Although she’s internationally renowned as a cake designer and for the confectionary school that bares her name, Bonnie Gordon didn’t turn to a sweet career path until she was in her 40s.
“I was looking to do something else so I started taking chef classes because I always had an interest in food,” says Gordon, who worked in the museum field for a decade after being a teacher. “Chef class turned into baking classes, then I took a cake decorating class and instantly it clicked for me. I realized this is what I wanted to do.”
Swapping paint for food colouring and clay for fondant was a natural progression since Gordon already studied art in university, she says.
“With a background in fine arts, cake decorating is really just another medium,” she says. “It’s art, it’s really art, except you can also eat it.”
After gaining a reputation for her creative cake designs, most notably wedding cakes, she went back to her teaching roots since she fielded many requests from aspiring designers and decorators who wanted to learn and study with her.
An introductory cake design and decorating class in 2005 eventually grew into a full-fledged school, the Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts, which became an accredited private career college in 2010 and attracts students from as far as Brazil, Germany, Singapore and Mauritius.
“It’s all within cake and pastry, so everything’s sweet and it’s always delicious,” she says. “Internationally, it’s a hugely popular field right now. It’s not just North America — the world is just crazy about beautiful cakes.”
Although the school’s current location on Eglinton Avenue W. at Bathurst Street, started off on one floor and now spans across three, as of January they will be operating out of an even larger property on Caledonia Road north of Eglinton Avenue W.
“We outgrew our current location,” Gordon says, adding the new location will triple their space. “We’ve developed many new programs. We started off primarily focusing on cake decorating and we’ve since added a number of baking and pastry classes as well … with more programs it means more space.”
Gordon, who serves as director of the confectionary college and has up to 15 different specialists teaching part-time and full-time programs in confectionary arts, cake design and baking as well as various workshops for hobbyist from making macarons to decorating cakes.
Over the years Gordon created cakes for corporate clients including Louis Vuitton and Godiva Chocolate, and created all the cakes Heather Locklear’s character made in the movie The Perfect Man.
However, her most memorable moments come from mentoring and training students.
“I have to say I get no greater pleasure than seeing the successes of my students,” she says. “When I look around me in the city, I look at all the top cake shops, the majority have taken classes or studied or worked with me … seeing their success in the industry, there’s nothing more gratifying than that.”
Although she views the school as an arts school, Gordon says it’s also a place for people who have never been creative to explore their creative side, regardless of their skills and experience.
“We do teach everything at an artisanal level, which means we teach everyone to use the best possible ingredients, everything tastes delicious. Especially in our cake decorating design class, there’s a lot of focus on individual focus and creativity.”
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