KINGMAN - When Rae Plumley took her first baking class in 2004, she never guessed she was about to discover her life's true calling.
"Believe it or not, for the last 25 years I've been a firefighter and a fire inspector, prior to last June," Plumley said. "I actually got started on cakes as a hobby, and came to find out I was a lot more creative than I thought."
Today, Plumley is the proprietress of Cakes By Rae, a custom cake business where her motto is, "We can re-create anything out of cake!"
"And I mean anything," Plumley said. "I can do any cake to serve any amount of people."
Plumley's passion is custom 3-D cakes, which combine her technical skill in the kitchen with the artistic sensibilities of a sculptor and painter. Her first attempt at such a cake was a recreation of Lightning McQueen, the main character from Pixar's animated film "Cars," for her grandson, Toby. With molded chocolate for wheels and decals made from edible inks printed to edible paper, the car looked so much like the original that Toby was briefly fooled into thinking it was a toy.
"He tried to take the car off the cake and play with it, but it was all cake," Plumley said.
Since then, Plumley has made cakes that resemble a floral arrangement complete with a basket "weave" in the icing, a spiraling mountain path leading up to a cabin, even a vintage record player complete with edible chocolate records.
"My friend ordered this record player cake for her wedding around Halloween, and she's still getting comments on it," Plumley said. "That's what I aim for. If you want a cake that you're going to remember the rest of your life, that's what I'm going to give you."
Plumley said she goes out of her way to make cakes as personalized as possible, preferring to work together with clients in their own homes to make sure she knows exactly what they're looking for before she begins baking.
"I like to find out a little about my people," she said. "I spend anywhere from eight, to 16, to 24 hours on a cake."
In the case of her friend's record player cake, Plumley spent hours molding the chocolate records and adding the little touches that made the cake so distinctive, such as the miniature Snickers bars used to form the knobs. In fact, the stick used for the record player's arm is the only part of the cake that's not edible.
"I told her to give me her top-10 favorite songs, and then I made records and put all the titles of the songs on the records," Plumley said. But when the couple couldn't decide on a single favorite song, Plumley took a bit of artistic license, writing, "Just for the record, I love you" on the final record.
"It's almost like putting a model together," she said.
"There're very few things I can't do. There's times that I thought otherwise, and I surprised myself."
When she's not putting a cake together for a client, Plumley spends much of her time researching, collecting any cake-based publication she can get her hands on, whether it's a book on how to render popular cartoon characters in frosting, a trade magazine detailing the latest popular trends, or an issue of Good Housekeeping with a cake on the front cover. In fact, Plumley has had several of her own designs featured in one trade publication, "Mailbox News."
"I get any books I can, anything that has to do with cakes," Plumley said. "Any book I get helps me find ideas."
Plumley currently runs her business out of her home on Schaffer Ave., just north of the Kingman city limits. She's currently seeking a rezone for her property that will allow her to expand her business and build a storefront.
"I can't wait to get the shop built. I'm going to be able to do so much more," she said. "I plan on getting into other things, too - some of the other pastry stuff."
For now, however, Plumley is content to let the word of mouth spread and keep the orders coming in. By her own account, she hasn't had a dissatisfied customer yet, and cake is one business that virtually guarantees the customer will keep coming back.
"Birthdays don't go away, anniversaries don't go away, and everyone always likes a little something sweet," Plumley said.
Plumley charges $2 per serving for traditional cakes or $3 per serving for 3-D cakes, and also provides a virtually limitless range of flavoring and filling options.
For more information or to place an order, call (928) 757-1902. Advance notice is encouraged, especially for more complex orders.