This week’s story featured on The People I Find (go like the FB page :)) is about Ashely who is the owner, designer, artist, and sweetheart of AshCakes. I have known Ashely for what seems like forever. She is the same age as my younger brother and we were often at church activities together. I have never met someone who is as genuinely as sweet as she is. My number one rule when it comes to picking out a cake is, never buy a cake from someone who isn’t as sweet as their frosting… So her cakes taste good! Ashley is an artist and someone who inspires people to follow their passion. Take a minute to read and share her story.
Throughout my life, I have always been known as an artist. Being creative was just a part of my identity, and since a young age I was constantly involved in the visual arts. Cake decorating has become a firm passion of mine, but only because I was an artist before I became a cake artist. And I also happened to like baking. A lot. J
My cake obsession started when I was nine. (I like to say I was a nerd about cake decorating before it was cool. Ha.) When I was that age, it was ordinary for my mom to take me to the local craft store to let me roam around on my own. She knew I could spend hours in that store scanning every item in every isle. I’m pretty sure she noticed one day how I became fixated on the cake dummies at the front of the store. (They looked SO cool.) They were set up to advertise for a beginner cake decorating class. As a surprise, she signed us both up. Not only was it fun to learn with my mom, but this class ignited something inside me. I was captivated by the concept of cake design. It was almost like sculpting. And drawing. Except with cake and frosting. The challenge was to have everything on the cake be edible but still beautiful. A true work of art! That’s when I feel like I learned the meaning of the famous quote “creativity loves constraint”, and I was immediately hooked.
My first cake I ever did was for my 5th grade teacher’s baby shower. I was still nine. (I wish I still had pictures, but my early cake pictures were lost because our family laptop died. Lame.) It was also the first time I saw how people react to cake. They love it! I just love seeing people smile and be super excited about something, especially about a cake I made for them! It’s this very reaction that I work for.
I continued to do various cakes for friends, families, even for church events. Every cake I did, I learned something new about the skill, and about myself. I made SO many rookie mistakes that still make me cringe just thinking about them. (I’m not going to share those). But every cake I learned, learned and learned.
Funny enough, a while later when I was 14, I wanted to get a job at a bakery so I could start gaining experience in a commercial kitchen, and if I was lucky, eventually shadow a professional cake decorator (I love that title). There was a local bakery not too far from our house that my parents suggested I try applying at. I printed off nice pictures of all the cakes I’d done, put them in page protectors along with my very official looking “certificate of completion” from my beginner cake decorating class, all of which went in a sturdy binder. I walked in, talked to the manager, filled out an application, showed her my binder, and left. I didn’t get the job. Even though I applied two more times when I was sixteen, I actually never got a job there, nor at any of the other bakeries I applied at.
Then Cake Boss premiered. Immediately I became a nerd and watched every episode. It gave me the inside look into a professional bakery that I had been wanting to see for years! I became more and more educated every episode. (I still re-watch them often just for fun.)
When I started college, cake decorating and my artistic side took a back seat, and eventually became a little lost from me for a couple years. I was so focused on school that I didn’t give time to those skills. It really wasn’t until I got married that I realized how distant those passions had gone from me. But a few months after Tyler and I were married, it was reawakened by my first ever wedding cake I did for one of my best friends.
It was also at that time that Tyler suggested I make a Facebook page for my cakes. Initially the idea sounded silly. I imagined only getting a few followers. After we made the page, we got almost 200 likes in the first few days. It was amazing. I had no idea how much my friends and family supported my little fetish for cake decorating! Since then, I’ve done some of my favorite cakes ever. And yes, I did many of them while I was in the middle of going to school.
In 2013, I did three cakes in the period of one week. My husband’s birthday cake—just for fun, and just because I like to spoil him on his birthday—, a graduation cake, and a wedding cake. That same week happened to be finals week as well. I know, I’m crazy. It was the definition of insanity. The whole week felt like one long adrenalin rush. I somehow did all three cakes and passed my finals. I’ll never do it again. (Maybe.)
A lot of people don’t understand how much work and time goes into making cakes. I did a cake last year which wasn’t large. It was 9 inches round, double layered. I kept track of how many hours went into that cake: 24. There have been other larger cakes that have taken up to 46 hours total. Doing these high detail custom cakes are no joke! They take a lot of planning, work, time, focus, and energy especially when you’re a one woman show. It’s a marathon as well, because things have to be done within 2-3 days to guarantee optimal freshness. If you did the math, you can get a feel for how much work these are in a short amount of time. After that cake leaves my door or we drop it off at the event, I am drained. In every way possible. Mostly physically and mentally. I’m usually starving and brain dead. I pulled at least one all-nighter. (My husband says it’s not an Ash Cakes cake if we don’t stay up all night working on it. He’s my Sous-Chef. J) I also look like crap because I’m covered in frosting, grease and who knows what else. But I do this over and over again because it’s simply my passion! It’s just what I do, and I can’t imagine life without it. Every project is an adventure, and I embark on each one because I’m in my element when I do, and it brings me so much happiness and satisfaction.
I just got to say this to anyone who has a passion/talent for something: Don’t let that passion fall to the back burner in your life. DO something about it! And don’t let yourself become afraid of failure.
It’s so easy for us to get caught up in life with all our responsibilities. But I’ve learned that if you don’t have time for something, you have to make time for it. It’s not always easy, but who wants to live an easy life anyways? That’s boring. J If you have something you love doing, it has to be a part of your life. It would be tragic loss if it wasn’t! Not only for yourself, but for those around you. We all have interests like this, and I believe that we are given these innate talents and skills because they have the potential to make us very happy if we chose to act on them and grow them. Also, don’t let failures stop you from pursuing something! I love what Bob Sutton, Stanford Professor at the d.school (design school) said: “Failure sucks, but instructs.” You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish, because those accomplishments will be things you never thought you could do in the first place.
Just take it from the cake lady: Making your passion a priority in your life will simply make you a healthier and happier human!
“Individuals with a growth mindset believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to forsee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil and training.” –Carol Dweck, Stanford University
For more information on ASHCAKES check out her website here!
Don’t forget to like THE PEOPLE I FIND and contact me if you have a story you would like to share 🙂