The Wilton School is home to the most experienced staff of cake decorating instructors in the world. Along with director Sandy Folsom, Instructors Mary Gavenda, Lorena Hernandez and Paula Mulhern have a combined 115 years of cake decorating experience. They have taught cake decorating at Wilton a total of 58 years to students who have traveled to the Wilton School from more than 100 different countries and all 50 States.
Sandra Folsom - Director
Sandra Folsom has been teaching professional cake decorating classes for over 35 years, 25 of which have been for Wilton Industries. Sandra has promoted the easy and fun techniques of decorating to the general public through her many television appearances including ABC, NBC, FOX news and The Food Network. She has become one of Wilton's local TV corporate media spokesperson appearing on The Food Network's Unwrapped. She is also contributing spokesperson appearing in the video “The History of Wilton – 85th Anniversary Special.”
Sandra's vast knowledge and expertise in decorating has allowed her to participate as a judge in various contests throughout the years. As Director of The Wilton School, she has introduced more than 150 new classes and helped to attract many of the world's most highly-regarded decorators as instructors. Routinely, culinary experts from around the world come to Darien to learn the art and intricacies of cake decorating from Ms. Folsom. She has also been an active member of the International Cake Exploration Society (ICES) since 1981 and is an approved ICES instructor. Internationally, she has shared her expertise with well-known professionals and traveled to Curitiba and Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Bogota, Colombia, Guadalajara, Chihuahua and Mexico City, Mexico; Taipei, Taiwan and Manila, Philippines. A first time class in Europe was held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2010, and another was added in Wormer, Netherlands in 2011 and Rome, Italy in 2012.
Folsom's education has been from Gum Paste Classes taught by Amy Rohr and Nick Lodge, instructor from England and author of many cake artistry books. Rolled fondant was learned from American cake stylist and author of five books, Colette Peters of New York. Her candy-making and chocolate expertise was gained from attending Elaine Gonzales, author of "Chocolate Artistry" and "The Art of Chocolate" classes. Sandra has also worked with Rose Levy Berenbaum, author of "The Cake Bible".
For ten years she had the opportunity to work side by side with Wesley Wilton, the youngest son of Dewey McKinley Wilton, founder of Wilton Industries. Additionally, classes taken at the American Institute of Baking, College of DuPage and American International Academy of Floral Design have provided baking, candy and floral knowledge plus the curriculum and educational concepts to become a good school director. Sandy's student's describe her as "patient, fun and a great instructor". Owning a bakery, specializing in bread, rolls and of course, decorated cakes with her husband provided much practical experience.
Her creative flair comes from a natural ability and working in Wilton's Creative Department on the annual yearbook. Her stint in the Wilton Test Kitchen adds to her problem solving skills to be able to answer any questions that a student may have.
Lorena Frias-Hernandez - Instructor
Lorena Frias-Hernandez began her kitchen career over 30 years ago as a self-taught individual. Her passion for the culinary and pastry arts led her to take her first Wilton cake decorating class in 1985, taught by Wesley Wilton.
Lorena is a graduate of the Wilton Master Course (1985), Chinese American League (1988, with honors), Washburne Trade School (1989), La Camara National del Pan (1995), The French Pastry School (Chicago, 1999), the Instituto de Arte del Azucar Mexicano (2001), and the Centro International de la Porcelana Fria (Chicago, 2003). She has also studied under instructors such as Sandy Folsom, Nancy Guerine, Laurie Bradach, Colette Peters, Maise Parrish, Marithe de Alvarado, Marcela Capo, Dominic Palazzolo and Nicholas Lodge.
In 2005, Lorena opened "Sweet Delights Bakery", a successful specialty bakery and pastry shop that she was owner, manager, decorator and creative force. She applied her 30 years of learning and developed an innovative combination for the various mediums and techniques. In 2008, Lorena sold her business so she could focus and pursue her passion for teaching, creating and innovating. In 2008, she began teaching for the Wilton School and was hired as the Classroom Coordinator/Instructor, where she has helped streamline the learning process for students, translated for bilingual students, and introduced the hands-on baking, 3-D Gelatin, and fondant modeling classes to the curriculum. And yes, she is still competing! In 2008, Lorena won 1st place in the professional category of Wilton's 80th Anniversary Celebration cake contest. Most recently, Lorena pursued the ultimate, competing against herself at an annual competition held in high esteem by ICES members where she earned her Certified Master Sugar Artist title.
Lorena's vast knowledge in cold porcelain, marzipan, gum paste, European & Mexican breads, candy molding and many more, has allowed her to participate as a judge in various contests. She is an active member of ICES since 1992 and an approved ICES instructor.
Mary Gavenda - InstructorIn March of 1976, Mary Gavenda started a cake decorating career as one of the first Wilton Method teachers in the Chicago area.
To improve her decorating skills and teaching techniques, she attended the Master Course class at The Wilton School in Chicago in January 1977.
