“I don’t sleep much,” Maria said. “When I get an idea, I have to try it out as soon as I think of it. I get too excited, and I want to see if I can make what I see in my head.”
Maria is more of an artist than a baker. She studies and practices her craft, reading books and watching videos to learn the latest techniques. She even subscribes to cake magazines from Europe to stay abreast of the latest dessert designs and styles.
Rather than slathering frosting over a sheet cake and doodling with decorative designs, the Antioch resident designs 3D desserts, using trendy baking elements such as fondant and sugar pastes to sculpt cake toppers and other decorations.
Almost everything she puts on a cake is edible, including the large red roses on the wedding cake on display at her shop. She creates each petal with gum paste and then assembles each flower one petal at a time. It’s time consuming, but she loves it.
“It is seeing the people’s reaction that is the best part of my job,” Maria said. “I love it when kids come to pick up their birthday cake, and they just go crazy. They’re so excited to see it and want to eat it right away. The designing is fun, but there is nothing like seeing a customer’s face light up when they first see the cake.”
While her designs are impressive, the most astonishing thing about Maria’s cakes is that she’s completely self-taught. Growing up in Nicaragua, Maria watched her aunt bake cakes and dreamed of sharing her own designs. After years of practice baking cakes for family and friends, she finally decided to leave her accounting job and opened a cake shop last year.
“It was scary at first,” Maria said. “My family kept encouraging me to go for it, but I wasn’t sure. I kept thinking, ‘Well, how many of these things will I have to bake every month to get by?’”
While the shop is located on the outskirts of town, hidden away in a tiny business center, Maria’s daughter Jessenia, who runs the business side of things while mom handles the baking, said people have a way of finding out about Maria and her cakes.
“People don’t want ordinary cakes anymore,” Jessenia said. “People used to go the grocery store and pick up a cake with balloons or a rainbow and that was enough for a birthday cake, but that’s not enough anymore. They want the cake to match the theme. They want it to be like the cakes they see on TV.
“And now they have that in Brentwood. People find out about us through word of mouth. They go to an event, see one of our cakes and then they want one for their next party. Brentwood is such an amazing community. People in Brentwood love to support Brentwood businesses. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
And Maria is known for more than just cake. She also makes cookies decorated with edible photos, plus designer cupcakes injected with filling and topped with such a luscious mountain of butter cream frosting that it can be licked off like ice cream off a cone.
Desserts from Mary’s Delicacies are made to order, so customers must set up an appointment first, preferably at least two weeks in advance. For cakes, clients set up a free consultation where ideas are discussed. Inquiries can also be submitted online. Jessenia said clients shouldn’t be surprised if they receive an e-mail within five minutes after clicking send.
“My mom is always on her phone, e-mailing people back with ideas,” Jessenia said. “She’s like a little kid with a toy. She’s supposed to take Sunday off, but she goes and hides in another room to e-mail people.”
“I can’t help it,” Maria said with a smirk and a shrug. “I love what I do.”
Mary’s Delicacies is located at 2155 Elkins Way, Suite E, in Brentwood. To make an appointment, call 925-392-3306 or visit www.marysdelicacies.com.