by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
Cake batter, frosting and fondant are the building blocks Amy Hart of Holden, owner of home-based business Sweethart Cakes, uses to create special occasion cakes worthy of being labeled art, even though Hart does not consider herself an artist. “I consider myself a hobbyist,” Hart said.
A quick look at photographs of Hart’s cake creations posted at Pinterest.com is ample testimony that she possesses the spirit creativity in abundance. An elegant five-tier wedding cake is adorned with a sweet fall of fondant blossoms in shades of purple. The beer mug cake she made for her father is frothy with fondant foam. Some of her cakes are lit from within or from without with tiny “balloon lights.” A wedding cake frosted in pale blue features delicate, lacy snowflakes.
Her cake themes are as varied as the interests of her clients and include sports, music, animals, monsters, fishing, dinosaurs, trains and campers, to name only a few. The shapes and figures on Hart’s cakes are entirely edible, whether they are sculpted, cut out or modeled from fondant — much the way an artist would create figures and shapes from clay.
“All of my cakes are customized,” she said. “I hardly ever do the same one twice. I have a state licensed and inspected home bakery (kitchen), but I do not have a walk-in store front. I only make custom cakes to order. I do not ever have extra cakes or other baked goods available — unfortunately, time just doesn’t allow that. Also, while some might consider custom cakes expensive, even the baker who charges five dollars or more [per] piece has to account for ingredients, which for custom cakes can be quite expensive — [cake] boxes, electricity, tools, delivery — and then there is the time [spent making the cake]. On average I probably spend five hours on a fondant cake, sometimes more with detailed figures or sculpting,” Hart said.
She established her business several years after the birth of her third child, when she decided to be a full-time mom and wife, and put on hold her career as an English teacher at Old Town High School.
Hart said she started her business by baking birthday cakes for the children of her friends. “It kind of snowballed from there,” she said. These days, she has clients from as far away as Greenville.
Hart is a self-taught cake decorator. She learned the craft by reading, by watching online tutorials and by applying what she learned in the kitchen.
“Jan Campbell of Cakes by Jan in Bangor has been my mentor,” she said. “I went there [to Cakes by Jan] for [cake baking] supplies and she began to send clients my way.”
Hart’s approach to baking custom order cakes begins with finding the right pans for the basic shapes she needs. She carves the baked cake into specific shapes, fits pieces together, ices them and decorates the whole with fondant she has sculpted into whatever shapes is needed, be it flowers or bows. “It takes a lot of planning and figuring out how to do it,” she said. “The more you work at it, the better you get.”
Hart makes her own fondant using confectioner’s sugar and melted marshmallows. “[Fondant] can be intimidating to work with,” she said. “You have to figure out what its limitations are.”
Sweethart Cakes flavors choices are chocolate, vanilla and marble, but she has made cakes in other flavors, including key lime and orange. She also makes gluten-free cakes if a client requests it.
Hart’s favorite cakes to make are baby shower cakes because they give her more freedom of design, and because a baby shower is one of the happiest of occasions. She also enjoys creating cakes in animal shapes. Her animal cake repertoire includes pig, horse, sea turtle and dog shapes.
Hart said she has made as many as 15 cakes in a week, but now she averages seven. “But it would be better to do four or five,” she said, noting that she has three children ranging in age from 5 to 11.
Hart’s cake decorating tools include an air brush for adding color to fondant, balloon lights, clay modeling tools for shaping the fondant, an extruder for making long strings of fondant, an Exacto knife — her favorite tool — used for cutting fondant, a food coloring pen and silicone molds for shaping letters of the alphabet. She also uses edible images she has printed at Shaw’s supermarket in Bangor. “It’s good to have that resource,” she said.
She delivers the cakes she bakes, in person, to her clients. Wedding cakes are delivered in sections and assembled at the reception venue.
Sweethart cakes range in price from $50 for a birthday cake to $200 for a wedding cake.
“The only thing I can make things out of is cake — but it’s definitely more than ‘just cake,’” she said.
For information about Sweethart Cakes, go to the Sweethart Cakes Facebook page or call 460-5740.