By Joel Hall
The first time La'Meeka Edwards, a local pastry chef, tasted one of LaTerra Weston's 'crownies' (Weston's take on the brownie), it took her back to her childhood and the bakery in the basement level of the old Rich's department store in downtown Atlanta.
"It was a special treat to go down there," said Edwards. "You only got to go down there if you were good in the store that day. When I taste her brownies, it takes me back to the old Rich's bakery brownies, but better," said Edwards.
About two years ago, Edwards, who spends her free time baking and designing cakes, and Weston, who spends her free time making cakes, candies, pies, cookies, brownies, and party favors, were introduced to each other by a mutual customer.
Four months ago, the two decided to combine their part-time hobbies into a full-time business and opened The Bakery Shop in Forest Park.
The Bakery Shop itself is composed of two businesses: Cakes by La'Meeka Custom Cake Designs, operated by Edwards, and Tasty Treats Bakery, operated by Weston. Each has crafted her own niche, with Edwards specializing in intricately designed wedding cakes, and Weston specializing in delectable desserts.
Prior to baking full-time, Weston was an administrative assistant in a government printing business. About nine years ago, she became interested in baking.
"My mother encouraged me a lot," said Weston. "I was always trying to take some of her recipes and make them taste the way I wanted them to taste."
Weston said she eventually began experimenting on her mother's recipes, coming up with new creations of her own. Eventually, she came up with such items as "Orange Blossom Cake" -- a sweet cake made with orange marmalade and cream cheese, or white butter cream icing; "Lemon Cooler Cake," -- a cake made with Mike's Hard Lemonade, lemon curd, and cream cheese icing; and her signature item, the "crownie," which Weston says "is so good, it deserves a crown."
Eventually Weston, began making even more unique items, including edible business cards made of chocolate.
"The fact that I do personalizations with no limitations, that helps a lot, and I get a lot of business because of that," said Weston.
Edwards, an electronics and computer technician, has made pound cakes for special occasions for more than 20 years. When her husband of five years became ill from surgery shortly after their wedding and had to quit his job, a friend suggested that Edwards sell her cakes to supplement their income.
"If you had told me six years ago that I would be making wedding cakes and owning my own business, I would have told you that you are a liar," said Edwards. After selling her cakes for some time, another friend suggested Edwards take a cake decorating class.
Eventually, she trained in the confectionery arts under Nicholas Lodge -- a Food Network judge and a major participant of the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show. Bronwen Weber, another notable pastry chef who makes appearances on Food Network, also was one of her mentors.
After graduating from the International School of Confectionery and Sugar Arts in Norcross, and completing certification in the Wilton Method of Cake Decorating, Edwards began making her own signature cakes.
Edward's specialty is the "Pillow Cake," a multi-layered cake, in which the layers resemble satin pillows. Her other, more inventive cake designs include a birthday cake with a three-dimensional "Dora the Explorer." She also makes a wedding cake with two Jack Daniel's bottles designed to look like a bride and a groom, and a cake made for a dee-jay crafted to look like a turntable with an equalizer.
"I can pretty much look at something and re-create it in cake," said Edwards. "It's a wonderful outlet."
While Edwards and Weston operate their business by order only, the word has been getting around. Forest Park City Hall has become one of their regular customers.
"We have 13 ladies working back here in city hall and we have a lot of different functions," said Carolyn Pearson, a payroll clerk in the city's finance department. She said the cakes and desserts in [a local] supermarket are of "no comparison."
"It's made to your specifications, especially for you and that makes it nice," said Pearson. "We are trying to get new growth and new businesses here ... this is a nice little addition."
For more information, go to www.cakesbylameeka.com or www.tastytreatsbakery.com.