Lawyer or pastry chef? The story of Caterina Tarantino begins as a law school student in Palermo. Some years later, she becomes a lawyer but one day something changes. Her passion for cake design day by day becomes stronger and stronger and turns into a real job. Are you curious to know more? Read the interview on Sicilian Secrets’ blog.
From gown to sugar. You cannot rule the heart and Caterina Tarantino knows it. Cake design, the art of confectionery, and love for pastries gave a lot of happiness to this Sicilian lawyer. And when the courthouse becomes too small, it’s better to have fun in the kitchen!
Q: This story is definitely bizarre. What happened?
A: After the high school, I was almost forced to study law and once I received my degree, I started working with a lawyer at his office. This job used to keep me far from my family, I didn’t want to give up on my son and time with him. I was unhappy, not satisfied, so when my daughter was born, I decided to run my own business. It was not very successful, and the cake world was my shelter, a passion that made me joyful.
Q: How did you turn a hobby into a job?
A: About 12 years ago, the husband of a friend of mine – he was a professional chef – asked me to teach in a course for pastry chefs and explain the secrets of cake design. I immediately said yes and, in this way, I became a little bit popular in the industry.
Q: How did you learn this beautiful art?
A: I’m an autodidact but have a scientific approach to every recipe. I elaborate my own ones and don’t like to copy what other people do. To learn specific techniques, I attended some classes and understood that cake design is my world and cannot live without.
Q: How does your being Sicilian influence your creations?
A: I like our traditions and follow them all. For the Day of the Dead I make marzipan fruit, for Christmas I make cookies and more. I always add my personal touch to the old and traditional recipes, sometimes I follow the ones my grandma gave to me but modified.
Q: What do you love the most of your job?
A: I love to deal with people and create with them. For example, with the brides who want a very special wedding cake or to teach what I do to people who want to do the same job. It’s not all about recipes, I want people to teach how not to be banal. My pastries are not too sweet, I want to push the flavor of every ingredient.
Q: How can we taste the flavor of Sicily in your pastries?
A: I use ingredients of our land such as oranges, dried fruit, pistachios. I like bright colors and when I can create according to my personal taste, I always add a note of Sicilian spirit.
Q: What about inspiration? How do you invent your cakes?
A: I look at what surrounds me, I’m inspired by personality of my customers and even by my mood. I love when I can fully use imagination, on the contrary I don’t like when people ask me to copy something they found online.
Q: What’s the moment of your career as a cake designer that, in your opinion, revolutionized your life?
A: I think it was the first class I taught. In front of those 20 chefs I felt so small but at the same time I had to convey something to these professionals. After a couple of minutes of pure embarrassment, I showed off my strength and started talking fluently. Everybody was interested and I will always remember this moment because it was the first input to turn my passion for cake design into something serious.
Q: What’s your forte in the kitchen?
A: Without a doubt bread orange cake is my forte, it’s very basic but everybody can recognize my pie. I re-elaborated even the Devil’s Cake and called it Devil’s Kate. If I think even about the past, I’m very proud of a Cassata cake I made for an event organized by a famous bakery in Palermo.
Q: Your present is very bright, but what are you wishes for the future?
A: I abandoned the gown, forever. But one of my wishes is to open my bakery. I’d like to have a small and cozy place with a British touch. I continuously think about it, this is my dream. Who knows…we’ll see!