Nancy Frank has a job that’s so much fun you could almost call it play. She makes wild and crazy cakes that come in all shapes and sizes.
Some of her cakes are very big, such as her subway cake, which is over six feet long and two feet high. Other cakes resemble a real-life person or object. But all of her cakes are one-of-a-kind, made-to-order creations.
People have called Nancy’s cakes works of art. That’s no surprise since Nancy is also a painter. She got into baking as a way to pay her rent, until she could sell her paintings. Now her Custom Cakes business is an exciting second career for her.
Luck, timing, and, of course, talent, played a big role in Nancy’s success. When she first moved to New York, she ran into an old friend who offered her a job as assistant baker in a restaurant. The head baker left a short time later, and Nancy was promoted. She didn’t know much about baking cakes then, but had to learn quickly right on the job.
Occasionally, the restaurant threw special parties and needed a cake that guests would remember as well as eat. Nancy created a Social Security cake for a lady who was having a retirement party. She baked a cake that looked like a plane for a man who flew his own airplane.
Sometimes Nancy learned her lessons the hard way. Her first big cake turned into a disaster! It was a wedding cake for 100 people and it was two and half feet high. Three people worked on it for 12 hours. The results were beautiful. But just as the cake was being presented, it collapsed! No one had taught Nancy the secret of making big cakes stay up by using little wooden sticks to hold up the layers.
When the restaurant went out of business two years ago, Nancy went into business for herself. Her first custom cake was one in the form of Kermit the Frog for a kid’s birthday party. Since then, Nancy has kept busy making her cakes for all kinds of customers.
She made a cake that looked like a large bag of Domino sugar for a convention of sugar refiners. A photographer ordered one that looked like his Leica camera. Another customer ordered one that resembled the motorcycle she owned. Nancy baked a wedding cake for a couple who loved punk rock. It was half traditional white, and half black and pink!
To publicize a Woody Allen movie, she was asked to bake a cake in the shape of a film slate. When offered a choice of doing differently shaped cakes for a customer, Nancy said, “I always do the cake that’s going to be the most challenging.”
Once, that led to a problem. For a Texas theme party, Nancy was asked to make a cake in the shape of a map of Texas, a cowboy boot, or a cowboy hat. She chose the boot and worked on it all night.
Unfortunately, it was a hot night and the boot melted! She remade it three times before she gave up and made a hat cake. Eventually she succeeded in making a boot cake that stayed up. “You could even see the wrinkles in the boot,” Nancy said proudly.
Because some of Nancy’s cakes are several feet high and look complicated on the outside, Nancy provides a diagram for cutting them. Some people, though, have trouble cutting the cakes because they are so beautiful. Nancy pointed out that she wants people to remember her cakes, but not to save them.
“They’re edible works of art,” she said. “They’re meant to be destroyed!”