If your heart wants Cake Boss, but your wallet says grocery-store bakery, new products are coming out to help give cakes a high-end look for a low-end price.
The market is responding to America's obsession with all things cake. If you need proof, just turn on the television. Not an hour goes by, without a show about cake, cake competitions or cake decorating. We can't get enough of it.
But the more we stare at those fancy cakes, the less content we are with an ordinary bakery cake for birthdays and other occasions.
Baker LaVada Holman has seen firsthand how tastes in cakes have changed dramatically over the past 10 years. It's not unusual for her to get requests for three-tiered cakes decorated with fondant icing for a baby's first birthday party.
"People don't want the same old grocery store cake. They want something special. They want something to impress everybody," Holman said.
But the price of a three-tier fondant creation can stop customers in their tracks. Cakes seen on television typically come with price tags in the thousands.
That's where entrepreneurs are finding their niche -- offering decorations to give plain cakes an expensive look.
Charynn Olsheski, a chiropractor who lives outside Butler, Pa., caught the bug from watching cake-decorating shows on television. She began practicing with fondant icing and later started baking cakes for family and friends.
Cake decorating was a way to help her and her chiropractor-husband make ends meet while establishing their practice and paying down their student loans.
She quickly discovered "that people wanted these Cake Boss-type cakes, but did not want to pay me even the kind of money that I wanted." That's when she started to make and sell fondant decorations that customers could use to dress up a homemade cake or less expensive cakes purchased at the grocery store. "I came up with this way to send things to them so they could decorate their cakes and cupcakes into something real high-end," she said.
From her website, www.twosugarbabies.com, Olsheski has been selling decorations to customers all over the world. Most of her designs sell for under $25, and will dress up either a dozen cupcakes or a standard eight-inch layer cake. She sells toppers for brownies and sugar cookies as well. Similar decorations can be found at www.edibledetails.com.
For an even lower-budget option, Wilton Enterprises recently introduced Sugar Sheets, colorful premade sheets of edible decorating paper, which can be cut into fanciful shapes using a punch similar to the die cutters used by scrapbookers.
The sheets sell for $4, the punch base for $15, and inserts for the punch in a variety of shapes -- hearts, flowers, leaves -- are $6 each. The sheets are an easy way to dress up homemade cupcakes.
Also offering quick and easy cupcake decorating is Cupcake Cuties (www.cupcakecuties.com), a California company that sells kits for decorating two dozen cupcakes.