News

Ballerina's Artistry Infuses Her Cakes

Maggie Austin turned to baking after being sidelined by an injury

Maggie Austin’s elegant, custom-made wedding cakes feature her intricate sugar flowers, which are made with gum paste, an edible modeling dough.
Maggie Austin’s elegant, custom-made wedding cakes feature her intricate sugar flowers, which are made with gum paste, an edible modeling dough.

For most of her life, Maggie Austin was a ballerina. But when a traumatic injury ended her career, she found a different outlet for her impressive talents - creating one-of-a-kind wedding cakes that are edible works of art.

Prima Ballerina

Austin always loved to dance.

Dancing as a profession was never a difficult choice for her; she knew early on that she “absolutely wanted to do this professionally.”


But one day in 2006, while dancing with the prestigious Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, Austin experienced a sharp pain.

“It was my first season with the Joffrey,” she remembers, “and we were just about to move into the theater for a performance of "Midsummer Night’s Dream," and I had an injury that took me out in basically an instant.”

Maggie Austin in
Maggie Austin in "The Nutcracker,” Fresno Ballet, Fresno, CA, 2004

Austin later learned she'd broken a small bone in her foot, an injury which wouldn't present a major problem for most people. But for Austin,  it was a career ender.

Devastated, she had to find another line of work.

Edible art

Since Austin’s other passion was baking, she signed up for a program at the reputable French Pastry School in Chicago, where she fell in love with the process of making intricate sugar flowers.

After graduating, Austin moved to the Washington D.C. area to be near her sister Jessica. With Jessica’s help, she started selling sugar flowers to local cake makers, but then decided to make her own cakes.  

In 2010, the sisters opened their own business in a sun-drenched studio near Washington.  

Simple sophistication

Austin's speciality is elegant, custom-made wedding cakes. She applies the same dedicated discipline and attention to detail to them as she did to her dancing.

Maggie Austin innovated the frills, or ruffles, technique. The frills are created using paper-thin layers of fondant, which is a sugar paste, and are individually applied to the cake.
Maggie Austin innovated the frills, or ruffles, technique. The frills are created using paper-thin layers of fondant, which is a sugar paste, and are individually applied to the cake.

“I think that they have clean lines, they are sophisticated, and romantic, but they have a little bit of an edge to them,” she says. And while they may look simple, in reality, they are not. “They are extremely detailed, so I think that there is an overall grace and simplicity to them, but the workmanship [is] almost like a couture garment that has just endless amounts of detail that you might not see just upon first glance.”

Her sugar flowers - which are made with gum paste, an edible modeling dough - are intricate and time-consuming. They are edible works of art that Austin's brides have come to cherish, particularly since they can last for a lifetime.

Maggie Austin's creations are often inspired by fashion, like this Alexander McQueen gown. (Courtesy Maggie Austin)

Making individually-tailored cakes is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. Even with the help of interns, it takes Austin an average of three days to create a single cake which she sells at an average cost of $2,000 to $3,000.

Austin is inspired by everything from nature to high fashion. Her sugar oysters are uncanny replicas of the real thing, and she’s made cakes that are impressive renditions of the designer dresses that inspired them.  

Mixing the old with the new

But what Austin has become most renowned for is the frills, or ruffles, technique she applies to her more sophisticated creations. They are created using paper-thin layers of fondant, a sugar paste, which are individually applied to the cake.

Their soft, elegant lines hark back to her years in the ballet.

Maggie Austin's ballet aesthetic is evident in her creations.
Maggie Austin's ballet aesthetic is evident in her creations. "A lot of times, with my cakes, there’s always an element that goes up and off to the right a little bit, angling upwards,” she says.

“I think that there’s an aesthetic that is in ballet that can be translated into cakes,” she says.

Today, the former ballerina enjoys creating cakes for her loyal, high-end clients. She also conducts workshops to teach cake enthusiasts how to make sugar flowers.

Austin says she has finally come to terms with the premature end of her dancing career.

“It’s still heartbreaking for me. It’s something that will always be the love of my life professionally, but at the same time I had so many good years and such fond memories…that I can sort of let that be at peace.”

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs