This is Susan Sweeney mom to adorable Lucy James (who you’ll see lots of below!) and owner of the extraordinary Cake Bloom! Susan is a true artist and crafts the most amazing cakes adorned with fresh or pressed flowers–true pieces of art! I had so much fun watching and photographing Susan’s process in making her amazing cakes! She is so lovely and a very welcome addition to Charlottesville! Enjoy her interview!
Susan, please tell the readers a little bit about yourself…
I grew up in the south, but I’ve spent the past 15 years in Northern California where I went to culinary school and focused primarily on wedding cakes since 2012. In November, my husband, daughter and I finally decided it was time to be closer to family. With two sisters in town and one outside DC, plus grandmothers just north and south of us, we’re definitely in a better spot and excited to explore our new town as things start opening up.
us: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
her: Croissant from the new Grit Coffee location at Woolen Mills.
us: Does pineapple belong on pizza?
her: Not on my pizza.
us: Do you sleep in your socks?
What’s your go-to midnight snack?
her: Dark chocolate
us: Mountains or beach?
her: I’m a mountain girl.
us: Salty or sweet?
us: Current favorite song?
her: Here They Come by Hamilton Leithauser
us: Pet peeve?
her: Group texts, especially when you don’t know everyone in the group.
us: Room entrance song:
her: All the Wine – The National
us: Favorite place you’ve traveled to?
her: Zihautanejo, Mexico
us: What’s your favorite room in your house?
her: Technically it’s just outside. We have a huge redwood back deck that’s filled with edible flowers and herbs. It’s so lush right now. Having coffee in our porch swing out there in the morning is my happy place.
us: Who has been the most influential woman in your life?
her: It’s funny. Whenever she’s trying to compliment me for some kind of challenge I’ve overcome or something good I’ve done or delicious I’ve baked, my mom jokingly (and humbly) asks if I’m really her daughter. While I didn’t get my kitchen skills from her, I’m quite sure everything else that’s propelled me forward is a direct result of being her kid. I could go on about her very impressive resume, or how she overcame tremendous tragedy, or that awe-inspiring chapter when she was raising six teenagers alongside a newborn baby (me) while working full-time, but I think what makes her most extraordinary–and influential to me–is in her approach rather than her accomplishments. She’s resilient and resourceful, genuinely warm and wise,
and she has a way of finding the light in every person and in every situation. She’s had a profound influence on how I navigate the ups and downs of each day, and I’m so grateful she’s mine.
us: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
her: In this moment, I’m pretty proud of my latest iteration of Cake Bloom. Launching a new business in a new town during a pandemic with a toddler at home is nuts, but with the help of my wonderfully supportive husband, I’ve managed to lay a solid foundation and see some major growth in just three months. I’m worked my tail off and seeing that pay off feels really good. Also, pivoting to this new business model in Cville, offering party cakes and baby cakes each week for home delivery, has been a refreshing change and such a fulfilling new venture as I’m able to brighten so many people’s days during these crazy past few months.
us: If you could give your younger self a single piece of advice, what would it be?
her: Don’t go to culinary school. Nearly every skill I use in the kitchen now I either learned in a professional kitchen or was self-taught. The debt is still a major thorn in my side.
us: Can you tell us about a challenge that you’ve overcome?
her: The California wildfires were pretty challenging. In one instance, I was 7 months pregnant and we had to evacuate for 8 nights, during which time I had back-to-back wedding weekends (they were just outside the danger zone and not canceled) so I had to figure out how/where to bake them. It was intense, but with my sweet husband to lean on, we figured it out.
us: Favorite Quote?
her: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ― Mary Oliver
us: Where do you find your inspiration?
her: Primarily in nature with my fresh botanical cakes, but I also follow some pretty stellar bakers on Instagram that blow me away.
us: Any embarrassing or funny nicknames we should know about?
her: My sisters call me Sue-Belle.
us: Any hidden talents we need to know about?
her: I can turn on a pretty strong Australian accent when needed.
us: What are you most thankful for?
her: My daughter, Lucy James.
us: What is your favorite thing about living in Charlottesville?
her: Everything. Honestly, we’re so new, we’re still in that honeymoon phase of finding everything exciting. Plus, everything has been closed, so each day feels like a new discovery. Also we just bought kayaks and especially big fans of paddling down the Rivanna.
Quarantine Specific Additions:
us: Tell us one lesson you’ve learned during your quarantine experience?
her: The biggest lesson for me is simply that everybody is hurting right now on some level. Somehow remembering that this pandemic–and all the facets of loss, fear, isolation and anxiety– is a collective nightmare and realizing that we’re not alone makes me feel slightly better.
us: Favorite show to binge watch?
us: Favorite local business to support during quarantine?
her: We’ve been giving Bodos a lot of business.
us: Have you taken on new hobbies or discovered a new talent during this time indoors?
her: Kayaking as mentioned above? But that’s outdoors. I’ve also become an expert at homemade play-dough.
us: What one thing you can’t live without right now?
her: Hand sanitizer
Thank you for sharing Susan!