From birthdays and graduations to anniversaries and retirement parties, a specially decorated cake is the centerpiece of many parties or events.
Lyra Nicholson Sauls has been decorating cakes at Kroger for 16 years, learning the skills early on from her mother-in-law who also worked as a professional cake decorator.
“She did it professionally with a bakery and also at home making wedding cakes and stuff, so it’s something I started doing when I was a kid,” Sauls said. frosting a chocolate cake.
After she started working in Kroger’s baking department, she was able to further expand her skills by taking cake decorating classes at the grocery store.
“Usually they get people from different stores together and they show us how to slice a cake and how to make roses and edge the cake and stuff,” she said.
When it comes to frosting, buttercream frosting is the name of the game when it comes to decorating a cake.
“White buttercream is probably the easiest to use,” Sauls said.
Despite its popularity, buttercream frosting is not without its challenges.
“If the buttercream is soft, sometimes the frosting will melt, so there are different factors,” Sauls said. “If it’s too cold outside and it’s a little cold here, our frosting will be too firm and harder to work with.”
When it comes to cake decorating, traditional designs with flowers and a welt border are still popular with the public.
“With the roses, it’s a bit technical, but they’re really not that difficult once you know what you’re doing,” Sauls said.
Social media sites such as Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram are a great way to get new cake design ideas and offer video tutorials for those who want to learn how to decorate a cake, Sauls said.
Vanessa Whitaker, manager of Frederica’s Kroger Grocery and Bakery, said it’s been great to see customers come back year after year for a cake for a special event in their lives.
“It’s nice to see customers coming back and wanting you to specifically bake their cake,” she said.
Whitaker recalled a customer who continues to order a birthday cake for her deceased son every year.
“We actually have a client who comes, her son passed away, so every year she orders a cake in memory of her son and we bless someone with that cake for free,” Whitaker said.
Kimberly Steeley, cake decorator at Koehler’s Bakery, 1801 Carter Road, said while the business, which has been in business since 1977, is known for its donuts, customers can also order custom cakes for all occasions.
While Steeley originally worked at the bakery counter, she was eventually recruited to help with the company’s cake decorating about five years ago.
“Someone quit, and the lady baking cakes asked me if I wanted to come back, and she would let me know how I could help her,” Steely said from behind the store’s glass bakery counter.
Steeley said decorating cakes isn’t that big of a challenge, but balancing cake decorating with selling donuts and helping customers with a small staff can be difficult.
While Koehler still makes traditional floral cakes, Steeley said the multi-colored ombre cake is currently very popular.
“You have colors at the bottom and then they fade on the way up,” she said. “It’s trendy right now and they’re pretty too.”
Steeley agreed with Sauls and Whitaker that buttercream is the best frosting for decorating cakes.
“Buttercream is always the best; it tastes good and if you’re outside at a wedding it’s the most stable,” she said.
While Koehler’s is still making wedding cakes, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant decrease in the number of people ordering wedding cakes.
“Before COVID-19 I would say it was a lot more, but since COVID-19 it hasn’t been as good because people haven’t had big parties,” Steeley said.
Steeley said that despite the pandemic, Koehler’s had a loyal customer base that continued to support the business.
“In this town most people say there are two bakeries, they’re Koehler’s and The Rolling Pin,” she said. “If you grew up on one side of town, Rolling Pin is your favorite bakery, if you grew up here and had these donuts your whole life, this is your favorite bakery.”