Known for her show-stopping customised cakes and life-like sugar flowers, award-winning cake artist and pastry chef Joyce Marx is the brains behind her business, Joylicious Cakes. A graduate of the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in London, the talented Swiss baker fills us in about life as a professional cake artist. Oh, and did we mention, on top of baking and teaching master classes for sugar arts and crafts, she’s also a mum of three. We’re not sure how she does it!
Tell us the story behind your business.
I’m fortunate to have lived in different countries, jet-setting the world as a Singapore Airlines’ stewardess and experiencing diverse cultures and philosophies. The world of art, with its ability to reflect those impressions, has attracted me ever since.
As a first-time mum, I was eager to have a theme cake for my daughter’s birthday. With all hands full, however, I missed the shops’ closing hours. So I decided to bake a cake myself! The outcome was, to say the least, nothing to shout about.
Not letting the taste of defeat stick to my tongue, I decided to dust off my baking utensils. A few Wilton courses in cake baking, decoration and the PME Master Certification then followed.
Prior to our move to Switzerland in 2017, I went back to school to broaden my area of expertise, and to obtain my Pastry Chef credentials from Le Cordon Bleu London. My Swiss husband got posted back to Singapore at the start of 2019. Together with my children, we returned here and reunited with my hubby that summer.
Shortly after settling in, I received a job offer as a Pastry Sous Chef at Bacha Coffee. I worked there until the onset of COVID-19, which had forced many restaurants into shutting down temporarily. It was then I decided to set up an online selection of healthy bakes; they would feature no preservatives, artificial flavouring or colours, while also being based on Ayurveda yoga. (I’m an avid yoga practitioner and a qualified kids’ yoga instructor.) The treats feature the use of various natural aromatic ingredients in order to create an edible tea-time delight!
At the very beginning, I started creating cupcakes; then I moved on to celebratory custom creations. What started out as a little hobby to thrill my family and friends, through word of mouth, took a turn to greater demand from all corners, including teaching master classes in sugar arts and crafts. With the imagination of my loving husband and my three energetic kids, Joylicious Cakes was born.
Let us in on a typical day of yours.
I wake up at 6.30am and drive my kids to school at 7.20am. Then, it’s the gym or yoga at 8.30am for around 60 minutes, followed by a warm shower and a nice cup of coffee. So, typically my actual work day starts from 10am, when I check my emails and conduct administrative work like stock orders, crafting sugar flowers, baking and organising classes, all the way till 6.30pm, with a quick interlude to pick up the kids from school at 3pm. After family dinner at 7pm, I’m back to work till around 11pm.
That’s sounds hectic! How do you balance work and life?
By being realistic and not trying to balance it in the first place. Joking aside, what definitely helps is focusing on having good time management by structuring my day and keeping it that way. Being blessed with some organisational skills helps, of course. I get my energy from my daily morning workouts before immersing myself in the day’s work. I then get stimulated by racing through the day and multi-tasking.
Tell us about your time at Le Cordon Bleu in London.
It was an amazing and memorable experience. The best way to describe the educational journey of becoming a pastry chef at the renowned institute is to compare it with Food Network Channel’s Cake Master series; every day, you’re assigned a “Pressure Test”. (Watch it and you’ll understand what I mean!) The step-by-step guidance, combined with practical tips and tricks along the way by the top-notch instructors made our lessons very enriching. I got to experience their different personalities, from the kind-hearted and fun-loving ones to the serious and almost too strict ones. One thing in common: they’re all perfectionists!
The benefit of going back to school after motherhood is that you can take criticism and long hours of hard work standing in the kitchen, perfecting your work over and over without hard feelings. In the beginning, I was having a whole lot of mixed emotions, from being anxious to excited. I was almost fearful of going back to school again at my age; then I realised I wasn’t the only mother, nor was I the oldest in my class. The most difficult decision, though, was being away from my children and spouse for almost a year! I was emotionally and mentally challenged. But with the encouragement of my family and classmates, I pushed ahead and diverted my anxiousness to help me excel and pass with honours.
Every day, I was proud and filled with emotion when I put on my chef jacket. It’s difficult to imagine; you really need to experience it. It was somewhat a self-therapeutic journey that helped me in achieving my long-awaited dream. The diversity of my school mates – different cultures, races, religions and ages – made it even more interesting, and everyone watched out for the others like one big family.
What’s been your most memorable project?
It happened in my third month of offering custom cakes. At that time, a close family friend contacted me asking if I’d be keen to create a “Cirque du Soleil” birthday cake for approximately 250 people; and – here comes the challenge – all in less than five days! It was the perfect challenge, as I felt I was still a novice in cake decoration and figuring (mouldings). There wasn’t time to waste, so I went to see the client, had a long discussion on what exactly she wanted, and followed up with a cake tasting and a few sketches on the design front.
As a solo artist, I need to plan my work well; and I have to juggle my three young kids at the same time. It took me two days to mould seven figurines, 10 small masks and create an 8-by-10-inch Cirque du Soleil blue-and-yellow striped tent made out of Rice Krispies cereal! On my third day, I started baking different sizes of round cakes, from 14-inch to 6-inch. The next day, I filled the cakes and coated them in chocolate ganache, before covering them in sugar paste.
I can’t remember exactly how much sugar paste I used in total, but it was definitely more than 10kg! I spent the whole day rolling the paste manually with my hands, covering up to 12 cakes of different sizes and heights. You can imagine the condition of my wrist by the end of the day. Finally, when day five arrived, I woke up at 5.30am and started assembling the cakes. At noon, the cake was transported to the beautiful venue of Capella Singapore on Sentosa.
I had my dear mum travel in from Malaysia to care for my children. Even my spouse accompanied me to support me in the final touches of this rather big project. I felt like the next Cake Boss of Singapore! It’s an amazing experience to be assigned a project that needs you to break out of your own comfort zone.
What challenges have you had to overcome in becoming a cake artist?
The first one was time management. When I was starting my own business as a solo cake artist via social media as my main source of network, I realised it took a lot of discipline maintaining communication with my followers. It was very time-consuming.
Another major challenge was starting anew on foreign shores. I started my company in May 2012, and it was running smoothly until January 2015 when my mother, who I was very close to, fell terribly ill. Being her only daughter, I felt it was my responsibility to care for her, so I stopped everything to do so. Sadly, six months later she passed away. My children and I needed quite some time to recuperate thereafter.
In 2016, I decided to stage my comeback into the cake scene; but this time I focused more on teaching sugar arts and crafts. Then there was our move to Switzerland in 2017; again, I had to put everything to rest. While starting my new chapter of life in Europe, it took me some time to “blend in”. The environment and culture (especially the different tastebuds) posed a whole new challenge – plus, I had to make sure my children settled in well before I began my own journey. In 2019, my spouse got posted back to Singapore and the rest of the family followed shortly thereafter.
Psst… Joyce also offers gluten-free tarts and loaf cakes on her site. Check out her beautiful creations below!
What advice do you have for someone hoping to be a cake artist?
Be patient, hardworking and self-disciplined. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Welcome feedback but digest the positive messages only. Don’t get intimidated by cake artists who are seemingly better than you. Try challenging yourself into creating your own space, with your own designs using your own inspirations. Don’t simply copy other artists’ work. Don’t be afraid to send a note to, or tag or credit another cake artist or pastry chef whose work you’ve used as inspiration. You’ll be surprised – they may come back and compliment yours. Lastly, follow your dreams and keep doing what you love at your own pace because nothing is impossible. It’s your call. If you fall, learn to pick yourself up and walk again. And don’t forget to keep yourself up-to-date with the latest trends.
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