Marstons Mills’ mother takes cake-making to a whole new level of fun and yum.By Jacquelyn Mysliwiec
For local cake artist Kimberlene O’Connor, good things come in threes. The owner of Yummy Cakes of Cape Cod, O’Connor has three children, and it takes her three hours in a three-step process to turn that cake into a customized marvel.
O’Connor immigrated to the States from Trinidad and Tobago when she was 16. After years of living in New York, she moved to the Cape and spent her early days as a mother working in sales. She even opened her own cleaning business, which left her little time to spend with her children.
Today, her agenda is quite different. She spends her days in the kitchen—baking, sketching blueprints, crafting cakes, playing with fondant and letting her little ones join in the fun, too.
O’Connor has a 2-year-old daughter who enjoys rolling fondant in her high-chair, a 7-year-old son, a 14-year-old son, and one more on the way. “They’re my biggest fans,” says O’Connor. “And they try not to hurt my feelings when I am having difficulty with achieving a specific design. Sometimes my 7-year-old will say, ‘Maybe you should put it down for a little bit.’”
In her second year since starting Yummy Cakes of Cape Cod, the detail is key: She etches intricate grooves into a fondant barrel to mimic natural wood grains, airbrushes multicolored scales on an edible snake to match a boy’s pet, and contemplates how she will construct a life-size apple for a teacher’s cake. “I ended up crumbling up cake, mixed it with frosting and shaped it. It came out perfect,” she says.
O’Connor works with photos and themes given to her by the customer, ranging from a custom sports jersey to a personalized RN uniform that she made for a recent nursing graduate. Anything can go wrong (although when it does, family and neighbors don’t complain about the extras). But the risk is well worth the reward.
“Just seeing his face,” says O’Connor, referring to a boy’s joyful reaction when seeing her Donkey Kong cake, “that’s the biggest pay off.” It was her first time cake-sculpting anything, let alone a giant gorilla popping out of a barrel of bananas.
To date, O’Connor has made more than 100 cakes. Every component of every cake is edible, from airbrushed leaves on a bouquet of sugar-based succulent plants to fondant she colored to look exactly like a real wooden wine crate for a wine bottle-shaped birthday cake. She then shaved a layer of white chocolate on top to mimic Styrofoam packaging, while the wine label was made of a sugar sheet printed with edible ink.
“I’ve always been creative and loved doing arts and crafts, but never worked with fondant before,” say O’Connor. “When I saw it, touched it and handled it, I realized, oh, it’s kind of like Play-Doh. Everyone thought I was insane for trying it.”
Having no prior professional art, design or culinary training, O’Connor had doubts about turning her tasty hobby into a career. But when she couldn’t find a unique cake for her daughter’s first birthday, she knew there was a market. O’Connor was committed to making an over-the-top cake for her daughter that year. It was her first—a Minnie Mouse cake wearing a beautifully draped pink fondant dress.
Motivated, she started researching the right tools, the best techniques, the best ingredients and the best recipes. She makes her own cakes—chocolate, vanilla and other flavors, like key lime from start to finish in three days, including the custom fillings.
“The cake has to taste as good as it looks,” say O’Connor, who used to watch her older cousins make wedding cakes. The piped icing was beautiful, but by the time they started to decorate, the cake itself was dried out.
“Most of my birthday cakes take three hours total, in a three-day process,” she explains. “I bake on Wednesday if the cake is for the weekend. The basic building comes after that, and then I decorate the next day, adding in all the detail.”
“Every week, I say it’s my favorite one,” says O’Connor.
For custom cake orders, email Kimberlene O’Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.