Wouldn’t it be fabulous to have a job that is all about celebrations?
Emily Kelley is a professional cake decorator specializing in birthday cakes at a busy production bakery in Morristown, New Jersey. Creativity, sculpting and painting are strengths, which resulted in her becoming the lead fondant decorator.
“When I tell people what I do, they often say, ‘Oh, like Cake Boss.’ My answer is always no,” she reports by email.
The 2011 Batesville High School graduate has worked at Swiss Chalet Bakery & Café for almost two years.
She explains, “I don’t do a lot of meeting with clients, unfortunately, because we are so busy. Often times when I do get to sit down with people to discuss a cake, they give me a picture of what they want. My goal then is to take that picture and blow it out of the water in hopes to make a better cake than the one in the picture and make them their own creation.”
When the artist decorates a cake, “it can take anywhere from a couple hours to two full work days” with hours of 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
“Swiss Chalet makes just about every pastry and dessert you could possibly think of. I mainly just decorate now, but I do enjoy coming up with some unique filling flavors for my cakes.”
The daughter of B.J. and Dr. Lisa Kelley, Batesville, discusses the joy of imagining perfect flavor combinations. “One filling I like to use is chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and black raspberry mousse because it reminds me of my favorite Graeter’s ice cream flavor. Another one that I just started using for the fall is white cake with apple butter mousse. Another new fall flavor is white cake with pumpkin mousse and a spiced rum soak.
“The hardest task I would have to say is icing a cake. If you are going to cover a cake in fondant (a coating made of sugar and water stabilized with gelatin and glycerine), you must have a perfect base cake. That means icing the cake smooth as well as keeping it perfectly level on top.”
While other cake designers have had vehicle accidents while transporting cakes or set up a cake in a sunny window only to watch a tier slide onto the floor, Kelley says, “Luckily I have had no real disasters.”
A European trip sent her down this path. “Part of my college education included a summer program abroad in Florence, Italy. I then spent the following three summers in Florence as assistant to Melanie Secciani at La Arte della Torta. Together we made designer wedding cakes for destination weddings throughout Tuscany.” Working alone, Kelley concentrated on birthday cakes. “When I worked in Italy, I did everything from baking to making the fillings and decorating …. It thrilled me to create something on paper and transform it into a 3-D piece of art in a short amount of time.”
Secciani observed “that cakes are not just dessert, but works of art that are edible. She taught me to keep my standards high and to be a bit of a perfectionist. Quality over quantity.”
Fluent in Italian? I wish. Melanie was from the U.S. and married a Fiorentino. Her in-laws only spoke Italian, so she was grateful that she could speak to me in English. I was able to get by speaking Italian. I always came home mixing up words in English for the Italian equivalent. I still sometimes call saran wrap pellicola.
Art education: In high school I attended art classes at the Herron School of Design in Indianapolis, the Cincinnati Art Institute and spent a summer at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. I completed a B.A. with classic training in studio art at the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts at Indiana University, where I thrived in 3-D projects.
Strong work ethic: While attending school, I worked as a graphic designer and office assistant for a popular college nightspot, Kilroy’s on Kirkwood (Bloomington), designing promotional posters, flyers and T-shirts advertising the nightspot’s inviting atmosphere. I had the opportunity to interact with customers as a server as well. This provided me with inspiration in the design of promotional materials (http://emily-kelley-590r.squarespace.com).
Well traveled: I am actually leaving in a couple weeks to go to Ireland and Scotland. Next I hope to go to Bali. When I think of Bali, I think of color and I’ve always loved color.
Favorite hobbies: hiking, exploring, DIY projects
What I like about living in Morristown: It reminds me of Bloomington, where I went to college. There is always something going on in town as well as beautiful places to explore in the surrounding areas.
Anticipation: My boyfriend and I are buying a house and in it I will have my own cake room! I am looking forward to fixing the house up together as well as teaching him more about cakes.
Five years from now: I hope to be decorating cakes under my own name.