Erin Campbell got instant notoriety as the winner of the Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship and as a top five Finalist on Food Network Star. She’s also a longtime staff member and General Manager of the Woodbury location of Nadia Cakes. We sat down with her to find out just what makes her tick, and how she churns out those delicious treats on the daily.
To know Erin, you have to understand than behind the baker, there is someone who loves what she does, which is making people happy through her sweet treats. Even though Erin has been professionally baking for well over a decade, she has been creating cakes “since I was old enough to fall head over heels in love with sugar!” What started out as outlet of self-expression, “The first time I saw someone I didn’t know personally eat one of my sweet treats and smile ear to ear, I was hooked. It became my love language and escape. If I took the time to bake your favorite treat it was my way of saying, I care for you and I want you to feel joyful and loved. For me, being a baker and cake designer for a living is the ultimate case of taking lemons and making lemonade… but with smiles and glitter.”
Her expertise and talent did lead to her winning the Holiday Baking Championship, but it’s her “kid at heart” attitude that probably put her over the edge to win the title. “Before even stepping foot into the kitchen I told myself that I would stay true to myself, even if that meant swimming upstream in order for that to happen. While a lot of my competitors tried to mask flavors they were given, I tried to highlight my inner kiddo with everything from flavor profile to final design. Because to me, the holidays are about family, making memories, and keeping the magic of childlike wonder alive for the next generations to come. Everyone who saw my final showpiece was able to see that inner wonder and magic on display, and that was my idea of success.”
When Erin isn’t baking, she has hobbies that keep her busy while also keep her creative juices flowing. From gardening to sewing, she stays busy and on top of trend-setting colors and textures and she remains connected to nature in a way that definitely translates into her baking. While it’s important to stay on top of trends, (Erin says, “a good fifty percent of my job is chasing new trends and building on them”) the key is that she does build on them, and follows the latest in everything from fashion to home décor to know what couples want, and embraces these trends. “You play around with every aspect of the design until you get it just right and then you build on that design so it isn’t like everyone else’s. Finding a way to stand out in a room full of Unicorn head cakes is the perfect example of this. Everyone who is anyone in the cake world has made their fair share of these little guys. I personally focus on having beautiful eye shape and full eye lashes. It is something simple that makes a huge difference, and our attention to detail is something small that really stands out. Make it your own in a way and you won’t get stifled keeping up with trends.”
Interestingly, Erin points out that sometimes some of her favorite cakes are not the easiest to create. “For example, creating straight and clean edges on a hexagon cake is never my idea of fun. It takes a whole lot of patience. Having to re-frost the same side of a cake three or four times on 8 different sides. It turns into a math problem and it’s frustrating. But the end result of sharp symmetrical edges is so satisfying. Top that off with delicate lace piping on the corners and it is breathtaking. Simple, but so elegant.” Tricks of the trade from a real pro, where hard work leads to masterpieces.