VILLA PARK – When her 8-year-old twins Kyle and Emma were celebrating their first birthday, Villa Park mother Kelly Shaner ordered a fancy sheet cake from Jewel to serve at their birthday party.
“When I went to pick it up, I was in tears,” said Shaner, 36. “It was all wrong.”
After the cake disaster during her children’s first birthday party, she decided to start decorating their birthday cakes herself. It was something her mother always had done, and she knew it was something she could do, too.
The Shaner twins and Quinn, their 3-year-old little brother, always have had elaborate cakes. Sometimes Shaner would make cakes for the neighbor kids or friends in town, and people would marvel at the beautifully decorated treats.
“Everyone at the parties would say, ‘You need to do this,’ and it took off from there,” Shaner said.
About three months ago, the Facebook page Cakes by Kelly launched, marking the beginning of the cake decorating business. The page highlights the cakes Shaner’s made in the past and offers a way for interested customers to contact her.
She’s been a stay-at-home mom since quitting her job as a hair stylist when the twins were young, and operates Cakes by Kelly out of her home.
Kyle and Emma, who celebrated their birthday this week, agreed it’s fun to have a mom who can make good cakes.
“[My friends] think it’s pretty cool how she decorates it and stuff,” Kyle said.
One of his favorites is a cake Shaner decorated with a chalkboard and school supplies for Teacher Appreciation Week at North School. Emma said all of her friends know about her mom’s talent and want cakes for their parties.
“They love [the business],” Shaner said. “They wish they could help, especially Emma. She’ll just sit in the kitchen and want to help me.”
Although she considers herself a cake decorator and not a baker or pastry chef, Shaner makes every cake from scratch – always adding a bit of a secret ingredient to make them taste different.
“I don’t want my cakes to be the same as everyone else because anyone can bake a cake,” she said.
Shaner decorates her cakes freehand using the traditional supplies of icing and frosting along with fondant and other edible decorations. Everything she knows she learned herself through experimentation.
Many of her cakes end up donated to community groups, schools or friends because Shaner wants to practice but doesn’t want her family living off cake. In the coming months, she hopes to bring cakes to local churches that help homeless shelter programs.
“You don’t realize that there are people in town who need help,” she said. “It’ll be good for my kids to come with when I drop off the cakes so they can see.”
While she still is getting started, Shaner said she already has been commissioned by people outside her circle of friends and family. The full cake gallery is on her Facebook page, and word is spreading.
“I really just hope I’m known as the cake lady in Villa Park,” she said. “I really enjoy making cakes for people.”
There’s always pleasing her most important customers, too.
And after seeing what their mom can do, Emma requested a Draculaura cake, one of the characters from the Monster High doll collection, for her birthday this year. Kyle’s cake is Chicago Blackhawks themed.
“My kids mean everything to me,” Shaner said. “I want their birthdays to be perfect. It’s the best to see their faces: ‘You made that, Mom?’”