Oakleaf Cakes: Amanda Oakleaf
We first worked with Amanda Oakleaf and her talented team back in 2010 on Meg & Collin’s rustic wedding. Collin wanted a groom’s cake that incorporated his love for classic video games, and Amanda whipped up a Super Mario Brothers cake below that has become one of our all-time favorites! We’ve followed Amanda’s work since then and we continue to be blown away by her incredible designs (i.e. life-sized stormtrooper cake!) and we think her cake art is some of the best in Boston. We caught up with Amanda and asked her to tell us a little more about herself.
Where did you grow up?
Hartford, SD. Small town outside of Sioux Falls. Graduated high school with only 80 people in my class.
How long have you been in business and how did you get started?
5 1/2 years. I grew up baking with my Mom and both my grandmothers. At home, my mom had a Wilton cake decorating book from which my sisters and I would always choose our birthday cake designs. It was always the most important part of any friend or family member’s birthday, surprising them with a handmade custom cake. The best part, besides the fun and mess of creating the cake, was getting to see their reaction and making their birthday extra special.
I worked at Cold Stone Creamery as a shift manager while I attended college. One afternoon I had some free time and decided to learn how to decorate ice cream cakes ‘professionally.’ I studied Cold Stone’s manual and taught myself how to frost and simply decorate ice cream cakes. Now, if you haven’t worked with ice cream cakes before, you must learn to be quick. You can’t take your sweet time frosting those cakes! You have about 10 minutes before they start to melt underneath, so I learned how to frost a cake quite quickly.
While I was still in college and working at Cold Stone, I picked up another job doing gift baskets, event planning and decorating for a small company; another creative outlet for me. The owner found out that I enjoyed decorating cakes, and decided to add custom kosher cakes to her offerings, and so I spent an entire summer creating and testing new designs and flavors until the time came for me to quit. Leaving this job was a turning point for me. I knew I could surely do a better job on my own. Thus a month after leaving the gift basket job, I had my own website up and was taking orders for custom cakes. Of course, I did not do all this on my own: my husband, Tyler, is the brains and graphic designer behind our cake business. I would never be able to do this without his help. We make a good team – he on the engineering/marketing side, and me on the baking/creative side.
This was only the beginning. I operated out of my one-bedroom apartment in Boston for about 8 months until I graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2009. After graduating, my husband and I moved to Winthrop, where we were able to rent more space for our residential kitchen. We got so busy that we were pulling all-nighters to get all our cakes made. Lack of sleep (combined with a large stack of upcoming orders that I wouldn’t be able to do alone) led us to open our first storefront in Winthrop in April of 2010. In March of 2010 – in the middle of construction of our new store, as if that wasn’t enough to handle – my husband and I flew out to Denver to film the Food Network Challenge: Dora the Explorer Cakes. We were also filmed on TLC’s Fabulous Cakes – Boston Episode in 2011.
We stayed in the Winthrop location until end of Oct 2013 when we made the big move into our current store on Westland Ave. in Boston, right around the corner from Symphony Hall.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Making something new every week and getting to incorporate my art degree into everything we make. We also have a great staff who are also artists and culinary experts and who are all very creative. Our awesome staff makes for a fun work environment that allows for creativity and for everyone to be excited about coming into work to make your cake!
How would you describe your style?
I’m pretty easy going overall and like to keep things light and happy. Mostly though I’m a maker. If I haven’t made something in a day it’s not a real day. I need to have made dinner, a new dessert, cake, figurine, etc. I have many skills and interests acquired growing up and through art school that I have lots to draw from. For example I’m an oil painter, although I haven’t had a real studio since school), I made lots of pottery/ceramics while in art school, I have knowledge of sewing and have sewed clothing for myself as well as totes and purses for friends. My mom taught me how to sew and she and I have sewn all the aprons that we wear in our store. I also love to play the piano and trombone – I play these when I have a rare spare moment. I learned early on that I love to create things with my hands and then give them away to make people smile. It’s all about the reaction that we get when someone receives their cake that makes it all worth it.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Ice cream! Always. We always had ice cream as a family growing up. I worked at Cold Stone Creamery for about 6 years and never got sick of ice cream. (I do get sick of cake however). My husband and I even had ice cream cake for our wedding cake…in December!
What’s your favorite quote?
I don’t really like to obsess over quotes or words to live by.
What makes you unique in your field?
Our emphasis on cake as edible art makes us unique compared with other bakeries in the area. All our decorators have art degrees. We have 2 painters, an illustrator and a sculptor and with our powers combined…we can really make whatever you want. We’re most famous for making a life-size stormtrooper cake. There is a post on our blog about how we made him and subsequently a life-size Darth Vader cake that was even bigger standing 6 ft 7inches tall. As far as we know we’ve been the only people to pull off a life-size cake decorated in fondant.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to a couple?
I guess from what I’ve experienced I would advise couples not to micromanage all their vendors. If you’ve chosen a well-recommended, reputable vendor, give them some basic info about who you are and what basic theme or style you’re going for and let the professionals do the rest. As cake artists we’re visual people so we really love it when couples bring in their inspiration from all different places, such as invites, dresses, wallpaper, headbands, fabric, plates etc. and then let us design the cake. This approach is way more fun than someone bring in one picture of one cake and saying “I want THAT one.” We can make THAT one but it would be much more appropriate to not copy someone else’s cake and have a custom creation created for your special day. Giving creative vendors such as florists and cake makers lots of rope, creatively speaking, usually yields great results because creative people are creative all day, everyday and chances are they have lots of ideas a brewin’ all the time and are itching at the opportunity to actually apply their ideas at a real event/wedding!
Check out more of Amanda and her team’s incredible, edible art at www.oakleafcakes.com
The Swank Team