by Amy Falkofske
As a child in Staffordshire, England, Montclair resident Rebekah Wilbur of Rebekah Naomi Cake Design developed a passion for making and decorating cakes, and you might say life events led her to be the successful sugar artist and cake decorator she is today.
“My mom was a baker, not professionally, but she always baked. As a child, I looked through her cake decorating books and thought that I would love to do that. When I got married in 2009, I was researching cake decorators for my wedding, and I thought why don’t I just give it a go, so I made my own wedding cake. And I loved it. After that, I started making cakes every now and then. That was really my first taste of wanting to do this professionally,” said Wilbur.
Nothing happened for Wilbur right away. At first she was merely known as someone who could make cakes. Then she eventually worked her way into a cake decorating business. “I’ve been decorating for a long time, but I started the way that a lot of cake decorators do, where you start being known, ‘oh she can make cakes,’ and then you get friends calling you saying, ‘Hey, can you make my daughter’s birthday cake?’” she said.
Wilbur’s business, Rebekah Naomi Cake Design, took off three and half years ago and grew in two different directions. For a while, her identity in the Northern Virginia area was as a wedding cake person, while her online presence was that of a sugar artist—someone who makes flowers, bows, lace and other designs out of sugar. That side of her business included teaching and doing online tutorials for people around the country who didn’t have access to that kind of knowledge where they lived.
While she was doing wedding cakes, she was the exclusive cake decorator for two wedding/event planners in the Metro/DC area, Sharia Barksdale, CEO and director of events at Eclectic Fete and Jennifer Vanderpuije, owner of CTG Event & Design.
As a sugar artist, she is recognized as a Satin Ice Artist of Excellence and has become a brand ambassador for that company, which makes the gum paste and fondant that Wilbur uses to make her cake decorations.
Recently she stopped taking personal wedding orders to focus on the teaching side of her business, which she loves. She has just been hired by Stacked in Ashburn, Va., to teach cake decorating and sugar art starting in late May. The school will be the first professional cake decorating school in the U.S.
Erin Schwartz, the owner of Stacked and cake artist, has cake decorating contacts from all over the world and is happy to have found a decorator such as Wilbur here in Virginia.
“Social media really connects everybody in the cake industry. I have teachers coming in from other countries, and then I see Rebekah, who is in Virginia, and that’s even better,” said Schwartz.
Wilbur has also been hired by American Cake Decorating magazine to do a variety of tasks like collaborating with other cake decorators on tutorials. And a number of her cakes have been featured in the magazine.
Though she will miss doing wedding cakes, Wilbur is looking forward to this new development in her career.
“I’m really excited. I’m conflicted because I love doing cakes, but realistically things have to change because I have a young family and although I love wedding cakes, it’s a huge commitment. I can’t do everything and I love teaching more, so I was going to try and carry on with the wedding cakes for at least another year. I just can’t do it. There’s just so much going on that I want to be involved in that I feel like it would be really unfair to clients to not be in a position to be completely committed to a masterpiece.”
Wilbur’s inspiration for her cakes used to start with the bride and groom bringing her a picture of something they saw and liked and her tweaking it to make it personal for them. Now, she has a style all her own, getting inspiration from runway fashions.
“It’s such an easy thing to translate into cake, the beautiful colors, themes, the florals, the fabrics, there’s so much there that you can use for inspiration,’” said Wilbur.
“She definitely pulls a lot of inspiration from fashions, and that’s one of the qualities that I love about her work. She can literally take an image of a dress and dream up a magnificent cake that she sketches and then works to actually create it in person, and I’ve seen her do it a couple of times and it’s really an amazing feat,” said Barksdale.
“She has such a great wonderful style. She makes very elegant cakes, but all of her designs are very original which is something that you don’t always see with cake decorators,” said Schwartz.
Wilbur is in high demand and has a busy year ahead of her. Early this month, she’ll be demonstrating at the Atlantic City Bakery Expo. Later on in the month, she will again be demonstrating at the National Capital Area Cake show. She’ll be teaching at the Stacked school in May and September of this year. Her work will also carry her out of the state and the country. In October, she’ll be filming with the Avalon Cake School in Denver. Then in early November, she’ll be demonstrating at Cake International in Birmingham, UK.
To learn more about Rebekah Naomi Cake Design, go to her website at rebekahnaomicakedesign.com.
Amy Falkofske (email@example.com) is a freelance writer, and the owner/photographer of Beautiful Moments by Amy Photography. She is working on an MA in film-television with a concentration in script writing from Regent University. She lives in Bristow with her husband and two boys.