In The Press
Small Business Profile
Company takes cakes to another Layer
By Danielle Birkin
Darlene Davidson believes life is delicious, a credo that dribbles as smoothly as chocolate syrup into her business endeavors.
Davidson is the owner and sole employee of Cakes on the Move, a 13-year-old company that serves up specialty cakes and edible centerpieces, and also provides floral arrangements. Although Davidson’s passion for her profession is tangible, she admitted that serendipity precipitated her original foray into the cake-decorating business.
“In the late 1980s, I went to work at Smith’s in the bakery 20 hours a week — just a kick-around job — and everybody got sick around the holidays so the store manager asked me to stay and the cake decorator taught me how to decorate cakes and do the production work, so I sort of got led gently by the hand into the business,” said Davidson, a 40-year Southern Nevada resident and former housewife.
“After people got well, they wanted to put me in as a cake decorator but it was full-time. I didn’t really want to, but I went ahead and took it. Then my children got very sick, and so I had to stay at home with them. But some of the girls on the counter at Smith’s were giving out my phone number to customers because they would come in and ask for me to decorate their cake and no one else. When people started calling me at home I was floored,” she said.
Davidson’s husband recognized his wife’s passion — and proficiency — for cake decorating and suggested she open her own business. With a ready-made clientele already clamoring for her services, Davidson rounded up $135 and purchased some basic ingredients and two pans. Providence soon provided a name for the new business enterprise.
“I was driving on the freeway delivering my first wedding cake and people were beeping at me and giving me the finger because I was going too slowly,” said Davidson, who bakes her creations in the kitchen at the Las Vegas National Golf Course on East Desert Inn Road and also has a Henderson office. “But they had no idea why. I have a friend who’s an artist and I said, ‘Before I get killed, paint something on the truck that will allow people to understand the treasures I’m carrying,’ and she came up with ‘Caution: Cakes on the Move’ and that birthed my name.”
The company originally provided wedding and birthday cakes but has since branched out to include cakes for other occasions, such as bachelor and bachelorette parties, baby showers and even funeral wakes. A half-sheet cake starts at $75, while wedding cakes start at $186.
Davidson offers six kinds of cake — chocolate, white, cheesecake, a specialty line called Suzie Q, banana split and half white-half chocolate — and an array of fillings: apricot, white Bavarian cream, lemon, pineapple, raspberry and strawberry. Specialty fillings are also available and include amaretto mousse, cherry brandy, fresh kiwi, fresh strawberry, German chocolate, Hawaiian delight, Kahlua mousse, mocha and orange brandy, among others. There are two kinds of frosting available: a white nondairy whip cream icing and a heavier butter cream icing that can be colored. Fresh flowers are included on all cakes, which Davidson personally delivers free of charge.
“I don’t let anybody mess with my cakes,” she said, adding that she also dabbles in petit fours, cookies and fancy tarts. But cakes are her bread and butter, and she takes her sweet concoctions quite seriously. “Each wedding is like it’s my own personal child, my baby, and I treat it that way, with a lot of integrity and honor to the bride, because the bride only gets one shot at this,” she said, adding that she even gets calls from out-of-state couples getting married in Las Vegas. “When I’m booked for that day I turn business away. If I can’t handle it personally I don’t take it on.” Her dedication pays off, as evidenced by her enthusiastic clients.
This includes Lake Mead Cruises, a popular venue for weddings. “I’ve been here for nine years and Darlene has done our wedding cakes since (then) and she does a beautiful job — I’ve never had a bride come back and say anything except positive,” said Ginny Gottfredson, sales manager, adding that Lake Mead Cruises offers wedding packages that include Davidson’s cakes. “She’s caring about the creation and she treats the cakes like children and loves each and every one.
The cakes are absolutely stunning and she does a lot of things with fresh flowers, which I think is better than piles of frosting. She’s also very caring about dealing with the brides, which is certainly appreciated.” Gottfredson went on to laud Davidson for her professionalism. “Darlene is always extremely professional in dealing with me and has become a friend over the years, and I appreciate that,” she said. “When you find a vendor that does a good job for you it’s important that they know that — a pat on the back goes a long way.” Davidson has also been working with Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City for more than four months, providing cakes for weddings and other events at the facility, according to Robin Sutherland, special events coordinator. “We had a special event for a football team, and she donated the cake to the team and everybody was freaking out about it, so we actually tried a piece and loved it, so we got her name and number and called her,” Sutherland said. “She brought some things in for us to sample: a huge cheesecake — it was the best cheesecake I think I’ve ever had — and these little fruit tarts. What we’d like to do ultimately is have her desserts on the menu in the restaurant.” Sutherland said Davidson is reliable, responsive and punctual in her business dealings with the golf club. “She’s very professional and I highly recommend her,” she said. “It’s also nice to be able to deal directly with the person who’s doing all the work, instead of a big company where you don’t know who’s fixing what you’re eating.”
Meg Patrick, who recently called upon Davidson to create four cakes — one half sheet and three rounds — for a triple wedding she coordinated, is also an enthusiastic advocate of the company. “I was unbelievably impressed,” said Patrick, owner of Poker, Etc. and The Poker Academy, where the trio of couples exchanged vows. “I gave her free will to come up with cakes that were very important to three brides, and her designs were gorgeous. She was right on time — never missed a beat–and we had a fantastic wedding because of the cakes.” Patrick said she discovered Cakes on the Move in the telephone book, admitting that the name of the company originally caught her eye. “I loved the name of her business because I’m always on the move,” she said, adding that delivery and set-up, which are included in the price, was also appealing. “I would recommend her in a heartbeat to anybody who doesn’t have any clue what they want to do for their wedding because she’s a genius at figuring that out — she’s a cake artist.”
So how do Davidson’s creations compare with cakes produced at traditional grocery store bakeries? “They get these slabs of cake that come in frozen from the factory and we as decorators cut them,” Davidson said, adding that the slabs are often stacked up, which smashes the cake granules. “The ovens they use have blowers, which dry out the cakes, and they use junk as far as ingredients go, so there’s a difference in taste. I just use fresh ingredients and bake it from scratch at midnight so it can cool to be decorated. You go into some bakeries and the stuff that’s there has a shelf life of four days.” Davidson also provides a special discounted service for her wedding clients. “I encourage my girls to eat every bit of their wedding cake, and when I first interview them I ask that their husbands call me a couple of weeks before their first anniversary and I always ask what restaurant he’s taking his lovely wife to,” she said. “Then I charge $30 for a $62 cake and deliver it to the restaurant.
A lot of people who get married here come back for their anniversaries and it’s just wonderful to watch all this take place. My guys have gotten so creative.” She provides anniversary cakes each year for her wedding clients. As for obstacles to running Cakes on the Move, Davidson said she has yet to encounter any. “I don’t have any challenges because it’s my belief system to always look on the positive side of anything you would label a challenge,” she said. “I’ve had people call me and say ‘this may be a problem’ but we don’t have problems here, only solutions, and I mean that from my heart.”
That belief is closely related to the principle she credits for her success. “I’m always looking for the deliciousness of life in general,” she said. “I always have a good time and I think that leads into the way things taste. If somebody is a chef at a restaurant and he’s had a fight with his wife and he goes to work, that bleeds into what he’s preparing. I do energy work (Davidson has another business, www.soulawareness.com), so I clear away negative energy and really understand the electrical flow of positive and negative energy.” As for the future of Cakes on the Move, “I leave that wide open,” she said. “I’m sure that I’ll be guided just as I have been all along and I’m open to new ideas and new suggestions.”
09/22/05 In Business LV (Article is no longer available on-line)