Ink Sweets: Minneapolis Wedding Cake Designer
Leah Horcher is the one-woman show that is Ink Sweets. Personally, I think she makes the most beautiful wedding cakes in Minnesota. Her sugar flowers, marbling and just overall sculptural/botanical style breaks my heart! /// Read below about the flavors she loves, how to properly put fresh flowers on cakes, and about onions and racism (spoiler- she hates both. We have that in common) — and more!
Amber: What flavors are your favorite to experiment with? You have something for everyone it seems! Any new recipes in the works?
Leah: I work really, really hard with my menu to offer flavors that are unique and interesting but not so whacky that your guests won’t like them. This is a hard balance to find sometimes! The earl grey, orange, and honey cake is my signature cake and by far the most popular chosen. I updated my menu recently with some new flavors–currently, I’m most excited about the toasted almond, orange and brown butter slice as well as the lemon, olive oil cake with pistachio buttercream and sea salt.
Do you see baking and decorating as two different entities, in a way?
100%. I know incredibly talented bakers who can’t ice a cake. I also know incredibly talented decorators who truly can’t bake a cake to save their lives. Something that I’m really proud of is that I’ve taken the time to study, learn and practice in both areas. I think to be successful you have to take the time to be great at both. A gorgeous cake is useless if it tastes like sh*t. And, a good cake can be brought down if it looks terrible!
Let’s talk flowers. How do you & your clients decide whether or not the cake will have fresh flowers or sugar flowers? What are your practices around using fresh flowers on cakes (or anything edible)?
The choice of sugar or fresh flowers is really up to the couple. I like to use both so at the end of the day it comes down to their vision. But, price also plays into it. Sugar flowers take days to make properly so they can come with a hefty price tag (worth it, in my opinion!) and a lot of people will choose to use fresh. Fresh also guarantees cohesion with the rest of the event design which is a major plus.
A word of advice for anyone who wants fresh flowers: ask your decorator up front about how they place floral and what safety precautions they take! Something that I have noticed with cake decorators that frustrates me is that they aren’t SAFELY using fresh flowers. Many popular flowers used in weddings are toxic, and some are straight up poisonous. They also can be laced with pesticides. You can’t just stick any flower into a cake without knowing how to properly do so! Once they’re cut and placed, fluid from the stems can seep into the cake. YUCK. They should be properly wired and wrapped with floral tape before being placed into a cake. If your decorator doesn’t do this, I suggest not trusting them with the safety of your cake and guests.
What do people need to know about ordering a professional cake?
What I want people to know is that a good quality wedding cake is not cheap. And, if it is it probably isn’t going to be very good. I often hear people say “Well, if you tell them it’s a ‘wedding cake’ they’ll charge you 3x as much money.” This isn’t true! The reason my cakes are more expensive is because I make everything from scratch. This seems like something everyone does but trust me … they don’t. Baking from scratch requires more knowledge, experience and time. Good quality ingredients cost more money too! I understand that people want to save money and that trying to find a deal on a wedding cake seems like a good idea, but you are going to be happier if you spend the money to get a professional cake that is made well. I promise!
Who are your cake/baking idols?
I really love Jasmine Rae Cakes. She’s so unique and such a specific style that I really admire. It’s so hard to find your own voice as an artist but she has done it! I hope to get to that point one day.
How do you work to be inclusive of all couples?
I will bake a cake for anyone, period. I truly do not give a single f*ck about the color of your skin, who you love, how you identify, what you believe in, etc. You want to know why? You’re a human being. And, human beings like dessert. That’s all that matters to me. (Unless I find out you’re just a really mean, bad, racist human being. Then I won’t bake you a cake. I’ll probably tell you to f*ck off. Sorry, not sorry.)
Great British Baking Show: Love it or hate it or both? Will we see you in the American version?!
LOVE IT. How can you not?! These people are so happy just to bake. They don’t win thousands of dollars. They just want to bake and be happy. Americans seem to ruin a lot of great things so I honestly don’t think I’ll watch it.
Fucking onions, right!? They’re so gross. Well, I hate raw ones. Cooked I can tolerate. Any exceptions to your hatred?
Onions are THE WORST. I would seriously cut off my foot before biting into a raw onion. The only exception is caramelized onions.
What’s the worst part of running your own business and the most important things you do to keep yourself on track?
The worst part is just that there’s SO much you’re in charge of. Ink is a one-woman show. I am the baker, the decorator, the deliverer, the person in charge of tastings, the website designer, the social media handler, and the business admin. Some weeks it feels manageable and others I feel like I’m failing everyone miserably. If I have a busy week in the kitchen then I fall behind on emails and invoices… If I have a slow week in the kitchen I find there’s just not enough to push me forward to be proactive on the admin side. Basically what I’m saying is that I really hate emails. Ha! No, but really… they are so time consuming, and I’d rather be baking!
Everyone has ups and downs in their life mentally and emotionally too which can affect how you run your business. Something that I’m pretty open and honest about is that I suffer from multiple severe anxiety disorders and while they are usually managed pretty well, I do have bad days and sometimes bad stretches of weeks. It makes it hard to get anything done. At the end of the day I just have to remind myself that I’m getting to do what I love! Yeah, owning a business is incredibly hard but there are so many people that don’t get to pursue what they love and I think sometimes I forget that I’m extremely lucky. Reminding myself of that helps push me forward when I’m in a lull.
What’s a memory in this journey that makes you want to happy cry?
It’s not a specific memory or event, but just the love and support I’ve received could make me cry (and, I don’t cry easily). I suffer from anxiety disorders paired with a low self esteem and taking the leap to start Ink was not easy for me. I was constantly second guessing myself and telling myself it wasn’t going to work. But, I’ll never forget when my parents told me how proud they were of me. They have watched me grow from a 13-year-old girl baking and decorating cakes with Duncan Hines canned frosting to being a self-employed business owner 13 years later. I mean, I cannot even imagine how crazy that is to see. They have seen me suffer through personal and professional crap for over a decade! It fills my heart with so much love and happiness knowing that I’ve made them proud.