She continued teaching the Wilton Method Program, both basic and advanced courses, for approximately 12 years at various Sears, Wards and JC Penney stores in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago. During that time, Mary was added to the Wilton Hall of Fame. In the fall of 1985, she was asked to assist in the Wilton Test Kitchen.
In early June of 1986, Mary was summoned to work in the Cake Decorating Room at Wilton. As a Cake Decorator, and her current position as a Senior Cake Decorator, she creates the cakes for Photography to be used on new labels and packaging, and in all Wilton publications. She is also a Food Stylist, creating special food designs.
Gavenda holds certificates from Wilton's Master Course with Wesley Wilton, Mary Jane Wilton and Connie Riehardt. Elaine Gonzalez - Chocolate Artistry class, Nicholas Lodge - Advanced Gum Paste class, Wesley Wilton - Pulled Sugar class, Connie Riehardt (1977) and Susan Matusiak (1996) Intro to Gum Paste class, and the Colette Peters Gum Paste and Fondant class.
Mary is a member of ICES (The International Cake Exploration Societe) and organization to promote the art of food and cake decorating throughout the world, with an international membership of approximately 4,000. She has served as an alternate representative, Illinois State Representative, ICES Board Member and Vice President, as well as, a Demonstrator at many conventions.
She has been teaching the Introduction to Gum Paste Class at the Wilton School since 1996, inspiring over 1,100 students in the art of making beautiful gum paste flowers.
Paula Mulhern - Instructor
Paula began her cake decorating career in 1980 by enrolling in Wilton Method Classes. Realizing cake decorating was fast becoming a real passion for her it was a natural for her to establish her own cake and chocolate business. She specialized in stylized cakes and personalized handmade creations. In 1994 she became a Wilton Method Instructor teaching over 500 students the Wilton Method. Paula is a graduate of the Master Course and an active member of ICES. In her free time she is a volunteer advocate for Icing Smiles, a non-profit organization that provides celebration cakes to children and families dealing with critical illnesses.
Laurie Bradach - Guest Instructor
Laurie has been fortunate enough to live and study cooking in Italy, Greece and France. Back in the U.S., she has studied with such greats as Paul Prudhomme and John Ash. In 2001, she became co-owner of Cleesecakes with well-known British comic John Cleese, which offered unusual designs to well-known clients, such as Steve Martin, Angelica Huston and Kevin Smith. Since becoming an instructor at The Wilton School, Laurie has taught hundreds of students in the art of pulled sugar and Isomalt design.
Barbara Evans - Guest Instructor
Since 1981, Barbara has owned and operated the Wedding Cake Connection--located in the Peoria, Illinois area--offering custom-designed wedding cakes. She's a past Show Director, Board Member and State Rep for ICES. In 2008, Barbara earned the title of Certified Master Sugar Artist. In 2010, she competed on a team as part of TLC's Ultimate Cake Off. She has been in several publications including: ICES, American Cake Decorating, British Sugarcraft, Chicago Brides and Florists' Review. Barbara is a teacher and judge, and has taught a variety of classes including fondant, gum paste flowers, quilling, stenciling, chocolate, gingerbread, stringwork and run sugar.
Eurico Palasigue - Guest Instructor
Jing has worked, taught and studied in the United States and in the Philippines. Since 2001, he has been a teacher at ICES and a cake decorator at Rolf's Patisserie in Lincolnwood, Illinois. A Certified Master Sugar Artist and a past Wilton Method Instructor, Jing was the first-prize winner at the On The Spot Cake Decorating Contest in 1993 and at the CARBA Midwest Professional Bakers Conference in 2007. He also placed second overall at the On The Spot Cake Decorating Contest in 2008. Jing is currently a Chef Instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Chicago.
Colette Peters - Guest Instructor
Owner of Colette's Cakes in NYC and former Tiffany's designer, Colette is the author of Colette's Cakes: The Art of Cake Decorating; Colette's Christmas; Colette's Wedding Cakes; Colette's Birthday Cakes and Cakes To Dream On.. She has created many unique cakes for celebrities, including Bette Midler, Donald Trump, Al Pacino, Sting, The Rolling Stones and The White House. She was the winner of the Food Network 1st Annual Wedding Cake Challenge and was also named a 2007 top 10 pastry chef by Pastry Arts Magazine.
Marilyn Santos-McNabb - Guest Instructor
Marilyn Santos-McNabb was an 11 year award winning instructor for Le Cordon Bleu Chicago. She taught all the Baking and Patisserie Classes including Advanced Sugar and Chocolate Showpieces. Chef McNabb received Chocolate and Sugar training from world renowned MOFs in the Le Cordon Bleu International System and from attendance of several World Pastry Forum Conventions, IACP, FENI and ACF workshops.
After leaving LCB in May 2013, Chef McNabb is now Pastry Chef for the award winning foodservice at Wheaton College. She also was owner/operator of Plain and Fancy Foods for 10 years, Pastry Chef at the Hilton Hotel in Lisle, and Pastry Chef at the Arthur Andersen Training Facility in St Charles, Illinois.
Chef McNabb enjoys traveling, photography and gardening. She lives with her husband in West Chicago, Illinois.