The Sugar Masters of the World

Series: Season 1

The Queen of Lambeth/Royal Icing and Maestro of Enchanting Gingerbread Houses: Kathleen Lange

Feature and Cover Enchanting Queen of Lambeth:Royal Icing Kathleen Lange

Kathleen’s  decades of commitment to her craft and her dedication and innovative approach to sugar as an artistic medium has helped her emerge and remain as a Pillar and a Luminary in the world of Royal icing and the Confectionary industry. By creating the cascading layers of detailed patterns using Royal Icing, over piped delicately over her cakes and Gingerbread houses, transforms her creations into eye-catching masterpieces. An age-old technique thrives even now in her masterpieces, truly in the hand of a Master Artist.

Kathleen’s artistic cakes show her full fledged passion and  a true maestros meticulous hand and eye for detail even as she infuses modern design elements  with an artistry that has a contemporary flair .

Her journey into the world of sugar artistry began with a  fascination for the style of cake decoration that originated in borough of London and her early dabbles with this art form propelled her into an enviable career in sugar artistry 43 years ago.

Kathleen started her teaching career at the age of 16, for Wilton Industries. Youngest instructor to have taught for Wilton in  total 21 years. Kathleen received numerous awards from Wilton; Hall of Fame and Imperial Club Awards; as a top instructor, teaching at the highest volume stores; teaching over 10,000 students as last recorded by Wilton, the year 2000.

Technical precision in showcasing the evolution of an age old technique in the hands of a master artist

She worked in area high end bakeries; consulting and training area bakery owners and employees; owned and operated her own high end wedding cake bakery & supply store in the 90’s. She has taught since the beginning of her career and is now highly regarded innovator and is internationally known for royal icing, foreign techniques and the revival of the Lambeth Method of English Overpiping; adding her own modernized flair.

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Testament to boundless creativity

Most recently, May 2016 Awarded one of the Top 10 International Artist by NY Cake & Baking Show, October 2017; Kathleen Coached Michelle Sohan and competed as Team Trinidad & Tobago in the Milan, Italy Cake Designers’ World Championship FIPGC 2017, winning “The Best Cake Taste in the World 2017” and placed 7th; competing against 19 other countries. In August 2020 Kathleen received the ICES (Int’l Cake Exploration Societe) Hall of Fame award.

Kathleen is an active member, instructor and demonstrator of the USA Division Representative & Int’l Excellence Team Cake Designer of (FIPGC) International Federation of Pastry Gelato & Chocolate – Italy

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“Cake decorating is the art that uses food coloring and frosting as paint, tips for the brushes and cake as the canvas.” Kathleen Lange 

We are truly lucky and honoured to Interview with a maestro who is the contemporary  “Queen of Lambeth techniques” loved and admired around the world. Despite the rush of the holiday season and year-end projects she took out time for our readers to speak candidly about everything from her Royal Icing journey and various milestones, trending sugar designs in the cake world, to practical coping techniques for business’ to thrive in this world Post-Pandemic. Read on to know more about some untold stories from her confectionary world where her exceptional skills in Royal Icing Lambeth technique and enchanting gingerbread houses has been captivating audiences for decades.

Here is Kathleen’s complete interview with our Staff Reporter Ancy James

With each answer you will get a glimpse of her creative journey where she has been weaving passion into every spoken brushstroke of inspiration with her Royal Icing Artistry.

Ancy:

What is the key highlight of you work and most prized design? What is the Niche that makes you a “Class Apart” from other Cake Artists.

Kathleen:

The key highlight of my work would be teaching.  I have enjoyed sharing my love of Lambeth Cake Decorating,  adding a more modernised, romantic flair to older design work. I would say my most prized design would be my Victorian Heart designs, using two different colours in heart cushion work. My first design was in 1985, red & white; no one had ever attempted two colors before. I have since redone the design with “C” Scrolls and pink & white heart cushion’s in 2015

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Ancy:

Who has been your biggest inspiration in the industry? What qualities in Cake Artists catches your attention!

Kathleen:

Eddie Spence MBA-Royal Icing King!  A true gentleman, amazing baker, turned artist.  He has stood the test of time and taught many of the famous royal Icing artist and has one of the longest legacies in his 90’s.  I look for someone who is true to the art, not about pushing their products, all about the actual teaching and love of the art just like my mentors did

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Ancy:

An Award/recognition  close to your heart and why?

