Made to order: Bakers prove custom cakes are cut above the rest

Wedding cakes as we know them trace their origin all the way back to the 17th century, but within the last few years, a new type of celebratory cake has started to emerge. 

Utilizing creative designs, complex angles and vivid colors, custom wedding cakes are growing in popularity. In the Greater Seattle area shops such The People’s Cake and Decadence Custom Cakes specialize in turning out creative culinary concoctions. While weddings are their primary focus, these shops are out to prove that a custom cake is a treat for any occasion. 



All in the presentation

Beth Perkins of The People’s Cake recently completed a “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”-themed cake for a customer’s 42nd birthday, complete with several visual allusions to the classic novel.

Perkins has an educational background in sociology and anthropology, but she has been a bakery manager and pastry chef at The People’s Cake for one year. The shop, which celebrated its two-year anniversary on April 1, takes pride in sitting down with clients from the onset and designing a cake exactly to their specifications. 

“Each cake is really fun,” Perkins said. “I like meeting with people, discussing ideas and having them choose what they want. If they can think it, we can make it.” 

According to Dan Mikosz, pastry chef and owner of Decadence Custom Cakes, the demand for custom cakes has skyrocketed following the launch of several reality-television shows dedicated to the topic. 

Mikosz’s culinary background is in French pastry making, with an emphasis on flavor over presentation. This approach remained with Mikosz following his entrance into the wedding-cake industry a half-decade ago. 

“The people that come to me aren’t necessarily looking for some carved, crazy cake,” Mikosz said. “I enjoy doing that, but when you make cakes like that you’re a little more limited about what you can put into them. For example, you can’t put in a creamy mousse filling because it won’t hold up.”

Nonetheless, Mikosz has designed a number of “Alice in Wonderland”-themed cakes, cakes made to look like a stack of books and even a cake fashioned after a burrito. For Mikosz, it isn’t unusual to put 15 to 20 work hours into a single cake. 

At The People’s Cake, previous standout projects include a steam-punk-themed cake, complete with cogs and springs fashioned out of sugar and other culinary devices, and a sizable bust of Darth Vader. 

According to Perkins, the shop’s most challenging endeavor involved crafting a six-tiered cake complete with the outline of Paris, Rome and London around a mechanical turntable strong enough to support the full 200 pounds of the cake. 


Custom-made to the person

With only a staff of four, The People’s Cake is capable of turning out roughly a dozen cakes a week. According to Perkins, The People’s Cake initially approach their cakes as the base elements of flour, eggs and butter. Once the first steps are complete, the shop utilizes butter cream, fondant, edible paints and a construction-like mindset to transform their creations into something more. 

As mortar is to any brick structure, fondant is to custom cakes. According to Mikosz, fondant is essential to the custom cake-making process because it can be molded onto curved edges. Fondant also can be painted over and generally makes for a more realistic-looking finish. 

The skills and training necessary to create custom cakes can be found from a number of various sources. Alongside his standard culinary training, Mikosz has taken a single class on custom cake making and often studies photographs of other cakes for inspiration and insight. The People’s Cake owner Kaysie Lackey earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, which she utilizes in her shop’s day-to-day function. 

Alongside requiring specific skills and ingredients, custom cakes also attract a specific type of people. According to Mikosz, nearly all his requests from custom cakes come from clients in their mid-20s to 30s. At The People’s Cake, the vast majority of their clientele consists of soon-to-be brides. 

Nonetheless, as word spreads, more people are ordering custom cakes for birthdays, anniversaries, corporate events and other functions. 

“Each cake has its own little story — whether with how it’s designed, what the inspiration was, where it’s going or how it’s getting there,” Perkins said.

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