Some people think they have a sweet job, but Kyleen Kiger-Smith literally does have one. The owner of Fairy Dust Cakes is often up to her elbows in cake flour and frosting as she turns out high-end cakes for weddings. Her name and face – and of course, her cakes – may be familiar now due to her appearances on the Food Network and in national magazines and local news stories, but her business started out modestly.
Kyleen, owner of Fairy Dust Cakes, and her father, Greg Kiger, are at their new location with some of the dummy cakes used for display in the shop. The court jester is from the cake they made for The Food Network Extreme Cake Challenge.
After taking her first cake class in 1989, Kyleen made cakes first as a hobby and then as a weekend job to help make ends meet, and then worked for and managed local bakeries. She came to realize her passion for baking was driving her to open her own business. In 2005, she started Fairy Dust Cakes in her home, and in 2006 her dad started working with her, using his artist’s skills to sculpt three dimensional elements for the cakes she made. Greg Kiger is a professional artist, retired from The Advocate newspaper where he served as their head illustrator. Greg joined Kyleen part time which allows him to continue his post-retirement freelance painting. The father-daughter team enjoyed their collaboration, but even after adding on to Kyleen’s house they still needed more space to meet with customers and a place away from the distractions a home business often entails. She rented space in Watson in 2008, and over the next couple years Kyleen and Greg honed their cake-making craft to the point they were comfortable entering cake-decorating competitions in Baton Rouge. Then the Food Network came
Fairy Dust Cakes earns national recognition
The Livingston Business Journal
Posted on Sep 5, 2014 in Business, Business & Community News, Business Spotlight,rss
calling. After passing an interview, questionnaire and video audition, Fairy Dust Cakes was invited to appear in the nationally-televised Extreme Cake Challenge. They closed their Watson shop, packed and traveled to Denver in October 2010 to tape the show. They were up against three other professional cake decorators who were challenged to create a cake that was representative of Mardi Gras. The program aired in March 2011; their huge cake depicting a two-story French Quarter row house in the center of a king cake and topped with a bass drum with a depiction of a second-line parade, topped with a crown which was topped with a court jester, came in third. “It was a fast-paced stressful yet enjoyable experience unlike anything we have ever done. We couldn’t tell anyone anything about it other than that we had participated in the Challenge – not where we placed, the theme, what our cake looked like and not even what color jackets we wore for taping. We threw a big party the night the episode aired, and everyone had to wait until then to find out the results.” This groom’s cake featured an LSU cooler with beer bottles on ice and a pot of boiled crawfish, corn and potatoes, all made out of cake and various confectioneries. Kyleen also received an offer to appear on The Next Great Baker, hosted by Buddy Valastro, the star of his own reality series, Cake Boss, but they gave her only two weeks’ notice, during Christmas season, a period when she had bridal shows and weddings on the books, plus her second son to
join the Marines was graduating from boot camp, so she declined. Father and daughter took some time off to decompress and plan their next move; they soon decided they were ready to open up shop again, this time in a small strip mall on Florida Blvd. in Denham Springs. Kyleen and Greg usually have one or two assistants, but she and Greg remain the guiding hands in all their creations. “We do things that other bakeries don’t do, and that takes time.” Kyleen believes her creative talent was passed down to her from her mother, the late JoAnne Stafford Kiger, who loved
to bake cakes and cookies, and, of course, from her father. Fairy Dust Cakes specializes in wedding cakes. This one is adorned with hundreds of roses made of sugar. Greg is a sugar artist who uses his talent and techniques to manipulate various forms of sugar to create figures of people and animals, fanciful items such as carousels and castles, and items that defy belief that they are made of sugar, such as realistic-looking glass bottles or a boiling pot of crawfish complete with corn and potatoes. But all are actually hand-crafted from sugar in the form of modeling chocolate, fondant or other forms. One of the tricks of the trade include using either confectioners glaze or vegetable oil to make items look wet or shiny. One of their first place honors was garnered in a competition in Baton Rouge for a multi-level cake that incorporated a confectionary reel of movie film with figures of Gene Kelly swinging on a lamppost, Marilyn Monroe in a red gown and John Wayne in his 10-gallon cowboy hat. “Our cakes are almost entirely edible,” Greg revealed, “and everything you see on the outside is 100 percent edible. Sometimes if we’re creating a cake which defies gravity, we have to create an internal support using PVC pipe, styrofoam or other materials to keep the cake from falling apart. And if any part of the cake display moves, we have to include a small motor, such as from a clock, to make it work.” He added, “No one taught me how to do this; I learned through trial and error.” Greg is now considered a Sugar Artist and Kyleen a Master Baker and Master Sugar Artist with the Bakers Retail Association of America. They’re involved in teaching, testing, demonstrations and judging in Louisiana and other states. “We don’t compete much anymore,” Kyleen explained, “because once you become a judge it limits where you can compete.” For an upcoming masters’ competition in Austin, Texas, in February 2015, however, she will compete in one category, judge another, teach two classes and give a demonstration. The father-daughter team also gets called upon to create cakes to appear in some of the many movies being filmed in Louisiana these days. For movies, even bakers are required to sign a multi-page confidentiality contract prohibiting them from divulging anything about the movie before it’s released, including the simple fact that they made a cake to be in the movie. Sometimes they are given on-screen credit for their services and sometimes not. They have cakes which apear in two films in production locally right now … but can’t say which ones. Fairy Dust Cakes have been featured in spreads in national magazines, including Martha Stewart, Modern Bride, The Knot, and
Town & Country’s wedding issue. They also often make dummy cakes for brochures and other advertising and for displays in their shop. Although the business had previously sold an assortment of other bakery items, Kyleen came to the conclusion that she wanted to dedicate her time and talent exclusively to the more creative high-end cakes. So don’t call Fairy Dust Cakes for cupcakes, cookies or ordinary birthday cakes, but DO call them for a one-of-a-kind original creation with features that will make people ooh and ahh. The appearance is a very important factor, but the taste is the other part of the equation. Kyleen bakes the cakes the day of or day before, never several days in advance, and never freezes them. They offer dozens of flavors for the cakes, fillings and frostings.
Their cake prices are based on the time it takes to create each one, and not on its size, so expect it to be original. Because of their popularity, many customers book their Fairy Dust cake dates a year in advance. Kyleen noted that they don’t use delivery people, and said, “We deliver the cakes ourselves because the cakes are delicate and the driver has to take great care, plus sometimes a cake has to be put together or touch-ups made onsite.” They deliver only in southeast Louisiana; any further away, the client has to come get it themselves. A client once wanted two birthday cakes for a party in Shreveport, so they sent a helicopter to Baton Rouge to fetch them. Fairy Dust Cakes just moved a little further down Florida Blvd. close to the Amite River. They’re still getting settled in the red house they bought that previously was the location of Salassi Jewelry. “I feel like this is our last stop; it feels like home,” Kyleen said. “I like that it is an older house with character, and we have a nice area where we can sit down with our customers and show them examples of our work, and still have plenty of space in the back for baking and decorating.” Their cake orders are taken in person by appointment only. Kyleen disclosed, “We like to have uninterrupted personal time with each client, so we don’t stop to take phone calls during consultations. If you call and it goes to voicemail, we may be with a client or lifting fondant before it becomes unmanageable. If you leave your phone number, I’ll call back.” Their formula for great cakes is working, and their popularity and reputation for the unusual keeps growing. Their website gets over 4,000 hits every day, and Kyleen gets email requests daily for their autographed photographs and business cards. She answers all emails, texts and phone calls herself. She recently had someone ask her about organizing a Fairy Dust Cakes fan club; it’s in the works!