What: The Cake Lady Shoppe LLC
What it does: Creates custom cakes for weddings and other occasions
Pictured: Founder Linda Hickman
Where: 357 NE DeKalb Ave., Bend
Ask Linda Hickman, 75, of The Cake Lady Shoppe in Bend, about baking and you might learn as much about life as you do about cakes.
Hickman has been creating custom cakes since 1966 while teaching school and raising a family along the way. The Cake Lady has moved around, starting in Ashland, then to Bend, where Linda Hickman enclosed the front porch of the family home in order to create a place to meet with customers. Hickman, an alumna of Oregon State University, has been married 55 years to Gene Hickman, another OSU grad and a range management specialist. They raised three daughters: Deanna Kinsey, who with her husband, James Kinsey, and their daughter Jaydra Kinsey works in the bakery; Laura J. Hickman, a professor of criminology at Portland State University; and Marla Hickman, who died at age 18 in June 1991 of a rare genetic disorder.
Linda Hickman, in addition to wife, mother, caregiver, baker and business owner, was also a teacher at Bend-La Pine Schools from 1984 to 1996. She said she’s not yet ready to slow down.
“You look in the moment, you live in the moment and every moment you and I have is fine,” she said.
Last year, The Cake Lady Shoppe produced approximately 1,300 custom cakes, including 175 wedding cakes, many of those multitiered.
Custom cakes, many decorated by her daughter Deanna, can depict items such as cigar box with cigars, freshly caught salmon or the OSU beaver mascot. One, with icing sculpted to resemble the bark of a ponderosa pine tree, took 2½ days to complete, Hickman said.
After more than 50 years and thousands of cakes, Hickman said she sees no end to the family business.
The Bulletin talked to Linda Hickman about her life as a baker. Her responses are edited for length and content.
— Reporter: 541-617-7815, firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Where are you from?
A: Lin da Hickman: I was born in Prineville. My grandfather on one side came in from Italy and he ranched sheep and my other grandfather came in from California and he raised sheep. They would leave Prineville in the spring and come through here behind Bend, and they would take all the sheep to Diamond Lake for the summer. And then in the fall they would drive them back.
Q: How did you get started in baking?
A: I made a cake for my mother and it was wretched. I thought, there’s classes here, I will go to cake decorating classes. So that’s what I did. I went to college at night and when I wasn’t going, I went to decorating classes and I learned how to do it.
Q: What do you learn in cake decorating class?
A: You learn how to use the frosting, you learn how to use the bag that you put the frosting in, you learn how to put the bag together and then you learn from the teacher how to tell your hand what to do. I’ll tell you what is really, really difficult, is when you tell your hand what to do, your hand hears but it has a tough time learning to do it, so you have to work at it, work at it, work at it. The hardest one of all was learning to do the roses. It takes quite a bit to do that. But I learned how to do it.
Q: How did you go from making a cake for your mother to starting a business?
A: My husband’s first job was down in Ashland, and we went to this phenomenal church, and I thought, what am I going to do? I’ll make that church! And a lady in there saw that and said, my daughter’s getting married, I want you to do my wedding cake.
I said, I’ve never done a wedding cake, I won’t do it. She’d come by and say, I want you to do my wedding cake, and I’d say, no, I can’t. About a month out she came by and said, you’re doing my daughter’s wedding cake.
I said OK. I got on the phone, we got all of our pans and things from Wilton, out of Chicago. I tell you what, we had cake all over that house because I didn’t know how to do it and when I popped it out, it split and it broke.
But I finally got it and we took the cake to the wedding and another lady said, oh, you need to make our wedding cake. And that’s the way it went.
Q: Do your customers typically want a wedding cake that’s unique to them?
A: In the beginning, they would call for a wedding cake. (I’d ask), how many people do you want and how many tiers do you want? And then they said do it. But now they come and they have their ideas already set up; they’ve gone to the web and they’ve gone to Pinterest, they’ve watched “Cake Boss,” and said this is what I want. There is a difference.
Q: Do you sometimes wonder how you’ll accommodate some of their requests?
A: When you get the cost on it, and because of the labor and everything that is required in the design, it’s costly. And then because we don’t want our weddings to take our life out in cost, they back up and rethink what it is they want, or some go right ahead and say, that’s fine, we’ll do it.
Q: Where do you see The Cake Lady Shoppe in the next three to five years?
A: We’ve been doing cakes in this town for 40 years and the most exciting thing is we did weddings for parents and now we’re doing weddings for the children. And do we plan to keep it going? Yes.