Kathleen

This is a hard question, there area actually 2 awards very close to my heart. #1 The  ICES (Int’l Cake Exploration Societe)  Hall of Fame Award in August 2020, since I started teaching at age 16, I met two of my incredible instructors Betty Newman-May who trained me 4 years in Lambeth Style Cake Decorating & John McNamera who taught me the world of figure piping,  they were both ICES Hall of Fame members; incredible artist and instructors.  I felt Hall of Fame would be my ultimate achievement, caring, sharing and teaching as my instructors showed me their love of their students and the industry.  Unfortunately the award had to be given over the phone, due to Covid the convention had to be cancelled, they tried to honor me in 2021 with the award, unfortunately I had to miss the convention due to our move and not being able to find my tools to travel and teach.

#2  Most recently 2017, I had to honor of representing FIPGC (Federation of Int’l Pastry Gelato and Chocolate) Coaching and judging at the World Cake Competition, Milan Italy  as Team Trinidad & Tobago with my student and friend Michelle Sohan, winning Best Tasting Cake in the World. This was one of my highlights, due to the fact I  am very passionate about the taste of the cake, it is the most important part of the cake.  The cake can be the most gorgeous work of art, but if the cake taste terrible, you as a baker and artist have not done your job correctly.  My motto is good until the last crumb 😊

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Ancy:

Your favourite products and Trends. Prediction of which ones will last? List 5 and mention the one which is most likely to survive

Kathleen:

 My favourite products are “A Royal Mix” Royal Icing pre-mix by More Than Cake, best no waste, fastest drying and best tasting royal icing.  I also love More Than Cakes Perfect Palate Powder Flavours, takes less flavouring, does not bake out of products and you can flavour anything you eat, drink or bake with as little as 1/16th teaspoon, very economical products.

Edible Icing images – Seems to be popular and staying popular due to logos and cookie designs

Isomalt- Popular and used for so many different applications

Cookies- Very popular, but remind me of cupcakes, a cycle and too much work for the amount of money you can charge. I think the excitement will die down.

Buttercream Cakes – Retro- popular now, it is a cycle like fondant

Fondant- still trending, but people area wanting more buttercream and whip cream.  Always a cycle, every 5-10 years

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Ancy:

Post covid pandemic what changes do you see in the cake world and in your business

Kathleen:

Since covid I have seen things slowly starting up again.  A handful of cake shows slowly started in 2022, some opted to start in 2023. All seem to have lower attendance in the US. The ICES Int’l Cake Exploration Societe had their last convention July 2022 after 46 years. The CookieCon Conventions seems to be growing, 2 per year in the US with attendance of 800 or more and their classes seem to be going strong.

Seems all classes are low in attendance, people seem to not be attending one on one classes, due to travel expenses and most seem to be still watching online courses.  I personally have had more people interested in attending classes, waiting for me to offer, but due to family responsibilities and relocating our residence in another state, I’m in the process of reorganizing my business I have not started back full time.  

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Ancy:

Pl share some insights about what caught you eye in the Sugar and Cake world during this time?

Kathleen:

The things that have caught my eye in the sugar world are the continued social media videos showing what they are calling Retro Cakes, Lambeth style in butter cream is what they are calling it…when basically it is basic bakery piping, not Lambeth at all. Not sure how basic bakery cake decorating designs became retro?  I’m seeing a lot less fondant designs, more interest in buttercream borders, flowers, natural designing with edible herbs, fruits, citrus and dried florals.  Cookies seem to be continuing their popularity. 

Ancy :

How you adapt your business to the new demand of this Dynamic and exciting phase for Cake Decorating and Sugar Artistry in the year 2023! How do you prepare yourself in an ever-changing world which demands innovation constantly?

Kathleen:

I have found throughout my 43 year career and business to always be adaptable.  Fortunately, I learned from the very beginning to be diversified in several areas of the business. In my career I have seen cycles of styles change and come back every 10 years.  I have prepared myself by offering other items in slow times and being able to teach has always been my “Niche”.  I work on perfecting my recipes and love designing dessert cake flavors, fillings and different icings.  I have been designing  and perfecting a few chocolate candy truffles, brittles and caramels along with a few pastries to market in our new area.  I found the changing of times gives me the opportunity to switch around and use other creative talents, which keep me from repetitive decorating.

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Ancy:

What is your advice to all existing business owners ?

Kathleen:

Be diversified in all areas of the art.  Most businesses are seasonal, make sure you can offer several different products and your product taste as good as it looks. 

Ancy:

For our new cake decorators who are just starting out in the industry ! What would you say to them ?  

Kathleen:

As I was told when I started, learn from everyone, each teacher has something different to offer and one on one learning is better than online.  Online learning you do not learn from others and online is not always the correct way of applying applications as they show.  Being a judge, I have found most mistakes on competitors cakes was bad advise on YouTube, tactic or wanna be teachers who are all self taught.  Be well informed and attend the bakery trade shows.

