetting processes.

Photo credit: Agnes Lopez Photography

What are some of the most common questions your brides typically ask you?

Usually brides want to know how the tasting works (I deliver a box of full of samples for you and your fiance to try!), and people also want to know if I can make more than just cakes (I can!).

What does the lead-up to a wedding day look like for you?

It’s very busy! Only so much planning and execution can be done in advance because it’s food so there’s definitely a time stamp on freshness. So right before a wedding I am usually in thick of cake assembly and decorating.

Photo credit: Yazi Davis Photography

What does 2020 currently look like for you?

Much smaller weddings (no surprise there), and in turn smaller cakes. Also lots of requests for smaller individually packaged desserts or favors, like custom cookies.

Any pearls of wisdom for 2020 and 2021 brides?

Don’t fret and keep the lines of communication open! Couples will be adjusting their plans and so are the pros, so just do your best to stay in touch and talk with your preferred vendors, they are professionals and can provide insight to help you adapt to the new situation.

Photo credit: Agnes Lopez Photography

Of course I have to ask this! Favorite cake flavor??

Chocolate. 

Favorite frosting flavor?

Coffee…mmmmm.

What’s the most challenging cake that you’ve ever made?

It was a really huge cake (fed 225 people) and I had to assemble it on site because it was too heavy to carry through the building. And then, it was a very old building, so we had to carry these huge tiers up these tiny wee stairs. It was stressful to say the least but it all came together in the end and it was gorgeous!

Who is a professional cake artist that really inspires you?

Maggie Austin, I’m just obsessed with her whole approach to design.

Favorite sugar flower you’ve designed? 

A classic rose; I’ve done lots of different types of flowers but there’s something about a full rose that is just so timeless and beautiful.

Vendor Interview with Samantha Mayfair contd.

So you’ve just recently moved to the bay area! What are some bay area spots that are on your bucket list?

Oooo good question! There’s so many beautiful parks and outdoor areas here and I really like to go hiking around–you can’t beat the views here, so I’ve got a few city hikes on the list! And the food! Oh man. Someday I would really love to go to Atelier Crenn; I think Dominique Crenn is amazing and having dinner there would be a serious bucket list item.

With shelter-in-place, there has been a serious uptick in quarantine baking! What are some of your favorite recipes?

There has ! I love the King Arthur Flour No-Knead White Bread recipe; it’s honestly so easy which is great for me since I bake all the time for work. I also really love pies–they are delicious and pretty and you can use all the really good seasonal ingredients that are out right now, plus you can make them sweet or savory!

Vendor Interview with Samantha Mayfair contd.

What is your favorite go-to comfort meal?

Macaroni with butter and parmesan. Very unexciting but a throwback to my childhood; every time I don’t feel good that’s what I make.

Favorite destination you’ve travelled to so far?

This is a tough one. I’m going to say Italy since we went to the little town where my family comes from and that was really cool.

If you could make a new kind of scented candle from the goodies you always bake, what would it be?

Holy moly. I think I would go with the Earl Grey Honey cake, it’s got the bergamot thing going on from the Earl Grey tea, and the whiffs of honey, and it also has that delightful freshly baked cake smell. It makes you want to just put down all your projects and just relax for a minute.

And that’s the end of our vendor Interview with Samantha Mayfair!

Thank you guys for reading! If you haven’t already, feel free to check out other 22 questions posts with floral designer Anastasia Andematten and wedding planner Haley Brantley!

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