SAN MARCOS — Autumn is the favorite time of the year for celebrity cake stylist Ro Zinniger.
“It’s colors like yellow, orange and black that are associated with Halloween,” she explained. “There’s comfort food, and these are my comfort colors.”
Zinniger will be offering themed workshops for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas at her Ro Z’s Sweet Art Studio from now through the holiday season.
“It’s an opportunity to make baked goods and give them to family and friends, and also to make them for your own special events,” she said.
Although Zinniger has been featured nationally on the Food Network and The Learning Channels’ “Fabulous Cakes,” she has also become a familiar face locally through her classes at public schools, the Girl Scouts, the Encinitas and Carlsbad Parks and Recreation Departments and her own studio in San Marcos. Last weekend she coordinated and hosted the live cake competition at the Gourmet Expo at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Zinniger also teaches Baking 101 and Basics of Fondant through Palomar College.
Her teaching philosophy is to let go of self-criticism and enjoy a rich, creative experience.
“I tell students, ‘You will not be judged. Things happen in the kitchen and you have to be flexible and know how to fix a disaster. I’ll show you what steps to take,’” she said.
Many of Zinniger’s students such as Carrie Hobson, who owns Sugarlump Cakery, have gone on to become professional cake stylists themselves.
“Taking classes from Ro gave me a leg up in this business because she teaches the basics very well, and everything builds off of that,” she explained. “Because of her business experience, she is more than happy to answer questions ranging from the construction of a cake to health inspections.”
Zinniger grew up in the city of San Diego, and remembers learning how to bake from her Italian grandmother. She earned a B.A. from San Diego State and went on to do two years of graduate work in public administration before embarking on a successful corporate career. In 1999 she was forced to quit her job after developing a serious medical condition.
“In 2000 I went through a lot of soul searching and applied for a job as a visual merchandiser at Michaels (craft store),” she remembers. “I had artistic ability, and was recruited to teach basic cake decorating. I liked it so much that I decided to go to The Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionery Art in Chicago in 2004.”
Zinniger came back to North County and continued teaching cake decorating at Michaels and various parks and recreation departments.
In 2006, she returned to the Wilton School in Chicago to study under internationally acclaimed cake artist Colette Peters, whose cakes have been showcased at Tiffany’s and The White House. Peters also pioneered the popular “Topsy Turvy” stacked-wacky cakes.
In 2008 Zinniger again returned home and opened her business, which includes a classroom and retail store.
Since embarking on her new career, Zinniger says the nature of cake decorating has changed from old-school butter cream icing to elegant fondant, which can be sculpted into figurines, or rolled out and fashioned to blanket cakes with a satin finish.
“Over the last five years, cake decorating has evolved into edible art,” she said. “It totally jumped into an art form.”
Zinniger will be sponsoring a “Cupcakes for Critters” event on Oct. 19 from 6:30-8 p.m. and again Nov. 12, 12:30-2p.m. Participants will learn how to decorate cupcakes with fondant. Cost is $45 plus supplies. A percentage of the fees benefit the Helen Woodward Animal Center.
For more information about classes call (760) 744-0447 or visit rozsweetartstudio.com/blog.html. Store hours: Monday through Wednesday, 3 to 7 p.m., Thursday through Friday 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Sunday.