Deaux Baker’s Pamela Thibodeaux Turns Cakes Into Works of Art
Learn about the baker behind these striking floral confectionary creations
While most coeds were out partying, Pamela Thibodeaux was baking cakes.
“It was something I kind of dabbled with in college while I was getting my degree — whether it was dinner parties or just trying to be like, you know, cool and fancy, and feeding people dessert, just making cakes for friends,” Thibodeaux says.
Thibodeaux is a self-taught cake maker who delved further into the joy of baking while looking for a creative outlet as she worked a corporate job for Hyatt. Her gorgeous creations showcased on her Instagram page, @deaux_baker, display all those different aspects of her creativity. Some cakes are brightly colored, others stark white, some swirling in abstract shapes, others more uniform. But all are expressively decorated with a smattering of festive florals, sourced from Cassiopeia Farm, that exude a wild, yet sophisticated, effervescence that can only be found in nature.
“I mean, it sounds cliche, but I love hiking. I like foliage. I love the organic movement of nature and bends and flows to it all,” Thibodeaux says. “So I would say that’s definitely a huge influence for me and my style. Floral design has always been something that has drawn my attention. How can I incorporate that with cake? How can I combine those two art forms?” Eventually Thibodeaux left her job at Hyatt and moved into the culinary side.
She admits her family is “full of big eaters,” and she wanted to express herself through food. She became a pastry chef at a farm-to-table restaurant in Dallas and was looking for locally-sourced flour. That’s how she came across Barton Springs Mill, based in Dripping Springs, which uses ancient and heirloom grains mostly grown in Texas. That restaurant became Barton Springs Mill’s first wholesale account, and Thibodeaux became fast friends with owner James Brown, a relationship that would serve her well when she and her husband made the move to Austin.
After working as a head baker at Abby Jane Bakeshop for two years and an almost-year-long stint at Sour Duck Market, Thibodeaux is now a full-time recipe developer at Barton Springs Mill, while whipping up her fantastical custom cakes in her home kitchen. Although she says she tried painting, cakes are definitely her preferred art form, not only drawing inspiration from nature but also master Dutch painters, as well as Annie Albers, surrealism and Ellsworth Kelly — fitting as she has created cakes for the Blanton Museum.
“It’s a medium you get to eat!” Thibodeaux says.
In addition to her gorgeous works of art, Thibodeaux explains that she loves building upon flavors. A beautiful cake would be nothing to her without a delicious flavor combination to back up its design. She exclusively sells custom cakes and does not have a set menu. Instead, she gives her clients a questionnaire that includes questions about their favorite books, movies and art. She builds her cakes according to the seasons and what’s fresh — although she does preserve fruits ahead of time to have on hand — and she uses Italian buttercream instead of fondant or American buttercream, which she finds way too sweet.
“My cakes have a lot of depth and contrast of flavors. I methodically put a lot into the flavors,” Thibodeaux says. “I actually find the flavor of my cakes to be more important to me than the aesthetic. To me, at the end of the day, my worst fear is someone looking at my cakes like, ‘Oh my God. They’re beautiful.’ But then if they go to take a bite and they’re like, ‘Oh.’ That’s the worst for me. I think of my late grandmother rolling in her grave.”
Along with her custom cakes, Thibodeaux held her first cake pop-up at Summer Revival Wine Co., where guests were able to order her confections by the slice and pair them with wine. She hopes to continue to allow people to indulge without having to order a whole cake for a special occasion. “Not everyone needs a two-tier cake or they may not have it in their budget to splurge on one.”
In between baking cakes, Thibodeaux teaches baking at Barton Springs Mill and would love to do more cake workshops. She’s also mulling over the idea of some sort of cake book, but that would be down the road. For now, she’s happy to continue to experiment with flavor combinations, of which she says there are “endless possibilities.”