This week, we’re talking with someone who decorates cakes for a living. I (Anthony Crosby) was excited to speak with this person, for AAT, because I know her position comes with much weight. What do I mean? Well, if you think about it, every cake order that this person receives has a story of its own that is important to the person on the other side of the register. The dessert could be for a child’s first birthday, graduation, or even a wedding! These occasions are often significant events in her customers’ lives, so she must approach each order knowing it may symbolize a substantial milestone. Therefore, she can’t just show up and decorate cakes; she has to show up and genuinely care.
This week, we’re joined by Desirae Leininger. For the past few years, Desirae has worked as a cake decorator at Albertson’s. Desirae, along with her co-worker, work on an average of three hundred cakes a month, which include all the treats on display in the bakery as well as special orders; that’s a lot of frosting! Desirae honed her decorating skills over years of practice and even relied on YouTube to help teach her a thing or two. Now, she comes highly recommended by several people in the community, especially when it comes to her specialty, buttercream flowers!
Thank you for joining us this week, Desirae! How did you end up with such a “sweet” job?
“I moved to Elko in the fourth grade from Las Vegas. I graduated from Elko High School and graduated from Great Basin College. As a kid, I was always artistic and liked to do anything crafty. I started working at Albertson’s when I was still in high school as their florist. The floral department was right next to the bakery, and I knew the bakery manager. So, whenever they needed help, I would come over and they would teach me a little. After a while, I left Albertson’s and worked a couple of other jobs, but I came back after a few years because they told me there was a decorating position open, and they wanted me. I started working and have been progressing ever since.”
How long would you say it took you to become “good” at decorating cakes, Desirae?
“I would say it took me about two years. I never know what I can and can’t do until I try, and sometimes I will do something once on a cake and never know when the next time someone else will come in with a similar request so that I can try again. I think I’ve gotten a lot better, but there are things I know I need to work on. However, I’m always trying to improve.”
What’s your favorite part of being a cake decorator, Desirae?
“When a customer comes in to pick up their cake, I open the box, and they gasp saying it was exactly what they wanted! I live for that! Also, I love that I get to work on “out of the box” things; it’s never the same, every day. In the three years I’ve been at Albertson’s, no two days have been the same. It’s not mundane; I get to be creative, and it’s so fast paced!”
Is there any part of your job that can be particularly rough for you?
“My hands. I have rheumatoid arthritis in them. I was diagnosed when I was thirteen. I am medicated for it, but there are some days when they just cramp up, and they don’t move. On these days, I’ll try and work around it or run them under hot water. However, I don’t let it impact my work, and I won’t let it stop me.”
What about when it comes to working with customers, Desirae? How do you respond to them when the image they had in their heads isn’t one hundred percent translated onto a cake?
“People will come in with a request, and I’ll do my best to make it look the way it does in the picture they give me or how they describe it. People have gotten upset over how their cakes have turned out, but it’s not often. Unfortunately, some people may think we’re mind readers because they’ll have expectations about their cake that they didn’t communicate to us. That’s the hardest part of the job, trying to interpret what they see in their heads on a cake because sometimes what they’re envisioning isn’t what they’re telling us. We try to get as close as possible, and we have made mistakes that were on us. However, if something was wrong with someone’s cake, I hope they can remember that we are humans, and we were not trying to ruin their entire day or party purposely. If people come and talk to us, we’re willing to own up to our mistakes, and we’re going to ask how we can make it right. We want people’s cakes to turn out perfect; we want them to love it!”
Where would you like to take your decorating skills in the future, Desirae? Do you have any goals you’d like to achieve in our community, specifically?
“My plan is to, eventually, open my own cake decorating business. It would be a one-stop shop for party planning, flowers, cake, and catering. That’s my dream, and I would like to do something like this in Elko. I really don’t want to leave this place. Some people may talk bad about Elko, but I love it here! I know that if I moved to a big city, my business idea might excel better, but I don’t want to leave Elko. The people are fantastic. This is a real community; when the community needs to come together, it always does. I don’t ever want to lose that.”
Desirae, thank you again for talking with us! Is there anything else you’d like to share as we put the icing on this interview?
“We will try to do the best we can for every single customer. If a customer has heard negative things about us, please don’t let that be your reflection of us. Give us the opportunity to show you what we can do for you. If you have an idea for a cake, please come and share it with us, and we will do the best to make sure it’s what you like. If you don’t put your whole heart into your customers, they’re not going to put their whole hearts into you.”
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See you around, Elko!