NAUGATUCK — Edward Hughes carefully places a colorful chocolate Buzz Lightyear atop a boy’s green birthday cake as his assistants pipe white frosting around the base of another cake in the works—one more cake finished in the line of about 65 Hughes, his mother, and assistants will make for the weekend.
It’s a far cry from the two-cake-per-weekend rate Hughes started out with when he opened his bakery, Edible Dreams, on Spring Street two and a half years ago.
Business is booming in this small corner of Naugatuck as word has spread about Hughes’ specialty cakes, which he forms into everything from cars to a tropical paradise.
“I like to make crazy cakes that you can’t get anywhere else in Connecticut,” Hughes said.
Last weekend, Hughes made a replica of the Lake Compounce Amusement Park’s carousel for the historic ride’s 100th anniversary. Hughes made everything from scratch, from the chocolate horse figures to the cakey canopy. The whole piece turned, played music, and lit up, just like its non-edible counterpart. As he started the project last Thursday night, Hughes predicted it would take him about 28 hours.
Most of Hughes’ cakes start out as simple square or round cakes. Then he starts carving them into their shape before covering them with fondant, a marshmallow material similar to pizza dough in consistency. Hughes said 80 percent of the cakes he makes are fondant. The material can be dyed, painted, or airbrushed with food coloring.
Hughes said his unique cakes started as a hobby, when he made a cake for his friend’s daughter’s birthday. His parents used to make wedding cakes, but Hughes wasn’t particularly interested in the subject until he saw the Food Network’s show “Ace of Cakes.” He graduated from an art school in New Haven for commercial design and illustration. Before making cakes, he never tried sculpting. He just learned through trial and error, he said.
Hughes has gotten plenty of publicity through his involvement in local charities and gold medals at the Connecticut Cake Competition. Hughes donates his time, and sweets, to the Make a Wish Foundation, Jane Doe No More, and Dreams Come True. At an upcoming Courage for Kylie fun day on the Naugatuck Green, Hughes will sponsor a build-your-own cupcake station for kids. The cake-mix company Duncan Hines has sponsored Hughes at state-wide competitions and is starting a professional line of cake mixes inspired by Hughes.
“We try to do what we can to help the community. The more you give, the more you get,” Hughes said.
Over the past couple of years, Hughes has made every cake imaginable. Looking back, he said his favorite cake was an interactive game based on the popular iPhone app, “Angry Birds.” Hughes built a cake with a sling shot to fling chocolate birds at green pigs sitting on a Rice Krispies treat tower.
For the Woodland Regional High School prom, Hughes built a cake that incorporated television screens with pictures of the senior class.
“We haven’t turned one down yet as far as difficulty,” said Hughes, who works six days a week. He said he hates turning down orders because he doesn’t want to let his customers down.
As a small business owner, Hughes said he has to work harder than big businesses.
That hard work is paying off. Hughes is so busy, he wants to open up a new 5,000 square foot space to expand his business and hire five or six more people to help. His current 900 square foot space is simply too small for all the work he wants to do.
Even though he has a solid plan, Hughes said he can’t get a small business loan to expand.
“These big corporations are killing small businesses,” he said.
Even so, Hughes said he’ll eventually save up the money to do it.
Hughes wanted to thank his team, Ashley Spinnella, Carlin Hayes, and his mother, Mary Hughes.
“Without them, this wouldn’t happen,” he said.
Hughes said he needs at least two weeks notice to order a cake, and has a price range for everybody’s budget.