Vancouver baker turns college hobby into a sweet career

Tessa Huff shares her colourful creations in her second cookbook, titled Icing on the Cake.

Vancouver-based baker Tessa Huff has released a new cookbook titled Icing on the Cake.

Vancouver-based baker Tessa Huff has released a new cookbook titled Icing on the Cake. Handout

Icing on the Cake

Tessa Huff | Abrams Books


Style Sweet CA.

“After closing my bakery and moving to Vancouver six years ago, I started to explore different avenues that still allowed me to bake and share without having an actual storefront,” she says of the decision to start her site. “At this time, my husband and I knew we wanted to start a family soon, so blogging from home felt like the right path. After assisting as a food stylist on a friend’s cookbook, I knew that was the next step I wanted to take.”

It wasn’t too long after that, and Huff released her first cookbook, titled Layered, in 2016. The colourful cookbook offered a sampling of her creations — but as soon as it hit shelves, she knew she had more to offer and share.

“Being able to write cookbooks is a huge honour and seeing so many people make cakes from my recipes was — and still is — such a dream,” she says. “I always have at least a dozen new recipe ideas that I want to try at any given point, so I started compiling some of those into what would become my second book.”

Icing on the Cake was the result. Featuring more than 100 recipes for cakes, cookies, cupcakes and more, the book goes beyond mere baking, shining a spotlight on the art of the exterior.

“A lot of cake decorating books that mainly focus on design only have a limited number of recipes, while general baking books tend to not spend as much time on decoration,” she says, pinpointing what sets her second release apart from others on the shelf. “A quick flip through the book and you will see that there is at least one photo per recipe. I styled and photographed them myself, including the step-by-step photos that will make the decorations easy to follow at home.”

The cookbook, she says, is for those who “love making beautiful food in the kitchen,” including swirly buttercream confections and beautiful braided pie crusts, just as much as she does.

“I wanted to give them, not only delicious recipes, but also dozens of ways to decorate their bakes — from simple edible garnishes like chocolate curls to more advanced techniques like delicate piping and homemade macarons,” she says.

Of the recipes on offer in the full-colour cookbook, Huff pointed to the Swedish Princess Cake as her flavourful favourite.

“This classic cake is covered in a blanket of marzipan, the cake is made up of a simple genoise sponge cake, tangy raspberry jam, and luscious vanilla bean pastry cream,” she says. “But, you can’t ever go wrong with the Chocolate S’mores Tart with its torched meringue topping.”

Thumbing through the pages of mouth-watering baked goods yields views of unbelievably elaborate items, lending one to imagine that, while this cookbook is sure to appeal to a broad range of bakers, visually, it may not be the best option for those just starting out. But, Huff assures skeptics, it actually serves up food fun for all.

“There are definitely some advanced decorating techniques and time-consuming recipes, but it is OK to be aspirational,” she says of the recipes. “If you are new to baking, I’ve provided lots of extra information like which ingredients to buy and equipment to use as well as all of my tips and tricks from running my own bakery.”

But, if the idea of painstakingly piping tiny roses from buttercream and hand-braiding dough for a pie topper seems more frustrating than fantastic, Huff says that it’s more than OK. Simply don’t do it.

“You don’t have to do it,” she says of some of the more advanced decorating techniques. “The recipes will still taste great.”  

For those willing to roll up their sleeves and tackle some of the recipes they’ve never tried before, Huff offers this bit of advice: “When it comes to decorating, remember that it’s just buttercream — most of the time you can scrape it off and try again! Smooth finishes and delicate piping do take practice so try to be patient and forgiving with yourself.”

So, who gets to taste-test all her creations before they make it onto her blog or into one of her cookbooks?

“Mostly my husband and his co-workers, but also my parents and everyone in their building,” Huff says. And her two young kids also likely get a small share of the sampling duties, of course. In fact, Huff says her son has already expressed an interest in joining in her hobby-turned-career. It’s a turn of events she says couldn’t be sweeter.

“Baking for others is my favourite way to express gratitude and communicate feelings of love and admiration,” she says. “(Getting) to bake with my son, is like the greatest gift ever. Even if it means cleaning up sprinkles for days after.”

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