we met with Meg Skill of Nutmeg Cake Design in her beautiful consultation space in Fishtown to discuss baking in the big city, expanding a small business + how intricate design elements make her cakes + treats so unique.
hg: tell us a little about you + your background.
meg: I’m a self-taught sugar and cake artist currently residing in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philly with my partner, Billy. I studied painting at Arcadia University with a semester abroad at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. Nutmeg Cake Design was born in January 2015 after many late night hours of home baking. In addition to making sugary treats, I’ve been involved with aerial arts and have taught flying trapeze, static trapeze, rope and silks. Although I’ve had less time to devote to aerial endeavors as the business has grown...
"...I can’t complain about a life filled with cakes + circus!"
hg: what was your job prior to starting Nutmeg Cake Design?
meg: prior to officially starting Nutmeg, I was working full time at Shooters Inc. (now Alkemy-X) in a Receptionist / Client Services position. I was also (and still am) teaching aerial classes at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. During this time period, I was getting a lot of practice by baking for friends and family – often into the wee hours of the morning. Apparently I don't know how to not be busy.
hg: what inspired you to start a baking + cake design company?
meg: at first, the thought was very daunting. I have no formal culinary, pastry or business training; honestly, it seemed like a crazy idea but I knew it was the right path for me. Bloggers and Internet cake makers that were consistently producing cohesive and unique work provided me with endless inspiration. The idea of being my own boss and essentially creating a market for my art was a very exciting concept. Currently, I’m continually...
"...inspired by all the local women business owners in the Philly wedding industry..."
...that are simply killing it – it’s a great community.
hg: did your background in fine arts help you with your foray into baking/cake design?
meg: absolutely. My fine arts background plays a massive role in how I work and approach designs. In art school, I gravitated towards work that utilized multiple mediums with a sense of texture and symmetry, and I continue to see evidence of that in my current work. I love the immediacy of cake art. I spend a few weeks planning and executing a design + then I personally hand it over to my client to see the reaction and receive feedback. It’s a very gratifying position to be in as a maker.
hg: what types of products does Nutmeg Cake Design offer? Do you see this list expanding in the future?
meg: we currently offer cakes, decorated sugar cookies and cupcakes. All orders are custom and specifically tailored to the needs + imagination of the client. I’d love to eventually offer more product choices and I have a few ideas that I’d like to test out in the coming months!
hg: the attention to detail in your cakes + treats is stunning. How do you create such photorealistic, beautiful elements?
meg: thank you! I spend a lot of time using Adobe Illustrator to map out certain elements of cake decoration; resizing or flipping images until they suit my idea and composition. I often print out templates to see how the design would look on the cake before freehand painting or sculpting the final details. It’s a process, for sure! I feel very attached to every project and have extreme perfectionist tendencies!
hg: how does your design/baking process differ from other cake design shops in Philadelphia?
meg: I’ve never worked in another bakery and have subsequently learned and existed in a bubble, of sorts. But as a small, boutique business, I’m very connected to my clients and give them a design experience rather than just a transaction.
hg: why Philadelphia? How did you end up in Philadelphia?
meg: this area has always been home. I grew up in South Jersey and attended the nearby Arcadia University. It was a natural progression to move into the city after graduation and I’ve really put my roots down here since.
"Philly is a great place for creative folks..."
...with a very supportive community and lots of opportunities to make a path for yourself.
hg: what has been your favorite design project thus far?
meg: this is a tough question because each week I have a new favorite! The sentimental ones are always a reminder of why I love this job—a 102nd birthday cake, gender reveals, silly inside jokes. Being able to contribute to such special moments in clients' lives is what its all about.
hg: have there been any ideas which were a little too weird and ended up on the cutting room floor?
meg: usually, the weirder the request the better. But there have been a few requests that were offensive enough that I had to pass on them. We can chat about those over a drink!
hg: what’s the strangest / most unique / most challenging request you’ve received to date?
meg: hmmmm… I had a request for a dead My Little Pony character, Rainbow Dash (the client was not a fan of this particular character and had a great sense of humor). I was given the freedom to determine the cause of death and full design. It was challenging to complete this topper in a way that was both murderous and cute, but I was happy with the outcome! Additionally, the birthday cake with the facehugger from the film, Alien, was definitely one of the most unique requests to date.
hg: are there any projects or design ideas you are looking forward to trying in the future?
meg: cake trends are constantly changing and I look forward to what each new year brings. My favorite techniques are handpainting and creating delicate sugar flowers, so I welcome all projects that require those details!
hg: where are you currently located + are you looking to move/expand soon?
meg: The Bakeshop on Twentieth generously gave me my start, but I’m currently relocating to a larger kitchen in Manayunk! The business has been growing and the time has come for me to venture out into a larger space that is more my own. I’m looking forward to meeting my new ‘Yunk neighbors! Additionally, I’m part of the collective creative space, Camp Confetti, located in Kensington. I hold all my workshops and meet with prospective clients at this cozy space.
hg: what is next for Nutmeg Cake Design? Are you looking to expand beyond the Philadelphia market?
meg: I’m currently working on building the brand + wedding business and am hoping to assemble a small team in the next year or so to help me with production.
"My business is my art..."
...and it will always have a boutique, custom feel. Franchising or multiple locations are ideas that are currently not part of my business model.
hg: how far out can you ship your pieces? How far will they travel well?
meg: I do not currently ship my cakes, but cookies can be sent anywhere - near and far!