Cake artist enjoys sweet success

KITCHENER — At the age of 20, Chrissie Boon surprised her parents by dropping out of university to take up cake decorating….

KITCHENER — At the age of 20, Chrissie Boon surprised her parents by dropping out of university to take up cake decorating.

It seemed like a flaky idea, but Boon, now 27, has turned her passion into thriving dual enterprises – Too Nice To Slice and Icing Inspirations.

Too Nice To Slice creates visually stunning wedding and special occasion cakes. Icing Inspirations sells cake decorating supplies and runs courses in creative cake making, often taught by star cake decorators from the Food Network.

More recently, Boon started renting out low-cost licensed commercial kitchen space to other people with small food-related enterprises.

Boon and her husband, Justin Kozak, recently won in an episode of Cake Walk on Slice TV. Competing against the clock and two other cake decorating teams, they created a vineyard-inspired themed cake.

“I took my husband as my assistant and they played that up because he and I joke around with each other a lot,” she says.

Boon’s love of baking goes back to when she was a little girl and her aunt bought her an Easy-Bake Oven. As a teenager, she ran a small Christmas cookie-making enterprise.

After becoming a master cake decorator, Boon started Cakes by Chrissie, later changing the name to the “more memorable” Too Nice to Slice.

“At first, I was meeting people at my parents’ place in their dining room and I was renting a commercial kitchen to do the actual work. But that was tremendously expensive,” she says. “They were all charging $35 to $75 an hour. We realized we could just rent our own place for that cost.”

Boon opened a small location in the Country Hills plaza, but she ran out of room after she started teaching classes. A couple of years ago, she moved the businesses to their current 5,000-square-foot location on Hoffman Street.

Recently, Boon started renting out space in her kitchen to other people who run small cake decorating and food-related businesses. From personal experience, she knows how difficult it is to find facilities that are affordable and meet Water Region public health department food safety rules.

Boon’s classes are taken by people who have cake decorating business as well as those who simply love the art of decorating, she says. “People have come from all over the world to take the classes and we refer them to hotels in the area.”

The first Food Network star to teach a class in Boon’s kitchen was Courtney Clark, who runs Cake Nouveau in Ann Arbor, Mich. and was a finalist on The Last Cake Standing show and a winner of a number of cake challenge competitions.

“I had admired her for years,” Boon says. She was surprised when Clark accepted her invitation to teach a class. Clark responded, “Wow, I can’t believe you want me to teach for you,” Boon says.

Now, Boon often is a guest teacher in other parts of North America.

But making cakes is still the mainstay of the business. She gets many more requests than she can accept so she often refers people to other cake decorators in the community. “There is only so much that I can do, and there is a lot of work to go around,” she says.

Boon encourages couples to not just copy someone else’s cake. “People can draw inspiration from all kinds of things, from fabrics to architecture,” she says.

A special occasion cake will take at least eight to 10 hours to make, but some can take days. “We did one cake that took 80 hours, although that is probably not the kind of cake most people will order,” she says.

Boon says the cake decorating supply business also is thriving because she sells items that can’t be found anywhere else locally. “You would either have to order them online or go to Toronto to get them.”

Boon has four part-time employees and gets lots of help from her family. In addition to her husband, she has a sister who works in the shop on Saturdays. Her mom caters the lunches for the classes while her dad makes special constructions to hold the cakes. Her uncle also helps as a handyman.

Her girls, aged three and eight, also are getting involved. “They love coming in and getting out their little rolling pins,” Boon says. “Making cookies is their favourite time.”

It is the creativity of her business that Boon loves and she says she can’t imagine ever being bored of making cakes. “No two cakes are ever the same,” she says.

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