It's a busy Friday afternoon at Michelle Ryan's bakery housed in the yellow Victorian-style home across from the Town Office Building. Ryan's husband, Steve, mans the register, while Ryan and her team work quickly in the back.
A mother, en route to her daughter's 13th birthday party, anxiously waits to see the cake she ordered for the special day — a pink- and orange-frosted delight, topped with icing creations of many of the teen's favorite things: puppies, tennis rackets, musical notes and the Eiffel Tower.
"I wanted this to be about Tessa – who she is and who she's becoming," the mother tells Steve.
Since opening in August 2009, Cake., pronounced "Cake period," has flourished as the Lexington community has discovered Ryan's talent as both a cake-maker and cake-decorator.
But the success of Cake., and its one-year anniversary, is just the "icing" for Ryan and her husband, who are living out a lifelong dream.
"We started out at full speed right out of the gate, and have gotten increasingly busy ever since," Ryan said in an e-mail. "Cake. was intended as a way to not only showcase my knowledge and talents, but also to keep my husband active and motivated in his retirement, and in doing so, fulfilling my dream of entering into a venture together as a couple."
Originally from Townsend, Mass., Ryan fell in love with cake decorating as a child. Samuel Lewis, a one-time neighbor of Ryan's who she calls her inspiration, was the first to introduce her to baking. Ryan describes a childhood of making pastries, cookies, cakes and pies with her mentor, who created the recipe book Ryan still uses as the foundation for her bakery treats.
Ryan grew from being a baking homemaker — teaching herself the different techniques of cake decorating — to cake designer for some of the top bakeries in Boston. Ryan's pieces have also been showcased in movies such as "The PinkPanther 2" and "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past."
But opening her own shop, Ryan says, has been one of the greatest challenges of her career.
"We are simply delighted to have done so well in our first year, but are also glad to have that year under our belts," Ryan admitted. "It was like learning a thousand new things at once… and that is with 35 years of experience behind me!"
Ryan says she chose Lexington as the setting for her cake shop because it's a place she has been "enamored with, always." The quaint feel of Lexington Center is mirrored in her bakery, which upon entering feels more like being in someone's home, where sweet-smelling goodies are cooking in the oven.
"I just knew from the giddy-up it's where I wanted to be," she said. "I was confident that a 'Mom-and-Pop' shop such as ours would be well received in this charming community."
On business review websites, such as yelp.com, patrons laud the shop for both the cakes and the service. "I ordered a birthday cake from Cake. for my husband this year through e-mailing the owners," reads a review from a Bedford resident. "On the day expected I went in and my cake was beautiful! I want more reasons to celebrate and buy cakes from Cake."
Others also praise Ryan's cupcakes and "mini" cupcakes, which, in addition to ordering ahead of time, can be purchased immediately at the store.
"I like cupcakes and felt as though there has been an increasing demand for good ones," Ryan offered. "I was hoping to meet that demand. The 'minis' are our response to a more 'child-friendly' cupcake."
Cake. also offers groom's cakes, wedding cupcakes, wedding cake toppers, cake fountains and cupcake tree stands. But first and foremost, cakes are still the priority at Cake.
"My favorite is, and always has been, chocolate cake with vanilla butter cream," said Ryan, who's shop specializes in cakes called Midnight Delight, Berries and Gold, Karat Topped, Red Carpet, Mocha Express and Black Tie Affair. "However the 'Minuteman' — a gold cake filled with whipped cream and topped with strawberries and vanilla butter cream — is our biggest seller."
Back in the shop on a Friday afternoon, Ryan hesitates to come out of the kitchen as her bakers are working double-time to meet the weekend's demands. Every order will be baked fresh from scratch, base-iced and decorated by 10 a.m. Saturday morning, a routine perfected over the first year in business.
"We've finally worked out the majority of the kinks," Ryan explains. "Everyone always says 'your first year is the hardest.' I now know what that means."