Welcome to Cake Conversations!
Every month, I feature a special guest on the blog with the purpose of inspiring & serving the online cake community as well as celebrating notable cake artists & entrepreneurs within the cake circuit. This month’s guest is none other than Vincent Goh, a pharmacist by day, and a spatula-wielding cake decorator by night! Originally from Malaysia, Vincent now runs his contemporary cake business ‘Van Goh Cakes’ which is based in the picturesque Mornington Peninsula. Vincent’s work is magnetic and possesses a sleek, modern & meticulously-crafted aesthetic. Today, we chat about his start-up journey, growing his cake education, as well as insight to balancing a cake career with a “day” job.
Hello Vincent, tell us about yourself, your life and your biz.! How did you start your caking journey and what made you want to launch your biz Van Goh Cakes? Walk us through your start-up journey – from idea to launch.
I work as a pharmacist, and whilst the profession offered methodology and systematic processes, I knew I wanted a creative outlet. I was introduced to “Cake Boss” by my boss at work, and after watching the show, it sparked my interest in cake decorating.
I then decided in 2013, as a New Year resolution, to take up a Wilton cake decorating class. With each class, I grew more and more invested and interested in cake decorating. When I began to feel that I have the knack for it, I moved on to online tutorials, and I continuously practised at every opportunity – friend’s birthday, special occasions, and then I wanted to run a cake business. So one day, I whipped out my iPad, sketched my very first logo, and boom! Van Goh Cakes was born!
I knew I had to start somewhere, and with the help of a cake business class online, I covered all the essentials of running a cake business from home, and I have never looked back since.
Coming from a full-time Pharmacy profession, how have you managed to grow into the highly skilled cake decorator that you are today? In your experience, what are the best ways of developing your cake skills, techniques & abilities?
All I will say is, practice, practice, practice! I had a very supportive housemate and friend who allowed me the time to spend on cake decorating at the start of my decorating endeavours, so I didn’t have to fuss about preparing meals for the day! On days after work, I would spend the time just doing some sugar piece or cake just to have the satisfaction of practising a new technique.
I spent a lot of time, poring over tutorials online, and books on some occasions. The great thing about the vast knowledge of cake decorating skills out there is being able to know that there are methods to everyone’s madness, so pick a method or technique that you’re more attuned to and hone it. Be prepared for some failures. Cake decorating is an expensive hobby, and buying everything is a definite temptation, but with the skills you acquire, you will have an arsenal of tools that you will learn to love and cherish.
Juggling a full time day job on top of cakes must keep you busy as! What strategies have you found effective for maintaining work-life-balance whilst pursuing your cake dreams?
Discipline, and routine.
When I first started the business, I knew that I needed a system that allowed me to prepare from baking the cake, to finishing the trim on the cake before the due date. So I needed a fairly strict routine on what needs to be done everyday in order to have a finished product, which includes setting out goals each day so you don’t find yourself burning the midnight oil the night before (PS: I still tend to sleep really late at times!)
Allowing a support network to be part of your life – whether if it’s family or friends, makes the dreams become a reality.
In your experience, what 3 character traits does one need to thrive in the cake industry?
Being earnest so you are always learning, improving and expanding your social network in the industry, and making yourself known not only to your customers, but to your peers.
Another trait is to be resourceful – this is often handy in times of need!
Lastly, be humble. We are all still learning in this industry, whether we have been in it for thirty years or less, but a little slice of humble pie will always be helpful in the future.
You recently took out the silver award at the International Cake Show Australia in Brisbane for your incredibly realistic Flying Pig entry. Congrats!! Tell us about the design process, from inspiration to creation.
Thank you so much! Piggy was definitely a labour of love, and I almost threw in the towel as I fell ill before the show. I thought about the idea of a flying pig, because I always and still love using the phrase “pigs will fly” – that’s the pessimist in me! So I thought, lets give it wings!
The design process has been through a few revisions, one of the first versions was a standing pig on one leg with little wings, but with shipping logistics in mind, I knew that I had limitations with how I wanted to achieve it. I had to rework it a second time when I ordered an internal structure that didn’t work out, so I gave the pig an idea of a carousel which allowed the pig so appear afloat with wings.
I’m sure an ambitious caker like you is currently looking ahead towards new projects, future goals, expansion etc ..Soooo, What’s on the horizon for you?
I have a nurturing soul, and I want to translate that into teaching cake classes which hopefully will give me the opportunity to travel and see the world.
One of my dreams is to achieve similar success to Peggy Porschen in London, being able to open a cafe to serve cake and coffee, whilst having a cake studio to run orders at the same time. I’ve also thought of supplementing my skills with being a barista, so hopefully that cake and coffee place will happen soon!
Thank you so much Vincent for sharing those sweet nuggets of insight on the Sugar Sugar Cakes blog! No doubt you’re a great asset to the cake community and we can’t wait to see all the amazing things you do in the coming months!
If you’re reading this blog interview today, I hope Vincent’s story has inspired you. Here’s a lil zippy summary of some take home points to help you out this week:
- It is never too late to chase your dreams! Having an established career or day job doesn’t mean you can’t pursue a path in cake decorating. If there is a will, there is a way!
- Investing time & resources into quality cake education is a vital part of building a successful cake career (you can start by checking out some of my awesome Freebies & Premium Courses).
- Keys to balancing both cake & a day job requires discipline, a strategic workflow & a strong support network of friends & cakers (hop onto our exclusive Facebook cake community, the Sugar Sugar Cakes Society for support, advise and to meet some new cakie friends)
Vincent Goh – Van Goh Cakes