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Making confections is a piece of cake for decorator

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John Tlumacki/Globe Staff Photo

Confectionery designer Michelle Ryan decorates cake at her Lexington shop.

Everybody loves Elmo, right? Not when you’re icing the furry red monster onto a child’s birthday cake “for the nine thousandth time,” said confectionery designer Michelle Ryan of Cake, a Lexington custom bakery shop. And Mickey? “If I never saw Mickey Mouse again, it wouldn’t be too soon,” said Ryan. “But what are you going to do – he’s had a resurgence.”

But though there are certain characters and themes that give Ryan a certain decorating fatigue, she prides herself, in the end, of always delivering a lovely cake. “A beautiful cake is universal; everyone knows it when they see it,” said Ryan, 55, who has worked for over a decade and a half as a cake decorator for top specialty cake shops in the Boston area before finally opening up Cake last year.

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It’s slow season now for Cake, with Ryan and her staff of three decorators fielding 35-40 cakes orders a week, but come June – and wedding and graduation time – and the pace will double to 80 or more cakes a week. Just last week, she was intently creating a Mickey Mouse sculpture for a birthday party; a high-heel shoe cake with 50 matching cupcakes; a three-tier sweet sixteen cake in bright colors and fun designs, and a groom cake featuring a zombie chasing a bride.

“The larger the cake, the more time it takes to make,” said Ryan, who will spend almost 10 hours decorating the zombie cake, which will include molding 9-inch characters out of chocolate to stand on top of the cake, and two to three hours to make the base of the cake.

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“I’ll work on it front start to finish, since I don’t like to have 12 different things going on at once – there’s too much possibility of forgetting about something.”

Q: You made the cake for the movies The Pink Panther 2 and Ghost of Girlfriends Past. How did this come about?

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A: I was working at another shop at the time when the prop master for Pink Panther 2 happened to be having coffee next door and came by and saw me working on a cake. She asked for five Eiffel tower cakes, six feet tall, without saying who she was. I looked at her like she was crazy. “This woman has no clue what she’s asking for.” They ended up using a different kind of cake, but I was up a good many nights, all night long, making them. My name got passed along and I also made the giant five-tier wedding cake for Ghost of Girlfriends Past. We made that one seven times; every time the actor fell into it, we had to make another one.

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Q: What are the latest trends in cake decorating?

A: Nut, gluten, and dairy free are all a sign of the times. But we haven’t been able to create a good sugar free cake, especially the icing, and I refuse to send out a cake that doesn’t taste good. Cupcakes are huge now; one out of every four wedding cakes that we make now are cupcake wedding cakes, where the entire cake is made of stacked cupcakes.

Q: What do you think of the cake competitions on the Food Network shows, which include mechanical and rotating cakes, among other things?

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A: I’m not capable of making anything rotate or move. We do get into structural things, such as a five-foot giraffe head that I recently made. That was a pain to try to move. But there’s a lot going on out there that’s less cake and more structure. You can eat every bit of the cake that I make. But rotating is fun.

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