When it comes to sweet creations, these coastal bakers take the cake
With the rising popularity of reality TV shows such as “Cake Boss” and more recently “Texas Cake House,” it’s clear that bakers everywhere have elevated their craft beyond plain vanilla. And bakers of the upper Texas coast are proving they can hold their own in an industry in which cake designs are getting bolder and ever more sophisticated. Coast Monthly sits downs with three area cake makers who prove you can have your art and eat it, too.
Bake Me A Dream
Since age 4, Brittany Garcia, a Galveston native who lives in Texas City, showed an interest in art and was winning local art contests by age 13.
Drawings, papier-mâché and other creative activities took up most of her days. At age 15, Garcia took an interest in hair art, taking her first job at Armstrong McCall Beauty Supply.
But when she was 19 years old, Garcia began baking cakes for her family and close friends, which piqued her interest in baking edible art.
So, a week before her 22nd birthday, Garcia began working at Bake Me A Dream. Three years later, at age 25, and also a mother of one and expecting twins — and while juggling married life — Garcia was offered the chance to buy the bakery — and the rest, as they say, is history.
Bake Me A Dream in Texas City is known for its creative, edible designs.
Garcia has made cakes for athletes such as Tony Hill, who played in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys, and most recently for former WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes, who commissioned Garcia’s skills for her wedding and her son’s graduation celebration.
“My dream of being successful in this business is much like everyone else’s,” Garcia said. “I don’t need fame, but it also wouldn’t hurt the business. We’ve been contacted by ‘The Food Network’ casting crew a few times. The last few times we haven’t been able to apply, but we will by the end of this year and if it’s in God’s plan to take us that far, then we will follow.”
Garcia works at the bakery full time and has three part-time employees who enjoy the freedom to work their own schedule.
Along with challenging creations, such as a coastal-themed, five-tiered cake that took nearly 10 hours to create, Bake Me A Dream also offers cupcakes and cookies.
“While all cakes can have their challenges, cakes with intricate details and engineering are probably the most challenging,” Garcia said. “The geometrics and leveling are key to a perfectly structured cake. I have to maneuver pounds and pounds of delicate cake, stacking and anchoring on top of one another. And if the structure isn’t done just right, I’ll have a complete disaster. You can have the prettiest cake in the world, but if the structure is not right, your world will come tumbling down.”
With 12 years of decorating under her belt, Garcia said she’s still learning ways to improve.
“There’s always something new to figure out,” Garcia said. “There’s no room for error or the customer’s event is ruined. Some Friday nights, we don’t sleep. We will work all night through to produce a customer’s request.”
Garcia doesn’t mind the pressure and challenges of the business.
“I was raised to always follow my heart and to do what I love,” Garcia said. “I always encourage people to follow their dreams and don’t stop trying. You may fall many times and that’s OK — just as long as you get back up. Falling to the bottom can only make you stronger for the top.”
During Hurricane Harvey, Garcia shut down production of the bakery’s regular operations and decided to make hot meals for local first responders.
Having gone through Hurricane Katrina 12 years earlier, Garcia knew she had to do something for a community that has supported her so much, she said. She and 10 volunteers from other local businesses got together.
“My heart was hurting at the images I saw on social media,” Garcia said. “So, we got to work and delivered hot fresh plates of food. I was completely blown away at the community coming together to want to do this. But at the same time, I wasn’t shocked at all. It’s just how our community does things.”
Bake Me A Dream, 1619 Sixth St. N. in Texas City, 409.229.4859
Clara’s Sweet Creations
Clara Scott, owner of Clara’s Sweet Creations in League City, baked her first cake — a Jell-O cake — at age 10. But she hasn’t always wanted to be in the baking business.
Scott has had jobs in retail management, the insurance industry, child care, administrative management and as a patient service specialist at the University of Texas Medical Branch, to name a few. But it wasn’t until she began baking and decorating cakes in her mother’s bakery 10 years ago that she decided to make a career of it.
“At first, I dreaded the task of having to create a cake because I felt I didn’t have the patience or artistry like my mother did,” Scott said.
