The basic ingredients of cake: flour, sugar, eggs and butter, come together with frosting to make the beloved sweet treat that is a staple at birthday parties, weddings, and showers. But Jessica English, owner of Cake Art by Jess, takes celebratory confections to the next level with her talents in decorative baking.
English creates delicious works of art, catered to each client’s unique vision for their special event. Offering homemade cakes, cupcakes and cookies for every occasion, she can create not just a delicious dessert, but a show-stopping centerpiece for any party.
The process of commissioning a cake from English begins with a personal consultation to determine what theme the client has chosen for their party, or for brides, what hopes they have for their special day. Nowadays, many customers look online to get ideas and inspiration for their cake orders and often times bring a photo to show English what they would like to order.
“The brides usually send me a picture of what they want. Pinterest is good for that. A lot of times they’ll give me two or three different cakes and ask me to collaborate and make it into one cake,” said English.
After finalizing an order, English bakes her cakes from scratch and covers the sweet treat with a layer of rich buttercream. English then uses fondant to add the finishing touches. While commercially made fondant is easier to work with, it usually does not taste good, so English makes her own to create cakes that taste better, even if it means working a little harder to achieve the desired result. After covering the cake with rolled fondant to make a smooth, sleek surface, fondant is then shaped into letters, numbers, animals, and a variety of other characters to create the desired design. Fondant can be molded into just about anything, which is a good thing, since English is keen on taking on challenges for her customers.
“The more the challenge the better. Sometimes they bring me these outlandish cakes and I say, ‘I’ll try!’,” remarked English.
The self-taught baker has been in business for more than ten years and learned from an early age the joy of making cakes for special occasions. While growing up, her mother often baked cakes for friends and family, including birthday cakes for English and her sister. Later in life, after realizing she herself had a natural talent for baking, English started watching the popular television show, Ace of Cakes, and decided she wanted to focus her creativity on ornate and festive baked goods.
“I took a couple of culinary classes at Rend Lake College but as far as baking I am self-taught. I found YouTube videos and just went from there.”
Looking through English’s portfolio of cakes, it’s hard to believe the creative, elegant and cheerful fondant decorations are just a simple mix of marshmallows and powdered sugar, dyed, rolled, and shaped into a smooth layer to cover a cake or formed into various characters and objects to make decorations. Wispy flowers in shimmery silver and blue top a sleek and sophisticated wedding cake. Rainbow sprinkles, rhinestones, pink bows, and tiny hearts adorn a cake for one lucky girl’s fifth birthday party. A cake shaped like a beer mug, with buttercream bubbles, is the jovial centerpiece for a happy thirty-fifth birthday celebration. A sassy, tiered cake with black and purple leopard print is the centerpiece for a roaring good time at a bridal shower.
English offers a variety of cake flavors so that the eye-catching exterior design is matched with a delicious center. From the standard chocolate and vanilla to lemon, strawberry and customer favorite, cookies and cream, she can create a tantalizing flavor to go with the decor of choice.
As an accompaniment to cakes or as a stand-alone dessert for parties, English also sells sugar cookies that she bakes using an old family recipe, passed down through past generations. She skillfully decorates the cutout cookies with homemade royal icing to make tasty, easy-to-eat confections.
“I make up my own royal icing. I’m not the type of girl who likes to measure out my stuff except for certain things that you have to have precise measurements. For the most part, I toss in a little bit of this and a little bit of that and experiment with things,” said English.
The sign of a truly gifted baker, English has the ability to roll with the demands of making complicated recipes while also fulfilling extravagant requests. For a cake sure to impress, in flavor and presentation, Cake Art by Jess is the obvious choice.