For Lauren Kitchens, the first seed of what would become a thriving business was a childhood fascination with piping bags used by the pastry chefs on channel 13. Kitchens made a bundt cake for a friend her senior year of high school and immediately connected to the pride of creating something that delighted her friend, even if, by her own admission, the cake wasn’t very good. Throughout college, she continued making cakes.
“I couldn’t stop making cakes,” she says. “It’s like I was bitten.”
Kitchens baked all kinds of cakes and handed them out to her classmates. Through word of mouth, she started getting paid to make cakes, even wedding cakes.
After college, Kitchens rented her parents’ kitchen for $200 a month while working part-time at a bakery. Finally, in 2002, Fancy Cakes by Lauren opened its doors, and Kitchens was thrust into the wedding industry.
“This is the only event (wedding season) that happens consistently throughout the year,” she says. “This is the only place where I can make large-scale cakes on a constant basis. So I was like, OK, I’m in the wedding industry.”
In 2008, Kitchens was asked to appear on Food Network Challenge, the first televised cake-baking competition. She was reluctant at first, doubting her skills, but she won multiple episodes of the show.
“Nothing changes your art form like competing. Nothing,” she says. “Because you want to be better than the person next to you. You want to be better than the cake you brought last time.”
The cakes she made on Food Network Challenge were extravagant and creative. Her most notable one was a replica of all the judges as muppets. Cakes like these changed the demands of her clients.
During the first decade of her business, groom’s cakes were all chocolate and strawberries, Kitchens says. But now, she creates all kinds of over-the-top, realistic cakes, everything from dogs to sports stadiums.
“Making these groom’s cakes is the thing that sets me apart,” Kitchens says. She even encourages brides to plan the groom’s cake as a surprise.
Her customers include high-profile clients, like Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton. Their five-tier wedding cake was inspired by the one Stefani’s parents had at their ceremony.
After people began gathering again in 2021, her business more than doubled. Now, Fancy Cakes has over 1,000 clients a year. 2023 is already being booked, and weddings are getting bigger, she says.
“If I was an artist first, I would have caved under that kind of pressure,” she says.
While Kitchens has a team of four bakers, it still isn’t enough. She’s had to turn down clients simply because there’s not enough space or personnel to take on more work without sacrificing quality. Luckily, an expansion is in the works. Kitchens has purchased the space next door and will push through the wall to have more kitchen space and add a couple cake decorators. They hope to have the new kitchen running by the end of the year.
Her favorite part of the cake-baking experience is conceptualizing the finished product with clients. Working with brides isn’t easy, but it is rewarding.
“It’s an emotional purchase. If you’re not tuned in to how much stress the client feels, you’re not going to resonate,” Kitchens says. “If I could just sell and connect with my brides and my vendor teams — that is more fun for me than actually making a cake — and I love making cakes, so that’s saying a lot.”
In the planning process, Kitchens takes inspiration from wedding invitations, the dress and everything else that comes along with couples’ big days. Once, she even replicated the design from a bride’s imported Italian plateware.
“It’s just fun to see stories come together,” she says. “It doesn’t matter the budget. Everyone’s got a story. I love human connections. Instead of being the center of attention, I want you to be the center of attention.”
Fancy Cakes by Lauren
11111 N. Central Expressway 214.828.9030