Baker uses icing dispenser as paintbrush

Published 10:42 pm Friday, January 22, 2010

Shelley Barrett wants to have her cake and design it too. She loves to decorate the most delicate and complex cakes she possibly can while keeping everything edible.

But don’t ask her to make a sheet cake. The Thorsby resident will do it — it just might bore her a little.

“I don’t really like doing them,” Barrett said. “They’re just a little too basic for me.”

Not that she feels above baking sheet cakes. It’s just that she strives to challenge her decorating skills with each new adventure.

Be it a Spongebob Square Pants, a Bear Bryant houndstooth hat or a giant ladybug, she’ll bake it and whip it into the spitting image of what you desire.

She baked a perfectly edible police car for the local chief, topped with working flashing lights. Of course, those you could not eat.

Today, zebra print is all the rage, and Barrett is all over it. Her latest concoction is a two-tiered lime green zebra print cake with a hot pink top and scattered polka dots.

She’ll do high heel shoes, purses and monster trucks. Whatever picture swirling around in your head that could make a good cake, she can more than likely make that a swift reality.

She’s only met one challenge she has yet to overcome: a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

“I’ve done trucks and cars, but you cannot physically make an edible motorcycle, so I do a sheet cake with the logo,” she said.

Even if you don’t have any particular request, that gives Barrett a certain freedom she enjoys as a baker as well as an artist, using an icing dispenser as her paintbrush.

Just tell her what colors you want, and she’ll take it from there.

“I like different,” she said. “If they don’t have ideas, they’ll say ‘These are my colors, do what you want.’”

The process takes time. A baker and decorator must display an exceptional amount of patience.

Special cakes deserve more attention to perfect the final product that adds to the “wow factor” when customers or friends see them for the first time.

Soon enough, though, somebody will take a knife and cut right through the art and eventually eat the masterpiece.

After that, it’s gone forever. At least until the next cake.

That doesn’t bother Barrett, though. She snaps some photos and starts all over again.

The only part of the process that tends to irk her is when she has to deliver a cake across a long distance.

Whether the icing melts or a fondant piece on top falls off, she’d rather not do it or think about any potential disasters.

“That makes me nervous,” she said.

As for trouble during the process, luck’s been on her side so far. She might use the wrong color every so often, but that’s no real hazard.

“You just scrape it off and start over,” she said. I’ve never had a big catastrophe before.”

She first fell in love with cake design early on during high school. In a Thorsby home economics class, her teacher demonstrated baking and icing a cake, and that’s all Barrett needed to see.

“I just picked it up instantly and loved it,” she said. “I’ve done it for over 20 years now.”

She also gains some inspiration by watching shows on Food Network, including “Cake Boss,” “Ace of Cakes” and “Amazing Wedding Cakes.”

You can look at some of Barrett’s cakes and get more information about her concoctions by visiting her page on Facebook.