Rockport woman 'takes the cake' to a whole new level
Rockport — At first glance the sculpted cakes created by Patricia Moroz both delight and confuse the senses. As Moroz discusses her process it becomes evident why: her work is a perfect juxtaposition of confection and art.
Moroz operates Starlight Custom Cakes from her in-home bakery, she makes exquisite wedding cakes and gingerbread houses, but her specialty is creating cakes covered with rolled fondant, a medium that lends a perfect, porcelain-like finish to the exterior of her confections. Moroz has created figures, houses, vehicles and more, all in fully-edible cake.
Moroz and her husband retired to Rockport from Santa Barbara, Calif., six years ago and Moroz became interested in sculpted cakes. She found a class in Boston with Nicholas Lodge, a lauded chef, and signed up for the five-day intensive course in sugar art. It would be the first of many courses she has continuously attended, and she's made friends along the way. She said she meets two other women — one from Oregon and one from North Carolina, and the three take courses together. Moroz said she picks courses taught by chefs that she admires, some of them routinely appear on food television shows, she explained.
"It was such an experience for me," she said of taking her initial courses. "All the mediums were new to me."
A tour of her downstairs decorating room reveals an array of exquisite decorations and display cakes — fondant covered foam dummy cakes — among bakers racks laden with edible paints, hand-crafted molds and various materials germane to her business. She said she likes having the space in her home.
"I'll sometimes be down there at 4:30 a.m. if I have an idea," she explained. "I always have five or six projects going at once."
Moroz points out a wine bottle so realistic it could confuse the most discerning drinker — she explains the bottle is crafted from melted sugar molded to shape. Adding to the illusion she has affixed a label from Cellardoor Winery, scanned and printed in edible ink on a specialized printer she said she uses sparingly.
Moroz recalls her first attempt at making the sugar bottles; she was lunching with a group of friends and decided to try an experiment. She brought three of the bottles along and set them on the table (after asking permission from the waitress). When her friends arrived they kept remarking how strange it was that the waitress had not cleared the bottles — which they assumed were from previous diners — from the table.
Another test involved her husband, who volunteered to have Moroz whack him in the head with a sugar bottle to test its resilience. He donned a hat and the couple went outside. She swung — and the bottle shattered — but his scream, and the welt rising on his head, indicated to Moroz that she had poured the bottles a bit too thick. She has since perfected her process.
"It's the same thing they use in the movies," she said of the sugar bottles.
Moroz's handmade decorations are as varied as her cakes. She makes her own flowers from sugar and hand paints each one. She said mass-produced flowers, available in bulk are expensive and the quality is not as good. Moroz teaches classes at Camden's Hartstone Inn, teaching attendees how to make sugar flowers of their own. A display in her decorating room is akin to a botanical garden, with sugar flora in dozens of varieties, some whimsical and others strikingly realistic.
Moroz got her kitchen inspected early in the summer of 2011 and said she expected business to start off slow. She ran a few advertisments and relied on some word of mouth.
"It was zero to 60 overnight," she explained.
Moroz said she sometimes creates up to 20 cakes in a single month. Some cakes take up a to a week, others can be completed in a single day. Her sculpted cakes are based on a model that her husband helps her construct; the models lend scale as Moroz crafts each piece of the cake to perfection. She periodically makes show cakes, but said about 98 percent of the cakes she makes are fully edible and meant for consumption.
The fondant, Moroz explained, helps keep the cake on the interior incredibly moist. The fondant is applied over the cake, which is iced with a client's choice of icing before being covered in fondant and decorated. Moroz noted that fondant is a particular medium, and said working with fondant is something that requires patience and experience.
"You have to work with [fondant] all the time to get it perfect," she said.
As the holidays approach, Moroz has begun preparing for a flurry of gingerbread houses. She decorated the windows of the Camden Opera House in years past, and donates 50 to 130 gingerbread houses for sale at an annual holiday craft fair to benefit the Rockport Garden Club. She said she'll also teach an adult-only gingerbread house decorating course later this fall at The Hartstone Inn.
Moroz is a member of the I.C.E.S. organization and the International Cake Exploration Societe. She has recently embraced opportunities to show her work at the Merryspring Kitchen Tour and at a Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens fundraiser.
Moroz said she already has some cakes booked in 2013, she said her pricing varies, it can start as low as $50 for a simple cake and exceed $1,000 for an extremely large or difficult cake.
"Car cakes and figure cakes are more difficult, I like figuring them out, I love doing them," she said.
Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.