An interview with a cake decorator

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Toni Belanger has found her bliss, and it's covered in icing. Her bakery, the Ooey Gooey Bake Shop, celebrated its first anniversary April 1 after a challenging year. Not only did a couple of punks burglarize the shop last fall (don't worry, they stole the cash register but forgot the cash), the economy has forced her to lay off 70 percent of her staff and her health has had her in and out of doctor's offices and on an operating table. But, one year in, she's delighted with her staff — comprised of her sister, Tracey, a former Emeril Lagasse baker, Jessica Garon, and two teens who fill in on weekends — and excited about her future prospects for dough.

Creative Loafing: How is it that you own a bakery and you're so thin?

Toni Belanger: The day after Thanksgiving, I had to have my gallbladder removed. Before that I had a tough time eating and my stomach hurt all the time. Now I can eat anything I want. I love the BLT salad from Firebirds; I must eat that 2-3 times per week. I also love our Magic Cookie Bars — they're super sweet. I still can't seem to gain weight, though.

Have you always been a foodie?

No. When I first started Ooey Gooey, out of my home, I didn’t know how to decorate a cake. I could make a box cake with icing and sprinkles look like the most hideous cake you’ve ever seen in your life. I dropped out of Johnson and Wales and hired one of my classmates. That was my training period. We wore out two brand-new ovens baking for neighbors and local schools. My husband, Ted, made the cheesecakes; no one else could. Now I can decorate elaborate wedding cakes, and I love it.

What have you learned during your first year as a small business owner?

To listen to my customers. They come in with their own recipe ideas. Surprisingly, many of them are from New York. They say Charlotte doesn't have enough bakeries. So, on Mother's Day weekend we're closing the shop and I'm taking Tracey and Jessica to New York City for the Bridal Expo. We're going to scope out the bakeries while we're up there and try to find out what our customers are talking about.

Ooey Gooey Bake Shop is located at 10210 Couloak Drive. You can reach them at 704-394-9926.

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