Loving making a name for herself with custom cakes.
If you can imagine it, she can make it — and for her, it's a piece of cake.
Lisa Loving of Garden City not only bakes cakes, but creates works of art out of them ¬-- often making them look more realistic than the real thing.
In December, one of her cakes, called "Jungle Baby," was auctioned off at Russell Child Development Center's 27th Annual Fantasy Tree Festival. The cake included a zebra, lion, flamingo, monkey, snake and giraffe, but people didn't know it was cake at first. It looked so real that they thought it was made of plastic.
Loving created this masterpiece, and hundreds of others, in her own kitchen, but soon, she will be producing the goods at her soon-to-be-opened bakery, which will be called Loving's Cakes.
Loving has been baking cakes most of her life, but only recently did she become Garden City's own version of the "Cake Boss."
In December, Loving entered a cake she called, "Baby it's cold outside," in a contest put on by Service Guard Appliance Repair. People from across the country entered the contest with their own baked creations for a chance to win a free oven.
Loving was one of 10 finalists chosen by Service Guard. The 10 had to battle it out via Facebook in a competition to obtain the most votes.
Friends and family helped her by sharing the contest with their Facebook friends and family, bringing in votes from 10 different states, Australia and the United Kingdom. At the end, it came down to her and an Iowa woman's cookies, but Loving ultimately won with more than 700 votes — about 100 more than her cookie-baking rival.
"It feels like I'm running for office or something. It's really awesome," she said on the last day of the contest. "I just cannot believe the response. We are going full force with this bakery, and the oven is going to be just a God-send. It's going to be a blessing."
It seems as if the 51-year-old's destiny is unfolding before her very eyes.
"This thing has taken off really, really fast, all of a sudden. My phone, I've got messages and emails, and I love it," Loving said. "A teacher of mine, Mr. Spelker, he wrote a letter to me when I was in grade school. I saved that letter, and basically, he said for me to follow my dream and, 'You're an artist.' I never did do anything with it, but look at me now, at my age."
Loving started baking when she was a teenager in New Jersey.
"My Uncle Bart was a baker, so we used to go to work with him in his bakery, and we'd make cinnamon rolls, cakes, cookies, cupcakes and brownies," Loving said.
From that point on, she loved to bake, but until about three years ago, she only did it for family or special occasions. Then she made her first "sculpture" for her sister, Christina Roth.
"I didn't know what to get this girl for her birthday. There's nothing you can buy her, so I thought, 'I'm going to make her a cake.' So the very first cake I made on a professional level, you know, using fondant and everything like that, was a topsy-turvy cake."
After posting a photo of the cake on her Facebook page, Loving started getting requests for wedding cakes, baby shower cakes and cakes for practically every other occasion.
"It just went crazy from there," she said.
Since then, Loving has made several hundred cakes, modeled after everything from tractor trailers to guitars.
"Each cake is custom-designed. Most of the time the customer has a picture, 'I want this Mickey Mouse cake, or I want this wedding cake,' and it's like, 'OK, but I won't do it exactly the same. We're going to make it your cake. You like Mickey Mouse? Let me create you one.' Even my own cakes, I will not copy my own cakes exactly the same. There's got to be something different. That way, your cake is a one-of-a-kind," she said.
Using airbrushes, edible images, food coloring, fondant and other tools, Loving essentially sculpts cakes into Disney characters, snare drums, violins, swords and mummies, to name a few.
"Depending on the decorations, I start sometimes a month in advance," Loving said.
For some of her more mature customers, she has made cakes that resemble things like the Harley Davidson symbol, the Copenhagen chewing tobacco can and even a cake that appears to have Bud Light being poured on it.
She won't say how she makes that particular cake.
"Now that's a secret," she says and laughs. "It's magic."
With the recent uptick in cake orders, Roth helps her sister however she can.
"I bake cookies, I decorate them, I'm chief bottle washer, whatever she needs. I keep her from going crazy and chasing her tail like a puppy," Roth said, laughing.
Loving said she couldn't do any of it without her sister, or her husband, Rodney Loving.
Rodney said that not only are her cakes works of art, but they are delicious, too.
"I love the chocolate, and she makes that strawberry cake — that's to die for," he said.
She and her husband moved into his parents' old house, with the intent of converting the garage into a bakery, after they had looked all over town for a storefront. None of the properties available really jumped out at them as being the right place, until recently, when they found a vacant building on Spruce Street, between Sixth and Seventh streets.
"This place just felt right," she said.
They moved in a few weeks ago, bringing the new stove with them. In the corner of the new bakery, near the entrance, stands the family's beloved mannequin, Dobbs, who resembles a real-life elderly butler holding a tray that is sometimes filled with baked goodies.
Shortly after moving in, Loving was working some of her cake magic on a leopard-spotted cake for a baby shower, as music from her satellite radio filled the air.
"We're going to be rockin' the sweet tooth in here," she said.
She's hoping to open near the end of February or early March. She also plans to serve coffee and cinnamon rolls, out of her uncle's recipe, at the new spot. Once things settle down a bit, she plans to offer baking and decorating classes, as well. To see some of Loving's creations, visit her Facebook page, Loving's Cakes.