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Cake decorating becomes a craft for one mother

Jen Calabria, the creator and hobbyist from Caketastic Cakes shows a Bundt pumpkin cake she decorated in a little more than an hour. Lifestyles photo by Katie Collins.

By Katie Collins


Follow Katie @Lifestyles51

PIKE COUNTY - Jen Calabria doesn’t believe a miracle is needed to decorate cakes. Instead, the founder of Caketastic Cakes, says if a person can follow directions, they can make and decorate a cake. By making their own decorations, she says they will be a part of something because she considers it to be “kind of an honor” since the cake is for a special day.

Calabria offers insight and advice to other bakers, from her kitchen where she makes online tutorials that show there will be a lot of “trial and error,” since mistakes happen and there’s no choice but to start over at times she says.

Realizing her ability

The drive to create started for Calabria seven years ago, when she realized making her own cake decorations was possible after only finding “very generic” cakes for her youngest son’s first birthday she says. Calabria, who is 43 took a class and started enhancing her skills and knowledge through a lot of practice and watching other tutorials.

To decorate, Calabria says a person must “have the desire to try” and want something more by taking the cake to the “next level.” She acknowledges, some confidence is needed to at least try, but wanting to save money helps too. By creating your own cake, Calabria says the decorator can show something more than sprinkles and “Happy Birthday” for a special occasion.

Hobbyist personalize

Calabria considers herself to be a “hobbyist” who is able to show others how to make decorations that won’t be found in a store, because they are personalized. It’s the center piece that takes the cake to a “different level” and makes the cake “more memorable” she says. If able to personalize a cake, then its “unique and special” since it can create conversation about the cake’s theme.

Using a scalpel, Jen Calabria shaped gum paste to fit the mouth of a jack-o’-lantern she made for Halloween. Calabria makes cake decorating tutorials for her YouTube channel, Caketastic Cakes and other social media apps. Lifestyles photo by Katie Collins.

With a toolbox of tools Calabria uses, there’s not a piece worth more than $15 because it’s not necessary to “break the bank” as long as the baker has the “few core things, you can make pretty much anything” she says. For instance, rather than a specific fondant cutting tool, she uses a pizza cutter that does the same thing, but is cheaper.

Caketastic Cakes is founded

Caketastic Cakes was the idea of Calabria’s father in law, since it’d allow her a chance to create and share her knowledge. The first video, she calls “embarrassing and horrible” because she used her husband’s phone and the battery died before she was done.

Thus far, with her YouTube channel having over a million views, Calabria says she wasn’t expecting to reach so many; instead she figured there’d be other hobbyists like her interested. Making the videos can be “hard,” because the time for each video varies and there’s the matter of editing that can take hours for a tutorial that’s only eight minutes long.

The feedback she receives is usually just a thumbs up or down, with most people being nice. It’s kids however, that Calabria says are true critics because of their opinions of cartoon characters.

Safety and mistakes

For safety, when sculpting the cakes, Calabria doesn’t use toothpicks or wires because it can affect the posture of the figures; instead, she’ll use lollipop sticks or dried spaghetti. If she were to make a mistake, there’s usually an easy fix because cuts can be covered or the error can be hidden by a decoration.

Calabria doesn’t consider Caketastic Cakes to be a business, because it’s a hobby, but she does invest a lot of time in making the videos and since there are some kickbacks from the ads, that covers the cost of materials needed for her hobby.


Gum paste is Calabria’s choice of modeling paste because it holds its shape and she likes sculpting. She prefers making three-dimensional characters that stand, she says, because it makes the cake “visually fun to look at.” People though, are the hardest to make because of the dimension and details for the face.

Video games and cartoon characters are what Calabria likes making, because she draws the pieces first and the details of each differs she says. But, the more detail to the character the longer it takes to make the decorations since it becomes a matter of colors and other features. The characters are based on something that already exists. Getting to decorate is enjoyable Calabria says, because she’s able to be creative and “try something different.”

With a tool in hand, Jen Calabria of Caketastic Cakes created a spider for a Bundt cake she made for Halloween. Calabria makes cake decorating tutorials for her YouTube channel, Caketastic Cakes and other social media apps. Lifestyles photo by Katie Collins.

Requests accepted

For Halloween, there was a request for making skulls, which Calabria liked she says, because it was “fun” since it had a “little more edge” and gave her the chance to be creative. When she gets special requests for specific tutorials, Calabria will later sell the decorations on eBay.

Calabria grew up baking with her mom and that, she calls a “good homey memory” because she’s now able to bake with her own children, even though they have different levels of interest in their own baking and decorating.

Everyone can decorate

Knowing she’s helping viewers decorate, that Calabria says is “rewarding” since others are learning and she appreciates seeing what they make. She wants people to realize there’s no reason to be intimidated about decorating a cake, because if able to learn something, then it’s possible to create. She says, the “only thing holding people back is desire, and confidence.”

For more information, visit https://www.caketasticcakes.com/ or search Caketastic Cakes on social media.

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