The art of cake decorating began in Europe in the 17th century, but it really hit its stride in the mid-19th century with the introduction of temperature-controlled ovens. In the United States, decorated cakes are a featured part of weddings, birthdays, showers and other special occasions. Today, thanks to TV shows such as Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes, YouTube how-to videos and Internet sites such as Pinterest and Etsy, cake decoration as a form of edible art is more popular than ever.
Sugar Rush Bakery
Following this trend, several Southern Oregon bakeries offer beautiful and delicious custom-designed cakes and other desserts. Tracy Mancuso, co-owner of Medford-based Sugar Rush Bakery, says it was the Cake Boss show that inspired her to create a special cake for her daughter’s second birthday. When that cake was a big success with family and friends, Tracy thought baking would “just be a hobby, but then everybody kept asking me to bake cakes for their parties.” Before long, she had enough business that she was able to quit her job to focus on cake decorating on full-time basis. In January 2013, Tracy combined forces with her friend Melissa De La Mora to launch Sugar Rush Bakery.
Tracy, who is the mother of two children, ages 9 and 7, says that cake decorating is an expression of her artistic nature. She enjoys developing new techniques and using new design elements for her decorations. She reveled in the chance to create a fairy-themed cake for recent a first birthday party, for example, explaining that she loved “all the little details” she could put into the design.
Tracy and Melissa work together as a team on most aspects of the business. “Melissa has the vision for the whole thing,” Tracy explains, “and I work on the details… We have worked hard on both the beauty and the delicious taste of our cakes… We want to make our customers’ events really special.” As an artist, Tracy says it used to be frustrating to create such a temporary form of art – that is, one that is eaten. “I’ve gotten over it,” she says with a laugh, explaining that she keeps photos of all her work.
Arrow Cakes and Sweets
Heather Templeton, owner of Arrow Cakes and Sweets in Central Point, also launched her business after success with baking a cake for her own child. Heather, a mom of two young children who is expecting her third child in November, prepared for a month in advance for her son’s first birthday cake. “I worked to perfect the fondant and the piping, and I realized I loved it,” she recalls. Last August, she officially launched her home-based bakery business and went from working full-time as Area Sales Manager in charge of six cellular phone stores to part time.
Her plan is eventually to be a full-time baker who offers “an all- encompassing dessert buffet.” Heather currently bakes cookies, scones and cakes for her customers, and she says she enjoys that fact that she can focus on one customer at a time. “Having a home bakery allows me to be more competitive with my prices and to really give my clients special attention,” she adds.
She enjoys collaborating with her husband, a local businessman who has a side business as a DJ, at some weddings and other special events. “I do the cakes, and he does the music – it’s a team effort,” she explains. As someone who has always liked to draw and paint, Heather says she appreciates the creative aspect of her work. “I have always felt that cake decorating is an art form,” she says. She sometimes has a little trouble letting a certain piece of art go, knowing it will be eaten, she admits.
A recent example was a Monster’s Inc. cake of which she was particularly proud. To help, she keeps a photo gallery on her website and on her Instagram page. Heather says she is thankful for her repeat customers and hopes to be one of the premier bakers in Southern Oregon one day.
Ambrosia Natural Bakery
Sabrina Kate, owner of Ambrosia Natural Bakery, bakes allergen-free, vegan and GMO-free treats in her Applegate Valley bakery business. She caters to parents seeking healthy alternatives for treats for their allergy-prone children. For more on Ambrosia Natural Bakery, read our feature story posted March 2016.