I’ve come to realize that I am by far the happiest when I am decorating cakes. Then it probably comes as no surprise to most when I tell them that my dream in life is to open a bakery. For as long as I can remember, whenever there was a birthday or another event, most of the time I was the one that was called to bake the cake. As the years went on, my love for baking increased. Then in August 2002, my love of baking almost died when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and was forced to remove gluten from my diet.
Then December 2005 the cake decorator at our Baskin Robbins went on a two-week vacation and I was allowed to fill in while she was away. After just a few days, I thought to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?” and I almost gave up. I’ve given up on a few things in my life and wasn’t about to do it again. I pushed through the stress and time-consuming, hectic life that comes with being a cake decorator. I began experimenting and really started to fall in love. Those two weeks flew by and I was sad when I had to give the position back. Shortly after, the cake decorator gave her two-week notice and I fought to convince Richard, my boss, that I could do it permanently. Needless to say he gave me the chance. While there were times that Richard and I didn’t see eye-to-eye, he was one of the best bosses I think I could have ever asked for.
Now became one of the difficulties of taking on the position: all the cakes were made from wheat. Could I actually do what I fought so hard to get without getting sick? I think in the two and a half years I was the cake decorator, I almost killed my hands because I washed them so much, but that helped with the gluten. I didn’t have to bake any of the cakes, but I did have to cut them and potentially breathe in any crumbs that could have flown up in the air. I managed.
Irene's African Grey
Shortly into my new position and responsibilities, I began documenting my work. I also found myself watching more and more of the Food Network, especially the cake challenges and Ace of Cakes. I also began pulling out my long forgotten sketch pads and colored pencils and let my thoughts fly onto paper. Getting those designs from paper to cake became the hardest part but I managed. When at first I doubted myself, I began looking at napkins, invitations, clothing (oh, yes, you heard me right: clothing) people brought in and saying, “I can do that” with a big, confident smile on my face. Each of my regular customers began challenging me with every order they placed. My designs became more detailed and to the point where people couldn’t believe I could do it with nothing but cake, ice cream, frosting, icing (yes there is a difference in my eyes) chocolate and/or sometimes figurines of some sort. I began having more confidence in myself that I never had before. My mom, grandmother, brother and I are artists in our own way. They have their mediums of pencil, crayons, paint and charcoal. My main medium is cake and icing.
I decided to enter a wedding cake in our local Fair. Almost all of the entries are done on a cake dummy (a styrofoam base to decorate in place of actual cake). I had never done a wedding cake let alone work on a cake dummy. Being me, I wanted to do something out of the ordinary so I chose to do a Tim Burton’s A Corpse Bride themed wedding cake. I had many first with that cake because I also had never worked with fondant. I was pleased with the final cake I produced. I knew it wasn’t my best but it was also my first time entering and I had to enter as professional. I received 3rd place and was so excited to have received any ribbon. So many people said that I should have won 1st but honestly I was just proud of the fact that I didn’t give up. Richard even let me display the cake at work for everyone to see and to announce that he now had an award-winning cake decorator. It’s a small award, but an award nonetheless. I entered once again the next year and did research before hand and almost screamed when I saw the blue ribbon placed by my name. I played it safe but it payed off.
When Baskin Robbins closed in July 2008, I cried. I worked there three times for a total of just over 6 years and I’m only 28 years old ( I was 26 when the store closed). With the hopes that a new owner would take over, all of my supplies that I inherited from all of the decorators before me was left in the empty building. The owner of the building screwed everyone over on their leases and I’m pretty sure all of my trusty (and some not quite so trusty and ready to retire) equipment went into the dumpster. I don’t know if any of it is still there since the windows are now boarded up and the building, unfortunately, has become an eyesore of the town.
Acacia and me with her 18th birthday cake. (3/7/10)
To this day, I still have people come up to me and ask if I’m still decorating cakes. I try but most people don’t know how to get a hold of me and my free time is limited. I’m more than willing if my schedule allows it. I continue to decorate the cakes for my family and friends. I’m working at getting a plan into place to open a gluten-free bakery in the San Diego area of California. My dream is to have a place where anyone can enjoy a goodie with everyone and not worry about what the food will do to their bodies later. I have worked very hard to get my recipes to the point where you can’t tell they are made from rice, not wheat. I know now that I can’t let anything get in the way of me reaching my dream.
And just so you know, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Drop me a line sometime. I’d love to hear from you.
Acacia's 18th birthday came (3/7/10)
Ben's Pirate Birthday
Macie's Hannah Montana inspired Birthday Cake.