Scott didn’t understand then that those weekends in her mother’s bakery would lead to what she believes she was truly called to do.
Today, she creates wedding cakes, cupcakes and other sweet treats for a variety of occasions.
“It wasn’t until I decided to bake a cake for one of my co-workers that they made me realize how I really did enjoy doing it,” Scott said. “I can honestly say they were the ones that pushed me to continue to bake. With the encouraging words from my husband and dear friends, I didn’t give up. As my passion and love for baking and making these cakes grew, so did my detail for each one. Each and every cake I make for my customers I pray about and ask God to help me and guide my hands to do my best.”
It takes Scott anywhere from four to 10 hours to decorate her creations in her home-based bakery, she said.
Working at her own pace, Scott is careful to only take so many orders a week to ensure she fulfills each customer’s order to exact specifications.
She’s made some memorable cakes.
“Thanksgiving Day, we went to my in-laws and told them I had a surprise,” Scott said. “When they saw the turkey cake, which was quite a challenge to make from beginning to end, they actually thought it was a real turkey. When they realized it was a cake, everyone was pretty much in awe. And once they tasted it, the rest was history. Seven hours of work gone in 30 minutes; but it was well worth it.”
Hurricane Harvey was particularly hard on League City, where flooding was severe and nearly 8,000 houses had water damage. Scott was grateful to not have had any damage to her home or work space, she said.
Clara’s Sweet Creations, 281.730.7899
Since age 12, Cynthia McNelty has been fascinated by the clamor of pots and pans as she watched her mother and grandmother cook meals for her family. Because her parents worked long hours, McNelty soon was responsible for cooking for herself and her siblings.
McNelty, who lives in Hitchcock and is a nurse by profession, has been baking for 30 years or so, but it wasn’t until October 2015 when she began “seriously” baking for others as a side business called CipeCakes.
“CipeCakes was birthed when one of my dear friends asked me to provide sweet confections for her child’s birthday party,” McNelty said. “Soon after, parents of the children who attended the party wanted me to provide sweets for their children’s parties, too. It took off from there. I started posting pictures of my work on social media and my little hobby ‘blew up.’”
Today, McNelty spends most of her spare time watching the Food Network and cooking shows to glean more tips for something that started out as just a hobby.
“Today, baking and food are at the top of the market,” McNelty said. “It started out as a hobby, but let’s just say now I have two jobs. It’s grown to be something I had never imagined. Eventually, I would like to make this a full-time business featuring a cupcake bar where I could also showcase my sweet treats and serve other sweet confections and maybe a light lunch and coffee. I also want to give back to my community.”
CipeCakes averages about 10 to 12 appointments a month featuring requests for children’s parties, candied apples, chocolate-covered pretzels and even the occasional adult-themed cake, as well.
McNelty isn’t professionally trained, but does hold several certifications in baking and confectionary art. She watches a lot of YouTube videos to fulfill customer requests, as well as connecting with other professional bakers who teach up-and-coming bakers in the area.
“People eat with their eyes first, so the product has to be pleasing to the eyes,” McNelty said. “CipeCakes is more than just a dessert to satisfy one’s sweet tooth; it’s a desire for gratification — one bite at a time. I want to exceed the ordinary.”
The effects of Hurricane Harvey led to the cancellation of three events McNelty had prepared for; however, she was grateful she didn’t have any damage to her home, she said.
Although weather-related and design challenges come with the territory, McNelty is perfecting the demands for cakes that aren’t traditional.
“Every once in a while, I will get an order for a cake that is what we call ‘naked’ or ‘rustic,’” which means that the customer would like fresh flowers, fresh fruit or greenery added to the cake as opposed to a traditional cake topper like a bride and groom statue,” McNelty said. “Naked cakes have to be almost perfect because you can’t cover up the flaws with icing or fondant. These types of cakes must taste good also because the customer wants to enjoy the actual cake — not just the icing on the cake. I want the taste to be so good that they forget about where they are and they just want to enjoy the experience of eating a CipeCake.”