All About Susan
Susan Holtz is a natural born teacher with decades of professional experience as a baker, instructor, and entrepreneur…and she has a portfolio of accolades to show for her efforts in each of these arenas. What Susan takes just as much pride in though, are her hundreds of graduates now working in the culinary field.
Most recently, Susan not only has served as Director of Culinary Arts at West Valley Occupational Center in Woodland Hills, CA (where she created the curriculum and designed the classroom laboratory) and as an Adjunct Faculty Instructor in Cake Decoration at Los Angeles Mission College in Sylmar, CA (where she also developed the curriculum), but she has also just established the Baking & Cake Art Academy, Inc. in order to provide an online forum and laboratory to inspire baking and cake art enthusiasts and professionals everywhere to achieve their highest goals.
Entertaining and informative, dedicated and patient, Susan delivers her instruction in a uniquely low key manner, but with a quite evident passion for sharing her wealth of knowledge on baking from her own academic, apprentice and work experience. She really knows how to encourage her students and make the learning process fun so that all levels of students find her teaching understandable and inspiring!
Susan’s fascination with cake decorating started in the sixth grade. In those days, it was all about the star tip and the rose nail! Since then she has studied and worked with some pretty impressive names in the pastry/baking/restaurant fields: Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Fenniger of “Too Hot Tamales” fame, Nancy Silverton, Patrick Terrail, Gerard Joel Bellouet, Mark Carter, Francois Vignac, and Joe Ortiz, Kamolmal Pootarakfa, Gordon Hamersley, Hugh Carpenter, Yolanda Chen and LiE Wong. (You can find out more about all these phenoms on Google.com!)
Ever the student as well as the teacher, Holtz has studied a broad spectrum of specialized international cuisines, including Japanese, Chinese, French and Thai, as well as baking and cake art methods. Susan has earned certification from The Wilton School of Cake Design, then in Chicago (pulled sugar and international cake art methods – Philippine, Australian, English); the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas; Joe Ortiz of Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California (artisan bread baking); St. Moritz Luxury Chocolates in Beverly Hills; with New York’s Colette Peters (fondant techniques); Roland Mesnier (the very intimidating process of pulled sugar); Scott Clark Woolley (gum paste techniques); Ron Ben-Israel (mold-making for jeweled embellishments); and Johnson & Wales in Denver, Colorado (advanced pastry & bread making).
The baking epiphany came for Holtz at the age of 6 1/2 when she baked her first batch of cookies under her great aunt’s watchful eye while awaiting the arrival of her mother and newborn baby brother from the hospital. After she finished and presented them in a beautiful box, her dad’s aunt exclaimed, “It looks like an adult did these.” Susan says, “I will never forget how proud it made me feel, and the realization of what a powerful effect such encouragement can have on others has always guided my approach to teaching.”
After earning her Bachelor of Science Degree from California State University at Northridge in Home Economics Education, Susan Holtz began her teaching career in senior high school. Only two years after completing her undergraduate work, Susan Holtz developed and instituted a Vocational Catering, Baking, and Cake Decorating program for the Los Angeles Unified School District ROP program that one of her former students is still teaching following in her footsteps.
In order to obtain her Master of Science Degree in Education at California State University at Northridge, Susan Holtz developed a statistically significant curriculum in Adolescent Nutrition Education at the junior high school level, Her Master’s Thesis statistically tracked the beneficial impact of the nutrition-based practices from food choices through preparation she presented to her 11-13 year old students. Her curriculum focused only on Breakfast and Snacks yet it provided students with the knowledge to begin healthy eating habits that hopefully would carry on for their lifetime.
Susan has also always made it a priority to attend industry events such as the “International Baking Expos” in Las Vegas, Nevada; ICES – International Cake Exploration Societé; and the Healthy Baking Conference sponsored by “Modern Baking” magazine in Anaheim, California increasing her scope of knowledge to include purchasing of large-scale commercial manufacturing equipment and sourcing and nutritional science behind commercial ingredients.
Susan Holtz has been featured in such publications as the Los Angeles Times (Food Section, Valley Section, and Sunday Food Section); Southern California Home and Garden; Santa Clarita Valley Magazine (feature article on weddings); and Chocolatier Magazine (now part of Dessert Professional magazine), Susan has also been featured on the “In Studio” program on KCOP-TV (Channel 13 in Los Angeles), and on “Good Day LA” for Fox News.
Holtz researched and developed a variety of baked products based upon which she distributed through her sole proprietor private label commercial baking business based in Sherman Oaks, California. Her company, SLH Enterprises, produced products for Trader Joes, Bristol Farms, and Ralphs Markets. At one point her company employed a staff of over twenty-five people producing sour dough breads, quiche, muffins, entres. To this day customers ask for the Mexican Polenta with Tomato Cilantro Salsa.
In addition to guiding her students toward their own individual professional careers at West Valley Occupational Center with academic knowledge and hands-on classroom experience, Susan is so well known for providing her students practical experience that her program has become one of the best resources for professionally prepared employees in the culinary, baking, and cake art industries. Many students in her classes have gone on to utilize the knowledge of commercial production techniques and food product formulas developed by Susan in their own businesses or their culinary careers in fine restaurants, catering, major hotel kitchens, and institutional food service venues.
Holtz’s classes produce wonderful desserts and side dishes for several catered events at school as well as for purchase through the on-campus retail bakery every semester. Especially popular for holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day, for example, Susan’s students gain true production experience and always sell out of top favorites they prepare under Susan’s supervision. Big sellers like Apple Streusel Pie; Traditional Pecan Pie; Pumpkin Pie, Green Beans with Ginger, Garlic, and Mushrooms, and Brandied Yams for buffet style dinners, or Artisan Sour Dough Pizzas, even Biscotti…and don’t forget the Over-the-Top Blueberry Muffins… generate funds that go to the school for scholarships and special projects such as the Hydroponic Garden, a co-venture with the WVOC Landscaping department.
Thus, there was NO QUESTION that Susan would create her own cake for her June wedding to Julius Weingart. Susan wanted to create her own cake and even bridal bouquet sculpted from candy clay as an expression of her talents as a baker and cake decorator. Each of the cake’s five tiers was embellished with a gorgeous floral cascade of delicate light green cymbidium orchids that Susan handcrafted from candy clay and arranged on each heart shaped cake tier. The cake itself was plated as a composed dessert and included hand-made pistachio marzipan, rolled fondant, chocolate fudge and chocolate-caramel ganache, imported raspberry puree, layered between rich Belgian Dark Chocolate cake and Belgian White Chocolate cake…no matter that her efforts translated into approximately 120 hours of work. Susan reports that “It was worth it.” Her guests were amazed at the life-like quality of the floral work and the overall cake design, and the absolutely decadent complexity of flavors and textures!
This is why Susan Holtz has been named as one of Southern California’s finest cake artists, and when involved with her custom Dessert Design business, the “go-to” baker for masterpieces ordered by top catering companies from Santa Barbara to Pacific Palisades. “Incredible” is a word used to describe her work because its elaborate and detailed perfection.
Note from Susan:
As you can see, I don’t like to let the grass grow under my Size 7 ½ work shoes! I am dedicated to learning and sharing knowledge with anyone who is passionate and curious about Baking & Cake Art. I certainly hope you’ll be jumping into the exquisite mix!!