Batter Chatter: Interview with Heather Rousseau of SugarHigh Bakery

It's time to go to Michigan. Well, virtually, at least--unless you're lucky enough to live near Frankenmuth, MI, which is where SugarHigh Bakery is located. The gorgeous cakes are enough to inspire a road trip alone, but let's get to know the owner and business a bit more, shall we? Here's the CakeSpy interview with owner Heather Rousseau:
CakeSpy: Since I can't be in Michigan right now, can you give me a quick rundown of what I'd see if I were to walk into your bakery?

Heather Rousseau: Our colors are pink, black, and white and everything is decorated accordingly. I try to include everything and anything I think is "cool." The wall to the right of our entrance is decorated with a mini gallery of Artist Trading Cards (ATCs), which you may be familiar with. They are mini works of art with the main requirement being that they are the size of a playing card. I collect cupcake-themed ATCs, so this is where I display my collection.

When you walk into the bakery you will run into our 12-flavor gelato case. We make our gelato in-house, using all fresh fruits and no artificial flavorings. You'll then see one display case holding 30 flavors of cupcakes--jumbo size, because bigger is better.

Next to that case is our case where we have generally about 5 different flavors of cookies and also have chocolates, BIG buckeyes, chocolate covered bacon and other miscellaneous goodies.

CS: What is your first baked good memory?

HR: The first thing that comes to my mind was at my best friends 8th birthday party when I saw my first gourmet cake. Her mom brought in a cake that was ROUND...(not a sheet cake!?) and had ribbon wrapped around the sides. On the top was fresh flowers. I was completely in awe. Even more so when she served the cake and it had a layer of cream cheese and a layer of strawberry filling. I didnt even know it was possible! From then on, I was hooked.

CS: What made you decide to open your own bakery?

HR: I've always wanted to open a bakery. It was always in the back of my mind. Every time I worked somewhere else the entire time I always thought, "I can do it better, I can do it faster, I can do it more efficient, I can sell more, etc. etc. etc." The final push was last year when I was working at a bakery in my home town after I moved back from Chicago and she did not want to decorate the cupcakes - she said, "We will sell them anyway so don't waste your time" That was when I really realized nobody was EVER going to do it the way I wanted to, and doing it myself was the only option.

CS: If you could go back a year, what advice about opening a bakery would you give yourself?

HR: I guess most importantly I would tell myself to delegate tasks. I still struggle with this. I try to do everything myself, and sometimes that causes areas to lack since it doesnt get my undivided attention.

CS: You recently got married. What kind of wedding cake did you have? 

HR: Yeah I did! We actually got married in Riviera Maya, Mexico last August 6th. I actually had two wedding cakes - First cake was at our actual wedding in mexico and our wedding package came with a cake...and it was so guady. It was amusing to us to think that I decorate cakes and we had an ugly cake :) It was two single-layer "tiers" so it was very flat. Maybe 4" tall total. It had no borders, but very large and over sized marzipan "roses" stuck sporadically throughout the entire cake.

Our second cake I made for our reception we had in Michigan. At the time we were living in Chicago (I went to The French Pastry School) and I arrived in town the night before. I got to baking. I made the entire cake tres leches. I had all these plans of design, but my husband and I could not agree on a single design. He wanted very traditional and simple. I wanted something a little loudee - after all, finally I had a blank canvas in front of me that I could do WHATEVER I wanted, try out new techniques, etc. and my husband was being boring.

SO, I settled on the idea of just doing a simple upside down cake. Because we were so rushed, I brought the un-iced cakes to the reception and then started looking around the hall for things I could use to decorate it There was no plan, but here is what we came up with. Im sure we were a site to see, husband and wife, dressed up, assembling our cake :)

CS: For those interested in pursuing baking as a career, how important do you think it is to attend culinary school?

HR: I think that formal schooling is important depending on what specifically you want to do with baking. Doing what I do - mostly cake decorating, etc. I think art classes would be more beneficial. If you want to work in a fine dining restaurant or in a fancy hotel, then schooling, degrees, training is more important in landing a job. In any baking specialty area, I think on the job training is key and most important above all. I recommend working at as many places as possible, learning as much as possible - even if it means working for free.

CS: In your opinion, what makes a perfect sugar cookie?

HR: I'm definitely not a "cookie-eating" person, so the perfect sugar cookie to me has to taste decent, but most importantly hold its shape when baking, so that when I decorate them, they have nice clean edges and you can tell what the shape is even before icing is added.

CS: Cake gossip alert! At a previous catering job, you created cakes for many a celebrity. Which was the most exciting job and why?

HR: Definitely the most exciting job for me was catering for Semi-Pro that was filmed in Flint, Michigan. That one was the most exciting for me for a number of reasons: one, this was the first movie production that I catered for, so it was all "new" to me; two, this was my first pastry job, and I was getting to make desserts for real live celebrities; three, it was one of the longest jobs we worked on, and four--we were able to interact alot with the cast and crew and I got to meet Will Ferrell & Woody Harrelson among others. 

CS: Are there any types of baked goods or sweets that you would consider regional specialties in your area? 

HR: There are always cherry products and apple products around, so I try my best to incorporate local ingredients as much as possible. Right now I have pumpkin cupcakes from a local farmer, caramel apples and caramel apple cupcakes for sale.

CS: What's next? 

HR: As I sit here typing there is pounding and saws being heard next door to me - we are in the middle of expansion and will be doubling our store. We are going to extend our store front, enlarge our kitchen and begin offering lessons and birthday parties, among other ideas.

In Michigan? Get your sweet self over to SugarHigh Bakery for a visit, they're located at 925 S. Main Street, Suite G1, Frankenmuth, MI!

For more, check out their website and Facebook page! Oh, and you know, follow them on Twitter!