Meet Vicki Gaver, a full-time momma who turned her love of baking into a part-time career. Believe it or not, Vicki never had any formal training but rather learned about baking from her mother. She was born in Pensacola, Florida but moved around quite a bit as a child. Her father’s job as a petroleum engineer for ExxonMobil took her family abroad when she was just five-years-old. She lived in Stavanger, Norway for 5 years before transferring to Cairo, Egypt where she spent her middle school years. They later moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where she graduated from the International School of Kuala Lumpur.
Following in her older brother’s footsteps, she attended Transylvania University. She had several relatives in Kentucky and Indiana, which helped sell her on the university since her parents were still on the other side of the world.
Since Vicki and her family lived in a million different places, her mom always baked their birthday cakes.
“My mom was an elementary school teacher and has the patience of Job. She invited me into the kitchen at a very young age and let me learn in a fun way. I feel in love with the cakes,” she explains. She was particularly drawn to the artistic aspect of baking. She started decorating her family’s cakes and kept baking for fun in college.
When Vicki started her baking business, Patty Cakes, she was exclusively doing custom work.
“My clients were essentially designing their cakes and cookies in tandem with me. Sometimes they’d just give me a starting point and other times they’d be very specific about their vision,” she explains.
What makes Vicki’s creations different from other bakers is her cream cheese icing (which is, in my personal opinion, delicious). As a kid, she was super picky about icing so she was on the hunt for the perfect icing early on in her baking journey.
“I discovered the beauty of cream cheese icing in my college days and I just amped it up with more flavor and sugar on top of the traditional recipe I found. That’s what I use on everything!”
Her use of cream cheese icing changes not other the flavor of her creations but also their appearance. She explains that most cookies use royal icing and most cake makers use fondant or buttercream – all of which have very different consistencies. She also loves decorating the tops of her cakes with cookies, something that sets her PattyCakes apart from the work of other bakers.
“I love looking at every detail and nuance of what I’m making.
I like the challenge of new things.”
Her unique and colorful ideas for custom pieces always come from a theme, hobby or a story about the client. She loved getting to know people this way in the beginning but balancing her custom baking business with 3 kids and her home/farm duties became unmanageable so in the fall of 2017 she made some changes.
“With my family’s support I chose to stop receiving custom orders and re-channel my efforts,” she says. “I now do fun seasonal offerings – Derby cake sets in May have been my favorite so far!”
She currently finds her inspiration for design from anything going on in life and celebratory events happening in Kentucky. Right now, she’s obsessed with summer fruit designs (see below) but she’s prepping for fun fall and back to school kits for later this year.
In addition to her seasonal sets, Vicki also leads group classes from time to time.
“My students and clients have inspired so much of what PattyCakes is, including the idea to start a cookie class way back in 2015,” she says. She taught her first class in the spring of 2016 and it was a huge success.
“It took a lot of time to get it from an idea to an actual class because I hadn’t heard of it being done before and I couldn’t find anything online. I had to figure out a lesson plan, a supply list and a location,” she explains. After the success of the cookie workshops, she decided a cake class could be fun, too.
The best part about these classes? Everyone goes home with their own delicious creations! To attend a clinic or schedule a private one, visit her website!
Although Vicki doesn’t do custom creations at the moment, she will happily refer clients to other talented, local bakers.
Keep reading for a Q&A with Vicki below!
Do you have any advice for people who want to turn their passion into a career?
Be original. Different is wonderful! Listen to suggestions and feedback from people who love and support you. (A business mentor is wonderful, too). Believe in yourself and let growth happen at whatever pace it’s meant to but don’t be afraid to ask for help. My husband helps me A LOT with technology, accounting, licensing, etc.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
We only have so much time and energy so remember when you say yes to one person, you are saying no to another.
Do you have any tips for people who want to be good at baking but can’t seem to ever get it right?
I think baking should be fun – not stressful! Challenging, yes, but hopefully not frustrating or disappointing. If you seriously want to learn to bake, come to my clinic! I share everything I know and it’s so, so fun. I always tell mommies who want to have a cake with a personal touch to go buy a plain cake (or cupcakes), take them home and jazz it up! I suggest using a little banner, figurines of a favorite character, candy, or even live flowers.
What is your favorite part of the baking process?
In the past I would’ve said decorating is my favorite part but over time I have come to truly appreciate every step of the process. I love everything from the prep and design to sifting flowers, mixing the icing colors, photographing the cakes and seeing the reactions of clients when they pick up their orders. It is different, memorable and meaningful every single time.
Have you ever tried one of her creations? Do you have a question to ask her?
Let us know in the comments below!