Michelle Scurio made her first professional wedding cake when she was 17 and still a student at Brockton High School.
It was the cake that would launch a career.
Four years later, she graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a degree in baking science and business management, an education she paid for by running her own small business making elaborate, luxury wedding cakes.
By the time she was 30 years old, Scurio had been scouted − and filmed − for an appearance as a top-notch cake-maker on the Food Network’s popular “Holiday Wars.”
Scurio has had a part-time job since she was 13 years old; has spent almost every weekend of her adult life making cakes; and spends all the free time she has baking, sculpting and designing unique, edible creations that are truly works of art.
Her goal? To turn her home-based baking business, Cake Monstah, “into an empire.”
“You just have to fake it until you make it. You are your biggest fan, and you have to keep pushing and keep trying,” Scurio said. “There are people who are just as talented as I am who will never get the opportunity to go on the Food Network. I’m so grateful. … I want to turn Cake Monstah into an empire of art, fun, passion and all things cake.”
Cake Monstah, Scurio’s small business, started as a way for the Weymouth resident to combine the two hobbies she’s had since she was a child: cooking and art.
She grew up in a “huge” Italian-Portuguese family, she said, with a grandmother who loved to be in the kitchen and two artists as parents. She started making wedding cakes and desserts for other events to cut her teeth in the industry, and spent her free time sculping items and characters from fondant, Rice Krispies Treats and modeling chocolate.
“The thing I always enjoyed the most was the creative aspect. Yes, I love to eat and make people happy with food, but being able to sculpt or draw or paint while baking was always going to be my passion,” Scurio said. “I didn’t come into my own as a baker and a creator until the last few years. Now, people are coming to me and saying, ‘I trust you, here’s my idea, run with it.’ It’s really my dream come true.”
The cake that knocked Scurio face first into the world of edible sculpting was one she made in the shape of a firefighter’s jacket. After that, someone asked her to make a Converse sneaker, and from there she was commissioned to make birthday party cakes of beer cans and liquor bottles.
Now her portfolio includes a realistic-looking sub sandwich, a stuffed cat and an elaborate Christmas-themed cake, which includes hand-cut naughty and nice lists, sculpted ornaments and a life-like reproduction of Santa Claus.
“Visually, when I start my creative process, a different part of my brain starts to take over,” she said. “I’m creating from a place of joy, and this is me expressing all of my creativity. I tap into a relaxation mode. I start with basic shapes, then start pinching and editing and stepping back, looking at it from afar, and going back in.”
While Scurio can whip up three or four wedding cakes in a weekend with ease, it can take up to eight hours over several days to create one of her cake sculptures − and that’s assuming everything goes right along the way. From sketching a structural drawing that includes dowels for support to using rice treats to sculpt elements that would be too heavy if made of cake, each design is a lengthy, well-thought-out process. And, since her time on the Food Network, they’re only getting better.
(‘Holiday Wars”) was amazing. I was thrown into this atmosphere and it really changed me as an artist,” Scurio said. “My sculpting ability got better, I was working with things like mechanics and lighting and smoke − things I’d never done before for my own clients. … The experience really made me a better artist overall and forced me to blossom.”
Her experience is extensive but pales in comparison to her plans for the future. For Scurio, working for Boston-based celebrity clients and appearing on TV are just the beginning. In the coming years, she’s hoping to launch a series of cake-sculpting classes, build an online community of like-minded bakers and see herself on the new hit Netflix show “Is It Cake?”
“I really want to be sought after for my artistry and my skills, and really valued for my experience when it comes to making an event even more special. I want to bring the magic of something edible into a celebration,” she said. “It’s also just fun. This is the kind of work where you’re truly creating from a place of joy and whimsy.”