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Meet Kathleen Burlaza of Amethyst and Flour in Escondido

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathleen Burlaza.

Kathleen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My passion for art started at a young age, I have always enjoyed drawing, sculpting, and was inspired by all art around me. Being able to create something using my own two hands was a rewarding and satisfying feeling. There was never a wrong answer in art, you can create whatever you’d like and no one can tell you that it’s wrong because art was my interpretation of what I was expressing at the time. I was given the impression that being an artist was not a good career path by my family and a few teachers, but I somehow always gravitated towards art in one way or another. I wasn’t a book worm when it came to academics, I was a creative thinker. I always thought outside the box when it came to using my creativity, and have tried many ways to bring those images in my head to life.

After I graduated from high school, I wasn’t sure what the next step was, alongside most students at that age. I thought I would be content getting into the medical field, requested by my parents of course, but I just wasn’t completely happy with that decision. I pushed that thought back and pursued community college to figure out what exactly I was passionate about. I was 18 years old when I first baked a cake. I made a two-tiered, fondant covered cake for my sisters birthday, and was inspired to do so from watching all the Food Network cake decorating shows and thought, “I can definitely do that.” Boy was I wrong, baking is a combination of science, culinary, time management, and art. That first cake I made for my sister’s birthday wasn’t terrible, but it could have looked cleaner. After that cake, I knew I could do a better job the next time around, so for that first year of learning how to bake, I started decorating cakes for all my friends birthdays as a gift. I started posting all my cake photos on my Facebook and was getting a lot of comments on them, even had a few requests on booking a cake from me. And that’s how it started.

I was very enthusiastic but also nervous that I wouldn’t be able to capture what my client’s visions were because I was just making cakes the way I wanted to in the beginning. But I took a chance and start taking orders, even on cakes I had no idea how I was going to construct. Everything was an all-new experience that I had to go through in order to become a better cake designer. I had many failed cakes that didn’t go my way, structural issues, recipes that didn’t quite work, you name it, but I persevered through it all and continued my new journey and passion as a baker and cake decorator. I spent all my time and used whatever cash I had as a part-time waitress and college student buying supplies, ingredients, and packaging to give my clients a professional experience when ordering with me. I expanded my knowledge of baking working as an assistant pastry chef at Vintana Wine and Dine in Escondido, and they thought me so many things I didn’t even know were possible. I learned how to bake every little thing they offered from scratch, from creme brulee, key lime tarts, pot de creme to ice cream, sorbets, and mud pies, just a few to name.

I was still baking on the side with my custom cake orders, and I had the best moral support from the head chef at Vintana, he was generous enough to allow me to bring in my finished cake orders and leave them in the walk-in refrigerator for my clients pick it up while I was working in the restaurant. I am forever grateful to have had that support, especially from a higher position. I worked there for a couple of years, but I wanted to focus now on actual cake designing. I found that the Crimson Cake in Oceanside was hiring cake designers and immediately applied for the position. I had an interview the next day, once I walked into their cake decorating space, I knew I was in the right place. They had everything I could only imagine that was cake related. After I was hired, they immediately put me to work designing all different types of cake, cupcakes, cookies, mini desserts, you name it. I was definitely overwhelmed by how quickly the team was able to bang out these custom order within minutes, something I had to learn how to adjust to but was totally necessary to become successful. The owner of the Crimson Cake was an incredible boss, she taught me how to utilize my time and how to decorate efficiently and really cared about her workers. She is one badass baker and cake decorator, and I truthfully wouldn’t be where I am today without her teaching me her knowledge. As perfect as the job was, my boss had to put her business under hiatus while she was going through her second pregnancy, which had me looking for a new job. I tried searching for another baking job but couldn’t find any bakeries close to where I lived that was hiring, so I went back to waitressing while I was still going to school for my business degree.

This time in my life, being a server helped me build my little business to what it is today with investing all my tip money into top named cake supplies, kitchen grade appliances, professional packaging supplies, the whole nine yards, I was committed to making my dream as a cake decorating business owner come to life. Once I decided to move out of my parent’s house into my apartment, there was no turning back on my dream, I no longer had to give an explanation to my parents on why I would be up all night baking and decorating. I was fully committed to becoming bigger than I was already. I, then, made my own Instagram page just for my cakes and that’s where everything blew up. Instead of having a few days in the month with cake orders, I was having custom cake orders every weekend, sometimes I would even double or triple booking myself so I could accommodate everyone’s order. As word of mouth started to increase, so did my little business. I started as #Kathleenoriginalcakes to get my name familiarized but knew I needed a professional business name while I was to file for the state. That’s how Amethyst & Flour was created.

The name had a little bit of me, Amethyst is my birthstone, and Flour is what I use in most of my desserts. Although I am still building my little business, I am constantly striving to become a better cake decorator by trying new techniques, keeping up with trends, using my artistic expression on my cakes and desserts, and being able to use all my knowledge from past jobs to make my own personal statement. My vision is always evolving and I can’t wait to show the world what I come up with next.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I had many struggles with achieving my dream of becoming a great cake decorator. It’s all about experiences. I’ve failed many times but learned from those failures to become a better, efficient worker. You can’t give up once it starts to get hard, you’ve got to put many hours and devotion to get to where you want to be. My most difficult projects usually end up being the best work I have ever created because I understand full-heartedly what it takes, blood, sweat, and tears, to become great at what you love to do.

Amethyst and Flour – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
My business, Amethyst & Flour, specializes in custom cake design, custom sugar cookie art, macarons, and a variety of mini desserts for any special occasion. I don’t want to be great at just one thing, I want to be great with all things desserts. What sets my cake business apart from others is my attention to the tiniest details. I am very thoughtful with each order I make, no two cakes I make are ever the same. I try my best to custom design my desserts to fit my client’s vision. This business is a one-woman show at the moment. I am the person behind the scenes doing all the administrative work, cleaning and washing cake pans and spatulas, buying all my fresh ingredients each week, counting inventory, and then the fun begins with baking all from scratch, creating as an edible vision to bring to life, then executing it with my decorating skills. It can be overwhelming at times, but the end results are always worth it. My love and passion for baking and art are represented in all my work.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success to me is being able to do something you absolutely love, despite hardships and struggles that I have faced in the past being a self-taught cake, I never once gave up. Being an artist, any type of artist really is all about evolving your craft, the more to practice the better you will become. You end up having your own niche, a statement that people will soon recognize, you just have to consistently work on it.

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