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Quick draw artist creates cakes for all occasions

Pat Patera

A snowy stepped rise sprouting winter twigs upon which tiny birds perch.

An oriental garden festooned with cherry blossoms that bower over a tiny pagoda.

A tower of hat boxes, crazily striped in poodle pink and sour apple green, stacked like Russian nesting dolls.

These are not your mother’s wedding cakes.

Trained as a graphic artist, cake designer Marisa Ayazian-Hess expresses artistic flair in frosting.

The trick is to keep it looking edible, says Hess, rather than get so creative that people can’t recognize it as food.

If that line is crossed, they won’t buy it.

A fine artist may slave for months, or even years, over a painting.A cake designer can’t.

She’s got no time to be a prima donna.

Every day she creates about 20 special order designs.

Add to that another 40 fancy cakes for the display case.

That’s not counting the dozens of decorated cookies and pastries.

It takes a quick-draw artist.

Wedding cakes are the occasion for utmost creativity.

But only limited orders are taken.Hess and her mother Sonja Pasa, owner of Joseph’s Bakery in Reno, deliver each cake and often complete the assembly on site.Wedding cakes often tower to six layers; only three can be stacked during transport.

Since no preservatives or stabilizers go into these cakes, they can’t stand about and wait.

Each creation must arrive for the cake-cutting ceremony no more than three hours after leaving the refrigerated unit at the bakery.With so many orders delivered to the Lake Tahoe basin, that takes precise scheduling.

“As a child, I was always drawing,” says Hess.”As a teen, I made my own jewelry.”

When she started art classes in 1999,Hess says that upon graduation with an associate degree in graphic design, she expected to take a job at a graphic design firm.

However in 2000 her father, Joseph, died.

That left the master cake maker’s shoes empty.

It was natural that Hess,who had worked at the family bakery since age 13,would step into the job.

She enrolled in a four-day course at Swiss Chalet in Los Angeles to learn cake design.

Swiss Chalet is a bakery supply and support company that sends representatives out for three days at a time to teach bakery chefs how to use new products and techniques, such as how to sculpt in fondant.

Hess says she has no regrets about the way she expresses her creativity having bypassed computer art for cakes.

She plans to make her career at Joseph’s Bakery.


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