Ancy:

You own goals for 2023 and what is your vision for your business

Kathleen:

My goals are to finish reorganizing my business, starting up local classes and working at the Local Farmers Market, marketing my chocolates truffles and candies during the summer, working with a few exclusive venues in the area for high-end weddings.  Working toward opening a commercial bakery on our property to cut over head cost and also rent when not being used.

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Ancy:

The best business advise ever given to you

Kathleen:

Be diversified, never stop learning and competition is good

Ancy:

Bad habits that cake decorators must avoid.  

Kathleen:

The worst habit is not keeping organised, cleanliness of the bakery, touching cakes and food without gloves when assembling.

Ancy:

Pl share some ingredients that are mainstay in your business and what are the most dependable Sugar tools and ingredients according to you.

Kathleen:

This is so hard, I have a lot of products, depends on the types of cakes or designs I’m working on.  I would say a good tilting  turntable, torting knife/tool  metal angled spatulas, and good quality baking pans/products.  My favourite decorating tubes are PME.  I do not skimp on taste, I try to use the best, most economical quality ingredients;  real butter, cream and the best chocolates staying away from prepared mixes and make from scratch, depending on products.

Ancy:

Out of these which one is your favourite?

Kathleen:

PME Decorating tubes – I can make anything with tubes, icing and decorating parchment.

Ancy:

Which Sugar design Marvel of yours would you say is the most popular and asked for by your  customers?

Kathleen:

My most popular and sought after work are the Lambeth Designs.  When people tell me they love my designs, they say they love my romantic flair and my style of colours.

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Ancy:

Habits that have helped you continue making innovative designs and meet the challenges of Sugar work

Kathleen:

My habit that has helped me continue making innovative designs, is my love of the art and my romantic side.  I love adding a romantic, modernized flair to all my designs. I love Victorian architecture, jewellery, wedding gowns and flowers, all giving me creative inspiration.

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Ancy:

How do you recharged from the longs hours that sugar and cake work demands? How do you destress and how much recovery time would you ideally like between cake projects?

Kathleen:

When the demand is high, trying to get  as much rest as possible is key!  I try not to overbook for my well being.  I make time for me now, by gardening, reading a good book and enjoying the fresh air outdoors.  I guess in my area they call it Forest Bathing, since we live in a forest.  Enjoying nature, clears the mind.

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Ancy:

Some healthy habits or cake decorator to take care of their health as all work such long hours? 

Kathleen:

I have found over the years, if I do  not take care of myself I would have a low immune system.  I really concentrate on a healthily diet, drink a lot of water and take good vitamin’s. I have always stayed away from too much sugar and try to get plenty of rest.  I started going once a year to a Naturalpatihic Dr, after experiencing extreme tiredness, joint pain along with hormonal problems, he was able to run extra blood work and guided me to the proper vitamin’s my body was lacking, helped me tremendously. Once a month I go to Acupuncturist and a Chiropractor, all have helped me keep my optimal health. 

Ancy:

A final question before we end this interview  please share any significant vision that you have for your upcoming year and a few final words for our readers?

Kathleen:

My future plans are to build a commercial kitchen on our property, working exclusively with local resorts marketing wedding cakes, desserts and novelty candy items, continue teaching, writing a few books.  A big dream is to have vacation cabin rentals for visiting international students to enjoy classes and our beautiful state of Idaho, USA. The legacy I would want to leave is my love of the art through my work and eyes.  I would hope to have a few books showing my personal teaching techniques and recipes. My motto is to love the way I want to be loved, share the way I would want to be shared with and to teach the way and want to be taught.  “Keep Piping Alive!” and “It is all in the bag, just squeeze!”

Thanks to all for being with us on this journey with the modern day “Queen of Lambeth”, A Maestro who is a Class Apart in Royal Icing Artistry.

In addition to her prowess in the Royal Icing Lambeth technique, Kathleen Lange has earned acclaim for her enchanting gingerbread houses.It is testament to Lange’s ability to transform the simplicity of gingerbread into elaborate structures that delight the senses.

Kathleen is beloved within the Cake and Sugar Industry for her distinctive qualities and warm personality. Her commitment to sharing her expertise with aspiring sugar artists makes her  one of the most approachable Master Sugar Artists a much loved mentor to many aspiring Sugar artists around the world.  Her generous spirit in imparting her knowledge has fostered a community of sugar artists who continue to be inspired by her Artistic Sugar legacy

Interview by Ancy James

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