Let Them Eat Cake
In a house on a mountainside in Tioga County is a darling little pink and white kitchen known as Lyssa’s Bakery.
There, nineteen-year-old Alyssa Cameron stirs up some sweet stuff. From fondant to buttercream, vanilla to red velvet, cupcakes to five-tiered creations, the oh-that’s-just-perfect wedding cake you envision for your once-in-a-lifetime day is the one Alyssa will make for you.
“I love to be a part of the special day,” says Alyssa. “I always wanted to do something with weddings.” In fact, she confesses, being a wedding dress model is on her bucket list. Given what she’s accomplished so far, it would not be surprising to see her on the runway at some point.
Alyssa’s professional baking career began as a challenge from her dad. The family often enjoyed brunch at Lamb’s Creek Food and Spirits, a Mansfield-area eatery, and they especially enjoyed the Oreo truffles. Really, really enjoyed the Oreo truffles. When Alyssa was thirteen, her mom, Jean, had signed her up for a Wilton cake decorating class, so she had learned the basics and was building on those skills when her dad suggested that if she could recreate those Oreo truffles at home, he would transform a room in their house into her bakery space.
It was, as they say, a piece of cake, at least on Alyssa’s part. The family’s own kitchen was under renovation, Jean recalls, so her pine cupboards, the stove, and the refrigerator found a new home and a repurposed life in Lyssa’s Bakery.
“I thought pink and white would be a pretty bakery,” says Alyssa, of her paint job, and she’s right about that.
She made Christmas cookies at first, and worked with her mom, who was also making cakes. Then, with the help of Facebook, “it kind of took off,” Alyssa says. She still makes cookies, and cakes for other occasions (like Sweet 16 parties for her friends), but these days, after recently celebrating four years as a licensed baker—a process that includes the requisite kitchen inspections and water testing—it’s the wedding cake business that seems to be keeping her busiest. It was just in 2016 that she began focusing on wedding cakes; by 2017 she had almost twenty weddings under her apron.
“Weekends are crazy!” she laughs, her enthusiasm infectious.
But not the clients. The brides and grooms she’s created cakes for so far have been “so easy” to work with. They come in with ideas and then “I kind of like to put my own touch on each and every one,” Alyssa says. “I like to be creative.” And creative she is. Her cakes—which can be up to five tiers (a cake that size makes 162 servings, she says, so for bigger weddings “a lot of people do cupcakes, too”)—are made from scratch and come in all kinds of flavors. She ticks o some of the most popular: vanilla, vanilla with raspberry filling, red velvet, chocolate, and chocolate with chocolate ganache filling. The groom is often the one who decides on the flavor, she notes. The frosting can be buttercream or fondant (she explains that a fondant frosting gives a smoother, sharper, shinier finish than buttercream). Both can be tinted. Buttercream is made to be slathered on, swirled like a seashell’s whorls, and is a bit heartier than fragile fondant when it comes to transporting. Fondant itself can be sculpted into all kinds of fun shapes, and Alyssa has used it to make animals, to give a cake the appearance of birch bark, and to carry out the bride and groom’s wedding theme of game boards (think Scrabble tiles).
“We have a lot of fun with the customers,” Alyssa says, and notes that while her age may have been an issue at first, it doesn’t seem to be so much any more. “People say ‘I trust you’ and ‘do what you want.’ They sometimes ask ‘How old are you?’ and that’s pretty funny.”
Lyssa’s Bakery clients are local and regional—they come from Williamsport, Elmira, Bloomsburg, Tioga and Potter counties, and, once, from Alaska. Alaska? Alyssa and her mom chuckle about that one as Gaines (Gaines, Pennsylvania, that is) was the destination wedding venue for that particular couple. A cake-delivering adventure brought a laugh as well. There happened to be two weddings at neighboring venues and the folks at the first celebration they drove up to said thanks but no thanks, they already had a cake. The second group of wedding revelers was more receptive and, yes, it was their cake. Mission accomplished. Alyssa recalls that a cake delivery to an Elmira venue required that she produce her license before she was allowed to enter the facility. She didn’t mind.
“It’s all about food safety,” she says, adding that could be compromised “if you’re just ordering from a random person.”
As for idea help, Alyssa is pretty sure where to get heaping servings of that. She has three older brothers; two of whom are “my Google” she laughs, and the third is always happy to be the one who taste-tests a new creation or confirms the quality of an old favorite.
“They all help in their own ways,” says Jean with a grin, adding that her own role as Alyssa’s mentor, assistant, and teacher—Alyssa was home-schooled—has diminished over the past four years. “I don’t have to help her with anything anymore except the dishes.”
To schedule a cake or other confection consultation with Lyssa’s Bakery, find the business on Facebook or call (570) 439-8190.