Eat Your Geek: An Interview with Sam Anderson of Cakes Cove
Cakes Cove has been exhibiting at various events and convention for a while, but I first had the pleasure of meeting the bakery’s proprietor, Sam Anderson, this summer in the Fan Expo Canada green room. I was immediately struck by the obvious: her incredible talent for crafting sweet treats with a geeky flare, but more than that, she exuded a level of confidence, professionalism, and passion that instantly impressed me. Finding out she’s as big a fan of the video game Mass Effect as I am is just icing on the proverbial cake. Or rather, the literal cake, because, after seeing the many tasty creations she’s brought to life, I’m sure a Mass Effect cake is in there somewhere. Not that the prize-winning wearable Commander Shepard N7 chocolate armour isn’t impressive enough.
Anderson is an unabashed geek. Her passion for all things nerdy is only surpassed by her passion for confectionary arts. Her grandmother started her off in the kitchen at the ripe young age of two, and she’s never looked back, going professional in 2006 after training at George Brown College and the Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts. She had a few doubters suggest that her plans to open a geeky bakery wouldn’t fly, but a successful Kickstarter campaign helped prove them wrong. Starting February 2014, Cakes Cove began welcoming visitors at 1074 St.Clair Avenue West in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. When you walk through the doors, you’ll find a variety of traditional sweets, including cupcakes, cookies, cakes, and chocolates, but look a little more closely and you might spot a Captain America shield, LEGO bricks, or the X-Files logo. If you take a seat for a cake consultation, you’ll do it in a room tastefully adorned with Doctor Who curtains and Star Trek logo cushions.
If you walked into the store on October 24th, you’d find it and all the staff decked out in full zombie regalia, but on a regular day, the store is about elegance and subtle geekiness. Anderson wants everyone to be proud of their geek and offers the opportunity to express that through items as overt as wearable chocolate armour or as subtle as a wedding cake that simply reads “I love you” and “I know.” Her clientele is a mix of people looking for unique geeky things and others just looking for the typical sweet treat, who then freak out when they discover their inner geek can be expressed through sugar. Through her creations, Anderson hopes to “inspire more people to be yourself; to express your geek.”
The zombie themed event on the 24th was scary for some children who happened by, but others happily had their faces adorned with bloody slashes and gashes while they enjoyed free graveyard cake. One such cutie also served as a helpful example when I asked how Anderson came up with her ideas. “Everyone looks like food!” she exclaimed and proceeded to describe the three different ways she could design a life-sized cake based on a four year old girl in a yellow striped t-shirt with pink beads in her braided hair. Not that Anderson wants to eat her clientele—though her zombie makeup would imply otherwise–she’s just always thinking in “cake” vision, with an eye for how to turn something inedible into something scrumptious and unique. In fact, when I asked if her makeup was edible too—it wasn’t, to my surprise—Anderson’s wheels instantly began churning with ideas on how to make it so.
Anderson comes up with her creations right on site in the cleanest kitchen I have ever seen. While she was able to take some time to sit with me for this interview, since meeting her at Fan Expo, I’ve determined that she does not sleep. The convention was busy enough, and while she has a healthy team of friends and family who accept love and chocolate in exchange for their help, much of the kitchen work is all on Anderson. Her hard work and the amazing results do not go unnoticed. Not only do the conventions’ green room celebrities love and tweet about the treats—even stopping to autograph her cakes—somewhere along the way, someone passed Sam’s name on to the folks backstage at the Emmy Awards which is where Anderson ended up shortly after Fan Expo ended. Anderson knew she had achieved something big at last year’s Fan Expo when she saw Star Wars’ Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) munching on one of her R2-D2 cookies. Next thing you know, she’s hanging out at a Hollywood red carpet. You go girl!
“I’m a chocolate fan, I could smell this from outside!” — Jane Lynch
“How can I get these? I want to treat all my co-workers. Delicious.” — Marcia Gay Harden
“This is art. We need to get this for the show. We’ve got to tell Brad about it.” — Denise O’Hare
“What is this? Dragees, I love the word. Mmm, Yum, now I love the chocolate. Well done young lady.” — Mel Brooks
“This is delicious, the smoked whiskey and the salted caramel, those are mine.” — Viola Davis
“Girl, you’re a salted caramel mastermind.” — Queen Latifah
But Anderson’s got a pretty level head when it comes to celebrities. As I said, she is a professional, and it’s more likely that she’s thinking about how to make a life-size edible Angela Bassett as she chats with the actress than swoon over her celebrity status. Attending the Emmys certainly was a once-in-a-life-time experience, but Anderson hopes to keep future Hollywood-type events more local, such as the Toronto International Film Festival.
Meanwhile, she still has many big things planned as 2015 winds down. She regularly works with the Desert Bus for Hope, which supports the Child’s Play charity, and will be campaigning for Extra Life‘s November 7th gaming marathon. A corner of the shop will be set up for gaming and proceeds and customer donations will go to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. She’s already been in touch with the 501st Stormtrooper Legion since the release of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer inspired plans involving a life-sized BB-8 cake (though it won’t be as big as her largest cake, a chocolate, sea salt, and caramel R2-D2 that fed 1,150 people).
All this on top of every day time spent in the kitchen restocking inventory, experimenting with interesting new flavours, or creating things simply because she’s bored and has the incredible skill to do so.
Anderson’s passion for her work and for all things geeky is inspirational—and tasty. The epitome of having your cake and eating it, too.