BATAVIA – A graphic designer’s passion for dessert is baked into a business about extreme edible creations. Turning her fine art skills to the medium of sugar is Michelle Boyd of Batavia, owner of Good Gracious Cakes.
“I had worked for several years as a graphic designer and illustrator for a greeting card company in Chicago,” Boyd said. “I was a stay-at-home mom for awhile and [got] bored. I missed working with my hands.”
Her career in custom-order edible art was inspired a decade ago, while watching some of the early cake decorating shows on television. By 2014, she had been named one of the Top Ten Cake Artists in North America by Dessert Professional magazine.
“I do look at the dessert menu first,” Boyd said. “I’ll plan my dinner around what I’m having for dessert.”
She said she has made seven or eight appearances on TLC and Food Network cake and food television shows. This fall, she hopes to compete in an international competition in England put on by Cake Masters magazine, which has published her work.
She’s still deciding on her concept for the contest.
“It will probably be something hand-painted,” Boyd said. “I bring some of my fine art background and apply it to cakes. Right now, it’s a popular trend.”
Conventional designs don’t appeal to Boyd, who doesn’t focus on normal-sized cakes, but on large-occasion commissions.
“My goal is not to crank out cakes that look the same, [but] to create big showstopping creative, whimsical pieces,” Boyd said, noting the designs are dictated by the client or the competition. “If a client wants something for an anniversary, [it may be] something sophisticated and elegant. For a kid’s birthday, more colorful and whimsical. You have to be flexible.”
To avoid icings that are overly sweet, she said she has devised her own recipes, including her marshmallow and powdered sugar fondant. And instead of traditional buttercream, she makes a Swiss meringue in which the sugar is dissolved to a silky smoothness with an almost whipped-cream consistency.
“There’s chemistry and science in a lot of what I do,” Boyd said. “I don’t just do cake. Most of my business this year is doing demonstrations at events and a lot of teaching in different cities. I get to travel, and I get to see the country, and I get to eat food in different cities and visit with friends around the United States.”
She teaches decorating using faux cake layers made of Styrofoam, common practice for bakery displays. Among the skills she instructs is hand-painting, airbrushing and blown sugar sculpture. In addition to teaching across the U.S., she offers private classes in her home studio and provides cake coaching.
“If someone has a birthday for their child or dad or grandfather, you can schedule some time with me, and I can help you achieve the cake you want,” Boyd said.
Among her favorite pieces have been cakes she created for the Icing Smiles nonprofit whose slogan, in part, is “baking a difference.”
“They provide over-the-top dream cakes to critically ill children and their families,” Boyd said.
For a family celebrating a year of their son being free from leukemia, Boyd said she designed a sea theme, with a dolphin jumping out of a cake.
She also collaborates with other artists on projects featured at major food and wine events as part of the spectacle entertainment.
“We turn food into works of art,” she said. “I tend to zig when everybody zags.”
To learn more about Good Gracious Cakes, visit facebook.com/goodgraciouscakes or call 708-369-9794.