Baker Spotlight: Meet Jennifer Reese
Behind the Sugar: Blog Edition
Today we are excited to share our interview with the fabulous Jennifer Reese of Good Gosh Ganache in Pearland, Texas who donated a cake for Stephen who underwent treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia .
”I didn’t expect the personal and professional growth I have gained by getting involved with [Icing Smiles]. The opportunity to create a show-stopping cake for someone without having to worry about budget or keeping the design in line with a client’s specific vision was refreshing. It definitely allowed me to push myself as an artist. I also feel like the experience has allowed me to reflect on and be grateful for the things in my life that are so easily taken for granted, “Jennifer said when asked why she loves being an Icing Smiles Sugar Angel. She heard about our organization at her very first cake competition. She had a pretty good idea of our mission, but she wanted to continue practicing and working on her skillset before committing to be an actual volunteer.
After a couple years passed and she became a member of a few online cake groups she started to feel more confident in her work and decided it was time to give back. Jennifer said, “The Icing Smiles website is fantastic and made it really easy to sign up.”
When you’re a member of any cake group or if you just follow a lot of cake decorators on social media, you’ll eventually run into photos of bakers with their happy Icing Smiles recipient(s), sporting their jazzy Icing Smiles pins or patches, or proudly posting pictures of their Icing Smiles cakes. Our Sugar Angels decorate at all different skill levels. We have some that are teachers, some that have been decorating for 10+ years, and some that are just starting out; all are welcome! Jennifer said, “…at first it just seemed like the thing to do. I knew it was all for a great cause and loved the idea of being able to help brighten someone’s day when they need it most.” We’re glad Jennifer was able to jump on board because we contacted her to create a dream cake for 14 year old Stephen to celebrate his birthday.
Stephen was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on 11/16/12 at the age of ten. Unfortunately, he missed over a year of school due to his immune system being compromised by chemotherapy treatments, however, he worked really hard to keep up with school and earn good grades despite the pain he endured and the brain injury he sustained.
Last year, Stephen’s chemo treatments ended a few months before celebrating his 14th birthday. He is currently in remission and was thrilled he had the opportunity to partner with Icing Smiles that connected his family to a local baker in the community, Jennifer.
Jennifer said, “Stephen sent me a photo of two of his favorite video game characters side by side (two face style) and said he would love a cake inspired by the photo. I was at a complete loss… How do I turn this really cool photo into a cake when I know NOTHING about either of these two video games? I sketched about a dozen cakes but none of them seemed right. For a long time I had been admiring all the sculpted bust cakes other artists were creating and decided it was time to give it a try. Once I worked up the nerve to attempt one myself, the rest was ‘easy-ish’.”
So how exactly do you sculpt a bust cake to include 2 different characters? Jennifer said Stephen’s cake was carved cake from the neck down and Styrofoam from the neck up. She made this decision for several reasons; first, she had never sculpted a human head before and wanted to make sure the proportions were right, second, she knew Stephen’s family was going to have to transport the cake to his party and she didn’t want them to have to worry about transporting a fully structured cake.
Jennifer said, “I thought a lot about Stephen while I was working on his cake. What was a regular day like for him and his family? What challenges were they facing that the rest of us are completely oblivious to? How strong must this kid be to face all the difficulties of his condition on top of handling the everyday stress of being a teenager? I can only imagine… In a way, Stephen gave me as much (if not more) through this process as I gave him. Stephen and his family are wonderful, loving people.“
Stephen’s mom mentioned she knew making his dream cake would be a challenging task. She was very satisfied with the experience and the cake exceeded her expectations!
Thank you Jennifer for bringing a BIG smile to Stephen’s face! We are so excited to have you as a Sugar Angel and look forward to seeing more “smiles” from you in the future.
To view more of Jennifer Reese’s wonderful creations visit Good Gosh Ganache.