Crystal Carwin Lee (@crystalcarwin) loves food, so she is working her way through The Tomato’s 2013 to 2015 lists of best places to eat or drink in Edmonton. Profiles will be posted on TLG, and you can find her review of The Art of Cake on her own blog.
As I have been working my way through The Tomato‘s 2013 to 2015 lists of 100 best eats in Edmonton, I found myself visiting and tasting the offerings from the numerous restaurants on the list. However, I seldom ventured off to find the items produced by bakeries or farmers’ market vendors. So, this next place counts as a first in this profile series.
The Art of Cake (no. 85 on The Tomato‘s top 100 list in 2013) has actually been on my radar for a little over six years now. Owner and baking artist, Gloria Bednarz, is the aunt of a good friend. I first met her when my friend became engaged in 2009. Gloria made a couple of gorgeous cakes for the party. The detailing in the handmade chocolate flowers made them almost too beautiful to cut up and eat. A year later, Gloria and her partner in work and love, Guenter Hess, created for her niece the multi-tier wedding cake that has now become their signature.
Since then, five years have passed and The Art of Cake is racking up awards left, right and center. The studio’s signature cake with the petal design won the 2014 Canadian Wedding Industry Award for Best Wedding Cake Design in Alberta, and most recently, Weddingbells magazine selected one of The Art of Cake’s creations as part of a list of Canada’s Prettiest Wedding Cakes for 2015. Gloria told me that being recognized by the industry and their customers is a great feeling, adding it has reaffirmed their choices and shown them that that they’re appreciated for doing something so well.
Speaking with Gloria about how The Art of Cake came to be, she reminisced about growing up with six siblings in a small farming community and a mom who was an excellent cook. Filling themselves with fresh baked breads, homemade jam and canned chicken prepared by her mother, the family ate very well. Gloria said she suspected that her passion for the kitchen stemmed from watching her mom. When Gloria left home, she took the culinary program at NAIT, and after graduating, her first job was at a major hotel in the pastry department. Baking has been her love from that point on.
When I was introduced to Gloria, she had been operating The Art of Cake for less than two years as a made-to-order cake studio. She still held a job at another company, which was a balancing act. Ultimately, having something to call her own was always the goal though. Today, The Art of Cake is her full-time business, and while Gloria confessed that being an entrepreneur has had its challenges, she can no longer imagine an alternative. She said she doesn’t believe in setbacks, only learning curves, which become times to reassess, reflect, restructure and gain knowledge. She added that she sees that opportunities are everywhere. It’s just being open to the possibilities, whether they’re in Edmonton or New York, that is most important.
When I asked Gloria to explain what makes The Art of Cake unique, she indicated that it’s the personal touch and the amount of love that they put in to the business. This is especially true of their wedding cakes. Gloria and Guenter take the time to build a relationship with the couple, to understand what their customers are looking for on their special day and then they work to fulfill or surpass their expectations.
A large portion of their business comes from weddings. Although some months are busier than others, the wedding season really has no boundaries anymore. The Art of Cake is careful to cap off the number of wedding cakes they make per weekend. Gloria and Guenter hate to turn people away but they stand by the idea of quality over quantity. Having the opportunity to realize others’ dreams is something that really pushes the two of them to give every job their best. Knowing their limits is an essential to providing optimal service.
That service has extended past the studio to include a storefront in City Centre Mall where they sell a variety of treats — cupcakes, cookies, cakes, crullers, pastries, pie, etc. — to satisfy every sweet tooth. Quite honestly, it has been my own personal downfall to find that the shop existed downtown, where it’s all too easy for me to hop over during a coffee or lunch break. But, I digress. Gloria said that the opportunity to take over that space presented itself in December 2013. The couple took it and haven’t looked back. Before the store, they were just a small studio. Yet, she said, the additional exposure from having a physical shop in a heavily trafficked space has been incredibly beneficial.
Until the store, I had considered The Art of Cake to be somewhat of a hidden community gem. So, I was curious about how they’ve managed to grow their business. Gloria told me that word of mouth has always been the business’s greatest source of advertising. They are able to trace referrals back generations deep, having had the joy of watching families grow from birthday cakes, to wedding cakes and now to baby shower cakes.
The humble nature of this pair of artisans comes through in their creations. With that homemade quality and a sense of a more simplistic time, they’ve really hit home with that feeling of nostalgia that they’re striving for.
Gloria said she lives to enjoy every day and what she gets to do with The Art of Cake. “I have one of the best professions in the world. I make people smile,” she declared.