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The Short Version: Of the many decisions couples need to make as they plan their nuptials, selecting the flavor of their wedding cake shouldn’t be the hardest. Yet, deciding on one of the celebratory symbols of their relationship can be a real challenge. Starry Night Bakery, located in Westminster, Maryland, is always up to the challenge. Brides-to-be often search for the perfect design, but it’s not always easy to find a baker who can create a beautiful cake that tastes great, too. Starry Night Bakery’s head baker once competed on the “Cupcake Wars” TV show so she’s ready to make any idea a delicious reality for a wedding or any special occasion.
Wedding cakes may look beautiful and taste boring, or look lame and taste great. But rarely do they look and taste amazing.
Shannon Clarke, the Owner of Starry Night Bakery, specializes in creating that winning combination for couples.
About a decade ago, Shannon was one of four contestants on the Food Network’s reality television show “Cupcake Wars.” She used her skills to bake and decorate hundreds of interesting cupcakes with unique ingredients. That experience taught her how to rise to the challenge for weddings and other occasions celebrating relationship milestones.
“The show was a lot of fun, and I’m still friends with a lot of people,” she said. “It’s like meeting your doppelgangers. They do the same thing I do but from different places.”
Shannon said she started her career as a baker after toiling at a job sitting behind a desk doing paperwork while in college. One day, she said she found herself having a blast baking all day, and her kitchen was filled with muffins, cakes, and pies. “I just thought, ‘This is what I really enjoy doing,’ so I jumped online and looked for baking schools,” Shannon said.
Most places offered two-year and four-year programs, but she had already learned about the business of baking and how to create unique designs. So, she completed a fast-track baking program at a Boulder, Colorado, institute. After acquiring the skills she needed, Shannon got to work and opened Starry Night Bakery in Westminster, Maryland, in 2002.
Shannon’s employees are like family, and some of them have been at the bakery for more than 13 years. Her head baker, for example, started when she was in high school.
She began by boxing up cupcakes and taking orders, but soon she was helping with prep, icing cakes, and decorating them. Now, she’s the lead baker.
“We try to promote within,” Shannon said. “I’d much rather have someone happy doing prep work and baking and put them there. Everybody has to work, but if you find the niche you want to be in and you enjoy it, that makes life so much better.”
She said team members come together for every order because they know how important their cakes are for special days.
She said she especially loves seeing people celebrate their relationships, anniversaries, weddings, or first birthdays. It’s a lot of pressure to make the right dessert for them, but it’s worth it to play a small part in those special moments.
“We’re not fixing the world, but for a short amount of time, on that day, everyone is focused on the product we make,” she said. “We’re in the most cherished pictures.”
Creativity is the key to the success of the bakery, so the team has plenty of options for couples and other clients. It’s possible to have a cake that’s keto, vegan, gluten-free, or even specially formulated for a pup. The team has made cakes with “Harry Potter” and “Frozen” themes, unicorn cakes, cakes that look like sushi, fruit pies, and cheesecakes, among many others.
The Starry Night Bakery does a wonderful job of using creativity and skill to create memorable cakes that commemorate life’s most important milestones and relationships.
Shannon’s team offers 19 cake flavors, 17 fillings, and 11 types of icing for custom cakes. All are available with a mix-and-match flavor profile that makes each one unique and leaves customers satisfied.
“We absolutely loved how our wedding cake turned out, and it was so delicious,” wrote Courtney in an online review. “We had three different flavors — a flavor for each tier — and all three were highly loved! Shannon was a pleasure to work with and did an absolutely amazing job.”
Starry Night Bakery has made hundreds of cakes over the years to celebrate the most important milestones in relationships, but Shannon has a few favorites of her own. She said she made a wedding cake for a couple 16 years ago, and now they’re friends who return every year for an anniversary cake and for their daughter’s birthday cake.
“I am afraid for when this girl turns 16 because I’m not making a cake you can drive,” Shannon joked.
Another couple scheduled a cake tasting for their wedding after the groom-to-be proposed with a cake that read, “Will you marry me?” in icing.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic put the traditional cake testing process on hold when the state closed restaurant dining rooms. Before that, couples could come in, sample flavors, and review design ideas with Shannon. Now, the bakery team offers samples to-go and uses email to get the designs just right.
“They will send rough sketches or pictures, and then I’ll sketch what I think they’re looking for,” Shannon said. “Nine out of 10 times, it’s what they wanted. We share photos back and forth, and maybe one good phone call, and get it done.”
Shannon said a lot of the inspiration for new designs comes from creating display cakes based on the latest trends and styles. Still, her customers drive many orders. Brides-to-be often show her ideas they discovered on Pinterest or point to a cake she made previously. But Shannon said they always change it, at least slightly, so every cake is unique.
“Our cake decorating team is incredible. Even this past weekend, they blew me away with their teamwork and creativity,” she said. “We had marshmallow spiderwebs on a cake. One person can do it, but two people go faster. So I came around the corner, and there they are, all helping each other out.”
The bakers at Starry Night Bakery put extra love in their work — and it shows. They often receive feedback from couples about how they didn’t even get a piece of the cake on their wedding day because their guests loved it so much. It happened so frequently that now they offer a complimentary one-year tier, so the couple doesn’t have to freeze it — or worry there aren’t any leftovers.
Meanwhile, the business is still working to get back to normal after the pandemic shutdowns. The last few months have been hectic with so many couples making up weddings postponed from last year — on top of weddings planned for this year. It doesn’t help that supply chain problems have made it challenging to get certain ingredients.
“I could go for a nice, boring week where we’re caught up, and we can make some display cakes,” Shannon said. “We’ve had no time for shenanigans!”