Our 178th Michigan Birthday Bake-Off was a wonderful success this year! Submissions in the professional category included breathtaking pies, cakes, cupcake,s and the winner was chosen by the readership of Awesome Mitten (that’s you!). Sage Renstrom-Richards, age fifteen, and the head baker at Sage’s Cakes in Kalamazoo, was awarded first place for her four-tiered masterpiece. I took some time to get to know a little bit more about this unique baker and Michigan resident on behalf of Awesome Mitten:
Awesome Mitten (AM): When did you start baking? What prompted you?
Sage Renstrom-Richards (SRR): I started baking around 11 or 12. I’ve always loved sweets, and seeing pastries and cakes has always inspired me to bake.
AM: Where did you get your idea for the cake that won the bake-off?
SRR: I asked around to other Michiganders, and compiled a list of things that remind us of the Mitten. A big part of those ideas were the seasons, so I decided to have a gradient effect from white to blue to capture the changes from winter to summer. Then I just added little things from our eclectic state!
AM: How else have you competed using your baking skills?
SRR: This is the first real baking contest I’ve entered. I have participated in some charities with cakes, including the amazing icingsmiles.org.
AM: Can you share any recipe secrets with us?
SRR: Don’t over mix. It will give your cake a dryer, more bread-like texture. To get butter to room temperature in a time crunch, put it in the microwave set to its lowest power level and keep a close eye on it.
AM: Is there anyone you want to give a shout out to that has influenced you to be the baker you are today?
SRR: My parents are the people who make all of this happen. Especially my step-dad Peter, who has spent endless hours cutting out flower petals and letters with me. Also Virginia Weiss Hudson, Deb Donovan, and Tricia Bowden have been great inspirations and teachers.
AM: Do you enjoy living in Michigan?
SRR: I love it! I can’t imagine living somewhere without our crazy season changes, or not living next to a Great Lake.
AM: When you get older, what do you want to do?
SRR: After high school, I am planning on going to business school, hopefully at the University of Michigan, and eventually opening up a bakery.
AM: If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
SRR: First, I would redo my mom’s kitchen and buy my dad an Audi. Then, I would love to start a charity that surprises everyday people with huge, extravagant cakes on their birthday.
AM: Any other hobbies or outdoor recreation you enjoy when it’s too hot to have the oven on?
SRR: I love traveling, especially to national parks. When it’s too hot for the oven, I make ice cream.
As you can see, Sage will certainly be an entrepreneur to watch. Congratulations to our talented contest winner and a huge thank you to all the participating bakers, bakeries, voters, and photographers.