My hobby, and avocation, is making customized birthday and wedding cakes. I started baking and decorating cakes as a teenager, then went on hiatus for a couple of decades until my son Nathan was born in 2002. On his second birthday, I decided to wow him with a “Big Bird” birthday cake, which spawned a lively tradition in cakes reflecting his interests du jour. The cakes are decorated with rolled fondant icing, which I used to import from the U.K. In the last few years, fondant cake decorating has been popularized by the likes of the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, and as a result, fondant is now much easier to find in the U.S.

The great thing about cakes is how happy they make people. It’s an instant gratification that I don’t always get in my writing career. Over the years, I’ve been asked/commissioned to make cakes for friends and family.

big bird cake


The cake that kicked off a tradition… Nathan’s second birthday cake, featuring Big Bird from Sesame Street.
thomas cake


We spent Nathan’s third birthday in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. He was obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine and our luggage contained about 40 toy Thomas trains. When we got back, I decided to make a cake featuring Thomas on the beach. The whole party was Mexican-themed, from the chicken quesadillas to the giant inflatable cacti at the doorway.
big bird cake


My friend Jackie teaches at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University: her area of research is Kenyan politics and development issues. For her thirty-ninth birthday, her husband Bruce commissioned me to make a cake of Africa, highlighting Kenya.
big bird cake


Ingrid, the sister of a friend, was getting married on a shoestring and I was commissioned to make the cake. The wedding was Indian-themed, so the red and orange flowers seemed in keeping. It was a very hot day and my buttercream wasn’t as firm as I’d have liked, but luckily I had extra flower petals for beautification.
big bird cake


“The Magic Schoolbus” is a great book series and TV show from the 1980s that teaches science to young kids. Nathan was introduced to it by his friend Justin, and quickly became obsessed. For his fourth birthday, only a Magic Schoolbus cake would do.
big bird cake


This cake was made for a little girl called Milene, who was turning four. She had very specific requirements for a pink mouse with a long tail.
cars cake


From trains to schoolbuses to cars, my son’s interests gradually evolved while keeping a tight focus on vehicles! The Disney/Pixar movie “Cars” was his abiding love as a five year old. The cake features Lightning McQueen and his love interest, Sally Carrera.
wedding cake


My good friend Julie asked various friends to make her a wedding cake. There were five in all, but nobody else was foolhardy enough to attempt a four-tiered cake. I learned a lot from making this, my first ever wedding cake. For example: don’t put strips of fondant on the edges of a cake when the temperature is over 90 degrees!